Adventures in Gardening

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I really love this gardening quote that I borrowed from Better Homes and Gardens. There’s just something about nurturing a little tiny seed into a plant that bears fruit – or vegetables – and of course, being able to walk outside and grab something fresh and delicious to add to a meal.

We decided to try it last year to see if we could save money on groceries, since, being on the paleo diet, we eat mostly meat and fresh produce. Or maybe I just wanted another project. There’s another saying that goes, “Gardening is cheaper than therapy, and you get tomatoes.” Let’s just say, if that really works, I should do lots and lots of gardening. And I could probably use a little sun, too.

Anyway, we didn’t have a whole lot of experience, and it was kind of last minute. I bought a bunch of seeds, some soil, bird netting, stakes, etc and put some cinder blocks around the one little part of our rental house backyard where I wouldn’t ruin the lawn. I started the seeds inside in egg cartons. They’re free, assuming you buy eggs, and the plastic ones make perfect little greenhouses with the tops on (the cardboard ones are decomposable but they steal moisture from the plants).

Out of probably a dozen varieties, the only really successful edibles were tomatoes, cucumbers, and basil. But hey, at least we like those a lot, and they make for delicious salads. I didn’t realize the mixed flowers I bought would be four feet tall, so my pretty little border was a little out of control. But it did attract some beautiful butterflies.

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In Northern California, where my Dad and I tried our hands at gardening a few years back, the problem – once you break through the rock hard ground – is watering enough to keep things alive, and keeping the deer away. Here in North Carolina, it’s kind of the opposite. Your plants grow with little trouble once they make it past transplant stage, but so does everything else. Meaning weeds, weeds, weeds. Also bugs, and rotting from excess rain. It has been a weird couple of years weather-wise.

Nevertheless, I wanted to try again this spring. We’d bought a house and had a perfect spot for a garden, much bigger than the other one, and a little more knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. So I gathered my supplies, bought some new ones – including a few new plant varieties – and got started.

Despite some setbacks such as bug holes in my broccoli plant and only male flowers on the pumpkin one (from what I understand, it’s the females that bear fruit), I am happy to say we have not only cucumber, tomatoes (just turning red!), and basil, but also squash, bell pepper, and parsley/cilantro (are they supposed to look and smell exactly the same??).

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The great thing about gardening is that you can totally scale it to your available time, space, and budget. You can have a few plants in containers, or fill your backyard – it’s up to you! I’ve even experimented with growing from kitchen scraps. Has it really saved us money on groceries? Probably not yet. But I’ll take the cheap therapy, and the satisfaction of watching something grow.

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