Today, June 21, is the Summer Solstice, the longest day and the shortest night of the year. Humankind has known about the relationship between the earth and the sun since the dawn of time and today, as in days of yore, it is still celebrated with bonfires all around the world. Early pagan couples leaped across the flames, believing that their crops would grow as high as they could jump. There will be no bonfire or leaping in Gloucester today but with the bit of extra sunlight, we can take a Father’s Day peek at my mister gardener’s vegetable garden.
We have all heard and read much about sustainable gardening becoming more mainstream in the last few years but there are plenty of gardeners who have forever followed this philosophy. Guidelines govern what sustainable or green gardening means but in simple words, it means a garden should be part of its natural surroundings and it should exist in harmony with the environment and the rhythm of nature. My mister gardener built his garden from the soil up by amending with his compost and nourishing it with gifts from horses, chickens and the city of Yorktown’s compost. Wastes from the garden are composted and recycled into the soil. He uses as few chemical resources as possible and he is learning about and using alternatives more each year, such as the principles of integrated pest management.
There is no landscaping rule that says a vegetable garden can’t be attractive or be a part of the total landscape. Around his vegetable garden, he designed and built a handsome picket fence complete with two gates and an arbor. Knock Out roses in three shades grace the sunniest side and apple trees bear fruit on the far side. Inside his garden, friendly wide paths of organic pine needles lead you to the heart of the operation where he shares residency with a family of tolerant bluebirds.
Vegetable gardening for him is reconnecting to the Earth and every swing of the hoe is a satisfying exercise. Just strolling through his well-tended oasis brings a bit of serenity to visitors, but most importantly, these delicious and varied vegetables sustain us all summer. Is there anything like the taste of a red, ripe garden tomato, still warm from the summer sun?
Mister gardener and I both agree that the most rewarding aspect of the vegetable garden is passing on the knowledge to the next generation. Last weekend our 5 year old granddaughter visiting from Ohio was astonished to discover that potatoes grow underground. The look on her face as she dug and gathered potatoes for our evening meal was priceless.
Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester