As a child and teenager, I remember our family always having a garden. Maybe it wasn’t a big, lavish garden, but it was a plot with vegetables. Usually, the garden consisted of green beans, (my job was to pick it every other day), lettuce, and tomatoes.
I grew up in the northern United States and it rains often. Some summers, there are more rainy days than sunny ones.
My early garden experience went like this — If it didn’t rain, the garden died. The familiar lament of gardeners was, “Boy, I hope it rains. Our gardens sure need the moisture!”
It never entered my mind that we could “water” the crop.
My thinking must have been a cultural thing. No one watered.
However, I do recall in the later years of my mother’s life, her standing there over the tomatoes and green vegetables, pointing the hose at the plants, and spraying for about 10 minutes.
Fred would laugh to himself, knowing that this kind of watering was nothing more than spitting on the plants.
But, you see, the “mindset” was not to water, and certainly not to water very much. In fact, I didn’t know the half of it regarding the work of putting in a garden, and knowing what it needs to thrive.
Can you imagine my shock then, moving to Kansas and seeing irrigation pipes in the fields, and lawn sprinklers turned on and moved every hour or so?
It took this girl a while to absorb what was natural to the mindset of the Kansan.
It was definitely a change of thinking for me.
Now, fast forward to 2017.
This year’s garden is already in and growing. This garden will not suffer any setbacks if Fred can help it!
The garden is a work of love. After all, it’s a living experiment, don’t forget. One can’t risk its demise. Irrigating the garden is a major consideration, and Fred’s intricate hose system keeps the plants watered.
Our northern friends would be impressed.
We in Kansas know that gardens cannot be left to their own devices.
This week, I offered to help Fred in the garden. He lit up like a light bulb!
He needed help putting straw over the different crucial areas of the garden. Straw not only keeps down the weeds, but also preserves that precious moisture in the soil.
“OK,” I remarked. “Let me grab my gloves.” Manicure preservation!
Fred explained — “All you need to do is break up the bales of straw and spread the straw around the plants; being careful not to break the little tomato plants.”
“What fun,” I thought.
I got on my knees and picked out a chunk of straw on which to kneel. The knees, you know! I painstakingly babied each of those little delicate plants, and spread the straw. It was damp and smelled like cow pee!
Pretty soon, I was in pain. My back hurt. Everything hurt. No way was I going to admit how out of condition I was, bending, breaking the bales, getting down on the ground and tearing them apart.
The next task was to place the watering system hoses down each row. We lifted the connected hoses over the 5-foot fence, being careful to not tangle them. I was feeling pretty stiff and tired. I kept thinking, “This is good for me, this is good for me!”
OK, well, I don’t have to shovel snow and I don’t have to put chains on my tires any more — plus I don’t have to worry about a freeze in August, so I guess this facet of garden labor is a fair trade-off.
It’s tough being a gentleman farmer, I tell you.
Now, when I go up north to visit, it seems very peculiar to hear their thoughts about it all. It goes like this:
I ask salespersons in the stores, “How much rain did you get yesterday?” answer; “Oh it rained quite a bit, I’d say!” They have never measured rainfall in their lives. They get oodles of rain every year, after all.
Or, I ask, “how is your garden doing?” Answer: “We need rain or the gardens will not make it”.
As for all of us at this time of the year, the rain can stop now, already! “Uncle, uncle!” Maybe we will end up with a dry summer, and if that’s the case, we are prepared to bring on the water.
Judi Tabler is a guest columnist for the Great Bend Tribune and her views don’t necessarily reflect those of the paper. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.