Summers in Arizona can be brutal on the plant life. We always had a garden that produced more then we could eat in one season.
As fall wandered in with it’s shorter days and cooler temps production would wind down. Before the first freeze the plants would be pushed over. The signal that their job was done. Fallen leaves where added to the square patch of ground. Rain and frost would work on the pile of decaying plants all winter long, turning it into soil for next season.
Once the ground thawed enough for us kids to dig and play in the garden we would spend days out there digging grand canyons for the army men to drive their tanks in. Sometimes we would fill up a coffee can with treasures find a spot in the corner to bury it to find it the next year.
Once it was time for the playing to be done mom and dad would turn over every inch by hand exposing the new soil. No fancy tillers just shovels and sweat. Next came the smell of steer manure, that smell would hang in the air for weeks.
Berms where created in neat rows surrounded by shallow wells to aid in watering process that is vital to their survival.
Tomatoes with cages, bell peppers, chili peppers and cucumbers once planted all we had to do was wait for them to produce. The ground around them was covered in yellow straw it acted as a blanket to keep the ground moist and the weeds at bay.
Mom would spend her evenings in the front yard watering the rows of plants. She used a bubbler which to me has always looked like an old time microphone.
It seemed like all at once things would go from delicate sprouts to a jungle of green in an otherwise dry landscape. Things would start to grow and ripen.
Soon the neighbors would wander home after a visit with hands full of produce due to the fact that our garden always produced more then we could use.
As a kid this is just what we did, we had a garden and we shared what we grew. Every year the same cycle was followed. I didn’t see what a labor of love that the garden was for my mom. That was until last year when for the first time I grew my own garden in my tiny city back yard.
I wrote this to say thank you for the experience of hardening all those years ago, that I can now put into practice and finally appreciate the process. I guess I was paying attention after all.