Eating Local in Phoenix

Putting down Roots
August 22, 2011, 12:36 am
Filed under: asides, garden | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Published March 7, 2011
Beans for plantingIn the midst of stress, frustration and pending chaos I find myself in the garden. Spring has always meant one thing to me – a weekend in the garden. Dry hands. Sore knees. Dirt in my ears. This is how I welcome the new season.

As a child, I both longed for and dreaded the mandatory days in the garden. Planting never ended, the shovels and trowels had to be cleaned, and the raking. Always the raking.

I can vividly remember weaving brightly colored impatiens among the roots of my favorite tree, myself becoming more and more distracted, impatient even, feeling the name was so fitting for the interminable flats of flowers. It was such a punishment, I wanted to be sitting up in the crook of the tree, watching my parents do all the work, not down on the ground myself.

plantingI was willing to suffer, however, if I could go along on the trip to Rowland’s nursery. Walking in, collecting the unruly green flat cart – with the wagon handle – pulling in through aisles upon aisles of flowers, vegetables, strawberries. It was my botanic gardens, and a little bit of it always came home with me. Scooping the fallen flowers from the ground, I would cradle them throughout the trip, my own little bouquet. I was always allowed to pick out one or two plants – and I always chose the most improbable, ill-suited plants for the Albuquerque summers. It was something of a miracle if they lasted more than two weeks. The ritual carried on for years.

Rowland’s has long since closed and I’ve lived in Phoenix for ten years now, but with the first burst of warm air, I’m back under that tree – it’s a ficus now – planting.

Today, I put in my first real garden. My parents have always had a garden – tomatoes, herbs, peppers, grapes, sometimes more, sometimes less – and I’ve always helped in the planting.

This one is something different. I picked the plants, selected for their soil preferences and producing abilities, set them into place and loosened their root balls into the freshly turned soil. I had help, to be sure, but I feel responsible for this garden, these plants, that dirt.

And now, snug in my asphalt-locked studio apartment, I am worrying about my onions, beans, tomatoes. Was the soil loose enough? Did I plant them too deep, not deep enough? Will they get enough water? What about weeds?

Onion BulbI can’t explain my transition from passionate eater to idealistic gardener (I planted eight short rows of onions, planning to braid and store them for the winter), but I can say that it feels wonderful. There’s dirt under my fingernails and plants in the ground and a tangible feeling of accomplishment. And I feel calm. Spring is here.


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