This was originally written in 2011, but as the planting season is almost upon us, I thought it apropos:
“But each spring…a gardening instinct, sore as the sap rising in the trees, stirs within us. We look about and decide to tame another little bit of ground.” ~ Lewis Gannett
As I write this, I am, for the fifth season, a gardener whether I want to be or not. My eldest son, Adam has decided to “tame another little bit of ground” as Gannett so poetically states, and in so doing, I become part and parcel of the package that is our garden. Do not get me wrong, I love the fact that he takes such an interest in our little piece of land and tills a small chunk to harvest over the summer months and into the Fall. The process every spring is not easy. Over the winter and early spring the parcel of soil allotted to the gardening plot has become overgrown and in great need of both weeding and the turning of soil. But Adam will attack the task, (with help from anyone he can corral into it) and the plot will once again be revealed and ready for planting.
As usual, we will have a preponderance of peppers– most of them of the hot, hotter, and out of this world variety, but a couple of bell pepper plants will be purchased in a nod to my rather delicate taste buds. We have in the past had great luck with peppers, so we plant what we know. Of course there will be a number of varieties of tomatoes—big ones and little ones for both salad and slicing, and should I get productive, freezing to make into chili and soup over the winter.
We will plant lettuces of purple, bitter, and leaf varieties, and the seeds for carrots and peas. This year we have found a surprise in our garden from last season—onions we knew we had planted but could not find in the fall. Cousins to our chives, they have taken the attitude of perennials. We will also plant a fresh crop of onions— thus making our garden ripe for the creation of a great salsa.
My job when it comes to the garden is to keep it watered. Occasionally I weed, and happily pick whatever is produced and work it into my everyday menu. No great gourmet am I, but fresh vegetables just cry out for a little creativity. Swiss chard has been a mainstay of our garden, as it grows plush and easily. I have done a little research and found some great recipes to use up this bounty.
According to Louise Beebe Wilder, “In his own garden every man may be his own artist without apology or explanation.” I like her sensibility about gardening, as it gives one a certain amount of freedom. As we have now been tillers of the soil for a few years, we have learned a few things, but according to the poet, Vita Sackville-West, “The more one gardens, the more one learns; and the more one learns, the more one realizes how little one knows.” A universal truth.
My parents had a huge garden when I was a kid. We had strawberries, raspberries, both red and black (I loved the black ones—one of my favourite pastimes as a kid was to pick the black raspberries off the bush and pop the juicy treats into my mouth), as well as every vegetable known to (wo)mankind. I believe there is a satisfaction that comes from producing food for yourself—a feeling of independence in a world so dependent on outside factors. Of course we are at the mercy of Mother Nature, but what we produce is not only “grown close to home” (a claim made by a grocery chain to lure us into their produce aisles), it is actually grown at home.
There is a little bit of magic to growing your own vegetables, something the “unknown gardener” reveals in this pithy observation: “More grows in the garden than the gardener has sown.” Now, I know that “unknown” was not referring to weeds, but I find Reverend Thomas Fuller’s words, uttered in the 17th century comforting:
“A good garden may have some weeds.”