At right, the author on her plot at the community gardens.
By Lynn Turner
July in Georgia and again here in the garden it’s hotter than a Waffle House griddle, and again, I’m on my knees in a WWW Wrestling match with crabgrass and spawn of Godzilla thistles that are clinging to bedrock between rows of tomatoes and peppers. Surely all the salty perspiration pouring off my face and into my eyes is good for my complexion and, hopefully, my ratty straw hat is keeping most of the poisonous UV rays from causing too many more sunspots. Why is this fun?
Gardening masochism is apparently one of my great summer joys. It’s hard to understand and even harder to explain the pure happiness that dirt, bug bites and aching muscles bring with summer in the garden. There is something about suffering that makes the corn sweeter - those few ears we beat the raccoons to - and the basil is more pungent and tastier than even the organic kind from the farmers’ market. Purchased produce just can’t hold a, well, hoe to home grown, battled-for veggies that have been nurtured by just the right combination of compost, loving care and cow poop.
The site of my anticipated cornucopia is two rented plots at the community garden near the old mine in Jasper. Just getting into the garden is similar to accessing a safe deposit box in the bank. First, there is the payment of the yearly fee and the awarding of the coveted key that ensures entry into this Eden. Then there are reminders to always lock the exterior gate and to turn off the electric fence before touching it. My husband assures me that forgetting this last step allows one to experience the fence working as a defibrillator and hair curler. He has first-hand knowledge of both. The first year he and I joined the elite group of gardeners, we felt like fraternity pledges that had escaped the humiliation of a blackballing ceremony. Lucky us! We were astounded that anyone (like some people we know) would give up their coveted plot when getting one was such a plum. We now know that the folks in charge of recruiting for the garden could make a fortune selling Amway.
We have met a diverse group of fellow gardeners. Folks, like us, who have simply given up trying to grow anything at home in poor soil and too much shade while ravenous deer impatiently tap their feet waiting for the first sprouts to appear. There is one woman who douses her plants with so much Sevin dust that she moves around the garden in a perpetual white cloud, and there is a latter day hippy who gardens organically and simply laughs as he flicks the bugs off his plants. He doesn’t seem to mind in the least that his leafy vegetables are about 75 percent holes.
And there are the groundhogs. The hillside near the garden is riddled with their condos. They can be seen leaning on their elbows and sunbathing as they await their opportunity for a raid which inevitably comes after some exhausted gardener forgets to turn the electric fence back on.
Of course, there is the expense of gardening. I have still not read it, but I no longer scoff at the title The 64 Dollar Tomato, a chronicle of one man’s gardening experience. While it may contain some humor, the cost for the satisfaction of gardening is no laughing matter. Next time you happen to think that organically grown or farmers’ market vegetables are outrageously expensive, you might want to reconsider. On so many levels, they are a bargain. Nevertheless, vegetables grown in your own garden are still the best.
Lynn and her husband Gary Corn and cat Tulip live in Bent Tree. She is a volunteer with Pickens Animal Rescue with the Rescued Furniture Store where she was inspired to write about Bob, Rescued Furniture Store’s kitty greeter. She is also involved with the Pickens County Library Board, the Bent Tree Library, the Senior Citizens Center library and the Sassafras Literary Exchange when she is not battling weeds in her garden. Her e-mail is marwood710@ gmail.com