There’s something incredibly hopeful about a just-planted garden. I can stand out there, inhaling the scent of freshly-tilled, damp earth and compost and visualize the tomato plants sprawling out, reaching for the sky, and becoming so heavy with fruit that I have to stake up their cages to keep them from toppling over. I can imagine those wire towers covered with tangled vines, white blossoms and crispy green beans, can close my eyes and see the top of that A-frame trellis buried under a mass of green leaves and starry yellow flowers, with long, pale Italian cucumbers hanging like icicles underneath. The wee line of basil plants at my feet aspires to be a hedgerow, and I look forward to cutting it weekly, to making pesto and freezing pureed basil in ice cube trays so I can add a splash of summer flavor to my winter soups and stews. And that raised bed that looks empty right now? In a few short weeks, it’ll be bursting with rainbow chard, kale and butter lettuce. All the little green apples and plums on my trees will swell and sweeten in the sun, until they’re begging to be picked and devoured.
There’s always the chance that my harvest might get challenged by fickle weather or – because I garden organically – invaded by bugs. But for right now, it’s all so perfectly lined up, in the ground and in my head.
I don’t have to grow my own food of course; none of us do these days, and I live in a major agricultural area with a lovely, bi-weekly farmer’s market mere blocks from my house and a fun little organic farm just outside of town. But, as my mother liked to say, I inherited her “gardening soul”. Like her and her mother before her (and probably her mother’s mother too, since Midwestern Norse immigrants were mostly farmers), I delight in putting food I grew on the table for my family.
I live in the middle of town, so I don’t have a huge space on site. My sister, however, lives on a ranch, and we share a large garden out there, where there’s plenty of room for permanent plantings like artichokes and asparagus. We grow long rows of beets, summer and winter squashes, hot and sweet peppers, red onions and several kinds of eggplant. Last year, we put in a huge pumpkin patch with all sorts of strange and wonderful varieties, and in October, we threw a big pumpkin patch party on the weekend of the full moon, complete with hayrides, a piñata, and a bonfire. It was so much fun, we’ve decided to make it an annual event.
One of the things I love most about gardening is the way it ties me to my heritage and to the seasons. This weekend, as I knelt in the dirt sinking tomato seedlings into the ground, I knew spring was finally, truly here. What a lovely realization it was!
I also love the satisfaction of telling dinner guests, “Why, yes. This is from my garden.” And then there’s that first tomato, eaten sun-warm straight off the vine, or the plum plucked off the tree, so juicy and delicious. So much to look forward to, and so much to enjoy. I plan to savor it all.