I had a variety of topics from which to choose this week, however I choose gardening. I did not choose it because summer has begun; I chose it with hopes that you will read this column on a nice day and prior to our next frost or deluge. Gardening lasts but one day here in Northern Minnesota, so read this column then get to work immediately after proper application of coffee to your morning.
I built another garden box for Lisa and I this spring. I really thought raised gardens would have caught on but it’s not often that I see them. Our climate is perfect for raised gardens because the black dirt inside the box will warm sooner than below ground and you can control the moisture of the soil more easily. Actually, a little drain tile in the box might be a good remedy for excess rain or watering; I may consider that in the future. We have many rabbits on patrol in our yard, and they’ve yet to scale the walls of a raised garden and make off with any vegetative booty, either.
Our first garden boxes were made of railroad ties, a horrible idea. Railroad ties are heavy, dirty and best left to those who crave back pain. I’ve never seen treated lumber any cheaper, so that is what I used this year. I made our raised gardens four feet wide by eight feet long. Compacted dirt will push the sides of your box out if not built sturdy, so make firm your corners by screwing your planks into a nice, chunky, vertical four by four. I built our raised garden three planks high, and so united all three by attaching a two by four vertically to each long side. I then ran two by fours crosswise from each long side to prevent bowing. A nice touch is to attach another two by six (or two by eight depending on the size of your bottom) on top of the structure to provide a bench to rest while weeding.
We planted early this year despite Lisa’s legitimate protests. So far we’ve avoided frost but we had a scare on Wednesday morning when I noticed frost on the windshield of my car. Kim Swanson, at the Extension service, said our peppers would be okay as long as less than half of the leaves died and that we’d know the amount of damage by evening. I worried most of the day until I went to see Dr Sayler, at which point I focused my anxiety on the tooth he was about to fix. While they waited for my face to slump from the Novocain, we all talked about gardening. I voiced my worry about frost and Dr Sayler explained that as its condensation evaporates, a windshield can develop frost, even at temperatures above freezing. This is similar to the concept that makes air conditioning work; an explanation that made me feel better, which was good. He fixed my tooth also, which was even better.
Robert Herrick wrote “gather Rosebuds while ye may,” as a reminder of how life is short. I would add that time to grow is second only to gathering in its brevity. Show courage in the garden as you should in life; plant today even should frost come tomorrow.