I just finished clearing half of my front yard to make room for the new veggies I plan to plant this early spring. My inspiration for getting this hard work done? Cynthia Sandberg, of Love Apple Farm (see beautiful picture below).
Hard work? Well, it is if you are in your second trimester of pregnancy, trying to convince your 7-month-old son that it is fun to watch mommy pull up plants!
Cynthia is a terrific gardener, and better yet, a terrific teacher. She knows how to pack a 5-hour class full of the basic information a person needs to have in order to successfully (let's hope!) start an early spring vegetable garden. We covered everything from soil, to sowing seeds, to pests and diseases, to soil, to what roots like, to when and where to plant, to soil, to... did I mention 'soil'? Cynthia is big on soil. I swear I saw her cringe when the big fella in the back of the class called it 'dirt'.
What was the most valuable information I learned from Cynthia? Quite simply, how to plant a seed. I feel a bit lucky to have come to the class already knowing quite a bit about gardening, but not necessarily vegetable gardening in California. I was a horticulture major and my specialty was pests and diseases and native plants of Central Texas. Phew! Otherwise I think I would have been deliriously over-whelmed with the amount of information given, although it was all completely necessary to know. However, that being said, I am not a vegetable grower, nor a seed sower (except the super-easy ones). That's all behind me now. I feel fully equipped to successfully begin my first real vegetable garden from seed. In fact, I even left the class with a bag full of seeds and a flat containing 8 varieties of soon-to-be leafy things to get me going.
I took my soil test yesterday and started my flat of seeds. Today I bought a shovel, a spade fork, and some gloves and began clearing. Next comes planning the garden, making pathways and staking off my beds. Then I amend, amend, amend my blessed soil. Cynthia told us exactly what to add, how much, and how to 'turn' the soil to incorporate the amendments. You'll have to take the class, or turn to her blog, www.growbetterveggies.com, for her secrets. And, being the good teacher that she is, she is more than happy to share them with you.
My, oh my... as I am writing down the work that is left to do, I am both excited and overwhelmed. I'm reminded of a wonderful essay that I read about how to enjoy doing what you are doing, no matter how much work may lie ahead. The wise woman tells the story of a derelict house she bought; the back door had been nailed shut and not opened for fifteen years. Once it was pried open it revealed a six-foot high wall, a jungle of blackberry bushes, vines, and crabgrass that spanned the length of sixty-five feet. She wanted a garden. The task seemed large and difficult, and she was experiencing that paralyzed feeling of despair. So, she came up with a plan to clear a four-foot section every week. She wouldn't even look at the sixty-one feet left to clear. She would just focus on the tiny insects, the hidden treasures (even a lawnmower buried under crabgrass - talk about karma!), and the rich soil of her four-foot patch. The task became an adventure, and in a year's time she had a newly planted, beautiful garden in the making. And, most important, she enjoyed the process.
I think of this story whenever I feel like there is just too much in front of me, whether it's work or housecleaning or big projects (like being almost four-months pregnant and also the mother of an active seven-month old). Now I can apply this learned wisdom to my newly forming garden. And, even better, I now have a fabulous teacher. I'll be taking a few more of Cynthia's classes in the next few months. There is still so much to learn from her...all in good time.