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Another Day in the Country

Where have all the gardeners gone?

© Another Day in the Country

The grand tradition of gardeners is rooted in our history, especially for those of us who have grown up in the country.

For decades, to garden was to provide sustenance,. The cycle of cultivating the earth, sewing seeds, tending, and reaping was carved into our genes.

But with every generation it has dwindled. Frankly, it isn’t necessary anymore.

While my grandmother in the early 1900s, and her kin before her, grew gardens to supplement available food for the family, gardening now is, at best, a hobby.

Who needs a garden these days? It isn’t even cost effective.

Have you noticed the price of something so simple as seed? This spring I paid $2.95 for a handful of bean seeds, $1.95 for a half-dozen cucumber seeds, and $4.95 for one heirloom tomato plant. Those were just the prices that I remember and definitely not the total price of plants I bought at the nursery.

Then there’s the water. We are lucky to have a well for most of our heavy watering. But there are places in my yard that are difficult to get to with those long heavy hoses from the well across the street. So our water bill goes up, up, and away as we work to keep the small garden growing and a small part of the yard blooming.

Seeds and water isn’t all that one needs to grow a garden, either. There’s fertilizer and bug dust (if you are semi-organic, like me) and tomato cages and tools. Gardening is flat-out expensive.

There are some folks I know who say, “Who needs this? Let’s get our vegetables from the grocery store. It’s cheaper!”

It’s also a lot less work.

Gardening, too, has its perils. In the Kansas springtime, just as my onions have lovely, straight, six-inch tops and all the potato sprouts have shown their faces, there’s bound to be a frost. About the time that I’ve planted out the tomatoes and peppers, the evening news says that a storm is coming and we can expect golf-ball-size hail.

I hold my breath and watch the sky to see whether Ramona really is going to get trounced with ice; I sigh in relief when that storm goes by and the new plants still stand.

If you are any kind of gardener, I know that you’ve experienced the invasion of squash beetles. It seems they appear out of nowhere, and cucumber plants that have their first slender fruit on them are suddenly withered and dead, sucked dry of their vitality in hours. Gone. Done. If you are brave, you start over.

When Tooltime Tim got the bright idea years ago to plant corn in his old corral, I fought generations of weeds, constant wind, and soil that never ever got enough water. When tassels appeared, I doused every single ear of corn with oil to keep moths from laying eggs.

And when the corn, sweet, succulent, free of worms, tender and delicious, was just right, the coons came calling.

However, what little we got, we loved! To think that most people don’t even know what fresh sweet corn tastes like.

Yet it is so important to be a gardener, in spite of the trials and troubles.

Tilling the soil is soul food. Growing plants is vital for our health. How else do we teach our children about Mother Nature and the cycles of life? Where will the generations that follow us learn patience? It’s in a garden that this knowledge is available.

The persistent hopefulness of planting seeds, the careful watering as we wait, the tender touch one develops for seedlings, and the excitement generated as beans uncurl, tomato blossoms turn into fruit, and the first, fresh, new potatoes are ready for harvest — who will remember or even know these things if we don’t teach it to our children?

Who has time for gardening in this faced-paced, everybody-working world? In most places folks can go to a farmers market and pay $10 for a handful of heirloom tomatoes. If not there, the corner market calls with produce that never goes out of season.

I love going to the farmers market. It’s an absolutely fabulous sight to see all the varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables in colorful rows.

However, the best thing of all is picking that first tomato in your very own garden, on another day in the country. They aren’t ready quite yet, but any day now.

Last modified July 13, 2017

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