Some gardeners spend all winter scheming what they will plant. Our deliberation is simple. We transport groceries from New York City each weekend and we want to use our garden to minimize the haul. So, rather than plant zucchini, eggplant, broccolli and brussels sprouts – which all require significant acreage to produce a recurring yield – we have learned to focus on herbs, lettuces and greens. William devours sun-warmed, vine-ripened tomatoes in the garden, and won’t touch their grocery store cousins, so we will reserve a garden bed for tomato plants. The rest of the garden will be an assortment of fruits and vegetables – carrots, beets, zucchini, watermelon, etc. – planted as much to entertain and educate the kids as to feed our family.As a novice a few years ago, I bought a garden book and a variety of seeds. They both provided detailed instructions, ie certain plants must be planted at certain times of the year, provided with a certain number of hours of sun each day, a specific amount of water, and sowed at a specific depth, a certain number of inches apart. With a new baby at the time, I wanted a garden and it was just too complicated. I decided that nature has never followed instructions and at $1.69 a packet, I wasn’t going to either. Within weeks, we had more food than we could eat.
For William and Andrew, the garden is all about the tools. William gleefully runs his Tonka truck out to the garden, hauling the seed packets with him.
William helps me break up the soil by jumping onto the digging shovel, then demands, “I want my little rake!” as we spread out the soil and selects his favorite hand shovel as we separate out a pile of dirt for covering the seeds.
We lay out the packets on the ground, deciding where to locate each herb and lettuce. Instead of sowing in rows, we have learned it’s easier for the kids to plant, recognize and harvest when we organize the seeds in areas at least a couple feet wide in each direction. We rip the packets, pour the seeds into our hands and shake them over the soil. The aim is to spread the seeds evenly, but when Andrew dumps the Coriander, aka Cilantro, seeds all in one spot we spread them loosely with our hands. I’m sure they will grow just fine.
As I shake dirt loosely over the garden beds, William announces, “I have an idea!” He loads his dump truck, drives it through the garden emitting a loud motor sound “Vrrr!”, and deposits his dirt over our seeds. I hand him markers and he carefully slides them into the ground.
Already, the first green has come up – Cilantro has returned from last year. Rain is scheduled for the night, so at the first sign of a mosquito we declare, “Dinner time!”
Photographs by Rachel Rabhan.