I’ve been around a garden for as long as I can remember. My father is an avid gardener, and when I was a child, the entrance of spring meant peat pots, seed packets, and my dad at the helm of a lumbering rototiller. I’d watch dad care for his huge tray of seedlings, which while still germinating inside the house, would span across the back sliding glass door and block our exit to the backyard. Mom just loved that! He’d mark each pot with a white label, and if I wrote carefully, he’d let me do some of the labeling, too. I’d check on the sprouts daily, and before long the seedlings were big enough to transplant. Dad would guide me through gently placing the tender plants in the soil (you never called it dirt) and he’d furrow small rows for the seeds he was directly sowing. “Don’t cover them too much or too tight, Beck,” I can still hear him remind me.
I’m sure I wasn’t much of an actual help, but all summer I would love to keep him company, crawling under the canopy of tomato towers and snapping pole beans into a colander. Knowing I was always under foot, Dad would embed the tines of his garden hoe into the ground lest I step on the end and smack myself in the head like the cartoon characters. Dad taught me how to properly pick a vegetable from its vine, and to this day, the smell of a tomato vine brings me right back to Daddy’s garden. The harvest would vary from year to year, but would always include eggplants, green beans, limas, squash, lettuce, peppers, my personal favorite – okra, and an ever-changing variety of tomatoes.
The work that followed in the kitchen was just as fun as the garden tasks. Dad would make sauces, chili (among other creations,) and fried okra – which never made it past the pan, we ate it so fast.
Coming from this rich gardening history, you would think I would have dived right into it myself as an adult. But for years while I worked in an office, I didn’t have the time to properly maintain one. I was instead content with a small flower garden, stocked with daylillies and flowers gifted by my sister. When we moved to the home where we are now, and I became a work-at-home mommy, I entertained the idea until I quickly realized that the many deer that roam our yard would only use a garden as an all-you-care-to-eat buffet. It was only just last year that we got a Grow Camp (and also a deck) that now allow us to continue this rich gardening legacy.
The season is starting, and while I may not have a huge plot of land to till, or an enormous tray of seedlings to tend, I do have a modest little garden space that allows me to put into practice the skills I learned from my Daddy and I delight in being able to pass this hobby on to my kids as well.
And Daddy? He’s probably at work in his garden as I type. It’s a little smaller than it used to be, and this year he’s decided to order plants instead of planting from seed. But I love that we can still work the soil together.