Project Summer 2016: The Garden

I’ve decided I need to cultivate hobbies and pursue activities of personal interest because the empty nest is looming on the horizon and it takes me forever to do anything. I don’t want to be caught off guard with no hobbies in the autumn of my life. Teaching gives me ample time in the summers to delve into projects and try new things, so for this summer’s project I decided to have a garden.

Before I get into the how of this project, let me explain a little bit of the why behind it.  Quite often I feel ashamed at my inability to do very  basic things. I thought perhaps tending a garden and growing food would boost my self confidence. Also, produce is expensive, and wouldn’t it be nice to fill the dinner table with delicious dishes made from vegetables I grew myself? I had visions of big family dinners, my children would be so robust and healthy… It was going to be beautiful. It was also going to be very easy. See, several months ago I read some articles that basically said that memories could be passed down through your DNA. There was more to it than that, but that was what I gleaned from my reading. You can read more about it herehere, and here. And because I came from a long line of people who had worked the land, I believed that gardening was in my DNA and that my body would remember. Looking at that statement now it seems laughable and crazy, but it made sense at the time. (People often think that I am quiet because I am shy and reserved, but honestly it’s because sometimes I have really dumb ideas.)

Now about my garden, I saw this really cute idea on Pinterest explaining how to have a container garden in an old swimming pool. This was appealing to me because I live in a zero lot house, so my yard is very small, and I just happened to have a swimming pool my kids had outgrown. I found the directions here.  I prepped the pool, drilled holes all around the outside, cut holes in the bottom, put in a layer of newspaper, and filled it with dirt. Apparently dirt for a container garden is not particularly cheap, and I’m not a very smart shopper so it probably cost me way more than most people. I spent $80 on plants. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to grow. I like to eat squash, broccoli, and cabbage, but for some reason those things just seemed impossible to grow in a swimming pool, so I planted tomatoes, bell peppers, and banana peppers, none of which I actually eat. But no matter. I planted my vegetables. My garden was ready to grow.


From the beginning my plants were never healthy. June was an exceptionally rainy month, and the pool didn’t drain well. All of my plants took on a sickly, pale yellow hue. They were puny.  Eventually the weather did clear up and the garden dried out and the plants seemed to perk up a bit. By late June, early July they began to look healthy. My tomatoes were full of tiny blossoms, but only one or two tiny  little fruits. My peppers were doing nothing.

I tended my garden every day, which was actually pretty boring until I began to notice several spots where the leaves and stems had been chewed. Something was eating my plants. I looked and looked and eventually I found this monstrosity:IMG_3119

He was big enough to have a soul, so I couldn’t bring myself to kill him. I recruited my husband and children to pick him off and drop him into soapy water like the internet told me to. I was able to pick off the smaller ones. When you drop the worms into soapy water, they convulse and puke out their insides. I was oddly fascinated by this. I was told I needed to get some sevin dust, but I never got around to it.

By mid-July I finally had some tomatoes. My youngest son and I would go out each morning and check on them. He enjoyed watching them grow. That’s when we met this guy:IMG_3249The guardian of our tomatoes.

All told, I think I got about four tomatoes from my little garden, which I put salt and pepper on and ate like apples. When my bell peppers finally did put out, they were small and squishy. I only got two banana peppers, but I don’t like those anyway, so it wasn’t much of a loss. I think poor drainage was the biggest problem. I don’t think the plants had healthy roots. They may have also gotten too hot because there wasn’t enough dirt in the pool. So basically I spent about $180 on 4 tomatoes.

Once school started I was too busy and exhausted to bother with the garden, so it became a science experiment in decay. This was the garden in early August:

This is what the garden looks like today:IMG_3835

I’m waiting for it to return to the dust of the Earth.

I wouldn’t count the whole experience as a loss, though, because I did learn some valuable lessons. (Cue the After School Special music…) The most important being that I do not enjoy gardening. This is not the hobby for me. Nothing can survive in my house unless it a) feeds itself, or b) cries to be fed. I also learned that a swimming pool full of dirt is very heavy, and getting this garden out of my backyard is going to be a chore. For my husband, maybe.

Next summer’s project will be much smaller and less expensive. I have about 170 days to think about it.


6 thoughts on “Project Summer 2016: The Garden

  1. want to give the garden a second chance. You’ve already laid the groundwork.

    Fall gardening has benefits over summer gardening. The weather is more tolerable for one thing. Also there’s just something psychologically pleasing about seeing beautiful green things growing when everything else is turning Thank you for sharing the article links. My garden reading material usually leans more towards trippy Native American mysticism than Western science. I’ve considered blogging on this topic, but haven’t had the courage yet. It’s kinda far out there. But also fascinating. Maybe one day I’ll cowboy (and Indian?) up.

    For now, I’m going to risk being completely annoying and give you lots of unsolicited advice, mostly because I can’t stop myself.

    I want to encourage you not to give up after your first attempt. Establishing a garden can be a costly investment in both time and money. It is very disheartening when your labor does not yield the fruits (or veggies) you expect!

    We haven’t had much luck growing tomatoes the size you were shooting for this year. They are very temperamental. They want to be watered a certain amount during different phases of their development and they need their soil a certain way. The plants also may need deeper soil than you’re able to achieve in the pool for their size and the climate. We’ve found cherry, grape, and pear tomatoes to be way easier to grow, more prolific, and tastier.

    This is the right time of year to plant spinach, greens, arugula, lettuce, and kale. I suspect that pool is the perfect size for those things. They would probably be ready by Thanksgiving. I have seeds I’m happy to share if you brown and looking dead. Many of these salad fixin’s stay green and last right through the winter and can even become sweeter after a frost. I wasn’t much of a salad eater before I started growing lettuce, but once I grew it, I was going to eat it! And then I found I liked it. A lot.

    There’s definitely a learning curve to it all, but experimenting and learning from it is part of the fun.


      1. ACK!! I see what happened now…

        This creepy sentence: “I have seeds I’m happy to share if you brown and looking dead” should say:

        “I have seeds I’m happy to share if you want to give the garden a second chance. You’ve already laid the groundwork.”

        and the “brown and looking dead” should have been a sentence about how nice it is to see green things growing in a fall garden when everything else is turning brown and looking dead….

        SHEEZE! I have no idea what happened there. I’m going to turn off my computer now…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s