Write Team: Nurturing more than just those veggies

Karen Roth

How’s your garden looking?

This has been a hot summer. I’m outside watering the flowers pretty much every day unless we’ve gotten a good rainfall. Deadheading flowers is quite satisfying as is maintaining and creating garden vignettes.

We no longer have a vegetable garden. It was a lot of work for not much yield. I could never get the proper balance of soil, water and fertilizer. It made more sense to purchase produce and concentrate my efforts on our blooming flower beds.

However, there was the year when our very best vegetable harvest involved nurturing, but in an unexpected way.

Our grandson was 5 years old and very enthusiastic about digging in the dirt so we decided to include him in planting a vegetable garden. It kept him from digging all over the backyard, and I was still optimistic that we could grow and eat our own produce.

My husband showed him how to pull weeds, turn the soil and create rows for planting. We got some onion sets and lettuce, radish and carrot seeds. He was very excited to plant seeds and play with the worms that turned up.

We placed a small wire fence around the area, watered it, and hoped for the best.

The best was not what we got. Bunnies squeezed inside the fence and nibbled the tops of the plants. The lettuce that survived grew in scraggly rows. The radishes had big leafy tops and not much underneath. Our grandson checked often to see if anything was growing, so he pulled carrots and onions out before they were mature.

This wasn’t going well.

But our grandson was so enthusiastic, and he kept telling us that he was a real farmer.

He inspected his garden early one day, and rain was predicted for overnight. This news made him happy because he was convinced that all the garden needed was more rain and it would grow big.

We got a decent rain overnight, and when he ran out back the next day, he was jumping up and down for joy at what he saw. Right there, growing big and sturdy, were orange carrots.

Papa helped him pull and wiggle them until they came loose, and he ran into the kitchen clutching long carrots and taking bites before I could wash them. He didn’t care about the dirt. “I’m a real farmer! The rain grew our carrots!”

I took a picture of his proud face, standing on a chair by our kitchen sink, smiling and crunching his carrots.

It was our best gardening day.

What we nurtured that summer was more than a garden; it was a child’s sense of hope and delight. And if we, as adults, can cherish and cultivate those little ones who are entrusted to us, why not? There will be plenty of disappointments later in life. No need to burst those dreams yet.

Especially when the grocery store stocks fresh carrots, and Papa has a hoe and a heart big enough to plant them in the rain soaked garden for his little farmer.

Karen Roth is a semiretired librarian/educator living in Ottawa. She can be reached at newsroom@shawmedia.com

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