Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Take out gardening

Something about gardening stirs the emotions. Experiencing the sites of the garden in spring certainly feeds at least one or two of the senses. Harvesting from a vegetable garden feeds a few more senses – along with making the hungries disappear.

I’ve not made an objective study of how many gardens there are in the Heights area, but as a regular in many back yards throughout the Heights I have noticed a stark decrease in gardens from what I recall as a child growing up. As a child, it seemed as if almost all of neighbors had gardens as did many of my lawn customers. One of my long time favorite customers, Robert Stanger, a master gardener, would talk with me at great length about gardening and the “projects” in his back yard. For sometime he ran the community garden at Canterbury Elementary School. Bill Valis who lived down the street always had a prolific garden in his back yard – I stood in awe at the size of the plants in his garden that towered over me as a youngster. I’m not sure what he fed those plants, but I think if he was a follower of Jerry Baker I’m sure some of the Pabst Blue Ribbon he always had at arms reach was included in the plants fertilizing program.

I’m not sure if gardening is as popular today as it was twenty five years ago when I was growing up. But I can appreciate the challenges of a time constrained schedule and how it does not marry well with gardening. There are many things a garden provides. For some it’s the experience, exercise, and joy of planting and harvesting. For some it’s more the enjoyment of fresh produce that you can really taste. Local in many cases just tastes better than produce flown in from across the country.

Well, if fresh produce is what you’re after, there are options. I was interested in an article I read in the Plain Dealer from the end of May about the growing number of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. CSA’s provide an alternative to either gardening or the grocery store for fresh vegetables. At a nominal cost, you can basically order or contract for your produce throughout the growing the season. This benefits the farmer in planning and helps with cash flow, while the consumer gets local, fresh produce at regular intervals throughout the season.

The concept of CSA’s struck a cord with me. While my plan is to begin gardening this summer with my son, I’m a bit more of a pragmatist and want to make sure we have fresh produce on the table. I’m not confident that much of the harvest is going to make it past the edge of the garden once my three year old discovers the fruits of our labor. I can only imagine between the nibbling off the vine and the fun he has squashing things that this year we’ll be gardening more for the experience than the harvest. Perhaps the CSA’s can provide the harvest so we still have something fresh for the dinner table.

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