The Potting Shed

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I have always loved digging in the dirt and making things grow.  When we were first married and had built our house, Bill did all the mowing of our big yard.  The mowing was great therapy and gave him a place to think, he said.  I love getting my fingers in the soil and over the years have dug up sod in several places to make various gardens.  One I call the English garden, because it has a white fence and trellised gateways, diamond-shaped and horseshoe-shaped flower gardens, and benches to sit on to read stories to the children and later the grandchildren.  Another was the “cutting garden” along the fence at the bottom of the hill, and yet another was the “shade” garden that borders our backyard fence.

But, because Bill’s father had always grown a huge vegetable garden, I had never tackled growing produce to eat.  A few years ago, when spring came, I decided it was time to try “frame gardens” for vegetables and to build a potting shed where I could keep my own tools (they always seem to walk away when I keep them in the garage), and where I could get a head start on the season by starting seedlings early.  I also longed for a place of my own to keep my gardening books and to repot and divide house plants.

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Finding just the right place for a potting shed took some research and planning.  I knew I wanted windows and a skylight on the southeast side.  I would need a potting bench, cubbies to hold soils and materials, a floor that could be hosed down, and a potting sink for watering and clean-up.

A pair of young adventuresome builders were willing to take on this project and before long the framework was in place.  While they worked on the building, my gardening friend and I began to plan the frame gardens.

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Although we got started late, we were able to plant tomatoes, green beans, eggplant, carrots, peppers and onions by buying some plants already started and by sowing early blooming seeds.  With the help of Randy Sigler who has helped us with the grounds for forty years now, we put in a stepping stone path and dug out the hard clay around the potting shed, replacing it with organic soil for flowers, lavender, and herbs.

I found a small chair for our grandson Simon and an antique mission chair for me that just fit in the corner.  Simon decorated the peg board (for hanging tools) with rubber stamps of dragonflies, butterflies and flying insects.

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That next fall Josh and Sharon, our grounds keepers, built two new frames with layers of organic materials (see Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza) that included leaf cuttings, chicken straw, seasoned manure, vegetable peelings, wood ash, peat moss, etc.  These frames were then covered with black plastic to let the organic layers “cook,” then uncovered after the snows were gone.  Soon they were ready for seeds and seedlings when the threat of frost was past and the soil was warmed by April rains. Our grandchildren Mia and Liam helped me plant seeds and seedlings in the ready frames.

By now the potting shed has become my special place to think, pray, plant, paint, and sometimes to hide.  And there is nothing like going to the garden to “pick our supper” of tomatoes, onions, lettuce, eggplant, peppers, and beans.  I know I could buy vegetables at the store, but somehow it is not the same.  Food grown in this place of peace seems to taste better!

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