Last year, I gardened like crazy. I grew tons of peppers and tomatoes. I roasted and dried and sauced and froze. I spent most of my summer weekends cooking and weeding. I watered every morning and every night. When we went away, I enlisted one of my friends to come water for me. I was a gardening fool.
This year, I watched my garden get invaded by weeds while I worked on my rewrites. And it was okay, because I was still getting a reasonable amount of cukes and eggplant, with promises of peppers and tons and tons of tomatoes.
But then the tomatoes stayed green for a really long time. Eventually, the leaves started shriveling and turning brown. Then it traveled to my cucumbers, and I realized I had blight.
This weekend, I spent Saturday, sweating my butt off, digging up tomato and cucumber plants and dumping them into plastic bags to be thrown out like garbage, because that’s the way you’re supposed deal with infected plants. I spent Sunday grilling green tomatoes to make salsa so nothing would go to waste. It took me SEVEN HOURS to cut, seed, grill, and dice the tomatoes, and I made about 30 bucks worth of salsa that’s not even all that great. I certainly didn’t save any money. I’m sure I spent more than that on tomato plants and cages and organic fertilizer and containers to freeze the salsa.
I started gardening because I thought it was eco-friendly. Better to water plants that will feed us, than waste water on grass, right? But, the thing is, I never water my lawn. Ever. So my garden actually increased my water usage. My garden isn’t nearly as efficient as a farmer’s garden, and we get more than enough food from our weekly farm share bag. And while a farmer might have known how to catch blight early on and save the crop, I produced four giant bags of garbage for the landfill.
Last year, when things with the book were in limbo, I was struggling to find ways to feel like I was contributing to our family. Storing food and making things from scratch made me feel like I was being nurturing, like I was taking care of J and being a good wife. I very much appreciate that my garden helped me feel productive then. But now, I feel like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day, and all my efforts in the garden and the kitchen are taking away from my ability to be a good wife and a good friend. Plus, if I’m being really honest with myself, I have to admit that I just don’t enjoy it anymore. If I did, that would be one thing, but I feel like it’s just one more item on the long list of things I have to do and never have enough time for.
There were so many better ways I could have spent my weekend. J and I would be happier if I took the time to go kayaking with him, instead of complaining that my feet were sore and my hands hurt from seeding tomatoes and standing over the grill all afternoon. I would be happier if I’d spent that time doing laundry, or cleaning the basement, or checking something else off my to do list, chatting with friends, reading one of the many books I’ve got stacked on my desk, or, you know, writing. Argo and Stella would be happier if I’d taken them to the P-A-R-K for an H-I-K-E. My neighbors would have been happier if I did something about the weedfest that is the side of our house.
So next year, no veggies. I still have a gaping dirt pit that takes up 1/4 of the lawn, but I have some awesome strawberry plants that are already planted and doing great. I don’t mind taking the 20 minutes it takes to freeze extra berries, and I know my friends don’t mind when I show up with surplus strawberries for them. My herb garden is super low maintenance, so I’ll keep that going. I clip herbs as I need them, and there’s never any rush to harvest.
I’m thinking maybe I’ll turn the rest of the garden into a mini orchard – maybe two or three dwarf apple trees. Apples don’t require the same care as veggies, and a nice bed of mulch or gravel will keep me from needing to weed as often. If I have too many for snacking and not enough time to make apple butter, I can always drop them off at the food pantry or an after school program.
I’m in no way criticizing people who love to garden and preserve food and do it well. It truly is an art form, and I really admire people who have a green thumb and endless patience in the kitchen. I’m just saying that I don’t love it and I don’t want to put the time and effort into it anymore. I want to put the time and effort into doing things I do enjoy, because life is short, and blight sucks. And I’m more than happy to buy sauce and pickles and peppers and tomatoes from the good people at the farm market, who do it well and depend on the income. In the end, I think it’ll save me some money, and keep some garbage out of the landfill, too. There are plenty of ways to be eco-friendly that don’t involve spending your Sunday up to your elbows in green tomato guts.