Whenever anybody asks me if I like my gardening job I always catch myself responding with, “Oh yeah, it’s great. I get to be outside all day and get dirty”. I can’t help but love the combination. Being outside, no matter what it entails, has always been my favorite pastime. I’m in love with the sun and the air and the trees and the way they all wink and wave and whisper when you walk with them. But also, ever since I can remember, I’ve had a desire to prove I’d been outside. I wanted people to see the outside on me, wanted them to imagine all the adventures I’d had just by looking at me. Hence, the ‘getting dirty’. I suppose this derives from my early childhood when I’d come back inside with little twigs in my hair and pine needles tucked away in the tops of my socks and my parent’s would exclaim with such delight “Oh, Jenny, you look like you had fun!” I would just gush about the new rocks I’d found and how many ants were in the ant pile out by the wood stack and how there was an orange salamander under one of the logs. I began to take pride in my little scrapes and scratches from climbing trees, began walking barefoot so as to toughen up my “indian feet,” as I called them, and always came back dirty and happy.
So, this job was immediately to my liking. I came home absolutely covered in dirt every day and smiling like a fool. Just fantastic, really. Couldn’t be happier. I’ve found, however, that it does add to the laundry bill significantly.
One thing that has changed since my early appreciation of the ‘dirt’ that I so proudly display like a badge of earthly honor is my understanding of it’s significance in the ecology of the garden, or the forest, or the field. I no longer see just dirt, I see soil. I see the intricate makeup of the land that I have my hands sunk into, the different textures and densities, the acidity and the abundance of nutrients. It’s not just dirt at all, it’s an entire world in there. And I am amazed.
The soil is what makes things happen. Without good soil, you won’t get a good garden. In the early spring we did a lot of soil preparation. Getting things ready for all the little plants takes some time, but it’s worth it. You have to turn things over, get the air working for you. Add peat moss and compost and maybe some good ‘ol manure to get the nutrients up to par for the new arrivals.
We used a lot of Coast of Maine, packed full of good stuff for plants and flowers to wiggle their roots into. We also tried to get compost soil from Ideal Compost in Peterborough as often as we could. That, I must say, is an amazing company with an amazing product, and I recommend it to anyone and everyone who ever wants to plant anything.
A giant pile!
Whenever we got a load of their material to plant with and anyone would catch a glimpse of it they usually came right up to admire it, and comment on it’s richness. You can see it’s goodness. I remember clearly one gentleman, a neighbor passing by our customer’s house, who exclaimed, “ I don’t know a thing about planting, but this here looks like a good pile of stuff!” How true that was. It’s neat how people can intuitively tell if something is good quality. And Ideal Compost, really truly has the ideal compost. Their product is treated like gold during the planting season, and you can’t help but feel a warm ray of excitement when you call them up and they still have enough left in their latest batch to fill up the back of your truck.
For more information about their products, how everything is made, and details about their company, take a look at their great site at http://www.idealcompost.com/.
They have really great mulch, too, which we used on the majority of the gardens this season. It keeps all the moisture in and protects the roots and minimizes soil erosion very well. Plus, it has some nutrient value to add in addition to the composting soil and keeps a lot of those troublesome bugs away. When we couldn’t get Ideal Compost, we used Agway’s natural cedar mulch most of the time, which smells heavenly, and has a lighter color in appearance when dry than the Ideal Compost if that’s what you prefer.
Then there’s the Osmocote and the lime that we added during planting. Osmo’ is wonderful. The flowers grow so well with a little sprinkle of it mixed with the first bit of soil that it’s roots encounter in the ground. I never went a planting day without my little shaker of Osmo’ glued to my hand.
Lime, although a very simple soil additive and commonplace in gardening, was a confusing thing for me to wrap my head around. For some reason, since its called ‘lime’, I assumed that it added acidity to the soil (because, limes, as a fruit, are quite acidic). However,it is precisely the opposite and lime adds sweetness to the soil to help with plants like hydrangeas,dianthus, lavender, and dahlias, who don’t particularly like acidic soils. I’ve since learned that lime is actually the chemical compound calcium oxide, usually made from the thermal decomposition of things like limestone.
It was a wonderful thing to become so close to the soils of my local landscape this season. Every day I encountered a slightly new mix, a distinct variation. I loved working without gloves so that I could feel the coolness on my fingers as I planted. There is an undeniable therapeutic effect of having your hands in the dirt. You become connected, you feel your own personal roots springing out through the tips of your fingers and into the ground that you work. Your thoughts, your labors, your feelings, your fears and joys, your history, and your dreams of the future all flow right out of you and into the earth in a steady release that soothes you to your very soul. It’s as if all the cares in the world translate into this one little plant you are cautiously laying into the ground and hoping everything will work out all right. It’s like planting hope, over and over again.
Me, spreading some mulch!