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Garden 2020
JOHN GIBBS is a resident of Gays Mills, Wisconsin. He is an award-winning weekly columnist for the Crawford County Independent newspaper in Gays Mills, Wisconsin.

GAYS MILLS - Who was it that first uttered “Hope springs eternal in every human breast?”   Turns out it was the English poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744) in an essay he penned long ago. He must have been a genius or simply a good observer of human nature. He saw that it is just part of human nature to find fresh causes for optimism. 

As we cautiously wait to see how this pandemic evolves, banking on a vaccine, an effective treatment, or some kind of herd immunity, sources of hope emerge with the spring of 2020. One of those sources, for those lucky enough to have access to one, is a garden.

So fa,r I’ve been doing a lot of garden prep. The garden last year was a flop mainly because my attention was diverted by a major construction project: a new garage/shop. I did plant a few things last year but, as you know, planting a garden is just the start of a season-long undertaking. Having a few stray bovines investigate the weedy and unkempt garden halfway through the growing season didn’t help; the lightweight rabbit fence around the plot didn’t stand a chance against the cows.

Much of the garden prep has been doing battle with Quack grass. Quack grass is a formidable invasive weed and it has my begrudging respect. To show how pesky it is, farmers even have an implement named after it: the Quack digger. The problem with the wily Quack is that is sends out deep underground rhizomes to spread itself. Hoeing the doggone surface stuff that you see just spreads it. Too bad there’s no money in Quack grass, we’d all be better off.

The Quack here has got a multi-year head start on its control. Step one is to run the roto-tiller through the plot. This involves stopping quite often to cut off the amazingly long and strong pure white rhizome runners that get wrapped around the tiller.  That can be satisfying until, step two, you go back through the tilled ground with a pitchfork and shake out more and more roots that the tiller missed. I’ve won some battles and a few minor skirmishes, but the Quack War continues.

In the meantime, I have started a few plants in pots to be transplanted into the garden when they get big enough. It takes faith as well as hope to plant seeds so they can do their magic. All that life wrapped up in tiny seeds. Tomatoes, peppers, basil, bright lights chard, and some squash are all busy sprouting as I write.

I saved a bundle on broccoli seeds this year.  I could have paid $4,290 a pound, but opted for a cheaper version for only $2,270 a pound.  Of course I only needed 200 milligrams so it was $1.89 vs. $.99.  There were 55 little bitty seeds in the seed envelope (yes, I counted them). The package recommended planting the seeds two inches apart and then thinning them to two feet apart, which seemed like a pretty high ‘dropout’ rate. If I could get all those seeds to produce, I would soon be looking for unlocked cars so I could share the bounty.

I hope you have a plot or a pot to grow something in this summer. Pray for a good harvest, but keep hoeing.