Monday, September 21, 2009

Old Gardeners Never Die . . .

Old gardeners never die, they just go to seed. This saying is on a small plaque on the porch that leads to our garden. I tend to believe it.

Think about it. You're getting lots of fresh air and sunshine. Depending on your physical limitations, you can get a lot of hard exercise like tilling the ground with a shovel and trimming trees and bushes, or you can just do a little tinkering, like dead-heading the roses.

At our house, my husband is the one who likes to dig in the dirt, going through all the steps to make a fine big garden. I lean more toward the dead-heading of roses. Good exercise in a nice environment.

Psychologically, this exercise is rewarding. For your efforts you receive a handsome amount of fresh vegetables, or, in my case, lovely cascades of roses. It's hard to be depressed when you're a gardener.

EXCEPT, when the gopher pulls your lush tomatoes down into his hole for a snack. Or the nematodes strike the roots. (Too bad the nematodes don't attack the gophers.) In the spring, rabbits love to nibble on the fresh shoots. That requires plastic fencing around the seedlings. Gardening teaches you to fight for what's yours. It brings out the gentleness in you if you fence away the rabbits and fill in gopher holes instead of killing them.

You appreciate the things that insects and small animals do. Our rabbits love the tender seedlings of the weeds in our yard. They eat them first. Bees pollinate (and once set up a hive in a tent of green peas). Bees and other insects make sure pollen falls on each and every strand of silk in our corn patch. Try pollinating yourself with a Qtip and see how much you appreciate the work of the bees.

We have a little black and white bird that likes to sit on the handle of our shovel, or on a stake if the shovel's in use. He watches my husband turn up the soil, then eats the bugs that fly up. He's a clever little fellow, fast and agile. He's a lot of fun to watch. Because we feed the birds, we have a lot of them. You might think the birds just eat the seeds. Nope. We have volunteer sunflowers that grow by our bird feeders. The birds snack on the seeds, then they snack on whatever is living on the leaves of the sunflowers. They seem to like variety.

So, you have a nice environment, good exercise, an upbeat life, and the ability to fight nicely for what is yours. What else?

You have the pleasure of the harvest. All your hard earned work now pays off and you have more fresh vegetables and fruits than you can eat or put away for winter. We find that we eat frantically, trying to eat as many veggies and fruits as we can while they're in your prime. You can practically feel the vitamins singing their way into your bodies.

I always feel better when my husband is gardening. I also feel better when tending my roses and the bird feeders show results. Even in this long year of drought my roses are blooming madly.

I am watering the garden by hand so nothing is wasted. For my trouble I have five new pepper trees and two eucalyptus coming up from the mulch. Yes, I know they aren't primo trees - or are they? They're handling this drought just fine. As are the fruit trees. The citrus trees are putting out a bumper crop this year. I find myself unhappily thinning these trees.

I'm beginning to wander. The whole point of this post is to say that if you want to be healthy, plant a garden in the winter years of your life.


1 comment:

  1. Agriculture (including decorative agriculture) is a very old human art. We're made for it.

    Not only are more and more people growing food in their gardens here in DC, but suddenly people are keeping chickens, too! Not since the 1950's has it been so popular. There is even an affinity group on Capitol Hill - "Hens on the Hill." Amazing and, I think, hopeful.

    I just returned from shopping at the organic farmer's market just opened next to the White House by the First Lady of Moxie. It was wonderful.

    A salute to the dirt! What would we do without it?


I'd love to hear from you.