Greetings Springlings. The season has arrived and as people emerge from a winter of ignoring their gardens, the fever begins.
It is said that people are far removed from acts of instinct; that we epitomize the rational. Looking at home improvement stores in April and watching a bluebird building a nest at the same time, and it’s clear that statement doesn’t hold true.
We are tied to the seasons as much as the next critter.
If you’re like me, fomented by seed catalogs from December through March, it’s easy become brainwashed to an idealized version of what your garden will be every year. Even as I write this, I’m looking over the neglected rampages of my garden from last season thinking, “Hey, this year is going to be easy, I might even expand a little bit”.
While we all dream of bountiful harvests and admiring neighbors, we don’t factor in the sweat, heat and righteous anger necessary to make it happen. We must seek to overcome this drive to over-plant and under-plan, since it inevitably leads us to an angry trip to the grocery store to buy potatoes to substitute for whatever that was that was once a potato growing in your garden.
So, how do we solve this problem? Aren’t there five easy steps to creating a hassle free cornucopia factory? Of course, the answer is no.
You will suffer and you will like it. And even if you don’t, you’ll forget how bad it was over the winter anyway, so don’t worry too much.
While I hope to share more concrete tools and ideas in subsequent articles, the first directive for you is to develop and harden your garden philosophy.
Developing a garden game-face early in the season will help as August approaches. The reality is that by tilling a garden, you have declared war on Mother Nature, and she is smarter, meaner and infinitely more patient than you. She’s also probably playing while angry. There is no winning at this type of game. In fact, you will most certainly lose.
The idea is to get out as many cucumbers as you can before the ceaseless process of weed competition, disease and insect damage take their toll.
I know what you’re thinking, “Wow Cory, who would have thought gardening could be made so morose?” Well, you’re welcome.
The more you can arm yourself with cynicism during the pre-planting days spent dreaming of disease free crops dripping with morning dew, the better. Expect the worse, and be pleasantly surprised by the mediocre.
After all of this, why do we bother? Why do we even try to grow food when we can buy green beans for 99 cents per pound down the street?
There are several reasons.
I, for one, take a sadistic pleasure in jumping in to the fray every year, confidant that some new, unheard of problem will make itself known to me this year. It’s never boring, that’s for sure.
Ultimately, we garden to reconnect us with the unrelenting challenge of the natural world. Now that we have created vehicles, air-conditioning, and iPhones, it’s very easy to come to the depressing conclusion that we have it all figured out.
Growing food is a great reminder that we don’t.
We plant to maintain an autonomy over our own lives. We grow to understand the excitement of the natural world, and to further extend that wonder to those around us. To me, that is worth it, even if I don’t eat a single tomato all year.
I hope to ride out this season with you, to delve into the mysteries and miseries that growing food can illustrate. Until then, may your spring planting go be prolific, but restrained.
Take care and eat well.
Cory Mosser is the founder of Natural Born Tillers, a farm coaching company dedicated to creating lasting opportunities in sustainable agriculture for the next generation of farmers. He has more than 10 years of experience managing organic vegetable farms, including five years locally in Newton County as the manager of Burge Organic Farm.