The Garden In My Mind

SONY DSC“Describe your fantasy garden,” someone said.

Easy.  Thus far, my garden is nothing BUT a fantasy.

I’m in a new house, and this is my first garden.  I have no practical knowledge of what to expect.  It’s been a long winter, and my desire to get out there and garden began sometime in early November.  I’ve therefore had plenty of time to create and perfect the garden inside my mind.

If I calculate all the hours I’ve spent accumulating and browsing through gardening books and magazines, reading gardening blogs, listening to gardening podcasts, trolling online seed catalogues even though I already have more seeds than I can handle…it would add up to weeks of my time.  I’ve filled my basement with tomato, poblano, bell pepper, onion, thyme and catnip seedlings – will they survive out in the sunshine and away from the grow lights?  I’ve splashed out lots of money in the hardware store, even though the clerks keep telling me that no, the garden centre isn’t open yet.  (“After the snow has left, madame,” they sigh.)  My husband and I spent the weekend in the solarium, drilling holes in the bottom of wooden crates, and then out in the yard, picking up the debris exposed by all the melting.  FINALLY, THE MELTING. But the snow is still sitting in icy mounds where my vegetable patch will be.

My garden is all in my head, and scattered around me inside my house, waiting to be assembled.  When it’s done, I have no idea what it will look like.

Here are some elements that I know are not plans but are pure fantasy.  In my imaginary garden:

  1. There are no raccoons or stray cats.  In my fantasy garden, I won’t have to put chicken-wire 3-foot collars around all my containers so that the raccoons won’t dig up my carrots.  I will also not need to cover everything so that the stray cats (and my own cats, the little dears) won’t use my garden as a litterbox.  In my fantasy garden, the cats lie in patches of sunshine, and politely accept the tidbits of snow peas and parsley they are offered, and leave everything else alone.
  2. There are eggplants.  The eggplant seeds didn’t germinate.  I could buy seedlings, but there’s some ego involved now.  I tried eggplants, and I failed.  I will try again next year.
  3. There are lots of nice fat bees, but no wasps.  Our neighbourhood is absolutely lousy with wasps.  We sprayed two wasps’ nests in our eaves in the couple of months after our arrival in July.  I have no idea how early they show up.  I should therefore probably not grow fruit, but I was really hoping to get myself at least a hanging strawberry plant.
  4. I get to spend all day, every day, tending and picking and pruning and watering.  This is only half fantasy.  Once things really get going, I’ll be on summer vacation, and most mornings, at least, I can be out there with my hose and my scissors and my twine and my head full of recipes for the day.  But there will be other tasks, more than I can even anticipate right now.  In my head, I have nothing to do but garden.
  5. It’s always a lovely 24 degrees Celsius.  Today is April 2.  It is -13 with the windchill.  Soon, we will have a brief and blissful spring; come the end of June, I have no idea what the ravaging, moist heat of a Montreal summer will do to those poor plants.  I know what it does to me, and it’s not pretty.
  6. Everything thrives. In my fantasy garden, nothing is eaten by aphids.  Nothing rots.  Everything is bushy and drooping with produce, and the edges are surrounded by pink and yellow flowers.

My garden will have none of these qualities.  I can’t wait to see what it DOES have!  As long as it’s not raccoons.  Or blossom-end rot.  Or swarms of locusts… But surely my garden will also have some things that I can eat, and some long afternoons of plucking and coddling, and fat-faced cosmos?  My fantasy garden has all these things, too, and surely some of them will turn out to be real.


This post was written in response to a prompt from Gayla Trail.  Gayla is sponsoring “The Grow Write Guild” on her excellent gardening site You Grow Girl.

Image by Lucyna Andrzejewska


28 thoughts on “The Garden In My Mind

  1. Good luck with the new garden! You’ve got a clean slate, and that leaves so many possibilities. We’re on our third growing season and still nowhere close to our dream, but that’s part of what makes it so fun! I know what you mean about the eggplant. I say cheat, go ahead and just buy the plant. I’d never have them or peppers if I didn’t cheat. You still get to nurture it even if it’s adopted. It’ll be worth it!

  2. I love your response to this. Especially point 4! If only I didn’t have to work to support myself!

    I feel your pain of a new yard and that” I have no clue what to expect” feeling. We just moved in to a new house at the beginning of February. I’m still trying to figure out how to move my raised bed from my old apartment to my new yard! haha. Aren’t I a dreamer. 😉

    • Stephenie: I deeply resent my job at the moment – it might still be too cold to garden, but if I weren’t in my office right now I could be home lining the wooden-crates-turned-pea-planters with plastic, and checking on the rapini seeds that started sprouting this morning…

  3. LOL I love that the first thing that you have in your fantasy garden is “no raccoons or stray cats” Ha! If I had a raccoon I’d probably set out a little food and water for it and a sheet to sleep on, not that my hubby or dog would be too pleased at all.

    I agree with the bees and wasps point though, we’ve already had some wasps out (though I’ve also seen a bee or two while out walking). But dammit I’m going to plant fruit anyways.

    And after last summer, I definitely agree with the 24 degrees part as well. That heat wave was a wee bit ridiculous, non? I found that I would get home from driving the hubby to work and it would be way too hot out to water, so I would water in the evening, which worked out okay I suppose. The plants all survived (well, except the strawberries).

    How long ago did you plant your eggplant? Do you still have eggplant seeds? Did you try pre-soaking them? Sometimes with finnicky or old seeds, it is a good idea to try that to make sure that your seeds will germinate.

    Also, if you don’t mind my asking, what inspired you to start a garden this year? And what are you growing?

    • Carlee: The raccoons are very cute – there’s a family of six that comes around – but they are also obnoxious diggers and quite aggressive and I have no doubt they’re going to steal my tomatoes. And antagonize the cats.
      I waited six weeks for the eggplant to germinate, and nothing, no matter how many warm spots I found for it – pre-soaking is a thought, though! I’ll try it next time.
      I am inspired to start a garden because I have a yard! The list of things I’m going to try to grow is too long to list, but the seedlings I list in the post is a starting point, and next weekend I’m going to try to sow my peas and start my zukes and cucumbers…
      Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

      • Are you growing any wild tomatoes? I know it is rather late to be seed starting, but they are fast buggers and they produce until frost in October. I was wondering if you’d like to try if I sent you some. Since you’re in Montreal shipping is easy (i.e. no customs). If you are interested, e-mail me!

      • Carlee: wild tomatoes sound lovely, but I’m already a bit overwhelmed by my seed stock, so maybe I’ll hold off for another year! Also, my husband can’t really eat tomatoes, so the five Brown Berry seedlings I’ve got should be more than enough to get me through the summer. Thanks so much for the offer.

  4. Starting from scratch is always such an adventure. It’s too bad about your eggplants–I’m trying them the first time this year, too, but only just got them planted today. (Our last frost date is usually in early June.) I like your “no stray cats” fantasy. We have a feral colony in the area that we tolerate because they keep the mice down, but it can be a real pain to always be arguing with the chicken wire!

    • Teaspoon: I am tempted to try the eggplants again, but I’ve gone two rounds, and there are so many other seeds to worry about…yes, I’m not looking forward to wrestling with the chicken wire, or to chasing raccoons out of the yard at 6 a.m.!

  5. What fun to begin from scratch. I began from scratch–a totally overgrown jungle of suburban landscape–ten years ago, and it’s still being formed and reformed. It would be no fun at all if there were no room for imagination nor space for inspiration.

    I’m afraid I have no wildlife-management tips, but I know that it will be 24 degrees for you soon and you will embrace it with barely contained vigor. My forecast here in NC is for 75 on Monday (~24C) and continuing later in the week; a nice change from the sleet we had two days ago! I am already making plans I know I won’t have time to keep. I must get as much as I can in before the mercury hits 38 (~101) in July. It most certainly will.

    Gardening joy awaits!

    • Absolutely! Today was spent lining and filling a crate in which the peas will be planted once my mail-order inoculant arrives. (The carrots have gone into it already.) So fun, so exhausting, so muddy!

  6. There is always at least one every year that won’t germinate or won’t make it out in the world – My eggplant is the cauliflower. I have never been able to get it to make it. This year at least it made it out to the garden bed. Good luck with eggplants next year!
    I love number 6!

  7. I’m not having luck starting eggplants this year either, or tomatillos. I’ve been defeated by a combination of marauding critters and lingering below-normal temps. Hopefully spring will be sprung for all of us soon!

  8. Sounds wonderful! We have a really bad problem with wasps too, they are everywhere! I will definitely keep those out of my dream garden! 🙂 I hate them so much! I’ve heard that they love sandy soil, and that’s what we have. Sandy soil is great for gardening though, so I can’t complain too much. Good luck with your new garden, I’m sure it will be great!

    Here’s my dream garden post…


  9. Love your post! How exciting to be starting a garden in your first home! I still recall how my husband and I felt when we planned and planted our very first garden in our first home. I also remember naively telling him how much money we’d save growing our own vegetables (now I tell him that there are worse addictions that gardening)! We have raccoon and cat issues here, so I’m keeping them away with row covers, tunnels made of wire mesh and milk jug “cloches” until plants are established – maybe that will help you too. Take lots of photos as you go along, it’s great to look back at the end of the season and see how things have progressed and where you want to change things. I look forward to reading more about your garden, and who knows – maybe next year there will be eggplants!

    • Gaile: My husband is also baffled, but very supportive (even with my obsession with my tomato seedlings, despite the fact that he’s allergic to tomatoes…) I am using netting over my seedlings and will make mini-fences of chicken wire around the pots when the plants get bigger. Those raccoons are pretty clever, so we’ll see how it goes…thanks for the tips!

  10. I’m in a similar boat…I’ve never had a place with actual ground to tend to for any of my adult life until now. I’m having so much fun experimenting and trying not to take the failures too much to heart. Good luck with the garden!!

    • Bailey: I’m also trying to be free-spirited about it – although I felt pretty sad yesterday when I discovered that my little pot of thyme seedlings had bitten the dust! That said, I find that gardening makes every morning feel like Christmas…you never know what gifts you’ll find.

  11. I couldn’t tell you how to deal with raccoons, except perhaps to plant something they really like as a decoy. As for cats, I’ve had great success keeping them out of my garden by dumping all our coffee grounds, citrus rinds, and crushed nut shells in the mulch around my plants. It makes digging in their favourite “litter box” much less appealing. I’ve also heard that laying chicken wire or netting under shallow mulch deters them, since they can’t dig; I haven’t tried that because it sound like far too much work. 🙂

    • I just remembered my grandparents favourite strategy for dealing with ‘coons. They planted all their corn in a few tight rows, and surrounded it with a moat of squash (probably close to a meter wide, at the height of the growing season). The raccoons hated to walk through the prickly plants, and soon gave up on getting the corn. The ‘coons gave up, and porcupines and ground-squirrels became the biggest pests (they wanted the fruit trees, and all the other vegetables).

  12. Ruth: I have heard that raccoons hate cucumbers – so far only 2 of my cucumbers have germinated, but maybe I’ll plant them and the zucchini strategically and see if it helps. I also should probably wrap chicken wire around every pot (I am growing only in containers this year), but it seems like so much work…!

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