Friday, January 4, 2013
Learning From The Garden
Do you know what I love most about
getting seed catalogs in the mail in December?
The verified fact that it is never
too early to start planning.
Early on in my gardening years, being a single mom with 5 young children at home, a plethora of barnyard animals and a full-time day job to boot, every minute of my time was accounted for and precious. Although my retired neighbor and I both had acreages, our houses and gardens nearly abutted each other. It was virtually impossible to step outside to work in the garden without him spotting me and coming over to the fence to talk (and talk, and talk, and talk). Although I loved him dearly (God rest his soul) and learned quite a lot from him, and was the recipient of not only his garden extras, but on more than one occasion, an unwanted triplet lamb, my heart sang when the cornstalks grew tall enough that I could hide behind them and work unnoticed in the garden.
It was in these formative years of gardening, in Wyoming, that I learned the most. Melons will cross-pollinate when planted too close together. Don’t wash the potatoes after you dig them – dirty is how they are stored. Don’t water the garden with a sprinkler unless you like weeding. Irrigation water contains weed seeds. Don’t plant things you don’t like eating. Don’t plant more carrots than you want to scrub. And – don’t judge your neighbor.
The last statement merits further comment, because it is not only something I learned early on, but am challenged by it again and again each year and in every state I have lived in. The lesson comes in the form of a small white butterfly that visits my garden and deposits larva in the form of a cabbage worm on all my cabbage plants, every year. These voracious worms can and will destroy every cabbage plant (or any brassicas) if left to it. Their tenacity in unequivocal to any garden pest I have ever encountered. Every year I run for the books and the internet searching for some “natural” way of getting rid of these worms and protecting my precious plants. And every year these remedies fail. And every year I go to the store and buy a product that works.
Why I do this remains to be rationally answered. It goes against everything I believe in. I won’t even open the container or apply the dusting of powder without a glove on – lest it be absorbed by my skin. Although I am careful to apply upwind from the plant, I still hold my breath – lest I breathe it in. I watch carefully anywhere the breeze might have taken the dust that wasn’t intended and make a mental note to spray the plants around the cabbages down next time I water. I can’t block out of my mind that the dust will be on the ground and then in the ground. If anyone were to come upon me in the garden while applying this chemical, I am sure I would jump out of my skin – due to my guilty conscience.
So why do I do it? Because I want cabbage and because I can’t win any other way.
As I stand there in my little garden, with my little cabbages and my small container of pesticide, I shame myself for judging my neighboring farmers who farm thousands of acres of corn and soybeans also apply pesticides. Who am I to ever condemn the actions of someone who stands to lose his livelihood, while I stand to lose nothing really.
This year I will again plant cabbages and this year I may try putting nylon stockings over their little heads if they make it that far.
I hope to find a better way and I hope someday we all do.