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The Payoff for Gardeners
By Matt Cole, Director of Education on May 25, 2010
I'm eating lunch right now. (That's part of the reason there is no picture: you don't need to see me chewing.) And this sandwich is my payoff for being attentive to my gardening. It might seem to be just a leftover from dinner last night, but I know it includes the first harvest of homegrown spinach for the year. Its fun to grow plants for their beauty, or the composition of the garden overall, but there's a special satisfaction that comes with the first harvest of something edible.
In my case, I seeded the spinach when I started my peas, and but the soil was cold enough that both crops got a really slow start. Now the peas are finally starting to climb and spinach has enough leaves to take a few. I have perfectly fresh spinach from now until the plant bolts and flowers in hot weather. It's organic growing: compost has proven it self a sufficient fertilizer and a few nibbles from enterprising insects have not bothered the plants, or us hungry gardeners.
There are lots of opportunites for people to become gardeners who get payoffs. This Saturday is Beginning Vegetable and Herb Gardening taught by Betty Cahill at the Gardens. The Shop at the Gardens has many, many seeds from Botanical Interests and a selection of some garden tools. PlantTalk includes a lot of knowledge written for beginners, including one on harvesting leafy vegetables. Colorado State Extension offers even more resources for yards and gardens. The Rocky Mountain Gardening Certificate classes offer lessons for edible gardening as well as ornamental gardening. Are you going to try it this year? Think of the payoff: this sandwich blended tastes of tomato, cheese, spinach and spices, baked in the oven on crusty bread.
Some people speak about urban gardening as a virtue: a homegrown, self-reliance value or a sustainability solution or a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps story that might have been penned by Horatio Alger. To me, it is a pleasure and a satisfaction. The taste and nourishment is wonderful but is further sweetened by the knowledge of success. However modest it seems, growing from seeds to plant to table is an accomplishment, an intention carried out and made manifest. And while we gardeners mourn our failures, (That one potted tomato 2 years ago? I still can't figure it out!) it's important to celebrate success, whether we call it "organic spinach for lunch" or "I didn't kill it after all!" I know that my now-finished sandwich with its spinach will sustain me into the afternoon while the pleasure of success will sustain me through the year. That's the payoff.
Now if only the carrots were as happy...