DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Jun 30 2010

Growing A Gardener

by Dea Anne M

For someone who grew up in a gardening family, I had remarkably little interest in plants or their products.  Sure, I loved strawberries and sliced tomatoes but I somehow didn’t consider these members of a realm which I regarded with suspicion (most fruits) mixed with dread (all vegetables).  Later, as a tween, I started to enjoy the products of my grandparents’ huge garden, but seeing a snake the summer I was eight scared me off of actually getting in there with a hoe and a bucket and learning anything. Then, of course, there was the danger of becoming dirty, or worse, sweaty. I expressed a similar disdain for the preparation and preservation of the harvest, and I scorned the nightly pea shelling marathons on my grandmother’s darkened screened porch. Though I yearned for the pleasures of family gossip and chat, I was wary of any activity that might be work cleverly disguised as fun.

Well, now I know better. I started shopping at farmers markets several years ago and experienced a revelation with my first taste of an heirloom tomato. At the back of my mind, a small voice said “Maybe you could grow something like this.” Over the next few years of enjoying fresh, beautiful tasting, local produce the voice persisted and a passionate vegetable gardener was born.

Gardening can be alternately rewarding and frustrating. Patience and persistence are essential. One piece of advice that you will hear over and over is to start small. Here are a few titles from DCPL that can help you succeed in doing just that.

Starter Vegetable Gardens: 24 No-Fail Plans for Small Organic Gardens by Barbara Pleasant provides well-illustrated and easy to follow instructions for (as promised) 24 different gardens, both conventional and off-beat. My favorite plan is small enough for one person to maintain easily, is designed to expand each year, and features vegetables grown directly in bags of soil. The growing medium enriches your existing soil and the ease of installation and care should make this garden an attractive option for those who’d rather not develop a relationship with a rototiller.

Because of sunlight issues in my yard (as in it doesn’t get enough), I do most of my gardening in containers on my back deck. A few years ago, I became a convert to “self watering pots” which are containers built with a sealed water reservoir at the bottom matched to an overflow spout. Results are so superior that now these containers are all that I use except for a few herbs that I grow in conventional pots. To this end, Incredible Vegetables From Self-Watering Containers by Edward C. Smith has been an invaluable resource. Beautifully illustrated, this book provides sensible, yet simple, information on preparing and tending your containers for maximum yield. This is a great beginning book for anyone who can’t, or doesn’t want to, garden in the ground.

Finally, if you’re convinced that food production is beyond you because you lack the huge yard space taken for granted by so many gardening books, let me recommend Fresh Food From Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting by R.J. Rupenthal. From growing herbs on a widow sill, to sprouting mushrooms in a cabinet, to using reflected light to grow vegetables on a tiny balcony, this book will provide instruction and inspiration to help you get started right away.

….and I guarantee that after tasting that first tomato, you won’t want to stop.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe M. June 30, 2010 at 4:03 PM

cool post! i’m especially interested in that last book you mentioned; it seems like a great fit for an apartment-bound fella with aspirations of gardening such as myself!

Veronica W July 1, 2010 at 11:20 AM

To me gardening has always seemed like alot of work for uncertain rewards. However, starting small sounds interesting…maybe in a teacup. 🙂 Thanks.

Naidy July 1, 2010 at 11:21 AM

Thanks for the post, Dea Anne! It’s nice to know that vegetable gardening is an option for those of us with smaller spaces. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try!

Dea Anne July 1, 2010 at 11:40 AM

Thanks everyone! Joe, Fresh Food…really is an amazing book. You’ll be surprised at what is possible. Veronica and Naidy – starting small really does work. I started with a cherry tomato in a hanging basket and a pot of basil and I’ve expanded from there. It’s a lot of fun (and oddly relaxing!)

Lynn Adams July 4, 2010 at 10:31 AM

I too have no sunlight on my property, unless you count the area between the sidewalk and the street! I’m left to pick blackberries, crabapples, etc on public land for example near the bike path. Can anyone recommend fruit trees on public land? Blueberries are in season and I’d love to find some growing wild near Decatur…

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: