I have never been an instinctively organized person. I tend to leave planning until the last minute, overestimate (and overbuy) the necessary materials, and then fly by the seat of my pants. Most of the time my “method” works, but it can be wasteful. It’s also hard to define and evaluate what I did in retrospect, so that I can do it better next time.
I have been trying like heck not to take my typical approach with our nascent vegetable garden. From the construction of our new raised beds (hammer and shovel account coming in a future post, I promise) to planning plantings, I have actively encouraged my inner project manager to come out and play.
However, I am acutely aware of the fact that what I consider a “plan” often sounds like Marty McFly’s instructions to the 1950s dance band in Back to the Future: “Okay guys, this is a blues riff in B. Watch me for changes and try and keep up, okay?” So when Genie, aka the Inadvertent Gardener, volunteered to lend a hand with our very first planting, I was primed to overthink the entire event. And boy, did I.
I read all of the instructions on the seed packets, inside and out, cross-referencing the information with my two new best friends, Pam Peirce’s Golden Gate Gardening and Jeff Ball’s 60-Minute Vegetable Garden. I gazed at our new beds, making calculations about relative amounts of sun and shade, and searched the Web for general planting instructions, raised bed ideas, and wide-row planting theory. I made a list of the vegetables that I wanted to grow, organized by the distance between rows that each required. I drew up a small diagram of my beds (to scale, of course), illustrating what would go where. And, when Genie asked what time she should arrive on Saturday, I thought about how much time planting might take and left a generous margin for error, suggesting that I pick her up from the BART station at 1pm.
Saturday morning, I laid out all of my garden tools (a shovel, a long rake, a hand trowel, and a hand rake) and the seed packets, clipped together. It wasn’t until Genie arrived and I started describing the work plan — illustrated with my hyperactive little meth-junkie diagram — that I started hearing the loose screws rattling around in my tiny little head. I hauled in the reins and ground to a halt, biting off the suggestion that we measure the distance between rows. Folks, we’re talking about two small raised beds, each almost exactly eight feet long and four feet wide; surrounded by and aligned with stone tiles that are each almost exactly two feet square. About the only thing that we didn’t have to work with was a grid printed directly on the dirt. Somewhat sheepishly, I handed Genie a rake and suggested that we start loosening the soil in the beds, which had settled and crusted over a bit in the two weeks since I installed them.
About an hour later, I was feeling like an even bigger dork. The planting that I thought would take most of the afternoon? Done. Actually, Genie finished her bed in about 30 minutes and spent the rest of the time taking pictures of me stumbling about. Right now, somewhere, my über-gardener mom is looking down on me and laughing her butt off. With love, sure. But laughing nonetheless.
But you know what? We now have a bunch of dirt with seeds in it! We’ve got three kinds of onions in (two from seed and one from sets) — some that I’m planning to pull as scallions. We also planted three rows of mixed beets, two rows of French breakfast radishes and another of cherry radishes, a row of leeks, two of peas, and one of mixed lettuce.
And to tell the truth, I could use more “chore” days like this one. Anita made delicious lunch of Reuben sandwiches with Marin Sun Farms pastrami, which we ate with Laura’s dilly beans and Sean’s pickles. We spent the rest of the afternoon talking, playing with the pups, sipping beer, and kibitzing in the kitchen.
After the sun went down, the three of us washed our faces, put on our city duds, and headed off to SPQR, where red wine, non-stop wisecracks, at least six different kinds of pork, and a surprise fireworks display (seen across the bay from the top of Fillmore Street as we waited for our table) were the order of the evening. If there’s a better, happier, more karmically charged way to kick off a new garden, I cannot imagine what it would be.