Wednesday, May 22, 2013

So that's just what we'll do

This whole garden thing is kind of taking me by surprise. It started off as an experiment to see if we could get anything to grow. I've never been in charge of a garden and I was nervous because I have a history of killing off houseplants. We decided we'd start small—with one 4x4 garden box—and see how things would go this year.

Not to count our chickens before they hatch or anything, but our garden seems to be flourishing.

Here it is last week:

And here it is today:

I know the perspective is off, so you'll have to take my word for it that this garden is a growing concern. The biggest nasturtium leaves are as big as my hand. The corn, beans, and sunflowers (we were going for the Three Sisters companion planting method; I don't know if we did it right) are about as tall as Miriam. One of our tomato plants is also about as tall as she is (we have a few different varieties in there) and I just read today that tomato plants can grow to be six feet tall (or taller), which was surprising to learn. I don't think I've ever seen a tomato plant that tall...but we might just get one in our garden.

It's like a jungle in there. And we already have a few baby tomatoes growing. Our lettuce is coming up just fine. And we have a few pea pods. And we've already eaten two strawberries from our plants out front (though I'm not expecting a bumper crop from those).

The marigolds I planted are starting to develop flower buds—I'm excited to get some colour out in the garden (besides our tomato flowers, which are a little understated).

I really can't take any credit for this at all. I just threw some seeds into the ground, said a little prayer, and hoped for the best, all the time these lines running through my mind: The prophet said to plant a garden, and here I give a helpless shrug, so that's what we'll do, even if we have no idea what we're doing, I suppose. Our garden isn't an "obedience garden,"* but instead an "experiment garden," or as Rachel would say, an "experience garden." ("I'm having an experience!" she'll exclaim, rather than, "I'm doing an experiment." We've corrected her but she doesn't hear the difference, I suppose, because she's still experiencing science rather than experimenting with it.)

Did you know you could watch conference talks from 1985 online? I didn't, at least not until now. Sister Winder gave a good talk at my very first general conference (October 1985).

Another good talk is Elder Ballard's talk from this past conference (my 56th conference, in case you were wondering). He told a story about a granddaughter's tomato plant experiment and it was accompanied by a little video-reenactment where this second-grade girl manages to grow this huge tomato plant after neglecting (and almost killing!) it, just with a little water, light, and TLC.
As we think about the imagery of succoring the weak, lifting up the hands which hang down, and strengthening feeble knees, I am reminded of a sweet seven-year-old showing her grandfather a small tomato plant she had started from a seed as part of a second-grade school project.
She explained that form one tiny seed would come a plant. And if the plant were cared for, it would grow many tomatoes that would each have many seeds.
She said, "And if all those seeds were planted and grew more tomatoes, and you planted all of those seeds, in a few seasons you would have millions of tomatoes."
"All," she said in amazement, "from one little seed."
But then she said, "I almost killed my plant. I left it in a dark room and forgot to water it. When I remembered the plant, it was all wilted and dead looking. I cried because I thought of all those millions of tomatoes that would never grow."
Here I glanced at my tomato seedlings, which weren't doing very well in March, and scoffed to Andrew, "Yeah. Because tomatoes are impossible to grow! Why didn't her teacher use something like...sunflowers? Something that's guaranteed to...actually grow."

Back in March, I had my sweet tomato seedlings sitting in a tray in my window. They were still rocking their cotyledon—their little "fetus" leaves—when they should have been losing those and sprouting their true leaves. Mine simply weren't growing.
She was then excited to tell her grandfather about the "miracle" that happened.
She explained, "Momma said maybe the plant wasn't dead. Maybe all it needed was some water and some light to bring life back.
"And she was right. I gave the plant some water, and I put it in the window for light. And guess what?" she asked. "It came back to life, and now it's going to grow a million of tomatoes!"
Her small tomato plant, so full of potential but so weakened and wilted form unintentional neglect, was strengthened and revived through the simple ministration of water and light by the little girl's loving and caring hands.
Here we were shown a scene of this little girl proudly setting her obnoxiously robust tomato plant on the counter and it really got my dander up because tomatoes were a bit of a touchy subject for me, considering the sorry state of my own tomatoes. "Oh, I'm so sure," I smirked to Andrew. "There's no possible way her tomato plant fared that well. And they definitely hired a stunt-double for the tomato plant in that first scene. It can't be the same plant. Tomatoes don't just pick up and thrive! They're all destined to die!"

"Yes," he agreed, picking up on my sarcasm but ignoring the obvious chord of raging jealousy this girl's story had struck within me (I really like tomatoes, okay?), "You will never grow a million tomato plants. You can't even grow one tomato."

"Perhaps it's better that way," I told him. "Then you can't throw them at our house!" (because he did that to his parents' house when his was "cleaning up the yard" in his teen years and he will never live it down.)

We settled down to listen to the rest of the talk, the best we could with all the little ones around, and it was a wonderful talk (even if it did mention tomatoes a little too often). Near the end of his talk, Elder Ballard said, "If any one of you feels your faith or testimony of Heavenly Father's plan is less than you know it should be, then turn more fully to the Savior. Let his light and His living water do for you and your family what a little water and light did in bringing life back to the weakened tomato plant."

I thought that was a beautiful invitation. Even if I couldn't help the sad, sorry state of my tomato plants (how much light and water do those things need?!) I could at least turn myself more fully to the Savior. That was kind of the theme I got from this past session of conference, really. It seemed like so many of the apostles invited us to begin where we are now and start doing better.* And I love that. It reminds me of one of my favourite scriptures (Alma 5: 26): "...if ye have experience a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?"

Because if you don't, you can. I can. And, I was sure, my tomatoes could, too.

With enough time and care, my tomatoes finally let their true colours show and sprouted their second set of leaves—genuine tomato leaves. Eventually, but with very little hope for their survival, I planted them in our garden box. But I looked longingly at the tomato plants in the store and kept comparing my runty seedlings to the thick, strong plants on the shelves of the garden center. Temptation gave way and I bought a couple of plants, brought them home, unearthed my dinky plants, and put the nice big ones in my garden.

But I couldn't give up on my tomatoes—the ones I had started from little seeds—partially because of Elder Ballard's talk. I really wanted to grow tomatoes from seeds just to prove to myself that I could do it.

Andrew was against keeping them since I'd just spent $12 putting more mature plants into our garden, but I insisted, though I agreed that their future looked very bleak.

"If I don't keep them then I will never know if I could have done it," I explained, transplanting them into the plastic throw-away pot our azalea bush came in. "What if they do alright? What if they get tomatoes? What if these plants end up proliferating a million other plants? I would miss out on all of that! I have to keep them."

So we kept them. They're on our back porch right now. They're still pretty wimpy compared to the tomatoes in the garden box, which are already flowering and busting out little baby tomatoes (they grow up so quickly, don't they?), but at least they're getting a fighting chance.

I'm actually impressed with how much they've grown. They're now about the size our store-bought plants were when we brought them home. But I didn't take a picture of them to show you. I'll do that later.

Instead I took a picture of my pea pod! I have a couple, but this one is the biggest. It's also on our deck.

The solution to the aphids, it seems, was to just let them have a sacrificial pea plant. They're still munching away at the lone pea plant in the other pot on our deck and have been leaving the pea plants in the other planter well enough alone. I'm happy to share with the aphids as long as they aren't too greedy.

I've been in such high spirits about our garden. Every time we look at it it's noticeably bigger. We haven't actually been looking at it too often because the weather's alternating between torrential downpours and hot. Needless to say, most of our garden admiring has been happening during the "hot" times, which have been brief compared to the torrential downpours. The rain barrel we set up not too long ago, for example, is completely full. And all the nitrogen-rich water from the thunder storms (apparently thunder storms "charge" water full of nitrogen) has made for excellent growth for our crops.

They're still getting a healthy dose of sunshine, too. There were a couple of days last week where I hand-watered the garden because it was so hot and "dry" (at least comparatively speaking). When it's sunny our plants are getting the requisite 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day and when it's rainy they're getting plenty of water.

Our garden is doing wonderfully, but I have very little to do with it, I promise. It's all...not me. It's nature, not nurture, which is to say it's God.

Today we decided to put in another garden box just to see what we can grow in there.

We have corn, beans, peas, sunflowers, tomatoes, nasturtium, carrots, lettuce and marigolds in the first.

In the second we're planning on trying cucumbers (and dill because Andrew wants to try to make our own pickles) and cantaloupe, as well as putting in more carrots and lettuce and perhaps some peas or green beans.

We really have no idea what we're doing, but things seem to be doing well. This second time, we put a layer of our bokashi compost at the bottom of the box to kind of sit and turn into dirt. Since seeds only need to be planted less than an inch beneath the soil and we have a good six inches of soil on top of the bokashi, we figure it will be soil-ized by the time the roots of our plants get down to it. We'll see. I haven't planted anything yet because we were all so hot and tired after finishing building the garden in the first place.

Here's what Benjamin looked like after we came inside:

He was as red as a tomato, was dripping with sweat, and was covered in a mixture of soil, graham cracker crumbs, snot and spit up. Andrew and I weren't looking/feeling much better so Andrew suggested that we hurry up and finish the rest of our chores before heading to the pool.

The pool just opened on Saturday and we were warned that it would be freezing but figured we'd try it out anyway because we don't really trust Southerners when they talk about things being cold (no offense, just doesn't get cold down here).

The water wasn't warm, precisely, but none of us got goosebumps, either (at least not until the sun dropped below the horizon).

We had a wonderful time swimming (with some of the neighbours; it's a community pool) and tomorrow, if it's not raining (or at least in between the showers of rain that are expected) we'll have a wonderful time planting our second garden.

* Elder Uchdorf, who counseled us to "start where [we] are," and Elder Holland, who counseled us to "hold the ground [we] have already won," among others.

1 comment:

  1. How nice to see the way your garden has grown! I can't wait to see you eating some of those tomatoes. I'm curious how you will use them. Do you like tomato sandwiches?

    Wow, Benjamin is red! Such a cute picture. I thought he was sunburned though. I love how he enjoys eating dirt so much. And that pool looks refreshing. Ah, but it does get cold to us. :) I still remember my Miami cousins visiting my grandparents in Jacksonville, FL years ago. It was very pleasant to us (70ish in the winter) and they were going around shivering with cold. I guess that's how we look to you and other Canadians. :)