A gardener pauses to reflect and be thankful for what he has

Steve Smith pays tribute to the resilience of nature after a fire burned half his back yard landscape.

As the season winds down and the garden is put to bed, I can’t help but pause and reflect on the past several months. It was a roller coaster year for me with lots of promise, a major setback and then a fantastic recovery. Fasten your seat belts and hang on.

Mild weather near the end of winter enabled me to get a jump on my soil preparation for my raised beds and, by March, I already had all my cool-season veggies planted and growing quite nicely. The rest of the mixed border beds had been cleaned out, fertilized and mulched for the year. All I had to do was sit back and watch everything wake up and start growing. Life was good, or so it seemed.

Then on May 28, just after midnight, my wife hobbled into the bedroom and woke me up (she had been sleeping downstairs while she waited for a hip replacement) to inform me that there was a fire in the back yard. The neighbor’s chicken coop had caught on fire. By the time I got up and slipped on my flip flops, the fire had spread to my tool shed, engulfing most of the veggie beds and surrounding landscape.

Thankfully, Marysville firefighters were quick to contain the fire before it spread to either my neighbor’s or my house — but the damage to the garden was done.

Once the sun came up, I surveyed the site. About 128 feet of fence was gone. Half of my back yard’s landscaping was either gone or singed to the point of needing major pruning. Virtually every vegetable was incinerated, including many of the boards of the raised beds. All of the gardening tools I had collected over my lifetime were reduced to ingots of aluminum. It was a sobering scene, to say the least.

Like any good farmer, the only course of action was to clear away the damage and start replanting. We replaced the fence and raised bed boards that had been charred. I proceeded to replant the garden. Much to my surprise, the potatoes re-sprouted, but that was the only vegetable to recover. The fire was so hot that it sterilized the soil. Nothing wanted to grow until I applied liberal amounts of worm castings to restore the soil’s microorganisms.

In the end, I had one of the best gardens ever, despite the fact that many of the veggies were planted very late. It was all a tribute to the resilience of nature and the tenacity of the gardener.

By the end of the season, I had replaced the burned shed with a cute little “she shed,” added a colorful arbor with decorative iron moon gates, and purchased several new tools to replace the ones that had been destroyed by the fire.

I now have quite a collection of metal tool heads, left over by the fire, waiting to be incorporated into some form of garden art.

At the time of writing this column, you can hardly tell there was ever a fire. I still need to replace several of the 16-foot tall “Emerald Green” arborvitae that burned up, but overall, life is good once again, and for that I am extremely thankful. I am looking toward spring when I will repair the last remnants of the fire damage and move on like it never happened. Tragedy always brings opportunity.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at info@sunnysidenursery.net.

Holiday open house

Attend Sunnyside’s Holiday Open House 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 30 to kick off the holiday season with local vendors, carolers and more at the garden center, 3915 Sunnyside Blvd., Marysville. For more information, visit www.sunnysidenursery.net.

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