Wednesday, April 15, 2009

María, María, How does your Garden Grow?

I heard the other day on some morning program, that due to the struggling economy and the First Lady’s example, everyone is now planting a vegetable garden. Over the past 9 years or so, my husband and I have made an annual attempt at planting a garden – not always with much success. Rabbits, deer, drought, flood, and an occasional feral hog(!) are but a few of the anti-veggie garden challenges we have encountered.

And yet, we keep trying.

¡Oralé! This year, we said, things will be different. Since moving to NC 2 years ago, we are finally in our own home and actually have the acreage to plant a sizeable garden. My industrious husband and daughter carefully enclosed our side porch and converted it into their personal greenhouse. As if by magic, seed trays, potting soil, watering cans and fluorescent lights suddenly appeared. Trips to Lowe’s began to center around the seed section and I started finding seed packets in the dining room, kitchen and my daughter’s bed. Plant catalogs started multiplying next to the couch in the living room. And lately, every evening brings eager whispering floating into the house from the side porch as they monitor the seedlings’ growth.

Regardless of whether or not we actually successfully grow a single vegetable, this year is different. It is the first time both our kids have had the actual experience of "farming." Maybe not on a big scale, but they are learning about starting a project and following it through. The last few weeks has found them out in the garden picking out the roots, sticks and rocks as Daddy goes around with the tiller. My kids are fascinated by the differences in the seeds. Tiny, big, pointy, flat, round...seeds come in so many shapes and sizes. They’ve been learning about the effects of light, water, temperature on one little seed. The biology lesson is immense!

And today, for me, was the best day of all. Today we actually sewed seeds in straight(ish) little lines. Okra, gourds, tomatoes, corn, bell peppers, carrots – all planted in carefully marked rows. There is just something innately satisfying in feeling the dirt between your fingers. Watching mis niños staring intently into a hole, their tiny hands carefully dropping in a seed and then covering it up, brought such a feeling of satisfaction and contentment.

It reminds me of my abuelita, who used to plant rows of corn in the backyard of her Dallas home. Tomates y chiles of every shape and color tumbled out of pots scattered around her back porch. Roses, irises, canas and a variety of other flowering plants were there, too. But it is the corn that made the biggest impression on me. Probably because I spent hours sitting in the middle of the rows, staring up at the sky, their towering stalks like a green wall between me and the rest of the world.

How many of you, I wonder will be planting a garden this year? Why? To save money? To eat healthy? To teach your children? Maybe, for the sheer enjoyment?


Violeta said...

We're planting a little garden this year, too! In PA, we're attempting mesclun greens, peas, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil and pumpkins, mostly to save money (between that and our CSA we shouldn't need to buy any produce at the grocery store for a number of months) but also very much for the experience of being outdoors and doing something that's traditional and slow paced and family-oriented.

Cassy said...

Our children are fortunate to have these experiences. My husband and son also plant tomatoes and herbs every year. We love watching something grow from the tiniest speck, and enjoy even more when we can add it to our summer salads!

As a teacher, I wish I could offer this to my students. However, we're an inner-city school and have no access to fields (or small patches og grass!) in which to sow seeds.

Tending to a garden and watching the magic is so vital to a child's understanding of th world.

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