On gardening

#personal #project

31st of July 2021

And now for something a bit different. This time, no programming talk. At least not really. This time I want to share a dream of mine. Maybe a goal. That I’m taking on in iterations. Something like yearly sprints. And this is a retrospective. Of sorts.

For years one of my big dreams is to have my own garden. I tend to romanticize some ideas and simple living and gardening are definitely one of them. Most of them stay that. An ideal dream that is never realized. And that’s ok. But not this one. I don’t want this one to stay a dream. So this is why this time, I decided to make a plan.

I know absolutely nothing about gardening. I also don’t know much about keeping plants. But I’m trying. Over the last 10 years, I’ve started, very timidly, collecting plants. Well, I can’t call it a collection, but there is a handful of resilient plants that stayed with me. We lost many good ones along the way, but things are looking up. A couple of years ago I even managed to propagate a few. I had plant babies and that was a huge milestone for me because I considered myself as an unfit gardener and a person with an opposite of a green thumb. Would that be a purple pinky?

Anyway, it was bad. But that was only the beginning stages of my plan. Can I keep something alive for an extended period of time? I can happily say - yes, I can. And this brings me to the next stage and the main topic of this post.

At the beginning of this year I started planning my garden. I live in an apartment building and I did so for the past 15 years. Most of them, especially since I moved to Ljubljana, did not have a balcony. Nor sun for that matter. But this one has both. There is not much sun on my side of the apartment, where I live and work, except for a period between the 14th of May and the 17th of September. This is when I get woken up to a nice 4cm ray of sunshine on the opposite wall that stays there for about 20 minutes. It’s the little things.

Luckily the other side of the apartment has a nice balcony that is exposed to the afternoon-ish sun. This is where I set up my garden.

I know absolutely nothing about gardening. And this first year I went in blind. No research, no sowing calendars, no complimentary species charts, no pruning instructions, nothing. And that was in a way surprising. Gardening means a big undertaking for me. An important topic that I want to invest my time and energy in. The last thing that was similar to that was coding.

And I approached that in completely opposite way. For quite some time I was stuck in the tutorial limbo, gripping hard to documentation and courses that were holding my hand. I was afraid to just start something, to build something, because I was afraid I’ll fail. I’m happy that I moved away from that and for this gardening project I just started doing and disregarded what could happen in the end. Because somehow it was clear to me here - if you don’t start actually doing something, nothing can grow. I think this is very nicely transferable to coding as well. You can study and learn and do tutorials. But to really do something, you just have to start.

I heard a nice thought about coding recently - every day we are just failing, and then figure out how to recover. I guess this can be applied to many things in life.

I planted 4 tomatoes, that are still growing and are still green at the moment, I had some leaf salad, spinach, and herbs. But today I harvested my bell papers! The harvest looks very sad and tiny, but I am immensely proud of it. It put things of growing food in perspective and I made a concrete step towards my future garden.

I never had an issue with not being able to imagine where food comes from. I grew up with a garden my mom and my aunt kept. So I understood the principle of growing your own food, but before I tried it myself, I didn’t understand the work and pleasure it brings. I’m looking forward to the next year. But this time I’ll start with research and I’ll lean more on my friends who are already gardening and very skilled at it.

The plan is also to repossess a larger part of the balcony, and to get another large container there. Maybe more peppers or even beans could be planted on the second one. I’ll skip some of the plants that are not in use now. I currently have oregano, mint, basil, parsley, coriander, and rosemary. We don’t really use coriander (which actually died quickly), so I won’t plant it next year, but I’ll probably plant more basil, so I can make my own pesto.

I’ll also plant spinach much earlier in the year. I was quite late in it bloomed soon, but I got good use of it, adding it to several salads.

I’m looking forward to tomatoes. I think there are about 10 growing now. I hope all of them will be harvested and I will make a giant salad. I can’t wait.

The bell peppers should be much bigger, but I think that the pepper plant didn’t have enough space since I kept it in a very small container. I harvested half, because in my head, now the 3 remaining ones will have more nourishment to grow. Maybe? Anyway, I’ll make a tiny fajita out of them and keep the seeds to try to make seedlings for the next year. A friend of mine has a garden and maybe I can provide him with some saplings.

I don’t know how to prepare seeds for over-winter storage, but maybe something will manage to grow in the spring. We’ll see.

four tomato plants

four tomato plants

four tomato plants

four tomato plants

four tomato plants

The big red one in the back is called Reginald.