Few of us have ever faced a challenge like the current pandemic. To get back to basics, and to restart a family tradition, I decided to build a vegetable garden so I can pass along these new skills to my son.
When we bought the house, the left side was a scrubby wasteland complete with two 15-foot high overgrown bushes. However, it got so much sunlight I knew it represented the perfect setting to plant a vegetable garden.
Life, work, and bringing our infant son home delayed my grand plans but when Covid hit, I knew it would be a great time to learn some valuable life lessons.
Sadly, I had few if any gardening skills to share. The last time I enjoyed home-grown veggies was when my mom planted her gardens in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey. She was talented and her garden produced massive beefsteak tomatoes.
Several years ago, I designed the layout of a raised garden bed but my mother warned we would face many enemies. Beady eyes and slithering creatures would find their way into our garden. Sadly, she passed away in the Autumn of 2017. I had hoped to share this experience with her and procure some valuable wisdom.
That made this project so much more meaningful – to reignite something a hobby that has been part of my family for nearly 90 years.
And in our yard, the chipmunks rule the roost. There was only one thing a responsible father could do, in light of the overwhelming risks and labor required to defend ourselves against these creatures.
I outsourced the project.
Yes, I fully admit that the idea of building a fenced-in vegetable garden was a bit daunting, given my knowledge of the area’s roots, rocks and troubles. The size of the project necessitated 8-foot high 4×4 inch stakes, so my wife thankfully found someone who could build the structure for us.
He was a Peace Corp. volunteer who recently returned from Namibia due to the pandemic. He was recalled in March of this year and made a living (per se) building fenced-in gardens in Africa. A noble endeavor if there ever was one!
While we discussed the setup, I was busy doing something else – figuring out how to grow veggies.
As I learned from the celebrity, Will Smith, when he was interviewed on a talk show several years prior, there’s one truth in life—there are fountains of wisdom and knowledge that anyone can turn to if they want to learn a new skill.
I found dozens of videos on YouTube about how to grow lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. I pinpointed a half dozen and watched the step-by-step process and the video hosts made it look easy.
I found one page called Easy Peasy Gardening, hosted by a middle-aged Indian woman named Lucchi. She was instructive, helpful, and a great inspiration. Pretty soon, I had dozens of tips and suggestions ready to put to use.
Then, a friend gave us hundreds of homegrown seeds – sweet Hungarian peppers, lettuce varieties, and heirloom tomatoes.
After Paul, the Peace Corp guy, finished with the set up and covered the structure with mesh to keep the birds out, Connor and I started planting. You can see the progress of how the setup went, which included some transplanted shrubs to clear the way for the garden beds. Take note of the netting on the sides and over the top to prevent birds and small animals from penetrating the interior of the garden:
We’ll be working on this all summer, making sure we do everything we can to bring in a fresh and robust harvest.
And the result will be a great bonding opportunity, week after week, where my son and I learn how to manage a variety of plants.
I can’t wait to sit down and slice up our first tomato and share it outside with my six-year-old, Connor. For me, that would connect one generation to another, and as I write this, I recall my grandma growing veggies and plants outside her brownstone home in Queens, New York.
Four generations, tending to their gardens, over the course of 9 decades; these are the kinds of memories and experiences that provide hope to one during a global pandemic.
Here’s how the garden is doing as of Monday, May 25th:
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