“I’d just love to get my hands in some dirt”
Those were the words my beloved Gramma would say so often to me when she was living in Arizona. She was born in Vermont and lived here until 13 years before her death. The love my Grandfather and she shared for gardening was passed down to me. The long Vermont winters, filled with cold and darkness, make the awakening of Spring that much more rewarding.
In my youth I took no interest in the art of gardening. I recall once planting a (just one) beet seed in gravel, watered it and when nothing occurred, I moved on. Working the earth took place in every household I knew as a kid, I inevitably learned and apparently filed away some of what I observed. My first attempt was met with many challenges, finding the right plot of land, tilling and re-tilling, picking stone after stone. I tried this and that and a dozen years later, know exactly what I find best to grow for our needs.
The art of it all came to me long after the labor. For many years it was a chore, a duty. We had the land, we had to use it. Period.
Fast forward several years and a couple moves later to when we owned our own land and I began having garden visions. My first garden at our new home was a whimsical garden. Painted sap buckets in a variety of colors held annual flowers and cherry tomatoes. A small patch of sweet corn provided hours of hiding for my then 3 and 7 year olds. We had raised rows for string beans, peas, and tomatoes. We had hills for the many varieties of squash we decided to try. My rows were S curves, some rows went this way, some went that way. Our little garden flourished. Our harvest was abundant, yet our skill set needed improvement.
We experimented for the next several years with different layouts, moving tomatoes from here to there, eliminating corn (the yield too small for the space consumed), learned that we could do 2 plantings of greens and beans and on an on. We love improving upon our own creations so we decided to instill our own watering supply, relying upon Mother Nature for such. My husband created a gravity fed system using the little stream on our property. This not only serves as our watering source for the garden, but fills our swimming pool each spring.
We have had years when we solely did container gardens, and others where we implemented the full earthen bed. We tried raised beds, which were abundant and grew to new heights, yet also came with the daily task of removing garter snakes by the dozen (literally) from the crevices where the logs met one another. Not good for an individual such as myself with a significant, yet ridiculous fear for the harmless creatures. I became frightened to even enter my bountiful garden that year, for fear of those sneaky serpents. I would send my strapping husband out daily to remove and inspect before I could enter the vicinity. The scars of that summer still stamped in my memory.
I’ve battled the beetles, the slugs, the blight, the drought and the saturation of very wet seasons. Year by year what began as a chore became a release of endorphins. A therapeutic undertaking, an essential piece to our annual summer plans.
Then came the year we decided to forego the garden. I decided to do my annual flowers, and of course there were my perennials I would be able to tend to and enjoy. This would do for the season. We felt the extra time would be beneficial and the break from the work, an earned respite. Although I did enjoy respite from many back aches, I missed getting my hands in that dirt. Just as Gramma said so many years before, I now knew what there was to miss.
We have a greenhouse now which we built using solely recycled materials. We still use our gravity feed for watering, only now we have graduated to a soaker-hose system. We start our plants from seed and savor the literal fruits of our labor. The little girl who planted a beet seed so long ago finally found out what the fuss was all about.