I tend to kill things. Most of my childhood animals died untimely deaths. Some from improper care (apparently frogs can't have tap water), others from food chain issues (hamster escaped, dog ate hamster) and some from heat exposure (RIP, Jenny the Bunny). In college I attempted numerous times to care for plants. Yet, even those were reduced to dried out, wrinkly corpses of what used to be lush greenery. So, one can imagine my hesitation when Andy and I decided to plant a garden this year. I've heard it's not rocket science and anyone can do it. But, I'm not anyone, I am apparently Death. However, Ava jumped on board the garden idea, and I'll admit, I was pretty excited at the possibilities. So, we did it. The kids and I chose a few plants to try out this year. I didn't want to go all out, just in case. I wasn't prepared to expose my children to their mother's innate plant murdering abilities.
Ava and I knew we wanted tomatoes. She eats them like candy and I had heard there's nothing better than a homegrown tomato. We chose Better Boys, because that's what the man at the nursery suggested. Who was I to argue? I bet he'd never killed an innocent plant. Ava suggested we also buy cherry tomatoes so she could "pop them" in her mouth and strawberries. Three plants sounded good to me. So, we took them home, potted them and I crossed my fingers.
Within a week, the large tomato had grown quite a bit and several new tomatoes had sprouted. I was feeling good. But, I didn't want to get cocky. So, I still just watched and waited. Ava, took right to the gardening thing and made it her daily responsibility to water all the plants. I must say, she's been great! I rarely have to remind her, usually, she heads right out, grabs her pink watering can and gives the plants a little drink. Sometimes, it's more like a dunking, but hey, you can never have too much water, right?
We bought the plants in early June. By mid-July, our first "red ripe tomato" (as Ava describes them) was ready for the picking. I could hardly contain myself and wanted to nab that juicy ball of tomato-y goodness, dip it in gold and display it for all to see that I, the self-proclaimed killer of all things living, had successfully grown a tomato. But alas, I resisted and allowed Ava to do the picking. That night, in honor of our tomato, I changed the dinner menu and we had BLTs. Those were the best BLTs I'd ever had. Normally, I like tomatoes, but I'm not a freak about them. However, this tomato I would have eaten whole like an apple.
The kids and I have been waiting patiently for the next tomato to ripen. And by patiently, I mean that we go outside every day and inspect each tomato on our vine, checking for any signs of color change. Jax, I assume, just couldn't wait and decided a green tomato was good enough for him. As we played outside one day, he picked one, walked up to me, held out his treasure and said, "Ball!" Fortunately, all was not lost. The tomato was close enough to ripening that after a few days on the counter it was ready to eat. And finally, this week, the rest have begun ripening. I assume that by early next week we'll have 10 ripe tomatoes for the picking.
Our little cherry tomatoes didn't do so well. We got two tomatoes from the plant. Both of which Jaxon picked prematurely. Oh well, we'll see what happens next year. The strawberry plant is growing quite well, but I'm told it often takes a season to get any fruit. So, we're keeping our fingers crossed for some strawberry jam to take with us to Mississippi next year.
It's been so wonderful watching my kids get excited about our little "garden." Ava thought it needed some color, so we went to the nursery just a few weeks ago (the same day we picked our first tomato) and I let her choose several flowers, which we went home and planted together (Jax helped dig, find earthworms and ate some dirt). Then, while at the farmers market Thursday, we picked up mint and basil plants, and have already enjoyed some fresh mint lemonade.
While the fruits of our labors are a great reward, for me, the best part is the responsibility Ava has learned. She takes such wonderful care of the plants and I can see the sense of accomplishment on her face when she picks her tomatoes. While Jax is young and doesn't completely understand, he still likes to help. Often, when we're outside he'll bring Ava's watering can to me and say, "Wawa" (water), asking me to fill it for him so he can water the plants just like his big sister. More than anything, I think he likes the popsicles that come after we've spent some time in the garden.
Now that I know I can have a successful garden, I look forward to taking on some new vegetables next year and maybe adding a few more each year. I want my kids to grow up having a garden and the responsibility, excitement and delcious food that comes from it!