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Another summer, another garden planted

I believe that this year my garden will be a success!

Of course I got it started later than I wanted to — that’s something most of my home projects have in common. But once my husband, Mike, and I got going, we did a more thorough job of preparing our plot than we have in the past.

We tilled the soil. Then we tilled it again. We raked out rocks and clods and clumps of sod. Then we tilled it again.

Finally, we raked the surface smooth before we began to install our seeds and tender young plants. We carefully marked each row with small posts, and we made sure to leave plenty of space for us to walk around the perimeter and between the different types of crops.

We took the extra step this year of buying new fence posts. We have learned over the past couple of years that without a sturdy barrier, the rabbits, groundhogs and deer in Belmont would quickly consume everything we are trying to grow.

I had not written much about this venture so far this year for a couple of reasons. First, last year’s garden was a little disappointing. Wet weather combined with hungry critters and weeds that got ahead of us left us with a much smaller yield than we had hoped for. Second, the trend toward growing food during the COVID-19 pandemic has been covered rather extensively, and I didn’t want to bore readers with more of the same old thing.

Now, however, I am getting excited about the progress I am seeing. Many of our seeds have sprouted, and all of our plants so far appear to be healthy and even thriving.

Sure, I have mosquito bites on my legs from evening watering sessions. I’ve suffered a sting or two from bigger bugs as well. But it will all be worth it when I eat that first slice of ripe, homegrown tomato.

In addition to tomato and pepper plants that my brother, Larry, started indoors from seeds, we planted a wide variety of our own seeds right in the ground. Our root vegetables include radishes to beets, carrots and onions. We didn’t try potatoes this year, but I found and saved what I think is a “volunteer” plant that I believe sprang up from last year’s crop. (Mike doesn’t think I have identified it correctly, but he’s going along with my effort to spare it.)

We also have a “salad section” — lettuce, spinach, pak choi, etc. And we tried green beans, Lima beans, okra and corn. We have cucumbers, zucchini and squash spreading rapidly from the mounds we planted them in. And, I have a cherry tomato plant in a hanging basket on my back porch for quick and easy access.

There’s something reassuring about having a garden. Of course there are no guarantees that your crops will do well. The weather could turn wet and cause things to rot. An unexpected cold spell could put plants into shock. Furry invaders could break through the fence and cause widespread damage while they dine.

But, if all goes reasonably well and they work at it, gardeners in Ohio should be able to expect a decent yield of fresh, healthy produce on an annual basis.

Gardening makes me feel capable and independent. I like knowing that I can prepare tasty meals full of nutritious ingredients without making a trip to the store or having to resort to using frozen foods. When I eat food from my garden, I know where it came from, how long it has been in storage and what it has been exposed to. I can be confident that no poisons were used to kill weeds or insects adjacent to my food.

Those are some of the same reasons that I recently bought a quarter of a beef from a local farmer. I know, simply from driving by, that the meat I am consuming is grass-fed beef that roamed in a field just a mile or so from my home. I feel good about that, and the meat is delicious.

I have always believed – and the pandemic situation has reinforced this idea for me – that we can all be more self-sufficient, and that it is worth the effort. The more we can produce or accomplish for ourselves, the better off we are, in my opinion. Sure, you may pay a little more if you buy from small, local vendors, but chances are you will end up with a superior product and you won’t have to incur the expense of traveling to a store.

And in today’s uncertain environment, you don’t have to expose yourself to all the other people who are out shopping or working at larger businesses. For me, that seems like another big benefit.

So, I will continue to tend my garden this summer. I will water it regularly and do my best to remove the weeds. That’s about all the effort it should take at this point. Other than that, I think I simply need to wait for foods to ripen and then enjoy them.

It’s not too late for anyone else who would like to give gardening a try. Of course there are several types of plants that should have been started a few weeks ago, but tomatoes, peppers, beans and more can be obtained at many different locations – big department or hardware stores or smaller local greenhouses. They can be planted in the ground, in raised beds or even in pots on your porch.

If you aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty and you’d like to enjoy fresh food, I urge you to give it a try. And if you do, please let me know how it goes by sending me an email at jcompston@timesleaderonline.com.

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