Guest post by uber-talented, soon-to-be-famous novelist Mandy of Mandyland (one of the best blogs to read every single day)
My parents gardened. For them, gardening wasn’t just a joy, it was a way to make the grocery budget for a family of six stretch. Every spring, they dumped compost from the pile under the tree into their garden, tilling it in and planting tomatoes, squash, peas, green bean, potatoes, and cucumbers.
Every summer, we sat on the back porch, snapping green beans into a bowl to be fried with a little bacon grease for dinner. Our arms were scratched from stolen snacks of blackberries and raspberries. Our cheeks stained from the cherries we picked from the neighbor’s hundred year old tree.
When I moved into a house, rather than an apartment, I started gardening. It began small, three or four tomato plants, a few herbs, a bell pepper. As time passed, the memories returned along with the knowledge. Older, and a little wiser, I read books, researched gardening “methods”, and rediscovered the joy of producing my own food.
Then I had children and what began as a little side hobby became a way to provide pesticide and GMO free food to my family. My little plot expanded. I utilized every inch of space in my yard until friends and family teased that they were afraid I’d plant a vegetable in their shoes if they took them off.
Gardening has become one of our favorite family activities. My children are a part of every step of the process. It all starts on cool, winter evenings when we sit with a grid and markers, coloring in our plan. I always make sure to reserve one or two spaces just for them. Whether they plant flowers, vegetables or herbs, it’s all theirs, decorated, of course, with garden gnomes and butterflies.
In the early spring, we head outside to compost, aerate, and clean. We start some seedlings indoors and others, we put directly into the ground courtesy of our mild California weather.
Gardening, as with parenting, requires patience. I decided early on that I wasn’t going to let my love of neat and orderly rows interfere with my children’s attempts. So sometimes we have radishes pop up in the lawn. And sometimes carrots and lettuce come up in the same square. For me, I’d rather have them enjoy digging in the dirt than think of it as work.
As early spring turns into early summer, we spend hours replacing the dead and dying, transplanting, and pulling errant weeds. By the time full summer hits, we relax and let the garden take over.
I’ve read stories about children who can’t identify vegetables in the produce department and am so thankful that not only can my almost three-year-old run out to the garden to grab some basil for dinner, but they understand the cycle of life and the hope of a new beginning.
To catch more of Mandy’s musings on single parenthood, navigating life after divorce, crafting, cooking, gardening, and all around living visit Mandyland. I promise, you’ll want her to be your new BFF.