To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. - Audrey Hepburn

With COVID-19 going on I was starting to get a little stir crazy being at home all the time. I'm an introvert and I like being at home, no doubt about that, but it turns out I need a lot of things going on to keep my overactive, easily bored brain occupied. To accomplish this I’ve been keeping myself busy with new hobbies. Things I’ve always been interested in, but never got to, like starting a veggie garden. No time like now to make it happen, right?

Welcome to my vegetable garden

The thought of gardening used to overwhelm me. It seems like it should be easy, but I knew there was so much more to it than putting seeds in the ground and getting beautiful vegetables to put on your plate a few months later. That statement is so much more accurate than I even realized before I started my garden. Trust me, my current tomato crop is pretty sad to put it nicely and the squirrels have snacked on more of my strawberries than I have. That’s okay though, because I’m learning from every mistake and will adjust accordingly next time for hopefully happier plants and a better yield... and maybe slightly less happy squirrels.

Jayme Hennel's Homegrown Veggies

I planted my garden in May 
(mistake #1), which turns out for Zone 7b in Charlotte, North Carolina is really late. I started with two raised beds that I bought online (mistake #2) and added a third bed a couple weeks ago. Of course, with the current state of things, everything online is out of stock and I'm waiting for them to become available again before I can finish my garden with a fourth bed. If I were doing it again, I would just make my own beds out of lumber. I also have a good handful of grow bags that I'm learning my tomatoes don't love (#3), but fortunately my peppers do. Most of the tomato plants only have a couple very small fruits on them, some have none and show no plans to produce any.

Garden Grow Bags in Use

I planted all kinds of things just to see what would grow. I honestly didn't expect anything to ever grow, so the fact that a lot of it did, was a nice surprise. I'm really trying to focus on the successes instead of the failures with this. The pickling cucumbers are by far the best growing and highest yielding plant I have. I built it this sweet little trellis (#4) for the vines to climb thinking it was probably way too big for it. So wrong.. the vines flew up the trellis, have climbed over a 6' string that I put up for them and have made their way over to the fence with no signs of slowing down in slight! It's pretty amazing!

Jayme Hennel's Garden May 18 - July 7

Seeing my garden beds go from dirt to this thriving jungly mess (sorry neighbors!) has completely stolen my heart. I feel like I can call myself a true plant lady now. I wasn't even sure I'd like gardening before I started this. Let's face it, I'm totally an inside cat. I don't like getting dirty and I really don't like getting bug bites. I really didn't expect this endeavor to go well for me and certainly didn't think it would be something that would make me excited to get out of bed in the morning. 

Tiniest Cucumber

I am NOT a morning person. The only thing I would get out of bed for before was coffee, and even that was a struggle. It was the morning I went outside with the dogs and walked over to the cucumber vines, sleepy eyes and a steaming cup of coffee in my hand, and saw this teeeeeeny tiiiiiiny baby cucumber. My eyes popped open with excitement and what I can only explain to be pure joy. I felt like a proud mama in that moment and that feeling hasn't faded. This is one of my other babies, Mia. We just rescued her a couple months ago and she has also stolen my heart. She especially loves to help me in the garden. Her job is pest control. She loves to chase the bugs!

Mia the Chihuahua helping in the garden
The bigger my plants get, every pepper that grows, every bucket full of basil that I harvest and every single bowl of baby greens I bring in for dinner, that feeling only grows stronger. Don't get me wrong, the plants absolutely deserve most, if not all, of the credit here. I've basically just been giving them a pep talk everyday to keep growing.

Jayme Hennel's garden July 21, 2020

So here we are in late July with a few raised beds, a handful of grow bags, a serious seed collecting addiction and I'm ready to pack up the studio and buy a farm. That's all it took. Well.. okay, I've actually been wanting a farm for a while because I love chickens and goats and I want to rescue as many animals as I can and my house can't hold any more of them, more on that later. BUT, it was the seed that broke the camel's back that sent me online to start looking at properties and figuring out a realistic timeline to make it happen. And I'm really excited about it! Before that happens though I'm planting my fall garden, because I can't wait to grow a million carrots!

By the way, novice gardener tip: don’t mix-up your habanero and pimento pepper plants! MISTAKE #5 I don't think any further explanation is needed, but let's just say that I still can't feel half of my tongue.

So tell me, how many of you have your own gardens and what are your favorite things to grow and eat?

January 11, 2021 — Jayme Hennel