There are two seasonal diversions that ease the bite of winter: spring thaw and seed catalogs. It’s always exciting to flip through the pages and pick out your old standbys: tomatoes and cucumbers, as well as a few unusual and bizarre varieties like romenesco or samphire.
Everywhere you look you can see people getting ready for garden season: raised beds, fresh mulch, new tomato cages. Even the newspapers get into the season with garden tips: how often to water and how to distinguish between weeds and plants. Personally, I find the best way to differentiate is to give the plant a tug. If it came out easily, it must have been a good plant. If the roots have grown to China, and pulling on it only results in breaking the top off before toppling onto your backside, it’s a weed.
“Grow Great Potatoes Easily” read the headline of a magazine article promoting old, wet straw bales for home vegetable gardens. After loading several decomposing bales one evening, I started thinking about trying it myself. After asking my husband his thoughts, he reached over and took my hand.
“You have always been able to grow potatoes so well. I don’t think you need straw bales to make them any better.”
I gave him a proud smile. He took my hand.
“Let’s take a little walk,” he said. Hand in hand we walked toward the garage. I was still smiling proudly when he reached for a box under a bench. It was full of last year’s forgotten potatoes with 10-inch sprouts on them.
“If you can grow potatoes without dirt, why would you need straw?”
The Bible was right. My pride went before destruction.
I don’t necessarily love gardening, but I enjoy having the ability to run out and grab a fresh tomato or cucumber for supper. Having fresh produce and herbs on hand is great, but garden maintenance is always a struggle. Mother Nature and I seem to have a bit of a misunderstanding in regards to my garden patch. I think of it as a place to raise food for my family to eat. She thinks of it as a CRP ground that is lacking in lambs quarter and kochia weed — and she tries hard to correct the error.
You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt. Perhaps that’s why so many people finding gardening so relaxing. I’ve even seen cute signs that say “gardening is cheaper than therapy—and you get tomatoes!” But to me, gardening requires a lot of weeding and water — both that seem to come in the form of perspiration.
Anyone who wants to rule the world should try ruling a garden first. Once you can conquer squash bugs and slugs; successfully create country lines that are strict on the entry of terrorists like gophers, deer and rabbits; combat seasonal distresses such as flooding and drought; and still find yourself with enough, energy, manpower and money to successfully harvest enough of your crop to generate an income — whether in the form of home canning or a lower grocery bill — then I think you can turn your attention to world power.
Some people really love their garden plants, even to the point of speaking to them — pointing to para-science studies that show that plants thrive when spoken to. But either my plants never read those journals or my tone of voice is too harsh. When I’m in the garden, breaking the tops off weeds, I’m rarely in my “happy vocabulary.” I think it really is because my plants are shy, and too much attention would inhibit their growth and cause them embarrassment. At least that’s the theory I’m going with.
Some people get even more personal than just talk. I recently read that the month of May hosted a world naked gardening day. It claims it was an opportunity to pull weeds, plant flowers and harvest vegetables while getting some sun (where it doesn’t usually shine). If you want to join them, feel free (literally), but my plants are wall-flowers. I am certain that kind of display would cause them to tuck in their blossoms and die of embarrassment.
Regardless of your gardening style, the season is upon us. My gardening motto has been: “Early to bed and early to rise. Work like a horse and fertilize!” Unfortunately, the only things that I can count on growing to maturity are puncture weeds and zucchini.
Although I guess now I can add forgotten potatoes to that list.
Brianna Walker occasionally writes about the Farmer’s Fate for the Blue Mountain Eagle.