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This Week

From my garden to yours

Tom Carey

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Wandering through these weeks of long nights, the down time from the garden provides plenty of space for reflection, and then planning. As with most resolutions, I both focus on avoiding the negative and attracting the positive in my life. Most years, I keep my resolutions pretty close to the bone so as not to appear the hypocrite upon my imminent failure. But for your sake and mine, this year I will share.

In the gardening realm, the “Law of the Minimum” always lurks in the background. This law states that a process will be constrained by that lacking necessary portion. To grow plants, all you need are seeds, sun, soil and water. By restricting any one of these below a minimum threshold will severely curtail the productivity of success. My resolution is simply to recognize that particular minimum, and then contend with it.

In agriculture, there is absolutely no fudging the truth where timing is involved. The procrastination problem really gets hairy even before the growing begins where procuring seed varieties is concerned. Many gardening chores are internalized with the gardener himself. Ordering seeds mail order or finding an acceptable substitute on a retail shelf mandates research of personal taste and experience. This external phase of the project will take time (and money) that no good intentions could ever repair once delayed.

Any form of procrastination shifts, never shortens, a block of time on the calendar. If a variety of beans requires 53 days to produce a crop, no amount of water, sun or fertilizer will make that crop appear in 45 days. If I do not get around to poking those seeds into the dirt on that date specified on my big gardening chart, then that whole line item needs to be shifted however many days to the right. If you were anticipating fresh beans for your Memorial Day three-bean salad, then we will just have to move Memorial Day.

After all this work, the crop is finally ready to harvest. Then there is more to harvest. And still some more. Letting wonderful homegrown food go to waste borders on criminal. Nothing is lost from the system in my garden, but occasionally the harvest is not used to its greatest potential. Some excess is boiled into a ‘slop’ to feed the chickens. Other times an excess harvest is fed to the earthworms or the compost pile. These alternative uses of a hard-won harvest are what keep me awake on these long solstice nights proposing next year’s resolutions.