Simplicity is not so simple, except when it is. When it is not, well, then welcome to the delicious and ambiguous world of organic gardening!
As someone who has planted and eaten from an ecological garden for the last seven years, let me be the first to say that there are complexities involved if you want to grow and store your own food for winter… after all, that is part of what living simply is about, right?
In theory, you:
- dig the soil
- plant seeds
- water them
- watch them grow
- eat your produce with satisfaction and delight
In practice, you:
- drool over seed catalogs left and right, dreaming of those juicy tomatoes set to ripen in July
- wait for the right soil temperature and amount of sunlight
- read all about companion planting as you are planning your garden, bed by bed
- discover that you don’t need to dig, use mulch instead!
- plant the seeds and wonder when they are ever going to germinate
- watch them grow, perplexed by why they don’t seem to grow faster
- admire the many insects in your garden as they devour your lettuce and cabbage
- harvest what you can, even if it is (much) smaller than that image in the seed catalog
- eat your bounty with satisfaction and delight
We, humans, tend to over-simplify nature and expect certain things that just can’t be accounted for. Drought is one, too much precipitation is another, high heat in mid summer, late frost…
All elements beyond our control, but we must strive to do the best we can. Plant more seeds, learn to take some loss, be happy with smaller, misshapen fruits and roots – that is all part of nature. Realizing that not every vegetable needs to look like it came from a factory is quite another. Appreciate the beauty of colors in the garden, small spots don’t make a tomato inferior, just different. Go after flavor, nutrients and sustainability rather than uniform carrots that look like they were grown in a mold. Much food waste in the world is from before the produce even leaves the farm, if it doesn’t fit into a standard size, color, or shape – it inevitably becomes part of (hopefully) compost or off to the garbage pile.
So what is in it for you by choosing the path less taken, that of learning to grow some of your own potatoes, salad greens and small fruits?
Well, it can help in making ends meet. If a little work and pinch of good weather takes you through the complete life cycle of a vegetable, then you have the opportunity to eat it fresh, or save it for another day. Solar drying is an option for some, canning is an option for many.
When you are on your last dime, literally, those 4 braids of spring garlic, 10 jars of tomato sauce, 23 jars of plum jam and an astounding 48 jars of zucchini relish will help keep you through the winter.
It is as simple and complex as that!
Start growing your own, whether it is on an acre or a few containers on your balcony, you will appreciate, without a doubt, the fruits of your labor. Involve children in the growing process as much as possible, so they know the basics: potatoes grow under the soil, garlics and onions too; some leaves like from the beet are meant to eat! but better stick to young radish pods rather than their prickly leaves; sun-ripened tomatoes are the best and the winter squash will supply you with pie all winter long!
Get back to basics and start planting your seeds today for that peace of mind of knowing exactly where your food comes from.
What will be growing in your garden this season?