March 26, 2023
Each March for the past 17 years, I have found a cool weekend to turn over the soil in my tiny garden, add some compost and plant lettuce and a few other “cold crops.” Truly, I end up spending several sessions just weeding and breaking up the soil before the planting ever begins. I started last Tuesday to get the worst of the weeds out and to do the initial cultivation. In Central Virginia, we have perfect weed growing conditions for months before it is safe to put in even the hardiest of early Spring plants. By St. Patrick’s Day, it is deemed safe to plant potatoes and a few hardier plants. I turned the soil again on Thursday and managed to remove more weeds. This morning, I decided it was time to make my annual foray to the local Southern States co-operative to select some seedlings of kale, spinach, Swiss chard, and lettuce. The lettuce won’t be too happy if we get a frost, but the other plants will thrive. I made a point of placing the lettuce closest to the brick wall of our house, where it will get the warmest sun and residual warmth from the bricks on cool evenings. If need be, I can throw a sheet over the lettuce plants to protect them if there is a light frost.
I have had a small garden along the southern wall of our house most of the time I have lived here. For the first decade, it was mostly reserved for tomatoes and herbs. In 2005, when my first husband and I put the house on the market, we only planted annual flowers, hoping to attract buyers. When I moved back into the house after our sale fell apart, along with our marriage; the garden was fallow for the summer of 2006. I hated that. The boys and I moved back into the house in mid-July and I didn’t even get a tomato plant in the ground. I couldn’t imagine affording the house on just my income, but in March of 2007, I decided that was the best course of action for both my sons and me.
I had been studying the writings of a woman named Florence Scovel Shinn with my book group. * I knew that on paper, it would be a stretch to get approved for a loan as a school librarian, but every fiber of my being knew that this was where my family needed to be. So, I took Florence’s cue and decided to demonstrate my faith by planting a garden. I “dug my ditches” literally and metaphorically and prepared the soil for a crop of lettuce and peas. Our divorce was supposed to be final in June and by then, my garden was bountiful and much to my amazement I was approved for a loan. I was able to buy out my soon to be ex-husband before our divorce became final. Thus, each year, I show homage by digging in the soil each March to show my appreciation for this home, the land and to fill our bellies with some amazing salad greens throughout the Spring.
*Florence Scovel Shinn is a metaphysical philosopher who wrote a lot about faith and tuning into God’s will in the early 20th century. Checkout The Wisdom of Florence Scovel Shinn to read her thoughts for yourself.
3 thoughts on “Digging My Ditches”
I enjoyed reading this and learning about the importance of your garden to you. Regeneration. Determination. It’s very moving.
3440 Northridge Rd * Richmond, VA 23235 * http://www.SusanSinger.com * 804-339-0040
LikeLiked by 1 person
This was a really inspiring post! It’s amazing to see how much gardening can symbolize and represent for someone. I’m curious – what are some of the challenges you have faced when gardening in Central Virginia and how have you overcome them?
We often have unpredictable frosts through April and end up needing to cover tender plants. I also use no pesticides, so caterpillars have eaten all of my broccoli or Brussel sprout upon occasion.