No, you cannot grow a tomato on the west side of Coastal Hwy 101, that is unless you have a greenhouse. I rarely admit this but… I don’t even like tomatoes. When you listen to a coastal gardener talk you would think the whole reason one has a garden in the first place is to grow a perfect tomato. ‘How did your tomatoes do this year?’ <sigh> Truth is you really need a greenhouse to grow anything on this wild coastline or a very protected spot. I suppose I could list those among the reasons I never attempted to grow a ‘real’ garden. First, my eye just wasn’t on that prize and I couldn’t find that common ground with others in each year’s challenge of the juicy plump crowd pleaser. And then, maybe, it is that damp cold and the cold rain (except in the summer), the constant cold WIND, the fog (all summer)…. and there is our local fauna, our harmless and hungry visitors; deer, bear, raccoons, and birds. Coyote, bobcats and cougars seem to have little interest. And let’s not forget the time the bears smashed all my (store bought) pumpkins and ran off my the mums, several times taking out the bird feeders, digging up my compost piles, and again, moving huge amounts of ground in search of truffles…
Any gardening on the Oregon coast is challenging even if you’re not growing tomatoes. Conditions are extreme. However, ‘we’ (meaning my husband gardener, Paul, and my almost paralyzed observer) have been able to grow (and some even thrive) many varieties of lavender and rosemary, coastal and rugosa roses, succulents, blueberry bushes if you don’t count the berries (deer nibble their tops ) ~ It’s always amazed me that whatever Paul plants grows. Then he leaves to go to sea for a few months with me in charge… another reason not to garden.
We live on a sand dune overlooking the Siuslaw River, Oregon Dunes National Park and the Pacific Ocean; a magnificent spot! Part of our property includes this very large hillside of cement slabs and slab terraces (to prevent slides) built by Paul, who was inspired by our time living amidst the Incan polished dry stone walls of Macchu Pichu and Cusco, Peru. And like in Macchu Pichu, terraces and weather create unique eco systems making it experimental for growing and, well, maybe fun… but that is Paul’s haven~ Our hillside faces south and is completely sheltered from our strong and cold NNW summer winds. Draught tolerant roses, berries and herbs love it!! For hours hot sun reflects off those slabs, then our temps plummet into the 40′ and 50’s at night pulling in the damp moist sea air. Also many afternoons as the Willamette Valley inland heats up, our winds pick up and we watch as the fog bank that sits offshore by high pressure is sucked onshore, and a smoke-like haze fills the sky, enshrouding us as a cool, misty veil. All of these conditions make only the heartiest to survive.
So I ask, why put myself through this to grow vegetables when we have wonderfully fresh organic local produce available at our local co op and by farmers’ CSAs and markets most of our year? Locally, square foot gardens are popping up in every available lot, our Food Share land, and even in our local schools. Growing vegetables is part of our communities preparation for food independence and interdependence as world conditions change and real concerns of corporate food dominance and scarcity arise. We are being encourage to grow, to work together, to learn and to share~
Determined, this year, I decided to give it a whirl… a vegetable garden, that lovely, luscious crop of edible growth. I can just stroll out the door, a lush variety of exquisites to choose from. I will have garden talk with others. We can share secrets, swap seeds, donate the over abundance! No, I won’t grow a tomato but kale and chard, onions and lettuce, beets, dill … most definitely! So after days of watching the sun and finding a coolish, convenient, FLAT spot with water nearby, then taking a two hour class on basic principles of square foot gardening, I went over to the local BiMart and bought three 3X6 cedar kits. Gratefully my friend, Robert, helped me even out the ground and set them up. Then I had compost delivered and bought my starts. That only took two weeks! However, today was the day… out I went this morning with my coffee (!), raffia, a hammer and little nails to create the lines, then weaving the raffia into 18 one foot squares per box. Happiness, happiness~~ enthusiastically tapping my hammer, weaving my threads… actually laughing! LOL! Sunny, gorgeous, perfect. Took pictures! Big day so far!
Then I looked over at all the little starts that had been waiting patiently for several days. It was as if they were just vibrating with readiness; ‘let’s get growing!’ so young, so tender… so (gulp) alive ! You know in the movie ‘Finding Nemo’ there is a girl, the dentist’s niece who the fish in the tank are terrified of? what’s her name? Darla? Okay… you get the picture~
Oh my goodness… I take a breath… another breath… I sit next to them … and wait… and wait… GUIDANCE comes … touch them, look at them, see them, hear them, talk with them, listen to them. Let them tell you, show you… where they want to be, what they need. They have their own intelligence; their own brilliance… You have chosen them of all the plants to be here with you. Quieting down to listen shifted me into a new awareness and appreciation for the messages from the ‘little’ ones the of vegetable kingdom. And why not? We all know babies have their own ways to communicate, to make their needs known. In this kingdom its messages may be more subtle, but they are there. I felt very happy to realize this; that there colors, their textures, their sizes, their shapes all had meaning. It is their language, their way to communicate. We only need to stop, be open, observe and tune in. It’s a language we hear, see and feel through our senses. It is also intuitive and through our hearts. Relieved to know that now I had all of these green allies with this great power and life force of growth and potential, programed by biology and genetics to manifest destiny, I felt less intimidated. We are a team! WE can do this!
And then as I continued to relax among them ‘they’ spoke… We are here to grow, to teach you how to grow. We need you… you have to give to us and to live we must receive from you. We will teach you this; how and when and what to give and how and when and what to receive. We are gentle and tender yet we are plants. We will teach you the boundaries of gentleness and tenderness, and how to be with us. We are generous, and we will flourish when you follow our laws. We want to please you, to grow, to be beautiful. We are also here to nourish you. All this we give to you when you give to us. This creates balance. And we need certain nutrients to balance us. In return we will balance you. We will show you. Every day, see us, notice, watch, water, weed, and take good care of us. As we flourish you will flourish. What you give you will receive a hundred fold…
Laughing, I was consumed for hours with their chatter and our joyful play as we danced around the boxes setting each one or group in its potential spot and sensing a yes, or an ‘eh?’ It was as if each one participated in its own life, its own fate. They, no doubt, on a frequency or vibration, and just beginning to be measured by science, have their own ways of knowing and communicating. I wanted so much for them to grow and do well, to thrive. And the more I opened to them the more they were there to guide me. I dug the little holes, made the little trenches, nestled everyone into their new beds. Pure glee! I started looking around at old potted plants barely hanging on and immediately like a claircognizant moment of knowing exactly what to do. Then it hit me! ‘Paul’s Wall’ success was that he had discovered plant magic, uncovered their teachings. He spent a lot of time there building, creating, imagining and planning; anticipating. He loved each plant he brought home. Paul took great care in deciding where each would go and then enthusiastically dug their holes and ever so lovingly place each one. He observed, he watched, he noticed. he listened. He loves to water; the best part he says. He learned the how, the when and the what of giving and receiving. And he was joyful, happy! with joyful and very happy plants!
It’s now very late, and as I write I am again in awe of the plants and their entire kingdom; their beauty, their magic, their messages, their assistance, their wisdom, their support. I also realize there is a reciprocity in this; that the plants are aware of us as well. I also see my husband in this new light, keeping a special secret in his knowing and understanding of plants, and his patience (and yes, long-suffering) awaiting my own discovery of the secrets and magic in planting my very own vegetable garden.
Again, Nature, the great teacher and all that she provides…we bow down in awe~~