A Return to the Garden

By Heidi Jeter
VGI Volunteer

After meeting VGI’s founder, Gretchen Mead, at a local event last fall, I had to be part of this organization. I’m returning to life as a gardener after an eight-year hiatus and I can’t wait to dig in.

Heidi Jeter in her soon to be new garden.

Heidi Jeter in her soon to be new garden.

As a child, I loved my dad’s giant vegetable garden. I never considered how the food was grown or whether it was organic, I simply loved swiping the greens beans off the vine.

As an adult, I yearned to grow my own food, but living in a condo in downtown Denver didn’t make it seem feasible—until the day a friend asked me to share a plot in a community garden. We took on a 20’×20’ plot and didn’t have a clue what to do with it.

That first year, we were essentially farming. Worried that our plants would die, we planted in abundance. Thanks to beginner’s luck, we nearly drowned in vegetables. Who knew zucchini grow like weeds and produce like rabbits or that two people don’t need eight tomato plants? And then there was the mysterious lettuce that grew in our herb box—even though we’d never planted it.

We got through the first year and four more. Then, my husband and I had a baby and moved into a rental house far from the community garden. I tried to make do with patio tomatoes and herbs, and each year we bought a share in a CSA (community-supported agriculture), but it wasn’t the same.

We returned to our Wisconsin roots a year-and-a-half ago, and last fall, we bought a little house with a huge flower bed in the tiny backyard. I love flowers, but all that deep, dark, healthy soil was irresistible. Last fall, I spent hours digging up wildflowers—and even unearthed two small trees.

When the wind chill hits 35 below zero, my daughter (now 7) and I chatter endlessly about the fruits and vegetables we want to grow. Right now, we have a snow-covered dirt pile, but I can imagine the heirloom tomatoes, the red raspberries, the assorted greens that will flourish this summer. I can imagine the tiny dirt border around our front porch full of herbs.

Despite my five years it the community garden, I still know surprisingly little about gardening, but I do know that nothing beats a fresh-picked tomato or pulling out a giant root of bind weed. The rest, my daughter and I will learn together. She’s a city girl, but with VGI’s help I can teach her that digging in the dirt is fun, that knowing where your food comes from is important, and that food can be grown anywhere.

I’m exciting to be writing for VGI’s blog, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading about what we learn as we create our urban garden.

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