Fingers In The Dirt
It is all about the dirt.
A prospective customer and longtime gardener saw our gardens completely covered last summer and wondered if shifting to Garden Mats for weed prevention would stop her from getting her fingers in the dirt. I encouraged her to grab a handful out of one of the unplanted holes. Watching her squeeze and kneed the dirt with her fingers, I suggested that Garden Mats would eliminate 95% of the weeds from her garden, but would not take away from her experience of gardening. She would just be doing a lot less weeding! She would still prepare the soil, install the mats, and plant seeds and starter plants. After that, there would be the continual harvesting, succession planting, end-of-season clean-up, and—finally—top dressing with manure and leaves in preparation for the following spring. There would still be a little weeding to do—just enough in my opinion.
Underlying her concern, I understood her relationship with the soil.
Put any farmer or serious gardener in a new or unfamiliar place, you are likely to see them casually reach down, scoop up a handful of soil, thoughtfully squeeze and crumble or sift it in their hands. Certain people need to get a feel for the land. Soil that makes a tight ball is too wet and may cause seeds to rot, so traditional wisdom has it, while a ball of soil that crumbles under light pressure is likely right for planting. What you are looking for is a good humus. An experienced gardener, farmer, or rancher can read the soil the way most of us read a book. The simple, old-fashioned gesture of taking soil to hand captures the deep relationship between people and land, between growers and the soil.
There is something wonderful, something timeless, about putting our hands in the dirt.
Many of us work hard to build-up and improve our garden soil and– in the course of doing so–develop a real relationship. Part of enjoying the harvest and sharing fresh tomatoes or sweet corn with family and neighbors, is the feeling of gratitude toward the soil, rain, and sunlight—and a deep appreciation for nature. I value the many kinds of nourishment my gardens give me.
With Garden Mats as my mulch, my hands are still in the dirt—just not in the same way. Given how busy I am, it is a relief not to be shackled to an onerous and repetitive weed-pulling routine. And when all is said and done, it is not about the mats or weeding. It is about the soil. I feel good about putting some of the time I save weed-pulling into making my soil a little better each year.
This spring, as during every spring, I look forward to the reaffirmation of my bond with the soil and to getting my fingers into the rich, dark, crumbly dirt of my gardens. Equally, I look forward to walking on my mats barefoot without getting dirt in my toes.