It was, ironically, the death of my father that led me to organic gardening. Dad was an avid gardener and one of the last things he requested I do was plant - not vegetables - but “...flowers,” he said. “You need to plant a lot of flowers.”
Six months went by and one day in the dark of winter, struggling in my despair, I took myself to the library to find a way to fulfill his request. I hadn’t a clue how to plant anything. It was December, 2001, just three months after 9/11. I was six months into my grief. The country was depressed, I was depressed. Since I had no spare land to grow on, I leafed through some dated, black and white books on the topic of container gardening. They had long been gathering dust on the shelves. What caught my eye and sparked my interest though, that dismal December afternoon, were the books about growing vegetables. To me, these seemed to have a point. After all, you could eat vegetables. Containers and vegetables. I lugged a stack of books home.
Already “into” nutrition and healthy diet, I decided this would be an acceptable substitution for flowers and Dad would understand. I had to mail-order organic seeds, since none were readily available at the time. The High Mowing Seeds catalogue, when it arrived in the mail, was like Christmas for me. I ordered more varieties of tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers than made sense, then ordered about 15 more packets of other vegetable and herb seeds. I really just couldn’t limit myself. I also ordered warming pads for the seedlings, and any other contraptions that looked “necessary.” I was honestly like a kid in a candy store.
One day a friend familiar with farming came by and said “Do you know how much you’ve planted?! You’re going to have a jungle!” Someone else commented “You know - not everything comes "up." Certainly not all at once!”
And yet. I traveled three towns over to where I heard they stocked organic potting soil at a small eclectic gardening shop. Turned out I had to return many times, because by June, 2002 I had 120 pots on my deck! Every single plant “came up,” and it did seem, all at once. My organic container vegetable garden - in loving memory of my father - did, indeed, resemble a jungle some years. But never so much as that first year when it seemed the very heavens smiled down on me with grace and plenty.
I dragged a garden chair into my 14 x 14 deck “plot” - it had become my haven - and found real peace watching the vines and leaves develop into flowers and fruit. Before it was a fancy phrase, my family was eating “farm to table” - or deck to table, anyway - as the tomatoes and beans and peppers ripened on the vines. And as the years went by I began to see that I, too, was a seed - my father’s - that continued to live and grow.
It’s all good; gardening as a hobby has long been an American pastime and if folks garden organic, all the better. It’s one step closer to the goal of healthy “farm to table” I seek to educate on (you can’t get much more “local” than your own backyard!), it fosters a kinship with the earth (or the container - close enough!), it’s an outdoor activity (all that digging and hauling), and for many of us - like me - watching a living thing grow and thrive can be a path to spiritual healing.
Thank you, Dad.