I am a firm believer that every relationship has it’s benefits, even the ones that end up on your top ten list of the worst decisions you’ve ever made. This post pays homage to #4 on my list, let’s call him, Egor. You see, Egor is was a fictional genius…literally every word from his mouth dripped with the type of fallacy that would keep his audiences captivated – but not for long. He however, is not the basis for this post, it’s what he taught me that has improved my way of living forever. My introduction to growing my own food started with Egor and a local community church offering 20 x 10 foot plots of land at only $20 for an entire summer season. Egor had grown his own food multiple summers before and had the experience. He taught me the basics of spacing, pruning, and harvesting. My gardening virginity was broken and that skill became #8 on my best experiences list. That summer, I learned to grow carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, and various herbs. The strawberries ended up dying off, just like our relationship, but it is the experience that has changed my life for the better.
Let’s fast forward a decade. Here I am, happily married by the way, in small-town North Carolina and sitting pretty on a small two acre plot of land. I started off gardening small, just to make sure I could dedicate the love and support veggies needed to thrive. That did not go over well, the deer entered my yard every night and ate the tomatoes right off the plant! Coming from a bustling city like Chicago to a small town in North Carolina came with it’s learning curves. The next year, I thought I would outsmart the deer and grow my tomatoes and herbs in containers on the deck. Well, apparently, deer can climb stairs too!
I did give up for a couple of years and started purchasing organic, but the costs were taking a toll on my budget. After a little online research, I found the best way to grow herbs in the Sahara…it gets so hot here that any tomato the deer didn’t chomp on, became shriveled and rotted in a matter of hours. We decided to build a 10 x 10 foot enclosed garden to keep out the deer and also added netting on top to to keep out other critters like squirrels and birds. Jalapenos, tomatoes, banana peppers and a boat load of herbs flourished. I was ecstatic! That next year, we doubled the size of the garden, because my sister decided it should be a community garden where only she would represent the community, so we did. My ever-supportive husband, built a 20 x 20 footer and raised planter beds to go along with it. This garden supports a variety of tomatoes including roma, beefsteak, and heirlooms. There were so many cucumbers this year that we pickled many of them.
We have feasted on zucchini noodles, stuffed bell peppers, jalapeno poppers, and created so many other delicious and healthy recipes. My marinara game is on point! Once you’ve harvested so much that the recipes aren’t coming fast enough, then it’s time to dice and freeze so that you can enjoy the benefits well into the winter season. You’ll find that the recipes I’ve posted about have all included items from my gardens.
There is research out there that supports home gardening. It’s shown to help improve both mood and health. It’s also pretty gentle on your budget. So, I do encourage you to start off small if you’ve never done it before. Begin with just a potted tomato plant on your deck or a hanging basket of herbs in your kitchen window. No matter what you decide, it will make it on your list of great experiences.
I hope this post has inspired you all to get out there and grown something. Because once you start, you will walk through the produce department turning your nose up at the oil-glistened tomatoes and pesticide-filled jalapenos they have on that beautiful display.