What does summer mean to you? Warmth? Hotels? Beaches? Travel?
To Guyanese, summer is known as “August holidays”. Regardless of what it’s called, it’s when weeks stretch languidly into each other, the vacation all children dream of. That feeling of what summer embodies starts in childhood and perhaps it never leaves us. It’s the time to explore ideas and to dream – and to bring those dreams to life.
Last summer, I grew a garden for the first time in my life. Before I go on, let me explain. Most of my family are not just good at gardening; they’re great at it. Fruits, flowers, vegetables. My parents, both my siblings, and my niece – not just their thumbs but their entire bodies are green. Like Shrek ‘green’.
Me? I kill plants. I get them, kill them, drive them to my dad and he patiently nurses them back to life. And so it goes. Yet, I’ve always wanted to be able to step outside and pick things for a pot or salad. But for reasons I just explained, it’s a practice I’ve avoided.
In late March of Covid-year, I planted seeds. (There wasn’t a lot going on so I thought, why not?!)
I used empty salad boxes to start the seeds. (Great way to repurpose plastic. Plus, these can be reused year after year.) It’s 1-2-3 easy. Drill holes in the bottom. Fill them with dirt. Plant the seeds.
By early May, my seedlings were ready for bigger pots. (They need to have at least 4-5 leaves before being transplanted.)
Side note: I planted arugula, spinach and lettuce directly into my planter since they can’t be transplanted.
Over the summer, I learnt a lot about gardening. Probably basic stuff to most, but not to me.
I called my mom all the time to ask her questions, and she taught me a lot of things along the way.
Lesson # 1
Me: Mom, what do I do? Squirrels are destroying my garden.
Mom: Buy some tulle and cover all the plants with it. Animals are afraid of getting their claws stuck in it, so they’ll leave your plants alone.
She was right! Tulle – a gardener’s best friend.
Me: Why aren’t my tomato plants giving blossoms?
Mom: Pick off some of the leaves. The plant is giving its nutrients to the leaves and there’s none left for the flowers. Then, mix some Epsom salts into water – not too much salt or you’ll burn the roots – and water them once every 2 weeks with it.
(Guess what? It worked)
Most importantly, Mom’s Lesson #3 was how to “marry” butternut squash blossoms (“assisted pollination”) so they could produce squash. (My sister calls it Blossom Sex. But that’s a story for another day.)
In the end, I harvested green onions, peppers shallots, tomatoes, butternut squash (tiny, but so sweet!), cucumbers, lettuce, spinach and arugula.
Other side note: Arugula (rocket) is literally the easiest thing in the world to grow and can be harvested all summer long.
Greens, reds and oranges galore.
For me, Covid-summer will forever be the colour of a tiny veggie garden.
So, what dreams will you bring to life this summer, and what colour will your summer be?