Photo by Elaine Casap

This week offered a significant disappointment. A groundhog chowed down on my pepper plants. They got them when the plants looked robust with bright green leaves, abundant flowers, and peppers. Mr. Groundhog also sampled the potato leaves, but fortunately, didn’t find them nearly as tasty as the peppers. Earlier in the season, he cleaned out my tickseed. I didn’t mind that as much as losing the peppers.

Years ago, I planted extensive gardens. I would produce as many as 48 tomato plants! Corn grew exceptionally well each year. However, one year, I worked crazy long hours outside my home life but, still tried to maintain hearth and home. It was nearing the end of a long day, and knowing that I planned on canning corn the next day, my husband asked if I wanted him to harvest it. I turned down the offer saying that the next day I was off from work, so I’d gather it then and can it fresh. The critters heard me. The following morning I awakened to corn rows strewn with bare corn cobs. That must have been some party! They must have been joyously gleeful!

Such is the life of gardening. One day everything is great, and the next it’s not. Harvests provide incomes and round out family food budgets. Often they are shared with friends. Yet, gardening is not for the faint hearted. Success requires we keep the light of hope burning.

Being an independent soul, I appreciate the feeling of control, security and satisfaction of gardening, although, my gardens aren’t the epic size they once were. The past few summers, I have downsized, choosing to support farmer’s markets and other independent entrepreneurs. I focus on a few of my favorite tomatoes and several varieties of herbs, several of which I keep growing indoors through our long Maine winters.

Attending a garden summit this week, I learned new tricks, but thought, the most important message was emphasizing that by planting fruits, vegetables, and herbs, we contribute to the health of our planet and our health. It’s empowering to be able to say, “I grew this.” It’s empowering to know that even when the critters eat our efforts, drought creates challenges, or a frost takes out the last vestiges of summer fare, we still have hope and heart for doing it all again.

Herbs and microgreens are a great place to start. They are easy and produce abundantly. They’re also often outrageously expensive, so growing our own is an excellent way to enhance our meals without breaking the budget. Grocery stores often have small potted basil, thyme, or rosemary plants that we can buy and repot to keep them growing for a long time. Indeed, food banks partnering with growers to give potted herbs and directions to clients are a simple way to encourage self-empowerment. If you’re interested in planting a food bank, youth, community, or school garden, apply for seed money at, a Maine-based non-profit organization serving the world.

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