Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Garden reviews and March planning...

When my family returned home to Minnesota five years ago, our sewer line collapsed three months after moving into our home. We spent thousands digging it up and seeing our yard completely destroyed. We were required to move the natural gas line when it was repaired. We spent hundreds more on replacing black soil and planting grass seed. I put hours of sweat in trying to establish a relatively decent looking backyard. It finally worked—and we had grass by the time my husband left active duty and joined us at home.

The following year, my daughter expressed an interest in agriculture and establishing healthier eating patterns. She argued that a garden was the perfect thing—we would save money and it was a great hobby. I wasn’t too sure about the whole idea. I had grown up “gardening” and my memories were not fond ones. “Gardening” meant weeding hip high weeds that had grown in a hay field on the hottest day of the summer when we were in the doghouse. I wanted no part of it.

My daughter, determined to have a vegetable plot, kept researching…and researching…and researching. Of all the things she could have been interested in or pestering me about, this surely was a good thing. Right? It wasn’t something that remotely qualified as a thing to stress about. When she knew she had me, she excitedly shared her plans. I calmly accepted that she had known I would permit it all along. She didn’t know how unprepared I was to hear her detailed directions. “We need to do what?” I asked.

Step one: Remove sod. I asked her why couldn’t she have said she wanted a garden the spring before when I was working so hard to establish new grass? Innocently shrugging, she continued to tell me all about the seeds we needed and which catalogs we needed to order. The only thing I really got out of the rest of the conversation was the realization of why our attempts at gardening always failed when we were kids; we had never removed the deeply established grasses of our land in the country. Weeks later, I found myself removing sod, though in their defense, they had already made a valiant attempt to do so themselves.

This will be the fourth year of our gardening and it has gotten better. Weeding hasn’t been the complete nightmare that I had expected and dreaded. We haven’t had bumper crops, but I would say we have come close to breaking even. We even managed to can some stuff last year. I think our major issue this year was that we did not water the garden enough--the poor thing suffered because of it. Each year we learn something new and accomplish more: water your plants—simple and obvious, but often neglected; water early in the day; put up a small bordering fence to keep the Peter Cottontail from robbing you of carrots and lettuce; and harvest zucchini and cucumbers when the fruit is still small. I would encourage anyone who wants to garden to do so. Even people living in apartments can have some plants in a bucket and it is a great botany and life lesson for children. You’ll be amazed how good veggies are to them when they had a hand in growing them! It is never too early to start planning a garden—we are currently planning ours, and never too late to learn how.

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