Embracing your inner crazy plant lady

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There are few things that I am prouder of right now than my backyard garden.

I decided to leave Capitol Hill last summer for my current house in Englewood simply because it has a yard. Although my garden level apartment off of East 13th Avenue had beautiful windows and plenty of places for plants, it just wasn’t the same. I wanted to dig in the dirt and grow vegetables.

I moved too late last year to really take advantage of planting season. Instead, I spent months cleaning out the raised beds. Weeds and vines had taken over the neglected space, which is probably around 20 square feet.

This year, I was ready. I took advantage of seed sales and bought packets, upon packets of herbs, veggies and flowers.

I am not a garden expert, and this was my first year planting anything that I could harvest, let alone eat. I’ve spent years killing small basil plants from the grocery store. There was definitely some trial and error involved with planting seeds instead of fledgling plants. Starting with the fact that I bought way more seeds than I needed.

The raised beds sit on the north side of my yard. One of the beds is a wider rectangle, the other is long and skinny. I recruited a friend of mine who is as obsessed with gardening as I am, and we spent a sunny spring day clearing out the beds and planting. Vegetables, such as red onions, green beans, cucumbers and peppers went in the wider garden along with some herbs, while the flowers and remaining herbs went in the longer one.

Hail killed the small sprouts of cucumber that had barely started to poke out of the ground early in the season. My onions … well, one sort of sprouted.

But the green beans flourished. Soon, the little leaves and stalks that came out of the ground had grown to large leaves with white flowers. I probably terrified neighbors with my squeals of delight when the tiniest of beans started to appear.

I was so encouraged by the success of the green beans that I drove to the grocery store and bought the last two cucumber plants they had, as well as a Roma tomato. I moved my indoor herb garden outside. I checked on the plants before I left for work and once again when I got home. I know that sounds over the top, but I have a very fluffy, fat cat who has eaten just about every plant I was ever proud of.

Flowers started blooming. The Roma grew several feet before I realized the tomato cage should have gone on before I planted it. One morning when I went out to inspect the garden I was astonished to find that I had exactly one cucumber.

My social media was filled with plant pictures. My mother gets an updated “garden tour” every time she comes over. My grandma — who once asked if she could babysit my potted cactus — started getting regular updates on how many flowers I had. I became the crazy plant lady.

Although I have not tasted the fruits of my labor yet, outside of a few mojitos made with fresh garden mint, I have been very happy with the progress. With a few packets of seeds I was able to grow something that I could actually eat.

Although having visual results of the hard work I have put into the yard for the last year has been great, more than anything I have enjoyed spending the time outside. Throwing on some garden gloves, along with some tunes, and shifting my fingers through the soil helped me reconnect to myself. It helped me let go of some of the stress that weighed on my shoulders. While working in the garden, I was able to just simply be in the moment.

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