Growth – No, The Literal Kind, Okay, Also Figurative

So last spring, for reasons I cannot remember if ever I knew them, I went completely bananas and started a fairly enormous balcony garden.

2014 Garden


“That doesn’t look so big,” you might say, to which I will reply –

A) That’s only part of it, you don’t see what’s behind me and

B) I almost couldn’t get around my balcony to water things when I had them all properly spaced out, okay?

At my garden’s peak I had nine Brussels sprout plants, three tomatoes, three basils, a whack of marigolds, a bell pepper, oregano, garlic chives, two thyme plants, lemon balm, zucchini…there were many pots. Much green. It was nice!

It was also a lot to keep up with and so I lost one of the tomatoes, the Brussels sprouts didn’t quite turn out (I got no sprouts, but did you know you could eat the leaves? I did, they were delicious), the bell pepper was overrun by grubs, the zucchini never bothered to open its female flowers (though I stuffed, battered, and fried the male flowers and they were amazing), and it turns out I absolutely suck at keeping thyme alive. Also there was a single tragic attempt at a lavender plant, which I shan’t be repeating.

But it was fun, and the tomatoes that did make it were holy crap delicious, so I am giving my garden a second chance at life.

First off, I grabbed three Early Girl tomato plants the first weekend my farmer’s market announced they were available. This was one of the two tomatoes I grew successfully last year, and oh, god. God, I loved them. They were so good. I ate them roasted, raw, made into pasta sauce, gave them away…wonderfulness. My Brandywine did okay, but the Early Girl was the bomb, so I just got that single variety. And frankly I may go back for a couple more. Seriously, folks, you don’t know love until you know a homegrown, organic tomato.

tomatoes 2015

I am incredibly excited about those. I bought them two weeks ago and despite the fact that I spent one week extremely busy and a second week sick as a dog, they survived their time in the tiny nursery pots and have been amply rewarded with big pots, loads of room to grow, fancy new spiral stakes, and organic plant food. Plus their own irrigation systems, thanks to a coworker who gave me the clay Plant Nanny stakes she wasn’t using.

I’ve kept the herbs to a minimum this year – two lovely basil plants, some garlic chives, a new attempt at lemon balm, and the parsley plant that’s a hardy holdover from last year’s garden and the only thing that didn’t come from a farmer’s market.

herbs 2015

Except I forgot to take pictures of the garlic chives and lemon balm, so what you see here is the parsley, the basil, and the oregano. The parsley looks somewhat worse for wear, but that’s because until last week I was keeping it on the front porch, and it got hurled down the stairs by a wild windstorm we had then. It’s still readjusting, but has been putting out new growth, so go parsley! And the oregano is not exactly thriving, but I promise it looks better today than it did last night, when I promised it that if it perked up overnight, I’d get it out of the nursery pot and into a proper one. Which it did, so I did, and yeah, I talk to my plants, shut up, they’ve done studies on this thank you very much.

The possible last addition to my garden this year has been an innovation called Seedles. Basically, these are wildflower bombs that you just chuck down in some good dirt and let Mother Nature handle. You can get your own at Grow The Rainbow, whose goal is to grow one billion wildflowers in support of the United States’ declining bee population. That’s what my marigolds were for last year, but they didn’t work, so when I saw posts about Seedles pass across my Tumblr dash, I jumped right on it and grabbed a pack of SouthEastern wildflower bombs. They have wildflowers for every region in the US!

seedles 2015

That’s not all the Seedles I got – I need to augment the rest of last year’s soil before I can set out another pot – but aren’t they cute? You don’t even have to shove them into the dirt. Just toss and water. I’m very excited about these, and I hope they do the trick for the bees. Even if they don’t, though, I bet they’ll be amazingly pretty.

Sadly, I was unable to procure chicken poop for the soil augmentation. Or whatever poop goes into compost. I was running up against a desperate need to get the tomatoes out of the nursery pots and had limited time and resources, so I got some organic blended plant food at Home Depot. I did sacrifice one of my measuring cups to the cause, though, which is fine since I have about fifty bajillion of those things and it’s more important to end up with lots of lovely vegetables and herbs anyway. Right?

Because growth is important. All kinds of it.

I find I have gotten very…domestic, I suppose, in my late 30s. I bake my own bread and make my own soups. My apartment isn’t perfectly clean (some things are just impossible and we have to accept that), but I have a green thumb and I get to eat the things I grow. I have two nutty cats and bonkers collections of books, yarn, and nail polish. It is a quiet life. A peaceful one. Occasionally a bit weird and sometimes very stressful, but overall there is a contentment I feel like I was always chasing after in my twenties and never quite seized.

And I find myself often wondering how I feel about that. Why didn’t I make these choices – to garden, to collect, to settle, to cook – when I was younger? In my twenties I thought the pursuit of love and romance was what would validate me. If someone loved me, then that would prove I was worth…what? Living? I don’t know. I don’t know why I thought that having another person to love and who loved me would be what made life worthwhile. I don’t know why I thought other people’s opinions of me and my worthiness were so very important.

But I think I know why I kept moving out into my own space. Part of me knew, even when in serious relationships, that I had to be on my own to find myself. I needed space to discover and to be myself. To find the peace and contentment I kept chasing after, what I needed was to just, for the love of god, be still. It took a while, and I was sort of forced into it by the universe in a way, but I did it. Eventually. My life is mine, my very own, and I like it.

I consider it, though, sometimes, the idea of letting someone in now.  I think I am not opposed, entirely. But then I wonder what it would mean for this hard won peace, and I am uncertain again. It is quiet, it is calm, I don’t have to consult anyone on laundry or groceries or cat food, I don’t have to share that ridiculous chunk of truffled cheddar cheese in the refrigerator.

But it might be nice, even if I did have to do all of that?

(well…there would be embittered negotiations over the cheese, I suspect…)

I don’t know. And maybe it isn’t even possible – in which case then it’s good that I’ve gotten to be so pleased with being on my own. I have two full time jobs anyway, between the office and the writing. Where would I find the time for romance without going crazy?

There is probably a certain irony in the romance writer being unsure if she’d ever be interested in having a romance of her own.

But there’s also a certain growth in the fact that it’s finally not the number one priority in my life and psyche, and I can’t find fault in that.

Oh, but this was about gardening…wasn’t it?

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