Near my home in Kings Mountain there’s a vegetable garden that reflects days gone by. In July, you can see the full spectrum of the southern food garden–tomatoes tied carefully to posts, cabbage plants sprinkled with “Sevin dust” to prevent worms, squash, green beans, blooming okra, cucumbers, peppers, cantaloupes and watermelons with small fruit growing slowly, and corn, standing proud and tall. The elderly couple who plants this masterpiece is often seen in the garden, either hoeing or using a small garden tiller. There are simply no weeds, no grass in the furrows between the rows of plants. Twine is stretched across the garden with foil pie pans tied every few inches to scare away the robbing crows.
Both gardeners are bent by age and labor but the enthusiasm with which they plant, tend, and harvest their garden brightens their eyes and attitudes. I’ve gone by their garden several days each week and every time I’m more mesmerized by the product of years of experience and pure hard work. This couple’s work ethic inspires me and helps me leave the sanctuary of my air-conditioned house and go outside to sweat and tend my garden. July is not my favorite month to garden, especially with the dry, hot days we’re experiencing this year. I’m wishing I could invest in an irrigation system to make my watering of the containers and gardens easier. For now, I’ll continue to grumble and use garden hoses.
Yes, watering is a challenge in my container gardens. My herbs in pots wilt down every other afternoon, especially the basil. However, the benefits I gain from my herbs far outweigh the effort I extend. Fresh vegetables flavored with herbs are a strong incentive and since I’m (like everyone else) attempting to eat more healthily, herbs often take the place of fats and salt. Instead of battering and frying squash and zucchini, I chop them up in sticks and rounds, along with sweet onions, peppers, minced garlic, and tomatoes and stir-fry them with small amounts of basil and olive oil. I then sprinkle the dish with parmesan cheese. Another one of my favorite summer dishes, is to chop up cucumbers and sweet onions and make a thin dressing of fat-free unsweetened yogurt and vinegar, favored with a little dill. My friends enjoy the new Yukon gold or fresh red potatoes cooked in a sauce of parsley or dill with a small amount of butter and fat free sour cream and garlic.
Not all of us have the time, resources, and health to make a large garden but I hope you participate in the joy of gardening even in a small container garden on a porch or deck. If this a too much for you, go to the farmer’s market and purchase some fresh vegetables and herbs. As the saying goes, “hey, you gotta eat!” so why not eat well and do something good for your body and soul.