Vegging Out

As you’ve heard, the Macon County Public Library is continuing its gardening tradition this summer!  While our Youth Services Department has had and continues to have a garden for folks 12 and younger, Adult Services, with the help of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, has been gardening in two 500 sq. ft. plots at the Macon County Community Garden.  The Macon County Community Garden is located on the Little Tennessee River Greenway, a short (10 minute walk) from the library.

In honor of “Fruit and Vegetable” month, one of the many awesome things that June is known for, I thought we’d focus our blog on our “adult and teen experimental garden” aka “The Plot(s) Thickens” and why we chose to take on 1000 sq. ft. of weeding, planting, picking, and sweating on top of our surplus of already scheduled summer library events.

Cherokee Purple Tomato – Seeds donated from Winding Stair Farm

The garden started as a personal endeavor.  Growing up in western North Carolina, I did not know a family member that didn’t garden for food.  There may have been that one obscure person who, for some reason or another, didn’t have the space for a garden, however, many of us locals learned about planting and weeding (mostly weeding) at a very young age.  With both parents bouncing from work to the grocery store, I didn’t see the point in gardening.  Why grow food that takes sooooo long to ripen and takes soooooo much work if we can literally grab what we need in the grocery store when we need it.  Plus, when the food comes, it comes!  No one can eat that many cucumbers, tomatoes sandwiches, and fried yellow squash in a month long span, no. one.  Plus, there was the constant criticism and subtle neighborly (yes, 3 mile away neighborly) competition where one never said one’s tomatoes were better (unless asked about method) than their neighbors’ but one always commented subtly to their family members in the car as they passed their neighbor’s yard: “their tomatoes do not look good”.  Garden judgment is real.

Garden judgment has stuck with me over the years, sadly.  Now that I understand that the financial stress of secondary school debt is inevitable, I have decided to pursue activities which contribute to my overall wellness.  Gardening is the perfect metaphor for life (I know, I am getting deep and weird here) but, truly, it is.

First of all, no matter what, gardening will provide you with exercise and stretching.  Never have my hamstrings been in more pain than when I am weeding and I am an athlete (sort of).  So, the plot becomes a deer buffet, well, your body is better off anyway for taking some time in planting them in the first place (provided you are healthy enough to do so).

Second, if something grows, awesome!  We don’t get enough veggies in our average American diet.  When you grow something yourself, it tastes better, I promise.  Plus, obviously, you’re eating something that is most likely very healthy for you.  Seriously, there are hundreds of studies out there that do nothing but talk about the benefits of vegetables and fruits.

First Fruits of the Season – Summer Yellow Squash – Seeds donated by Winding Stair Farm

Third, and we’re getting deep here, sometimes, we do everything we can to change something or make something happen in our lives.  Sometimes things don’t always pan out, no matter how much effort we put into it.  Sometimes, we invest a lot of time in our garden, we weed every day, we pick the bugs off, we read all we can and do what we can to provide preventative maintenance for full vegetable splendor and the garden just doesn’t work out as we had hoped.  We learn that some things are just not in our hands or control and this is a valuable lesson/metaphor for life.  The cool thing with gardening is that there’s always next season (so far, anyway).

Since we’ve started “The Plot(s) Thickens,” we’ve had a solid family of wonderful volunteers come to help us maintain it (seen in the featured image above and here).

Featured Left to Right – Hunter Morrow, Linda DeHart, Lynne Benkis, Declan Morrow and Jen Benkis

We’ve also co-sponsored or sponsored three garden talks which have helped to give me the confidence that I needed to get this project started.  One of our amazing presenters, who helped us lay out the garden, told me that gardening is supposed to be fun and that you’re supposed to make mistakes…take that GARDEN JUDGEMENT.

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Nathan Morrow – Our Lead Tiller prepares to take on Plot 16

While the endeavor of gardening was a personal one, as a millennial in Franklin, I knew that I was not the only person thinking about and/or needing to learn about gardening from their own perspective.  So far, I have been right.

Our next Garden Talk will be on July 17, weather permitting, at our plots in the Macon County Community Garden.  We hope to see you there!

If you’re interested in some gardening of your own, I, along with several experienced colleagues, recommend the following books from your library!  Only three are cited here because, literally, you can find hundreds more at your local Fontana Library location.

The New York Times 1000 Gardening Questions & Answers

Rodale’s All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Indispensable Resource for Every Gardener

The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control: A Complete Problem-Solving Guide to Keeping Your Garden and Yard Healthy without Chemicals