We stood in her backyard, surveying the fence line. Which side got the most sun, or the least? Where would the shade be too much for young plants? What would the soil prove to be worth when we dug under the Bermuda grass?
The answers to these questions came to my daughter and I over the first thirty minutes of our work this evening. We were starting her yard with a winter garden. Depending upon the weather, some vegetables like lettuces, spinach or green onions could grow through much of the winter.
When we turned over the first shovel-full of soil, we found a nice dark color, three worms and a couple of rolly pollies. And we smiled. In my head, I thought: “It’s wick. She’s got something to help get her started…it won’t be all from scratch.”
Four bags each of composted manure and cottonseed hull mulch, several bags of seeds, and a good deal of work later, Rachel’s garden is well on its way. I have a feeling it will be cleared out, built up, seeded and tucked in before you know it. After all, she is my kid…and her grandparents’ grandchild.
Happy gardening, Rachel. I promise you…you’re about to witness miracles.
excerpt from the Secret Garden
Mistress Mary put her hand on his arm again without knowing it.
“Will there be roses?” she whispered. “Can you tell? I thought perhaps they were all dead.”
“Eh! No! Not them–not all of ’em!” he answered. “Look here!”
He stepped over to the nearest tree–an old, old one with gray lichen all over its bark, but upholding a curtain of tangled sprays and branches. He took a thick knife out of his Pocket and opened one of its blades.
“There’s lots o’ dead wood as ought to be cut out,” he said. “An’ there’s a lot o’ old wood, but it made some new last year. This here’s a new bit,” and he touched a shoot which looked brownish green instead of hard, dry gray. Mary touched it herself in an eager, reverent way.
“That one?” she said. “Is that one quite alive quite?”
Dickon curved his wide smiling mouth.
“It’s as wick as you or me,” he said; and Mary remembered that Martha had told her that “wick” meant “alive” or “lively.”
“I’m glad it’s wick!” she cried out in her whisper. “I want them all to be wick. Let us go round the garden and count how many wick ones there are.”
She quite panted with eagerness, and Dickon was as eager as she was. They went from tree to tree and from bush to bush. Dickon carried his knife in his hand and showed her things which she thought wonderful.
“They’ve run wild,” he said, “but th’ strongest ones has fair thrived on it. The delicatest ones has died out, but th’ others has growed an’ growed, an’ spread an’ spread, till they’s a wonder. See here!” and he pulled down a thick gray, dry-looking branch. “A body might think this was dead wood, but I don’t believe it is–down to th’ root. I’ll cut it low down an’ see.”
He knelt and with his knife cut the lifeless-looking branch through, not far above the earth.
“There!” he said exultantly. “I told thee so. There’s green in that wood yet. Look at it.”
Mary was down on her knees before he spoke, gazing with all her might.
“When it looks a bit greenish an’ juicy like that, it’s wick,” he explained. “When th’ inside is dry an’ breaks easy, like this here piece I’ve cut off, it’s done for. There’s a big root here as all this live wood sprung out of, an’ if th’ old wood’s cut off an’ it’s dug round, and took care of there’ll be–” he stopped and lifted his face to look up at the climbing and hanging sprays above him–“there’ll be a fountain o’ roses here this summer.”
They went from bush to bush and from tree to tree. He was very strong and clever with his knife and knew how to cut the dry and dead wood away, and could tell when an unpromising bough or twig had still green life in it. In the course of half an hour Mary thought she could tell too, and when he cut through a lifeless-looking branch she would cry out joyfully under her breath when she caught sight of the least shade of moist green. The spade, and hoe, and fork were very useful. He showed her how to use the fork while he dug about roots with the spade and stirred the earth and let the air in.
They were working industriously round one of the biggest standard roses when he caught sight of something which made him utter an exclamation of surprise.
“Why!” he cried, pointing to the grass a few feet away. “Who did that there?”
It was one of Mary’s own little clearings round the pale green points.
“I did it,” said Mary.
“Why, I thought tha’ didn’t know nothin’ about gardenin’,” he exclaimed.
“I don’t,” she answered, “but they were so little, and the grass was so thick and strong, and they looked as if they had no room to breathe. So I made a place for them. I don’t even know what they are.”