Michael Pollan’s Ideas on Gardening and Gardens

We are going to be opening the garden on March 25th this year, weather permitting. Here are some of Michael Pollen’s ideas about why gardening (and composting) is such a wonderful activity – to tide you over for the next three weeks till opening day. – Mark Sandeen

Here’s the thing: It’s seldom that such enormous problems have such simple solutions, but this is one that does. We can tackle climate change without inventing new cars or spending billions on mass transit or trillions on new forms of energy, though all of that is not only desirable but essential.

The act I want to talk about is growing some — even just a little — of your own food. In fact it’s one of the most powerful things an individual can do — to reduce your carbon footprint, sure, but more important, to reduce your sense of dependence and dividedness.

A great many things happen when you plant a vegetable garden, some of them directly related to climate change, others indirect but related nevertheless.

Growing food comprises the original solar technology: calories produced by means of photosynthesis. Years ago [we] discovered that more food could be produced …by replacing sunlight with fossil-fuel fertilizers and pesticides, with a result that the typical calorie of food energy in your diet now requires about 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce.

Yet the sun still shines down on your yard, and photosynthesis still works so abundantly that in a thoughtfully organized vegetable garden (one planted from seed, nourished by compost from the kitchen and involving not too many drives to the garden center), you can grow the proverbial free lunch — CO2-free and dollar-free. This is the most-local food you can possibly eat (not to mention the freshest, tastiest and most nutritious). And while we’re counting carbon, consider too your compost pile, which shrinks the heap of garbage your household needs trucked away even as it feeds your vegetables and sequesters carbon in your soil.

What else? Well, you will probably notice that you’re getting a pretty good workout there in your garden, burning calories without having to get into the car to drive to the gym. (It is one of the absurdities of modern life that, having replaced physical labor with fossil fuel, we now burn even more fossil fuel to keep our unemployed bodies in shape.) Also, by engaging both body and mind, time spent in the garden is time (and energy) subtracted from electronic forms of entertainment.

You begin to see that growing even a little of your own food is, as Wendell Berry pointed out 30 years ago, one of those solutions that, instead of begetting a new set of problems — the way “solutions” like ethanol or nuclear power inevitably do — actually beget other solutions, and not only of the kind that save carbon.

Still more valuable are the habits of mind that growing a little of your own food can yield. You quickly learn that you need not be dependent on specialists to provide for yourself — that your body is still good for something and may actually be enlisted in its own support.

If the experts are right, if both oil and time are running out, these are skills and habits of mind we’re all very soon going to need. We may also need the food. Could gardens provide it? Well, during World War II, victory gardens supplied as much as 40 percent of the produce Americans ate.

But there are sweeter reasons to plant that garden. At least in this one corner of your yard and life, you will have begun to heal the split between what you think and what you do, to commingle your identities as consumer and producer and citizen.

Chances are, your garden will re-engage you with your neighbors, for you will have produce to give away and the need to borrow their tools.

The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.

– Michael Pollan – The Way We Live Now

Year End Harvest Wrap Up

In our 7th season at the garden, we delivered 1,740 pounds of produce to the food pantry. Our second best year! That compared to 1,666, 2015, 1,541, and 1,637 pounds of produced delivered by this time for the last four years.

At the top of the list was 221 pounds of bok choy, 217 pounds of tomatoes, 130 pounds of eggplant, 117 pounds of squash, 102 pounds of zucchini, 100 pounds of potatoes, 76 pounds of cabbage, 75 pounds of peppers, 68 pounds of swiss chard, 67 pounds of butternut squash, 58 pounds of cherry tomatoes, 53 pounds of acorn squash, 49 pounds of beans, 47 pounds of cucumbers,  46 pounds of  lettuce,  43 pounds of radishes, 42 pounds of rhubarb,  33 pounds of pumpkins,  30 pounds of broccoli, 27 pounds of onions, 25 pounds of basil, 22 pounds of arugula, 18 pounds of leeks, 13 pounds of peas, 11 pounds of parslane, and 8 pounds of asparagus.  We’ve also harvested beets, carrots, cauliflower, chives, dill, garlic, kale, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, scallions, spinach, tarragon, and thyme. 44 varieties in all!

In our first year we harvested 995 pounds of produce and 854 pounds of produce in our 2nd year.

In our 3rd and 4th years, we harvested 1,637 and 1,574 pounds of produce!  Far above our track record for our first two years of harvest. We started keeping bees at the garden in our 3rd year, so perhaps they helped.

In our 5th year we had a record year, delivering 2,015 pounds of produce to the food pantry.  That’s right, over a ton of produce!

We delivered 296 pounds of pumpkins, 225 pounds of bok choy, 197 pounds of potatoes, 195 pounds of cucumbers, 147 pounds of zucchini, 93 pounds of kale, 92 pounds of acorn squash, 91 pounds of tomatoes, 83 pounds of squash, 82 pounds of onions, 57 pounds of beans, 54 pounds of peppers, 48 pounds of eggplant, 46 pounds of lettuce,  37 pounds of swiss chard, 30 pounds of cabbage, 27 punds of cherry tomatoes, 26 pounds of leeks, 23 pounds of rhubarb, 22 pounds of beets and butternut squash. We also delivered wonderful spices, basil, chives, dill, mint, parsley, sage, scallions, tarragon, and thyme.

In our 6th year, we delivered 1,667 pounds of 45 different types of produce – but we did pretty well considering we had our latest start to the gardening year due to all the snow we had during the winter of 2015.

Our 2nd best year!

Here are all 44 varieties of produce we grew last year!

At the Garden: 9/10/16

pantry_harvestVolunteers from: Redeemer, Follen, Grace, Hancock, Catholic Community and First Baptist

Weather: warm and muggy

Our harvest totaled 95 pounds going over to the Lexington Food Pantry: zucchini, yellow squash, delicate squash, tomatoes, bok choy, Swiss chard, cherry tomatoes, eggplant, radishes, broccoli, arugula, green peppers, parsley, basil, sage, tarragon

Drama at the Garden this morning! Carla had seen evidence that the Garden has been the feasting ground for some unwanted 4-legged guests. But they have evaded all her attempts to remove them. However, this morning, when 2 bunnies were spotted, all work was halted in order to try again with more manpower. Carla had a few volunteers systematically move together in a row to beat the leafy crops (under which the bunnies hide), driving the bunnies toward the open gate. This requires all the other volunteers to quickly scoot well away from the gate and freeze. Otherwise the bunnies will end up running away from everyone and never see the desired escape route via the open gate. We did have some success. One bunny made it out. So if any of you readers are at the Garden in the future and see another one of the 4-legged guests, now you will know what to do next!

By the way, Mark who tracks all the produce delivered out of the Garden, reports that as of today, we have donated 1,240 pounds to the Lexington Food Pantry this season. Bok Choy tops the list at 183 pounds, followed by tomatoes at 143 pounds.

To view more photos from the Interfaith Garden this year, see here.

Harvest Report – August 13th

So far this year we are off to a record start with 887 pounds of produce delivered to the food pantry, compared to 661, 843, 871, and 850 pounds of produced delivered by this time for the next best four years.

At the top of the list so far is 174 pounds of bok choy, . . . → Read More: Harvest Report – August 13th

At the Garden – July 30, 2016

Volunteers from: Hancock, Chinese Bible Church, Follen, LDS, First Baptist Weather: It’s summer, so sunny and warm!

Harvest: over 150 pounds of bok choy, basil, beets, radishes, carrots, purslane, onions, garlic, arugula, potatoes, tomatoes, Swiss chard, lettuce, green onions, broccoli tenders, zucchini, eggplant, cucumbers and probably more that I can’t remember! We sent . . . → Read More: At the Garden – July 30, 2016

At the Garden – July 9, 2016

Wonderful day at the garden with volunteers from LDS, First Parish, Redeemer, Chinese Bible Church and Follen!

From the Garden…

To the Lexington Food Pantry…

At the Garden: June 11, 2016

Volunteers: from Redeemer, Grace Chapel, Hancock, St. Nicholas, First Parish, First Baptist and Lexington High School

Weather: cool and dry Harvest: Lettuce, mint, tarragon, oregano, Bok choy, dill, broccoli rab, rhubarb and arugula

Tasks: Harvesting, weeding, planting carrots and beets in small garden, planting bok choy in seedling trays and LOTS of mulching.

. . . → Read More: At the Garden: June 11, 2016

At the Garden: May 21, 2016

Volunteers from Hancock, First Baptist, Sacred Heart, Chinese Bible Church and the community all pitched in.Weather: sunny and warm

Almost 33 pounds of fresh produce was picked and delivered this morning. It included bok choy, arugula, lettuce, radishes, herbs, green onions, asparagus, rhubarb and spinach.

 

 

Here is how . . . → Read More: At the Garden: May 21, 2016

At the Garden: April 23, 2016

Volunteers from First Baptist, Chinese Bible Church, and Hancock helped this morning.

Weather: drizzly

Potatoes were planted here in the gullies of the hill piles above. Each week volunteers will check to see if the potato plants have started to poke through the soil. If yes, they will be buried again with . . . → Read More: At the Garden: April 23, 2016

At the Garden – April 2, 2016

Volunteers came from the Chinese Bible Church of Greater Boston, Hancock, and Grace Chapel.

Can you see the first stalks of asparagus? It won’t be long before they are harvestable. I wonder how much later we see the evidence of the cool weather crops (peas, greens, etc.) that were planted by Tuesday’s crew.

. . . → Read More: At the Garden – April 2, 2016