So Far, No Good

Well, the hubub around the non-purchase of a vehicle has settled down and we’re back to where we were. So, where were we? Right, the garden. About that…

If booming seed sales (up over 20 percent and more) and the number of community gardens in the U.S. (18,000 and counting) are any indication, then gardening is becoming a huge recession-era activity. The logic is hard to beat: grow your own food, connect with the land, engage with your neighbors. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

There are two important facts to know about me and gardening. One, I’ve never been very good at it. Two, I’ve never liked it very much. Not an auspicious beginning, is it? Still, we put a garden bed in the backyard this spring; we studied up on the method and put the plan into action. Heck, we even planted things we want to eat in there.

That was six weeks ago. How do things look now?

Nothing to see here, folks

Rather bleak, as you can see. Wait-there’s something growing there in the corner-what’s that?Ummm…grass. Swell.

We’ve got some things going in containers, but those were all starters that we’ve transplanted.

Still alive...for now

I have to question the cost-effectiveness of this method, too. See how lovely our cilantro looks as it goes to seed?

Needless to say, this is very discouraging. I wondered whether anyone else was having trouble getting their garden going this year, since we had such a long winter and late spring. So, I took a stroll down to the community garden in town to see how others were doing. I was shocked-shocked, I say! at what I found there. Imagine seeing garden plots like this:And this:

Even a square-footer in evidence:

Such smug, gratuitous efficiency is not appreciated. Not when I have 36 square feet of straw-topped garbage slowly rotting in my backyard.

But why? I wondered. Why did I fail where others succeeded? I’m sure there are lots of reasons: every thing they did right that I didn’t, and every thing I did wrong that they didn’t. Maybe they’ve been working these plots for years, slowly building good soil. Perhaps they spent the winter diligently reading up on What To Grow and How To Grow It, poring over seed catalogs, and counting down on the calendar to the optimum planting time. They have nets, and cloth, and trellises; shovels and wheelbarrows; money, time, and experience.

Meanwhile, what can I do? Well, I can build a bicycle up out of a pile of spare parts; I can make good furniture from discarded scrap lumber; pack a moving van and not waste a square inch; and write my way out of a paper bag. I’m a decent cook, too. So, it’s not incompetence as much as a different skill set.

Yeah, I hacked that cooler.

It’s not just the skills, though-it’s the accumulated knowledge and materiel that accompany the skills. It is what the social scientists call “capital.” I know two things about capital: one, it takes time and effort to build it; and two, it builds on itself-that is, one bit leads to another and they fit together to make a third bit and so on. Hopefully I can figure out what went wrong and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Fortunately, our family doesn’t depend on the success of the garden this year. We have farmer’s markets and CSAs, as well as our regular stores. Maybe next spring those 36 square feet of straw-topped garbage will be ready for planting.

As I’ve heard so many times after baseball season: “Wait ’til next year!”

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About poorlocavore

Welcome to one family's journey towards a smaller food-mile footprint on a small food budget. How do our choices affect the environment, and what influences our choices? Read on and find out what I'm learning.
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3 Responses to So Far, No Good

  1. Don’t sell yourself short! It sounds like you have some mad skills those gardeners need. Why not barter with a garden mentor? Bet they can’t all build their own bean trellises!

    • momof5 says:

      That is so true! My bean trellises are tipping over every which way.

      Or hack some kind of water supply, or figure out a way to mow around the dang raised beds (just listing the things I’m failing in my own garden. Which is growing abundantly this year for no good reason that I can think of – some years it does, some years it doesn’t.)

      But barter is a great idea. I can’t even get the tomato stakes in straight. Thinking about that as a different skill set than actually growing (or cooking or preserving) the tomatoes themselves is good for my mood. Thanks!

      • poorlocavore says:

        That is an excellent idea. I suppose that’s how specialization and commerce got going, all those years ago. I’ll need to look for some sort of “skill swap” network (or -gasp- start one) around here.

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