Pied Beauty

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

Monday, April 12, 2010

It's Not About The Money

It's been an incredible spring where I live, for everyone who works in the garden center business.  Continuing the trend from last year, gardeners are scrambling to put in edible gardens and retailers are fanning the flames with fruit tree sales, veggie promotions and herb seminars.  Which is great, really!  I think everyone should try edible landscaping.  I have fruit trees, vines, herbs and two small vegetable gardens myself.  I only really get worried about it when I hear phrases like "recession gardening."  For most people, home-grown veggies are decidedly not cheaper than veggies from the supermarket.  In my area in particular, it takes a lot of money to convert builder-grade landscapes to a garden suitable for growing vegetables.   It costs even more if you decide to follow the recipe provided by garden gurus like Mel Bartholomew and his Square Foot Gardening franchise.  And novice gardeners are especially unprepared for the relentless insect and disease pressure fostered by our hot, humid environment.  It's not easy to grow food here, not cheaply and not organically.  Farmers and crazy hobbyists like me do it, and we are at the mercy of the great outdoors.  I'm glad I don't have to feed my family from my garden.

This is not to say that people shouldn't dabble in edible landscaping.  I think everyone should have a little vegetable or herb plot.  I think dedicating 75% of your landscape to turfgrass is insane.  I chafe against the restrictions placed on us by homeowner's associations.  But don't get into it thinking you're going to save money.  You won't.  Not for a long time, maybe not ever.  But you will begin to connect yourself with the natural world.  You will build an opportunity to work with your children on something more meaningful than Wii.  You'll learn about what it takes to produce food, which in turn will inform your decisions at the grocery store.

Retailers -- stop selling the recession garden.  It's a bait-and-switch that will only leave new gardeners resentful, frustrated and hesitant to try again.  Sell the real benefit of gardening -- and be upfront about the costs and work involved.  It's worth it.

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