Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Makeshift Garden

by Giselle Renarde

I have a makeshift garden.

I rent an apartment in the city, and over the past ten years I've accumulated nine containers on my balcony.  That's my makeshift garden. It's not ideal, but it's better than nothing.

When I a kid, my father always kept a vegetable garden.  In fact, one of my first memories is getting a nasty splinter in my foot from one of the rotting wooden beams that marked the boundary.  Every year, my parents would "do down" countless tomatoes, which seemed like a frightening ordeal--all that peeling red skin and tomato guts, mason jars and bubbling water in giant cauldrons.

I can't remember what else we grew.  The tomatoes stand out in my mind.

Digging in the dirt has always been one of my favourite activities.  When I was little, I dug my hands deep down in the soil, searching for worms.  I wasn't happy unless I was dirty.  Now that I don't have a patch of earth to call my own, it's the thing I most covet.  I want to dig and disturb.  I want to play in the earth.  It's hard to do that in a container garden.

But, again, it's better than nothing.  There are moments when I'm weeding or dead-heading, or planting seeds, or noticing for the first time that something's started to germinate and it's poking its little green head out into the great big world... moments of utter perfection.  I've never experienced heaven like that doing anything else.  It's a feeling I've only ever had while gardening.

And it's fleeting.  It lasts only a moment.  A spark of perfect pleasure that grows out of the earth, fills me with bliss, then dissipates into thin air and is gone.


  1. one of the things i love about living in the city is the way people have managed to create secret gardens. i love walking along & happening upon a sudden burst of peonies or tiger lilies. nice you've managed to create a garden on your balcony. the pigeons love our balcony too much.

    1. A couple years ago I had three litters (or whatever) of pigeon babies out there. Those are the ugliest damn things. Pigeons seem to build nests overnight, and suddenly there are eggs in them.

      But the more I plant, the less I see pigeons. Actually, I've lived here 10 years and this has been the first summer I've had sparrows, mourning doves and other suburban birds on the balcony.

  2. wow. sounds great. a Merlin came to our balcony a year or so ago, which seems to have diminished the pigeon population.

  3. Perhaps everything worthwhile is as you describe - overwhelming sweet, and fleeting.

    A lovely post, Giselle. But I hope that someday you do have a real patch of earth to call your own. Don't stop dreaming!

  4. Hi Giselle!

    I spent all day yesterday working in my tiny backyard and my little container garden. There is something magical about plants that you know personally, watching them grow and find their way. I have a lot of carnivorous plants which are my personal favorites. Did you know a Venus fly trap can count up to three? Literally and physically count up to three.


  5. Momma X and I are lucky to have a large back yard for the last thirty years. We grow lots of veggies, and other medicinal herbs that are legal in many states. ;>)

    And Garce- I'd like to hear more about the Venus Flytrap. Quite interesting.

  6. Oh yes, Giselle, plants are good to have around, even if you can't have a full garden. (Many townsfolk here in Sask seem to be farmers at heart - grow a few ears of corn in yards the size of postage stamps.) My spouse gets garden fever at this time of year.


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