Personal growth

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The old box, the trellis, and the new box

The Globe's Sam Allis trotted out a perennial for his column yesterday, which leaves little doubt of its direction from the opening gun: "Red alert: the gardeners are back. Run to the attic and barricade the door. " You gotta respect the declarative sentence.

He relates how his wife struggles in the dirt around their house while he snuggles with a crossword on the easy chair, and I can relate to his view from the lounge. It used to be just like that around our house: I trimmed the grass and dug the beds, but Georgie did the planning and planting, the weeding and wondering how else to embellish upon the rich garden our home's previous owner bequeathed to us.

But last year, moved by my exposure to, and reverence for, people like biomimicry partners Janine Benyus and Dayna Baumeister and Michael Pollan, who made clear to me our place as part of nature and the need to cultivate it, I built a small raised bed in one of our only full-sun patches of land. A comical start (the box fell apart before soil could be added — photos and other self-mockery here) gave way to a weak yield. Do you remember all the rain early last growing season? I bet Sam doesn't.

We got a a pepper or two, an eggplant or two, and a decent yield of collards. This year, I started with a bunch of onion and leek seedlings that my friend and home-farming role model .com/about.php">Jeremy Marin had a surplus of, and then purchased six packs of cabbage and kale when the stand didn't have collards.

I didn't want six packs, but that's what they were selling, and therein lies the seeds of our new expansion. Last weekend, pursuing another skill I don't really possess, I built a second raised bed that's a quarter larger than last year's and added a six-foot-high trellis. The original idea was to put the trellis over the second bed, but my sister-in-law, another horticultural star in my firmament, suggested I adopt the layout you see in the photo. Looks like I'm going to.

In addition to the kale and cabbage, we're planning on grape tomatoes, snap peas, and snow peas for the trellis, and green and wax beans, collards, and maybe a couple of other things for the bed. I'd thought I'd do beans on the trellis, but it turns out they don't grow like that.

Yes, this is a huge expansion, and I probably don't know what I'm getting myself into. Note, for example, the "maybe a couple of other things" line. A prudent farmer would know the real estate each plant needs, and map out a plan.

Incredibly, though, this isn't the whole of my gardening regimen for the summer. I'll have that story in a coming post.


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