Sharpen your shovels, and turn your compost pile, Spring Has Arrived! Nation wide, gardeners are busy preparing for the upcoming growing season, and from the look of things, this year will be a time of garden expansion throughout the land.
Even in this troubled market, seed sales are a boom industry raking in 20-30% gains over last year’s sales. Gardening is the new favored pastime of many a cash strapped American family. Presenting an example to the world, First Lady Michelle Obama’s even getting in on the action, as she put her strong arms to work digging a Victory Garden into the White House lawn!
This profuse blooming of garden interest is just what the world needs right now. The U.S.D.A. is about to release a new Plant Hardiness Map that details what anyone with a lick of sense has by now accepted as fact, the “inconvenient truth” that the earth’s climate is rapidly warming. Vegetable gardens and local composting efforts are two of the best ways for folks to work at home toward a healthier, happier planet.
Freedom from chemically grown, dangerous, over priced food, the freedom to enjoy the beauty and bounty of life on earth, and the freedom to live with respect for planetary ecology are all a part of my garden harvest. Together we can reclaim our planet and our lives from the carelessness of generations past, to give our children and grandchildren hope for a healthy life.
Economic news must be a little hard for the average C.E.O. to swallow these days, that is unless the C.E.O. in question is luck enough to be running a seed company. As National Public Radio reported in February, Burpee Seeds, one of the nations largest distributer of vegetable seeds, claim that they expect seed sales to increase 20 to 30 percent this year alone, while organic seed sales will be up as much as 46%. Cucumbers, snap peas, and tomato seeds are flying off store shelves. Surely high food prices are at the base of this upsurge in demand. If you haven’t hit the garden stores yet, then get off the computer and run to your favorite local nursery before the selection is “eaten” up. Now is the time for Minnesota gardeners to get out and purchase their veggie seeds.
Buying seeds in the spring can be a lot like shopping for food on an empty stomach. For any green starved winter weary Minnesota gardener the tendency to over shop for seeds in the spring is an easy trap. Don’t worry though if you get home and find you’ve purchased enough seeds to fill the whole block, seeds save very well in the packs that they came in, or any other paper envelope. Just keep them in a dry dark cupboard and check your supply before you head to the garden store next spring.
When Michelle Obama flexes her strong arms, the world pay’s attention. Recently the First Lady has used some of her political strength to help turn over a new leaf in American life. Recently, Michelle Obama teamed up with a crew of D.C. area school kids to plant a victory garden in the White House lawn. Some of the seeds planted at the White House descended from plants cultivated by Thomas Jefferson, who saw himself as a farmer first and viewed an agrarian society as the creator and protector of democracy. Freedom, democracy, and big juicy tomatoes are just a few of the rewards of the gardener’s life, hats off to Mrs. Obama for leading by example.
The U.S.D.A. is about to tell us all what we already know. It’s warming up around here. While the findings haven’t been officially released yet, experts who helped to revise the Plant Hardiness Zone Map say that we can expect to see a sharp extension of plants northern ranges in this year’s map. Gardeners everywhere use the Plant Hardiness Map to judge their plant selections. When you turn over a garden store tag for your favorite tree, shrub, or perennial you should find a listing for zone hardiness. Here in the Twin Cities area we’ve been officially listed in zone 4 since the zone map was first created, though any experienced city gardener can attest to the heat island effect that allows Minnesota urbanites to grow items such as zone 5 hardy Japanese Maples in our back yards.
While some local gardeners find short-term gains in plant selections, others may rightly be worried about long term troubles as local eco-systems are thrown out of balance by rising temperatures. According to a study published by the Minnesota Sustainable Communities Network, 22 years ago as many as 4,000 moose roamed the woods and grasslands in the northwestern part of the state. By 2003, the number had dropped to only 237. Scientists believe the culprit is higher temperatures sparked by global warming, making the moose more vulnerable to parasites. The study goes on to say that average winter temperatures in northwestern Minnesota have climbed around 12 degrees during the past 40 years as average summer temperatures have increased by four degrees.
Treat Garbage Like Dirt
Here’s a quote from BioCycle magazine, August 2008:
"The only effective method to prevent methane emissions from landfills is to stop biodegradable materials from entering landfills. The good news is that landfill alternatives such as composting are readily available and cost-effective. Compost has the added benefit of adding organic matter to soil, sequestering carbon, improving plant growth and reducing water use - all important to stabilizing the climate. Composting is thus vital to restoring the climate and our soils and should be front and center in a national strategy to protect the climate in the short term."
Now I’m not a scientist, so I’ll just have to trust the compost crazed folks at BioCycle when they say that composting will cut down on greenhouse gasses entering the atmosphere. As a gardener though, I can surely attest to the notion that garbage is valuable. I’d never seen results in my gardens from chemical fertilizers like I have from compost fertility. Compost not only provides nutrients as any fertilizer should, but it also provides microbial life that lives symbiotically with garden plants, and an excellent soil texture for roots to easily and rapidly grow through. If you start composting your own food and yard waste at home you’ll be doing yourself and the rest of the world a big favor.
Not all of us have space for a compost pile at home, and so the innovative folks at Linden Hills Power and Lighthave been working out a way to help make composting more accessible for everybody with their new “Green Tub Club” program. Linden Hills residents can now sign up to have a green compost tub dropped off at their curbside. Simply place your food and non-recyclable paper products into the green tub and put the tub out on your regular garbage day. The city of Minneapolis will pick up the garbage and take it to a commercial composting facility. This is an excellent example for the rest of the city, and with a little encouragement of your city council person, your neighborhood could be next.
Compost, and home vegetable gardens are two of the most effective methods that any home gardener can employ in the fight against global warming. Without a planet to live on victory in the garden would be pointless. Gardeners, let’s plant the seeds of freedom and change together, so we can all enjoy the fruits of our labor for generations to come!