From the archives: The ritual of putting the garden to sleep

From time to time, we will visit the Wayback Machine to read stories from The Senior Times archives. This story by Jack Ravinsky was published in November 1989.

The phone startled me one early morning. 

“It’s there, it’s there!” cried out Sam Shushter, my very good friend.

“What’s there?” I asked, half asleep.

“The horse manure,” Sam said. “The city is sending a load over at 8 a.m.”

“Wow,” I said. “I’ll be there immediately.”

I arrived at the gardens just in time to see the city truck leaving. The gates were shut and I couldn’t get in. What should I do? I asked myself.

If any of you folks ever passed our garden at Victoria and Côte-St-Catherine Rd., you would notice the high steel-link fence topped with barbed wire. I went to the side where I would not be seen and started climbing. No go. The openings in the fence were too small for the points in my shoes. I then backed up and made a running leap. I put one leg over and then the other.

I tore my pants but I got in, huffing and puffing. I wouldn’t advise any other youngster of 72 to repeat this feat. Lucky for me, I have a good heart.

I started to work feverishly before the other gardeners arrived. The manure is very much in demand here. Shortly after, the Filipino gentleman who has the key arrived. Scratching his head, he was wondering how I got in. I motioned to him that I jumped over the fence.

To some people, the end of the gardening season just means packing up and saying goodbye. But not I. The good earth, after rewarding me with a very bountiful harvest, deserves all the love and attention I can give it. Every leaf and stalk of my plants gets chopped up into little pieces and put back into the soil. Thanks to the mayor of Montreal, the manure the city sends out every autumn is then spread over the surface of the garden. To us organic gardeners, that stuff is worth its weight in gold. The garden is then ready for its long rest and winter sleep.

The garden and grounds at my home receive the same loving care. The raspberry plants and the currant bushes are pruned and tied up for protection. The grape vines are taken down and placed on the ground to sleep under the blanket of snow until spring. The fruit trees are checked and given the necessary care.

The city does not send manure to my house, so I use bags of dried manure along with the chopped up plants and leaves from my trees. I also dig up many worms in the surrounding area and relocate them to my garden.

I then say thank you and goodbye to my garden until spring.

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