Archive for Thursday, July 9, 2009

Garden fresh tastes better

July 9, 2009

It was a great meal! It started with a salad featuring freshly picked romaine lettuce, spring onions and radishes. The main course included fresh creamed peas and new potatoes. The meal was topped off with rhubarb pie. What made the meal even tastier was the fact that it came from our garden. We have joined the multi-millions who have turned to gardening as an enjoyable hobby and a way to add fresh produce to our diets.

I would guess gardening is the most popular pastime in the United States. Maybe it’s the recession or just an increasing desire to help the environment.

It really is fun to plant, to pick and eat something that you’ve actually grown in a small garden patch. Yes, gardening can be somewhat nerve-wracking because you have to stew over the prospect of a late frost or the amount of moisture. I have learned when it comes to moisture, there has to be a middle ground between drought and gully washers, which can drown out the fledgling crop. Certainly, weeds grow quickly and can choke out the garden. Infestations of a variety of nasty bugs can quickly turn a beautiful garden into a struggling mess.

Probably the biggest threat in our area is that of four-legged nocturnal visitors seeking to nosh on our vegetables. We face challenges ranging from rabbits and raccoons to deer. In short, successful gardening can be challenging.

Let me quickly point out I’m not the gardener in the family. Actually, my role could be best described as the “garden grunt.” I’m the one who digs out the rocks, brings in the new soil and does most of the spring-time tilling. Jean is the brains behind the garden and provides most of the brawn during the growing season.

Actually, we expanded our gardening hobby this year. Last fall, we had some success with broccoli and the 2008 tomato crop was good, however, our garden was small and did not get sufficient sunshine. We used composting and frequent tilling to help turn sticky, clay-based dirt into loamy productive garden soil. We expanded into two sites so we had sufficient space to increase the planting.

Thus far, the garden looks good. We are enjoying green beans, peas, lettuce, potatoes, radishes and onions and look forward to cucumbers, zucchini, squash, corn and tomatoes.

My father had a big garden when I was growing up. In our case, as was true with many others, gardening wasn’t a hobby, it was a necessity.

As a child I was assigned to duties in the garden, and it was something I really didn’t enjoy. In fact, I remember in grade school, we were assigned to write a short rhyme, and I still remember my effort. I wrote my opinion of gardening, and it went something like this: “I don’t mind planting, and I don’t mind sowing, but what I hate is all that darned hoeing.” As I remember it, the teacher wasn’t all that thrilled with my literary efforts.

In the early years of our country, everyone had a garden of some sort. I have read that this was particularly true during the depression years when people did everything they could to help their meager incomes. Gardening, however, fell out of popularity when the 1940s dawned and times were better. However, that all changed with the start of World War II. There was a major push to have people grow “victory gardens,” and every free space was used to plant vegetables. In fact, the biggest increase in gardening came in 1943, when 20 million Americans joined the war effort by planting a victory garden.

I must admit I enjoy our garden, and there is something special about having a meal consisting of items you raised.

All of this started me thinking. You know, maybe we could go one step further and get some chickens. Then we could have our own eggs! On second thought, I don’t think that would be a good idea because Jean would expect me to clean the chicken pen.

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