Much like an HR director at AIG, I don’t always have the best of luck when trying to rally my family around certain team-building exercises. Pushing around a double-stroller through the mud and rain at an Oktoberfest didn’t garner many laughs nor did a particularly ill-fated community theater production of Les Miserables.
I hear you scoffing, but I swear it’s true. I have long longed for the sweet sunshine taste of a fresh tomato on my sandwich. My mouth has watered at the idea of fresh herbs growing right in my backyard, and I think I’d reach some sort of culinary nirvana if I baked a loaf of zucchini bread from one grown on a vine outside my window.
But I grew up in Detroit, and so my gardening experience consists of a 72-hour growing season which half of that time is subject to a late frost over the fourth of July. Your fancy tropical climate and sunshine confuse me. We’ve been here over 10 years, and the only native plants I have cultivated with any success are live oak saplings in the cracks of my driveway.
So to get my family to share in my excitement of gardening? That would take some work.
I found a “How to Build Your Own Raised Bed Garden” video online, which my husband promptly ignored and designed his own. Last weekend, he and the boys made seventeen trips to Lowe’s and spent as many hours clearing the spot and building our 7'X23' garden bed.
And then we filled it with dirt. Lots and lots of dirt.
This was my first hook for the kids. The complete and utter filth of this job spoke directly to their cores of natural mess makers. We played in that dirt for hours while we filled and spread the soil.
The next fun task was choosing our crops. Unfortunately, I read this Times article saying that many Florida gardeners take summers off, but a big ole patch of okra would do well.
Hmmm. Okra. Throw in a row of Brussels sprouts and I was sure to lose all hope of shared culinary and horticulture interest. So I decided now would be a good time for experimentation, and we made yet another trip to the store, each of them choosing those vegetables that they liked. So while not a traditional garden grouping, we have a lot of corn, pumpkins and catnip even though we don’t have a cat.
And although I did get my tomatoes, herbs, radishes, peppers, and watermelon; it’s the non-cash crops that are the most delicious.
Every morning the kids check their seedlings and report on their progress. They water and consult the weather reports. They even are planning what they want to plant in September when real Florida gardening begins.
So amongst the seedlings we’re growing a little interest, patience, nurturing and a whole lot of unexpected fun.
Don’t be surprised if we bring fresh tomato sandwiches to the AIG company picnic after all.
-- Tracey Henry, Suburban Diva
[Photos: Henry family garden before (top) and after]