Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I think I might be done with gardening. Sort of. Maybe.




Last year, I gardened like crazy. I grew tons of peppers and tomatoes. I roasted and dried and sauced and froze. I spent most of my summer weekends cooking and weeding. I watered every morning and every night. When we went away, I enlisted one of my friends to come water for me. I was a gardening fool.

This year, I watched my garden get invaded by weeds while I worked on my rewrites. And it was okay, because I was still getting a reasonable amount of cukes and eggplant, with promises of peppers and tons and tons of tomatoes.

But then the tomatoes stayed green for a really long time. Eventually, the leaves started shriveling and turning brown. Then it traveled to my cucumbers, and I realized I had blight.

This weekend, I spent Saturday, sweating my butt off, digging up tomato and cucumber plants and dumping them into plastic bags to be thrown out like garbage, because that's the way you're supposed deal with infected plants. I spent Sunday grilling green tomatoes to make salsa so nothing would go to waste. It took me SEVEN HOURS to cut, seed, grill, and dice the tomatoes, and I made about 30 bucks worth of salsa that's not even all that great. I certainly didn't save any money. I'm sure I spent more than that on tomato plants and cages and organic fertilizer and containers to freeze the salsa.

I started gardening because I thought it was eco-friendly. Better to water plants that will feed us, than waste water on grass, right? But, the thing is, I never water my lawn. Ever. So my garden actually increased my water usage. My garden isn't nearly as efficient as a farmer's garden, and we get more than enough food from our weekly farm share bag. And while a farmer might have known how to catch blight early on and save the crop, I produced four giant bags of garbage for the landfill.

Last year, when things with the book were in limbo, I was struggling to find ways to feel like I was contributing to our family. Storing food and making things from scratch made me feel like I was being nurturing, like I was taking care of J and being a good wife. I very much appreciate that my garden helped me feel productive then. But now, I feel like there simply aren't enough hours in the day, and all my efforts in the garden and the kitchen are taking away from my ability to be a good wife and a good friend. Plus, if I'm being really honest with myself, I have to admit that I just don't enjoy it anymore. If I did, that would be one thing, but I feel like it's just one more item on the long list of things I have to do and never have enough time for.

There were so many better ways I could have spent my weekend. J and I would be happier if I took the time to go kayaking with him, instead of complaining that my feet were sore and my hands hurt from seeding tomatoes and standing over the grill all afternoon. I would be happier if I'd spent that time doing laundry, or cleaning the basement, or checking something else off my to do list, chatting with friends, reading one of the many books I've got stacked on my desk, or, you know, writing. Argo and Stella would be happier if I'd taken them to the P-A-R-K for an H-I-K-E. My neighbors would have been happier if I did something about the weedfest that is the side of our house.

So next year, no veggies. I still have a gaping dirt pit that takes up 1/4 of the lawn, but I have some awesome strawberry plants that are already planted and doing great. I don't mind taking the 20 minutes it takes to freeze extra berries, and I know my friends don't mind when I show up with surplus strawberries for them. My herb garden is super low maintenance, so I'll keep that going. I clip herbs as I need them, and there's never any rush to harvest.

I'm thinking maybe I'll turn the rest of the garden into a mini orchard - maybe two or three dwarf apple trees. Apples don't require the same care as veggies, and a nice bed of mulch or gravel will keep me from needing to weed as often. If I have too many for snacking and not enough time to make apple butter, I can always drop them off at the food pantry or an after school program.

I'm in no way criticizing people who love to garden and preserve food and do it well. It truly is an art form, and I really admire people who have a green thumb and endless patience in the kitchen. I'm just saying that I don't love it and I don't want to put the time and effort into it anymore. I want to put the time and effort into doing things I do enjoy, because life is short, and blight sucks. And I'm more than happy to buy sauce and pickles and peppers and tomatoes from the good people at the farm market, who do it well and depend on the income. In the end, I think it'll save me some money, and keep some garbage out of the landfill, too. There are plenty of ways to be eco-friendly that don't involve spending your Sunday up to your elbows in green tomato guts.

13 comments:

courtney said...

Well, if you don't enjoy it anymore, then you made the right decision in giving it up. I really wish I could have a garden, but once I have one, maybe I'll hate it. Who knows.

I love the idea of creating a little apple orchard in your backyard, though. That would be so pretty.

Kathie said...

I think its important that everyone gardens at least once, so that you can see how truly "cheap" the food is at the local farmers market. If you don't like it, scrap it and support a local grower. Blight does indeed suck.

Mooreganics said...

Good for you for recognizing your "love of gardening" had diminished. This is my first year of gardening and I too ran into a few problems...namely squash bugs. Luckily though I was very modest in the number of plants so everything has been manageable. I did have grand ideas of expanding my garden next year, but I think I will keep is small scale so as not to hinder on such activities as going to the P-A-R-K and such. And what I don't grow I am always happy to get from my local farmers.

Noelle said...

Last year, I was reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" at the same time my garden, my entire crop, all those hours of work, was destroyed by deer. I threw the book away, and decided that living off the land is for people who aren't surrounded by awesome farmer's markets.

rach said...

I gave up this year on tomatoes. Even my herbs are neglected...I think I'm meant to continue serving on the board of my local farmers market and buy from local farmers cuz they do a way better job that I do anyway. Right?!

Dingo said...

This post came along just as I was thinking about a Greenist post, "Is it really green to own your own garden?" You've given me food for thought - and not the nasty green tomatoes kind, either.

Corinne Bowen said...

This represents so many things in life. It's nice when you get to a place where you can let go of certain things that don't serve you anymore, rather than doing them because you think you should, which just makes everything miserable!

A Free Man said...

I gave up veggie gardening a couple of years ago after a disastrous 'summer' in Oxford. My tomatoes got blight, my potatoes drowned. My peppers died from lack of sunlight. Loads of work, little reward. Currently I'm thinking of astroturfing my lawn. Or moss. I hear good things about moss.

WendyCinNYC said...

I think you made the right decision. If it doesn't make you happy, don't do it. If you end up missing it, you can always go back.

equa yona(Big Bear) said...

Sounds like a good decision. have you thought about blueberries? They are beuriful redstems in the winter and MMMMMMMM blueberries are da bomb!!!

Kirsten said...

You hit the nail on the head. I also read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and got the same itch. I also belong to a CSA so the amount of veggies I had this year was making me cry. The garden definitely became a chore and even though me and my husband both work from home, the garden became an item on a huge list of to-dos. We felt it was important to learn to grow our own food if anything happened and we could not get food anymore. We also wanted to teach our daughter about sustainability. But after the peppers got blight and the cucumber beetles and the squash vine borers that decimated the pumpkins and the peppers that never fruited, we realized that organic gardening is not a hobby, it is a full-time job. And preserving, canning, drying and freezing is just as time-consuming. We will try it again, in our greenhouse this fall and winter and in the garden next year but will plant fewer plants.

Fiona Robyn said...

I enjoyed this - and definitely empathise with an enthusiasm for gardening that goes up and down... maybe you could just have one courgette plant? Or just a few garlics? ;)

Kate said...

See? I only garden because I love how I feel when I'm out there. I actually don't care about the produce itself. I don't eat much of it and mostly give it all away. So, for $30 invested in plants and seeds - no watering - I refuse to water unless it's total drought and I feel guilty for bringing these plants home - I had a great growing season. And since the summer was so messed up, I FINALLY have blooms on my green beans. Which are really the only vegetables I truly wanted. The tomatoes? Oh well. The butternut squash? We'll see how I do with it when it's ripened. But for now? Just the feeling of the dirt and the sun on my back was worth every dollar spent.