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    Fun and Necessary

    Here is my second article for the second day…do you know how it is, when you love something, and you can’t always seem to stop doing it?  It almost becomes a habit.  Not in a bad way, but in a, “I must stop doing this and move on to that” kind of way?  So it is with writing and me.  Sharing, as I’ve come to think of it.  We all have things that we enjoy so much, that the only way to have more joy is to bring someone else in on the wonderfulness of it.  One of my joys (besides writing), that is sometimes even more joyful when shared, is gardening.  Sometimes, because I have learned to find contentment and joy all by myself.  I love sharing what makes me happy, but this is a time in my life when I understand that true pleasure is often first experienced alone.  Discovery, wonder, awe.  Feeling thrilled.

    It may seem simplistic, but growing things makes me happy.  And I mean that in the verb and the noun sense of the phrase - to be the instigator of the growth, and to notice things that grow.  Maybe that’s why children bring me such joy.  It is pure pleasure to watch them think, play, and experience life.  Back to gardening.  If you don’t have a vegetable patch at your house, then here is your encouragement.  It can be great fun, and it is almost a necessity.  With soaring fuel prices, and increases in goods and services across the board, food costs continue to climb.  Our nation’s vegetables, grains, and protein sources are bombarded with chemicals, so there is also a health benefit to ‘growing your own’.  You don’t have to delve deeply into those economic and safety issues to understand the logic.  Problems arise, though, with logistics and practical application.  Questions about space, desire, and the time and energy involved in supplying your family with homegrown tomatoes.  The prime growing season is upon us, so fresh foods are just a few weeks away.  I mean locally grown and plant ripened.  Not shipped in from foreign lands, artificially grown out of season (you have probably guessed by now that real food is a passion of mine).  Local farmers markets are opening, stores are beginning to stock great tasting organic produce, so finding those salad fixins’ will get a little easier.  Apartment dwellers, don’t despair.  If you have a balcony or patio, or even a porch or some unused sidewalk space, container gardening is the way to go.

    Beginning a small, home garden does not have to be overwhelming.  Find a sunny patch of ground, or any large growing container - that is your first hurdle.  If using a spot in your yard, remove the top layers of grass and discard.  Turn the soil over a few times with a shovel until it is loose and lovely.  Drop down and pick up a handful of dirt.  Give it a squeeze to check out its condition.  If it stays in a solid ball, you have too much clay.  If it won’t clump at all, it’s too sandy or dry.  Add a little sand or ground limestone to clay soil, and compost to the sandy soil.  You’ll want to add some compost anyway, to both soil types, to begin your growing season.  You can usually find bagged compost at any garden store, and some municipalities are composting their city tree trimmings.  Truckloads (and smaller amounts) may be available to citizens for a small fee.  Shredded leaves and tree limbs, pine needles, dried grass clippings can all be used as organic matter to fresh garden soil.  To your tubs or large buckets, add organic garden soil.  Stir through a little compost and you are ready to go.

    Do a little reading, a little research, and you can have your garden spot ready to go in short order.  For first timers, it’s no harder than buying plants from your local nursery.  Start with basic vegetables - tomatoes, peppers, maybe a yellow squash.  Figure in the spacing for each plant and don’t overbuy.  Dig your hole, pop the plant in (out of its little pot), back in the soil, tamp down, and water very well.  Keep a good watch on them until they are established.  Cool nights, lack of rain, and varmints can all wreck a new garden.  As the plants grow, keep them watered in dry weather, and feed midseason with an organic fertilizer (one you make yourself or purchase).

    There are several vegetables and herbs you can begin from seed.  Most seed packets have complete planting instructions.  If this will be your first vegetables-by-seed, try lettuce, spinach, and basil.  If these first few weeks are successful, in another week or so, you can plant a half row of green beans or some cucumbers.  Don’t let a little dirt and hard work keep you from experiencing your first harvest, from your garden, worked with your own hands!

    This post is truly a brief gardening overview, but reading material and helps are just a library or a website away.  I can recommend the following books and online resources, just to get you started:

    Anything from Rodale Press
    They have books and resources on all things gardening and health ~ one of the grandfather publishers on home gardening and good health.

    Crockett’s Victory Garden, James Underwood Crockett

    1,001 Old-Time Garden Tips, Roger Yepsen, Editor

    Nitron Industries & Garden IQ
    A source for soil amendments, organic fertilizers, and advice

    Discover what makes you happy, learn to enjoy it alone, then multiply that joy by finding some way to share it with others.

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