Garden Girl

by Laura on August 22, 2010

in Blog

I must admit, I’m not a garden girl. I’m not exactly sure why I’ve never embraced the concept of digging into the dirt, but here I am, married to a man who loves to tend to a garden, a man who has immersed the entire family into our own backyard garden, yet I am reluctant to get a bit of dirt under my fingernails.

Perhaps it’s the bugs I encounter when digging through the soil, perhaps it’s the memory of my childhood, when I was dragged outside on a summer’s day, presented with a weeding tool and gloves, and asked to remove the hundreds of dandelions that were scattered on our back lawn. Who knows, but whatever it is, you could be assured that I couldn’t be found out digging in the dirt.

Things may be changing. Thanks to my garden mentor, Greg.

In the past few months, Greg’s efforts in gardening have transformed me, and made me an advocate of backyard gardening. He is our resident gardener, my gardening mentor, and our family’s inspiration — bringing us closer to the earth and teaching us a bit about food.

Greg has done the bulk of the work in the garden, working hard to build the 13” by 5” garden box, planting seeds, setting up the irrigation s system, and lovingly tending to the garden on a daily basis. Me, I watch things grow, and then grab my bowl and pick the fruits of his labor.

This is our first year tending to a garden, growing everything from tomatoes to kale, to butter lettuce and pumpkins, carrots, beets and berries. It has been a learning experience for us all. The process has transformed me. It has made me an advocate or backyard gardening.

My recent experience in our own backyard led me to volunteer recently at the 18 Reasons farm and gardens in Sonoma. I joined several other volunteers weeding, planting, and picking beets, carrots, beans, and squash and then eating some of the fruits of our labor. I came home from the day exhausted, but with even more excitement to get involved in our own backyard project.

I love the fact that I don’t have to buy lettuce any longer. I love that the kids are scavenging around to find ripe strawberries, the pumpkin vines are creeping further into my backyard, the blackberries are starting to appear, and we are eagerly awaiting for the tomatoes to turn red. Soon, the pears and the apples will be ready to pick. And with the large bounty we seem to be having, I wonder what we could trade them for at the Marin Open Garden Project.

I have a newfound love for these foods – a zest for tasting something just off the vine.

Now, I find myself eyeing the grapefruits hanging unattended at the house down the street, or the oranges just waiting to be plucked from the branches of the home one street over. I’m sending Greg over to make a trade, or offer to pick their harvest.

All of this garden-tending (supplemented by shopping at the farmer’s market) has also changed the way I plan my meals. I find myself digging into my cookbooks in search of recipes to use the in-season produce. Kale, which we have in abundance, is a great example. Rarely would I have purchased it from the market, but now we’re using it to make our Kale and White Bean Soup (it has been a chilly summer in Northern California), and I’ve added Mustardy Kale with Bacon and Garlicky Greens to my frequently used recipe list.

More than ever before, I plan my meals according to which foods I know will be available from our backyard, or the farmer’s market. It is an exercise that took some getting used to, but one that I now truly enjoy. I also find that I save money on my grocery bill, and I’m happy that I can now be found with a bit of dirt under my fingernails.

Other benefits of a home garden include:

  • Improving the health of the family. We all know thateating more fresh fruits and vegetables is a part of being healthy. And, as we can attest to, you just can’t resist eating them when they’re right there in your back yard.


  • Enjoy fresh food. You never know how long the food has been on the supermarket shelf. Go ahead, try comparing the flavor of a homegrown tomato with one you bought at the store. (And, yes, a farmer’s market is a great place to buy fresh food). And, if it tastes better, you just may be inspired to eat more of it.
  • Food safety concerns are growing. Whether it is spinach or tomatoes, recalls are becoming more and more prevalent. And, for anyone who is thinking about having chickens in their backyard, eggs recalls are frequent as well! When you garden responsibly, you don’t have to worry about the contamination that may occur at the farm, at the manufacturing plant, or during transportation.


  • Cutting down on food waste. According to the US Health Department, approximately 25% of the food Americans buy goes to waste. That’s about one pound of food, per citizen, per day that ends up lining the trash bins. It’s that old carrot you left in the crisper until it was soft, or the orange that has been left rotting in the bowl. But, when you grow your own food, you’re less likely to let it sit around uneaten. You want to dive in and enjoy to results of your hard work.


Which leads me to the final point

  • A sense of pride. Since Greg has been the main tender of the garden, it has been wonderful to see the sense of pride he has as he has watched seeds blossom under his care. The kids always ask if something we’re eating is from the garden, and if so, they all reach for their forks and dig in . . . even if it is the kale!
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