HomeWayne's WorldThe Promise and Reality of our Asian Vegetable Garden

The Promise and Reality of our Asian Vegetable Garden

By Wayne Chan

Picture this:

A gentle climb into a rolling hillside gives way to an organic family farm, with rows of delectable fruits, herbs and vegetables sprouting up in a celebration of mother nature’s bounty – nourishing our family with crops our own brood has harvested under the clear skies of Southern California.

This is the vision I had looking up at our backyard hillside. As an Asian family, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to grow vegetables specific to Asian cooking. Instead of lettuce – bok choy and napa cabbage. Instead of carrots – Asian green beans.

I’m not a farmer. I don’t claim to have a green thumb. But, if there’s a will, there’s a way. And at least for a few months, there was definitely a will.

I started off on one small patch of land on our hillside. I cleared the area, dug it up, added rich soil, a programmable sprinkler system, and planted an assortment of Asian vegetables.

Our first harvest – it was beautiful. An explosion of bok choy, big, healthy bunches of green beans, and napa cabbage galore. I made proclamations. I am a planter! I am the giver of life! I am the grower of things! I am the provider for my family!

Then came the second harvest.

It’s like I started my own homegrown zoo of squirrels, rabbits, gophers, snails and birds. The animals should have been required to tip me 15% for the bounty of food I was providing them. Apparently, these animals loved the variety of vegetables they can’t get from our neighbor’s garden.

I tried everything. Nothing worked. I gave up.

Then I had an epiphany. Instead of growing everything in the ground, I bought and built three large, elevated vegetable gardens. That should solve my problems.

Our first harvest in the raised vegetable garden – another beautiful bounty of goodies. Napa lettuce galore. A big, bountiful, bloom of green beans! And time for more proclamations!

I have beat back the rodents of my previous demise! I am horticulturist extraordinaire! I am greenskeeper incarnate!

Then came the second harvest from our raised vegetable garden. You may be sensing a pattern here.

Apparently, the animals had now found their way into the raised vegetable garden. My raised vegetable garden was now an all you can eat vegetable buffet.

I tried everything. I put barriers on the legs of the planter. It didn’t work. I put netting around the top of the planter. The animals forced their way under the netting.

I started researching what animal could possibly navigate through the sophisticated barricade I had erected around the vegetable garden? From what I could ascertain, a small bunny can’t leap three feet straight into the air to reach the edge of the box! How could birds get through the netting? How could the squirrels crawl up against what I would describe as barbed wire I had nailed against the legs of the planter?

I started envisioning that late at night, after I went to bed, that a horde of squirrels had set up an elaborate catapult that flung them into the far reaches of my raised vegetable garden.

In the end, I finally managed to protect my precious vegetables by adding a flexible, metal mesh around each of the raised beds.

I should probably revise the original idyllic vision I had in my mind with something a little closer to reality now.

Picture this:

Three cramped, raised vegetable garden beds that look like a detention center for offending vegetables, forever confined in solitary confinement until the warden frees them from their involuntary lives of isolation.

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