What’s old is still good

April 5, 2015 lawanda Newspaper Columns

When my husband and I decided to attack the long overdue task of cleaning out our file cabinets, he found some old papers he’d brought home from work years ago that had been printed on a dot matrix printer, on that continuous feed computer paper with the holes down the sides.  He took a photo of the old documents with his cell phone and had a great time joking back and forth about it with his geek co-workers on Facebook.

Later, he commented that it was too bad my gardening friends and I couldn’t make the same kinds of jokes because nothing ever changes in gardening.   Not that I care; I didn’t even understand their geek-talk, but he was right.  The basics of gardening don’t change. No Wi-Fi, smart phones, tablets or tweets are necessary.  A seed, sun, soil, water and air are still all that are needed.

Yes, there are new plant cultivars, hybrids, fertilizers, pesticides and tools on the market every year.  But more and more, people are realizing that the old ways, the ways our grandparents and great-grandparents did things, are best.  That is, best for our personal health and the health of our planet.

Certainly the tools I got from my grandpa are the sturdiest, most well-make tools in my garden shed.  I have a pile of newer tools that didn’t last a season before they bent, rusted or fell apart.

Heirloom plants, those that, depending on which definition you like, have been in existence for 50 or 100 years, or since the end of WWII, or since 1951 when hybrid introductions became widespread, are back in vogue.  Gardeners are realizing that heirloom plants adapt over time to the climate and soils in which they are grown, making them more resistant to local pests, diseases and weather extremes.  And that heirlooms taste better. And that you can save seeds from year to year and the new plants will come true to their parents, something that won’t work with hybrid plants.

People are also realizing that organic gardening, gardening in tune with Mother Nature rather than constantly battling her with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, results in healthier people, soils, food, plants and animals.  Organic gardening was a way of life until after WWII when technology that was developed for use in the war was brought home and applied to farming methods.

Your great grandpa knew how to compost, although he didn’t use a fancy plastic bin.  He knew the importance of mulch, although he didn’t buy it in bags at the big box store.  He knew that rotating crops, inter-planting crops and planting cover crops would deter pests and diseases and improve the soil.  He used many of the techniques today’s organic gardeners embrace, although he may never have spoken the word “organic.”

Just like when Grandpa was young, what defines gardening is the wonder of planting a seed, seeing it germinate, and watching it grow until it fulfills its promise.

Miscellaneous


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