By Terri Mork Speirs
Welcome to my vegetable garden!
As you may know, we live on one full acre. To my husband, Bob, it's almost "a farm," a compensation for living 46 years in the inner city.* To me, it's another job, an overwhelming sensation from having a lot of space and very little liquid time. With all this land, you'd think we'd have planted a garden a long time ago, but I didn't know where to start.
However, I’ve found a solution.
It's "live globally, act apartmently." I ask myself, what would I do if I lived in a little space. Suddenly things become very clear. I need to plant a container garden because that's what you would do if you didn't have a yard. (Note: In the background of the photo, at right, is the St. John's Faith Garden, an impressive expanse, which has been a nice proxy gardening experience for me. Yet, I still wanted my own kitchen garden.)
This is how I approached the container garden.
One Saturday this past spring, I walked around our Iowa acre to see what could be recycled for containers. I scanned the garage, the other garage, the pool house, the basement, the kitchen, the bedrooms and the yard – all while pretending I was planning for an apartment. I came up with a pretty good collection of pots.
Bob helped me buy dirt, which seems strange when you live on a nice piece of land because we have quite a bit of our own dirt, but remember we are "acting apartmently." And voila, here is our kitchen garden – kale, tomatoes, onions, peppers, cucumbers, spinach, basil and rosemary. A mixture of color and texture.
Why the wagon?
Because I can't decide where to put my container garden (you see, the choices overwhelm me). The beauty of a garden on wheels is that I can experiment with different locations and change according to what's going on. For example, during the week when I'm hardly at home, I can wheel it close to the watering spot in the sun to keep things as low maintenance as possible. On the weekends I might want to move it to, say, my backyard camp spot. When the leaves fill out on the big trees, there will likely be different sun spots. I need a garden that's flexible. A garden on wheels is the best of both worlds: growing roots while expecting change. (I'm one of the 5 percent of the population who shrivels up when things remain the same. I made up that statistic.)
Even I find it funny, though, when I'm moving the wagon because it looks like I'm taking my garden for a walk. I feel like a kid in a pretend world. I'm Mary Poppins or Little Red Riding Hood. Animated birds flutter about. As cheery as this sounds, there is a problem as you can see in the picture. The wagon isn’t big enough. (Apparently I am thinking a pretty large apartment.) I asked Bob to get me one of those wagon extenders that we would've needed had we a third child to comfortably fit all my pots. (It's not lost on me that I used to haul around my kids, now teenagers, in this wagon.)
You all probably knew this, but I've discovered that planting is a good antidote for depression. Growing things is the opposite of depression. I've been searching for a mantra to quiet the noise in my head but couldn't think of anything that didn't sound dumb to me. But lately "grow things" has been working in my cacophonous brain. It's direct and present and simple.
Grow everything you can. Grow all that is around you. When you're shrinking up inside, grow something. If you've lost something, grow something. If all else fails, grow something. Grow the people around you, whoever they are. If you can't grow anything, grow yourself (and vice versa).
Easy for me to say. It's sunny, it’s summer, and it’s the weekend. Today it’s simple to grow things. Tomorrow is Monday – there will be florescent office lights, and it will be different. Still, I'm going to repeat over and over the mantra "grow things."
(*Note on the verbiage, “inner city.” I realize that friends and family from New York City will probably not appreciate the characterization of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, as "inner city," which could have a negative connotation. I love Sunset Park and do not intend to portray it as a less desirable place to live. It has a special character all its own that maintains the purest form of a city neighborhood, I think. I'd call it NYC's best-kept secret. The reason I use the phrase here is for the benefit of my Midwestern friends and family, to emphasize the density of urban living from which Bob comes. I am hoping to emphasize the contrast between the acre of land Bob chose now, as a response to the compact homes and yards from where he came. Probably an over explanation, but I had a late thought that I might have offended people, and I don't mean to do that. We all hold affinities to where we live and my own loyalties are for all. Cheers!)
Terri Mork Speirs is a writer and mother as well as a grant writer for Children & Families of Iowa.