16 Mar 2014 Gardening with great expectations
by Vivian Lawson Hogue
Spring has different importance to different people. A great number of people celebrate the religious seasons. Some are rejuvenated by flying a kite or breathing some fresh and perhaps fragrant air after a winter inside.
In the lives of many it is the time for choosing seeds or plants in anticipation of growing something, whether in a pot or garden. For the backyard enthusiast, working a small garden is a productive hobby that soothes and renews the soul, body and mind.
As prehistoric men hunted and women and children gathered, they discovered plants that reappeared year after year and made deductions about where and when they grew. As they traveled, seeds that perhaps clung to their clothing or foot coverings made their way to their camps and dropped to self-plant. The resulting presence of edible grains and leaves and the domestication of animals would finalize a process that caused settlements of families.
Their saved seeds were used for replanting, nourishment, gifts, trading with other settlements and stored for later use.
The pattern has not changed much! Once the seed catalogues drop into today’s mailboxes, the move is on. What comes from a seed swap or purchase can be more seeds, food, gifts to friends and harvests that are dried, canned or frozen for later use.
My first “planting” experience occurred when I was a small child as I jammed a broken twig into the ground after a spring storm. It developed into a flowering bush, and I was hooked. My dad tended to our large garden, and I continued planting sprouts, seeds and bulbs wherever I wanted. A few, such as Confederate violets, antique jonquils and a Blue Star plant, still thrive. Meanwhile, I have advanced my cause. After several years of trying to grow a garden in clay soil abundant with crawdad mounds, my husband developed a different plan. We had successfully grown vegetables in containers, so he decided to build two raised beds.
Tilling the existing garden came first, then the purchase of 8-foot fence posts and ordering 4-by-16-by-16-foot cedar planks. They arrived and so did days of rain, but eventually we had raised beds. With the aid of a young, strong neighbor, they were filled with composted cottonseed hulls and a lot of sweat. One held tomatoes, climbing green beans on an impressive string support and what a package said was bush hybrid cucumbers. The other bed was planted entirely in okra. Oh, my, how lush the plants became! Six-foot tall tomato plants, large-leafed okra and thick bean vines were such a gratifying sight!
The only problem was that’s all we had. We had foliage, but no vegetables except for bush cucumbers that hadn’t read their own package. They knew no boundaries. Down came the tomatoes and climbing beans. Bush beans were planted. Down came the beautiful okra as the cucumbers laughed.
The county extension office said we had too much nitrogen and could plant cabbage, broccoli and collards to reduce it. This was successful until a monumental winter arrived, and the plants became intriguing ice sculptures.
It’s a funny thing about gardeners. They can lose a whole crop and keep trying. It seems true that hope is eternal. Even the postman carrying my expected seed catalogs knows that.
A native of Conway, Vivian Lawson Hogue graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with a degree in art education. A retired teacher, she worked in the Conway School District for 23 years. She is editor of the Faulkner County Historical Society’s semi-annual publication, “Faulkner Facts and Fiddlings.” She can be reached at [email protected].