The therapy of gardening

I just finished planting some pansies that were a gift to me for Easter. I love the look of pansies because it seems that each one is different. They often resemble little faces. This is not the first time that I had pansies in my pots. I used to plant them all the time. At least with pansies you are safe to plant a little early because they are quite hardy. Still I hope the cold weather is mostly passed so that the flowers will be safe.

The year I went to Alaska I planted a few of my plants early (May) because they were getting rather scraggly. Well, guess what? The weather in Alaska was warmer than the weather here. We were dressed in layers so that we could take off some of the layers to be comfortable.

When I called home I found out they had a killing frost the morning that I called. Everything that I planted was gone. I had to start over when I returned home.

I remember one year that the field corn froze in June and had to be replanted because it was too far along to be saved. That year we planted corn in front of the little farm that we rented for extra pasture land. We also used the little barn when construction at the large barn was being completed. The heifers stayed over there.

My in-laws always had a garden. Melvin loved to plant it and watch it grow. The women were often recruited to keep the weeds out. Although my father-in-law liked to plant, he was not as eager to eat what was produced. He was not a good vegetable eater. Of course, he ate lettuce and tomatoes, but the green beans and carrots were not his favorites. One year he had carrots that were big enough for each one to be a meal for four!

When we lived by the farm my children played near the garden. One year when we were particularly late putting it in, the children played with the toy farm machinery in the freshly plowed earth. They pretended they were planting things like the men did. At the time my daughter had very thin hair. I often held it out of her face by putting in barrettes. That year that they pretended to plant things many of her barrettes got planted as well. They fell out of her hair into the dirt and were buried. Even though the barrettes were bright colored, we could not find many of them.

The garden at Hickory Heights was not a full garden. The clay soil did not produce much in the garden. All we had were flower beds and flower boxes. I few times I tried to grow tomatoes with some success.

Every year I plant the flower boxes differently. I remember the very first year that I had to do the planting. I cried all the while I planted because my husband was too sick to care about them. Planting the boxes was a chore that I inherited. Up to that point my husband always did the planting because he loved to see things grow.

Once the duty of planting the boxes fell to me I chose different flowers to highlight each year. I usually decided on a color scheme and planted accordingly. I went to the store and returned with whatever fit my color scheme. Some of my favorites are the petunias. They are prolific as long as you keep dead-heading them.

We have an old watering trough made of stone that came from a farm at the end of the road. First, it was brought to the farm where my husband used to milk cows. When we moved up here, the trough came with us. Often I plant that with marigolds because the wild animals leave them alone.

My herb bed needed to be cleaned out. Some of the herbs return, but others have to be planted annually. I love my fresh herbs. They are just out by my patio so they are handy to get. I have fresh herbs all summer. Tonight I will have my first cottage cheese with chives. I know you can purchase it at the store, but it does not taste as good as it does with fresh chives.

There is still work to be done in the flower beds. I have to trim back some of the plants and break away last year’s growth. My grandson helped me pick up the dead branches that had fallen in the yard. Maybe I can get the other grandchildren to help me in the flower beds. They did last year.

It is therapeutic to get your hands in the dirt. Often I use my hands to do most of the digging for the new plants. I mark out holes so that I know how many plants I need. You would think I would remember from year to year, but somehow it escapes me. I either get too many plants or too few. If I get too many I always can manage. I find some spots to stick in a bit of color, but if I do not have enough I have to make another trip to the garden store.

My pansies are planted and now I am just waiting for a morning that is warm enough to enjoy my tea or coffee outdoors!

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at