Thursday, July 7, 2011

Going Green

Raised bed gardening, Zion style.

I've jumped on the green bandwagon in the last year- too late to make money off it, but early enough in my life to make an impact on my health and conscience. I carry around Whole Foods cloth bags in my big ol' Dodge Ram, and even remember to bring them into the store with me once in a while. I use my pick-up to haul around compost for churches and private homes for free. As I told my sorta-kinda compost mentor (a master sheet gardener and guerilla gardener extraordinaire), I figure if I have a big honkin' truck, I might as well use it for good once in a while. Yeah, the mileage is shitty and I help all my friends move their stuff around when their leases are up, but now I walk to the Feve or the library instead of driving the two blocks. I can't promise anything once the temperature drops to 50 degrees in Oberlin, but it's a start.

Even better, I have a garden now. It's a raised bed deal, so no messing with rabbits and voles or whatever lurks in the soil in Ohio. It's a community garden organized by a local church. They gave us the plots, the tools, the water, and a pile of loamy, organic, compost chock-full of worms, pill bugs and alpaca dung. Yes, they have alpaca farms here. It's a thing. So you know, a valuable source told me it is the only dung that can be used fresh from the animal without curing it. Seems like fodder for another post, y'all!

I spend anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and a half a day watering, pruning, thinning, and just salivating over the three and a half plots my friends and I share. What I've learned is this: I love the soil. I love the worms that turn waste into vibrant food for my plants. I love the microcosmic dramas playing out under the leaves. I bend over my kale, arugula, lettuce, and spinach and pick off green caterpillars for hours. I've rooted on a jumping spider's attempt to take down a little yellow and black beetle mid-air. I garden in a bikini, which, incidentally, is a great way to tan your back. I look like a human version of a dolphin, all dark dorsal area and creamy pale on the front. It's hot.

I grew that with my own two hands and God's earth. Arugula and lettuce to the left, baby spinach to the right.

I've learned to let go of attachments with this garden. We started planting on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend. A bunch of cold hands throwing out tiny seeds in hopeful rows, and piles of compost and mulch. It was exciting, not knowing what my plants would look like coming up, and they all came up: tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, peas, peppers, chives, red onions, and the abovementioned greens. Our green beans have been too fruitful, and we've had to uproot many. The act of uprooting makes a strange sound, but tomatoes and pepper plants don't like to be overshadowed by too-closely planted green beans. The broccoli plants need their space, too. Seems like plants really need their personal space, but the results are more obviously physical than the human version.

I've also learned that growing your own food is easy in the right climate, with the right tools and input. I have more kale than I know how to prepare. Lettuce, it likes to keep on giving, as long as you cut it enough. I even grew spinach, despite the doubters. Fresh Spinach, people. I'm rolling in the green, and save significant amounts of money. I priced it out; if I were to purchase the same amount of greens that my garden produces (and I consume) a week, I'd be spending around $10-20 a week. Now I can use that saved money for gasoline. No, really. Parsley and arugula are expensive. A tiny bunch of kale costs $4.00, and it's not anywhere near as fresh as my just-cut-righthefucknow kale. I eat while I garden- or did, before I noticed the bugs competing with me. I kind of take the goods home and wash them now.

I'm happy in the solitude, and happy when someone else comes along and works on their plot next to mine. Yeah, we shit talk once in a while. Someone decided to plant four zucchini plants in a 3x8 space. You've got to see it to understand what a colossal failure that is. I'll show photos soon.

What have you planted lately? I haven't just planted physical plants. It's a tad sentimental, but it's good. I need to get a PSA going for this.