More than Vegetables

The GardenWorks Project thanks Cindy Crosby, author, Master Gardener, and instructor at the Morton Arboretum, for her thoughtful submission to our blog. To read more of Cindy's work, visit her blog, Tuesdays in the Tallgrass. You can also hear Cindy's presentation on composting at our Spring Kickoff Volunteer Meeting on April 14.

When I was eight, I took piano lessons with my younger sister at the private home of Mrs. Hart. While my sister tortured the keys trying to play “My Little Birch Canoe” I waited in an overstuffed chair in Mrs. Hart’s living room, restlessly leafing through her magazines. One of those magazines was the Burpee Seed Catalog.

For a kid who loved all vegetables (yeah, I know – I was different), this was a virtual mecca of delights. Giant ears of buttery-yellow corn. Tomatoes that looked like they’d melt in your mouth. Amazing vegetables I’d never seen in the Midwest. Kohlrabi? Kale? In the 1960s, these had never made it near my smalltown dinner table. Even the radishes, which I wasn’t particularly fond of, looked delicious. “Icicle!” “Cherry Belle!” The names alone made me want to sample them.

At home, I begged my mother for a little corner of our backyard to plant my own garden. Willingly, she spaded up a plot for me by the fence so I could plant my first patch of growing things. I decided on tomatoes, some green beans, carrots, and lettuce, and threw in a few orangey-red marigolds along the border for color. Along the fence went the Heavenly Blue morning glories that looked so appealing in the catalog; the seeds large and easy to handle for a kid.

The seeds that were planted that day were not just about vegetables and flowers. They were seeds of a relationship. A relationship with the earth. A connection with other people from centuries ago who had learned that to plant a garden is to feed a community. I was also sowing the seeds of relationship with the other inhabitants of that community: bees, birds, butterflies, ants, and insects. I was learning about weather and its impact on my tiny plot. I was accumulating experiences of joy, such as when I picked that first tomato, and learning lessons in failure when the carrots failed to thrive or the dog crushed the lettuce plants.

I continue to learn lessons and enjoy experiences in my garden today. I want to share this experience with others. So much about growing a garden is more than just vegetables. Sharing gardens is opening a window to a bigger world.

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