Spring gardening after a long, cold winter brings joy to the spirit

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By: Jim Carpenter

Jennifer Shephard/The Elkhart Truth

We all knew it would come sooner or later. It just seems that Old Man Winter holds on for an awfully long time. But finally spring is here, and with it are all the birds singing and the color green is making a comeback in a big way.

This is the time when a person might go from having no outdoor activities to suddenly not having enough hours in the day to get everything done. At least this is the case for me.

I am usually a bit of an eager beaver when it comes to getting out early potatoes, and this year was no exception. I planted five pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes the last week of March and sowed a few short rows of a lettuce mixture.

Oftentimes those early spuds just wait around for warmer weather anyway and end up not being much ahead of potatoes planted a number of weeks later. Oh well, for me it just feels good to have something in the ground as soon as possible.

I have a brother-in-law in southern Indiana who has supplied me with some great broccoli and cabbage plants the last couple of years. I can pick those up when we visit family down there to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday (92 this year) the first or second week of April.

So I now have 18 broccoli plants and 12 cabbage plants doing nicely in my raised beds. The raised beds dry out a little faster than the rest of my garden, so it works out really well to plant in them before I am able to till the larger area.

I am glad I can plant a lot of early stuff in my raised beds because the cover crop I planted last fall in the main garden is just now really taking off and I can let it grow a while until I till it under.

Last weekend was pretty busy for me in the garden since my wife and I made a trip to one of our favorite garden centers west of New Paris. I picked up another 10 pounds of potatoes (five pounds Kennebec and five pounds Red Norland), about 250 onion plants and 25 new strawberry plants.

Add in the 25 trees I picked up Saturday at the Master Gardener/Soil and Water Conservation tree sale, and I had a whole lot of plantin’ to do! But everything is in the ground and looking good at this point.

I planted all 25 trees around the perimeter of our one-plus acre at the house so I can keep an eye on them and water them along. Anything I try to plant in my wooded/meadow/pond area has a tough time surviving because of all the hungry critters and the competition of the meadow grasses. I try to help them along, but they are nearly a half mile from my house, and I just don’t get to them.

I have got one minor success story back there in the meadow area, with a river birch nearly 60 feet tall that I planted when we moved here 26 years ago. Oh well, nature has provided many small mulberry, soft maple and sycamore trees in and around all the nettles and sumac that grow back there.

Back to the garden. Gardening provides so much more than just fresh flowers or vegetables. For me the interaction of working with the soil and producing food and enjoying the beauty of all the other plants is an activity that helps to enrich the soul.

Recent studies indicate that there is a component in the soil that actually seems to have a positive effect on human emotions. Gardening as an anti-depressant would seem to be natural, easy help for a bit of an uplift to your attitude.

Another thing about gardening for me is just the exhilaration of this time of year of being able to walk outside without bundling up in all the gear that was necessary for outside activities just a few short weeks ago. The extra daylight we start having this time of year is also an energizer for most of us.

Gardening is first, and I suppose foremost, a physical activity. But beyond that, there is a mental component in deciding what, how and where everything will be planted, and plans are formulated for future weeding, feeding, harvesting and storage.

But for most of us, I truly feel gardening is especially beneficial as a positive spiritual source. Even when things don’t produce the way we had hoped, even when the struggles to overcome weeds and pests seem to get the best of us, we can still find a degree of joy in the pursuit of something that not only connects us with the land around us, but also helps us to connect with one another.

If we will pursue in passion, we shall reap in passion.

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