When I was a little girl, growing up in the North End of Winnipeg, the most magical place in the world was my grandfather’s gigantic garden.
Every Sunday after church, my grandfather would take my small hand and guide me through his garden. Oh, the wonders that I witnessed! There before me stretched perfectly straight rows of yellow beans, carrots, radishes, and lettuce. Dozens of green globed kohlrabi were scattered among towering red tomatoes, and brightly-coloured peppers.
As we walked, my grandfather would reach down and pull a carrot from the earth. Then he would pluck a red tomato from the vine, and place it into my hand. He would bend to tie up a pepper plant, or to cut a kohlrabi from its root.
After our tour, he would lead me to the rain barrel, where we would wash the vegetables. Finally, seated together on the lawn, we would share the harvest of his labour — still warm and sun kissed.
My grandfather taught me to love the soil, the sun, the rain water and the vegetables — the miracles that grew from tiny seeds. His legacy to me was the gift of gardening.
As the frigid Winnipeg winter fades into memory, I dream about my own summer garden. I pull out my gardening notes from the previous year, and page through the seed catalogues.
Gardening is serious business. Decisions need to be made about what to plant and where to plant this season. My garden has been in a continual state of flux for the last 20 years. Each year, I try a new variety of vegetable, or experiment with a different type of tomato or herb.
In the following weeks, work will begin in earnest. This year, I will expand the garden. I will dig in the compost from the bin that was emptied in the fall. I will prepare my seeds and repair the chicken wire fence that protects my produce from the rabbit family that lives in our yard.
Then at the end of May, after the full moon, when all risk of frost is over, planting will begin.
My adult son will help me as he has for many years, and I will pass on the secrets of a successful garden to him. Like my grandfather, we will stretch string between wooden stakes to ensure perfectly straight rows. Together, we will plant a vegetable garden, and patiently wait for the miracle of sun, soil, and seeds to begin.
Joanne O’Leary is a Riverbend-based writer.
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