When God Gives You a Shady Garden

With enthusiastic endorsement and lots of much-needed help from my husband, I have my very own garden, for the very first time!

I grew up gardening and small-scale farming, so it’s not exactly “new,” but it’s been a long time (didn’t have much more than a windowsill for gardening for most of my adult life so far), and we have some challenges to overcome. We rent. Our yard is small. We don’t get as much sun as I would like. But we bought some big containers for tomatoes, dug up some patches strategically around the house where we wouldn’t have to disturb the actual lawn *too* much, and my husband built a few raised beds in areas where there was no grass anyway. He also built a small A-frame out of pallets, and we’re planting some things in fabric pots to hang on that.

We had three yards of soil delivered, and I’m pretty determined to use all of it.

Gardening in this fashion (containers and small, mixed beds) is a lot different from planting uniform row after row of the same crop, and I feel a tad out of my depth just jumping into it. We basically chose our seeds and starts based on what we want to EAT, and then I gave myself a quick crash-course in “companion planting,” charted it out, and we started shoving stuff in the dirt.

Here’s what we’ve planted so far:

Raised bed #1: broccoli raab, leeks, black carrots, parsley

Raised bed #2: rutabaga, “normal” carrots, sugar snap peas (bush), yellow chard

Raised bed #3: bell peppers, radishes, celery, basil

Around the house: strawberries, green beans (bush), zucchini, more sugar snap peas (trellised), english cucumbers, mixed leaf lettuce, nasturtiums.

In containers: tomatoes, bell peppers, peppermint, cilantro, basil, oregano, chives

On the A-frame so far we’ve used about a quarter of it to plant MORE strawberries (priorities!), and I reused all of the containers I bought starts in to start some more seeds, just waiting for them to get a little bigger and they’ll go in bags for hanging: 5-color chard, chives, thyme, basil, parsley, dill, leeks, snow peas, broccoli raab, and kale.

And I’ve got more seeds on the way or waiting to be started: dwarf sweet corn, borage, fennel, catnip, lavender, thai basil, marigolds, bibb lettuce, green onions, delicata (winter) squash, and parsnips. Extra cilantro (PRIORITIES). And a little container of pickling cucumber starts given to me by a very dear neighbor.

I also talked my husband into buying a few blueberry bushes and rhododendrons, because those will grow nicely in pots until we settle somewhere permanently.

I’ve been doing a lot of sitting and thinking in my little sprouting garden. All this business of trying to make stuff GROW really gets me thinking a lot about life, generally – and my own life in particular.

It’s easy to want to constantly do MORE – to fuss a lot, to plant more things, bigger variety, prettier gardenscaping. I have to remind myself that I have a very limited amount of time and energy these days, and that my garden doesn’t HAVE to be absolutely and perfectly maximized and optimized. It only has to be enough.

I’ve said before that when I was a young woman, I wanted to have lots of children. I imagined I’d have easy pregnancies and deliveries (like my own mother – and I did!) and envisioned having a dozen or so. I got a HUGE amount of social and cultural pushback on that idea from all sides, and so I gradually lowered my expectations over the years until I was comfortable with the idea of having “at least three.”

My first husband said he wanted “at least four.” I jumped on that. Found out a little too late that he was actually a narcissistic liar who wanted nothing of the sort. I’m STILL processing the events of that marriage (7 years before we split, 9 before the divorce was final) – but the effective end result of my decision to marry that man, and the cascade of decisions it precipitated, is that I have only two children. I will probably not have more – and I had them with a man who is NOT the best father, and IS a terrible influence.

There is a certain heaviness to accepting that I bear a lot of responsibility for this. I mean… I can say that I was lied to, that I was tricked, that I was misled – and all those things ARE true. But there are enough of my decisions in that mess, which I could have made differently and chose not to, that I don’t feel OK playing that card.

God gave me a shady garden. There is no doubt about that. Looking back at the circumstances I was born into and raised in, the idea that I would fall effortlessly into a quiet little traditional Christian marriage and go on to have lots and lots of babies in my own little slice of rural utopia is patently absurd. Practically the entire social/cultural/economic deck of cards was stacked against me.

But what my musings have me considering now is that when you really boil it down, it was my own PRIDE that eventually said “well, if you’re not going to make it easy, I’m not going to try.”

Kinda like I’ve sat on my thumbs for years refusing to grow anything in the dirt because I didn’t have enough of it, or because the landlord might not like it, or because there wasn’t enough sunlight.

And who knows – maybe I wouldn’t have had more children, even if I’d tried; even if I’d pushed my first husband, or left him and tried with someone else. I have no way of knowing. Maybe I was only “meant” to have two. I’ve done a fair job of making peace with only having two, at any rate. But I hope to teach my own children to make their decisions a little differently. I don’t want my children to EVER look at a shady garden, or a small garden – or any kinda imperfect garden – as a reason to sit on their thumbs and not try to grow anything at all.

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