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The Fruits of Our Labor

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By Bonnie Jones

I’ll admit it; I’ve never been a big fan of dirt! Perhaps this comes from my Mother’s (almost) compulsion, in keeping me clean when I was a baby. I have heard relatives claim that “spotless” was more accurate. It’s been rumored she changed my outfits several times a day. A speck of dirt on my tiny shoes would be spit-shinned away in a moment.

So it was great surprise (my self included) when Phil and I decided to invest and grow a proper flower and vegetable garden. In years past, if we had the obligatory flower or the lone tomato, it was really no big deal. Heaven knows we would never go out of our way in actually planting; these plants would be a leftover from previous tenants. And watering, pruning, or composting was simply out of the question!

Some of this aversion to gardening certainly comes from several sources. As stated before, I don’t like dirt and I like bugs even less. It’s also been my experience if a mosquito is within 90 miles of me, it will find me, bite me, and further irritate my skin as well as my nerves. Truly, I can be outside for only a matter of minutes and have a ménage of bites all over.

Another reason I’ve avoided gardening like the plague is because of my parents. Well, not directly, but indirectly. You see Dad owned a Landscaping business and Mom owned a Florist shop. On our 5 ¼ acres were hundreds of bushes, vines, plants, trees, shrubs, and flowers. Of course all of these had to be watered, weeded, cut, pruned, and fertilized. Being the good parents they were, my parents used their indentured slaves, i.e. my sister and I as their free labor. My sister, Beth, and I spent many, many, steamy, humid, and hot, Maryland summer’s toiling in our back yard. And of course because our parents wanted to raise us with a good work ethic, no summer fun would, could, or should be had until these chores were completed.

But I digress, back to the gardening at hand. Phil and I have quite a large backyard, one that would accommodate a good sized garden. We also have a small, side plot off of our back door, the door which is our primary entrance into the house.

I’m not quite sure what it was exactly that made Phil and I begin our planting endeavor. Perhaps some of the reason is because we had recently remodeled our kitchen (a sad tale for a later date), replaced our deck, and re-screened the porch. I guess we were in the “up-date and up-class our house” mode.

We began with the side garden and decided flowers would be the best choice. Off we went to our trusty Lowe’s where we bought flowers, plants, mulch, and a number of (extremely heavy) decorative rocks in order to border the plot. Phil would be the “digger” and I would be the “planter”. Of course you never buy enough of anything, initially, so multiple trips back and forth to Lowe’s were part of our adventure. This also brings up the cost of having flora and fauna. When did a few bags of dirt, some dried tree bark, and some blooming daisy’s begin to cost hundreds of dollars? Clearly we were out of our league.

I must say, when we were finished with the side garden it looked fantastic! It was so pleasing to pass by this little plot of flowers that we simply could not stop there. This, along with a book on composting, Phil was reading spurred us on into planting a vegetable garden. We bought tomatos, squash, pumpkin seeds, beans, peppers, basil, and an assortment of herbs.

Now, if you’ve ever attempted to grow anything you’ll know that you can’t simply stick it in the ground and walk away hoping for the best. Gardens take time, effort, and attention. These very chores I was forced to do as a kid, I was now choosing to do for the sake of the garden: watering, weeding, mulching, pruning, et al. The funny thing was, I sort of liked it! Yes, it was time consuming. Yes, it made me get dirty. Yes, the mosquito’s decided I was the buffet of the day. But seeing the fruit of our labor was really very exciting.

The most amazing part came when we began reaping a bounty. You would have thought that we had the “Biltmore Estate” garden when we picked our first juicy, ripe, tomato. We were so excited! Phil, Mom, and I would venture out every early evening to see what had sprouted up and was ready to devour and enjoy. There truly isn’t anything like picking a warm, vine ripened tomato, not even washed and popping it into your mouth. Delicious and usually a tad messy!

My Grandfather, also known as “Pap”, was a fantastic gardener. He could grow anything and just about did. Beans, corn, cabbage, squash, onions, strawberries, potatoes, and even grapes were all lovingly attended to on his one-acre plot. The most amazing thing about my Pap and his gardening acumen was the fact that he was blind! My Mom, his daughter, always believed that this lose of sight actually made him more aware and more in tune with the earth. He had to rely on his other senses, particularly touch and smell, to alert him on how and when to harvest his crops.

I doubt I will ever be quite the gardener my Pap was but for now I’m completely enjoying the fruits of our labor.

Gardening Facts:

• There are more than 2000 varieties of potatoes
• Potato’s are grown in every US state
• The average American eats 13 lbs. of tomato’s per year
• The US is the top strawberry producing country in the world
• The national flower of France is the Iris
• The national flower of the US is the Rose
• The basil plant originated in India
• Green beans contain excellent levels of vitamin A