Some of my first memories are from my mother’s garden. When I close my eyes I feel cool pebbles and dewy grass under my bare feet, hear buzzing bees and chirping birds, and smell a cacophony of scents from roses, lilac, herbs, freshly turned earth, and compost.
Mom and Me, aka "Sasha" (Eve's Organic Garden - mid 70s Lake Grove, OR)
My mom learned gardening from her grandparents in Texas and moist, chilly Port Angeles, Washington. To me, she seemed like Snow White incarnate – mom could bring any dying house plant to life, sprout any seed, and knew where to find the birds, butterflies and interesting spiders. Her decade-long run as the radio host of Eve’s Organic Garden on KBOO in Portland, Oregon proved that her ideas for planting and knowledge of gardening were admired by many. The local Italian family that ran Ricardo’s restaurant often stopped by looking for fresh herbs and flowers.
As a kid, I enjoyed the rambling gardens around our old farmhouse. Private tunnels of blackberries provided space to daydream, and the Rainier cherry tree offered sweetly blushed gems every spring. I found a lot of pleasure in picking seeds to grow every spring, learning the look of healthy soil, and digging around for bugs and worms. It seemed like magic to discover the nasturtium seeds growing out of the stems where edible flowers of red and orange once bloomed so brilliantly.
While my brother and I grumbled about the inevitable hours of weeding, pruning, hauling, and raking, today we look back on that time as peaceful, formative, and a badge of honor. Now we find that gardening relieves our stress and keeps us healthy. It’s not just the organic, fresh food we can grow. We harvest something more – peace and connection.
Growing up on the west coast, we didn’t know that fireflies were real. My first sighting of these electric “lightning bugs” was actually in Central Park, when I was about 21 years old. I was visiting my brother a few years before I moved to New York City. I excitedly told my brother, then almost 30, “I saw a firefly! They’re real!” He beamed back at me with joy, and it felt like we were kids again, sharing this wonderful discovery.
Now I long for spring planting and have happily settled in a ground floor, Brooklyn apartment with a back yard and space to plant a few pots. Last summer’s freak tornados had the silver-lining effect of creating more sun in my previously shade-choked yard when three neighboring trees lost half of their limbs.
I’m passing on my love for digging, planting, watering, weeding and waiting to my son, Laken. When I discovered kid-sized tools at a stoop sale (we call them stoop sales here in Brooklyn, because who has yards? We have stoops!) a couple of summers ago, I scooped them up and handed them to Laken, who happily took them outside and started digging. Gardening seems to be in our DNA. (You can order a set just like it here!)
Teaching him how to dig a hole, bury a seed, water it carefully and often, and look for slugs feels right. What could be more important than teaching my kid how to grow his own food? We won’t be living off of our harvest any time soon, but being able to grow our own lettuce, a few strawberries, snow peas, and pretty flowers makes me feel capable, and I hope to pass that on to him.
Laken and Roisin plant organic strawberries
This weekend we’ll be putting some seeds in potting soil, placing them in a sunny window, and beginning the late winter vigil over spring’s hopeful shoots of green.
Laken harvests the organic strawberries
My favorite seeds have come from:
LocalHarvest.org: http://www.localharvest.org/corn-jade-blue-heirloom-organic-non-gmo-C18363 – The Baby Blue Jade Corn is the only sweet corn that works in containers – just be sure to put bird/squirrel netting over the ears.
Seeds of Change: http://www.seedsofchange.com/
This company sells heirloom, organic seeds of all kinds – flowers, fruits, veggies, and herbs abound.
For my favorite books on gardening in containers and small city spaces, look here: