Wednesday, February 3, 2021
The Pandemic has caused everyone’s day to day ‘normal’ life to flip on its head seemingly overnight. No school, work, clubs, sports, or even family gatherings. So that had me and most other people asking, what do I do with this extra time? My answer to that question was, why not start a garden?
It all started with a sketch. I wanted the garden to be inviting, to look nice, and be functional. That is when I came up with the “C” shaped garden bed plan. With the help of my dad and brothers, we built 20’x8’ “C” shaped raised garden bed with a 8’x2’ inserted bed specifically for plants that would attract pollinators.
Building the garden was only the first step though, I still had to decide what to plant! I thought about the main fresh produce that my family ate and started a list. Lettuce, spinach, radishes, carrots, peas, beans, eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, cilantro, parsley, basil, and the list goes on! Making a list of the produce that you eat on a regular basis is very important when planning out your garden. Doing so helps ensure that what you will actually eat what you spend your time and hard work growing!
The spring plants started this food growing journey on an amazing foot! We had more lettuce than we could use, peas by the handful, and an abundance of radishes! Every morning I was able to go to my backyard and pick spinach to put right in my smoothie. It was such a great way to start my day and the best part was that it only had to travel maybe 20 feet from plant to plate which is extremely impressive when the average piece of fresh produce has to travel 1,500 miles or more before it is consumed.
As Spring of 2020 progressed, so did the length of social distancing and quarantine. We received word that school would be online for the rest of the year and sports were cancelled. Running has become such a big part of my life andnot having a spring track season really made me feel like I was missing out on what any other high schooler in any other year would be experiencing. But again, with everything being cancelled I had more time to plan my garden for Summer, which would be even bigger than the Spring!
I had made it my goal early on to start as many of the plants I grew, from seed, as possible. With that comes a lot more planning. If you want a tomato in July, you need to start the tomato seeds inside in March. When building the garden, I planted everything from bean seeds, to tomato seeds, to zucchini seeds in little pots inside. In mid-May I transferred all the seedlings to the garden. By the beginning of July we were harvesting tomatoes and zucchini. As the season has progressed we have harvested many zucchinis, cucumbers, lots of basil, cilantro, and parsley, and too many tomatoes to count! We ended the summer with watermelon and tons of eggplants! All the food we have been able to harvest from this garden is great, but this garden has provided so much more. It has been an outlet for me and my family, a place for me to spend my time, and a chance to learn through experience.
Starting off 2021 I am taking what I learned in 2020 on the track and in the garden with me. I have tentative meets on the calendar and am already planning my garden for this Spring, I encourage you to do the same! Running and gardening are very similar. In Spring we plant all our seeds with big anticipation of what Summer will look like. It is a lot of work, but once June and July come around and we are picking fresh fruits and vegetables out of our yards everyday, we realize it was well worth the hard work and patience. We face the same thing in running! We train hard, which is not always easy, but once race day comes and we see the fruits of our hard work we realize again it was well worth it.
I hope that for any of you that are on the fence about starting a garden in 2021 that this was the boost you needed and will enjoy the taste of success. The Coronavirus has been hard on every person around the world, some more than others, but it has also given many people like me a chance to grow and explore other things that they may have never have “had the time” to do.
Yummy Mediterranean Salad
This is one of my favorite healthy recipes that uses a rainbow of ingredients from my garden.
• Bell Peppers: Oodles of bell peppers add sweet, colorful crunch to every bite. Plus, bell peppers are packed with Vitamin-C, folate, and potassium.
• Cucumber: Every time I eat cucumber, I wonder why I don’t have it more often. It makes this recipe taste extra light and fresh.
• Red Onion: Red onions are perfect for salads because of their mild flavor and color. TIP: soak your red onion in water first to remove some of the less pleasant, lingering, harsh flavor.
• Feta Cheese: One of the best things in life. You’ll love this chickpea salad with feta crumbles added. If you want to make this chickpea salad vegan, you can omit the feta and you are good to go.
• Parsley: Fresh herbs like parsley are a little addition that make a big difference. It gives this chickpea salad a complete, polished taste you’d miss without it.
• Dressing: The chickpea salad dressing is a 30-second red wine vinaigrette that you can shake together right in a mason jar. Theatrical overhead pour optional but encouraged.
Soak the red onion in water.
Add the remaining salad ingredients to a large bowl.
Prepare the dressing (I like to make extra for the leftovers).
Drain the onions, add them to the bowl with the salad ingredients. Pour the dressing over the top, and toss. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. ENJOY!
• Right out of the Bowl: The chickpeas make it plenty filling for a light and lovely meal.
• With Fresh Greens: If you wanted to up the veggies even more, you could toss this chickpea salad with fresh greens (arugula is my favorite), then add on a bit of extra dressing to create a green salad.
• Chickpea Salad with Avocado: Add big chunks of fresh avocado and halved cherry tomatoes for additional servings of healthy fats and colorful veggies.
• Chickpea Salad Pitas: Stuff it inside warmed, halved whole wheat pita bread for a chickpea salad sandwich.
– Grace Denius is a Junior at Broadneck High School in Annapolis. When she is not tending to her garden Grace runs Track and Cross Country having recently competed in the AAU National Championships where she set a new 5K PR. You can follow her on Instagram to keep up with her and her garden.