Gardening: A Good Investment?


If misery loves company, then we should be pretty happy. I keep hearing of more folks who once were able to garden unmolested–or should I say unDEERravaged. But once THEY get the taste of something tastier than grass, there’s no turning back. And others I’ve heard about are going vertical so the horizontal is worth the time, expense and sweat-equity that goes into a garden.

And this garden fence will outlast us by a long shot, and others will reap the harvest of our investment–her investment, really. I would have given up. Between the above ground and below ground invaders, the insects that come earlier each year, the cold soil, the arthritic body parts and the general lassitude of the end of middle age, I would have written off the garden as one of those things once precious and productive of both gratification and groceries.

Life goes on, and as one ages, they gradually relent and give things up, rather in reverse order to the gains added in strength, skill and wit as one grows older. I was prepared to let gardening go. I hope I’ll be glad she was determined to invest in the earth–an increasingly wise place to put one’s income as banking on human economies becomes more and more a gamble. But I digress.

I’ll show additional shots over the next few weeks and the summer. This one puts the garden in context–below and nearer the house, wedged between the road (plus the county’s cussed 15 foot right of way that eats considerably into our only level potential garden plot) and the bank, which we’ve had to excavate into and then shore up with railroad ties on the house end. Exposure is long side to the southeast.

We were limited in the length and stopped where we did opposite the house because to come farther image-left brought us into the septic field. Construction offers not so many options on “mountain land” and you use what you’ve got.

You can see how close to the creek the garden is–good for using the little lawn and garden battery for pumping to irrigate if we need to (versus running a hose straight down the drive from the well’s artesian pressure to power a trickle-hose.)

Being on the creek is bad in the sense that we are in the low point of a low sheltered valley– a frost pocket–and a growth zone NORTH of the main plateau of the county a mile and a half west and five hundred feet higher than we are. Our hours of sun, of course, are also reduced here (and so is the summer heat that Roanoke will endure. We’re often 10 degrees or more cooler here in July and August.

So we’ll need season extending ideas. Cold frames, for instance. And someone emailed about “plunge pits”–I haven’t googled that yet, but will. I’m also going to put down some scrap black plastic in a few places for a couple of weeks to see if we can get the soil temps up so seeds don’t rot in our garden when most Floydians have plants a foot high.

The garden shed will cover the width of the garden and be ten feet deep, open for the most part on the house side. You can see the taller post that will support the header for the metal roof. That work may start today.

Bottom line: I’m feeling almost extinguished garden zeal again. We’ll see what comes of it. Stay tuned.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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