Archived Story

Once upon a southern garden

Published 7:00am Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Gardens are special places, and gardeners are special people. My Uncle Jr. planted a fruit and vegetable garden each year. Being a hopeless tomboy when I was young, I would tag along. I would hand him poles and place seeds. I did more watching than actual helping, but Uncle Jr. tolerated me anyway.

The thing I enjoyed most was the smell of freshly turned earth. The smell of freshly turned soil is similar to the smell of the air after a summer rain — a fresh, clean aroma.

One year, as a young mother, I was determined to have fresh vegetables. I had traded the red clay soil of Lee Hill for the rich, black dirt of Southern Louisiana. I chose a little spot in the backyard and began planning my little square-foot garden. I prepared the soil, planted assorted vegetable seeds, weeded, watered and fertilized. When I was finished planting, my back was a little worse for wear, but there was a deep satisfaction in planting. And I did it all by myself. Unfortunately, we moved again before my little garden matured. I did manage to take with me three, small, but very beautiful bell peppers.

I don’t really know why I wanted the garden. I was the only one in my immediate family who would eat the vegetables. My children’s idea of a vegetable at that time was French fries. Never did I see them salivating over a plate of pole beans, okra and cornbread. They missed the distinct pleasure of tilling the ground, planting the seeds and pulling the weeds, and the wonderful aroma of dirt. I promised myself every year that I would plant a garden so my children would understand that food comes from somewhere besides the supermarket. Also to teach them what the phrase “hard row to hoe” means.

But each year passed by without planting. My son now plants a small garden most every year, providing enough vegetables for his family. I realize now that even if I could plant a garden fit for a king, and reap an immeasurable harvest, it just wouldn’t be the same.

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