Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What I've been doing

For me, gardening is Zen, even during the poor growing seasons. It roots me in the now like nothing else does: the dirt under my nails, the satisfying ache in my back that comes with coaxing plants from seed, the mighty battles that must be fought against pests with delicacy and ingenuity if one is to garden in a "first do no harm to the earth" sort of way. And then, if I'm really lucky, the family eats what I produce. It is a win-win.

Last year I returned to gardening after a long sabbatical necessitated by an over-full schedule. It was a less than successful come-back. In part due to the cold rainy summer and numerous storms, in part because it was a new gardening plot, my crop amounted to little more than a few meals of green beans, some squash, a handful of tomatoes, two cantaloupe, and a surprising number of Habanero Peppers. I wasn't overwhelmingly disappointed or surprised (except by the peppers). I knew a new garden plot would take a few years to develop, especially in this rocky terrain.

But while I may or may not have grown a garden, depending on how you measure such things, I did grow a gardener. None of Sam's crops did well, except his Marigolds, which grew bigger and bloomed more than mine. (I think he talks to them--much like he does his fish and his ant colonies--which are all thriving, by the way. His fish have made baby fish and the ants long ago passed the standard three month mark). But he was not daunted by his lack of success.

In January Sam asked me if he could help me garden again this year. Of course, I said, yes. Later on, he asked if he could have his own section of the garden. Again, I said yes. He sounded me out on various crops and flowers and, then, in a conversation with my mother, found out that he could grow herbs--specifically the kind of herbs that he could make tea out of (Sam drinks herb tea in the evening before bed). Then he learned that he could grow catnip for his cat, herbs to cook with, and medicinal herbs for the family and Sam, my doctor in the making, was instantly fascinated. To him the whole idea of growing your own medicine is a magical concept.

So his Dad rummaged around in our pile of scrap lumber and came up with some pieces of wood to build a box. I had some left over "window plastic" (to keep anything the wood's treated with from leaching into the soil) which I lined the box with, and we sprang for some top soil to build him a raised bed.

Here's my freckled face farmer:

His Dad made sure he helped haul the top soil.

Here they are filling the newly built bed:

And here's his Dad and his older brother, Joe, making sure the sides will hold up under the weight of the dirt.

And, finally, Sam with his ready-to-plant box

Now we just have to wait for the nights to stay above forty degrees. Waiting is hard. To help us pass the time, Sam and I have been plotting out where to plant what and "shopping" for seed. Burpees is a very bad place. Very bad. So is Mountain Rose Herbs. Sam and I are going to be busy this season proving that our purchases were worth what we spent on them.

We're planning to grow (not in order, by the way): bush squash, yellow crook neck, bush beans, kolirabi, tomatoes, bush cantaloupe (yes, you are noticing a trend), peas, New Zealand spinach, bush watermelon, lettuce, and peppers (can lightening strike twice?). Sam's herb garden will hold: catnip (for Tara, of course), chamomile, mint, lemon balm, basil, and sage. While I was there I picked up some additional herbs to mix in with the vegetables. We're also going to try sunflowers again, and, of course, Marigolds, because they will grow when nothing else does so you can be assured that one thing will go right.

And in that vein I will close this entry with a sincerely quoted Gardener's Prayer written by Karel Capek

O Lord, grant that in someway
it may rain everyday,
say from about midnight until three o'clock
in the morning,
but you see, it must be gentle and warm
so that it can soak in, grant that at the same time it would not rain on
campion, alyssum, helianthemum, lavender and the others which
in your infinite wisdom know
are drought-loving plants---
I will write their names on a bit of paper
if you like-
and grant that the sun may shine
the whole day long, but not everywhere (not, for instance,
on spirea, or on gentian, plantain lily, and rhododendron)
and not too much:
that there may be plenty of dew and little wind,
enough worms, no plant lice and snails, no mildew,
and that once a week thin liquid manure and guano
may fall from heaven.


Debby said...

You grew a gardner? I'd say that was a fine crop.

Mary Paddock said...

That's what I think too, Deb. :)

Julie Carter said...

Plant Cherokee Purple tomatoes. You won't be sorry.

Scotty said...

Nice to see a picture of your other half, Mary; say hi for me.

And enjoy those veggies - you just can't beat home-grown, can ya?


Dennis Bryant said...

You and Sam have planned a very "bee friendly" garden :-) Try to avoid Sevin dust if you can. It gets carried back to the hive as pollen. Liquid Sevin is okay if applied late in the day.

Big Plain V said...

Sweet post, Mary -- that's one impressive young man you're raising.

I loved the prayer, too. My wife and I have killed everything we've ever tried to grow (no exaggeration), so perhaps I need to start praying this as well.

jeanie said...

You are going to plant all of that in that little square?

It is amusing that you have to wait for the ground to warm up - here I have times of the year where it is too hot!!

Mary Paddock said...

I looked those up Julie. Thank for the suggestion.

Scotty--You're right. Stay tuned for more pictures of Gary. I got bunches of them today.

Dennis--Thanks. I'll be quizzing you about what you'll be treating your own yard with for fleas.

Ray--I kill house plants. They become furnishings and I forget about them. And Sam is a real sweet heart.

Jeanie--LOL. The ground in the background is where the "big" garden is. Sam's little box will be holding herbs only. :)

Pencil Writer said...

Hurray for gardening! I love my lemon balm. It's so wonderful smelling and tasting. AND, it grows every season. I can't tell if it just reseeds itself alone--cause it has cropped up in several spots where not planted. But it grows so well--at least here a little further south of you. Good luck to you both--and happy fresh veggie and herb harvesting!