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Whether one is inspired by the “romance” of growing one’s own food, or prompted by the worldwide rising costs of food, the reality is that many people — some for the first time — will be growing vegetables this summer.

As one who has recently added veggies to the garden, I can attest without equivocation to the positives of veggie gardening as listed by Ball Horticultural. These include better taste, healthier eating, a sense of accomplishment, self-sufficiency, opportunity to share, enjoying the outdoors and educating children to grow and enjoy consuming veggies.

But look at what people say might stop them from veggie gardening: “Weeding is hard work, watering is work and time-consuming, and dealing with predacious critters is frustrating.” Many also fear the risk of failure.

My immediate inclination is to label this as mindless whining, but that might be a bit harsh. Let’s take a broader, almost philosophical view. Assuming those are honest comments, let’s think about all those things we love in our lives. Our pets bring us great joy, but few of us extol the pleasures of picking up dog poop in the yard, mucking out the barn, wearing slippers gnawed by a teething dog or emptying the cat box. And no poetry is written in praise of vet bills. The same,

I suspect, is true of those who own (and enjoy) boats, motorcycles and other vehicles.

The point is that everything we do is, I think, a sustaining mixture of joy and hard work, sometimes frustration and sometimes failure. The finer point, I would argue, is that we as the gardeners have the responsibility to understand the needs of the plants and the manner of their care (think dogs, cats, children, etc). The appropriate response to curiosity or confusion is education.

It is thrilling to observe the number of people doing just that. There was a large attendance at Jolly Lane’s recent gardening seminars, and the ongoing Pennington County Master Gardeners’ classes are at capacity.

Many other talks and classes are scheduled for this spring.

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Almost always, the positive responses to perceived gardening challenges lie with us, the gardeners. For example, review what we know about weeds. They thrive in low-nutrient, bare or disturbed soil. If we feed our garden soil organic material (compost) in the spring and fall and keep the soil covered (mulch), we have made it much harder for weeds to bother us or the plants and feed the soil as well. Consistent additions of compost and mulch will enhance the ability of the soil to hold moisture, reducing the need for daily or irritatingly frequent watering.

Critters (spelled d-e-e-r) are best restrained by a 6- to 7-foot deer fence. Many gardeners have created attractive, deer-resistant garden enclosures.

As for risk of failure, consider this by Fernance Lequenne, writing “My Friend the Garden” in 1941: “To be sure, the garden entails worries, many worries, in spite of all one’s patience and all one’s care. Surely you would not expect it, contrary to everything else on earth, to give only joy. ... Are worry and unhappiness perhaps necessary for the renewal of happiness?”

Cathie Draine is a member of the South Dakota State University Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners and the Garden Writers’ Association. She lives and gardens in Black Hawk. Contact her at

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