The Garden Curse

Gardens are like being enslaved by some psychological demon that only you can see. Oh, sure you go on about how much you love gardening and the taste of fresh garden produce, but that is not you talking the garden itself has taken control over you. Gardening actually starts in the fall after your garden has been picked clean, the potatoes and onions are dug and you prepare the soil for next spring. Some of you will find some kind of manure to till into the dirt for fertilizer and then argue which is better, hog or turkey. During the winter months you worry that it will get too cold before there is adequate snow cover to insulate the soil allowing the frost to penetrate deep into the ground. When the snow comes you worry about getting too much snow sitting on your garden. Finally, during the holidays and that time of deep winter you don’t think about the garden and the “beast” loosens its grip allowing you to feel free. In February the Gurney’s seed catalog shows up and you are pulled you back in. You start thinking about what you’re going to plant and where in garden it should go but spring is still three months away! This is a dangerous time for you, it’s the middle of winter but you find yourself obsessed with gardening but can’t do anything about. It’s an itch that can’t be scratched.
Planting season does eventually arrive as it always does and you find yourself tilling your garden to aerate the soil, happy that you can finally scratch the itch that has plagued you for so long. You spend days planting making sure each row is straight. Once everything is up and growing you are forced to work your garden everyday pulling weeds and tilling in-between the rows, hoeing between plants, you dig and nurture until dusk. Then comes the bug season, you’re powdering the potatoes, and cabbage, spraying fungicide on the tomatoes all to protect your precious plants. Then, you notice that your garden is being attacked by vermin, rabbits are eating your lettuce, squirrels are digging holes and the gophers are stealing your potatoes. You have no choice but to load your pellet gun and lay in wait for these thieving animals to appear and so you can kill them for eating your food. Deep inside yourself a pang of guilt washes over you for killing these cute little creatures that you wouldn’t normally harm. But the garden has control and you must save your crop by all means. About the time your vegetables began to bear fruit and fill the dry season hits and your garden demands moisture so now you must water. Your hobby is now a full blown curse, you can’t even take a vacation without making arrangements with someone to water the garden so it doesn’t wither and die. Suddenly its harvest time and everything is ready for picking all at the same time. Every day you’re on your hands and knees picking buckets of fresh produce that will need to be washed and cared for so after dark you’re blanching, freezing, and canning, it’s a nightmare from which you can’t escape. You’re consumed by the garden, but you must forage on or crop will be lost and all the while you’re telling yourself how wonderful this is, there is nothing like fresh picked vegetables. The garden has your full and undivided attention, other things in your life are put on hold, your kids look like rag muffins as they wander around undernourished in unwashed clothes, but you are busier than busy with no escape in site.
I too was once bitten by the garden ghost, Deb and I would toil day and night not realizing that I own a grocery store with fresh fruit and vegetables coming in every day. One of the rules of our garden was not to walk in the garden for its hallowed ground, and you had to walk around the garden. We have since managed to break our curse, my garden has been seeded into grass that I can mow, I’m now free to enjoy the summer, I can sit in my yard and bird watch or read. I can go for bike rides or play golf without guilt. However, there are times when I can still feel the glow of the garden beast lurking, when walking in my yard I tend to hesitate before stepping on my old garden spot; the beast is telling me to walk around it.


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