Sunday, March 31, 2013

{Grow Write Guild} My gardening roots

Note: This is the first in a writing prompt series call Grow Write Guild I've decided to write along with. The prompts come from Gayla Trail at You Grow Girl, one of the gardening bloggers I enjoy following. The first prompt is "write about your first plant." My story is quite loosely based on Gayla's questions, but I'm taking the word "prompt" literally. I will be using her suggestions as a means to get writing with little attention to whether my direction has anything to do with what Gayla had in mind. I'm looking forward to this writing journey through the gardening season and would be honored to have you join me.

I grew up with gardeners. When I was a baby, Mom would put me down for a nap in my crib and go work in the garden at the bottom of our backyard hill. Once I was old enough, I was down there in the garden along side her.

When I recall specific memories of that garden, they aren't particularly fond. To be honest, none of my childhood vegetable gardens conjure specifically good memories, but I am nonetheless thankful for them. And, if I don't try to zero in on any particular moment in time, the thought of my childhood gardens bring an overall warm feeling of happiness.

Our neighborhood was built in an old apple orchard, and our backyard had several too-old-for-good-fruit apple trees. It seems the steep hill from the house to the garden was always littered with half-rotten apples regardless of the time of year. Incidentally, the swing set was at the bottom of the hill, too, so it wasn't as if I could avoid that walk even if I didn't want to garden. The trees may have shaded the hill, but at the bottom it was hot and sunny -- perfect for growing zucchini the size of a small child. Next to the garden was a raspberry patch. I loved raspberries, but bees and prickers made the berries nearly undesirable.

My grandparents, who we visited frequently, had an even larger garden. Grandma tried to get me to eat the Brussels sprouts she grew, but, thankfully, no one forced me, because Mom didn't like them, either. Grandma, grew beets, too. I didn't even realize Mom didn't like beets until I was an adult. I guess, when you're a kid you just gobble up the food that's yummy and don't take much notice of what others eat.

Later, my grandparents moved from Rockland County to their "camp" in the Adirondacks, and I think the garden got even bigger. In the new garden they grew potatoes, which have given me my absolute least favorite gardening memory -- picking potato beetles. To this day, I despise beetles of all kinds, and I'm not sure I'll ever have it in me to grow potatoes. I hated picking those potato beetles, but I managed, as a preteen, to do it with pride. There we were, three generations of gardeners, walking along the rows throwing those nasty creatures into coffee cans of turpentine, so we could eat the most delicious potatoes I've ever tasted.

So, why, if my earliest memories of gardening coincide with memories of rotten apples and potatoes beetles, would I want to garden as an adult? The answer is very simple: we had fresh veggies on our table all summer long. Unlike many of my peers, I love vegetables of all kinds (Brussels sprouts remain my one exception). If you need a second reason, I got to play in the dirt a lot, and I love the smell of dirt. Perhaps most importantly, that overall warm feeling of happiness is something I long to pass on to my son.


  1. Kris, this is a great post. Once you get used to fresh vegetables it's hard to walk away from it. I've never seen a potato beetle, but last year I was introduced to flea beetles - they like potatoes too.

    1. Thanks, Val. All beetles are icky!

  2. This is great! We had two crabapples in our yard and to this day the sight of rotten apples embedded in the grass makes me nostalgic. I'm loving reading all these Grow Write Guild posts. You'll find my first one here:

  3. I liked your comment about kids not noticing what others like and don't like to eat. I grew up in a family of gardeners who liked to try out all the new stuff in the seed catalogs, so I at least tasted a huge variety of veggies. There were very few I disliked, although I did have preferences. It wasn't until I got to school with my brown bag lunches of "weird" things that I realized that not everyone ate the way we did.