willowbrook farm

historic yellow springs


An Affair with a Vegetable Garden

My affair with a vegetable garden began about eighteen long years ago when we bought our first house. After pulling out page after page from the magazines I perused, I sketched out a half circle plot off of our back deck. Having spent the first few years of my married life either in a condo or a townhouse, I welcomed the freedom to plant anything I wanted in my own back yard! The years of dreaming of doing so had caused my wheels to turn full time. Before we bought furniture to fill the house, we had erected a small garden and made plans to lay out a brick patio edged by a cutting garden and tons of flowers. Flowers were a love of mine and I grew up cutting wild ones from the rose bushes that grew on the small farm that I moved to when I was 14. Being a totally inexperienced gardener, I went from planting annuals each year to finding out which perennials flourished in our area and would come back year after year. Slowly but surely, as the garden grew, so did my love for both working in it and delighting in what it produced. Weeding became my favorite past time and weekends were spent with babies and young kids working out back in the garden. One year, we even had a sunflower house entwined by pumpkins that they could sit in like a club house. Memories were sown along with the gifts of the earth that the garden produced. I will never forget going into labor while staking up tomato plants in the vegetable garden. I had to finish the task before we headed to the hospital to bring our fourth child into the world. Maybe that is why he has such an aversion to helping out in the garden these days??? No, me thinks it is the fact that he is about to turn 16!
One thing that I missed sorely when we moved eight years ago was that garden right out our back door. One of the many things that “spoke to me” about Willowbrook Farm was the huge vegetable garden that although was totally overgrown, was a dream come true. A dream that for some reason is always way behind the eight ball. What was I thinking when I saw the size of it and thought that I could realistically keep on top of it? Every year I try and every year…it always ends up is an overgrown tangle of weeds, flowers and vegetables by the end of the season (that is if the deer haven’t gotten to it).
Before it can become that tangled mess though, it needs to be planted. My husband can almost set his clock to when we are going on our summer vacation to when I finally get around to planting the garden. This year, we made some adjustments and added raised beds. This of course could not be done until after all of Life’s Patina Barn Sales so that put us behind in a major way. Then the chickens, who had been helping me “weed” the garden, decided that they liked the tender shoots of the just purchased trays of vegetables than the weeds. By the time I went back out to Amish country where I get my plants, I had lost some more precious time. Lo and behold, we hit the garden hard this week for I knew that if I did not get everything in by the time we left on our trip, the garden was not to be this year. For some reason, I can not fathom that prospect even with the challenges of heat, rats (garden is next to chicken coop), deer (they munched the whole thing down last year in August when we were at the beach), remembering that the sprinklers are still on once tucked restfully into bed (who the heck else is going to get up and turn them off?) and weeds that seem to be getting a better food supply than the poor veggies because they are producing much more quickly! 
I have been seduced by the garden and all that it entails.Two years ago, I introduced some help in the garden arena aside from my bribery induced teenagers. My oldest son Christopher works two days a week around the farm along with Ben, a hugely talented artist who helps with all things Willowbrook Farm. Together we have managed to keep the garden afloat although it does list about like no one is steering it at times. They have become embroiled in my affair and they worked eleven long hours this week on the hottest day of the year thus far, completing the rest of the beds, adding the chicken wire to keep the chickens out of the tender beds while letting them scurry about in other areas of the fenced in area, adding compost, mulching etc. That was yesterday… so that left today to get the garden planted before we took off for a road trip to Canada. Departure time 2pm. My husband could only shake his head from afar as he came home early this morning after getting gas to fill up the road trip mobile, as he found me quite dirty and sweaty, (Did anyone else feel like they could cut the humidity with a knife this am after that rain?)  frantically getting the last of the plants in their proper places. I did it!! 
Each of the ten beds are filled what they need to produce a variety of produce and goodies that even my  ever complaining teenagers adore.
Ben and Chris had made teepees out of bamboo they cut from some of our crazy growth. Some of the beds are planted with just seeds, so their visibility will anxiously be awaited.
Others are filled with Squash, melons, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and the like.
I used two old windows fastened together to make trellises that the cucumbers could grow up and over.
Nasturtiums and Borage are two of my favorite edible flowers. They add a beautiful pop of color in both a salad and the garden and are easy to grow.
Of course, there are always the plants that come back year after year and sometimes more proliffickly. The rest of the garden will soon look like this and I will do my best to keep the weeds at bay and to keep you posted on its beautiful progression. 
I have become smarter in some ways with my garden knowledge. In particular, I have learned that it is best to leave the dogs at home when away so they can continue to keep the deer at bay. So they are being watched tenderly at home by friends who are staying to keep watch on both the animals and the gardens. Maybe they will be swept up in the affair of the garden. Most likely not…but just maybe.

“It was such a pleasure to sink one’s hands into the warm earth, to feel at one’s fingertips the possibilities of the new season.”
― Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden

Fabulous book by the way! 

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  1. Thanks for sharing your gardening activities! I can’t wait to hear more!! Safe travels.