Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Garden fever – it happens to all real home gardeners. Spring sneaks up on us and suddenly, the need to plant and nourish become over whelming. Our dreams of the simple life and little homestead gardens overpower mere ordinary concerns and demand attention. We drop into a chair and stare into seed catalogs, click for hours on the websites - or unwilling to be denied immediate gratification- we grab our coats and head out to the garden shops.

Yes, I fully understand that the nation is currently in the grip of a huge winter storm. But, this is Florida and no matter how temporarily cool it may be, we Floridians understand our spring is upon us. In order to survive the blasting heat of summer we home gardeners must plant early. In fact, many of us plant a winter garden and for some it is their main or even only garden. Given that I have a tiny 1/8 of an acre plot and much of that covered in tree shaded gardens, my vegetable garden must be small. In fact, I barely have 100 square feet of garden and much of that is devoid of sun.

This time of year, the wheel turns and the whispers of spring can be heard even on the coldest night. The morning of the world is coming again and it beckons to us hope and light in the last days of darkness and uncertainty. It is the rebirth of more than just the elms, with this season, life itself seems renewed in all its promises. Not that hope and optimism are not found in other times. But it is easier to believe in new beginnings when they are accompanied by the singing of birds. Their music on a bright clear morning can do much to wipe away doubt and encourage hope.

These first few sign of change, however small, are awesomely powerful. They are subtle hint of changes coming -from dark to light, from stagnation and decay to birth and growth. To us who dwell in touch with the earth, it is an exciting time. Almost as a child before Christmas, those of us that cherish the simple life begin to dream of the first plantings. Visions dance in our minds of rich warm earth and seedlings peeking into the warming air to begin another cycle of life.

Similarly, like a child making his Christmas list we sometimes get a little carried away. Our wishes for old favorites, new varieties and dreams of bounty from our own soil can often take us on a wild chase. Whether looking at a seed catalog on a chilly night or standing in front of the sales displays on a crisp morning, we get excited.

I say excited, perhaps that is insufficient – ecstatic may be better. Intoxicated with possibility, we stare at the glossy little packets before us and paste those images onto the dream we weave of this year’s garden. No homestead is complete without at least a small patch of vegetables to feed our body and soul. So there we are, naked before the awesome power of desire and imagination. We are carried away. Our minds move swiftly past the small paper packages to visions of lush green plants hung low and heavy with fruits and vegetables. Garden space ceases to be the product of a rigid math formula and expands by tiny, fuzzy tricks of the mind as desire outraces mere mathematics. The packet says 3 feet apart, but we know we can squeeze them in a little closer. The garden map says 10’ X 10’ – a scant 100 square feet. Yet, we begin to expand it into little corners and over the edges. Double planting here, ignoring walkways there, eventually, we use up all the space that our imaginations can conjure.

At this point, a rational being would stand back and reconsider.  Allow logic to prevail and put some of the lovely paper packets back down on the shelf. That is the point a rational being would reach, but not so the home gardener. Faced with the exhaustion of math, however twisted and tricked, even to the point of convenient miscalculation, yet still, we are not defeated. You simply cannot live without those heirloom Brandywine tomatoes. They are beautiful, rich in flavor and history. Visions of them glimmer there, all but harvested, a glorious mirage right there in the aisle at Lowes. No, it would simply be morally wrong to return those seeds to the shelf. The glorious potential must be revealed and mere logic should not be allowed to interfere.

It is at this point where defeat seems inevitable, that a real gardener reaches deep into their green little hearts and conjures up the great solution. Logic, geometry, the very laws of space and time are overthrown by a simple enchantment. “Well, I’ll find room somewhere…” With the utterance of that charm all limits are smote into scattered ruin. Exultantly, we place the final packet into our cart and move on - one step closer to the best garden ever.

Well my friends, to save time, let us just say that this year I may have exceeded the legal limit on the use of that charm. For as I stood there in the store, trembling with awe and anticipation, I did battle with cruel reality over and over. Constantly reminded of the limits of space, I struck out with every weapon in my arsenal. Yes, yes, oh yes, logic tried to impose its dull grey dominion on me. With dreary persistence the dead hand of math tried to crush my dreams. But, no, my dreams are alive, they will not be denied. Facing the final crisis, my mind screamed at me that the growing bundle of packets that tumbled out of my grasp was too large, too many, too much.

Logic can be so inexorable and I have always honored clear and rational thinking. Faced with looming defeat, I took the only intelligent action left to me. I tossed all the seeds into the bottom of the cart. As if thumbing my nose at fear, I snatched one more packet of zucchini (it is a golden yellow zucchini, sweet, productive and exotic! I had to have it.) With that, I turned to flee the siren call of that seed display. Chanting, “I’ll find room, I’ll find room”, I rushed to the cashier and turned to examine fertilizer as she picked up the scattered treasure and began the blasphemy of counting. When she called out a number, I blocked it from my mind and tossed 2 large bills on the counter. Just take what you need, I thought, and leave me unsullied of reality – I have dreams to fulfill. For this is going to be the very best garden ever.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you so much for your comments. Feedback is the surest way to drive content towards areas you would like to see more of