My (Square Foot) Gardening Therapy
|I have come to realize that for me, gardening is therapy.|
|I love it when, in the middle of February with the snow piled high and winter winds blowing, I pull out my pots, soil, and seeds and begin the next year’s garden. There is something wonderful about getting up to my elbows in earthy soil and watching as tiny plants pop up and begin to grow.
Some people start seeds indoors because it’s cheaper, others because they grow special varieties. I do it because I need to combat the winter blues and remind myself that Spring will come again, probably sooner than I think.
|It’s not long until we start having deceptively warm days in March. They fool you into thinking Spring has arrived, but I know better! I just hours we’ll have inches, sometimes feet, of new snow on the ground.
I love to take advantage of those days–after being pent up all winter, it feels so good to bend, stretch, and strain as I refill my beds and prep them for peas and onions. I generally avoid exercise (unless you count chasing an active 5 year old boy), and I end up being sore for a week. But, it’s a good, happy kind of sore.
|Soon comes April, and I get so excited to buy new seeds, spending hours trying to decide which varieties will grace my gardens again, and which will make their premier.
Even after planting seeds and starts, it can be hard to believe anything is really happening underground. Gardening takes a little faith. A great gardener I know once told me “Don’t worry, those plants want to survive. You don’t have to DO much, just LET them grow.” And it’s true–every little seed comes programmed to become a plant, and will do all it can to get there.
|In May, gardening begins in earnest. Of course some seeds, starts, and transplants are already in, but they are still small plants and nothing is producing yet. But week after week a new type of seed can be planted (so exciting!), and this is when I switch from hand watering to irrigation. I love the hours I get to spend outside, getting freckled, and working quietly while my son plays nearby. Hands in the dirt, sun on my face–it’s hard not to feel more grounded and connected to the earth.|
|Now, one thing you need to know is that I have farmer blood in my veins, but I’m living in the suburbs. That’s the reason I do square foot gardening–I simply don’t have room to do more.
But there is a part of me that wants to till up my entire .20 acre and really go for it. I planted two peach trees this year, but we don’t seem to have the space for the raspberry bushes, grape vines, apple, pear, and cherry trees I want. And that doesn’t even consider the chickens (yes, I want to build a chicken coop and eat the eggs).
|I come from a long generation of farmers. My grandfather was a farmer, and so was his father. And his father, and his, and. . . well, you get the picture. Gardening is in my blood, and somehow it connects me to the generations of my ancestors who grew all the food they ate, and kept chickens, a horse, and a few goats. My mom used to make me help weed the garden, and I hated it. I swore that when I was older. . . which reminds me of a saying, “Make your words sweet and tender, for someday you may have to eat them.”|
|My grandfather passed away just shortly after harvesting all his potatoes and cabbages. He had recently put a bunch in my mom’s car to take to the local soup kitchen. A few hours later he had a sudden heart attack. As my mom drove around making funeral arrangements, she could hear the cabbages rolling around in the back seat. I can’t tend my potatoes or water my carrots without thinking of him. I just realized that he is why I grow cabbage. Who eats cabbage?|
|Now it’s June and I’m in heaven as I harvest peas and spinach. I love visiting my garden every day, stopping to check on every plant to see how it’s growing. I poke around my onions to see if the bulbs are growing (they are!) and I’m amazed that my garlic shoots are looking less green and from what I can tell, there are full heads of garlic under there! My son is ecstatic when I let him pull a half-grown carrot and eat it.|
|I must admit, in July my devotion wanes. It’s the heat. So hot. I still visit (in the evenings, while my son jumps on the trampoline and my husband plays guitar and sings quietly), but often it’s just functional–to harvest, support, water, replant. Gardening is just less romantic when you’re pitting out (that’s a really refined way my sisters and I describe when you sweat until you have big rings of wetness under your arms). I love my garden, I do, but by July I’m getting tired of it. And I don’t even have to weed! I can’t imagine the poor weed-garden people.|
|August comes and I force myself to plant some fall crops. It’s still really hot, and I’m officially “burned-out”. The good news is, harvest is in full swing–I’m bringing in arm fulls of tomatoes, peppers, and green beans. At some point we get to get to eat the carrots–they are so, so sweet and delicious. And we start digging up the potatoes for a family delicacy, potatoes-tomatoes-and-mayo. Fresh potatoes cut into chunks, boiled or steamed, topped with home-grown tomatoes, and smothered in mayonnaise.|
|Soon I am canning salsa! My cousin and I work together and divide our spoils–it reminds me of the “olden days” of quilting bees and barn raisings. Women, getting together while the children play and get hotter than Hades as they chop, mix, boil, and seal up the jars. Man, I HATED doing all this stuff when I was a kid, and now I can’t resist it. This year I hope I can do some pickles. Pretty soon I’m going to be entering stuff in the county fair!|
|September is one of my favorite months. The heat subsides, and the peaches are on. I can at least 2, sometimes 3 dozen jars. Nothing is better than my mom’s peach pie recipe, made with home-canned peaches! The squash and pumpkins are almost ready, and I get a little sad, as, square by square, my garden is pulled up and the harvest is over. It’s a relief, but I know I’ll miss it soon. Because soon the snow will come, the ground will freeze, and I won’t be able to wait until it’s February again.|