Friday, May 04, 2007
How Green is My Garden?
That is the question I've been pondering lately. NPR has spent the last few weeks focusing on the environment, Calendula and Concrete has asked us what we're doing to be green, S and RWW have just organized a completely sustainable luncheon, and my students and I have just read Kingsolver's "Lily's Chickens." I can't help but consider what I'm doing to help and harm.
Do I need to garden to live ecologically? Do I need to expend the water it takes to grow vegetables in the desert? No. I can get perfectly wonderful, organic, local produce at my farmers' market. I can support farmers who have a real reason for using water: they must sustain themselves and their families. Even with the octagon, I'll still shop at the farmers' market--the garden is not feeding me completely. As I'm not able to grow all the produce I will eat, I'll continue to support those farmers, even if (let's keep our fingers crossed) my summer tomato bounty might put a dent in my regular buying habits. Clearly, growing some of my own food, delicious as it may be, is a luxury.
By gardening vegetables here, I know I'm using more water than I should, in the same way I know that when I eat beef, I'm eating pretty darned inefficiently; however, just as I can't give up meat since it is an essential part of me eating happily and healthfully, I know I need to have this garden right now. Like many of you, I consider my meat purchases carefully, always choosing organic, and seeking out local products. Buying meat this way requires more effort, time, and certainly more money, but I'm more than happy to sacrifice these in order to help protect myself and those I care about, as well as this planet on which we all depend.
In a similar way, I'm trying to do little things to help compensate for the water I'm using in the octagon. I planned the garden as water-efficiently as I could in the space that I have, using a system of connected irrigation ditches for deep watering that encourages deeper root growth, so when it gets hot, I won't have to water as frequently. I've been thinking about other ways to be "green" as well. Every batch of coffee grounds or egg shells or other immediately compostable item goes straight into the bed (I hope to create some kind of real composting system in the not-so-distant-future); I use no pesticides--of course--not even natural ones (unless you count my flicking the occasional plant-threatening bug away as pesticide, an act which could considered such, as I'm "ciding" a "pest"); and here's the clincher, though the octagon garden is at the CC's house, 1.1 miles away, I don't drive there. I walk. Yes, I walk in LA.
Is that really just rationalizing away my guilt? Perhaps. But I need this garden. When I have a crappy-ass day at work, I can't wait to get home and walk over and see bugs eating other bugs. It's all the violence necessary to make me feel better.
I've become friends with a white spider who makes her home between the two Japanese eggplants. Every day, she crawls out of the traps she's created in the curled young leaves to greet me, and her skittish swinging and erratic flitting over the plants makes me feel less skittish and erratic myself. I need this spider. I need to keep a home for her.
I know what I'm doing and that I'm both part of the problem and part of the solution. This garden reminds me of that daily.