Dig in

With spring in the air, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about your garden.

Spring gardening (photo credit: D. Lerner)
Spring gardening
(photo credit: D. Lerner)
Spring is shooting out all over. Green is dominating.
Well, OK, not dominating (it’s not exactly New Jersey here) but giving a darn good show for an alleged desert.
After years of drought the winter heavens have blessed the land with abundant rains and things are really looking good.
What do you call a country where people drive only pink cars? Israel is no pink carnation, but you must admit that things are looking pretty good and green this spring after the plentiful winter rains.
Okay, stop already with the moans and groans and let’s get down and into the ground. If you haven’t noticed just how magnificent this spring is, do yourself a huge favor and go for a nice long walk, and look carefully from far and close. Take a deep breath and enjoy the fragrances that are filling the air, especially on the cooler days. The colors, textures and scents are an incredible experience.
Go with that inspiration and get busy nurturing and cultivating.
Why, you ask? I’ll tell you.
It’s good for you. Plain and simple, good for your soul, psyche, body and your environment, which means it is good for everyone else too.
Gardening is exercise that involves the entire body, using many muscle groups and can improve strength and flexibility. Yes darling, gardening burns calories and reduces stress.
Garden and you will become calmer and sharper, which is why I take plenty of breaks during Passover preparations to garden. Just a few minutes of weed pulling (there is no shortage of weeds thanks to the glorious winter rains) will get you breathing more deeply, slowly and voila, you are calmed.
You’re too old? No way. Take a steady stool with you, an old pillow to cushion your knees and use your shovel to steady your gait. Don’t overdo it the first time out, but build up your stamina and you will get stronger and tougher quickly.
Too busy with children? This is a great activity with children. Grow vegetables and you will share the amazing growth process and fruits of your combined labor, and the kids will never forget what they accomplished with you.
You’re tired? You will be energized.
You hate getting your hands dirty? Wear gloves. If you are working in an outdoor garden, you really should be wearing gloves to protect your hands from human-unfriendly varmints and possible hidden sharp objects.
Wear comfortable, closed shoes to protect your feet. Long socks and pants of thick fabric are also recommended particularly if you have long grass, tall weeds or are clearing an area.
Don’t freak out, but snakes like tall weeds and grasses, so be smart. If you have a meeting with a snake, be calm, don’t try to chase or grab (unless you are a snake expert) – rather give them space and let them slither away on their own.
When the snake has cleared out, panic and call the snake catcher.
Wear a hat and of course, sunscreen.
TO GET a good start in your garden you want to cover some basics. Listed are the basics to check before proceeding:
• Tools that have been used successfully forever are a shovel and spade; check that the handles are solid and holding the metal firmly. If you are moving rocks, a pick axe is pretty useful.
• Compost is imperative now, really all year round. Mix it into topsoil and you will balance and aerate the soil. If you are not a composter, get rotting fast! It is so easy and worthwhile. Compost steadily provides nutrients to plants, balances the pH of the soil, enhances soil structure, suppresses disease and mold and even neutralizes chemical offenders (those “cides”).
Composting is an ecosystem soil balancer.
Compost can be bought by the bag or made from organic garbage – vegetable and fruit scraps, egg shells, tea leaves, coffee grounds, weeds (!), broken branches, grass cuttings. Pile it up with dirt mixed in and on top. Because I live in a very dry area of the country, and compost ideally should be fairly moist, like a squeezed sponge, I loosely cover my compost pile with an old plastic table cover. Cow, horse or chicken manure are great compost additives.
Don’t crinkle your nose, you will be amazed at the fresh smell your great compost will have when you tend to it properly, which means turn and rotate it frequently.
• Humus (not humous, of course) is a sort of super compost that can be used more sparingly as compost.
• Replenish dirt. Rain and watering wash away topsoil and often deplete your garden of earth.
• Fertilize. There are excellent, easy to use fertilizers available at all nurseries now. I favor the time-released six-month type and find it very convenient and effective. The instructions are clear and specific.
Do you know why melons have fancy weddings? Because they cantaloupe.
Have you ever grown a cantaloupe? You can.