Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Back to the Garden

Biblical, hippie, homage to Alice Walker's brilliant essay, inspired by my daughter, saving the planet, being frugal, remembering loved ones, and of course, Candide, all bubble around through my head as I plant a row of peas.  My late brother in law, complete with Tennessee accent, which oddly does not seem out of place in my little raised bed in the middle of what I hope will be a sun spot, keeps me company as I plant out pea seeds.  It is way too late, he chides me, and the seeds are old, but I grin up at his imagined self and shrug as I poke each seed knuckle-deep into the soil.

At the end of each row, I put in 2 seeds for luck--a gift from a woman I met when she was too old to garden herself, but her wisdom had been passed along.  'Why?' I asked my friend.  'Because my grandmother did it like that.' Much of gardening is lore.

Peas, I recall, are fairly agreeable companions in the garden (unlike onions), so I think they will not mind sharing this bed with cabbages.  I could not resist the cheery dark purple seedlings at the crowded garden centre on the first bright sunny day after a too-long, too-grey, will-it-ever-be-spring season. So in recogniton of the traditions in my new country I can call this raised bed a kail yard.  More lore appropriated for a wee patch of veg.

Because I love the bright colours of Swiss chard, I planted several seeds in my flower bed.  The red-yellow-green of their stems and leaves will, I hope, complement the flowers. If not, I'll happily eat my mistakes. Many folks in the states are facing fierce opposition when they try to plant veg in their front yards.  Chard like mine are soldiers on the front lines of a war to bring land out of the outmoded model of bland grass. It seems such an unlikely thing to come between neighbours.

I have come out of retirement as a veg gardener because my daughter has taken up gardening--especially veg.  I was delighted to be back in Chicago in time to help her lay out her first veg patch in the American equivalent of an allotment.  She is using a kind of  intensive planting called square foot gardening and also taking advantage of companion planting, laying out her plants as carefully as one arranges a dinner party.


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