by Amanda Deplewski
Why I Garden
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what I love so much about gardening. I’m not an “outdoorsy” person. I don’t camp or mountain climb. Hiking with me isn’t much fun. After my blood sugar drops to a certain point, I’m a nightmare person. Just ask my partner.
I garden because it’s a given. Some of my earliest, fondest memories are of the tomato patch we had behind the house I grew up in. The first plant I ever grew myself was sprouted from a cherry tomato I bit in half as a toddler and threw into a patch of rocks that bordered our deck. The next year it grew into a monstrous tomato plant that my parents were too amused to move.
I garden because it’s good for my mental health. Gardening is filled with tiny miracles. Living things transform from an inert seed you shoved into the dirt. Sprouts germinate indoors under the psychedelic purple glow of lights in the middle of lifeless winter. A watermelon exists and is eaten because it was grown by you.
It all brings a sense of purpose, and a deep satisfaction to my life. Maybe it’s just being outside doing something physical instead of sitting on the couch staring at a screen. Perhaps it’s the extra Vitamin D I get from being out in the sun. It could even be the illusion of control in a world that seems to be spiraling out of control sometimes. In any case, it makes me happy.
The house we currently live at came with two pre-made raised beds. Each are approximately 4ft by 16 ft. I use one for food crops, and the other as a pollinator garden.
The Pollinator Garden
The pollinator garden prep mostly involved winter-planting my seeds. Native species that thrive in 6a tend to need a cold period to sprout. This can either be done by cold-stratifying them in the refrigerator through
various methods. I’ve used the paper towel method in the past.
The easiest way I’ve found is to plan ahead and plant them in November. I also amended the soil just slightly by adding peat moss and aged manure on top of the soil that was already present. Wildflowers don’t really need soil amendment, but I was already doing the same to my vegetable bed and I figured why not.
In addition to drawing in pollinators for my crops, this bed also serves as the stress-free and worry-free area of my garden. There is no weeding because wildflowers pretty much are weeds. I fuss and fuss over my food crops almost to the point of neuroses. So wild beauty that is completely out of my hands is a nice change of pace.
The Food Garden
For the food crops bed, my prep was a little more involved. I had an incredibly bad weed problem last year. I’m guessing this was caused by tilling established garden soil and bringing dormant seeds to the surface.
Around February of this year I put down a layer of pre-emergent weed killer. Over that, a layer of newspaper smothered any sprouting weeds. Finally, I laid down the aged manure/peat moss mix that I mentioned using in the pollinator garden.
I also attempted to start tomato and basil seeds indoors 6 weeks before my last frost date. I’ve previously been extremely successful with this practice. For whatever reason, the same conditions that produced too many seedlings last year produced none this year. This year only 25% of them sprouted though. Of those, every single one died from “damping off”, which is a condition due to lack of airflow and high humidity.
Due to tomatoes’ long growing season and the relatively short amount of frost-free days in 6A, I’m probably going to have to forego tomatoes for this season unless I purchase plants from a garden center. COVID-19’s stay at home policies will probably make this difficult to do responsibly. I’m confident though that the basil plants will do well if the seeds are planted straight in the ground. Those plants grow fast and have done extremely well in my soil in previous seasons.
What I’m Planting Moment
- 3 carrot varieties
- 5 tomato varieties
- 2 bush bean varieties
- 3 corn varieties (two flour and one sweet)
- 1 variety of spinach
- 3 varieties of basil
- luffa gourds
- various types of wildflowers and herbs for pollinators
I’m trying a lot of new things this year and will probably have both successes and failures. I’m trying to be pragmatic about the potential failures, as it will mean I have learned something (and maybe be able to pass it on to you all)