Digging in the Dirt
And germinate those seeds did, and I—too soft-hearted to cull the weaklings—coddled them all, divided their tiny root systems using bamboo skewers, and, as they grew, moved them into individual larger pots. Again, I point out the fact that I live not on a farm, but within city limits. There were plants in the basement, plants on the sun porch, plants in the driveway. The tomatoes were the most aggressive and prolific. I sent my husband to work with twenty of them, each labeled with its heirloom variety. I put ten or so out on the sidewalk in front of our house with a sign that said “free.” I took some to friends in South Carolina. I forced some on friends who came by to drop off fresh figs. Still, I had a dozen tomato plants in the ground to tend, plus the peppers, squash, zucchini, chard, lettuce, and basil, the directly sown potatoes, radishes, cucumbers, red and yellow onions, the volunteer dill, cilantro, and butternut squash, plus the unwieldy Rumbo squash that roamed across the backyard fence, its tendrils clinging and climbing their way up and over anything in its path. Never mind the attention needed to keep the rest of the landscape vaguely in check—iris, roses, lavender, sage, rosemary, daylilies, crepe myrtle, sedum, gangly butterfly bushes, clematis, azaleas, hydrangea, hosta, ferns, and various other whatnots.
My only growing salvation—last year and at any time—is that I am a low-fuss gardener. I do not fertilize. What cannot be accomplished with rich soil, a layer of mulch, adequate light, good watering, a bit of pruning or pinching, and, at most, a sprinkle of BT is not done. Though I baby my seedlings, a dying plant will be judiciously sacrificed to preserve the health of the rest. I can—and if determined, will—grow another.
Gardening is both my exercise and mental therapy of choice. When I am in the garden, nothing else exists. There are no deadlines, no bills to pay, no telephones or emails. It's just me conversing with the dirt, the bugs, the weeds, the roots, the leaves, the sun, the breeze. I never wear gloves. I can't stand to—I want to be able to directly feel what I touch; doing so keeps me mindful. I refuse to grow too old to play in the water from the garden hose, which my hound, Bruce, greatly enjoys. Any day that it's nice outside and I am lucky enough to be unencumbered and at home, my husband—dogged by a desk job—encourages me, "You should go dig." It never ceases to amaze me what solace I unearth.