Garden Planning: A Tale of Three Gardens


Our first garden was an afterthought.

A few years ago the state of the economy – banks crashing, corporations folding and 401K values plummeting – had us more than a little concerned. That coupled with the possibility of continued unseasonable and unpredictable weather started us on a program of home emergency preparedness. We already owned a wood burning stove, though we’d taken it out when our daughter started toddling, and space issues had kept us from ever putting it back in the house (now we own two, and one of them IS in the house). Still, in the spring of 2008 we bought a couple cords of wood. If we needed it, we could always drag the stove back into the house, and if we had to do that, we’d have plenty of fuel for it. Recalling our four days without power after hurricane Isabel, we invested in a generator. After a number of devastating storms beginning with Katrina, FEMA and The Red Cross were advising people to have anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks of food on hand at home at all times. So we began to research what was involved in a long term food storage program. We began to stock our cellar with canned goods and water, with grains and beans in 5 gallon buckets. And then one day, in the midst of all the frenetic and uneasy hoarding, I was standing in my cellar, looking at my number ten cans full of freeze-dried food, and I realized that we were going about this all wrong.

Real abundance lies not in accumulation but in replenishment.

So near the end of June in 2008, pretty much as an afterthought, I planted a small garden.

2008 – The Panic Garden


Using a shovel, I turned over a small rectangle of grass, about 80 square feet, right in the sunny middle of our back yard. I got four tomato plants from a big box store that I thought were Roma tomatoes but which turned out to be something more like oval-shaped cherry tomatoes. They grew to be only about thigh high, and produced pretty well all summer. I had an eggplant. It didn’t make it, of course. I have always had trouble growing eggplants. I had a Black Beauty zucchini from which I harvested a few baseball bat sized fruits before the vine borers got it. I had a small melon patch that produced quite well, and a few pumpkin plants that never got off the ground. I grew a gigantic and gangly okra plant that I could not keep up with harvesting. And that was pretty much it.

S.M.R. Saia
4/16/2010 2:19:38 PM

Thanks so much everyone. And Paul, thanks for letting me know you've dug up potatoes too!!!!! :0)

Paul Gardener
4/2/2010 12:28:08 PM

Beautifully written Shannon. Truely. I love the way you walked us down your own garden's "path". You have a vision for it, and however it turns out, you will enjoy and proser from it. So will your little one. And btw, The first year I grew potatoes I dug down and peeked to make sure they were growing more than once! (Also, I answered your questions over at my blog too. In case you hadn't checked) Best regards and good luck! Paul~

Cindy Murphy
4/2/2010 6:45:55 AM

Great post, Shannon. I especially love your last paragraph; it made me smile. Even the best laid plans must leave room to go any which way your imagination directs it on a whim. That really is the essence of gardening - in effect we are trying to manipulate nature into doing what we want it to do; sometimes nature doesn't cooperate. To realize that - to come to terms with it, and find peace instead of frustration in the imperfection, is to discover the joy in gardening. It's not always just about production - sometimes it's just gotta be about following the path your heart takes you down.

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