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Reaping what you sow


TRACY HIGHLAND

Reaping what you sow

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FACEBOOK HAS THIS wonderful module called “Memories”. It gives you a glimpse of your past by showing you what you posted on that particular day in previous years. It prompts you to remember what made you laugh or cry. It reminds you what held your interest, what your goals were, who you hated or loved and what causes were important to you. 

Last week Sunday, the same day that my EASY magazine article came out, Facebook fed a memory from two years ago into my timeline. It was my last gardening attempt. In one photo I’m happily filling my pots and declaring it would be my last try.

I had new self-watering pots, so I was hopeful I would succeed. In an adjacent photo my young son was grinning over his freshly installed sweet pepper plant. I had roped him in, in an effort to add some extra motivation. I would show my son how to grow things. This would be the turning point.

Every one of those plants died. My poor son ended up using the lone sweet pepper his plant produced as a thimble. It didn’t grow past the size of his thumb. I was done. I gave up. No one could say I hadn’t tried. I stacked my pots in a corner of the yard and washed my hands literally and figuratively.

Fast forward to 2017. Last week saw me digging out some of those old pots and expanding my garden. My confidence was soaring. My garden was flourishing. All of a sudden I’d gained entrance to an exclusive club – people who can actually grow things. It’s like a key to a secret sector of society that had been closed to me before. I’m having gardening conversations with strangers. People have been sending me advice and taking the time to share their stories. It’s wonderful and I appreciate every interaction.

After consulting with my gardening coach Malaica, we decided to stick with the table top, container garden model that has been working for me. She was adamant however, that we keep it simple and not incur exorbitant expenses to do so. My first instinct was to go out and buy a table. Her suggestion was that we find one of the big wooden reels used to house commercial cabling and use that instead. I had seen coconut vendors using them in their trade set-up but I had honestly never considered them for personal use.

She made a few calls and we found a few empty ones at a local telecommunications company. We visited, determined the size that would work and made arrangements to have it delivered to my house. It fit perfectly into the space. I had created the new gardening area I wanted without breaking my pocket.

I love my table top garden. So far it has protected my plants from snails, pests and pets. It has also made it easy for me to water, weed and monitor the health of my plants. I can see everything easily. I don’t have to hurt my back bending over to inspect things and work on the garden.  My containers are at a comfortable level and I think this is one of the things that contributed to the success of my garden.

This week, I’ve added three varieties of lettuce – mizuna, romaine and salad bowl red. I’ve also installed kale, sweet peppers, Hungarian hot wax peppers, celery, rosemary, basil and thyme. Quite ambitious, I know, but I’m starting to actually believe I can do this.

I’ve had one challenge with a pest called leaf miner that has found its way into my Swiss chard. It causes a white squiggly trail within the leaves of the plant. Have you seen it before?

It’s relatively harmless. The leaves can still be consumed but it makes the plant ugly and, like any pest, if left unchecked, it can harm the overall vitality of the plant. I’ve decided to go the natural route and treat it with it with a commercially produced neem spray. I’ll give an update next week on its effectiveness.

I also managed to harvest my first lettuce this week, the survivor of the vicious snail attack. I had intended to let it grow until it filled up the pot but was advised that lettuce should not be harvested accorded to size, but within a specific time frame. I’ve learned that if they grow past four or five weeks, they tend to get bitter. 

It’s becoming clear to me that gardening is not happenstance. Just like a lot of other endeavours, you have to learn technique. The more you learn and put into practice, the better your outcome. This is where I fell down in the past. 

A lot of us grew up in the Sesame Street era. Do you remember the skit where the kid simplifies the gardening process and says, “Plants need water man”?

Well, it’s a bit more than that. Different plants have different needs, from the make-up of the soil you put them in, to their water requirements and harvesting times. My advice for those looking to start a kitchen garden, especially for those who have failed in the past, is to seek professional instruction. Treat it just like anything else you’ve failed at. There is no magic pill. There is no mythical black thumb that kills all living things. It’s just a matter of learning what to do and doing it consistently. I’m proof of that.

May you reap success in your garden this week.

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