Are We Dirt Ready?

   OK, it’s been about 6 weeks since we have been getting prepped. Either we have decided to go container, raised bed, or in the ground. Seeds have been started, they should be full and leafy, roots coming out the bottoms of the root balls. Maybe given a small shot of food. Solarized beds are showing substantial growth, maybe even some insect life. All’s well if you obtained that. Raised beds are built, amendedand cooking. Containers should be rinsed with a light bleach solution if they are being re-used. Gravel, Styrofoam peanuts, hair curlers, bag of green Army Men, whatever, for drainage in the pots ready. Compost cooking all Winter for amendments is getting ripe now. Shorts in Walmart, Bikini’s in Target, Tomatoes at the box stores…. We are ready but Ma Nature still has some unpleasantness in store. For 2 years in a row, we have had some sort of freezing precipitation on April 7th. We are not out of it yet.

   Unless you are prepared to baby your tender veggies, don’t jump the gun yet. Row covers are not all that fun, and won’t hold up 1/4″ of ice which is what we usually get in April. We have plenty of time to grow, but we are running out of time for the prep. Remember, some of you (and me) are planning to show a difference in our food bills this year. I have been mentioning the old “Victory Gardens” of yore, and now the spin is “Recession Gardens”… I kinda like that. It will mark our point in history in years to come. Whenever someone mentions “Recession”,  most of us will also remember the great Tomatoes, Green Beans, Squash, Melon’s, Cucumbers, etc., that we relished on during this time. Even bragging like over blown fish stories. To make it through, we need to be “Dirt Ready”.

   This term is not just soil in a bag ready. It should be thought of as, “Do I have the right tools to maintain my dirt, is my dirt properly bedded, and most important, am I ready to get dirty?” Michelle Obama proved to the nation last week, that you can dress classy, and get dirty. I don’t think for an instant, that she would have hesitated to get on her knees to plant something in that photo-op. I really don’t think it was a put on. I think the media thought she was just going to be the figure head. I believe she shocked them when she picked up a shovel and knew how to use it. I believe she would, or maybe after the cameras were gone, she did, get down and dirty in that garden. I wonder though, if memories of her childhood were flowing through, of her gardening with Dad, or Grand Ma, or whoever. Playing in dirt usually brings back pleasant memories of someone in your past. Dirt. Who would have thought we were right as kids. Why did someone always yell out the back door at us, “Don’t get dirty!” And what did we do? Got dirty… It was almost as if we were not supposed to know the joys of dirt.

   Advantages of getting dirty. Stressed at work? Play in the dirt. Want to amend a frendship or make up with a spouse. Go plant something together.  Want atonement? Plow a garden plot for someone who can’t. Karma is a wonderful thing. Ahhh, dirt. You can learn a lot from its complicated biological formation. We came from it, and we will eventually go back to it, maybe that’s the attraction, I dunno… I have 5 children, and 3 Grandchildren. I always encouraged dirt. Don’t think I was ever the one yelling about the dirt on them. I mean, it washes off you know. Yeah, my offspring are dirt ready. I can only hope that when they plant, they think of me. They are after all, my personal garden. And I am proud to have “dirty” kids. Yeah, they will feed me when I’m 80.

   So are we dirt ready, because its getting close to get dirty.  I would recommend though, if you are planning to prove what you can save on what you grow, NOT to wear what The First Lady wore. That wouldn’t be cost effective. Let’s get dirty.

Upgrading the Past

   Its great to be able to get the garden in the ground. Fresh babies all in a neat and tidy row. Got all the right tools for the new season. Plenty of fertilizer, bug killer, weed killer, oyster killer, killer killer. I’ve spent about $ 250.00 so far…. Wait, I’m supposed to be “growing” , not killing? Wait, the media and commercials are promoting all this to make my garden “foolproof”. Wait again. I want to be Eco-friendly. Why does it cost more to buy “Eco”? Its less harmful stuff, right?

   I get so tired of hearing this. Plain and simple, go ask your Grand Parents how they did the “Victory Gardens” back in the day. There was no bagged goods, no special applicators, no “green sand” products that cost a fortune, and by the way, for all you “Sustainable Gardeners”, anything that has to be “Harvested” is NOT sustainable. We harvest Green Sand, Peat Moss, Bagged Soils, etc. Oops, I let that slip out. I’m sure that somewhere in your neighborhood, there is someone who has an abundance of Oak leaves, Pine Needles, etc. that goes to the local landfill. I have seen great stuff growing in the landfill. Mother Nature must be proud. How do you think she feeds her own? Green Sand, I mean COME ON!

   OK. Back to your backyard. It’s March, It’s getting close. First timer? Old Hat? First Timers, meet Old Hats. They are the ones that can grow anything right? You had problems last year, and probably blamed something. Weather, stupid seeds, wrong media advice, long vacation, bugs, the old “Brown Thumb” syndrome. But the Lady down the street fed the entire block out of her 15’x20′ plot. How’d she do it? Oh, she’s made mistakes before, but only once. See, gardening is like a nice soothing lesson. You do, you screw up, you correct, you enjoy. That’s the difference between Gardening and Landscaping. There are no rules in Gardening. If you are following rules, then you are only Landscraping. How hard is it to get a seed in contact with moist soil? How hard is it to get good soil? Leaves fall to the base of a tree in the woods. No one cleans them up. They decay, and turn to dirt, compost if you will. Not the first empty plastic bag in sight. 

   Back to Old Hats. Its simple folks. If we haven’t learned from our own mistakes from just last season, and we don’t heed the Old Hats advice. We won’t make it, especially now, when everyone is putting in some sort of plot because of the economy. We will buy all the killers while trying to get something to live. Find an Old Hat. They love to teach, share, help. There’s nothing new under the Sun. It’s all been there since the dawn of time. So have the Old Hats. So have Garden Coaches. Find one.

Never Snows in Richmond?

For all the folks who move here in the “off” winter years, who say it never snows here, for the retired extension agent doofus who just last week in the Times Dispatch, suggested we all start planting Zone 8 plants here, for all of you who wipe out the grocery stores in a mad dash for a “dusting” all the time…. HEY, IT’S SNOWING… Mark your calender, set an appointment on your PC for 5 years from now, and it will happen again, BUT… If you look at the 20 year history of Richmond, we may get hammered next year even worse. Last Spring was the 15 year “Early Bloom”. (This is what a digital camera is excellent for). Usually when that happens we have this nice 12″ or so storm. Within the next year or so, we will probably need to go the the grocery store again. The squirrels knew it. I have not seen so many of you with attic squirrel problems in a long time. The pest control folks are making a “killing” (get it?) this year. Hey, that’s a little phenology aspect for you. Squirrels in the attic? Go to the grocery store, fill up your tank, and don’t forget the liquor store. Get your new sled while you see them in November, (studies show that looking for sleds while it’s snowing is a bust), and sit back and wait. It will come. FoodNetwork.com may have a robust squirrel recipe, so get to Trader Joe’s and get a 2 Buck Chuck red wine. You may lose power, and it will be off for a good while, because most people don’t go out in their own yard, look up and see the limbs on the power line and call someone to take care of it. Too bad. It gets cold when the power is out, especially when the sun goes down. Hey, remember the squirrel in the attic? You could make a hat! Or a glove! You could even work up a sweat chasing it around or running from it. Look at Clark Griswold during the “squirrel” scene. He was sweating.  Speaking of phenology, the old “tons of acorns on the ground rumor” may be false. Some dude at Cornell University had an article last year on this. Hard winter coming, the squirrels will be getting them before they drop. Mild winters, ehhh, who needs them, let them fall. I had none on the ground this year. It’s been a long, coldish Fall/Winter.  I think on the 5th of March, we will have gained  2 hrs of daylight since the week of Christmas. And I don’t think we have seen the last wintry weather for this year. I’m betting on another dusting, so be ready to crowd the stores and empty them out. Hey maybe a little Ice Storm like the Easter of 2007. That was great fun huh? Fried everything in bloom.

I dunno.. I think we are still in zone 7a, but then again, I’m not a doofus. The sky isn’t really falling, is it?