When I was a kid, we had a big garden in our backyard. The kind of garden that meant weeding and pulling and canning and chasing rabbits. When I was young, I kind of resented that garden, not because I minded getting dirty and digging and sowing or eating (especially eating) but because I increasingly felt that the garden was a responsibility shouldered mostly by my brother and be, and not the fun parts either. We didn't get to choose the plants, and most of the weeding and watering was left to us as summer chores when we'd really rather have been running around with our friends. Of course, I could eat more than my fair share of beans, carrots, and raspberries, but if I'd had my choice, I'd have left the kohlrabi, broccoli, and radishes out of the garden entirely. I always felt that if my parents had just asked if I wanted to be involved, I could have had a different attitude. That this attitude was mostly a product of my tween years is probably no coincidence.
As I've gotten older, I've been influenced by the farmer's markets in Ithaca and East Lansing, and by books like The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food, Animal Vegetable Miracle, Jamie at Home, and most recently Grow Great Grub. I have awakened a desire to have a garden of my own, especially considering the taste difference between a store-bought carrot and a home-grown one. But I live in an apartment, and this seemed to be a major obstacle to my dreams of stepping outside and having what I needed to cook the way I love. Reading more (particularly Grow Great Grub by Gayla Trail) I realized that I could have, if not everything I wanted, at least some, grown in containers on my balcony. This year is my first, and I'm being ambitious, if only for the experiment of it: Two kinds of lettuce mixes, spinach, chard, peas, and tomatoes.
The greens have already sprouted, and I'm like a little mother hen with them, checking them first thing in the morning, worrying about how much sun they are getting and whether they need more water (or, equally bad, worrying about them getting too much.) I am so thrilled to see the little sprouts poking up, and I can't wait to see what colors of chard I will have - I chose Bright Lights chard which grows in many different colors. I'm already collecting salad recipes for what will be, in my head anyway, a bumper crop of lettuce.
I chose greens specifically because they like the cold and hate the heat of July, which fits perfectly into my summer plans. The tomatoes might not make it to fruition - even the cherry variety I'm trying needs more light than I typically get, and I'm late getting the seeds in because of circumstances beyond my control, but I'm trying to let things take their own shape and treat this as a giant experiment. How else do you learn, after all, except by the occasional failure.
Though this adventure isn't meant to be a big Earth Day plug, I can't help but be excited about my little sprouts. I am so looking forward to picking those first lettuce leaves for dinner. And my tree is about to bust into bloom. Growing is good.
How do you Earth Day?