THE end of the year and the end of another good season in the garden gives us reason to be hopeful about the coming spring.
Sure, there were plants that died before they got a chance to root, insects that ate more of our veggies than we did and overzealous bureaucrats who told us "you can't grow veggies in the front yard" because they still think it's 1950. But we won in the end and many of us are now growing veggies in the front yard instead of having a useless chafer grub-ridden patch of lawn. Regardless of all those tribulations, the garden still grew and provided a feast for our eyes, stomachs and souls.
Oh sure, the newest plant at the garden centre turned out to be an overpriced prima donna better suited to composting than growing, but who cares? After all, no guts no glory.
I spoke with many gardeners during the past year and they all indicated the similar sentiment of not giving up despite their many failures, trying more new plants and growing more food in their gardens. These hardy souls also indicated that they are fed up with the status quo and they are retreating inward to the garden, the last stronghold of sanctuary for people who want some peace of mind, a connection with nature, a tasty fruit or veggie and the freedom to just be.
With all of the concern over genetically engineered foods, pesticides in our food supply, the complete failure of the B.C. government to heed the will of the majority of British Columbians to pass a cosmetic pesticide bylaw in this province, at least our homes are still our castles and soon to be our farms.
A friend of mine who did not want to be mentioned by name told me that he has had enough. He's tired of worrying that his young daughter may be eating some potentially harmful genetically engineered Frankenfood or pesticide-residue laden vegetable. He's ripping out the entire lawn in his backyard and building a combination food garden and outdoor sanctuary. He's been surfing the net, reading books and seed catalogues for weeks and calling me for advice on the best vegetable varieties and the most cost-effective building methods for his new sanctuary. He is not alone.
The green wave that started several years ago that brought community gardens to the forefront of municipal agendas shows no signs of stopping and neither do food security concerns. And if my young horticulture students are any indication of things to come,
pesticides are on their way out of mainstream use in the gardening world.
Those young minds want nothing to do with poisonous pesticides that permeate our food supply and the residential gardening industry. And that gives me hope.
If governments won't listen and we can't bend pesticide manufacturers to our will, then we will simply stop buying their poison. A case in point, as reported in the Weed's News Digest from Monash University in Australia, this December different communities and grassroots organizations all over Asia will celebrate "No Pesticide Use Week" as part of the ongoing struggle for a pesticide-free world.
Aside from all of the problems in the worlds of farming and gardening there are new plants to enjoy like the naturally bred and homegrown Salish apple, a tasty little bit of B.C. goodness. There are new ideas like the vertical vegetable wall that doubles as a fence. And new blood coming on stream that will flush out the old dogs that haunt horticulture.
The next generation sees things differently and they don't buy the corporate line or any sort of marketing-fed belief that says we can't grow enough food for the world without using pesticides. When twentysomethings get behind an idea, companies usually follow like dogs on a leash.
In my own garden it's time to remove many of the plants that no longer seem to provide the spiritual and edible benefits I now want. But death in the garden is a short-term condition as discarded plants decompose to be reborn as compost that's full of life-giving organic matter. I have got my eyes on a few new veggies, a tasty blueberry bush, some strawberries and a few choice perennials that I will write about in the coming months.
So as we look forward to a new year in the garden let's keep these thoughts in mind: anyone can grow food at home; it's not 1950 anymore; plants can grow quite happily without pesticides and if we can't or won't change the status quo, then the next generation will change things for us, whether we like it or not.
Rest well, eat well, spend time with loved ones and plan ahead for spring.
Todd Major is a journeyman horticulturist and chief horticulture instructor at the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden. For advice contact him at email@example.com.
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