"IT'S OUR GARDEN " By Elizabeth and Crow Miller

Organic Gardening A

Life-Expanding Experience

There are as many reasons for gardening, as there are gardens and gardeners. In a way, that's what gardening is all about, a search for something better. Some of us garden because we're not entirely satisfied by our contacts with Nature in our daily lives. Too often we lose touch with the many forms of life around us. So we garden and expand our arena of life.

In gardens we plant the seed of diversity and make room around us for plants, animals, insects, and even micro-organisms (soil life). they become what clay is to a sculptor, raw material that we shape to enrich life. We no longer have to be satisfied with food from a can, or farms seen through a windshield. And we play a role in the system of Nature.

Gardening is becoming ever more popular because life's variety is steadily diminishing. In earlier times our ancestors ate hundreds of different kinds of food.

Today over 80% of all food comes from fewer than a dozen kinds of plants. Corn, wheat and rice alone accounts for 75% of all human grain consumption. The boxes and cans that line supermarket shelves don't represent a true diversity of food. What they hold are combinations of only a few ingredients, labeled and packaged to simulate variety.

Why should we strive to regain the multitude of choices that our ancestors had ? The sheer plasure of variety is a good enough reason for many of us. But did you ever think of the security you gain when you multiply the kinds of plants you grow ? If one plant fails, another kind takes its place. Remember: " The frost that kills a pepper plant serves to sweeten the kale." Diversity in our gardens encourages synergism; the ability of different plants to help each other, rather than competition. Example: A deep-rooted plant can tap nutrients deep in the soil and bring them closer to the surface where shallow-rooted plants can get them.

A garden with many different plants uses the sun's energy more efficiently. The green leaf with its power of photosynthesis is the most powerful of all solar collectors. So it pays to keep the garden covered with thriving plants for the greatest possible part of the year, rather than wasting the sun's energy on bare Earth.

There's more to be done than ordering seeds of different types. You have to lay a foundation. Here are a few steps which are important

to life-expansion in the garden: 1) Improve your soil. A soil rich in organic matter is alive (Micro-organisms) and can support more plant life. If you expect your garden to withstand the stress of expansion, you have to provide it with a solid foundation. 2) Don't spray chemical poisons. Poisons kill more than pests. It wipes out helpful insects, it gets in our ground water, and then in our children. Also, a recent study shows that pesticides reduce the yield of some vegetables. Use biological controls, and you are encouraging different life forms. 3) Extend your garden season. Cold is usually the limiting factor. Stretch the year by learning to protect the plants from the cold with mulches, cloches and other season-extending devices. And by growing plants that resist the frost 4) Finally, be a life-saver. Seeds are life in small packages. There is no substitute for the life-preservation work of gardeners who grow special, local varieties and save the seed year after year. It's the best way to preserve the existing diversity that is so important for the protection of our food system over the years and centuries ahead. Many of those old reliable varieties are already disappearing, pushed out of seed catalogs by hybrids, bred for color, shape or shipability, rather than flavor. The best way to insure the availability of your favorites every spring is to save them yourself.

Organic gardening is more than just digging, planting, pulling weeds and picking fruits and vegetables. It is also the savoring and cultivation of life

Copyright · 1996 / Crow Miller, Syndication / Garden Philosophy / #58