Grit Blogs > Red Pine Mountain

Yes You Can (Garden, That Is)

A photo of Mountain WomanGardens. We all love them, but there are some of us who don’t have a green thumb. We gaze at our neighbor’s gardens in wonder. “Why don’t you give it a try?” they say. We mumble something about killing everything we grow. Yes, there are those of us who know everything we touch turns brown and shrivels. But seed catalogs are arriving daily, magazines have fantastic “how to” articles and once again, you’re tempted to try growing your own produce but you don’t. “Not me. I just can’t,” you say. Well, that’s what I said too until last year and maybe, just maybe, if I share my story you’ll be encouraged to give that garden a try.

I don’t have a green thumb. I walk into a nursery and plants shrivel as soon as I glance their way. Vegetables? Forget it. That’s advanced gardening for sure. I resigned myself to shopping for produce at the grocery store. But Mountain Man changed my life. He’s a master gardener. Fresh asparagus in the spring, fresh vegetables all summer long, not to mention canned goods in the winter. Nothing can describe the taste of just picked produce. Oh, it was wonderful, and I learned what I’d been missing all those years. But Mountain Man was so competent and knowledgeable, I was intimidated and I gladly let him handle the garden. Until last year.

“Isn’t it time to start the seeds?” I asked Mountain Man

“I don’t have time this year, too many work commitments. We’ll just have to buy our produce.”

Produce from the store? No way. A few years of garden fresh vegetables had left me spoiled. I knew if we were going to have fresh vegetables than I’d just have to take care of the garden myself. But I didn’t want to tell Mountain Man my plans. He’d feel compelled to help, and he didn’t have time. I was on my own and scared.

I ordered organic seeds from a Vermont company, High Mowing Seeds. I decided to grow traditional tomatos, peppers, and cucumbers. But I also decided if I was going to be in charge of the garden, I was going to have pumpkins (I love Halloween) and giant sunflowers, too.

When the seeds arrived, I got to work potting and then waited for them to sprout. Day after day, I’d check for any sign of life convinced there would never be any. But sprout they did, and what a feeling, kind of like giving birth without the pain. I couldn’t keep my secret any longer. I ran yelling for Mountain Man, seedlings in tow.

“I have a surprise for you.”

“Better not be another dog,” Mountain Man said. (We have seven.)

Was he surprised and pleased. And he was proud of my efforts too. He helped me clear a place for my sunflower seeds.

Mountain Man prepares the earth for sunflower seeds.

And he brought me bucket loads of soil for my garden but after that it was up to me.

Mountain Man uses tractor to bring soil for my garden.

I prepared a spot for my pumpkins.

My pumpkin patch awaiting seeds.

With my whippet supervising closely.

Katie the Whippet watches me work on my garden.

Before I knew it, my pumpkins were growing.

Pumpkins in my garden starting to grow.

My tomatoes were thriving.

Tomatoes growing in greenhouse.

My peppers were coming along.

Peppers growing in greenhouse.

Even the cucumbers were cooperating.

Cucumbers growing in the greenhouse.

Soon, I had actual tomatoes.

Tomatoes ripening on the vine.

And pumpkins.

Pumpkins growing on the vine.

And my sunflowers were reaching towards the sky.

Sunflowers reaching towards the sky.

Best of all the bees, absent in the past couple of years, returned.

Bee on sunflower blossom.

Oh, I made mistakes along the way. The most serious one was when I transplanted my tomatoes too soon, they went into shock, and I almost lost them. But I learned so much along the way. Like making manure tea with fresh droppings provided by my mare. I learned about garden pests and how to use organic methods to treat them. But the most important thing I learned is that I can garden. Maybe not an award-winning garden worthy of fame, but a garden that fed us all summer and into the fall with the most wonderful produce imaginable: my produce. And I’ve been so encouraged by the joy of working in the soil that I’m expanding my garden next year. Mountain Man has already cleared an additional spot.

Mountain Man clears land for the expanded garden next year.

I have visions of growing enough vegetables to donate my produce to the local food bank and help feed others.

And if a city girl with a reputation for killing plants can successfully grow a garden, then you can too. Don’t let another year pass by. Get out there and have some fun. You’ll be glad you tried.

mountain woman
2/21/2010 6:36:43 AM

Hi Oz Girl, I'm excited you are going to give it a try. I made lots of mistakes but I did learn and I would never give up because it's so important to me to try to give back to others let alone feed us. The crops that did grow were so delicious and I adored my pumpkins and sunflowers. I can't wait to hear about your garden.

oz girl
2/20/2010 3:19:22 PM

Thanks for this additional spot of motivation that I needed... my plan is to start a SMALL garden this spring. I'm excited about it, but I haven't done any vegetable gardening since I was a teenager and my parents forced me to weed the garden... hmmm, not such a heartwarming experience way back then! :) I think I will take note of Vickie's suggestion to keep track of mistakes I make - I suppose that is my greatest fear, and yet I know I shall make mistakes and I also realize that is how I will learn. I've never believed that we fail in anything we try, but instead, we grow and learn from our mistakes!

mountain woman
2/19/2010 11:28:49 AM

Hi Pam, I know your garden will be fantastic. I've seen your gorgeous photos from the years past. I know it will be spring there soon and you are lucky but I have to admit I'm still loving the white stuff on the ground. Thanks so much for visiting me.

2/19/2010 10:56:06 AM

Hi Mountain Woman, You and Mountain Man did a fine job of gardening. Team work is always a plus! The pictures are great. I am getting ready to get my fingers back in the Georgia dirt soon. Spring is not too far off here. Have a great day. GaFarmWoman Pam

2/19/2010 10:55:21 AM

Hi Mountain Woman, You and Mountain Man did a fine job of gardening. Team work is always a plus! The pictures are great. I am getting ready to get my fingers back in the Georgia dirt soon. Spring is not too far off here. Have a great day. GaFarmWoman Pam

mountain woman
2/18/2010 6:02:02 AM

Vickie, Thanks for visiting!! That's a great idea to write down my mistakes so I don't repeat them. Last year, I made so many mistakes I think I'd fill an entire book but I've learned and hopefully this year will be less. I do love that idea about writing them down. It will also give me something to look back on to watch my improvement. Thanks again :-)

2/17/2010 4:05:16 PM

Mountain Woman, I should have said I try to write down my mistakes so that I don't repeat them again! Hope you have another wonderful garden again this summer vickie

2/17/2010 1:27:34 PM

Mountain Woman, Your garden looks so nice-Spring can't arrive soon enough. I'm glad you had such great success. Gardening is a definetly a learning expierence every year for me-I try to write it down so I don't do it again next year! vickie

mountain woman
2/17/2010 12:53:15 PM

Cindy, I think that's the great thing about rural living. Every day is filled with adventures and learning about topics I really never thought of before. I just love the thought of growing food for us and for others. I feel productive that way as though I'm using our land to give back to the community. I have made some mistakes along the way and I've learned as well. Mountain Man didn't once tell me "I told you so" but has been there cheering me on. It's been fun too to watch him step back and let this novice give it a try. What fun to work in a nursery!!!

cindy murphy
2/17/2010 9:26:10 AM

Yay for you, Mountain Woman, for ignoring your the black thumb and going for it. It always makes me smile when someone comes into the nursery claiming they don't have a green thumb but are willing to give gardening a try. They leave with their plants, some advice, and come back for more, excited to tell stories of their successes. Of course, even those with a few years experience of having dirt under their fingersnails, will have some setbacks. I'm kicking myself for moving my blueberry bushes the year before last. They'd get more sun along the south side of our house and produce more berries, I thought. What I failed to take into account was that this was where the snow falls when it gets so heavy on the roof that Hubs has to break out the snowrake. I had to cut them way back last spring, and judging from the four foot pile of snow and ice on them now, I doubt there will be much left of them this spring. But as you said, you learn as you go - and without anything left to learn, life would be quite boring.

mountain woman
2/17/2010 6:25:46 AM

Susan, yes I had no idea how thrilling an experience it is.

2/16/2010 8:37:33 PM

Mountain Woman, I, too, am always amazed that you can just plant a tiny little seed in the ground and a few weeks later have actual food growing!