A post on gardening might be a strange pick for TBT in the dead of winter, but my mind has been on the topic more and more lately, both as a beautiful outdoor hobby and as a means of sustenance—even survival. There’s also a spiritual element to feeling one’s own soil between one’s fingers. I get a sense of deep satisfaction after pawing through the richness of my own land.
Perhaps I’m being overly Romantic, but planning and planting a garden is a wonderful experience. I’m not very good at it, mind you (unlike my mother, who can make anything grow in any conditions, it seems), but I enjoy tackling the flower beds (just not enough to keep them free of weeds consistently).
As I noted Tuesday, I’ve become increasingly interested in investing in a solid cultivator and turning some my lawn into beds for vegetables. A buddy of mine is keen on the idea, and has offered to help with his labor and some funds in exchange for a share of the crops (would that make him a sharecropper, essentially renting my land and giving me some of the fruits of his labor?). I think it would be a fun, albeit time-consuming, project, but one worthwhile.
Another friend of mine has been slowly turning his postage stamp backyard into a thriving organic garden for years now. He’s been growing without fertilizer so that the soil can build back up essential nutrients and fertility. Apparently, fertilizer yields great resorts in the short-term, but it doesn’t help the soil replenish its fertility. He’s taking the long, slow approach, but he’s gradually turning that Midlands Carolina clay into rich topsoil.
There’s so much I don’t know about this process, but at the same time, my thought is, “dig in.” I already buried last year’s Jack O’Lanterns and seeds near my grapevines—why not? Maybe I’ll get lucky and get some pumpkins. Worst-case, my grapevines get some more nutrients.
Or it could all just be an expensive boondoggle. We’ll see. My results this past Labor Day weekend were pretty good, so I’m feeling optimistic.
With that, here is 2019’s “Gardening“:
We’re back into the full swing of things after the glorious three-day weekend. As I noted in various weekend posts, I spent much of the Labor Day holiday gardening. My house was starting to look haunted, the weeds were growing so high:
My girlfriend took the weeding with gusto, while I raked out pine straw and debris. I also pulled and cut some gargantuan weeds from my woefully neglected grapevines (which are, nevertheless, producing big, fat grapes). After a couple of hours the beds were much improved:
As with many home improvement projects, there’s the tedious part—in this case, weed-pulling—and then there’s the fun part. For us, the fun part was going to Home Depot and Lowe’s to find plants to beautify the beds. Over the course of two days, we found some beautiful options, including some colorful mums.
Our favorite selection, however, was celosia. It’s a vibrant, whimsical flower, and apparently comes in many varieties, some of which resemble brains. Our variety appears to be plumed-type celosia, and they add great color to my beds, with just the right exotic flair:
After the above picture was taken, I obtained several bags of a cypress blend mulch, and raked that into both beds. My girlfriend purchased some bulbs to plant for spring, including tulips and crocus (she also ponied up for the celosia). With my love of oregano, I put down a small oregano plant in the corner of the bed pictured above, and put down a late banana pepper plant in the opposite bed, which I will pot and bring inside for the winter.
We were blessed with unusually gorgeous weather for early September—low humidity, temperatures in the upper-80s, and a good breeze. We still sweat—at least, I sure did—but it wasn’t the soul-draining, humidity-induced sweat typical of yard work in late summer in South Carolina.
Indeed, weeding, planting, and tending to the beds was some of the most satisfying work I’ve done in some time, professionally or avocationally. I’ve taught some truly wonderful music classes this year, with excellent, higher-order discussions of classical works that would make any teacher proud. But the quiet, steady working in the soil—and getting my hands dirty—was a rich reward.
With all that effort to improve the beds has come pride—not the boastful, sinful kind, but the pride that comes from putting effort into creating something beautiful. When I walk around the beds and water them, I’ll bend over to pull stray weeds or bits of grass that have broken the barrier of the beds. I’m expecting a battery-powered string trimmer to arrive this weekend, and if the weather is good, I’m eager to trim around the beds and the rest of the house.
My motivation is probably due in part, too, to the cost of purchasing all these lovely plants, and of the in-bed soil that sustains them. I don’t want to see our hard work—and hard-earned money—wither on the vine.
But there is more than the self-interested desire to preserve my botanical investments. There is a joy from working in the soil, from tending to some small patch of God’s Creation. My girlfriend remarked frequently on good it felt to get her hands dirty, and to dig around in the dirt. I for one loved reaching into the bags of pungent bedding soil and plopping it around the bases of new plants.
God made us stewards of His Creation. Planting a garden is a very small expression of His original Creative acts. At a time of social unrest and godless nihilism, in which chaos agents tear down and destroy, there is a simple joy and hope in creating, building, and growing.
To quote Joe Dirt: “Life’s a garden: dig it!”
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