We realized that we had a collection – a passion, actually – that required attention. This happens often, and we have learned over the years not to ignore the signs. For that is where joy lies.
Joe Eck & Wayne Winterrowd (Our Life in Gardens)
My childhood was filled with gardens. My parents tended a huge edible garden which we dreaded having to work in all summer long. The house was always brimming with houseplants of all colors, shapes and sizes. Since my childhood was spent in both a northern climate in the United States and on the equator in Colombia, I’ve lived in both extremes of gardening climates. The gardens of my childhood contained everything from exotic staghorn ferns and papayas to common snap beans and marigolds. (I’m the one on the right)
Even though my parents were avid gardeners, I never really was all that enamored with it. My mom let me choose something interesting to grow in the edible garden and a few blooming things for the front flowerbeds. I had a few plants in my room during college and herbs in pots on my first apartment balcony, but gardening wasn’t something I’d even mention when talking about my hobbies. When Mr Chiots and I purchased our home ten years ago that was still the case. I had no desire to garden. For some reason, I still felt the need to feed the soil even though I had no plans of lush gardens nor vine ripened tomatoes. For the first few years, I added chicken manure and mulched leaves at intervals throughout the year and replaced a few uninteresting plants with ones that caught my eye.
After few years of tending the soil and I started to develop a green thumb, before I knew it, I was spending most of my free time in the garden, planting, making compost and expanding the flowerbeds. I found myself frequenting the local greenhouses in search of interesting plants. I woudl check piles of gardening books out of the library. I was discovering that deep down I really enjoyed gardening and the peace and satisfaction it brings.
Five years ago, three 4 x 10 raised beds were built in the back garden “to grow a few vegetables and strawberries”. Little did I know, when we built these raised beds that a new gardening passion would be discovered. My love of ornamental gardening hasn’t been lost, it’s simply been overshadowed for the moment as edibles have taken root. Growing edibles was a natural progression since cooking is one of my other loves (something I’d always mention when talking about my hobbies). Living in a rural area doesn’t mean that fresh vegetables are easy to find. I quickly found out that if I wanted them I had to grow them myself.
Since then, my love of edibles has grown stronger; we even purchased the lots of both sides of us to have more space for popcorn, pumpkins and what ever else interests us. From regular edibles my interest deepened when I discovered the world of heirloom vegetables – and what a wonderfully interesting world it is.
Growing heirloom vegetables can be addictive, when you savor the first ripe ‘Brandywine’ tomato from the vine in July, you want to grow every single colorful variety mentioned in the seed catalogs. Who can resist not having a bouquet of fresh tomatoes on their table in August?
The ornamental gardens at Chiot’s Run have not suffered from my newfound love of edible gardening. I use the world “ornamental” loosely since a well-tended vegetable can be every bit as lovely as a perennial border. When you take the time to cultivate good soil a strong foundation is developed and the plants that take care of themselves. Besides weeding twice each summer and adding a thick layer of chopped leaves and manure in the fall, my ornamental beds pretty much take care of themselves. They also provide a beautiful backdrop and beneficial biodiversity for the edible garden.
As I discovered my passion for edible gardening, my mom rediscovered her love it edibles as well. When I started growing a few vegetables, she tilled up a section of her lawn that had grown vegetables when I was still living at home. Like mine, her edible garden grows each year. I often head over to her garden and we plant and grow a variety of things together there. Since her soil is already well established, it has been a wonderful place to garden as I work in building up the soil in my own gardens to produce more bounty for my table.
If you’ve never grown anything edible in your garden I’d highly recommend that you try. Even if it’s only one tomato plant on a small stoop you’ll be amazed at the deep sense of joy and satisfaction that comes when you pluck that first ripe fruit from it’s branches. Deep down I think we all have the need to tend a small plot of soil and provide for ourselves.
How has your gardening evolved throughout the years? Do you have a passion for a particular area or plant?Filed under About Me | Comments (21)