Dirt, Weeds & Work

Organic gardening in the city–to some–sounds almost simple.

With no vast tracks of land to manage like traditional farming–and usually no barnyard animals–one may even conjure up an idyllic scene of the average urban garden: perfectly-placed containers full of spiraling green foliage and hanging fruit, aged paving-stones kissed with dappled sunlight and a fetchingly-dressed gardener browsing with a wicker basket, picking bundled herbs, sampling berries and humming a few bars of Vivialdi’s Four Seasons.


Such scenes must wait… for even in a tiny backyard garden like mine, work abounds. Dirt, weeds, watering and pests all happen on a daily basis, and if said work is not dealt with it can multiply, with alarming swiftness. I spend, on average, two hours per day dealing with the various aspects of organic gardening: hand-watering, checking for pests, applying natural pest-repellents, weeding, turning compost and thinning rows. Only then I can harvest herbs/zucchini/chard, carefully washing the dirt away and storing the produce, or using it in the midday meal.

I do the majority of this work in jeans and sandals–items of clothing that look as though they’ve weathered the last two world wars–and shirts utilized when we last painted our house. I spare my hands most of the blisters and scrapes with cheap gardening gloves and wear a sun-hat, but that is as elegant as my gardening work gets.

All that aside, the work does pay off. The crops grown have stretched our food budget considerably, and allowed us to eat the items I would not otherwise buy at a store. (Have you seen the cost of savoy cabbage?) Once in awhile I’ll carry a basket while I harvest, just to remind myself that the hard work for the day has been finished. When folks visit I get to show them a healthy micro-climate, thriving dark soil and bountiful greenery, all the while wearing a fetching dress and neatly-done hair. Sometimes I just sit by the garden and look at it… enjoying the visible results of my labor.

If you can deal with the reality of gardening (the work & grime) then you get to enjoy the tangible results on your dinner-table, in your pantry and in the money you’ve saved.

L. R. Styles is a writer for Belator Books


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