A and I have very different backgrounds when it comes to nature and green growing things. He grew up surrounded by prairie and fruit trees and ponds (of both the fishing and swimming variety), whereas I have always lived in big cities. I have a highly romanticized view of what it means to garden. (In my view, bugs don’t try to bite me all the time.) When it came time to look for a house, we both wanted to have some outdoor space — he to remind himself of the green he had in childhood, and I to fulfill my lifelong dream of having a secret garden.
When A and I moved to St. Louis, we found an awesome Victorian house that had an actual yard, a rarity for most of these older homes. The house sits on a double lot, and all that extra space is gorgeous greenery, something we had been sorely missing when we lived in the metal-and-concrete-locked Dallas.
Last year, we didn’t think about the garden until summer was already underway. That was a time of life changes and redirecting, and the garden was getting along decently with minimal intervention from us. We had managed to get an herb garden in the ground, though I made the mistake of choosing plants that were novel rather than ones I would actually use. We had a poorly placed lemongrass that tried to cut you when you attempted to get to the other herbs. We had pineapple mint but no minty mint. We had dill, even though I literally never use dill. Yet, even with that small amount of planting and those mistakes (likely because of the mistakes), we learned a lot.
We’re coming on two years in this house now, so we’ve gotten to know the yard a little better. We’ve learned what plants (sort of – I admit we aren’t great at remembering the names for anything) were placed here previously, and have some vague idea of what they do as the seasons change. We had some surprises. The best one was when the tree in the back corner turned out to be a pawpaw tree (it bore a good amount of fruit, and I made a large batch of pawpaw butter) (and then one night all the fruit mysteriously disappeared; still not sure what that was about).
This is the first place we’ve lived that doesn’t have a predetermined expiration date. The first time it actually feels for-the-foreseeable-future permanent. The first time we really felt like we had a home. The house was slowly becoming much more lived in as we learned how to settle, but the yard still didn’t feel like ours. This year, we’re trying to take a little more ownership of the space.
A and I are both interested in growing foodstuffs, so, after a good amount of time planning, we spent the last four-ish weekends doing yard work. Going from a dirt patch to a reasonably delineated and mulched food garden plot was immensely satisfying work. We planted three heirloom beans that are supposed to grow in different colors. We planted lettuce, mustard, chard, and kale. There’s also asparagus and cucumbers (and lemon cucumbers because what) and carrots. I’m still debating about putting in some radishes. We’re both bumbling gardening novices, but you have to start somewhere.
Long term, I still want that secret garden vibe — a green space full of lush blooming flowers and things you can just eat off the vine/bush/tree. I like things to look a little wild (which also means less meticulous maintenance). We put a couple fruit trees in the ground and are building a little berry patch. Maybe eventually I can convince A that getting some chickens would be a good idea.
The bulk of the work is done at this point. Now it’s all about the weeding, watering, and waiting.