when (& how) to harvest

When I was growing up in Missouri, I dreaded working in the garden. We had a plot in our backyard that — if my 13yo memory serves — was at least 400 square feet of spider and beetle-infested tomato, green bean, and prickly squash plants.

It was my job to weed and bring in the veggies. I absolutely hated it. I get the willies even now just thinking about slinking through those rows, scanning leaves in all directions for a glimpse of the flesh-eating wolf spider whose domesticated cousin lived in our basement.

All that terror, just for a couple of sun-scarred tomatoes.

For some reason I can’t explain, when we moved to our current house in 2003 I wanted my own garden. A corner of the yard served the purpose well with nine raised beds, and I eventually installed an in-ground irrigation system that ran to each bed. (No, I don’t use it now. Yes, it still works. Yes, I still visit the chiropractor regularly after that 2004 spring season, thank you very much.) And in 2006 I converted my beds to Square Foot Gardens, which has helped immensely with both the weeding and the management of my OCD tendencies.

reaping what we sow

At four years old, my daughter is finally old enough to help me. And I’m not talking about just digging holes. She wants to plant, sow seeds, fertilize, dead-head… everything except pet the earthworms (give me some time, she’ll come around).

I want her to have fun. I want her to ENJOY being outside with me. I want her to love the smell of dirt, and the taste of snap peas off the vine, and the miracle of life from a tiny seed.

I don’t want her to cut the flower buds off, drown the little seedlings, kneel on succulent lettuce leaves, or be terrified of garden critters that are there just because they live.

How do I show the best way to live? To appreciate nature? Is it by forcing her to stay in the hot sun with me? Or is it by encouraging her to share my moments, giving her my hat for shade, letting her drop seeds where they may and eat the snap peas before they’re ready?

I think it’s whatever makes her smile.

Gardening is the adult hobby of choice in America. I’m sure I’m not the only one with eye-rolling childhood memories, who later “grew up”. But perhaps my daughter doesn’t have to suffer first, before learning to enjoy the harvest… and the little steps along the way.

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