Monday, May 11, 2009

Inch by Inch, Row by Row....

Last year's garden

Sophie hanging out in the garden with me. She took most of these pictures!

Gardening with attitude!

Janette and Kate come to visit!

I remember when I was around nine years old, and we lived in a row home (now we call them Townhouses!) in Philadelphia, and one day in the spring, I noticed that the 'bush' in our backyard was actually full of beautiful red roses. I had never paid much attention before that as out yard was only a passway from the house to the alley that led behind our row of houses and into the houses and yards of the other kids in our neighborhood. I was amazed that a thing of such obvious beauty could grow in what I considered an average, ordinary, mundane yard. I asked my mom all about the roses, I was so fascinated with them. She replied that the bush had been there when they moved in, some 15 years before, and that it came back to life every spring. I was hooked, my green thumb officially born that day. To see such beauty and not have anything to do with it, but to enjoy it year after year! I was in.

I started a vegetable garden the next year, in a small 'L' shaped patch at the perimeter of the yard. Tomatoes were the hit of the summer, and I moved my attention to the front yard, which would challenge the best of horticulturists. Nestled under a large oak tree, our front yard was full of 'dirt' not soil, and there is a big difference. My dad was my partner in my projects and would bring home a variety of plants for me to work with. Soon our yard, full of large rocks and patches of dirt, was dotted with flowering annuals and I was off and running.
We moved to a new home when I was in 10th grade and by then I knew much more about annuals, perennials, shade-growing plants, and the value of pruning trees in the spring and fall. Our new home had a large yard, and my Dad and I were set. He and I spent hours, and I do mean hours, after school, and on the weekends pruning trees, planting borders, and mowing a very large lawn. To this day, I think of the trees he and I planted, and one in particular in the front of the house that years later my mom would use to hang the Easter treats for all the grandchildren for our annual Easter Egg Hunt. Amazing memories.

Many years later, gardening is still my passion. It still amazes me that if I plant it, it will grow. Our home of 21 years has seen many garden transitions, and I continue to learn more and more each year. I have come to know the names of all the plants that grow, and can recognize the perennials by their leaves as they emerge triumphant each year, bringing hope for renewal. I know when my irises will bloom, according to color, and which irises are my own, which swapped with two neighbors...both of them now deceased. When Gail's yellow iris blooms, I think of her, and when Mary "Grandmom" Thomas's purple irises display their vibrant color all over our garden, I know she is smiling down at me.

My vegetable and herb garden is by far my peice de resistance. It is a 20' x 60' area behind our garage full of vegetables, herbs, berries (our blueberry bush yields about 10 quarts of blueberries every year!) and this year a big pumpkin patch. Every year I do things a little bit different, for fun, and for soil preservation. I love going to the garden before dinner to pick fresh lettuce, fresh herbs, and check for tomatoes. I love when the kids come to help me, and I love working there on my own. Behind the garden I see the neighbor's horses, the new chicks in our chicken coop (yes, we are raising free range chickens! Don't tell our teenagers, they think we're hillbillies!) and I am in heaven. Forgotten are the bills, the wash, the paperwork. For a while, I concentrate on where the lettuce will do best and how many marigolds I will need to border the tomato beds to protect the plants from nasty bugs. Life is good.
Sophie helped me again this year, and she romped through the straw I use for mulch, and dug holes for me in various places, told me she was too tired to put the plants in, but she could dig the holes. She discovered my Nasturtium seeds (fabulous plant if you never planted these...edible leaves and flowers make an awesome addtion to a summer salad!) I let her plant these hardy seeds wherever she wanted, as this plant is another great natural bug-repellent.
Some pictures of this year's garden, some from our harvest last year. Zizi, our Northstar puppy, loving the great outdoors, and she had a great time running through the straw. All that dirt gave her her first official bath, so you see her wrapped up snug and warm in a towel, and then sound asleep next to our 15 year-old Lab, Belle.
Sophie, as you can see, is fully reovered and doing well. We were thrilled when her teacher and teacher's aide came to visit last week!
Have a great day, everyone.

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