Monday, August 13, 2007

Organic or 'orse poop?

I started gardening when I was just a mere child back in the fifties. The only fertilizer we had was chicken, cow, and rabbit manure. My grandmother said pig manure is no good. She said it was because pigs ate grain, and that doesn’t provide enough nitrogen for the soil. I don’t know, I’ve never tried it. I always wondered why chicken manure was good, but pig manure wasn’t, because we fed them the exact same thing. I would ask that question from time to time, but I never got a good answer. I just assumed that was one of those questions that kids are just not supposed to ask!

We always spaded the manure into the soil the year ahead of planting. We had plenty of flat fertile ground in the Laytonville valley, so we rotated our garden spots, and rotated what we planted there frequently.

Later on when we had fewer animals to depend on for “fertilizer”, we used some commercial “Triple-six” fertilizer. (6-6-6).We were never as happy with the commercial fertilizers as we were with manure. There is nothing like manure and patience for a good garden. I always thought that the manure gave the food good flavor. I know, that sounds disgusting, but you’re the one that asked this question!

We never used pesticides, that was the kids job, picking off the tomato horn worms and other pests. I thought that all apples had a worm. It never bothered me at all to eat around the worm. It was always funny when one of the kids would accidentally eat the worm. I don’t know of anyone in our family that has ever died from eating a bug. The fact that we never used pesticides was probably more for economy than health concerns, but now I'm glad we didn't use them. Does that make me part of the vanguard?

The flavor of produce is more a factor of how fresh it is above all else! Commercial gardens force-ripen some foods so they can control when it hits the shelf. Force ripening always provides a diminished product. Some foods are made to be “more durable” by modifying the plant to have tougher skins, like apples and tomatoes. Some foods are made to be seedless with varying results. Grapes are better, watermelons are ruined. (my opinion) Corn is a whole chapter unto itself, but the University of Indiana has developed several corns that are outstanding. (Illini Chief and Candy Corn)

A peach has to be ripened on the tree to be any good. A pear has to be picked before ripening, or it becomes grainy and woody. Apples have a longer tree life, you can pick them how you like them.

My grandmothers garden provided half the valley with produce. When I’m in Laytonville, people still come up to me and talk about her garden. The memory of my dear little Gramma Ruby lives on. She was less than five feet tall and she was always moving. My mother said that she was so short because she wore herself down moving all the time. She died at ninty-two, and we had to harvest her garden.

Now, I live on the North side of a hill, but you should see the moss and ferns that I grow!

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