WILLIAM RUTHERFORD: Gardening for the soul

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“What is that smell,” my wife Michele asks with wrinkled nose as we pull out of the Costco parking lot. “I think it is the tomato plants,” I offer, pulling our family sleigh onto the main thoroughfare. “Well, I think our tomato plants have a digestive issue,” Chele chuckles and I agree. We lower the windows on the car searching for fresh air for our short ride home.

It is mid-spring, past Mother’s Day, the snow is off Signal Peak, lilacs are blooming, the hornets have arrived, hummingbirds are drinking nectar from hanging feeders and all wives’ tales suggesting the safe date to plant one’s garden are observable. It’s time to play in the soil.

Late May sun warms black soil in my garden beds, offering potential for a hearty bounty. It’s time to think; what do I want to eat, can or freeze in August that needs to be planted this spring? Tomatoes? For sure! I can eat the fresh fruit sliced with basil and mozzarella cheese this summer in a Caprese salad sprinkled with balsamic vinegar and a Spanish olive oil. I can freeze whole tomatoes to taste a glimpse of summer in the freezing snow of January. Tomatoes are a must-grow.

Peppers? Nope. I have four, one gallon bags full of dried ancho, New Mexican and jalapeno peppers from last summer that beg to be eaten. Dried herbs are also plentiful in my pantry with two beds full of fresh oregano, thyme, chives, sage, marjoram, French lavender, sorrel and tarragon ready to harvest and share with friends.

Lettuce is always a safe crop to plant in the spring. Offering two and sometimes three cuttings, I’ll have the making of a fresh salad past the Fourth of July. Carrots are an interesting crop. Harvesting this root vegetable, I always leave a handful of plants to go to seed. The bed continually reseeds itself and I never purchase new seed to sow in the planter. This morning I harvest a few early spring carrots, wash them with the hose and eat them like candy as I ponder my garden’s future.

The decisions are made. I plant pole beans and create a small teepee for my grandkids to play in as the vines grow. I purchase cucumber starters in hope of making pickles in the fall and plant dill plants in the herb garden to season the cucumbers expecting the herb will grow like a weed. Knowing I will be busy this summer, I plant one bed traditionally reserved for watermelon or pumpkin in honey bee attracting flowers. Excited at the option of bringing bees into the garden, I move a large rock in front of the bed so I can sit and watch the pollinators do their work.

Sitting on the rock recently repurposed, I look at my empty garden and think of the earth’s potential. What once was bare ground, will now produce sustenance to support and strengthen my body. The work I do to prepare my garden for summer hardens my muscles while strengthening my soul. Gardening is a gift. Gardening offers nutrients to maintain one’s fitness while providing hard work which grounds one’s life. Growing one’s own food makes one whole.

• • •

Send comments or other suggestions to William Rutherford at bprutherford@hotmail.com or visit pensiveparenting.com.

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