Monday, May 14, 2012

My Darwinian Garden

by Kelley Lindberg

I planted my garden last week, and now I get to sit back and hope it all lives. People have different approaches to gardening. Some view it as a lifestyle and spend a little time every day out there, lovingly weeding or fertilizing. Some view it as a hobby, reading up on the latest pruning techniques and inventing new recipes for their harvest.

I view it as Darwin’s theory of evolution in action. In my garden, it’s definitely a case of “survival of the fittest.”

Okay, sure, I select the plants with care at the nursery. I loosen up the dirt in my garden and maybe even add some new garden soil to it. I water the tender roots with a root-starter solution.

Then I plunk those babies in the ground, and that’s it. They’re on their own from that point on. No weeding. No extra fertilizing. No special treatment whatsoever. They’re just lucky the sprinkler system is set on a timer.

Only the strongest survive in my garden.

Does it work? Yep. This has been my fool-proof technique for years, and every year I have a pretty decent crop of fresh, low-maintenance veggies to enjoy all summer.

This year, I planted four types of tomatoes, some Anaheim chile peppers, onions, zucchini, yellow squash, basil, radishes, carrots, Swiss chard, and – for the first time ever – potatoes. The potatoes are an experiment: I had a couple of potatoes growing happily by themselves in the dark corner of my pantry, so I cut them up, stuck them in the ground, and now have some surprisingly healthy-looking plants growing from them. Who knew? (Well, I guess all those potato farmers knew. But it was a surprise for me.)
I also have a strawberry patch, but guess what I’ve learned? In my survival-of-the-fittest garden, birds are faster at harvesting strawberries than I am. So apparently I’m growing a great crop of bird treats in my strawberry patch, because I didn’t get a single berry last year. This year my husband says he’ll build some kind of net contraption thingy to cover the strawberries, but that sounds like a lot of work for a Darwinian garden. So we’ll see. Besides, for some reason the birds mostly leave my raspberries alone, so I get plenty of those each year.

For now, I’m happy that my day of digging up dirt and planting baby veggies is done. In a few weeks, I should be able to start adding fresh radishes to my salad. After that, maybe some Swiss chard. Then after a few more weeks, the rest of my garden will starting ripening, and I’ll begin whipping up homemade salsa and marinara sauce, or just adding a handful of sun-sweet cherry tomatoes to our dinner plates every night.

And for any plants that don’t survive my measly gardening skills… well, that’s what farmers’ markets are for, right?

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