Why do I garden? The answer is easy. I enjoy going out to my garden in the morning, picking what is ripe, and planning my meals around what is in season at the moment. When I moved to Virginia four years ago, one of the first things I did was fence off a portion of the yard in order to plant my vegetable garden. I was lucky in Pennsylvania to have a friend who had a garden. Given that gardeners seem to like to share their bounty, I enjoyed the fresh vegetables from her garden that she sent my way. After looking at the pitiful and often wilted selection of produce at the local market on the island, I knew what I wanted to do!
I already had a little herb garden here on the side of the house, but I knew nothing -- and I mean NOTHING -- about vegetable gardening. I thought of myself primarily as a flower gardener at that point. But, I knew what I liked to eat and that was a start. One huge pile of donkey manure later (a very unattractive feature in my front yard for a few weeks), hauled load by painstaking load to the plot (in the FAR corner of my rather large back yard, I might add!), and I was ready to plant. A book called "The Vegetable Gardener's Bible" by Edward C. Smith truly became my bible that first year. It still is my best reference and one I recommend to anyone, whether they are a novice or a veteran gardener. From these pages, I learned what to plant and when. Most importantly, I learned about the idea of companion planting -- basically, what vegetables were friends and should be planted together, and which need some degree of separation to be more successful.
So, I bought some young plants and seeds, got my hands dirty, and guess what? My garden, if I must say so, was quite impressive for someone who was learning literally by doing. I remember bringing some of the very first vegetables over as a gift to my parents in my great-grandfather's basket (more about that in a later post), artfully arranged within. They were so pleased to see that I was using the basket and also to have the fresh food to eat (FYI: They got to keep the food, but not the basket!!). Nonetheless, one of the most satisfying aspects of gardening for me is sharing my harvest with others!
I suppose the intention of this post is to convey that you don't have to be an expert to start your garden. You don't even have to plant a large plot. Many vegetables do well in pots, if that's all you can do or have the space for. So, just do it! There is a big push now to eat local food. You can't get any more local than your own yard! I can guarantee that once you get the taste of your own vegetables, you will be hooked!