April 2015 – Garden ready
As parents, we make difficult decisions for our children every day with great pressure to make the right one each time. My strategy for dealing with this overwhelming pressure has been to prioritize the topics that are most important to us, as a family, to be happy and healthy. The number one issue, in our home, every day, is food. I want my daughters to appreciate and, even more importantly, enjoy food……REAL food. We certainly wanted a home garden to assist in our efforts; however, I was at a loss regarding where to begin.
A whole generation divides me from any useful hand-me-down gardening expertise. I have fond memories of shelling peas and snapping beans at a picnic table in my grandparent’s backyard. Grandpa Reed kept an impressive garden, but it was sternly monitored. As children, we dare not enter those tidy rows. Regardless, we were too young to appreciate or absorb any of that priceless knowledge. My parents, who reaped the harvest of Grandpa Reed’s garden labors, never had the need to keep one of their own. Now that I’m ready to begin my garden, those wise grandparents are sadly long gone, taking their know-how with them.
I resorted to books. Stacks and stacks of books. I quickly came upon so much contradictory and confusing information that I was left discouraged. I resolved to sign up for a farm share and leave the seemingly mystical concept of growing your own food to the real farmers. We are so lucky that this IS a viable option on Martha’s Vineyard! There are so many here committed to the cause of producing good, whole, local food. For instance, Emily and Claire of Island Grown Schools, who last spring, collaborated with The Martha’s Vineyard Community Services Family Center to create a garden at their new location in Vineyard Haven. They were kind enough to weave it into a free gardening workshop for preschoolers and their families. We did not hesitate to sign up! I was so encouraged after the first workshop, that I rearranged travel plans so as not to miss the second!
Emily made everything so easy. Now, remember, her target audience is in the age range of 3-5, which fell just in line with my level of ignorance. Build a box, fill it with dirt (ok, GOOD dirt), poke down seeds (or purchase seedlings), and water. AND the kids LOVED it! They worked so hard shoveling dirt, pushing wheelbarrows, and hauling water. Plus, there were worms; always a winner with the preschool crowd! It was simply precious. And, it was exactly the impetus I needed to get our garden going at home.
Together, Evelyn (3), Frances (2), and I (with a little help from Dad) built a raised bed and planted carrots, beets, lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, and herbs. The girls were often out with their magnifying glasses studying the sprouts and flowers. We built “bug hotels” and they catalogued bugs and worms that we observed in the garden. The discovery of a caterpillar would simply make their day. It brought me more joy than I can describe to see them picking cherry tomatoes from the vine and happily eating them in the summer sun. I can also report that they were more willing to try AND enjoy new vegetables, considering that they had a hand in creating them. Our first garden was a success in more ways than I could have imagined. At the end of the season, I felt like Grandpa Reed would be proud.
We have already mapped out our garden and ordered seeds for this upcoming season. However, we will again be joining the Family Center & Island Grown Schools in May for their Spring Gardening Workshop. We want to help them get their garden ready for its second season, too. I hope to see you all there!