Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Reluctant Gardener

If I had my way, the Captain--who loves his garden more than he loves me, Rusty and Jerome combined--would take care of all the tilling, planting, weeding and watering until August, and then I'd come out and pick all the perfectly-formed vegetables for salads and canning and freezing for the winter.

Unfortunately, the military schedule doesn't really allow for that, so some years, I end up doing the vast majority of it myself, usually taking care of it all after the kids are in bed because those are my only free hours. And sometimes--I admit--I complain bitterly.

I was lucky this year. The Captain just happened to be home long enough to start the seeds, prepare the soil, deal with the first batch of weeds and plant some of the hardier vegetables, as well as setting up the irrigation system. I've spent this week putting in the rest. And I'm far from done.

Our garden plot is so big that if it were any bigger, we'd probably have to declare ourselves farmers on our income tax forms. We grow almost enough food to last us through the winter without having to shell out for produce from California. There's a lot to be done out there, and a lot to be kept up, which is where I tend to get behind. Last year, I got everything planted okay, but the weeds totally did me in.

I'm learning a lot by being forced to do this stuff on my own, but I still need a bit of help when it comes to identifying different plants. And because of this, I'm always a little leery of yanking something out of the ground if I'm not absolutely positive it's a weed. So in the end, I wait and watch to see what bears flowers and fruit and what ends up obviously not serving any purpose at all. Of course, by that point, the garden is so overrun with weeds, I can't possibly get them all pulled during Rosemary's Baby's hour-long naptime. And then the Captain comes home and lets out a horrified shriek when he sees what I've done to his garden. Then I don't see him for about a week, while he spends every waking second trying to rectify my negligence.

In the end, it all works out fine though. Last year, our 24 tomato plants yielded about 175 lbs of delicious romas and beefsteaks, and we're still working on the last of the canned sauce now. This year, we planted 35 plants, so I foresee lots of homemade soup and salsa being added to the pantry as well. If you've never used home or locally-produced tomatoes, I highly recommend them. They beat the pants off those anemic, mealy pink things your local grocery store ships in from the next continent over.

And while tomatoes are my favourite score from the garden, summer squash, cukes, peppers and beans are right up there too. And there's nothing quite like digging down into the dirt in mid-September and hauling away a cartload of potatoes.

So, while I moan about being "stuck" dealing with the Captain's garden all by myself year after year, and worry every year that I'm doing it wrong without him here to watch over my shoulder, I think that even if he wouldn't divorce me for not helping him out with this one little thing, I'd still want to do it. As much as the beginning stages are hard, back-breaking work, the end result is nothing short of a miracle. You stick a few seeds into the ground (or in our case into a block of soil under the grow lights weeks before the last frost), add water, and God does the rest.

And really, how cool is that?!

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