Monday, April 26, 2010

How Does Your Garden Grow?

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This weekend, and last, I’ve begun intensively planting my new garden in my backyard. I’ve laid out seed for corn, pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, lettuce, and sunflowers just to name a few. Green thumbs run in the family, and gardening has been a favorite pastime of mine since I was a kid. I’ll admit that gardening has a two-fold purpose for me. Yes, I do love to watch things grow, but I also love to eat fresh food! In fact, I still have so much corn leftover from last year that I’m using it as cornmeal for bread and polenta.

Now you may wonder for a moment if I live on a farm or something…far from it. I actually have just a typical suburbia yard behind the house with nothing more than a hose, some fertilizer, and a few manual gardening tools to get the job done. Part of the reason I love to bring up my garden every year is that most people don’t realize just how much they can easily grow in their own back yard. Every year I enjoy fresh salads all summer long from the garden. In fact last year’s crops of tomatoes numbered well over a thousand (literally). That’s from only a few tomato plants! Needless to say, I give away as much as I can every year to friends and family. My wife is also experimenting with turning them into sauce for pasta. With only a few square feet of topsoil anyone can do the same.

Other things I’m really looking forward to in the garden this year are pumpkins for the fall (jack-o-lanterns help make Halloween my favorite holiday), and a new variety of ruby corn I’m experimenting with this year looks promising. I literally harvested over a hundred ears of corn from my yard last year and that’s just from two little plots of dirt that couldn’t have been more than five feet by five feet. It’s great to barbeque fresh sweet corn in the summer, boil it in the fall, and use it for cornmeal after that. This year I’m also adding more vegetables to the plate, so to speak, with squash and maybe some zucchini later on.   

The cool thing is that gardening is good for you, good for the Earth, and fun to say the least. Once you notice the taste of fresh food you won’t want to go back to store bought produce so easily. Growing your own food as a supplement to what you buy at the store also helps reduce your carbon footprint, because the produce goes directly from your yard to the dinner table with no hundred-plus miles on a diesel freight truck. It’s great exercise too, and unlike the gym you’re actually doing more than just toning your body, you’re actually accomplishing something in the process (i.e. a clean yard, fresh food, flowers for the bees, etc.). I guess the last thing that I’d mention is that gardening reminds me of what’s real. It’s so easy to get caught up in the everyday rat-race of work or school, dealing with checkbooks and computers. But what you do with your own two hands and what you grow in the soil is real. You can’t eat money, you can’t smell a conference call growing on a hot summer’s day, and you can’t survive living inside a building at a desk all day long. We were meant for something more, much more, and gardening, I have found, is just a small, but important part of what it means to be human.