Spring is a time for hope, and every year I hope that my garden will overcome my challenge of trying to develop a green thumb.
I was so excited when we moved to Northern Westchester about seven years ago, eager to finally have a proper garden. In my Manhattan apartment, I planted hearty annual flowers every spring, hoping they would survive the winds of our 9th floor balcony. Here, I would have plenty of space to plan and plant flowers, herbs, and vegetables.
I spotted an area in my yard that received a healthy dose of sun and could be watered by our sprinkler system. I bought two 4’x4’ raised garden beds made out of wood and loads of healthy organic soil and planned what I would grow. Since we have plenty of colorful flowers around the property, I figured I’d concentrate on fresh vegetables and herbs I could use in my cooking.
As a reporter for WNBC-TV in New York City, I research news and consumer stories every day, then cultivate sources and head out with a photojournalist to gather elements and learn new information about our topic. I took a similar approach to gardening: scouring magazines for ideas and choosing to grow tomatoes, basil, rosemary, among others.
My amateur ambition pushed me to start them as seeds, indoors. After securing a couple of disposable aluminum roaster pans (very fancy) and a drip tray underneath, I was thrilled when the first pops of green sprouted through the soil. Whew! First part down.
Now, it’s time to transplant them…well, you win some and you lose some. The survivors were showered with my attention, albeit admittedly mostly on weekends, but there were several mornings where I was able to dedicate some time to nurture my new growths before my morning editorial meeting in the newsroom at 9 a.m. Those first few hours of the day are always so peaceful.
That first year, as I explored new dishes in which I could incorporate those fresh herbs and vegetables, I didn’t plan on our neighborly woodland creatures to nourish themselves on my vegetation. Lesson learned; my husband, Richard, who runs his own luxury interior design firm, advised me to get a wire fence around the garden bed for the second year and offered a design for it. Thank you, Richard!
The next time, I was determined to have more success. After all, I help people solve their problems every day in my role as a consumer reporter on TV. I should be able to solve some problems in my own backyard–literally.
Well…the tomatoes did come in very nicely that summer. Except maybe too nicely. I hadn’t accounted for having a couple pecks of tomatoes from these sprawling vines. Even though I love salads, and my family loves their tomato and mozzarella, there’s only so much extra tomato sauce you can make and use. Richard and our two teenage daughters, Illeana and Carolina, urged me to rethink quantities for the following year. Just as any budding journalist works to hone their skills over the course of their career, I was getting an education in the challenges of gardening.
The following year, there were adequate–but not copious–tomato plants, and we added carrots, lettuce, lavender, and cilantro. Yummy! However, I had also planted mint; no one warned me about their invasive roots. Another lesson learned. In writing this article, I discovered that one way to help control the roots is to grow mint in a container in your soil. I’ll try that this year.
Subsequent spring and summer seasons saw me add a variety of peppers to my garden, especially jalapeño and shishito (some shishito sauteed with olive oil and coarse salt until they blister–super tasty!) I no longer felt the need to prove that I could start from seedlings, and then take a risk by transplanting them. I occasionally used a short cut and bought some “mature” plants in a container and transplanted them into the garden. Those always survived; problem solved.
Then, we were all locked down in our homes. It started in the spring of 2020, the one year most of us can remember where the season didn’t translate to hope. Instead, despair sent us searching for new ways to find strength, courage and tenacity. It would seem that many found them in home gardening that year, because you couldn’t find seeds anywhere!
For some reason, 2022 was my “Annus Horribilis.” I don’t know if it was the lack of rain, perhaps combined with my lack of focus, that didn’t provide the fruits (and vegetables) of my labor.
This season, however, hope springs eternal. Every year, as we do in life, we learn from our successes–and our failures. I hope the spring of 2023 will serve up the best garden yet.