This was not our first year “doing a garden” but it was really our first time trying to systematically learn how to garden properly. I think, for our family, a lot of this was brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and fueled by a lot of time in our home space and a desire to be able to have living space that is more dedicated to purposeful living – growing living things, having places for rest, developing a space for us all to be and grow better. 

We have a really unusual space to try and garden. Our home backs up to the Cherokee National Forest so we have loads of trees and we are on the side of a rather steep hill. There is virtually no flat space on any of our property. On top of that, we are surrounded by huge, old trees that provide lots of beauty and shade (which is not super great for gardening). Because of this, we had to be careful with our plot selection. We didn’t really know what would take and what wouldn’t so we selected 4 spots. One retaining wall garden for (mostly) herbs, one flat-ish spot behind the house, one spot that was terraced next to the house (and had the best sunlight and no tree overhang), and one at the front of the property (but close to some big trees). Of our 4 spots, only 2 really took off – the retaining wall herb garden and the side terraced garden. The plot behind the house did virtually nothing. Almost everything we planted there failed though we did get some onions and we are still holding out hope for the carrots. The front garden with the melons fell victim to roving herds of deer who are unafraid of our pug puppies. And, really, not enough sunlight once the leaves filled the trees. Our side garden that is terraced is BEAUTIFUL. Loads of bright, fresh, tomatoes and squash and cucumbers. Once we have finished with these, this is where will will focus our efforts going forward. Our herb garden is beautiful as well – we have loads of basil, mint, rosemary, lavender, and sage. It smells like a dream!  

This experience has been good for our family. Our kids have gotten a chance to see how things grow and to tend to living things. The garden has made our home more inviting and warm – we’ve made fairy houses around our garden (they like fresh veggies too) and spruced up our bird houses one of which instantly got taken over by a large spider (that we just HOPE is eating nasty pests). Our kids have also gotten to see vegetables go from ground to dinner which they are both proud of and (most days) more likely to eat the vegetable! For me, it has brought a deep sense of grounding. I think this program connects people to their space and also to one another in ways that are immeasurable.