Creating Room to Grow

I love having a vegetable garden. I love eating salad picked just minutes before dinner. I love making salsa from tomatoes, onions and jalapeno chilis fresh from the garden. I even enjoy sitting on the edge of the raised bed, pulling weeds, watering, paying attention to all of the plants.

It’s not all a bed of roses.

Or lettuce as the case may be. There’s one part of gardening I hate.

I hate thinning the vegetables. It feels like I’m killing them, like I’m not giving them all a fair shot at growing to maturity and being a delicious part of a summer dinner. Even though I know it makes them healthier in the long run, for me it’s the worst part of gardening.

I have altered my planting a bit so that I don’t have to do as much thinning. We pre-sprout the seeds, and plant them spaciously in patches or wide rows. I use the radish, onion and lettuce sprouts in salads. But still, some of each plant will eventually have to go into the compost bin to give those left enough room to grow.

(Feigned) ignorance is not bliss.

Sometimes I try to pretend this isn’t necessary. A few years ago, we grew some broccoli from seed. I followed the directions on the package precisely, thinning the row down to just the four most vigorous plants. The broccoli we enjoyed that summer was unbelievably yummy.

I wanted to recreate it the next year, and planted the seeds once again. But this time, I got greedy. I wanted more broccoli without using up more real estate in our raised bed. So, instead of four plants spaced 10 or so inches apart, I left in six plants. They ended up crowded, stressed and so full of aphids we couldn’t wash them all off. The broccoli went straight to the compost bin. (Insert sad face here.)

Knowing it’s for the best doesn’t make it easy.

I remind myself at this time of year it’s for the best, as I sit on the edge of the bed and thin each row of veggies. By giving them space, I know they’ll grow easily and taste even better. It’s not easy, but I do it anyway.

And, I begin to wonder, where else in my life I could use a little thinning, give things some space to grow?

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