For me, seven years ago, life was different. Not necessarily better, just different. I met this wonderful man who would later became my fiancé. He had a beautiful home on 5 acres in a rural town. It was the perfect setting for my happily ever after! I had only myself and soon after moving in, two adorable pups to worry about. Now let’s get to how I met my passion in life, GARDENING!
My fiancé’s sister, Heidi, had invited us to dinner at her home. It was a night that changed my perspective on being home a lot. Her view: “We love it here… if you enjoy where you live and enjoy sitting on the deck with a beverage, what could be better?” As we sat outside on her deck, I could hear many chirps of birds that she could without hesitation identify. I had a view as if I were on vacation in a resort off of some remote island (minus the palm trees!). What a beautiful enchanting place… all in the comfort of her own backyard.
This was the moment I wanted to create this for myself. I was home a lot. Why not LOVE my time here?! I had 5 acres to make into a beautiful serene oasis of birds, flowers and gardens. But hmm, where do I start? I made a phone call to Heidi and said I’d like to put in a garden of my own. She was very excited to help but warned me that it’s not easy! Her gardens were, after all, 20 years established. We made plans to go on local garden tours through The Gardening Conservancy. These were beautiful, estate homes with manicured gardens (and a crew!) you would die for. She said I would need to start small and to focus on colors and plant combinations I liked. I took photos and made notes with my phone. It wouldn’t be long before I made my first purchase at a local nursery, a discounted Tree Peony generically labeled “red” like the sales tag. The journey began.
Truth be told, my first garden sucked. No, I mean it! I made a ying-yang shaped garden with two different colored mulches (and dyed mulches at that!). My pup even started reacting with these large welts from running through it. Since then, certain things have become much clearer. Gardens become homes to insects, good and bad. They become part of an ecosystem for snakes, toads, birds etc. It is important to have healthy soil, so if your soil was like mine… hard ground, very compacted, clay soil… amendments are needed. I chose to have organic raised bed soil brought in by the truckload and it was much easier to plant and build gardens that way. Most of my flower gardens are built on a slope which presented a challenge by itself. Soil erosion during rainstorms was my arch-enemy! We used rocks from around our property as ledges to help with that. I worked so fast and so hard to build gardens, buying up every beautiful new thing I saw. It didn’t take long for me to have 8 glorious gardens.
Once I had children though, it was TOUGH! How am I going to find the time to mulch and add compost to eight gardens? When will I start my seeds and expand the already demanding gardens I have?! Let me tell you, it’s easier than you think. There are many lessons to be taught in gardening. Mother Nature can teach us lessons we never knew to teach. Whether it’s a vegetable garden or flower garden, the simple process of watching plants grow to bloom or produce fruit entertains and excites children. It was very easy to involve my son first… and just by allowing him to help out with simple things and be a part of the process, he has grown in to the ultimate gardening sidekick! My son starts seed in the winter with me. I let him help pick out what we will grow for the year. He helps me plant, dig and mulch. He finds such joy in picking and harvesting from garden. My 18 month old daughter ate so many cherry tomatoes right off the vine this year, I thought for sure she’d sprout a leaf somewhere! They share in the joy of finding things like caterpillars on dill that start out tiny and black to then eat until they grow large and into a different color and ultimately a butterfly! Whats better than checking on those babies everyday?! To a 6-year-old, nothing!
I’ve loved and I’ve lost. Plants that is. Harsh winters, borderline hardy plants… I’m a zone 5b gardener, but don’t think I haven’t tried to get away with overwintering a gorgeous zone 6 plant! Insects have taken a toll on a few things but that will happen. Deer will munch and take down the hostas as if they’re eating at a buffet planted specifically for them. However, amidst of the minor setbacks, I now have children to join me. I have them on organic pest control from April onward! We pick lily beetles and find their bright red eggs under the leaves…and don’t forget the dreaded Japanese beetles. They arrive without fail around here on July 1st. Its become a contest for us now, who can drown the most in a soapy bucket. With gardening, as in life, there are trials and tribulations. Gardening for me rewards my patience, my time, my respect for nature and my children. It gives an inner peace that I gain nowhere else.
Plants and children are an expensive investment, but so worth it when you finally get to a point when you can sit on your porch or in a lawn chair and just watch. Watch them wandering through the gardens eating, watching, looking for “cool” new things, insects, vegetables, butterflies…. Watch the butterflies flutter by, listen to the melodies of birds, and see beautiful blooms swaying in the sun. This is how my passion and love of GARDENING WITH KIDS began.