Baby Steps to my First Garden

In the world of “time is money,” “never-ending to-do list,” combined with “everything can be purchased sitting on your couch, delivered right to your doorstep,” why would anyone grow their own vegetables? What if I try, and find out I have a “black thumb”?  Why go through all the trouble?          

I grew up in Hong Kong, and despite it being one of the most densely populated cities in the world full of skyscrapers, we always had access to fresh whole food at affordable prices.  Fruits, vegetables, and yes, even fish swimming in a tank.  My mom would shop at these outdoor markets (see photo) every morning and prepare both lunch AND dinner for my family.  It was a ton of work, but she didn’t mind as she believes “food is medicine,” and joked that she would rather pay for delicious food than a doctor’s visit. 

Fast forward several decades later, after living on restaurant take-outs in my 20s to survive 80-hour work weeks, I finally took a more serious interest in food following the birth of my twin daughters. As a working mother, I realized I may not be able to cook two meals for them every day. But I want to pass on grandma’s wisdom “food is medicine” by exposing them to fresh whole food.  The fresher, the better; and my common sense told me it doesn’t get any fresher than grown right in one’s backyard. Not to mention food grown locally on a small scale and traveling very few miles (if any in this case!) has a much smaller carbon footprint, preserving the planet for our future generations.  The problem was I had never grown anything, and I couldn’t even keep a house plant (cactus) alive!           

To calm my nerves, I took baby steps; no clearing out a big plot on our lawn, not even building any raised beds, just a few containers.  To increase my odds of succeeding, I experimented with a variety of seeds (beets, bok choy, sugar peas and swiss chard) and containers (ceramic, plastic, even fabric).  The bok choy was a success (see progression from August to October in pictures below) and objectively speaking, the best I have ever had in my life!

Most recently, as the temperature kept dropping, I started wondering if winter will ever end.  One day while finishing up some salad greens and cherry tomatoes, I decided to give those plastic containers, along with leftover soil and seeds, a second life.  It took a few trials (e.g. how high to fill the soil, which window sill is best) to produce these little plants.  They are beautiful to look at and give me something to look forward to – spring – even though clearly it won’t be enough to fill my stomach!  For those of you who are unsure about making a leap into gardening, –  for fresh food, your health and our planet –  I encourage you to give these baby steps a try!