Katie’s beginner (idjit) garden

Frequent House Enthusiast readers will recall that I’m no gardener. I’ve come clean on this count before. Last summer The Boston Globe planted a seed in my head though. Michael Prager wrote about various forms of lawn farming and piqued my curiosity

So this summer I’m taking a big step. I’m entering the world of gardening in the form of two, four-foot by four-foot, raised-bed plots in a community garden.

My first task: learn how to garden. For this, I looked initially to the Head Butler. Wouldn’t you? There I discovered Mel Bartholomew’s All New Square Foot Gardening. Somehow I had managed to be ignorant of him and his best-selling book, the cover of which boasts “two-million copies sold”. 

It reads like an infomercial. The best kind, with over-the-top enthusiasm repeatedly emphasizing the same two or three features, which turns readers/consumers into propaganda spreading machines, parroting the amazing features to friends, family, and beyond. I caught myself saying at lunch last weekend, “Square-foot gardening is so much more efficient than gardening in rows.  One four by four plot can provide enough produce to feed one person salad every day of the growing months.” Never mind that I was saying this to a seasoned gardener or that I don’t really eat salad; my husband does. (For others who do and those who love veggies in general, consider my friend Susie Middleton’s new book Fast, Fresh & Green.)

Next: order seeds. But what kind and from whom? Enter my mother, an avid gardener. (I wrote about her house garden here.) I scheduled a consult, and when we sat down with my graph paper, she presented me with a new copy of Gardening All-in-One for Dummies. She knows me too well. She had marked the most helpful pages in the Vegetables and Herbs section of the book. There I learned some “garden jargon” like what hybrids and heirlooms are. Please don’t test me. Her advice: “Radishes are a must. They’re easy to germinate…And they are adorable.” Never mind that neither I, nor my husband, eat radishes. I was sold anyway, he less so.

As my mother and I headed off to one of her favorite local nurseries to shop for seeds and seedlings, she warned, “Anything that’s easy to grow, the garden shop looks down on. You just can’t listen to that cr#p.” No, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. I couldn't help but recognize a parallel (or two). What’s true for garden shops is true for the Architecture establishment who pooh-pooh the vernacular.  You just can’t listen to that cr#p.

by Katie Hutchison for the House Enthusiast