Getting Dirty

Sharon February 26th, 2009

Ok, the planning phase is now over.  Time to get dirty.

 Oh, it isn’t really - as I wrote in my last post, planning never ends.  But planning also can’t immobilize us.  There’s no “but my farm plan isn’t done” when the seeds need planting or the chicks are waiting at the post office.  Life goes on, man plans, G-d laughs, we try again.  If you are lucky, you take 3 steps forward and only one back - and not that every time.  But the net gains get bigger once you get dirty.

A lot of the answers to questions in my class are “well, it depends…” or “well, you could try…” or “I personally think but some people disagree…” - growing plants is like that.  Things that are right in one place are wrong in yours, the answer one person swears by is a miserable failure for another.  Some things you can only figure out by experimentation, maybe even a little screwing up.

You’ll never recognize your seedlings from the weeds until you grow some, and probably not until you accidentally pull something up that you intentionally planted.  You’ll never know when to harvest until you grow something and take a bite - and perhaps not until you bite into something way over or under ripe.  You’ll never know if you can germinate peppers in your cold house or if jasmine will overwinter for you until you’ve tried it.  You can guess, you can collect all the information you’ve got, and then, you try.

The good thing, is that things mostly want to live.  For every Himalayan Blue Poppy you have to nurture along and coax into bloom, mulch with a foot of straw and feed manure tea with a straw, there’s a big pot of gold nasturtiums that says “pooh!” to crappy soil, bad weather and everything you throw at it and tries to take over the next pot, the deck and your yard.  Despite the degradation of our world, the world is full of vital life that wants nothing more than burst forth in life.  You don’t have to fight it, you can just let it go and marvel at its energy. 

So the next step is to get dirty. If you haven’t seen your dirt under cover of snow since November, take heart and start some onions or peppers indoors.  If you are in full spring swing, well, you know where to go.  Get the stuff under your fingernails - I have it on good authority that it penetrates straight from there to your brain, and grows new ideas, peace and joy.

Happy gardening!


15 Responses to “Getting Dirty”

  1. MEAon 26 Feb 2023 at 3:44 pm

    Booker T.
    Was a practical man.
    He said, Till the soil
    And learn from the land.

    Let down your bucket
    Where you are.
    Your fate is here
    And not afar.

    To help yourself
    And your fellow man,
    Train your head,
    Your heart, and your hand.

    For smartness alone’s
    Surely not meet-
    If you haven’t at the same time
    Got something to eat.

    Thus at Tuskegee
    He built a school
    With book-learning there
    And the workman’s tool.

    He started out
    In a simple way
    For yesterday
    Was not today.

    Sometimes he had
    Compromise in his talk
    For a man must crawl
    Before he can walk

    And in Alabama in ‘85
    A joker was lucky
    To be alive.

    But Booker T.
    Was nobody’s fool:
    You may carve a dream
    With an humble tool.

    The tallest tower
    Can tumble down
    If it be not rooted
    In solid ground.

    So, being a far-seeing
    Practical man,
    He said, Train your head,
    Your heart, and your hand.

    Your fate is here
    And not afar,
    So let down your bucket
    Where you are.

    Langston Hughes, 1941

  2. Annaon 26 Feb 2023 at 4:31 pm

    May we all be as nasturtiums as we face the future, saying “pooh!” to the overwhelming tides of poverty….and thrive anyway.

  3. Ailsa Ekon 26 Feb 2023 at 4:58 pm

    Here everyone else is getting profound, and all I wanted to do was comment that it’s nowhere near spring yet. The ground here is cycling madly from frozen to sodden.

  4. Lizon 26 Feb 2023 at 8:09 pm

    I’m not going to be very profound either, but I’ll tell a story about a plant.

    Some years ago, I was doing computer work at a customer’s home. His wife had planted some variety of mint along the steps that led down to his basement computer room. Every time I passed the row of mint, I’d pick a leaf and sniff at it, and one day my customer said, “Want some mint?”

    “Sure,” I told him, thinking that he would offer to give me a cutting. Instead, to my shock, he reached out and yanked one of the plants right out of the ground! Not expecting it to survive, but wanting to be polite, I stuck it in the car, where it sat in the late summer sun through what turned out to be a five hour visit.

    Later that day, I remembered the plant, and without much hope for it, dumped it in a pot with a shovelfull of soil. I set the pot out behind the workshop, and promptly forgot it until late in the fall, when I was cleaning up around the garden. The pitiful stalk of mint was draped over the edge of the pot, and if I’d been more thorough and in less of a hurry, I’d have tossed it into the compost pile. Thank God I didn’t, because the next spring I discovered it not only still living, but putting out new leaves. If I’d given it the more friendly environment of the compost pile, it would probably have taken over.

    Since then, my mantra has been, “Things want to live.”

  5. suasanmorganon 27 Feb 2023 at 4:00 am

    Nasturtiums are good tucker. The leaves, the flowers…delicious.

  6. Mark Non 27 Feb 2023 at 7:50 am

    Wouldn’t mind getting my hands dirty. Still-frozen ground is all there is here. Its ice-fishing and wood-cutting season for now. I did start some seeds and have leeks, basil, eggplant, and peppers up. Have seen many male eastern bluebirds lately (mostly where there is sumac bushes) and of course robins, which is very encouraging.

  7. Green Assassin Brigadeon 27 Feb 2023 at 12:09 pm

    I keep checking the seed packages and the calendar with the sad knowledge that its still 8 weeks till last frost, I keep reminding myself I don’t need any 2 ft tall leggy tomatoes flowering in my basement this year.

  8. Fernon 27 Feb 2023 at 12:49 pm

    I just moved sprouting parsley, spinach, and lettuces into the cold frame - it’s in the 60’s today. We may get snow on Sunday, of course, but they’ll be okay. Tomorrow I could plant the turnips, too. And maybe onions next week!


  9. Laurie in MNon 27 Feb 2023 at 3:51 pm

    I keep trying to tell my Darling Husband (and convince myself *grin*) that at some point you have to stop planning and just do the thing. All the planning in the world is not going to make a garden foolproof, although a little basic research goes a long way. And the Plant Police will neither come by and inspect your garden for neatness nor cite you if you decide that particular plant just ain’t working out where you put it and you decide to move it. That’s a tough lesson to learn given our collective basic natures.

    At least he’s on board with front lawn removal. I need to do more daylight studies, though, to see where I can slip veggies and edible greenery in amongst the ornamentals. (S. Mpls., MN lot. Not very big, and rather shaded except for the south side yard, which is very narrow. Grows some decent tomatoes and some herbs, just not many of them.)

  10. Laurie in MNon 27 Feb 2023 at 3:53 pm

    P.S. I *wish* it seemed like spring is finally on its’ way. We got slapped up with a lovely winter storm yesterday, and while that’s actually not far off of normal for this time of year, the 4 - 7 inches it dumped is….well, it’s a lot of white. And I know other places in the state got it worse.

    I’m really looking forward to being ABLE to dig in the dirt!

  11. Susanon 27 Feb 2023 at 4:28 pm

    Yep. I spent Tuesday out in the dirt; I moved one of my 4 x 4 beds and sunk it into the earth which entailed: 1. shoveling out all the soil in the box (I have worms! Yay!) 2. pulling the box out from its poorly placed position (and breaking one of my sun shade supports in the process) 3. getting a pick ax and breaking up the sod to about 6 inches below grade 4. shoveling all the dirt out of the sunken area 5. moving the box into its new position 6. moving it again, picking and digging more 7. fixing the support 8. moving it back 9. shoveling all the soil back into the box 10. shoveling the sod around the sides of the box to maintain moisture and keep out some of the heat 11. add more manure, soil, and compost to the soil.

    This took about 4 hours total, and I also prepped two of my other beds for planting…four more to go.

    Yep. Definitely grows peace and joy.

    I love Langston Hughes’ poetry!

  12. DEEon 27 Feb 2023 at 5:55 pm

    Got down and dirty all week….greenhouse up (108 in there Wed.pant pant) and planted with 18 kinds of tomatoes, 7 kinds of peppers,
    onions,cabbage,broccoli,leeks,beets,petunias, and so on and so on….of course it is supposed to snow this weekend so the heaters are in place..but here in so. MO it is now 8 weeks until our last frost date! Yipee.

    It has been an unusually windy winter with few chances to burn so have huge orchard trimming piles to take care of, dormant spraying to do. Got the bees checked and all have plenty of food left. Ordered my chicks at the feed store…great ’cause you can order 8-10 instead of the required 25. Feed is way high here even with supplementing with cooked wheat and veggie scraps.
    DH says he can tell when spring comes ’cause I cut my fingernails short!…and how I’m in such a better humour when I can be outside digging! DEE

  13. Greenpaon 27 Feb 2023 at 6:24 pm

    Dee- holy smokes; our frost free date here is June 1. No kidding. Seems unfair.

    Just noticed your comment on dormant spray- you might want to take a peek at my diatribe here-

    Going totally sprayless is not something most are willing to try- but the restaurants we sell to like it fine.

  14. homebrewlibrarianon 28 Feb 2023 at 3:16 am

    Well, it’s going to be a couple months if I’m lucky before I can play in the dirt. I’m hoping to plant peas in early April but that’s a dicey time in Anchorage. Looking at my garden journal from last year shows me that we had two snow dumps in early April. Well, if the soil thaws out, the peas go in. We’ll see how they do.

    In the meantime, I have a host of tomato, pepper and onion starts. Sure, I’m having to rely on artificial light and seed starting heat mats but I want transplant ready and hardy plants by mid May. By golly!

    For me it isn’t so much a hesitation between planning and doing, it’s that I’ve been ready for the doing part since the season ended last October!

    Kerri in AK

  15. Billon 09 Apr 2023 at 10:09 am

    We live in the mountains of central California, but some nights it still freezes the horse’s water, and neither of my thumbs are green, so I’m reluctant to start even a small garden.

    Actually, I just feel “stuck” between planning and doing, which I know would bring enough trial-and-error experience to make at least one of my thumbs green, but whenever I try to think my way out of this trap, I tell myself I can’t really produce enough food to feed us in hard times anyway. For all the potatoes and onions and carrots I might grow, I can still buy them at the local grocery store for about half the cost and one hundreth the effort.

    We own a little more than an acre, most of it is a corral for the horse and very little gets more than 4 hours of sunshine.

    Another problem is the number of cloudy, foggy days. We’ve talked about building cold frames or a green house, but the code restrictions here might make that more expensive than it’s worth. Sharon (my wife) and I are both on social security, so we’re not in a financial position to make too many mistakes.

    But Sharon’s article and the replies to it are encouraging. I’ve just got to give it a go, I guess, and see what happens. Thanks…

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