Today’s Essentials: Maintain Your Garden | Editorial
It’s that time of year, neighbors. For those of you who have grown cool season produce in early spring, you’ve probably had your first crop already, but for less involved farmers (like me) who only have summer crops, a lot of us are reaping our first- fruits.
Bush beans and purple peas are maturing. Cucumbers have been hanging on the vine for a hot minute now; last week my wife and I picked our first red tomato.
There are dozens of reasons to grow a garden (and if some of you think it’s to make money, I’m happy to tell you you’re wrong). Among the gardeners are hobby farmers, organic fanatics, doomsday preppers, hippies, business people, and a myriad of individuals in between.
I am certainly among the amateur and hippie tendencies in gardening. I tend to my 30×20 foot pitch semi-regularly with my radio tuned to 1120 AM so I can hear the Cardinal’s games while I work the ground. When the Cardinals are off, my silver boombox sends out audio relief in the form of The Grateful Dead, Tony Rice, or whatever artist you might have heard in Woodstock. If you pass by, you’ll see me sweaty, dirty, and smiling in old dungarees or the same scruffy (and I mean scruffy) gray sweatpants I wore the night before.
I love feeling grounded, working with my hands, and smiling each morning as I leave my driveway and walk past our garden at the northwest end of our property. Having a joint project with my wife is a great bond in our relationship and something that I cherish deeply (even if we couldn’t agree on how much corn to plant). But these, and the other pleasures I get from gardening, are not the real reason I garden.
I garden because my father gardened.
On a desk in the basement of an old farmer’s house north of Kansas City, there is a photo of a young boy, somewhere between 4 and 8 years old, pushing a seed row plow with his dad. clad in overalls hovering above him, helping to push the plow. In fact, it was the adult in the photo who was really pushing, I’m sure, because I was the boy in the photo.
Yes, I garden because my dad gardened, and maybe he gardened because his dad gardened before him.
Small-scale farming is a financial drain; any good farmer will tell you that the only way to make a million dollars in farming is to start with two million dollars.
And sure, you can’t beat local produce, but I’ve never been dissatisfied with the veg I get from the grocery store (which, despite supply chain issues, still hasn’t really let me down). urge). Plus, the hours and sweat I spend gardening could be spent on a variety of more luxurious endeavors.
But with every weed I pull, I feel my mother’s love in the meals she cooked for a younger me; meals provided by the family garden. With every pea I crack or peel, I hear the laughter of my siblings as we sat for hours processing our harvest long ago.
With every clod I break with my two bare feet, I touch the cares and cares of my father, his father before him, and so on for a thousand generations.
Today’s crux, dear reader: Suddenly I don’t think I’m growing a garden – the garden is growing me.
Maybe you don’t garden, my friend, but you don’t have to. What is the thing that connects you to your family? There has to be something you can do no matter what that connects you to your family and your ancestors, your friends and your community. It takes emotional investment, time, sweat and more, but what you’ll get out of it far exceeds the cost of your labor.
This week’s crux may seem like a spewed word (I threw it together an hour before the deadline), but it holds a bigger piece of my heart than many of my other columns. Because, despite all the positive efforts for change I try to affect in this world (whether in writing or otherwise), growing my garden has had a positive effect beyond words.
Whatever your garden, take it from me, pilgrims; it is worth taking care of.