Morning thoughts (9): doing what comes natural in the garden

The garden at rest, January 2, 2022

No sooner has the New Year arrived than thoughts about gardening come up like newly-sprouted seeds. Never mind how many times I told myself last summer, as I got down daily on my hands and knees to pull weeds, that I was going to cut back on the size of the garden next season: the seed catalogues have arrived, and this old heart yearns for spring.

So, then why, when I look out the kitchen window, do I smile at the sight of snow starting to fall, with more to come every day this week? Because, on our morning walk, as the dogs and I passed the front garden where I planted numerous rows of garlic last fall, I heard them say, we’re cold. The garlic, I mean.

Okay, I know that’s a tad imaginative, maybe more. But as I approach four-score years of being on this precious little planet I feel like I’m entitled to some flights of fancy. Besides, if there’s one or two things I’ve learned in recent years, anything is possible, both good, and not. But let’s say a prayer for ‘good’ in 2022. It is sorely needed.

The reason why I’m happy to see snow is because an extra layer of insulation is good for the wintering garlic. Yes, it’s winter-hardy, remarkably so, but there is a limit. I follow ‘the book’ on garlic when, after planting, I covered the rows with plenty of fresh, clean wheat straw. That straw is now largely exposed, amid what’s left of the mid-December snow that mostly melted after the unseasonably mild weather that followed. But the temperature fell to -14 Celsius last night, and the sooner the garlic gets a fresh layer of snow-insulation, the better.

And then there’s also the expanded strawberry patch, with six rows of strawberry runner-plants transplanted last September. Some will say spring is better for transplanting; but over the years, I’ve had good luck with early fall. Strawberries also overwinter well, with the help of a good layer of straw insulation. Even so, I’ll be happy to see the snow come for their sake as well.

Jorden and Grandpa, and friends, in the garden

Those who love gardening will understand how one develops a personal relationship with plants. I suppose it’s best described as a matter of faith: the idea that good feelings are expressed, and exchanged back and forth; and that, I swear, is beneficial to the growth of a healthy garden. That and the good, old routine of the gardener’s hard work.

This seems like a good place to say, I don’t and never will use herbicide, including and especially those containing the active ingredient Glyphosate, with the main one being the first, Monsanto’s Round-up. Such herbicides are now used in vast quantities around the world in large-scale commercial farming; to the extent that it’s hard to buy food free of glyphosate residue. I daresay that’s one of the reasons why grow-your-own gardening is booming. Those of us who have the land to do that are indeed fortunate, especially if that land is as far away as possible from areas of extensive, cash-crop farming because of the risk of glyphosate-spray drift.

Yes, I hoe and pull weeds, hopefully before they go to seed; and thus, I kill plants. Some will compose and add organic matter to the soil. Some, like twitch grass, the farmer/gardeners’ worst nightmare, are better burned. But the whole idea of spraying chemicals on the field or the garden before planting or emergence, and thus leaving glyphosate residue in the soil for any amount of time, strikes me as utterly unnatural. Worst of all is spraying herbicide just before harvest, to stop the plant from growing and to begin the drying process. That’s called ‘staging.’ How can that be good, when the fact is glyphosate residue remains in many of the foods people eat? Canadian government food-safety regulators say the levels are not high enough to pose a threat to human health. But do you really want to eat Glyphosate?

Anyway, after that bit of drumbeating about my glyphosate obsession, bon chance with your garden in 2022. And may the love be with you.

A view of the garden, early summer a few years ago. Many rows of potatoes, onions and kale.

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