Expressions of beauty, love, and community are readily available in our gardens.
We are very fortunate to live on an acreage where we don’t have to look far to find beauty. One especially beautiful native flower in our garden is the columbine. We started with one plant and a bag of wildflower seeds. The columbine has naturally spread over a shady area next to our garage. I planted it because it was marked to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, and my husband bought the seed packet for me. That was more than 15 years ago, and pretty early in my understanding of pollinator plants, which are plants that attract insects to pollinate flowers to produce fruit and vegetables. I even plant annuals like marigolds and zinnias by the vegetables, so the bees don’t have far to go when feeding on the cucumbers and squash. You can find many other native plants – and be aware of how they express themselves in your garden as well as the beauty they bring. When the hummingbirds aren’t feeding on the columbine and other flowers and bugs, we have a feeder for them to enjoy. Follow this recipe for the health of the hummers.
We love summer produce. In July, garlic, new potatoes, green onions, and early cucumbers are ready to enjoy. While we anxiously await the tomatoes, the corn should be knee-high by the 4th of July, as my father-in-law would say. The taste of a fresh tomato sandwich or the charred sweetness of a grilled onion is perfect for a summer meal. My Grandma Luebke always had a big batch of freshly pickled cucumbers. The tangy vinegar and sugar mixture is my favorite dressing, while my husband loves cucumbers mixed with onions and ranch dressing. We each have our garden favorites. I loved my Grandma’s Cucumbers and hoped you would too. Every time I slice the cucumbers and laugh, I think of her remembering how my dad would drink the juice. It makes me pucker up just thinking about it. Here is her recipe. I hope you make a batch soon.
While July may be filled with long-overdue reunions, music festivals, vacations, and summer sports, we can also celebrate the community our gardens can hold. I enjoy fresh produce and talking to fellow gardeners on the best ways to battle the summer bugs and water needs. I also know that many Siouxland residents live in a food desert – where it is not easy for them to get to a store with fresh produce. So, we donate our extra produce. Please consider spreading the word of Up from the Earth or volunteer at a food pantry.
Up from the Earth helps the community by bringing together gardeners with extra produce with neighborhood food pantries who can help distribute the food. The website has a listing of all of the food pantries in the area and a link to sign up to volunteer.
Garden beauty, garden love, and garden community are some home-grown expressions many of us enjoy. If you do not have a garden – consider starting this Fall in containers on your deck, or dig up a small area of your yard and donate your extras to an area church pantry.
Pam Mickelson is Professor Emeritus, Morningside University, and serves on the Up from the Earth Leadership Team. She and her husband live in rural Sergeant Bluff on an acreage where they plant, grow, and share their gardens with others.