Gardening is good for the soul
In one of my periods of unemployment, I found a minimum wage job working at a 500 acre plant nursery. Having graduated within the last year from Benedictine College, I considered myself underemployed. My boss lacked people skills, but I worked with a very pleasant black woman in her forties who possessed a very simple and steadfast faith. She quietly sang gospel music while she worked, which inspired me to pray constantly. I started reading the Rule of St. Benedict during my lunch breaks, and soon found peace in my difficult job. Surprisingly I also found a new love for gardening, and within a few weeks, our apartment balcony overflowed with all kinds of plants.
Two years later, Mikki and I bought our first house. Mapping our veggie garden became my primary goal. Four years later I still have a garden, which has taken different shapes and sizes since its first bloom. Eventually, we planted edibles the entire way around the house; but despite the ever-shifting form, one thing has never changed. The garden is a place of solace, where man is at his most basic level, working with God’s creation to provide for his family. Many days have passed when I have become lost in my garden, losing track of time and place, and forgetting I was only in the backyard.
What makes a garden even more wonderful is children. My daughter is now two years old, but her gardening hobby began last year when she picked up a pail and began picking red tomatoes by my side. This year, she walks with me along the front yard garden bed and points out all the ripe blackberries, none of which have made it past her mouth and into the house.
Today was a particularly nice harvest afternoon. No spectacular amounts of food, but all of it was delicious. I thought I’d write in and share some of my favorite crops over the years.
1. Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherries – I first heard about AMGC on The Survival Podcast Forum. Ground Cherries are part of the tomatillo family and like the tomatillo at the grocery store, they grow in little “paper lanterns.” Wait until the ground cherries fall off the vine before picking and eating. One plant will produce hundreds throughout the summer. (It’s not to late to buy and plant these.) Spend the $3 on transplants. My daughter eats them by the dozen, and my wife makes pies from them. You won’t regret it.
2. Blackberries – We planted a half dozen blackberry bushes last year. This year the bushes began to produce and we’ve picked about 20 berries so far. The blackberries at the store are about the size of a large marble. The blackberries in my garden are about the size of a beanie-weenie. I’ve never seen such big fruits. A trellis is good, but not necessary. I do suggest buying nets to keep the birds away. Blackberries are a perennial, which means you don’t have to plant them over and over.
3. Blueberries – We just bought the plants in January during our non-winter, so they’re not quite ripe yet. Buy two types for cross-pollination and healthy fruit. Also a perennial.
4. Lettuce – Buttercrunch lettuce was the center of our dinner salad tonight. The only bad thing about it was its sweet taste made everything else taste bitter by comparison.
5. Lemon balm – Put it in your tea or water, or do like I do and just eat the leaves while gardening.
6. Rosemary – This plant gets a workout at our house. Guys and gals, if you think you’re not a good cook, go out and buy a 1 gallon clay pot and plant some rosemary. Whenever you cook chicken, steak, fish, potatoes, broccoli, anything, add rosemary to add some flavor (plus it makes the kitchen smell like you know what you’re doing). Personally, I’ll cut a 6 inch sprig for each piece of meat, then throw it right on top. You can also make skewers from the more woody stems, which adds a delicious lagniappe to kabobs. Also a perennial.
We grow the tomatoes, squash and zucchini, and bell peppers, but the crops listed above are staples in our house. Not only do they taste good, but they give our family time outside learning about plants and working with God’s creation. I highly recommend trying a little gardening, even if you live in an apartment. You may find it a little peas-ful.