Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Green Thoughts

I haven’t quite hit that threshold were I am ready for winter to go away. I still enjoy the white landscapes, the frosty artistry, and the thick comforter on the bed. Once we have our first late winter thaw, my angst for spring will begin. Though it is that time of year again where my thoughts drift to things of green. I have had a book that I have purposely not read for the last few months, saving it until now, after last years gardening season has faded to whiteness and new ambitions and dreams have begun to sprout in my mind. Michael Pollan’s Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education. I am a fan of Michael Pollan’s works, having read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and The Botany of Desire. Instead of just lecturing and reporting on the subject at hand, he journals his own perspectives as he learns more about the subject, and how he comes to terms with the journey he has taken. Second Nature is far from a technique/how-to book with gardening. But I wouldn’t say it is the pursuit of Zen gardening either. This book has seemed to calmed my love/hate relationship with gardening though. Green thumb or not, it is an excellent read in the darkness of winter.

“Where nature, ever obliging, redeems this seasons deaths and disasters in the fresh promise in next spring.”

My experiment with square foot gardening with my vegetables ended up with mixed results. No, it didn’t turn out like the pretty glossy photos in the books, but I did learn a lot. I missed the window to train my cucumbers on a trellis to grow vertical, so they just crawled all over. My tomatoes and broccoli grew much too big and over shadowed my beans and lettuce in the squares in between, causing them to suffer. (who knew broccoli got so big?) Same with my herbs. With my 3 boxes, I did arrange my plants from smallest to largest in each box, front to back. Seeing how everything grew last year, I will still arrange things by small to large, but across the 3 boxes with the last box containing all the largest of the plants.

There was a line in the book that has stuck with me since I first heard it, “garden in time, than in space”. There are many reasons to grow a garden; for beauty, for food, for routine, and for something to do. Last year, I think I took the first step in what suits me best for my desires of a garden. (Well, vegetable gardening at least, my flower gardening needs some serious thought yet) I pared it down from the excessive row gardening that we attempted to manage in years past. I like to garden as a hobby, enjoying what I can nurture from what tools nature determines to give me in a summer. If its bad season for tomatoes, so what. The beans might thrive in the same season. Gardening in time, rather than in space allows me to accept what does grow and what does not. Learning to grow with nature’s cycles will lead to less feelings of failure and despair. Being narrowly focused on only the space I deem a garden magnifies the successes and the failures, thus missing out on what is happening around me. I enjoy the outdoors and if I view going out into the garden as more as an experience than a chore on a little plot, it will take away those feelings of drudgery. I know I am sounding pretty optimistic and if August Me read this, she would try to get me committed. August Me longs for autumn and it’s killing frost nights. Its about getting in the right state of mind before I determine what I want to grow this year and draw up my plot map. Perhaps then August Me wouldn’t mind another picking from the beans and peas, if we can agree on a garden we can both live with.

“Winter in the garden is the season of speculation, a time when the snow on the ground is an empty canvas that invites the idle planting and replanting of countless hypothetical gardens between now and the spring thaw. A season of speculation in the Wall Street sense too, for now is when large wagers of gardening time and space are made on the basis of mere scraps of information— a hankering, a picture in a catalog, a seed. We gardeners have always had trouble heeding Henry Ward Beechers’s sound nineteenth-century advice, that we not be “made wild by pompous catalogs from florists and seedsmen.” In a few months, summer will pass judgment on the merit, or folly, of our January schemes, but right now anything seems possible.”

Let the scheming begin.

(quotations taken from Second Nature: A Gardener's Education)

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