Becoming an Urban Gardener — or my biggest success this summer: How one plant changed our gardening experience
So I am determined to become an urban gardener. Theoretically I have gathered quite a lot of “knowledge”. Practically I have never done this before – at least not “seriously”. I decided to start out slowly with “easy” plants, in order to avoid being frustrated.
This summer I have been cultivating:
- stem cabbage
- loose leaf lettuce
With the exception of the beets (big fail, but more about this in another post), everything is growing, blossoming and ready for harvest.
One vegetable however really stands out from the rest.
Ever since may we’ve been harvesting two plants a day of this variety and the remaining ones continue to grow and grow and grow and look luscious and abundant. It’s a very easy-to-cultivate, beginner, medium nutrient-demanding plant, that likes the shadows (half shade actually) and demands quite a lot of water. It is a great fill-in for your patches and any free corner of your garden and/or plant pots in general.
You have probably already guessed it – I am talking about lettuce. The amounts of lettuce that we harvest from our tiny, tiny garden is crazy. Everytime that I harvest I replace them by new, very young plants, that I have “put on hold” in little flower pots – and within no time at all they turn into big, green bundles of joy for your tastebuds ! Just look at how big these got:
Great lettuce, but why is this such a big deal you might ask ? I will tell you, my fellow bee, I will tell you !
As I said in the beginning of this post: This is our first season as urban gardeners. It is also our first year in our new house – and with our very own, new, prescious, little garden. When we moved here and started to plan and arrange our garden, we knew noone. The neighbors where new, the village was new, everything was new! We were proud of our plans – but also insecure. Will it all work out? Is it worth the effort we put into it? Will we be able to harvest reasonable amounts at all? Isn’t the garden way to small? Will it still please the eye and allow us to spend relaxing family afternoons outside? Will our little bee have enough space to move and play in between all these patches? What kind of problems will we encounter? And so on and so forth. I think these questions are quite normal and a lot of you might have asked yourselves the same questions when starting out ( let me know in the comments !). But we were very motivated and we took our chance.
Slowly but surely, the garden started to turn out like we imagined it to be. Every time we worked out there, people would stop, say hello and ask what we were up to. Through the garden work we got to meet a lot of people from our village, neighbors and their friends and families. From the vast majority of people that we met we got motivating, kind words of encouragement.
In April, things started becoming a bit too much. When you have gathered a lot of theoretical knowledge, but have no practical experience things can appear to be really overwhelming. Normally, this is the point when you need to see the first success. But in reality, for me this was the point when I found out that the beet-plants were a big fail. The next day I discovered that my young salad plants were in truly miserable shape. I half-heartedly put them into their patches and at that point a woman that lives on our street walks by with her husband. She raises her eyebrow when she sees my tiny salad plants, turns to her husband and says ( just loud enough for me to hear ) “ridiculous”, laughs and walks off. “That’s it, I’m done with this. I am not a professional gardener.” I thought to myself. They had announced bad weather anyway – and it really did rain for one week straight.
Then, with the first rays of sun, I went outside again — and discovered my salads ! They didn’t really look THAT great – they looked just like what you can see in the first picture of this blogpost. Nothing special, I still didn’t believe they would ever get big enough for us to harvest them for “food”. But they did look healthy at least – and they had turned from yellow to green !
That was all I needed to happen in order to regain confidence. I decided that I would show this woman how wrong she was when she juged my garden. It only took one more week for our lettuce plants to get so big that we could start harvesting them. One plant can provide the basis for a whole meal for two adults. Whenever it is too hot outside to cook, we eat salad for lunch and dinner with varying seasonings and toppings. Every day people stop to watch our lettuce, then discover the other vegetables we are growing and start asking questions. Whenever we have more than what we can eat, we give the “surplus” to our neighbors, friends, family and whoever stops to say hi. Lately three of our neigbours approached us because they needed help in order to start out their own “urban garden”. And many more told us that our garden – in particular our lettuce – inspired them to grow their own vegetables next year.
We started our urban “farm” because we wanted to grow organic, chemical free, non-GMO food. Within only a couple of months the spirit of urban gardening allowed us to become a part of an open-minded, well linked community.
We got to experience first hand that gardening, and in particular urban gardening, can be so much more than just about growing food. It is indeed a whole lifestyle. It is about patience and conviction. About networking, sharing, respect and communication. It for sure is an ecological revolution, but I believe that first of all it has the power to revolutionize society as we know it today.
If we allow ourselves to open up to the spirit of this amazing community, this could be one step further in the direction of togetherness and equality. A lifestyle based on the necessity to connect and cooperate with people, the necessity to respect, observe and work for and with nature will make you value and experience life differently. Maybe in a more conscious and modest way than what we are used too.
And in my opinion, this is a step in the right direction. What about you ? Is the urban gardening community in your area as open minded, kind and supportive as ours ? Why have you become an urban gardener ? Or are you planning on becoming one? What projects were your biggest fails and greatest success?
Let me know in the comments below !
Have a great weekend and until next saturday !