Summer is here and that means a lot of garden posts are showing up in my social media posts. In truth, gardening has gotten me through a lot this year. Whenever I’ve been emotionally unsound, when I’ve needed stress relief, when I’ve needed escape, I’ve spent time in my garden. Sweating, shoveling, sowing, it’s all been a life-saving drug for me, and it wouldn’t be happening if not for salad.
Salad was my gateway drug. In 2009 I got my first place in Silver Spring and decided to start a vegetable garden on my balcony. I did no research, had no understanding of what it would take to grow anything edible, but I figured that it I was going to grow anything, it should at least save me money. My goal was to grow things I didn’t want to buy at the store, which at the time was a lot of vegetables. I figured that if I could grow lettuce, I could have “free” salad all summer.
While that didn’t turn out to be the case exactly (sometimes a small amount of research can help), I did get hooked on gardening.
I’ve grown various things every year aside from two, and in those I was growing a baby and getting acclimated to having grown one. Each year we experiment with new plants, and different techniques. We grow household staples, like favorites buttercrunch lettuce, black cherry tomatoes, strawberries and peppers. This year we’re attempting butternut squash for the first time. There are things I just haven’t been able to get right, like carrots. Third time’s a charm right? And things we’ve abandoned to only wish we had space for again, like potatoes.
Each year we add another cedar box depending on what plants we’re invested in for the long term. We don’t grow in the ground because I like to control the soil content and I think that our yard has mysterious matter lurking. Because of this, crops earn their place before a dedicated box of proper size and shape is built.
I’d love to say we have an experimental box, but that may be a few years down the line. Cedar is expensive and we have quite a few containers that get used when we run out of room in the existing boxes. This year we added a box for the blueberry bushes, but to cut costs we made it smaller than one they should have been in. When we can build a larger box, we’ll transplant them and put something else there. Seeing what works is part of what I love about the process. And blueberries, I love blueberries. If we end up having enough that are ripe at one time, they’ll go in my salad too.
Since it’s still early in the summer, we can only harvest greens, peas and herbs. Our first crop of carrots should be ready next week, fingers crossed. Tomatoes will be coming along soon, then the peppers, and maybe if the rain lets up we’ll get some corn. Overall the harvest is just slow enough for us to appreciate what we’re growing, and that’s worthwhile.
Salad has prompted me to create other things too, like toppings. So far the baked rosemary croutons are my favorite. By the end of summer my salads will be mostly homegrown with homemade elements, and only the meat and cheese will have to be purchased.
Growing my own food gives me a sense of tangible accomplishment in a way that not many other things do. It’s highly personal and takes great care, but the process is plentiful to my soul, and the salads are delicious.