Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tend Your Garden

Colin Hay--"Beautiful World" (mp3)
Hot Tuna--"Water Song" (mp3)
We stand poised at one of the most perfect times of the year. The grass isn’t growing too quickly; the mosquitoes are still slumbering or groggy, yet to hear the call from the mosquito god to “be fruitful and multiply;” the dogwoods have just a day or two until that ephemeral moment when the white or pink on their branches become a natural Impressionist painting.

It is the time when all is possible from the ground. In the spirit of this hopefulness, you should plant a garden.

Seriously, when was the last time you got down and dug in the dirt? When was the last time you kneeled to pull weeds, saw a triangle-shaped white insect you've never seen before flee to new cover? When was the last time you scooped sopping mud from the bottom of a hole you shoveled so that you could plant your tomatoes a little deeper? When was the last time you had that impressive outline of dirt around your cuticles that makes it look like you know how to change your own oil or something?

With a garden, you can pretend you’re a landowner, even if you are one. At dusk, you’ll stroll arm-in-arm with your lover to the boundaries of your property to survey the day’s growth, pausing to brush aphids from the leaves of your tomatoes and to stake that pepper plant that’s been struggling a little too much in the wind.

In the mornings, the path to those plants will be nothing more than dark green footprints pressed into the dew. And soon, you boast of eating locally when all you've done is to nick a few vegetables while walking the dog with the sun half up, when the basil holds its fullest flavor and the green onions are noticeably taller than the night before.

I guess you've figured out that by garden I mean stuff that you can eat. As a man and a not-particularly-fussy one, I like to grow things that are pretty good at fending for themselves and that have something to offer--that means yields of peppers, tomatoes, onions, basil, sage, rosemary, chives, thyme and basil.

And don't be deterred by a lack of space. We’re not farmers; we’re not out to maximize our partial acreage with the highest potential yield using genetically-modified seeds and the latest fertilization techniques. An herb garden can grow in your window; a jalapeno pepper plant will thrive in an 8-inch clay pot on your deck. Heck, if on Halloween you carve your pumpkins in the yard and drop a few seeds, you'll have your own pumpkin patch right in the grass by the following August.

Don't forget the simple fact that rules all of life: seeds and plants want to grow. You have to work harder to stop that from happening than to keep it happening. Plants have all kinds of built in ways that will help them.

Even if all you do is to dump some water on them when the weather isn't doing its part, you'll be fine. You may not have the greatest crop in the world, but you'll have plants that are alive and that will pool every genetic resource they have in order to yield something for you, something that has seeds.

Plants do want to return next year, somehow and somewhere, after all. Don't you? Do your part.

"Beautiful World" is from the former Men At Work frontman's solo CD, Going Somewhere. "Water Song" is from the classic Hot Tuna CD, Burgers.

No comments: