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It’s time to try out the green thumb

West end perspective

April 15, 2012
By Johanna Boyle - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

I've been looking forward to this weekend for a while now, not just because it's my turn to have a long weekend in preparation for working the following weekend shift.

This weekend I attended the season-opening meeting for the Grace Community Garden in Ishpeming. That's right. This summer I'm going to be a gardener.

Or try to be at least. This is really my first full-scale attempt at growing something. Of course I have houseplants, both in my apartment and in my office at work. And last year I managed to not kill a cherry tomato plant that I kept on my front step.

This year, it's the real deal, as in plants are in the ground, shovels will be required and I'll be responsible for a lot more than just one plant in a pot. Hopefully this summer I'll be eating carrots, tomatoes, spinach, kale and peas I've planted, watered and watched grow.

Even though I've never personally kept a garden before, eating fresh vegetables all summer long has always deliciously been a part of my life, thanks to my mom.

She is a gardener - flowers, herbs, vegetables, berry bushes. No matter what other hobbies, obligations or projects she has going on, gardens are a constant. And by "garden," I mean the entire front yard turned into a flower garden, ditto for most of the back yard and a community garden plot she has maintained (with willing labor from the rest of the family) for the past couple years for vegetables.

Weeks ago, the seed catalogues arrived and she spent time pouring over them, making lists of seeds she already had and seeds she needed to buy. When the seeds arrived, there was a second going over of the lists, reading each packet and planning out what needed to be planted when.

Most recently the light rack emerged, and the kitchen table was covered with newspapers and potting soil as the seeds were planted into seed trays. After a couple days of anxious waiting on Mom's part, they sprouted and have been carefully rotated and monitored ever since.

Basically, Mom reaches the same level of anticipation and excitement where gardening is concerned as I did for the release of the last three Harry Potter novels (a considerable amount).

Although I have inherited a number of traits from my mom, an enthusiasm for plants was not one of them. I don't really see that as a bad thing. After all, I have a number of interests (unicycling) that the rest of my family hasn't picked up yet. But after writing The Mining Journal's Living Green series for a couple years, I've learned enough about the local food movement to think it's pretty cool, and like a lot of the cool things I write about, I got the urge to try it myself.

At first I wanted to volunteer on one of the area's farms, but taking into account my own schedule, I figured it would be more convenient to try out my own community garden plot.

Luckily, despite my earlier disinterest, my mom seems almost excited about helping me get me feet wet, err, dirty, as her own.

While I'm of course excited about growing my own food, I'm even more excited about being able to take part in one of Mom's favorite activities, being able to take part in something she really enjoys.

Maybe I'll end up with more tomatoes than I know what to do with. Maybe I'll end up with a whole bunch of dead plants. Either way - with some combination of success and failure - sharing the experience of gardening with my mom will mean more than any amount of vegetables.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is



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