The Environment banner

Backache, Beets & Butterflies

by Jackie O’Hara

One Woman’s Journal of Becoming
a Gardener

Jackie waters the plants in her Brewster Garden Plot
Jackie waters the plants in her Brewster Garden Plot

"What if my garden is a failure?" This worry comes and goes as I begin this new adventure in my life.

I have a heritage of gardening - both my parents have green thumbs. When I was growing up, my father took care of a large vegetable garden for our family of eight. My mother, an excellent cook, created many delicious meals with our vegetables. She canned some of the crop and made pickles and relishes each Fall.

My mother also created beautiful flower gardens, a hobby that my oldest sister inherited and became proficient at. For a long time I had no interest in any of this. I preferred to look at plants "in the wild" rather than cultivate them myself. In fact, most of the things I tried to grow would suffer and slowly die. It came as a great surprise when I began to think about gardening, a few years ago.

Eager to have healthy food for my family finally led to a strong desire to start that first vegetable garden. Selling one home and moving to another, however, put the garden project on hold. Finally, when we were all moved in and I was left with no more excuses, the vision of my garden began to grow.

At first, it began with the back yard vegetable plot. My husband, who is very handy, built a raised and enclosed garden bed last year. We bought all of the plants, except the lettuce, the only one I was inspired to plant by seed. Several things conspired to make a mediocre season - early wet weather, untested soil and beginner's limited knowledge.

Undaunted, I did research this past winter. Now my vision includes the backyard vegetable plot, a berry garden with blueberries, strawberries and raspberries, an herb garden, a butterfly garden, rose garden and shade garden. With my wonderful husband’s help, so far most of these gardens are underway, but doing it all in one season has put the pressure on.

I realize that I now have a new passion. Like other passions, it can sometimes border on obsession. I find myself thinking about my plants, researching and talking about them. If I am anywhere near plants for sale, I seem to be buying them. This may or may not be a good thing, depending on my budget. I know many gardeners who have been through this. My sister has mentioned to me, several times, how she “steals” seeds when visiting gardens. Now I am thinking about it too.

I am excited to have obtained a 20 x 20 plot in the Brewster Community Gardens. This plot will be a place for our family of four to grow lots of vegetables, cutting flowers, sunflowers and big pumpkins.

Jacki's garden
Tomatoes, Peppers & Mint wait to be Planted

Along with the vegetables, I am hoping to have some “community” time with my family. I made a deal with my two teenage boys – if they help their father and I, for one day, to get the plot ready for the seedlings we’d started in April, they wouldn’t be required to do anything else all summer. We really needed their muscles to get the job done.

The four of us worked all day, tilling and weeding. My sons never complained. By the end of the day we were all exhausted, dirty and covered in ticks. But then I began to visualize again: the beets, carrots, zucchini, squash, corn, peppers, tomatoes, radishes, and so on.

My sons have mentioned that they will continue to help in our gardens throughout the summer. I can’t wait to get those plants and seeds in the ground. I probably should have done it today, but I have to go finish the butterfly garden.

Click here to download latest version of Adobe Acrobat if unable to see file Click for printer-friendly version

Please return to the Summer '09 Environment page.

Jacki's info Katie O’Sullivan’s Tomato crop
Katie O’Sullivan’s Tomato crop Summer 2008
Planting a garden