LAKE MACBRIDE— Last year at this time, I offered spring garlic, lettuce and radishes at the first farmers market. This year, they are not close to ready because of the cold, wet spring. It has been a season of adapting to the climate reality.
Yesterday began the seasoning, or hardening of the indoor seedlings. The were out in the full sunlight for several hours and received a long misting from the garden hose. This morning, in my bathrobe, I ran them outside in the pre-dawn light with temperatures around 50 degrees. The only real question inhibiting planting action is when will the last frost come? According to the Weather.com 30-day forecast, we have had the last frost, so some of the seedlings will go in the ground today. If things turn cold, I have a box of old sheets that can be spread over the plants in the garden. It’s time to turn to planting.
Of course, a lot of things are already in the ground. I planted onion sets yesterday— another late start— and green beans. To recap, already in the garden are yesterday’s plantings, chives, oregano, garlic, radishes, spinach, arugula, lettuce and turnips. If I accomplish anything today, it will be locating places for the major crops.
A whole plot is devoted to herbs, leafy greens, radishes and a few other items. I planted half of a plot in onions, hoping to grow more this year. I threw up a low chicken wire fence to prevent loose dogs from digging around in the bed of onions. I can cut back on tomatoes because of my work for vegetables at the CSA where I will receive a number of varieties of heirloom tomatoes. I also agreed to can tomatoes for a local grower in exchange for some of the canned goods. There should be plenty of tomatoes this year, so I adjusted by adding different varieties. This is about as far as I have gotten with the planning. As you can see, it is not much of a plan.
A gardener plays a balancing act between planning and doing. Whimsy and experimentation enter into it. Sometimes we do dumb things, like planting trees in the garden, intended to be moved later, then becoming so engaged in a job or career that they grow to 40 feet high without our realizing it. Now they are too nice to take out, and provided morning shade for the leafy green vegetables during last year’s drought. A gardener’s process isn’t always logical, but it is hard to fail.
As a home gardener, one always feels able to rely on the grocery store, or other growers, should something fail to produce. It is a social safety net we have come to take for granted. Food is abundant and relatively inexpensive in Iowa and elsewhere in the U. S., but what matters more is the interconnectedness we have with other growers, large scale and small. That is the true fabric of our food system, and it provides comfort and security the way a blanket does.
I look forward to the day when our food system is more sustainable. For now, I accept the fact that Florida, Texas, Mexico and California will continue to provide produce for the Midwest. But at some point, the cost of transportation will be too much because of the quality and quantity of locally grown foods. Planting a garden, no matter how disorganized, is a step toward sustainability.