It’s been exactly one month since I planted my kitchen garden. I ignored the corners of the two raised beds I built three years ago, now warped and pulling apart, the gnawed edges where Yogi cut his new teeth almost lost in the silvery weathered gray. The small lupine casually planted in the space between them was already making its presence known. I had added compost and manure fertilizer to the soil weeks before, raking it in, imagining the dirt drinking in the nourishment, the earth’s placenta, hoping for healthy new growth that will result. It is a garden designed to eat out of every day. It is not a garden designed to yield large enough quantities of anything to put up for the winter. Located right outside my window, part of view I covet and love, of distant hills, meadow, apple trees, and dogs, it has to be beautiful too. It has to tickle my senses, invite my pleasure, give me places to rest my joy.
And this first month does not disappoint. The mixture of starts and seeds, of flowers and vegetables, has yielded a landscape of variety and texture already. Added to perennial and ever expanding lupine, lemon balm, sage, calendula, day lilies, mint, strawberries, and peonies, there is now three types of string beans, cucumbers, broccoli, carrots, radishes, mustard greens, kale, butter crunch, red oak, and romaine lettuce, corn, red flame beans, tomatillos, and a whole quarter bed devoted to my favorite snap peas. I’ve added tarragon, parsley, zinnias, basil, and nasturtiums to already established edges. The earth outside one side of a raised bed is devoted to a variety of sunflowers. Pots filled with flowering annuals and colorful vines form the edge next to the door, the more creative side of the fence that has been necessary to keep Yogi out of the garden.
Every day now I gather handfuls of greens and herbs just minutes before preparing a delicious salad. I don’t wait for anything to get limp or soggy, no, they get washed, cut ups and tossed with the barest minimum of dressing to eat right away, to savor the taste of immediately fresh.
Two years ago, I attempted to make a bigger garden to grow ‘quantity’ in. The thought was to enclose a large rectangular area with a protective fence like a typical country garden. I had a whole section of lawn dug up, had a fresh plot to work with that only required moving a few rocks. But on the opposite side of the house, in a place that my eyes rarely landed on, this plot remained untouched for a year. I thought, ok, then, I’m not ready, so began to add things, dead leaves, compost, straw, cardboard, anything to keep the grass and weeds from growing back, to make a mulch that could nourish the dirt over time. It is an untidy mess over there still, waiting. Instead, I have discovered the permaculture delight of keeping things close to home and in view, with two new garden beds that I can see throughout the day from my kitchen window. One is now filled with flourishing zucchini, melons, and hubbard squash. The other is still deciding what it wants. I will plant leftover seeds there today, have the pleasure of watching for more new growth in the next month.
All to say, I am watching my relationship with the kitchen garden with interest. This morning I took note of the holes that are starting to appear in the leaves of things from unseen destroyers. I saw a gorgeous orange oriole fly out of the garden as I came into view, wondering what nourishment he found there too. I feel the resistance to eating more than I do now, wanting to have some for tomorrow, instead of simply planting more seeds in the places that open up in the process. The garden is ever changing. There is no definitive beginning and end, no ultimate harvest, no sitting back and assuming all will be well without my eyes and touch and care. I wish every day for this be enough for now, to get by with the small amounts of fish and meat and grain and beans and daily homemade bread that I have in ample supply, to eat only the fresh things that are here right now, to not run to the store to buy fresh things I don’t need. I pray for the patience to wait for the rest that will surely come.