The Garden That Almost Wasn’t

Last year the Crankee Yankee (my husband) and I tried our hands at having a garden. When we first started talking about it, he said that the front yard would be the perfect place for it as it gets the most sun.

I said, “Are you nuts?! A garden in the FRONT YARD? That will look ridiculous!” He just smiled at me. I asked why he wouldn’t consider using the back yard, and he said that since there is so little sun back there, what would be the point? Well, I had to give him that one. So I grumbled off and hoped that he wouldn’t actually go through with it.

A few days later, I came home from work to find that half the front yard was dug up, and it looked like hell. I realized that nothing would stop him from going ahead with this latest project, so I quietly (well, more or less) stewed about it on my own. Over the next week, I watched first in scorn, then surprise, and then downright awe as the Crankee Yankee created four beautiful raised beds, each one bordered in pine boards. He put crushed stone between the beds to facilitate easy watering, and it began to look like an English garden. We already had a crushed stone walkway from the steps to the street bordered in wood, so the garden beds fit right in.

That year we only planted potatoes and mint, and put in a large deep pink peony plant. We were over the moon when we harvested 31 highly edible potatoes, and we enjoyed the mint in iced tea and tabooleh salad.

This year, a little crazed with success from the year before, we went full throttle. In one raised bed we planted peas, tomatoes, rhubarb, chives, and bordered it and the other three beds with bright golden marigolds. In another bed, we put in purple and golden beets, more peas, lettuce and mint. In the third bed, we put in more beets, more mint, garlic, brussells sprouts, radishes and tomatoes. We noticed that two potato plants had survived from the year before, too. In the last bed, We scattered wild flower seeds, and, along with the inevitable crab grass, we now have glorious pink, white and blue flowers. We planted another peony, this one pale pink, on the other side of the steps, and planted a few more mint and garlic plants. Other gardening neighbors kindly gave us some of their excess tomato and onion plants, so we popped them in as well. We planted small pots of sage, oregano, basil, rosemary and arugula, as well as rye grass for the cats to chew on.

Well–we are now enjoying what can only be called a bumper crop of fresh produce. The radishes (not my favorite, to be honest), were crisp and peppery, the garlic scapes and chives are delicious, and I have made pesto with them and some basil–along with some garlic and olive oil, it is divine on hot pasta! The tomatoes–Big Boys, plum and cherry; are already ripening into red, and we are able to pick bowls of fresh peas each morning. I pulled up two beets, and behold and lo–real honest-to-goodness BEETS!! Amazing!

I have gone to the Crankee Yankee, proverbial hat in hand, and apologized for my lack of faith and foresight. Ya know, when he’s right, he’s right. The front yard garden is a HUGE success, and next year we are going to add four more beds on the other side. I even enjoy weeding. It’s somehow very zen-like and theraputic–almost like plucking out all the crazy that creeps into my head. Each weed I pull means another worry, another fear, another doubt–is gone. Of course, like weeds, they’ll no doubt be back, but you see the beneficial side of what could otherwise have been a dull chore.

Something very funny happened to me about a week ago. I had just pulled into the driveway after a long day at work (and a long commute; 72.5 miles one-way), and the Crankee Yankee was no where to be seen. There was a pretty and perky young woman standing on our stairs knocking at the door. She brightened up when she saw me, and trotted over to my car. As you might expect, I was tired and only wanted to get in the house, kiss my husband and the cats, get a drink and sit down.

But I mustered up a smile and said hello. I noticed that she was wearing a shirt with a popular lawn care logo on it. She asked brightly if we would like to sign up for lawn care service. I looked into those big blue eyes and said, “Miss, did you happen to notice the garden as you came up the stairs?”

“Why, yes, I did! It looks great!” She said.

I said, “So, does it look like we need lawn care since we really don’t HAVE a lawn?” She faltered a bit, but kept smiling gamely.

“Well, how about the back yard?” she beamed.

I told her that she was welcome to go back there and view what I fondly call the Crankee Yankee’s Hell Hole. From right to left as you look down from our back porch (another wonderful addition, courtesy of the C.Y.), you will see a red truck cap up on blocks, under which the neighborhood cats and skunks like to snooze). Up against that are several old tires, stacked one on top of the other, one of three wheelbarrows and some saw horses. Beyond that is a hill of very tall weeds and orange day lilies. To the left of that is a very nice stone wall that the C.Y’s brother made. Beyond that is a wooden feeder the C.Y. put up for the squirrels and birds, and to the left of that is our woodpile and cement block *fire pit. Curling around back toward the house is a another dirt pile full of weeds and more lilies. Two big trenches are dug from the stone wall back to the cellar door (under the porch); these will eventually be filled with crushed stone as a french drain. So, no–not what you’d call an area meant for a lawn. That finally killed the deal for lawn care service.

Since we are still such rookies at gardening, we are completely gobstruck that we have produce at all. I feel the same way about this as I do about trying out a new recipe. I follow the directions, use the correct ingredients, etc. and BINGO! The dish comes out looking and tasting exactly the way it should! The same with our plants–put in pea seeds, you get PEAS. Plant beet seeds, and bang–BEETS. And so on. It is positively thrilling to eat fresh peas and tomatoes right out of the garden. Who knew this could be so much fun?

And the Crankee Yankee, good man that he is, doesn’t hold it against me that I pooh-poohed his idea in the first place. Which of course means I owe him big time. But isn’t that just how a relationship goes, whether it be husband and wife or plants and dirt? You give a little, you get a little; sometimes a lot. You pull up the weeds, whether crabgrass or resentment, and the good things have room to spread out and flourish. If you’ve planned and tended well, you will get at least some good produce in return.

It seems we got lucky, in more ways than one.

*The fire pit doubles as our “shredder”: all papers with any kind of personal information are burned up as trash. Once we have a big enough pile to burn, it’s a good excuse to have “trash fire” hot dogs.





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