My dinghy garden

I’ve got a couple of really bilious posts on deck, but I’ve just mixed up a sourdough sponge that will rise all night and be ready to knead in the morning, and tonight I’m going to write about my garden.

I am not a gardener. Rosamond, my paternal grandmother, was a spectacular gardener. My mother, Chiquita, was a pretty good gardener but according to her she didn’t have a green thumb so she wasn’t a gardener at all. I managed to avoid gardening even after I moved to Martha’s Vineyard, where everyone and her sister, brother, parents, cousins, and in-laws has a garden. It is actually easy to avoid something that all your friends are doing, especially if you are cussed enough to think you’re a nonconformist.

Last year, however, I had a garden of my own, my very first. My neighbor-landlady was no longer using the little dinghy garden behind my apartment; did I want to use it? First thought was that I didn’t know diddly about gardening and probably whatever I planted would die. Second thought was hmm, this could be fun. I’d just sold the horse I’d had for more than 10 years. Barn chores were no longer part of my daily routine. Gardening looked like a good excuse to get dirty. I planted cherry tomatoes, basil, parsley, and marigolds. I had way more cherry tomatoes than I could eat (big secret: I don’t especially like tomatoes), so I made myself popular with friends and neighbors by giving them away and bringing them to potlucks.

The dinghy on May 20

This year I’ve got cherry tomatoes and big ones, some bought as seedlings and others started from seed. I’ve got lots of basil (have already made pesto twice), Greek oregano, parsley, marigolds, and chives. Left is what my fledgling garden looked like in mid-May. Cute, isn’t it?

Flash forward a couple of months and it looks like this. This is after giving away 12 tomato seedlings that I didn’t have room for and ruthlessly (hah!) thinning a bunch before they got that far. The cherry tomatoes are starting to ripen. I’ve eaten 10 or so, sliced and sprinkled with fresh basil, Greek oregano, and/or chives. So far I haven’t been overwhelmed, but the number of well-set green tomatoes out there, large and small, is truly scary. I almost wish the slugs or the deer would claim a few. 

The dinghy on July 16

(Don’t you fucking dare!) Up on my deck I’ve got more basil, two more tomato plants, a pot of thriving chives, the morning glory my neighbor gave me, parsley seedlings I started toward the end of June, a planter of marigolds, and the osteospermum that my dog buddies gave me for my birthday.

Unless it rains hard (as it has a couple times in the last week), most days I water both early and late. I was underwatering at first — all-day sun dries out the soil in no time. When I started watering more, the basil plants and the chives in particular responded almost immediately.

Marigolds on deck

So this is how my garden grows, despite my almost total lack of knowledge of how to garden: pretty well, thank you. If you need any tomatoes in the next few weeks, give a shout.

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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5 Responses to My dinghy garden

  1. susan says:

    Good story, and I especially like “cussed.”


  2. Susanna–when I was a child my father bought a quarter acre lot next door, had the local farmer harrow it and we were up and running. The entire summer was filled with planting, watering (by hand from a barrel half cow manure half water), weeding and picking. I swore I’d never have a garden as an adult but fresh herbs are so expensive I have some pots on my deck. My husband tried tomatoes on the deck but they were no better and cost more than the ones in the store. The only thing I miss from a garden is green tomatoes. I dearly love fried green tomatoes and can’t buy them anywhere! If you have extra…


    • I think that much parent-directed gardening would have put me off it forever. My summer job through most of high school involved some gardening (weed, weed, weed; pick, pick, pick) and a lot of hay making. My parents, however, had nothing to do with it. I could spare some green tomatoes. 🙂 Does the kind matter, like cherries vs. full-size?


  3. Clearly the gardener had been pottering around. I will leave the honorable Pottses of Elias Lane out of it . . .


  4. Tom Hodgson says:

    Lo these many years ago, an old cast iron mattress frame, painted white, appeared in a West Tisbury yard. Soon after that, pots appeared on the old springs. Then, the pots acquired geraniums, courtesy their visual punster gardener.
    ‘Twas one of the finest beds of geraniums we’ve ever had in WT.


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