Last weekend we built and prepared a raised bed for my dream vegetable garden. I am a first time gardener living with a man who used to be a professional landscaper (turned carpenter), so going into this I knew the biggest challenge would be convincing him to teach me how to do everything along the way, rather than me simply watching him do the work in a fraction of the time. Somehow we found a happy compromise and I picked up a few new skills too!
Phase Two of the project is all about the veggies. My local nursery didn’t have all of the vegetables from my list so I improvised a bit and ended up with eggplant, which I didn’t plan for but am very excited to try – if it grows! And since I couldn’t find green beans, carrots, or radishes, I decided to compensate with a plethora of herbs and lettuce in a variety of shapes and sizes. Cucumber, zucchini, and tomato were obviously a must-have, so I picked up a few of each and was on my way.
Before planting, we had to add a few extra bags of soil to the garden since the earth had compacted quite a bit. We dumped all of the soil onto either side of the garden, and then smoothed it all out with a hoe and a rake. Then it was time to decide where everything was going to go. We read the little cards that came with each plant to see the space required between each, but more or less used even spacing between every single plant in the garden – with the optimistic hope that everything will grow big and wide.
To plant each vegetable, we followed five simple steps:
- We made a small mound of dirt and created a small hole in the centre of the mound, basically just big enough to transfer the plant from the pot.
- Then we carefully removed the plant from the pot by shaking or tapping it out (or in some cases, using an x-acto knife to cut the side of the pot).
- Holding the plant over the hole, we gently broke apart the roots so they weren’t all tightly wound and held in the shape of the pot.
- Then we dropped the plant in the hole and gently surrounded the roots with soil from the mound of dirt.
- Finally, we watered everything to make sure the soil was really damp.
It took me about twice as long to do one side of the garden compared to my better half’s side which he expertly planted in what felt like 60 seconds. But since I’m new to this gardening thing I’m not bothered; it was fun getting my hands dirty and the wafting scent of earth under my knees was like the sweet smell of spring magnified exponentially.
In fact, the most exciting part of the whole endeavour this weekend was not standing back at the end to admire and enjoy the full effect of our new garden, finally planted and looking lush and green. (Although that part was pretty awesome too, see below!) It was when I was scooping soil around the very last plant – a baby cucumber which currently looks like nothing more than a long stem with a handful of pale leaves. I was sweaty and my back was starting to get sore when suddenly I noticed a small but palpable scent in the air. The plant actually smells like cucumber.
Then I turned around and started tying the baby tomato plants to the bamboo poles I’d picked up at the nursery…and I noticed it again. The plants smell like tomatoes already, even though they are just green vines with little spiky leaves. This might be the opposite of groundbreaking to anyone else in the world, but to me it really made the whole garden project finally seem real. These green plants may soon yield crops that I will eat. It seems like the most simple and basic principle, but somehow it feels magical.
Now all we have to do is hope that the crafty raccoons keep out and that the plants grow big and healthy. In what looks like a promising start to the season, our leafy green transplants from last weekend appear to be doing really well in the front yard, so I am hopeful that our luck will continue with my first vegetable garden!