MY GARDEN RULES
THE SEEDS IN THE GROUND
THE SEEDS THAT STAY IN THE PACKET
THE OTHER THING: DON'T SPEND (MUCH) MONEY
THE GARDEN STATE
The rock solid red clay my mother encountered our first fall in North Carolina when she tried to plant tulips -- that’s dirt. She picked and scraped away a few scant inches before she dropped the bulbs into the shallow holes in disgust. That spring, tiny tulips -- about a third of the size promised by the garden catalogue -- poked their pitiful little heads out of the dirt. Those tulips were a family joke for a long time, even after my mother and father had dug up a little patch in the backyard to grow tomatoes, zucchini, and some lettuce. They brought in layers and layers of organic material to coax some kind of soil out of the dirt.
In northern New Jersey, we have soil -- dark brown, almost black, crumbly, with a deep murky smell that conjures life and decay all at once. It is soft and it sticks to your knees if you have been weeding or picking fresh lettuce, or on your pants' bottoms if you’ve been hiding among the plants listening to the grown-ups talk nearby. My mother grew up on the same land as her father, and I lived in the house she grew up in until I was eight years old. His family had farmed the land that now made up a good block of houses, bordered by Stiles Street on one side and Harding Avenue on the other. My PopPop, my grandfather, Saraphino “Ed” Truncale, received an exemption from serving in WWII in order to grow food for his country, but he joined the Army anyway. He was sent to Germany, and that is where he met Johanna Bimbose, my Oma, my grandmother.
My Oma grew up hungry. So the garden meant so many different things at once. We were fed. We were loved. We were never -- could never -- be hungry at her table. Not if she had anything to do with it.
OFF THE VINE
With my low/no expectation garden, I also wanted to cultivate a daily practice. To do something, the smallest possible thing, every day. It could be more, but just one thing would rank as a success.