Gardening is in my DNA. Both my parents had incredible green thumbs, and my childhood homes and yards were always overflowing with all manner of trees, vegetables, flowers, herbs and houseplants. My Dad was a gardener and landscaper and my uncle grew fruits and vegetables to sell at the local farmers markets. Our half acre held a small orchard that had been planted there years before my family moved in- and as a small child I remember picking all kinds of apples, cherries, apricots and peaches. They usually got turned into delicious pies and cobblers cooked by my mother the same day they were picked, or saved for jams and jellies.
On hot summer evenings, when the sun started setting, my Mom would spend hours outside tending the garden. She would water row upon row of vegetables, do the weeding, then come in at night with basketfuls and spend the rest of the night cooking up her harvest. Our front yards were an explosion of color from dozens of varieties of flowers. In the spring, we would head to the local nursery and go on flower filled shopping sprees. These memories define my childhood.
These plants, however, were not “Mine.” I really had very little to do with the incredible homegrown bounty of my youth. I left Kansas and everything I associated with it, as far behind as I could get. It wasn't until my mid-twenties that I began to turn around and look at what I had left behind. Gardening, cooking and baking from scratch, canning, simple living… I was living in a small apartment at the time, with an even smaller patio, when the desire to begin growing our own food first hit. We had no land, so I began reading up on the world of container gardening. My then-fiancé and I bought a few terra cotta pots and some basil from Trader Joes. We also started some seeds that I had researched to be ideal for container gardening. Let’s just say that that first year was a disaster. Perhaps the gardening gene had skipped a generation. We pulled up a few pitifully small carrots before they bit the dust. Everything we had planted in our terra cotta pots dried to a crunch. Terra cotta had been a mistake, we learned. This is in the low Sonoran desert, where it gets hot. And our patio was scorching. 110 degree days on a full sun patio; the poor plants in the terra cotta never stood a chance. Only the basil somehow made it through the summer, with bucketfuls of water twice a day.
We learned some valuable lessons that first time around, and now have a large yard to do our gardening experiments in. As for whether or not I received the gardening DNA, the jury is still out.