Wednesday, April 10, 2013

On Sowing and Hoeing

     Spring has sprung and it's time to start up the garden again. When we first moved, we started with a smallish patch of garden and grew a few veggies for fun. Each year the garden got a little bigger and encroached further into sections of the lawn. That's fine. Less to mow. Regardless, we found that despite the tremendous amount of work in maintaining a garden, we really enjoyed it. If you have any space at all, a garden is extremely rewarding.  Since we live in central Illinois we don't even have to guess when it's time to get started. I just watch the farmers. Last weekend I saw that the tractors were out tilling and fertilizing. We did the same. So what are some of the benefits of gardening?

Getting Your Lazy Butt Out of the House
This is a big one for me. Left to my own devices in the summer, it's likely I would spend all my time sitting on the patio smoking cigars and drinking whiskey. 
Me (on left) enjoying a smoke with a couple guys from the neighborhood.
Maintaining a garden requires a fair amount of energy on the part of the gardener. Breaking sod, tilling new soil, pulling weeds, clearing debris, putting in fencing and plant supports can be exhausting. Plus, once summer gets into full swing you'll be watering, cutting, weeding, harvesting, replanting and who knows what else all under heat and sun. You will burn calories. You will be tired. You will not regret it.

It's Mentally Rewarding
There's nothing like the sense of accomplishment you get when you see the garden start producing. Especially if you grew the plants from seed. I feel like a Pioneer. I have tilled the soil and sown the seeds and brought food up from the ground! Plus there's the good feeling of knowing that if the economy ever collapses, you'll at least have a big rack of canned foods to eat.

You Get Fresh Food
This is why we have the garden. We want the food. We want to need vegetables for our recipes and be able to just walk outside and get them. We want to turn all that produce into jellies, pickles, sauces and all sorts of wonderful canned goods. 
     Granted, it's not all flowers and sunshine. Literally. Gardening is not without its downside. I would be doing you a disservice to not delve into the seedier side of gardening. (TWO puns in the same paragraph, now that's bounty!)

You're Probably Going To Hurt Yourself
There are a number of amusing ways to injure yourself while gardening. 
  • Back Injuries
    You're going to be bending, reaching, pushing and pulling all sorts of things. It's only a matter of time before you reach the wrong way and you spend the next week popping Flexerils. 
  • Burns
    There is always the threat of a nice sunburn, but let's not overlook the possibility of chemical burns if you're growing super-hot peppers! The wife can attest to skin irritation from simply planting the seeds.
  • Assorted Punctures, Incisions and Lacerations
    You will be dealing with many different gardening tools, all of which have the capacity to cause grievous bodily injuries if mishandled. I live in constant fear that I'm going to accidentally get my foot sucked into the tiller. Also, don't forget many plants have exciting prickers to rake across your hands and arms as you reach! Such fun!
Nature Is Unpredictable
 If you get a season of solid weather, your garden is going to blow up and you're going to be looking for people to unload surplus produce on.  Last year we had very little rain. This year looks to be a lot of rain. Provided we can get past the two potential frosts this week. High winds and heavy rains can knock down your plants and kill seedlings. It got so hot one day our cilantro all turned brown and died.
Actual photo of my cilantro last summer.
Sometimes, Nothing Works
You have to accept that sometimes, you'll fail.  No matter how much you try to do everything right, no matter how good the weather and soil is, stuff won't grow. For the last two years, despite our best efforts, we have been unable to grow cucumbers. We'll get a couple little malformed ones, but that's it. We have tried different spots, different seeds. Nothing works. 

     So what have we learned from all this? Gardening can be hard. It can be expensive. It can also be very rewarding. You just need to learn to take the good with the bad. Much like with the Chicago Cubs, there's always Next Season.

Good times!

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