Monday, March 22, 2010

I read it somewhere

How do you learn to garden?

I feel like it's so easy these days. There is so much information a few keystrokes away, in fact it's almost discouraging. Sometimes when I'm trying a new plant, I actually STOP reading about it to see what works for me. And then I'll go back and look it up, and discover what I did wrong, and what I did right. Last year I put in Brussels Sprouts for the first time. They weren't looking too good, so I thought "peat! Peat is great in the garden, right?" Wrong. Brussels like high pH, and peat will lower it. Oops. So I just scraped all the peat off where I could, went to the garden center and started reading labels, and put something or other organic on there that would raise the pH back up. Brussels were fine. They'd probably have been even better if I'd just left them alone. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

No one in the family can remember when I started to grow vegetables. The garden itself started as a patio and an ornamental border, with every single plant free- picked up at neighborhood swaps, or dug out of the verge at my father's downstate home, or scavenged out of the alley from escapees from other people's yards.

I made a LOT of mistakes. I put in what turned out to be invasive, and apparently immortal, wild phlox. Still fighting that stuff back. I put in loosestrife. (I know I know.) It's so pretty! Oops. I found what turned out to be oriental bittersweet, a gorgeous plant, but fortunately posted a picture on MyFolia and asked what it was. (This was recently; the difference between a newbie and a pro is that now I know to ask.)

I have made every mistake there is to make. I've forgotten to put in paths. I planted tomatoes in the shade. I didn't put the peas in until June. I walked on the carrot sprouts (by the way, they can take it). I pulled up perennials, not knowing what that was (oh, you mean it comes back? Like a tree?). I left weeds. I yanked weeds. I watered too much. I watered too little.

Somewhere along the way, I ended up with a garden. How do I know? My college-age son brought a friend over, and they walked out onto the back porch. Friend stops in his tracks and says "Whoah, that's gorgeous." Son says, "I told you." Best. Garden. Moment. Ever.

I can't wait to see what I do wrong this year.

Brussels sprouts slaw (originally posted October 14, 2009)
1 1/2 cups fresh brussels sprouts, blanched and sliced
1 cup cabbage, sliced (I had a very tiny head from the garden. Don't use too much or it will overwhelm the flavor of the brussels sprouts)
small onion, sliced very very thin
1/2 small green pepper, sliced thin
2-3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped roughly

3 tablespoons each, lime juice and real mayonnaise
2-3 teaspoons hot or brown mustard
white pepper, salt to taste

Whip the dressing ingredients together (make sure you whip or blend it really well so that the lime juice doesn't separate the mayo. This has to do with emulsion or acid or something. What, you thought I knew what I was doing?) Mix it all up in a bowl, let it sit for a couple of hours.

So I want to know-- how did you start gardening?


  1. Brussels sprouts rule! I started gardening some time between 1990-1992 (i can't narrow it down further). I've been meaning to do a post on it entitled "It All Started with A Tomato." Because it did. One tomato in a container on my condo deck. All my initial plants were freebies too, and I learned by doing. Somehow I am blessed with an intuitive sense... later found out I did many things right after reading how I should have done it. Of course I did things wrong, too. That's part of the process. That's how you learn. I agree that all the info available online is almost overwhelming and that I lept before the online era. #oldcoots :)

  2. Sorry, my typing is atrocious: Schwabians!

  3. I meant to add that when I worked in Stuttgart, people used "Mahlzeit" as the greeting when you passed in the hall (that is, when they made any kind of comment at all, those darn Schwabinas, LOL!) instead of "Morgen" or "Gruess Gott." Eh yep.

    Oh, and how old was your son and his friend when they paid you that compliment?

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  5. They had just graduated from college.

    Also-- that's how Schwabians get their bad rep!