Thanks so much for the many kind comments on Elizabeth’s post about my book earlier this week. Thanks also for the forgiving comments about the skinny jeans. My husband and I both turned 50 in the last year and a half. In reaction, he spent a month cross-country skiing in the Arctic and was nearly eaten by a ravenous mother polar bear. I did something just as daring: I started wearing tighter pants.
I just wanted to say a few words about why I wrote this book now, after almost 20 years in the vegetable garden.
Over those 20 years, I have gotten so much out of my garden and found it all so enjoyable and interesting and doable, even for a typically frantic working mother of three, that I’ve long harbored a secret opinion about non-gardeners: They’re crazy.
But in the last few years, it’s occurred to me that I might be right: It really is crazy not to grow a little food in the yard.
Everybody here knows the reasons it makes sense to grow a little food at this particular moment:
- Soaring food prices amidst a long and wearying economic downturn;
- Soaring rates of diet-related diseases that argue for greater consumption of vegetables and more work with shovel;
- An industrial food system that is an environmental disaster on every level;
- Supermarket food that tastes like total crap.
Still, most people don’t garden. This is a land-rich suburban nation, and many of us have the space to grow a little food. Yet, I’m always puzzled when I drive around at how many sunny yards I see and how few vegetables I see in them.
I think the obstacles here are cultural. People don’t understand how easy vegetable gardening is and that it can actually take less time every week than a trip to the supermarket. That arugula in the backyard is THE convenience food to end all convenience foods. That growing food is not something that requires loads of specialized knowledge, specialized tools, and wearying attention.
It takes just sun, seeds, and enough water. And a nice mulch. That’s it.
People don’t understand how easy it is to grow food for 3 reasons.
First, because their parents and grandparents didn’t garden. After World War II, all such humble labors became uncool.
Second, because gardening merchants are much more interested in selling them potions and tools than telling them the truth. No potions necessary. No, the emperor is not wearing clothes.
Third, because garden writers produce intimidating 500-page how-tos for them with long lists of diseases and remedies, and recommendations for laborious techniques like double digging, and charts of the cultural requirements for a hundred plants in terms of water or pH or soil amendments.
Again, the emperor is not wearing clothes. This may look like science, but it’s not. So here is some real science: Give your soil organic matter, avoid the chemicals, and the soil microbes will take care of almost everything else.
I wrote my book in an attempt to tell the real truth about growing vegetables to would-be vegetable gardeners:
- offers a fabulous return on investment
- great exercise
- will yield such great ingredients that you will inevitably become a wonderful cook.
It will also give you the ineffably beautiful experience of fetching a salad or tomatoes from the garden right before dinner, when the sun is setting, the air is cooling, and the birds are singing about the wonders of the day gone by.
That’s as much transcendence as I require in this life. I’d hate for you to miss such a beautiful experience out of the mistaken idea that anything about this endeavor is hard.