Come away, and play in the garden with me!

Come away, and play in the garden with me!

…. It was 30 years ago this year …. he had spent the previous spring helping Uncle Gubby in the greenhouse and playing in the garden with me. Now he wanted to have a garden of his own!

He made that declaration in the fall, and I truly didn’t think this new interest of having a garden would last, but we picked out a spot at the base of my herb garden, added compost from the pile and chopped-up leaves from around the yard, then used the little Mantis to till it all into the soil. We surrounded the new beds with white birch logs and stones from the stream. He made sure to invite some of our “girls” (worms from the compost bin) to move into his new garden too.

Then came the waiting . . . Cold. Winter. Snow.

When? He kept asking. When!?!

Around the first of the year the seed catalogs started to arrive. And then a special trip to a seed company with his sister and Uncle Gubby. . .

I may not remember all the details of that year correctly (every story “evolves” over time), and I’ve shared snippets of this story many times at lectures and in publications. But I do remember it was time to order seeds. Lots of catalogs had been arriving over the previous few weeks, with tempting colorful photos and delicious sounding descriptions. I looked in the drawer of grandma’s apothecary where I kept all my family’s gardening records. Not a single catalog was there. That was very strange. I looked in the pile of magazines by the door, on my desk, and in the basement where the grow lights were patiently waiting. Still no new catalogs. I looked in the old box where we put papers to light our wood furnace. I even rummaged through the recycle bags in the shed. Could I have mistakenly tossed out my pages of garden dreams? It’s not that I didn’t know my old stand-by varieties by heart. I even had seed I’d been saving from year to year from my grandmother’s garden. But there was no internet e-commerce back then, so printed seed catalogs and garden magazines were our only link to all the new varieties, gardener’s success stories and farmer’s reviews.

He wanted a garden of his own . . .

As I entered his bedroom (he was still in school that day), I was greeted by a basket of stuffed sand animals and a few John Deere tractors scattered around the floor. The bookcase was overflowing as always, but peeking out from under the bed was the tattered corner of . . . not a book, but a seed catalog! When I got down on my knees and looked under the bed, I found all those pages of garden visions. Every catalog was dog-eared. And in every one, images of cherry tomatoes were circled. Garden Candy! He was way ahead of me then, and still is today.

As we all dream of the fabulous gardens we’re planning this season, make time to invite your children, grandchildren or the children in your neighborhood to ‘Come Play In The Garden’ with you. For far too long, we’ve used the term ‘work’ in the garden. If you show children the joy of finding a worm, following a toad, watching a bee, or measuring the length of a bean stalk each morning, I promise you, they will come back to the garden someday. “If they get the soil under their fingernails, it never completely washes away”. I can speak from experience. Although my children are grown adults now, each has come back to the garden. If you don’t already know, you can find this young man working for a seed company in Connecticut and his sister editing a national garden magazine. Both have gardens of their own but still will stop by and help me weed my garden (without complaint!). But what they really are looking for is a stray ladybug memory or maybe the first ripe cherry tomato.

In the coming weeks I’ll try and post some of the garden projects I’ve done with children and shared with teachers all over New England.

~ to the joy of sharing the garden with the next generation!

~ Sandy

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