Have you been following the NYTimes blog The Starter Garden? Oh, you must. It’s kind of like watching someone climb Mount Everest or walk around the Great Lakes for some symbolic reason and you think, “Boy, glad I don’t have to do that.”
It chronicles the adventures of writer Michael Tortorello, who is starting a vegetable garden from scratch in an empty lot next to his Minneapolis house. The purpose of this seems to be for the fledgling farmer to be the straight guy, innocently fumbling his way through every rookie mistake and pratfall possible. (He even says at one point, “come fail with me.”) All for our entertainment.
So far, we’ve watched Tortorello test his soil, discover organic seeds, and struggle with the seedlings; next is the actual ground prep and planting. Last week, options for grass removal were mulled over, including plastic sheeting, spade-removal, pouring vinegar, and, finally, building raised beds. It reminds me of when Susan removed her lawn (she dug out the turf by hand). He decides that it would be too easy to build beds with soil from elsewhere or suppress the lawn with newspaper and layers of organic matter, but I suspect any readers who might be following as they build their own new gardens (which I hope is at least partially the purpose here) might disagree and go right ahead and truck that dirt in. I know I would.
What will be the alternative? Double-digging? Though it’s too bad that he has to make it all seem so difficult, even painful, I do appreciate that this is all happening in real time. Readers in similar zones can follow along, learn from the mistakes—and, especially, the reader comments—and grow along, right up to harvest.
Or they can be like me and just think, “wow, glad I don’t have to do that.” Thankfully, I know from all my friends who do it that vegetable gardening isn’t quite such a worry-riddled affair.