Our work in the garden this time of year is filled with hope, joy and
satisfaction. It's a challenge to keep up, but our bountiful results
encourage us. We're still eating food from last year's garden as the first
greens of spring are ready to harvest.
Seeds for beautiful and nutritious plants, a few hand tools and a bit of
land to cultivate, promise good eating over the next year. The soil, rich
and friable after years of composting and care, is like a clean slate,
ready to be planted with vegetables, flowers and herbs in rows and beds.
Preparing the garden gets us close to the Earth. The soil's color, texture
and inhabitants reveal its quality. Where it is dark, crumbly and full of
worms, we've done a good job of growing fertility. Weeds pull out easily.
Other beds may need more compost and perhaps a cover crop and some time to
continue their improvement.
Growing vegetables and flowers is an ongoing process: day-to-day and
year-to-year. Time is a gardener's friend. The sun shines, the rain falls,
and seasons follow one another in due course. We can use these natural
processes and green plants to improve the soil and ultimately, to feed
ourselves. This is basic stewardship of the Earth: caring well for what
land we get to use, and using it to produce what's needed to keep us alive.
We've already planted peas, potatoes, onions, mustards, spinach, radishes,
carrots, parsnips, beets, Swiss chard, arugula, kale, broccoli, cabbage and
lots of lettuce, too. Actually some of the lettuce, red mustard, dill and
coriander were self-seeded by last year's crop. The longer we garden, the
more we appreciate and encourage these happy accidents. All of these
plants are frost-hardy. The occasional early morning temperatures that dip
below 32 degrees (which are possible until the middle or end of this month)
won't bother them at all.
Seedlings of frost-sensitive vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers,
eggplants and celery are protected inside or outside in the cold frame.
The traditional Native American "Three Sisters" - beans, corn and squash -
and their relatives pumpkins and cucumbers, need warmer soil in order to
germinate and no frost once they are above the ground. Sweet potato slips
appreciate even warmer conditions.
Right now, leaves from over-wintered turnips, kale, sorrel, German spinach
and onions are delicious in salads and stir-fries. They are all loaded with
vitamins and minerals. The dandelions' greens are past their prime, but
we're picking their cheery yellow flowers now to make wine.
What a great time to be working in the garden! In addition to the
dandelions, birds and early butterflies, we're surrounded with beautiful
tulips and azaleas, as well as by exuberantly blooming magnolias, dogwoods,
redbuds, fragrant viburnums and apple trees.
The rhubarb is almost ready to harvest, and asparagus spears lurk just
below the soil's surface. Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and
blueberries are all budded up or flowering, promising delicious treats all
Gardening may be the most sane and effective response to large
environmental problems. In order to begin to improve the health of the
environment, we must begin to satisfy our needs with as few negative
impacts as possible. Feeding ourselves from nearby gardens with respect
for the soil, sun and ecosystems and without chemicals, damaging energy or
noisy machines is a good place to start.
Our gardens connect us with ancient traditions and with the forces of
nature. We discover the wonderful productivity of the Earth, the joy of
seeing and eating the fruits of our labor and of working in a functioning
ecosystem. We simultaneously build the health of the soil, of the plants
we grow and of ourselves.
Gardening is an antidote and a cure for what ails us. It centers and
connects us, nourishes and heals us and the Earth.
Good gardening to you and yours.
This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth
(C) 1998, Bill Duesing, Solar Farm Education, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06478
Bill and Suzanne Duesing operate the Old Solar Farm (raising NOFA/CT
certified organic vegetables) and Solar Farm Education (working on urban
agriculture projects in southern Connecticut and producing "The Politics of
Food" and "Living on the Earth" radio programs). Their collection of essays
Living on the Earth: Eclectic Essays for a Sustainable and Joyful Future
is available from Bill Duesing, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491 for $14
postpaid. These essays first appeared on WSHU, public radio from
Fairfield, CT. New essays are posted weekly at http://www.wshu.org/duesing
and those since November 1995 are available there.
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