Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How I became a Gardener

When I was living in Germany. I did not garden then, aside having to pull weeds in my Mothers garden, a chore I did not appreciate then. My mom got to do the fun stuff like planting flowers and vegetables, I got to pull weeds. So no, I did not like to garden then, I did enjoy using my Mom's flowers for flower arrangements, there was always a lot of material to choose from, in her garden.
Like a lot of other things, a lot has changed since then.
After I got married and had my first son, we rented a small house in Inglewood, Los Angeles Area. The backyard consisted mainly of a concrete drive way and a few bare strips of soil. It looked bare and I wanted something prettier to look at when I was sitting outside to watch my little son play.
Now my gardening adventure began. I didn't know much about gardening, but I threw some seeds I got from the Drugstore in this poor soil and watered them and soon I had pretty flowers to look at. Nothing special at all, but it looked pretty and to me it was special.
Now the garden bug got me!
The year after, we were able to buy our first home in San Bernardino. There it was hot, dry and water was restricted because of a drought . Again I got a dry, deadpanned soil garden, with nothing but one Tree in it. It begged me to make it look nice, to became fertile again. Still I knew not much about gardening, especially nothing about gardening in desert like conditions.
I dug in, the ground was hard as rock, we build some retainer walls, added compost to the depleted soil and I planted my first Perennials, some Roses, a few trees and some Shrubs along the Neighbors fence. The gardening bug got me so much I started a large vegetable garden in the corner of the yard. It was so exciting to see the plants growing and even tough I did not know anything about growing food, in my first year I was able to grow humongous amounts of vegetables to feed my small family. Soon I had one of the prettiest yards in the Neighborhood.
I killed a lot of plants in this time, planting things which would do well in Germany but couldn't stand the dry heat. It did not stop me, as time went on I learned how to become a dry garden gardener.

Then just as I finally got the hang of it, how to garden in the Desert of San Bernardino, we moved.
New State, new climate, we were off to North Carolina.
My gardening approaches from California did not work so well there. My Tomatoes just seemed to rot, Lettuces were always sprouting flowers. Radishes, I could not grow at all. California, once the spring weather came, it pretty much stayed spring for a long time. It wasn't like that in North Carolina. Spring would tease me, so I would plant my spring vegetables just so Spring could laugh at me and say "Gotcha!" and turned freezing again.
It took me years to figure out when, how and what would grow there, anyhow the harvest was never as good as in California. North Carolina soil in the low lands is not for growing vegetables, we had red Carolina clay, our land formerly was Tobacco or Cotton land. Depleted Soil, with every imaginary soil based disease you could get, and the humidity in the summer just seemed to melt some plants.
Ornamental Gardening was a different story, now I was able to have a much wider palette of plants to choose from. I turned this soil upside down, planted many shrubs and many perennials I knew from my home in Germany. Some didn't grow, because the climate was much different, many seemed to stop flowering in the Summer humidity. In spite of the heat and humidity with time I found many plants which grew well. It became such a beautiful Garden, with a large variety of plants. Neighbors would walk down the road, stopping to chat with me about gardening. They didn't realize that I did not know what I was doing. I just did it and sometimes what I did, didn't work so I did it different next time. I was the gardener of trial and error, not of knowledge. I just figured out with time what worked and what did not.
I made a beautiful garden there and then, we moved again.
Now our new home would be in Oregon, in beautiful Willamette Valley.
Again I got a garden, which had a lot of empty garden beds. I am slowly remaking this garden mine again. I don't know anything about Rainy Day Gardening. But that's where my garden is in 'Rainy Northwest'. It is a new way of gardening, a new challenge.
I still struggle with growing some vegetables, which grew so easy in California, but then I also grow lot's of food I would have never been able to grow in either California or North Carolina. I already killed my good share of plants, but I also planted many successfully. Some Plants which took years of growing, to get a good size in North Carolina, in Oregon became twice as big in one year.
So yes I am learning. I am adapting to Northwestern gardening.
I still think most of the times I don't know what I am doing. I just do, I read, I change my approaches, and things start growing better. I am always learning.
I hope to stay in this 'Rainy Garden' Paradise. But I know, wherever my next garden will be. I will be ready to learn anew, then I am a Transplanted Gardener.