The air smelled earthy, spiced by the many plants in various stages of shutting down for winter. Closing the garden door behind me, I stood silent, looking around at the rows and listening to the slow drops of condensation dripping from the plastic hoop building ceiling. The sound of the drops falling to the dusty soil below seemed exaggeratedly loud, “plop!…plop!”
The outer leaves of the most delicate plants were dark and wilted, nipped by Jack Frost the night before. A harder freeze was forecast for the next few nights. It was time to put my garden to bed for the winter.
Although I am a hard-core list maker, I didn’t need to make a list today. I knew what needed to be done first and what needed to be done last. The plants that would freeze when the thermometer lowered to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, needed to be carefully dug up, replanted in pots and taken into the house. Poinsettias grow lush during the summer in my hoop-building garden. If too many of their roots are broken when transplanted, they don’t do well.
My last harvest of beans, peppers, tomatoes and zucchini were taken into the house next. Then I began to cart butternut and pumpkin squash into the house. Fully harvested, the plants themselves were pulled out of the ground.
Many plants do better when in proximity to other like-minded vegetables. As I dismantled my pole bean arbor, I smiled to myself, imagining the beans advertising in a chlorophyll matchmaking publication, “Long, thin, green vegetable looking to share the soil and water supply with an enzyme-compatible vegetable, any color acceptable.” Garden lay-out is very important. I struggle doing it right.
I tell my daughters I plant many flowers in my garden because, “My soul needs to be fed as well as my body.” After pulling up zinnias and snap dragons, I began digging canna, calla and amaryllis bulbs. Canna bulbs multiply so prodigiously, they should be eatable. I could feed the world.
Certain plants overwinter well in my garden. Kale begins to regrow in early spring to provide my first greens. Tea roses, chrysanthemums and some herbs usually survive. More than once I’ve harvested parsley for Thanksgiving meals. Petunias look pretty long after the first frosts and sometimes reseed.
One of my last garden duties for the year is harvesting carrots. The handful I dug to enter at the fair during August didn’t impress me. Plunging the blade of my shovel into the garden dirt several inches away from the row, I levered a chunk of soil up. Although dirty, several large, bright orange carrots wobbled and tumbled onto the ground. Their beauty nearly took my breath away. Although I wasn’t digging for gold, I felt rich beyond comprehension.
I’d never thinned the carrots after planting them this spring and expected to find many small, stunted, hard-to-clean roots. Snapping the beautiful, bright green tops off, I put them into a large tote box. Large beauties filled one third of the box. Straight, medium-sized carrots took up a little over another third of the box. The rest of the carrots were small, but not so small that I wouldn’t want to bother pealing them.
As I worked sorting the carrots, I thought of a book I’d read years ago titled, “Acres of Diamonds” by Russell Conwell. His story was about a man named Al Hafed, who was contented because of his wealth and wealthy because of his contentment.
Al Hafed became poor and discontent when he discovered how valuable diamonds were and desired to own them. Determined to mine diamonds, he sold his farm and left his family in the care of friends. Searching the world over, he failed to find diamonds and died as a starving beggar.
Meanwhile, the new owner of Al Hafed’s farm was watering his animals one day when he saw something glitter in the brook. Picking up a pretty stone, he took it home and put it on his mantle. He would have picked up more, but didn’t bother, because the diamonds were everywhere.
The beautiful earthy scent of my garden filled my nostrils. Overhead, geese flying south for the winter honked noisily. Chickadees in the trees around my house were cheerfully scolding. The carrots I had, weren’t diamond carats, but that didn’t matter. I felt content because I was so rich and rich because I felt so content.