Happy returns

Spring is the season of happy returns — robins, crocuses and sunshine. And me!

Spring is the season of happy returns — robins, crocuses and sunshine. And me! I am so happy to be back writing my column. Where have I been all these months? Writing a magazine on container gardening for Harris Publications. It will be hitting the stands over the next few weeks and will stay there until late August … so if you’re interested in growing stuff in containers check it out. The magazine is called (big surprise) Container Gardens!

Right now my house looks like The Attack of the Container Gardens. I have pots upon pots and flats upon flats of green growing things stuffed into every corner. Plants are piled beneath grow lights and crammed onto windowsills.

The place looks like a grow-op, but sadly, without the profit.

Not that you can’t save money growing your own groceries. If you buy a $2 packet of mesclun mix and toss the seed into two or three containers you have yourself a summer’s worth of salad. The greens can be cut and will grow back again easily filling one of those plastic grocery packages of expensive gourmet greens a dozen times over. Even if you deduct the cost of your soil you still could save yourself $100. Herbs are another money saver.

A little packet of fresh basil in the grocery store costs as much as an entire plant in a pot. One pot of basil will provide you with enough cuttings to equal at least 10 grocery sized packets. Ka-ching!

As well as lots of containers and a flower garden I also plant two vegetable plots that take up just over 5,000 square feet. With all that space it’s easy to feel like I’m swimming in carrot gold. And I plant a lot of carrots. They’re a favourite wintertime staple so a large portion of our garden is devoted to this root crop. Are you thinking Ka-ching? Er, not so much. Last summer I spotted 50 pound bags of carrots being sold at a farmer’s market for 20 bucks. Sown, watered, weeded, thinned, harvested, washed and bagged all for a measly pair of $10 bills! I almost cried. What a reality check. A day’s work at minimum wage would buy all the carrots I spend my summers coaxing into harvest.

Instead of going around in a constant state of windblown dishevelment with soil stains etched into my knees and sun cracked hands I could be sipping noon-time lattes and treating myself to a manicure. I thought about that for a while before realizing I like the wind in my hair and the feel of soil in my hands, so there you have it.

Soon I will be crawling about in the garden sowing those little carrot seeds again and happier than a … well, a girl in a garden.

Speaking of carrots and gold, did you hear the story about Lena Paahlsson from Sweden? Back in 1995 she removed her 24-karat gold wedding ring and set it to the side while doing some Christmas baking and cooking with her daughters.

When they finished her ring was gone. They looked everywhere but to no avail. Then, just a few months ago, Lena pulled some carrots from her garden and found her wedding band wrapped around the shoulders of a small carrot. In fact, the carrot was so small Lena was about to discard it before catching a glint of gold and pausing for a closer look. Sixteen years after losing her ring a carrot brought it back to her none the worse for wear.

Lena and her husband Ola figure the ring must have somehow fell into the kitchen sink full of vegetable peelings and from there it was either dumped in the compost pile or fed to the sheep before ending up in the garden.

So there you go. Sometimes a garden pays you back in carrot gold and other times in karat gold. Either way, it’s happy returns. And when it’s all said and done it is happiness and love — not monetary value — that matters. As the commercial goes, seeds … $3. A hoe … $30. A homegrown carrot … priceless! Of course the commercial is for an establishment that rakes in billions of dollars a year on so-called priceless dreams, but you get the gist.

Do you have a story about finding something unusual in your garden? Would you be willing to share it? If so, send it by e-mail to contact@shannonmckinnon.com and I will do my best to include your story in this column or post in on my website in the weeks to come.

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from Northern BC. You can catch up on past columns or check out her garden blog by visiting www.shannonmckinnon.com.

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