The Garden at Haven on the Hill
Honest Abe Log Homes homeowners Connie and Alex Diamond are reaping the harvest this summer of their labors in their new raised garden at their custom Honest Abe log home, Haven on the Hill. Here Connie shares with us how the garden came to be.
by Connie Diamond, Gardener in Training
“However many years she lived, Mary always felt that she should never forget that first morning when her garden began to grow.” – Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
You can say gardening is in my blood. My momma, out of necessity, created a veggie and fruit garden for our family when I was growing up. We didn’t have much, but we had a lovingly tended-to space, and however small that space was, it gave us much needed sustenance. What we lacked for in quantity we made up for in quality. My favorites from my momma’s garden were green peppers and tomatoes. I can still smell her sun warmed tomatoes fresh-from-picking. She taught me that it’s ok to get down and dirty and that the best tools a gardener can use are his/her own two hands. These are the childhood memories I cherish.
My momma planted that seed in me to one day create a garden for my own family.
Fast forward to summer 2020. My kids were at an age (8 and 5 years old) that I could hopefully get them excited with me about a garden. I wanted them to create lasting memories similar to the ones I had as a kid.
I had an idea in my head of what specific style garden I wanted and found a similar visual located on the ever-popular Pinterest site. However, there were no specific plans attached to the image, so with the encouragement of my husband, I then recruited a good friend of ours to help me build my dream into reality.
In a magazine, I discovered a local craftsman who owns Get Growing Nashville, where he builds handcrafted raised cedar garden beds. He built me seven of the most beautiful beds, sizes 3×8’s and 4×4’s to put in my soon-to-be garden enclosure. The wood and metal enclosure would be used to frame in the raised beds with extra room to grow my gardens in the future. I wanted a space that was not only built to be fully functional, but pleasing to look at. I chose a special spot on our land overlooking the surrounding hills that also had full to partial sun exposure.
It took approximately five months and much patience on my part (the hardest lesson to learn in gardening!) for the enclosed garden space to be completed, but it was worth the wait.
While waiting, I took the time to organize my plans for what I wanted to plant and where to plant it for the upcoming spring season. I also read the Farmer’s Almanac like it was my second Bible. When I was ready to start in winter, I planted seeds indoors in anticipation of early spring when I could transplant them into their new cedar bed homes.
This article is dedicated to the memory of my momma, my first and most impactful gardening influence. – Connie Diamond
The author as a child during her first forays into gardening, above and below.
Connie’s success with her first garden at Haven on the Hill.
The seeds I chose to start with indoors were romaine lettuce, Roma tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, green peppers, zucchini and green onions. To my delight they started poking their green seedling heads out mid-winter. Once they were ready for transplant, each at different times, I moved them carefully outdoors.
I remember my excitement and surprise in early April of 2021 realizing that the transplanted seedlings were thriving!
This gardening season has felt like a full circle experience for me. From creating memories as a child in my momma’s garden to seeing my own children making memories in our garden has been such a bright light in an otherwise dark time in our world.
With the world in such turmoil I truly desired a place to escape to for myself and my family that would promote peace and give us a daily opportunity to witness miracles in action. I’m proud to say that I did that. Ultimately this is what my garden means to me. What does it mean to you?
There were more moments of excitement to come in my first season and many lessons to be learned in the garden.
Connie’s 7 Lessons from the Garden
1. Optimism and an open-mind are important.
Trusting that the future holds the possibility for beautiful things for your garden such as new growth and much needed sunshine and rain helps to set you up for a successful season, no matter what that might look like.
I honestly set my expectations low in hopes that whatever grew that I wouldn’t be disappointed. I also tried to keep an open-mind through the entire process being receptive to different ideas and a willingness to try new things.
“Gardening is a matter of your enthusiasm holding you up until your back gets used to it.”– Author Unknown
2. A Good Foundation is Key.
From research I did while waiting for my enclosure to be built I learned from many a seasoned Gardner that having good soil to plant in is key. I found another local company called Earth Mix based out of Nashville that creates premium soils and amendments using 100% organic components.
I chose the EarthMix Garden Premium Topsoil blend recommended to be used in raised garden beds. Now that it’s been five months into our first season I look back and see that choosing this soil was the best decision I could have made.
Evin and Evie ready to plant their first garden.
3. Give your child (if you have one or more) their own space in the garden to grow.
If you are anything like me, having young children “help” you (cooking, gardening, cleaning…etc) can be anxiety-inducing and anything but help. I wanted my kids to have a positive gardening experience so I knew giving them their own designated space to use was key.
They both chose their own 4′ x 4′ raised garden to plant seeds in and tend to. They were also gifted a gardening bag that included gardening tools and gloves to use. I even let them decorate and write their names on the outside of their beds.
They were thrilled, and this allowed for ownership in the gardening process which kept their attention (mostly!) on their beds so I could attend to my own during our first season.
4. Failure is necessary
As in life, this can be one of the hardest lessons to learn. Personally I have always struggled with a fear of failure. I have learned over the years that a dream will be impossible to achieve if you fear failure.
It’s not that you need to embrace it but be open to it and most importantly learn from failures! My first round of Roma tomatoes developed “blossom end rot” creating a rotten end on every single one of my otherwise seemingly healthy tomatoes.
I was bummed out about it but knew this would be a learning opportunity. I discovered that Roma tomatoes need the right balance of water, sun, fertilizer and the occasional Epson salts near their roots. The second round of fruits developed beautifully! There is no such thing as 100% success in gardening. If you know this going in then failure can be transformed into a stepping stone for success.
“My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view.” – H. Fred Dale
5. Expect the unexpected!
I found out that potato plants produce beautiful flowers. Did you know that? I didn’t. I found out that Tomato horn worms look like little aliens. I discovered that a pumpkin vine will grow and grow and grow almost anywhere and the vines will attach and choke out other plants in their path.
Unexpected surprises be it good and some not-so-good are some of the best reasons to garden. Most of life’s joyful moments are not planned and can be unexpected. If you are open to this concept then gardening will be such a beautiful and transformative experience for you.
6. Reach out to seasoned gardeners
Before I even planted my first seed indoors, I contacted friends and fellow gardeners I knew who had some experience under their belts. I enjoyed picking their brains on gardening and learning from their successes and even their mistakes. When I had questions in my first season, I knew who I could reach out to for help and did so often. This made all the difference.
7. Be generous with your harvest
My very first harvest this season came in the form of big beautiful heads of romaine lettuce. I gave them all away.
It felt amazing to grow sustenance with my own two hands then give that sustenance away knowing that it would bring joy and a happy belly to someone in need, and God sure did bless me abundantly because of it.
As a faithful child of a loving God I believe, as it says in scripture…
“6 Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” – 2 Corinthians 9: 6-8