Friday, May 8, 2009

my first garden

I’ve had three ‘real’ gardens, if you define a real garden as plants in the ground. Two of those have been at homes I own, the current one Portland and my previous house in Spokane. The third was in borrowed soil, while living in an apartment close to my grandparent’s house. My grandpa was a vegetable gardener and spent his life enriching the soil. After he died my grandma continued to grow a few tomatoes and zucchini each summer, but there was a lot of empty space. The year I moved back to Spokane, from Seattle, I really wanted to get my hands in the soil and plant. My grandma offered the garden and I happily took her up on it. At the time the garden was the point, but now that she’s gone it’s the memories of spending that time with her that are most valuable.

I have also tended two container gardens, when I lived in urban apartments. My first garden, shown in these photographs, was in the windows of a small apartment on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. I made a window shelf for container plants on the south facing window ledge (shown above) and on a weekend visit, back to Spokane, my dad and I built window boxes for the east windows.

The other night I ran across a garden journal from back then, how the heck did I manage to hang on to it all this time?! That was 13 years and 5 moves ago! On the first page was a sort of introduction. It’s odd to read something you wrote so many years ago. From that page:

“…since my days with a ‘real’ garden are in the future this will serve as a record of my urban apartment garden experience. Maybe some day when I am overwhelmed with watering, weeding, pruning & such I will reflect on the pages of this journal & remember to feel lucky to have a ‘real’ garden after all…”

Yep. I do sometimes feel overwhelmed, it’s spring and there is so much to do! And I do feel lucky, everyday that I spend in the garden. My taste in plants has certainly changed, and I no longer keep a garden journal. No time and I am just not the journal type any longer. I do keep the plant tags; they go in a book along with a note about the plants location in the garden. Sometimes I actually even make a second entry if the plant dies or I move it. Mainly I use the book as a reference for cold hardiness, the ‘proper’ name, or a question about size. In the old journal I made multiple entries about the weather, how the seeds and plants were doing on any given day and even pasted in inspiring images from magazines along with these pictures. Container gardening requires less time for weeding and more time for observing!


  1. Lovely to see your early gardening efforts. I kept a pretty scrupulous garden journal in my last garden. I'm hoping a flickr site or picasaweb site might be the answer to documentation in this one, but I have yet to really check out the possibilities.

    And it seems to me that if you're not feeling overwhelmed in May, you're probably not really gardening!

  2. Jane - I'm thinking that this blog may be the closest thing I'll get to actually organizing pictures. Although I suppose that could be a great winter project!

    So true about May, it looks like we are in for a great gardening weekend!

  3. Wow, you were pretty ambitious even back in the apartment days! Which part of the Hill did you live on? I wonder if the window box is still there and tended/appreciated by someone else? I love your careful drawing, it's really beautiful and shows how much thought you put into your tiny available space. So nice that you had that connection with your grandmother, too. I wish I'd decided to get interested in gardening while my grandfather was still alive, he could have taught me a lot.

  4. What a nice mini garden you had :-) It is always so wonderful to have a window filled with lovely greens.

    I am still looking forward for a 'real' garden :-( I guess in every good thing, there is always a starting point. Hey, container gardening is fun too. I am enjoying it.

    Have a great weekend!

  5. Karen - my apt was on the corner of Thomas and Boylston. I walked past when we were there in September and the window boxes were gone. They had been there for many years. I had the most amazing neighbors on the corner of Thomas and Harvard, in the house. They have a beautiful yard and helped me with my plant knowledge. They are still there. Fabulous green lights at Christmas.

    I think that is my number one regret when it comes to my grandparents, that I never really talked to my grandpa about gardening. He knew so much!

    Stephanie - thank you! I loved the experience and really feel it was a 'real' garden, it meant that much to me and yours must too. What really matters is the connection.

  6. Your journal drawings were so nice! I still have mine around, but mine are all crumpled and messy and possibly smeared with jelly donut. I was surprised to find the areas I'd sketched pretty much grew up according to plan.
    I think your blog sort of counts as your new form of garden journal. I read an old post the other day just to find out how much compost I ordered last year, I was so happy I'd mentioned the quantity.

  7. You are so right about the blog Megan, I thought about that yesterday. I have a sketch I did of the front yard and one of the back yard. they are pretty right on, except I thought we should leave out a slab once and a while on the patio to plant in. I'm glad we didn' would have been disruptive.

    I hate to admit this but I've always bought bags of compost. That way I can spread it bit by bit rather than have a load just BEGGING to be taken care of NOW. Lazy and expensive. I should look into ordering. I imagine it's cheaper?

  8. I buy bags throughout the year, but they only end up around new plants. When I get a load of compost, I mulch the whole yard with it. You probably don't need that much with your gravel mulch in the front and lawn in back. I'm sure it ends up cheaper by the pound to get it in bulk, but I think with the delivery fee, and depending on your quantity, bags might actually work out in your favor.

  9. Thanks Megan for helping me feel less guilty for my compost ways!


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