The truth about my garden

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The perfect garden dream started early. Expectations were high. Trips to local nurseries and finally raised beds. My knees and back should not protest. Possibly, this was going to be the year that the garden laid out in my head would become a reality.

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The thing about reality, it is REAL. Every year, it turns into a drama. This year was no different.

It started out so well. For years, the acquired cement raised beds sat right where they were dropped. Every year, and despite my whining to my husband (fondly known as My Hero), they were put on his long list of things to do. That is the thing about a farm in the spring. You should never let your expectations soar. I knew that.

The day finally came. With the help of the drought, those awkwardly placed raised bed containers could finally be moved, without damage to our weed-thriving lawn. I watched as one by one those heavy cement beds were rehomed. The perfect place: in front of the barnyard. I could see them. Never would I get so busy or so exhausted as to forget them.

Not much of a gardener, I have always tried my best. Long ago, it was decided that if I were going to grow anything, it would have to be edible. I do admire those who have beautiful flower beds. They make me happy, but with my gardening skills, I had to pick.

Armed with trays full of plants and with newly dumped soil in beautiful raised beds, my heart started to race. My mission began.

Days of planning and planting had produced what I like to call my masterpiece. Since I expected our grandchildren to visit after a long-distance year, I had bought some mature plants. My plan was to have them go out every morning to help pick fresh tiny tomatoes and beans. To wipe the dirt on shirts and enjoy. Healthy nutrients and plain fun.

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We also decided to put a small garden in the barnyard. There was a pile of dirt there, so we used it. Potatoes, squash and cucumbers. There was a problem. We should have stopped there. Lettuce, green beans, spinach and cute little bunnies do not mix.

We did remember why we stopped doing that. Bunnies, even those adorable ones, do not bother with potato plants, squash or pumpkins. They do, however, love that we planted them a barnyard feast.

In our haste to grow vegetables, we had forgotten to think about our cows, which always wander into the barnyard. That meant that two gates had to be closed every time a necessary trip down the laneway was made. Spring and early summer are extremely busy. Now, a dozen more mounts and dismounts out of the tractor were added. Once again, knees and backs were protesting.

Back to those raised beds. They were doing so well. The plants were thriving. Then a nightmare named Red Spider Mites invaded and then conquered. They decimated my perfect garden. I was angry. Within a couple of days, all the tomato, bean, lettuce and spinach were gone.

After many hours of deliberation and suggestions from skilled gardeners, I decided to pull up and dispose of everything. A week after my beautiful garden purge, my mission had succeeded. Replanting (minus tomatoes and green beans) and once again the garden was real. There would be no fresh veggies if, or when, our grandchildren were to finally visit, but I had conquered the red invaders.

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In the middle of July. Our grandchildren did come to visit. There were edible green things that grew in my somewhat envisioned gardens. There was also much laughter and entertainment. Our grandchildren watched a chipmunk family move into the raised beds. They buried the lettuce when they burrowed down to bury their own winter stash of black walnuts from nearby trees. The scarecrow in the garden quit. He stands in protest. I am sure he made a deal with the red squirrel that also moved in.

Those cute little bunnies that entertain are now adults. There seems to be a lot more of them. They love the lettuce.  A huge family of groundhogs share the barnyard garden with those bunnies. This delighted our grandchildren.

Thank goodness for the always well-stocked market garden just down the road.

Grace Vanderzande is a farmer, a writer, and obviously a non-gardener.

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