Inch By Inch, Row By Row: Some Books About Gardening

I am a city girl by nature and have come late to gardening, but this year I have finally gotten a patch of ground weeded, have obtained some good soil for it, and just two days ago, with my daughter's sporadic help, planted my first crop of peas and lettuce, two vegetables that I have been assured are EASY to grow. I sure hope so.

Before this spring, my gardening experience was primarily literary. The first garden-related thing I bought-- last year, even--was a packet of carrot seeds. I had a strong conviction that carrots were a guaranteed, rewarding thing to grow in a garden. I think I was strongly influenced by The Carrot Seed, Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson's classic tale of a little boy whose perseverence in tending to his single carrot-seed garden pays off with a gargantuan carrot that astonishes his heretofore-doubting family. But then a friend told me that carrots can be tough to grow in this climate, and since my primary goal this year is to start a garden that actually bears produce so as to encourage myself to continue, I thought I'd wait, at least until after the frost date.

So, peas and lettuce it was. We went out and planted them on Tuesday evening, and on Wednesday morning, despite knowing intellectually that the seeds will take a couple of weeks to sprout, I woke up wondering if they might have come up yet. And if not: why not? And when?? Just like Toad in "The Garden," (which can be found in the book Frog and Toad Together,) I wanted to run out to the garden and command them: "Now seeds, start growing!"

So many gardening books--like Paul Fleischman's Seedfolks, or that classic of all gardening novels, The Secret Garden--are about how working the earth and making things grow transform the gardener and even foster community. Gardening teaches, among other things, patience. Maybe, with time, my I'll become master gardeners, like the young girl who transforms her grumpy uncle's rooftop in Sarah Stewart and David Small's wonderful The Gardener, But for now, I'm just a beginner.

What I hope for this year is that my family will feel some connection with the earth and with nature, and maybe get to eat some peas and lettuce that we grew ourselves. Or possibly even some carrots-- just regular-sized would be fine.

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Radishes are also fun and easy, and sprout gratifyingly quickly.

Lettuce needs cold, or it will bolt. So pick it young & don't hoard it!

Carrots will turn into . . . interesting shapes when they encounter rocks.

Tomatoes are dead easy, esp. cherry ones. Plant with Basil for ultimate Yum! Greenbeans are foolproof, and delicious fresh.

And to think I never gardened or had any interest until I got my Boston house! In NYC now, I miss my garden so much.

The book that really let me understand what it all meant - which I only got when I reread it as an adult with a garden of my own - was the Little House book in which they're desperate to keep their veggie plot alive. You'll know which one, O mighty Librarian Cousin.....

I remember that garden, and how you encouraged S to pull weeds!

What does it mean for lettuce to bolt? It can't be what I'm imagining, which is a head of Iceberg sneaking out of the garden at midnight & heading for the Greyhound depot. because it just can't take the pressure.

Tomatoes are coming! The frost date here isn't till May 23rd, so I have to wait.

And as for Little House-- aren't they *always* desperate to keep their veggie plot alive? There was the one the grasshoppers got, in On the Banks of Plum Creek, and the one the blackbirds got, in Little House on the Prairie, and the whole depressing sequence of events in The First Four Years...

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