On Creating Mud Canvasses and Building Spaces for Veggies to Be Born

photo garden

Some people say that one of the hardest part about making a dream come true is finding the space for it to be born. Is it silly to say that about gardening too? It is certainly true about my dream of growing my own food. I think the hardest thing I will do in my garden this year is to create the blank canvass–to build that elevated bed where my veggies will grow.

I have to be honest, it is wasn’t for the encouragement of my friend (and the pile of brightly colored yummy looking seed packets on my dining room table) I might have given up before I got started. The idea of having to build a bed felt like a scary and uncomfortable amount of work for this fully employed single mom.

The process of building an elevated bed when spelled out in whole felt like so much that I wanted to simply go back to bed and wake up for the farmer’s market. Railroad ties, weed barriers, wheelbarrels of compost and topsoil… OH MY! But my peas wanted to be planted and I was already 3 days behind the Saint Patty’s Day “deadline” for getting them in the ground. So Friday morning, fresh off a red-eye flight I found myself in the backalley moving dirt.

And what I learned is what I learn anytime I tackle a big project. The instructions in totality may be overwhelming but when I look only as far as the next step, each task is doable, even easy. The garage is full of cardboard boxes waiting to be turned into weed barriers, and it sure feels great to rip the pieces into the proper shapes. It does not take much work to move a shovel full of dirt into a wheelbarrel. It does not take much effort to roll a wheelbarrel across an alley. Railroad ties may be heavy, but they can be dragged. So can rocks. Taken step by step, piece by piece none of these things are hard, and while they take time, it really isn’t that much time, even for a single mom with a to-do list a mile long. Later that day, I reflected on how many hours I spend in the produce section of the grocery store, tromping to farmers markets and the coop. The four hours I took to build the bed was a marvelous investment.

Furthermore, I was reminded again that leaving visions of perfection behind, and simply aiming for getting started is indeed the perfect way to move forward. Flexibility and creativity and using what we have right there can sure make the project easier. Sure, anchoring the wood with asphalt and rocks found strewn around the alley might not be the proper way (best to drill holes in the wood and insert rebarb or spikes in threw the dirt) but it works in a pinch, puts “garbage” to work, and best of all cost nothing and doesn’t require an extra trip to the hardware store. I will go back eventually to secure my bed properly, before the torrential summer rains which might challenge my rocks, cause my dirt to slip and slide and push the wood out into the alley, but for now an imperfectly built bed is better than none at all.

Creating the space for the veggie dream to be born was a perfect way to spend the solstice, to honor the coming spring. Now, with seeds and mud as my medium, water, tools and nets, we can see what beautiful art we can create!