The Florida sun is not kind to gardens. Admonitions on seed packages instructing one to plant in full sun make me laugh. The full Florida summer sun will scorch everything in less than a day. It can also give a person an unforgettable sunburn.Yet, the sun is good, and neither plants nor people can do well without it.
My grandmother introduced me to gardening when I was quite small. She took me to a small flower bed in the yard, and we planted marigolds. I remember being impressed that those beautiful yellow and orange flowers came from those seeds that did not resemble the flowers in the least.
Likewise, my grandfather had his bit of earth where he planted his tomatoes and squash each summer. He was a carpenter, and I remember him coming home on hot summer afternoons, and picking some tomatoes from the vines. He brought them into the house, got two slices of bread, mayonnaise, and a knife to make a tomato sandwich.
Most places where I have lived, I have had a garden, a flower bed, or at least some plants. I can’t keep my hands out of the dirt! Growing things entertains me. In Portugal, I had a huge jade plant from which I learned that jade plants produce beautiful little flowers in January – if it is on the veranda in a Mediterranean climate. One year in Lancaster County, I planted a large garden where a doe rabbit made herself a nest in the middle of the pea patch, ground hogs made free with the produce, and I was introduced to potato bugs.
I have to confess, though, that I have not yet conquered the poor, sandy soil, and the extreme heat that challenge a Florida gardener. I’ve tried raised bed gardening, container gardening, and herb gardening. Some have been somewhat successful, but needed more attention than I had time or energy for for awhile. I was always busy doing. Gardening requires unhurried time, some doing, and a lot of being. It’s not enough to throw a plant into a pot, or the ground, and not look at it again for months as I had tried to do. Moderation was lost from my vocabulary, and the loss carried a heavy fine personally, and garden-ly speaking. Recovery required learning to stop at enough – a hard lesson for a first-born to learn.
And, like the first green shoots of the crocus after a northern winter, I find I am sprouting thoughts like a gardener again. I’m looking at my raised bed boxes and thinking of fall vegetables. Weed cloth to put under the boxes is on my mental check list. I have found a spot that seems to offer a balance of sun and shade. Last year someone introduced me to square foot gardening. I’ve slowed down my pace and I’m in the process of learning how to listen and hear when to be doing, and when to be. I have hope again.