How Does Your Garden Grow?

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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I knelt in the tilled dirt, under a patch of blue sky.

In one hand, I held a packet of radish seeds, and in the other hand, a sharp garden tool. I was poised to plunge spade-first into the spring-planting season – a season that woos both the hopeful and the naïve.

My husband, a farmer, had tilled this stretch of black dirt next to his cornfield so I could plant a small buffet of produce: beets, carrots, beans, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes.

As I crouched in the dirt and arranged seed packets, my mind entertained grand and gleeful visions. I thought about the ways in which gardening would instill a good work ethic in our daughters, ages nine and seven. I fast-forwarded to the midsummer dinner table and envisioned my family benefiting nutritionally from my hard work.

And, in my delusions of gardening grandeur, I began to mentally collect ribbons at the county fair, tacking them on the bulletin board next to my much-anticipated Mother-of-the-Year Award.

Just then, reality barged into the garden, rudely interrupting my daydreams. You see, I have the brownest thumb in the neighborhood. (Unless you count my wildly prolific thistle patch.)

It seems every farm wife worth her weight in topsoil can plant a garden, except me. Oh, I’ve tried.

I once planted five rows of vegetables in the backyard, but failed to fence my plot. By July the rabbits and deer had eaten all the produce. A year later, I borrowed rows in Grandma Lee’s garden, but I was so fearful of the snakes in her yard, that I stopped weeding my section.

I quit gardening altogether for several years, and do most of my “canning” in the aisles of the supermarket. I owe deep gratitude to Del Monte for feeding my family.

Meanwhile, each spring, my husband faithfully plants hundreds of acres of corn and soybeans in straight, evenly spaced rows. And each fall, as I witness his harvest, I am secretly envious of the fruits of his labor.

This spring, I vowed, would be different. I carefully picked an assortment of seeds. I plotted where I’d plant each row. I carefully marked the garden with dowels.

Yes, there have been a few errors – minor, really. My garden hose was fifteen feet shy of reaching the garden. I spilled half the radish seeds in the bean row. Fifteen minutes into our planting adventure, I couldn’t find my co-laborers. Later, I found them behind the shed, attempting to give one of the farm cats a haircut – a trim of the whiskers with some blunt-tip Fiskars.

And, my husband gently informed me that I wasn’t using a hoe when I planted the garden. That sharp tool was our ice chopper. (Common mistake. Note the striking resemblance to a hoe.)

But, two hours after I dropped the first seed in the ground – voila – our garden was planted. That was a week ago.

Just this morning, one of our daughters came bursting through the back door with a report: “Something is growing in the garden!”

I rushed outside to see. Sure enough, a long – and somewhat straight – line of green has sprouted. Behold, the miracle of spring.

Our family owes its thanks not to me, but to the good Lord, who had the sense to plant us in Iowa, a state that lays claim to some of the most forgiving soil in the world.

With things in proper perspective, I no longer dream of prize-winning radishes. I'll be satisfied with sinking my teeth into something that grew out of a hole that was dug with an ice chopper.

Image by Elizabeth O. Weller. Used with permission. Post by Jennifer Dukes Lee.