This isn't about what happened next. It's raining today. It rained for about 30 hours, then we had a dear lovely reprieve yesterday afternoon, then it started in again. I visited my little green bean row just now, to see how it's getting on. 12 little soldiers, rising from the mud. I haven't yet put in the second row next to them, but that's all right. They grow so fast there's plenty of time for that. I took my chances yesterday and potted some of the sweet peppers to set on the deck. Sweet pepper nights begin next week, but they were tired of their mixing bowl.
You see, they all started out together in cute little trays. And then they were too big for just their starter cups, so I stuck all them all in a big mixing bowl filled with nice rich soil. That's a garden, right there. But of course, they need more and more room to stretch and grow. They wanted that room now! Yesterday! So I gave it to them. They'll be fine.
I first thought I was a gardener when I found I took real pleasure in growing things in a mixing bowl, using Mama's old blue speckled soup spoon. When I first began using the soup spoon in the garden, I was self-conscious about it, a little. But it's so handy. And knowing my mother, it was probably already ancient when she bought it, so that's neat. I didn't have much money, though, and yearned for nice shiny New Tools, instead of soup spoons, serving forks, and borders made of shells not because they were pretty but because I could just go down the street and pick them up off the beach for free. Shells are good for the soil anyway, by the way.
Only, when I did have money for my super awesome trowel, for a good sturdy yard cart, and for buying a few plants simply because they looked good rather than because I'd get to eat something from them, I found myself still mixing soil the way I might mix a cake. Or soup.
The gardeners at the Lawrence Township Community Garden were largely the same way. Nothing matches. Nothing has to.
Over the past...let's say five years, urban farming has become hip. I'm so glad! But some of them are driven far, far in the other direction. Use absolutely nothing new. Nothing petroleum-derived. Nothing "commercial" at all. To me, that's fussy, and a bit fascisti, at least when they get on the online horn and start telling everyone else to do it any other way is wrong. Let's learn from each other, but not battle each other for superiority. It isn't about that.
This. Is what it's about.
I remember when I was being driven nuts by cooking for my large family with mixing bowls that were never quite large enough or plentiful enough, and excitedly running across some at Dollar Tree for...a dollar each. I got three! Do you think at that time what mattered most should have been why they were a dollar or what they were made of? If so, I'm happy for you that you have never been in that position where they were just the thing you needed. The one I still have, some years later, currently has poncy organic potting soil in it, and four plants I grew from organic "heirloom" seed. It is just as great a thing to use as when I was mixing apple bread in it for young hungry children.
Gardeners are frugal, not just because they often need to be, but because it is so, so satisfying to make something out of nothing. We save all the bits and pieces of things we buy because you never know when you might find a use for something to make a cold frame or string up a lot of cucumber plants, or who knows? I remember feeling so victorious over life because I had all these different colored pieces of embroidery floss tying everything to old bamboo sticks people left in the "dump" area of the community garden. Last week I bought a ball of twine, just because it was there and I could, and it'll work better, but after all, it's just twine. Having been able to buy it will not increase my pleasure in using it.
Pretty psyched about my new scissors, though.
Here's a tip, while we're on the subject. Save everything you think you might need, but only as much as you have room to keep neatly stored. Next year, if you haven't used it, you didn't need it. Send it on its way.
So I have my beautiful little container garden started on the deck. Off to one side, though, is a large roasting pan full of water, with a ladle in it for careful watering, and an old vinyl tote filled with three different soils from last year's leftover pots. I'll use Mama's soup spoon to mix it up and add fresh nutrients to it.
Today I can't spend much time in the rain. It distresses my chest in its current condition. But that first community garden summer had a long hot period with no rain. Long for New Jersey, where it rains on average every third day. (Partly why it gets to be "The Garden State.") Finally, the sky broke up one day, and I rushed up to my little plot. I raised my hands to the sky and rejoiced in the moisture bathing the earth. I pulled weeds! I found myself laughing and laughing, hugging the world to my heart. And I knew then for certain, that for all the rest of my days, I am a gardener.