I recently read an article by Bonnie L. Grant entitled “Antidepressant Microbes in Soil: How dirt makes you happy”. My mind was instantly flooded with my own gardening memories.
My first garden was an act of love taught to me by my Dad. He missed his bounty from the family farm he knew as a boy in Lancaster County, PA. So he tilled a plot of land at my grandmother’s in Springfield, PA. We soon had a wonderful bounty of zucchini, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, pumpkins and even a few ears of corn. Dad was always drawn to the bounty of his gardens. As early as February, he would be on the lookout for some early budding snow drops or purple crocuses pushing their blooms up through a late snow. At the first sighting of an early crocus, the entire family would do a happy dance to celebrate the coming spring.
When my husband and I bought our first house in Media, PA, Dad came by to help me plant close to a 100 bulbs so I would be able to enjoy early spring blooms. Soon I wanted a vegetable garden as well. We lived on a shady street but had one sunny spot next to our stone house. Our neighbors watched in disbelief as my husband and I spent a few weekends tearing up the coveted Zoysia grass that covered the only sunny spot on our property. The resultant tomato and pepper garden soon became the envy of the neighborhood. We shared out bounty generously. Eventually, we had to buy a freezer to store the gallons of homemade salsa, tomato sauce, gazpacho and tomato soup that gave us a taste of sunshine through the year.
When job opportunities took us to Endwell, NY, I was at first ecstatic about how much open land came with our newly purchased home. I could taste the tomatoes before the legal papers granting us title were signed. Our first spring in the house, I was undeterred by the late spring in NY. I began to attempt to cultivate a large sunny patch for an eventual vegetable garden. Even the rented rotor tiller could not easily cultivate the hard rocky soil in my selected spot. I tried some container gardens on the deck. But, the climate and soil was not right for the luscious PA tomatoes I was used to. Gardening soon became a distant memory as other priorities took over my life.
In the meantime, my Dad who had instilled this love of gardening was rapidly declining as he was losing his struggle with dementia. While work kept me busy, I was clearly depressed and sought some medical help. After an initial session with a counselor, she suggested. “Denyse, just go play in some dirt.” “In NY?” I asked incredulously. So, my husband and I selected just a small plot that bordered our driveway in front of our house. I decided to grow flowers and herbs rather than vegetables. After a trip to a local garden center, I came home with Yarrow, Mint, Parsley, Lavender and a variety of colorful annuals. As I dug holes to make room for the roots to grow, I felt some of my blues dissipate into the spring air. When the plants eventually flowered, I did my happy dance for the first time in a long time!
© 2015 Denyse Le Fever