We’re all going to have to learn new things. Old things, really, things our grandparents knew and every generation before that, but not us. Things are going to need to be decentralized. We need to learn how to make our houses comfortable without pumping in a lot of energy from somewhere else; we need vegetable beds in every front yard. Time’s a-comin’.
We’re on board. In theory. We wear sweaters and we have a vegetable garden. Or something like it.
It’s so exciting to think you can plunk a little package of Life into the soil and wring dinner out of it later. In fact it’s so exciting that we expend all our enthusiasm right off the bat and have no follow-through. We always planted sugar snap peas. It says right on the package that you can plant successive crops every two weeks, but we feel so accomplished after the first batch comes up that we never remember to do it again. We have a collection of open seed packets (rolled over at the top and a little soiled) going back a decade.
Same thing with lettuce. We put in six plants and a few weeks later there’s more lettuce than we can even eat, and then they bolt and we put them in the compost pile. If we’d sown more seeds earlier, we’d have new lettuce, but we forgot, and now we have to wait a few more weeks.
We watch the first few peas ripen and pluck them happily for a few days and then something shiny goes by, and the next time we look the pea pods are fat and nubbly and overdone, and we put them in the compost pile.
We’ve got basil, and extract a few leaves now and then, but we leave the rest for Donna around the corner to make pesto out of. This year we forgot to bring it over and she forgot to fetch it. First cold snap we’ll be putting the plants in the compost pile.
The peppers always do well. Or they used to, but this year we put them in the pea bed just to shake things up and put kale in the pepper bed. The peppers sulked. We picked a few small, dispirited ones and the plants went into the compost pile. The kale was tremendous and we had kale salad for a good week and then the white flies showed up and we pulled them up and put them in the compost pile.
|No one needs lettuce flowers.|
Know what we have a ton of? Acorn squash. We didn’t plant it. It just showed up. There were plenty of seeds in the compost and it could’ve just as easily been butternut, or delicata, or that stripey thing that looks like a toilet float, but no. Acorn. Every last one. They’re easily our most successful crop. That is because you can put them on the counter and ignore them and they’ll still be edible months later. And that’s what we need in a vegetable.
In short, this is not a vegetable garden. This is an avatar of a vegetable garden.
What to do? There are a few ways to go on this. We could begin paying attention, with sticky notes on the calendar (“PAY ATTENTION”) and bone up, and buckle down, and can, freeze, grind, dehydrate, stomp, juice, dig a root cellar, and, in short, go full Grandma on the thing. Or we can find a bright-eyed kid with braids, a Bernie button, and a fug of Patchouli and tell her to go to town on the place in exchange for a fifth of the take. We’d be way ahead doing that.
But we’ll probably do the same thing. We’ll see what wanders into the yard, feed it, water it, admire it, watch it make a mess in the bed, and then humanely euthanize it. We don’t grow vegetables. We grow pets.
Paul always says that we grow the most expensive tomatoes in the world. Occasionally we have to buy fresh soil. Sometimes soil amendments like lime. The plants themselves (we don't have room for a lot of plants, so there's no point in growing from seed.) Coyote urine to unsuccessfully keep the squirrels away. Insecticidal soap to keep the bugs away. It all adds up, and it would probably be cheaper for us to get it at our local produce market (they are organic and close by.) But it does taste better when it is picked and eaten immediately. This year, however, I had to pick the tomatoes when they were just turning blush and let them ripen on the table. Otherwise… squirrels. I don't mind cutting around catbird bites, but squirrels… they have cooties.
I got two tomato plants as a gift. I successfully harvested four nice fruits (except for the splitting and the end rot) and had to pull off about three dozen green tomatoes just before a hard freeze. They're sitting on the table waiting for their turn to turn yellow or red and possibly be eaten or rot and be put into the compost bin.
We had a lucky year with tomatoes. One out of every ten didn't have blossom end rot. Why, we must've gotten a good dozen BLTs out of the bunch.
We had blossom end rot two years running, to the point where I didn't have an excess to can. I told Paul that if it happened a third year in a row, we'd chuck the whole thing and just buy our tomatoes. Of course, I said it around them, so they behaved this year and I had plenty to can. Blossom end rot only reared its ugly head at the tail end of the season, when the tomatoes are all small and green and we consign them to the squirrels anyway. (I did take some to make giardiniera. Don't tell the squirrels.)
I haven't talked to squirrels since I explained about the wire-chewing and subsequent failure of my solar panels and they DIDN'T CARE.
So many sub divisions demand that your front yard be green grass and cut just so.
Wouldn't it be wonderful it the rules said, "Plant Gardens!"
Yeah, those community standards are really something, aren't they? There are places you can't hang your laundry out, can't have a vegetable garden in the front yard, and can't park a pickup truck in the driveway. Whuh?
You didn't hear it from me, but this business of having a Home Owners Association (HOA) that tells you what color to paint your front door….well, that's just emblematic of The End Of Common Sense. IMHO, an HOA is just another form of government regulation and HOA fees are just another form of taxes. While I believe in regulation, I have to ask why our country got along just fine with only the minimal regulation provided by existing local and state governments — things everyone seems to generally agree upon, like building codes, speed limits, and zoning. That's all we need, just the basics. And golly, local governments seem to have been doing this reasonably well, at least until about the 1960s, when someone decided that homeowners should be relieved of the need to communicate with their neighbors about what they might think is tasteless or offensive. I guess it is so much easier for this new generation to shell out $100s/month rather than have to get to know their neighbors well enough to tell them that their new front door is the color of puke, and that they'd appreciate their not hanging out the bloomers to dry when the in-laws are coming to visit…..
The way I figure it, It's MY home, bought and paid for, and the property taxes are paid. As long as I'm not hurting anyone, what I do or have on my property is my own damned business. Fortunately, I live in a working class neighborhood instead of an upwardly mobile development, so there is more leeway for behavior. And what exactly do HOAs DO if someone doesn't go along with their rules and starts hanging up their laundry or planting a xeriscape instead of a lawn? Do they fine you or evict you?
HOAs aren't government though–are they?
Here's a shortcut…throw all your seeds on the compost pile.
I already do. I think I'll just weed out what I don't want from the compost pile and train the rest of it up the wall.
I am planing to plant our vegie garden over the next week or so and hope to do better. I really, really hope to get tomatoes this year.
Oh boy are YOU on the other side of the world! Good luck!
Murr, you may not remember it, but I grew up with a compost pile in one corner of the backyard. We used it mostly for raked leaves and grass clippings, but occasionally some errant sunflower or tomato plant would show up. The reason we created the compost pile was because Dad Downs realized that it was no long acceptable to burn all the raked leaves and combustible trash…….Ah, that goes back to the *early* 1950s!!
I don't remember anything about your house but the rec room which I was deeply envious of. I thought MY dad had the only compost pile in town.
Well, next year's compost should be pretty good!
My compost is world class. Do I remember to spread it around? I do not. Similar scenario to my vegetable gardening…
I have seeds that are way too old also, carried over from a previous veggie garden and never used here. I found them and planted beans and tomatoes but nothing has come up, because it's too late in the season already, so I put dwarf marigold seeds into the same pots.
You could let one of your bolted plants flower and set seed then just let it fall, wherever the seed lands you could get dozens of little baby plants without having to plant anything.
I hope I don't get any more of those Brussels sploots.