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Getting ourselves back to the garden

After dropping my daugther off at kindergarten this week, she wouldn’t let me leave until I saw the sprouting marigolds.

“Look! Look!” she said, rushing me over to a tray of potting soil.

Sure enough, the seeds the class had planted several weeks ago had grown into inch-high sprouts. They just may bloom in time for summer vacation.

Planting things has been a topic of discussion in our house lately. In fact, several packets of flower and vegetable seeds were discovered in my daughter’s Easter basket – she can’t wait to plant them!

My wife and I are thinking of transforming part of our backyard and front yard into garden areas.  We’ve thought about it before, but this time we’re serious – partly because we can avoid spending money on store-bought vegetables, partly because it’s fun!

Already some of the fruit trees in the backyard are blooming, a promise of things to come. The small plum tree we transplanted two summers ago bore a single plum last year. The Asian pear tree bore fruit – lots of it – for the first time in the 10 years we’ve lived here.

We’re not the only ones turning our attention to gardening. Garden shops and home improvement stores are advertising like crazy, targeting people spurred by the recession into growing their own food.

However, those unaccustomed to growing their own food may be surprised by how much work is involved. It’s for that reason that gardening will be a family affair for the Graves. (I pulled weeds as a child, so will my daughter.)

Speaking of gardening and my childhood ...

My mother was born and raised on a Kentucky farm, so when she married and moved to Southern California, it was only natural for her to turn parts of the small backyard into mini gardens. I think she waited a whole week before transforming the corner were my metal swing set once stood into a teaming garden.  And she had on hand two somewhat relunctant farmhands – my brother and I.

Hardly a summer day went by when my brother and I weren’t dispatched to retrieve a fresh head of cabbage or a handful of raddishes from the garden. Strawberry and artichoke plants filled planter boxes and a lemon and plum tree provide plenty of fruit.

In fact, I spent countless summer days climbing that prolific plum tree, not only to stuff my face with the plump, juicy fruit but to supply my profitable sidewalk fruit stand (lemonade and Kool Aid stands were so passé).

I look forward to providing my daughter the same opportunities and rewards that gardening offers. It’s a chance for her to learn that fruits and vegetables don’t just magically appear at the grocery store.

Sure, gardening will take a lot of work and time, but that’s what kids are for. Seriously, I’d rather spend my energy and precious free time working the garden with my family than all of us staring at the TV.

Gardening helps us to appreciate work and that it is not always easy. And what  better place to develop a good work ethic than playing in the dirt?

You don’t need a lot of land – people in big cities have been growing food successfully in pots and planters on roofs, balconies and window sills for years. Some eco-minded folks have started covering their roofs with dirt and growing things.

If you have no experience, start small. Find an area that gets a lot of sunshine, prepare the soil appropriately, plant your seeds or starter plants and watch the magic happen!

Who knows, maybe next time it will be you rushing me over to your garden and saying, “Look! Look!”

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