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Since I first started gardening years ago, it has been a continual process of failing, giving up, and starting over again. But I do try to learn from the experiences whenever I can. Christina here, writing about sorrel, summer squash, and why volunteer tomatoes are my favorite kind of tomato.
I’ve never been a consistent gardener, and I often decide that other things need to be priorities. Whenever I try to learn gardening techniques or strategies, I get overwhelmed by the conflicting advice and give up on the research. Plus, I hate the heat and humidity and usually avoid working outside past 11 am.
But this year I have stumbled upon some gardening strategies that have been pretty satisfying and, perhaps most importantly, kept me coming back to work consistently many mornings a week.
We returned in June after two months of traveling to a garden with seven-foot weeds. We hadn’t started any seeds at all, or bought any for that matter. But when I got in there and weeded, I realized that lots and lots of things that I actually wanted had survived on their own or seeded themselves and grown quite nicely. We had sunflowers, potatoes, mustard greens, garlic, onions, strawberries, chamomile, dill, chives, borage, walking onions, a few baby tomato plants, and so much sorrel. With some help, I weeded around them the best I could, moved things around to give them more space, mulched, watered, and waited to see how things would do.
I added in some starts and planted a few seeds, weeks after the ideal date. However, there are many things that I don’t even try to grow in our garden anymore—carrots, broccoli, or any kind of squash are all out. Battling the bugs is too much for me.
For the second year, I am also gardening again with others at Sandhill a few miles down the road. Even though I was away for much of the initial work in the spring, I have been able to plug in and get to weeding and even some harvesting. Last week I brought home a whole cucumber and four lovely summer squashes!
I am much less overwhelmed by the job when I am working alongside someone else. It’s so satisfying to see how quickly we move through a task. And I also love not being the one to make the decisions, and so working with experienced growers is also a great choice for me. I like plugging in without being responsible.
So, at this point in the year, I have no kale at all, but I have learned to make a borage, sorrel, chive, basil salad that is pretty amazing. I’ve managed a few cut flower bouquets supplemented heavily with wildflowers from the prairie across the road from us. Our tomato plants are still pretty small, but they look healthy and happy, even though I have no idea what kind of tomatoes they’ll grow. And I know that I can count on plenty of sweet potatoes this year, mostly thanks to Tomcat’s diligence at Sandhill.
Let me see if I can sum up my gardening strategies this year:
I’m letting things grow where they want and how they want, but sometimes I’m moving them a little to give them more space.
I’m giving up on many of my favorite vegetables because they are too much work, but I will buy those from someone else if they are up for the task.
I’m happy to give my labor and time to another garden and I’m glad that I get to work with people who have more experience and knowledge than I do.
I’m learning many, many ways to eat sorrel.
What are the lessons that I have learned from all of this sweat, manure, and frustration? Maybe it’s something about letting things be the way they want, about outsourcing when I can and not trying to do it all myself, about learning how to give up and let it go when I can’t do anymore, and about how I really do believe that learning how to work together is the answer to just about every problem we have.
It’s also definitely about how sour greens are delicious with everything!
Christina Lovdal Gil looms large as a persistent gardener in our community, often tending multiple plots in one season. It is interesting to hear how it is to combine traveling abroad in the spring and still manage to put in a garden in the same season.