They say April showers bring May flowers.
In the Okanagan this year, we seem to have mostly skipped the rain and jumped ahead to the flowers. I love seeing the spring blossoms, and perennial plants are the garden gift that keeps on giving. I love having the instant gratification of that early garden beauty.
That said, I do have a few pet peeves I will share with you this week. If you are a fellow gardener, or even just a foodie, I think you will commiserate with me. The flowers of May might magically appear after a rain, but the vegetables need considerably more work before they decide to grace my garden with their presence.
Why is dirt so dirty?
Have you ever noticed how hard it is to get your fingernails clean after a day of gardening? Even if you wear gloves there is a pesky line of super-fine, but incredibly tough, dirt particles that settles at the bottom of your nails. No amount of soaking, scrubbing or washing will get them clean. Most of the summer I feel like a kid who just came back from the sand box with my grubby hands.
Dirt is even more difficult to remove when it gets wet. Here at Rabbit Hollow, we have heavy clay soil. As mud, it sticks in big clumps to gardening tools and gloves, gumboots, and dog paws with a vengeance. On a rainy day, I have a three-phase canine paw-washing procedure that is required before I send our Labrador, Freyja, back inside.
How come gardens are always in the ground?
This may sound ridiculous but hear me out. I do have some raised beds and containers. Even those however, are still only “a wee ways” off the ground, as my Gramps would have said. I am six feet tall. That’s a lot of bending. Gardening has made me flexible—bending at the knees, stretching my back and reaching with my arms. My real reward doesn’t come until later in the season, when plants grow taller and I can look up again.
If all the bending is your pet peeve, I can tell you our Tower Garden provides a great alternative. As the name suggests, the format of this growing system is a tall cylinder with lights and an irrigation system. It allows us to have some homegrown edible greens year-round, with no bending over. That’s a system worth saluting.
Can’t plants grow faster in the beginning and slower in the end?
One of my earliest motivations for having a green thumb was the good old Chia Pet. Who wouldn’t want to try growing something that would almost change in front of your eyes? The only thing better would have been edible sea monkeys. Alas, I have never been able to create such an environment in the veggie garden. No June zucchinis or July tomatoes here.
Even though I can’t rush Mother Nature, I am grateful that the Okanagan growing season is one of the longest in Canada. It certainly beats that of Calgary, where I grew up. There I could never get more than a few ripe tomatoes.
I try hard to pick realistic crops for the garden, but curiosity is one of the qualities I have in abundance. I am always hoping that we will have great weather all season so I can get the most out of everything I grow. The beginning of the summer always feels like it moves at a snail’s pace in the garden, but then as autumn approaches I am racing to harvest and preserve everything all at once.
The exception to this rule is weeds. Have you ever noticed how it seems things are going along fine, and then you blink and your plants are choked by chickweed? I have learned what wild greens can be used for salads, but even with that knowledge I am overwhelmed with wild mallow, lamb’s quarters, bindweed, dandelions and burdocks
All kidding aside, after years of mucking about in the dirt all hunched over, getting grubby hands and flailing in autumn storms to gather what bounty there was, I have come to love the satisfaction of toiling in the earth and having something to show for my efforts. I have huge admiration for farmers, those dedicated individuals who choose to work with mercurial Mother Nature for their livelihood.
I have discovered that weeding makes for excellent anger management therapy. Best of all, my faith is renewed every spring when the flowers reappear and I feel the giddiness of a child when the first radishes peek above the earth and beans grow on the stalks. A sense of reverence envelopes me when I harvest my very own veggies and serve them as a meal.
I suppose that’s worth a few dirty fingernails, a bit of impatience and a sore back.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.