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July 11th, 2011

Reconnecting with Nature

I am Rebecca, one of the new interns at Organic Gardening. This summer I am working with a lot of online content and helping develop the web presence. I am also trying to reconnect with nature, in particular gardening, during my summer here.

I grew up with a family who loved gardening. My mother had several

After a couple of years without gardening, I went back to the garden. I was even able to harvest (and eat!) some cherry tomatoes.

After a couple of years without gardening, I went back to the garden. I was even able to harvest (and eat!) some cherry tomatoes.

flowerbeds, and I spent weekends helping her plant seeds and bulbs. (Somehow I always got the work that involved pretty flowers, while she would trim and weed—I saw weeding as punishment.) My grandmother had a vegetable garden, and most uniquely my grandfather grew bonsai trees.

When I went off to college, I moved into an apartment without a yard, my grandparents couldn’t garden anymore, and my mom lost her interest. The closest to gardening I experienced during my first 3 years of college was remembering to water my cactus once a month (my roommates and I all got cacti 2 years ago, and my cactus is the only survivor, perhaps a sign of a green thumb?).

As an Organic Gardening intern for the summer, all of a sudden I am having to think back to those weekends (some of which, I will be honest, were forced) on my knees in the garden, covered in dirt.

So I am going to get back into the garden and foster a new love for gardening this summer. In order to do this, I will be visiting the Organic Gardening Test Garden once a week and spending time in the dirt. So follow along as I connect with nature again.

radishes

Some of the radishes that we harvested at the garden.

I went to the test garden, which is hosted by the Rodale Institute, for the first time on Wednesday. The Rodale Institute is gorgeous—and large enough that it took me a while to find the correct plot of land. For anyone who doesn’t know, the Institute features much more than the Organic Gardening Test Garden, including a production garden where the food served in Rodale’s employee café is grown.

After a quick tour, we started gardening. And naturally my first task was one that I used to dread the most—weeding. But now it seemed more like a relaxation technique then punishment. I was excited to be outside, to see progress being made as I dug up weeds, to enjoy the warmth and to not have anyone nagging and telling me to put gloves on while I worked in the garden.

Once we had cleared out two beds of weeds, it was time to harvest. There were

The plant with the most vegetables to harvest was the pea plant.

The plant with the most vegetables to harvest was the pea plant.

sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, radishes, and kale ready for picking. The first three were easy, but kale was another story. I had never even tasted kale before, let alone know what it looks like when it is ready to harvest. After a quick lesson from test garden manager Doug Hall, I was able to harvest that, too, and I got to take some home with me.

That night, I even sautéed the kale and the peas for dinner. The tomatoes didn’t even make it out of the garden, though—Doug and I were popping them into our mouths as we picked them. For perhaps the first time in my life, two of my meals were exclusively made with food I harvested myself. That was one of the greatest accomplishments: harvesting and cooking the food I would eat that day. For some people, this is a normal experience, but for me it was a first. —Rebecca Smith

Rebecca Smith is a rising senior at Elon University located in Elon, North Carolina and is the current online editorial intern for Organic Gardening. She is from Raleigh, North Carolina and has interned for past publications including Raleigh Downtowner Magazine. She also interned at SR Media while she studied abroad in London, England last fall.

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