The Free Press, Mankato, MN


June 8, 2014

Bit early by the gardening bug

Late spring means anticipating the first strawberry dance

Disclaimer: I am a good gardener, but far from great.

In the annual race with quack grass, it's always been a safe bet to choose the weed over me. I've never won a ribbon at the county fair for the most beautiful blossoms or best potatoes — and that's not just because I've never ever entered an exhibit.

However, planting seeds in soil and overseeing the progress of what comes up have been summer rituals for me since I was a kid.

Each spring as the hours of daylight increase, so does my urge to be outdoors digging in dirt. Most of my three-day Memorial weekend was spent in my community garden plot.

The 6-year-old me would not have believed contentment could be found so close to home. Back then, in Big Stone City, South Dakota, her chores included cleaning a row of green beans. Each week, she would trudge down her 5-foot assignment, tearfully muttering about her mean father who sentenced all of his children to time spent pulling weeds.

As the years went by, the rows I was responsible for became longer and my love for gardening sprouted.

The summer after my freshman year in college was spent working side by side with my father as we cleaned flower beds and watched birds hunt for worms in soil we had just turned over. I began to recognize gardens as places to find serenity and relief from stress.

At my first full-time newspaper job in Marshall, I hooked up with co-workers who also loved to talk about compost. We took over a backyard space below a reporter's rented apartment. It hadn't been tilled for years.

That fall, we celebrated a splendid harvest by playing croquet and sampling dishes made with our homegrown vegetables. A boom box played a cassette tape of Rick Nelson's “Garden Party” while we feasted.

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