Monday, June 10, 2013

Working the earth

Man does not live by bread alone.  Or corn alone, or peas or lettuce or even blueberries.

This Spring we added a garden to our backyard. Through making raised beds and hauling topsoil, choosing varieties of blueberry bushes and nervously replanting strawberry plants over and over to make sure that they were planted at the right depth, I've realized that my friend is correct when she points out that gardens feed more than our bodies.

There are a few things that I've been taught lately by growing a backyard garden.

1.  Audrey Hepburn was right when she said that to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.  We've had some struggles in the last few weeks, and one of the few surefire ways to feel better for me has been to go to my garden and check on things.  The harder the day, the higher number of times I've walked the gentle slope to the yard to see how things are growing.

2.  The visual difference between a freshly seeded garden and a garden before it's seeded is absolutely nothing even while the actual difference is a tremendous number of plants.  Simply planting a seed doesn't make my garden instantly filled with good things. 

3.  There comes a time when you keep looking at the garden, knowing that the plants should be coming up now, and they don't.  And that time when you may be certain that the seed died, that you actually do have every bit as black a thumb as you thought you did, is about 1 day before the first shoots peek through.

4.  If you overseed and try to plant too many things at once in too small a space, nothing grows right.  I really didn't get the concept.  I was afraid that my seed was all going to die, so I overseeded.  The result was far far far too much lettuce to thin, and a gratuitous overabundance of broccoli that I hadn't realized needed to be spaced 18 inches apart.  Oops. 

5.  When the seedlings are small and you don't know what you are looking for, it can be extremely difficult to tell what is a weed and what is a seedling.  Even when you know that there are weeds growing, if you try to pull them too early, you will inevitably pull out some of the good seed.  And if you wait too long to be extra certain that something is a weed, sometimes it can be surprisingly difficult to pull it out by the roots.  And I think there will almost always be an error in one direction or another.  I'm a late puller because I want to be extra certain that what I'm grabbing is a weed and not exactly the thing I've been working on growing, even though it's made for some more difficult weed removal and sometimes tolerating weeds for longer than necessary compromises the crop even in a small way.  The implications for this in my life and as a parent have been fascinating to mull over. 

6.  There are more weeds than I ever want to pull, and they are driving me absolutely crazy, so I'm shooting for constant improvement over perfection.  If there are fewer weeds today than there were yesterday, we're good even though we certainly aren't perfect.  My garden may be productive but I don't know that it will ever be tidy and well ordered.

7.  There is food where you don't expect it.  While we were removing a forsythia that I despise, we found a whole bunch of wild onions growing and decided to transplant them to the garden beds.  

8.  Patience is easier when you've seen things looking forlorn and then sudden bud and grow and flourish. 

Nothing is ready to harvest yet, but I look forward to what else the garden grows.