By Kyle McKean
Following the trend to “grow your own” coupled with a desire to provide my family with fresh, organic produce, a few years ago we designed and built a vegetable garden. Because my husband is a builder and he approaches everything with a blueprint and his tool bag, we couldn’t have had just a few simple beds and tomato cages. What could have been a simple weekend project quickly turned into a couple months of work. After clearing a 24’ x 36’ space at the back of our property, my husband insisted we fence everything in, build six 6’ x 6’ raised “box” style beds and install irrigation. I gave him a hard time because I thought this was overkill and I was anxious to transplant the tiny seedlings I had started and nurtured over the winter.
That summer when we experienced many 100°+ days and went through a drought, I was so thankful not to have to add watering to my long list of chores. Not only did we run irrigation into the center of each bed…
…but we connected the whole system to a three-zone timer! With a little programming, I had one less thing to worry about knowing that each zone would be perfectly watered before 6 a.m.
After a few years of learning as we go, we pause just before planting time to make any changes or adjustments. Last year, when my husband suggested building a “tomato steeple” I thought he had lost his mind! Surely this too would need to be sketched out and would take forever to build. Not even sure I understood what a “tomato steeple” was, I went along with it despite being worried that we didn’t have enough time to construct such a quirky sounding structure. As it turns out, a “tomato steeple” is a great idea and it looks pretty cool too.
If you plant cherry tomatoes right along the edge of the wire fencing, they will grow up and hang through the mesh making for a tasty treat that is right at your fingertips.
As with many things in life, tending to a vegetable garden has proved to be a valuable earning experience. Some of the more notable things I’ve learned are:
- I don’t have the time or energy to start seeds inside (even though I devised what I thought was a pretty cool set up where my seed trays balanced on top of cookie cooling racks, which sat on top of our radiators).
- You’ll always have more zucchini than you know what to do with.
- Zucchini is a very versatile ingredient. See item #2 above.
- Tomatoes grow three times bigger than you expect
- Mint should be grown in a container. Always.
- As much as it pains me to admit it, sometimes my husband is right about certain things. Sometimes.
- At the end of a long hard day, sipping a fresh mojito while taking in all the scents and sounds of the garden makes everything good again.
I’m looking forward to watching the garden grow this year especially now that I have a daughter to share it with. I can’t wait for her to taste her first strawberry and smell the fresh herbs. I long for the taste of garlic-laden pesto, spicy arugula and juicy cantaloupe. Wait. That gives me an idea. I wonder if we have room for a “cantaloupe coupola”?!