OPINION: Even small gardens can be rewarding

Shelby Niehaus, Columnist

When I was a teen, I planted a few tomato plants along the fencerow at my family’s house. Though I never tended them, they grew wild and thick, bearing tomatoes for years until the plants were finally strangled by weeds.

After that first planting year, I never had time to plant another garden, or even a single plant. The space between the end of the school year and the beginning of my summer was always full of rehearsal time and cardio in preparation for each season of drum corps. And though I love them deeply, I could not trust my parents to care for a garden all summer.

This year was different. I soothed myself during a rough spring semester with dreams of a big, lush garden full of my favorite vegetables. A few times I went to my local home and garden store to peruse the racks of seeds, looking for something I wanted to grow.

When the time came to plant, though, I found that I could not grow as much as I wanted to. Busting sod in my backyard was rough going, and I wasn’t willing to create mounds for the handful of cantaloupe seeds I bought on a whim. Instead, I created a small, dense garden with a lavender plant, beans, carrots and, of course, several tomatoes.

Vegetable gardening is popular in my home town. Almost everyone grows some sort of produce for themselves, and many locals have extensive, impressive plots. Mine pales in comparison. On several occasions, wandering through town and taking in the gardens, I have felt discouraged or ashamed of my lopsided, tiny garden.

It helps to remember that, aside from my single foray into tomato-growing at age 14, I have never tended a vegetable garden. Even though I sometimes feel bad for my paltry garden, at the end of the day I am proud of the hard work. When I see new plants grow in with big, glossy leaves, or when I see tiny fruits start to sprout, I feel a sense of accomplishment. And someday, that sense of accomplishment will merge with a sense of satisfaction when I can once again eat garden-grown tomatoes.

Taking care of plants is deeply therapeutic and does not require too much room. Of course, if you want to make an extensive garden for large fruits, then you will need a good deal of space, but a small plot is just as rewarding.

And even though summer is already here, it is not too late to plant. Some plants need to be planted later in the year; plenty of information about zone 5b plants is available online.

I strongly encourage my readers to try their hands at vegetable gardening. Flower gardens are wonderful, but there is a certain satisfaction to growing food for your friends and family.


Shelby Niehaus is a senior English language arts major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].