Green Wizardries; Seeds of Change

Maxine Rogers


Green Wizardries, Seeds of Change, by Maxine Rogers

I feel winds of change sweeping over Canada and the wider world. You may ask whether the change is good or bad but I don’t think that is the point. Change requires us to adapt to make it a good change. Try not adapting and the change may hurt you.

One of the changes I have foreseen is an upcoming spike in the price of food. Yes, I reached out with my Druid senses and saw the future! Druids do cultivate 3 uncommon senses: a sense of proportion, a sense of humour and common sense.

The price of natural gas is very high this year and fertilizer plants around the world have either shut down or drastically reduced their production. Once conventional farmers realize they cannot buy fertilizer, the price will go up and the manufacturing plants will come roaring back to life because the selling price of fertilizer will allow them to buy the costly natural gas which is a feed stock for synthetic fertilizer. The devil is in this detail; the high cost of buying fertilizer will send the cost of food skyrocketing.

I am telling you this now so that you can take evasive action, if you wish. As the philosopher Voltaire wrote, “We must cultivate our garden.” I have lived in the Levant which is terrible farming country with poor, thin, abused soil and not much in the way of rain but the people there all do pretty well on a nearly vegetarian diet. One of the staples of life there is the humble broad bean.

I just got my crop from last year threshed and weighed them. I had them in a 3 by 8 foot bed and got 5.75 lbs of nice dry beans from that one bed. According to my Joy of Cooking, only1/3 of a cup of dry beans is needed to produce one portion of cooked beans per person. There look to be a lot of portions of beans in that harvest.

These beans grow well in our climate but they are the really old-fashioned bean from the Middle East and will not take a frost. Some broad beans may be planted in the fall but these beans, The Jerusalem broad bean, like to be planted later in the spring. They are a grateful crop to grow. Almost like a weed in their hardiness, they crop heavily and ripen reliably. This year, I will grow a large patch of Jerusalem’s in my new, no till garden and expect to be self-sufficient in beans.

Another good staple crop that likes to grow here is the potato. We grow a lot of potatoes and they are an easy crop to start with. A favourite method of mine for growing potatoes is chit the potatoes in a tray. This means to lay your seed potatoes in a tray in the sun in a sheltered spot like a sunny window sill or a glassed in porch until their buds are coming on pretty strong. Then, I place the potatoes on a bed of mulch in the garden and put a layer of screened sand over them. This is because my soil is a heavy clay and we always need to add sand to lighten it. Then, the potatoes get covered up with compost or soiled hay from the stable and topped off with a layer of maple leaves if we have any left over.

The potatoes have no trouble growing through the mulch and leaves and the roots have no trouble going into the earth. The potatoes remain clustered around their parent seed potato and you don’t have to dig in the earth to find them. Just sweep through the fluffy compost with your hands to harvest the potatoes.

We did this a couple of years ago on a grassy pasture and were worried about wire worms which live among the grass roots and will destroy a crop of potatoes. We put down a layer of heavy paper feed bags and put the compost and sand on top of the paper. We didn’t have a single potato damaged by wire worms.

I am very happy to tell you that Danni Crenna is organizing a Seedy Saturday for March. Danni is planning to hold the event outside under a tent which sounds kind of jolly to me and much more hygienic than breathing in each others’ exhalations indoors. I will be there to trade my Jerusalem broad beans and other seeds I have grown last year.

The principle of Seedy Saturdays is that you must have seeds to share to participate. If you don’t have any seeds to swap but want some of my broad beans, just give me a call at 335-1088 and I will get some beans to you.

Another bit of good news is that the Garden Club is going to try to hold some Garden Tours this year! My gardens and farm animals will be on show April 20th. I will be featuring our new, no-till garden and my Magic Garden. These tours are free to Garden Club members and there is only a small drop-in fee if you are not a member.

Until then, we are still stuck indoors gardening. I have a collection of outrageously happy house plants. You can see them here lined up in my bathtub for their weekly shower. I learned this from a 19th century book on farming and gardening. The book said to put all houseplants in a large sink and give them a good shower with a watering can once a week to get all the dust off them. My plants love their shower and grow quite large and unruly. I also give them a shot of liquid fertilizer after their shower and they are good all week.

Back in the day, a lot of people used to cultivate chrysanthemums in the summer and pot them up as indoor flowers for the winter. This seems like a good idea to me as we would have fresh and local flowers in our houses for the winter. I do miss fresh flowers in the winter.