Tuesday, April 3, 2012


I just finished reading the book "From the Ground Up" by Amy Stewart. (For free from the library program ListenAlaska!) It's about this woman's first garden, which naturally happened in California. (If they're not set in the Northeast, all of these books about gardeners seem to be about California.) Despite the location (what relevance does gardening in California have for me?) I found the book both captivating and reassuring. It was wonderful to read about someone else's rookie mistakes, trials, and the stubborn determination that all first time gardeners must have to keep going. I could totally understand where she was coming from. Knowing nothing and trying not to let it show in front of the other gardeners? Doesn't sound like me at all....
But there's value in these books for me beyond simply getting tips about how to grow plants, or in the camaraderie of reading about someone else making the same mistakes you did. Tthrough this book about a far away place where people can grow things like citrus trees for heaven's sake (something that I'm very, very jealous about) I discovered a measure of gratitude for my own place to garden in. This book reminded me that there are far worse things when it comes to gardening than a lack of plant variety for your climate. Things like ticks, aphids, cabbage worms, blight, rot, plant rust, slugs, snails, gophers...things that I will never have to deal with. Can you see my smile? Can you? I've never encountered even one of these problems here! Most of the bugs that attack plants like that can't take the climate in Alaska. (We don't have cockroaches or many spiders for the same reason.) In some ways, I've realized, gardening in Fairbanks is simpler than it is other places. I put my plants out, weed a bit, water when they need it, and basically let them do their thing.
Just about the time I need it, I usually get a swift (metaphorical) kick. I shouldn't be complaining to myself that I can't grow peaches. What I should be doing is breathing a sigh of relief that the worst bug I'll have to deal with this summer will be the mosquitoes that will eat me, but leave my plants alone. The only plant disease I've had to deal with is a bit of blossom end rot on my squashes, which occurs because of nutrient deficiencies in the soil and is very easy to fix. My season is short, but I will get full days of sunlight for my plants to soak up and get big and strong, without darkness or tornadoes and wind or excessive heat and humidity to worry about. I don't even have to think about them.
There are so many things that keep gardeners going, but the one trait we all have in common, I think, is the desire to persevere. To create something wonderful, even if it only lasts as long as a few blooms or a meal or two. We realize that if one crop fails, another will do well. Perhaps next year the one that failed will prevail? I think anyone who gardens has to be an optimist at heart. We rely on little more than faith, when it comes down to it, that the conditions will be right and we'll get a good year. And if we don't, there's always the next crop or the next year to look forward to.

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