More greenhouse parsnips from 2006 seed
It occurred to me, when I wrote my latest seed-saving post, that I mentioned an obstacle to seed-saving that might just stop some of you from doing it altogether. There is a very human tendency to glom on to a problem first and decide, forthwith, that this problem is insurmountable, so, well, I won’t seed-save. I say, get over it.
So I would like to talk about the concept of “obstacle” as it seems to be such a hindrance to so much in our lives. The particular obstacle I mentioned in re: seed-saving is the separation required between plants to result in pure (unadulterated) seed. Well, dang: the way to get around that is to only allow one variety, say, of carrot to blossom, and then make sure you keep its wild cousin, Queen Anne’s lace, mowed down during flowering season. Or, just be like me and don’t care.
There are so many other quasi-urban legends out there that somehow stop us from doing decent gardening. Urban gardeners might become spooked from planting anything edible in their yards because they have heard that many urban soils are lead-filled brownfields. A soil test or four will confirm or deny this: then, go plant out some raised beds with imported dirt and use lots of homemade leaf mold and compost and (non-chemically-treated) grass clippings…and do some research about which plants might be more prone to taking up ground-borne dangers. Then research lead sensitivity, period: it’s infants through 8 year olds who are the most sensitive. If you live in an old (pre-1978) house, you should get your children’s blood checked for lead levels anyway; there’s much more of a risk of exposure living in a house with flaking window paint than there ever will be than with the few carrots you’ll pull out of an urban garden.
And then there’s the I-can’t-have-a-rainbarrel-because-of-my-asphalt-shingle-roof fear. Well, how old is that roof? The ones on our outbuildings are 40 years old (yep; time for a change, anyone have a spare $20K they wanna give me?) so I don’t have much worry. So, is there something there there? Well, there might be, if the roof is new, and/or you’re downwind from a coal-burning power plant (how about some heavy metals in your rain, folks?) but in general I don’t understand how people can honestly think that fresh rainwater from a rainbarrel will somehow poison your veggies to inedible levels. The key here, of course, is FRESH. Don’t let the water steep in the barrel like tea if you’re at all concerned.
And I guess that brings me to the crux of my rant. I finished reading Michael Pollan’s latest book about a week ago. It is an indictment, rather scathing, of the way we eat. (I’ve blathered on about Pollan for a long time now. I appreciate the man because his Bullshit-O-Meter is finely tuned.) With all these “obstacles” to home-grown vegetable production, people still somehow blindly trust the contents of their grocery stores. Do you have any IDEA how those things were grown? Sure, it might even say it’s organic, but… Anyway, I think we have absorbed the fear and confusion we have toward our purchased food (“high fat” “trans fats” “low carb”) and have transferred that fear to gardening. We’re somehow too spooked by some unseen unknown (lead in soil, cooties in rainwater, cross-pollination) to dare to plant a bean.
All I am saying is be educated, and exercise some common sense. Evaluate the risk against the reward. But even if there’s nothing scary in front of you, don’t let something stop you: most likely, you have the keys available to you (soil tests, etc.). And you will find your home-grown veggies will still be better than anything you could ever buy. They’ll be more nutritious, certainly; they’ll be fresher, they’ll just plain taste better. What’s the risk in that?