Your Small Kitchen Garden catches up with even more posts about what went on in the garden this season while the kitchen gardener (Daniel) was busy writing his book Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry it, Too.
A Kitchen Garden Photo Session
I’ve spoken a few times about a man I met in 2009 when I spotted his small kitchen garden and asked whether he’d let me photograph it for my blog. In the summer of 2009, this man had a somewhat weedy planting bed supporting mature tomatoes, greens, beets, summer squash, and asparagus. I tried to add depth to my photo of this planting bed by capturing a heavily-laden grape arbor in the foreground.
During my photo shoot which, sadly, I tried to complete on a heavily overcast day, this friendly old man shared stories about his gardening and his family. Turns out that his wife had cooked rhubarb into treats, but since she’d died he had no further interest in the plants. The enormous bed of asparagus apparently had fed his family, but now produced so many shoots that he’d harvest and compost them to keep the plants producing for his occasional meals into the summer.
Kitchen Gardening Twilight
This nice man told me he planned to remove his rhubarb plants, so I offered to do the job for him in exchange for the plants. I returned in the spring, moved the plants to my garden, and reported about my experience in a post titled Small Kitchen Garden Rhubarb Project.
To thank my new gardening friend, I baked and delivered a strawberry-rhubarb pie. After a short chat at the front door, he invited me around to the planting bed where he explained that he just couldn’t get motivated to plant a garden this year. Strawberries were in season, but he’d planted nothing yet.
So I asked whether he wanted a garden; of course he did.
The Two-Hour Kitchen Garden
This had been the season of too many. I had ended up with double the tomato and pepper seedlings I’d planned, and I had broccoli and cauliflower plants that simply weren’t going to fit in my garden. As well, I had bought extra lima bean and string bean seeds… and quite a few butternut squash seeds.
I also had kids (still have them, come to think of it). They agreed to go with me and plant a garden appropriate for a bachelor.
The planting bed had spent winter and early spring under black plastic. We were able to peel back the plastic and, with very little digging, raking, or hoeing, plant all the seeds and seedlings we’d taken along with us. I used several stakes from my garden to erect a trellis for the tomato plants, and we covered as much soil as we could with black plastic. We finished the job in about two hours.
Kitchen Garden Challenges
I visited about a month later and found the garden was way, way behind my own. I had watered during an early dry spell, and my friend had not. Worse: a woodchuck had dined on beans and broccoli before my friend had captured it and released it many miles outside of town.
I meant to visit one more time in the fall, but that clearly isn’t going to happen. Still, I’ll check in mid-winter so I’ll know whether to start extra seeds for my friend’s 2011 small kitchen garden. My kids clearly don’t like gardening, but I think they’ll be willing to chip in if we can finish the job in under two hours.
Call To Action
I posted this story before I went to bed early on Saturday morning. As I woke up later that day it occurred to me: I should have encouraged the world to act! Here’s an amendment to the story.
Please help in an aged neighbor’s vegetable garden! It’s likely there are hundreds of thousands of aging gardeners who lack the energy or motivation to plant the family vegetable patch. Find one and extend an offer to help! We spent just TWO HOURS to plant in a well-established bed. For that, a lonely, pleasant, and very appreciative old man had a season’s fresh vegetables that called back decades of produce he’d grown with his family.
It was a simple, painless gesture that I’d love to see repeated by my gardening friends all over the world.