My mother is my gardening mentor. All of my life she has been an avid gardener with a knack for growing the most flavorful fruits and vegetables. The first several years we lived here my brother and I bought her primroses from a neighbor several blocks away for Mother’s Day. She cleverly used the garden as a tool for both pleasure and pain: I can remember punishments of sifting rocks and picking weeds at various times in my teen years. But I also remember fun talks as we worked together pulling string beans from the long vines she had grown on poles, eating them as we went. Sometimes we found yucky bugs or slugs, which are very large and prevalent where she lives. For the longest time I wouldn’t eat fresh peas because of the bugs I came across while shelling ours.
I had container-gardened for years as I didn’t have a patch of ground to call my own. When I did get a house with a yard, on the westside of Washington, I had a four year old and a 9 month old – at least by the time the outside was tamed into a yard – and I found gardening to be a strong urge. For fun, I purchased packets of bush beans, carrots, and spinach, along with tomato and cucumber starts. I had put in various herb gardens and salvaged nearly all of the clearance plants from the local hardware and nursery filling up my garden beds – I brought home stray plants, if you will. I gave the packets of bean seeds to my kids and told them that they could plant them anywhere in the gardens, but they had to remember where so they could find them to eat the beans. Together we planted the carrots and spinach seeds, in a separate bed so they could watch them grow.
All of the vegetables and herbs were fair game for them to pick and eat as they played. I kept a bucket of clean water on the picnic table for them to ‘wash’ their pickings, but most of the time they went from plant to mouth pretty rapidly. Their friends came and grazed without questioning what they were eating. This was the status quo each summer as they enjoyed the process; weeding wasn’t even really a chore as they had to keep their plants visible and healthy, so they would pull the weeds they knew as they played.
Yesterday I went to visit my mother at her home; on the rainy side of the state. The day was chilled and cloudy, but very nice. We drank tea, ate the muffins she made for lunch and then began to wander through the yard to see what she wanted done. Together we deadheaded the day lilies and irises, trimmed the dead wood from the large shrubs that were moved during a major yard renovation in the spring, and pulled lots of weeds. When she made up her mind what she wanted moved, I moved it to the newly appointed location. As the growing season is winding down, I do not think we will see the full effect of this until next year. The next time I go over, I will have a better idea of what she needs done and we will have another terrific visit.
My passion for gardening has been heavily influenced by my upbringing, I hope I passed on this love and passion to my kids. My step-daughter teases me that I am a farmer at heart. Having married her father, raised into an agricultural lifestyle, I have had the luxury of expanding my gardening passion, but not quite big enough to be a ‘farm’ on any scale.