By Al Fritsch, S.J.

This book is offered here free of charge.  Any reference or
use of the materials must include full attribution of the title and
the author.

                      Table of Contents

   January -- Year-Round Gardening
   February -- Touching the Earth
   March -- Eco-balance through Organic Gardening
   April -- Eco-Cycles of Life
   May  --  Aesthetics and Floral/Vegetable Gardens
   June --  Resource Conservation Measures
   July --  Quality of Life Enhancement
   August --  Grassroots Training
   September -- Family/Neighbor Bonding
   October -- Broadening Community Relations
   November -- Eco-justice
   December -- Good Home Economics
   Conclusion:  A New Eden


   You can take people out of the country, but not the country out
of people.   This adage is repeated by the many Americans who have
left farm life and now live in towns, suburbs or cities.  We farm
escapees, or exiles, would like to continue and intensify our
country sense of direction, and to do so as a year-round

    I am convinced that country experiences can continue on a
limited amount of urban land, perhaps with an auxiliary greenhouse.
This conviction prompts me to reach out and encourage others both
with and without previous farm experience, to find their own
spiritual relationship to time and place through domestic

    Gardening is not for some undefined others in an indeterminate
future time.  It is for each of us, here and now.  We have some
limited time for changing a little spot -- and to do so while
pursing our own spiritual journeys.  Gardening is for all who
challenge the class distinctions between experts and inexperienced
and between producers and consumers.  We could fulfill our food
needs with what we produce, and we will do this in such ways as to
enhance the environment.  We can become  gentle revolutionaries who
believe in the power of starting small at the grassroots and
gradually influencing others to imitate our example.  What we sow
will ultimately bear fruit.
   In this spiritual journey we find that each season has a spirit
of its own.  Spring is full of energy, summer offers endurance,
autumn is right for thankfulness, and winter harbors a sense of
pensiveness.  Since gardening cuts across the distinctive seasons
it takes on a different character with each month of the calendar
and virtually each week.  Maybe my own experience of gardening will
not be exactly the same as yours, but I'm confident there are some
major similarities, especially in the pattern of the spiritual
journey.  I invite you to discover your own spiritual progress
through the seasons by means of domestic gardening.

    Let's look at gardening for each month through the following:
      *  Reflection -- reflect on the mood of that part of the
year as expressed in our own lives in this specific location;

      *  Garden Practice -- see how this seasonal reflection is
characterized by a particular garden activity or emphasis;

      * Gardening Benefit -- link each month with a known
gardening benefit that applies more particularly to the season;

      * Garden expression -- discover how our resulting garden
becomes a symbol of goals we are trying to achieve;

      * Prayer -- offer an appropriate prayer to the Creator that
reflects the gift we seek at this time of year.  

      My twelve benefits of gardening fit in well with specific
months, so I arrange this in the following order:

     January -- Opportunities for year-round physical exercise;

     February -- Enhancement of our eco-spirituality journey;
     March -- Growth in psychological health through gardening;
     April -- Better protection of the environment;
     May --   Beautification of the landscape by gardening;
     June --  Chance to practice resource conservation;
     July --  Ensuring a higher quality of life;
     August -- A training model for folks at the grassroots;
     September -- Ways to improve family/neighbor bonding;
     October -- Improvement of community and global relations;
     November -- A powerful statement for social justice; and
     December -- Economic benefits from growing your food.

     My invitation is that you consider your own long-term,
budding, or hopeful gardening experience.  Discover opportunities
for openness to God in and through gardening wherever you are.
Keep good gardening notes; spend time just being present in the
garden; record reflections; spread the word; and share insights
with this author.

Back to the Table of Contents

     January -- Year-Round Gardening
     Reflection:  January begins the year with New Year's
celebrations and resolutions.  It is the time of fresh starts, of
staying close to the fire, of watching snow storms from the window,
of cracking nuts and eating from the stored pickles and fixing soup
from the canned, dried, deep frozen, and even fresh greenhouse
produce.  It is also a time to gather greens such as Swiss chard,
kale and collards from the greenhouse, cold frames, or both.  For
the year-round domestic gardener it is a time of planning and
ordering seeds and of sowing the very first ones in the greenhouse.
If your greenhouse is solar and attached to the house, you rejoice
to receive a free solar heating supplement on sunny winter days.
Working in the greenhouse preparing for spring gives opportunities
for obtaining the two ingredients of good health, namely, fresh air
and plentiful sunlight.


     Participating in Physical Exercise.  January is a time to be
tempted to become a couch potato or to backslide on physical
exercise.  In the normal growing year gardening is a readily
available, low-cost and less strenuous source of physical activity.
Better health in the long run means less medicine and fewer
hospital bills.  Savings also extend to fees and time spent at
health clubs and to the purchase and maintenance of expensive
exercise equipment.  Furthermore, the year-round opportunity for
gardening reduces stress in all of the seasons and thus invites
shorter and less extensive vacations.  
    Year-round Spare Leisure Time.  Actual gardening activities
are quite varied, and the exercise calls into service many of our
bodily muscles.  If the garden is not overwhelming in size or weedy
condition, it allows participants to work at their own pace.
Normally, what would be termed garden work is actually a leisure
activity that can extend to the traditional non-growing, cooler
portion of the year.  In California and the sunny climes of the
American South gardening can easily be a year-round exercise, but
it can be a challenging exercise in more northerly winter seasons.
Even in harsher climates some assistance from human-made
structures can extend the growing season and lengthen autumn and
spring growing seasons.

    Choosing Year-round Devices.  The permanent or temporary cold
frame and greenhouse provide virtually year-round exercise
through seasonal gardening even in normally non-growing months.
Using an attached or free-standing solar greenhouse has the effect
of being a seasonal extender in both directions (later autumn and
earlier spring use).  In milder climates these devices can be used
throughout the winter for more hardy plants such as brassicas,
Swiss chard, onions, certain herbs and radishes.  

    Following Gentle Exercises.  Gardening allows us to set our
own pace.  At times the work may be too strenuous and thus require
more able bodied assistants to till or harvest crops.  An elderly
or feeble gardener makes proper adjustments by taking advantage of
early morning or late evening hours when the sun is less intense.
In gardening, virtually all body parts are used -- legs, arms,
back, etc.  This broad-based physical exercise, along with fresh
air and full spectrum sunlight, permits one to remain quite healthy
even without doing other exotic exercises.
    Knowing Ourselves.  Too often today's youngsters want to be
grown-ups and elders seek to remain young.   Gardening helps us
overcome this dissatisfaction with our age and be comfortable with
our bodily limitations as senior citizens and our inexperience as
younger people.  Respecting all forms of limitations -- even those
of age -- is part of successful gardening.  Youth prefer to ask
questions, note results, experiment, and seek advice from available
resources.  Older folks need to plan better, set limited goals,
pace the physical exertion, and enlist more able-bodied assistants
for certain tasks.  Domestic gardening helps us know ourselves.

    Instituting Wheel-chair Gardening.  Older folks can garden in
or out of a greenhouse with an adjustable growing table or with
permanent super-raised beds or trellises.  Some crops can be tended
more easily by people with disabilities or those who are more
confined.  For instance, a wide variety of greens, strawberries,
certain vines and root crops can be grown in such ways that the
physically challenged can tend them.  On the other hand corn,
squash, watermelons, pumpkins, okra or pole beans may be impossible
to reach and harvest by the physically impaired because of weight,
height or extensive space considerations.  Also, certain garden
instruments (e.g., hoes with extra long handles, stools with
rollers, etc.) can be designed and made available for such persons.

   Planning Annually.  One ideal January exercise is to design the
garden and plan the gardening process for the entire year.  One
caution is not to let excessive planning become straight-jackets
that hinder future innovation.   An ideal practice is to tithe your
total year's work time for planning and design and put the emphasis
up front when there is less work to do outdoors.  January is
already time for sowing seeds in trays of those plants that you
cannot easily find in garden supply stores, like celery, kohlrabi
or heirloom tomatoes, along with many flowers.  Beginning gardeners
often neglect planning, and depend on impulse.  

    Considering all Factors.  Remember, garden planning and seed
variety selection require the weighing of a number of factors.
The gardener/artist knows that design is necessary to execute a
mind's eye vision onto stone or canvas or a longer blooming
landscape.  The garden becomes our canvas and, through pictures
taken at a definite location for each of the growing months, the
gardener as artist draws a blueprint of the coming season. An alert
artist realizes that successions of flowers are needed to fill in
gaps when others die back or when some fail to produce anticipated

     Record-Keeping.  January is the season for resolutions and
one worthwhile suggestion is to keep records throughout the growing
year.  Some, like my great Uncle Louis, kept garden records (types
and times of plants and yields) in red diary books for about forty
years and filling two library shelves.  I am less detailed but keep
a large sheet with type of vegetables for each month and the yields
rounded to a quarter of a pound.  I also have an annual garden map
showing when rows were planted and where the various vegetables are
located.  By monitoring yields I am more able to know what grows
best and where to emphasize certain plantings for the forthcoming
outdoor growing season.  

      A Wholesome Garden.  A well-tended garden is a sign of love,
work and care.  It tells others that we focus on this place with
our own physical efforts.  Its improvement tells something about
our own personal endeavors to stay healthy.  The garden is our word
to the rest of the world.  We are reinvigorated through gardening,
and through our ongoing improvements our gardens begin to produce.
The garden invites us in many ways: to get physical exercise
through land improvement practices;  to take our time and pace
ourselves;  to become filled with the privilege to do joyful work
-- the attractive force of the domestic garden.  From the original
Eden trudged our forebears loaded with guilt into a world of
stressful toil.  Let's accept the garden's invitation to become
reinvigorated and use healthy garden produce to nourish us and
improve our health.  


                 The Gardener's Gentle Wish

   Oh, Provident One, You see our limitations.  You know our need
for daily exercise so that we can acquire and retain positive
attitudes about life.  You prompt us to pace ourselves, to keep
active and well-balanced, especially as we advance in years.  You
help us discover new ways of personal refreshment through daily
physical exercise.  You are the Energy and Health Giver of our
souls and we need to acknowledge this.  Our health is a gift that
we appreciate all the more when we see those lacking in portions of
it.  Help us who dwell in your garden planet to stay physically
healthy so that we can better serve you and enhance our service for
and with others.  

Back to the Table of Contents

   February --  Touching the Earth

   Reflection:  For me February may be the shortest month in
actual time, but the longest in psychic time.  Will the winter ever
end?  What will overcome cabin fever and the itching to get
outdoors and turn the soil?  The lengthening days are welcomed, as
is the sound of the cooing mourning doves -- the first harbingers
of spring.  It is the month of Ash Wednesday, when we hear the
awesome words "Remember that we are dust and into dust we shall
return" -- and we receive the mark of our humility on the forehead.
For many of us it is the beginning of outdoor planting and involves
sowing peas and planting onion bulbs, completing the greenhouse
seeding, and thinning and weeding the budding seedlings.  We
rejoice with the faint hue of yellow green as it appears on the
willow trees, and we strain to discover the budding crocuses, the
greening wild leeks, the first snowdrop, and the blooming
chickweed.  We may find a stray blooming dandelion and greet the
first returning robin.    


     Our life's journey is epitomized through gardening -- in the
changing of the seasons and waxing and waning of the daylight, in
the germination, the pollination, the maturation of plants, and the
harvesting of ripe produce.  The key to healing the Earth is to
touch it, just as physical touch can help heal the human body.
Gardening is a good (but not the only) way to touch the Earth
meaningfully.  However, domestic gardening is one of the most
accessible ways for many of us.  Through gardening we feel the
Earth, how warm or cool, how moist or dry, how granular or fine,
how firm or soft, how shallow or deep rooted, how well inhabited
with earthworms.  This sensual communication with the Earth tells
us much about ourselves, our origins, and our ultimate destiny --
from dust and to dust.  We spring from the Earth and will return to
it, but with a special spiritual uplifting that goes beyond.
Through this knowledge of ourselves we are made whole, while
healing the Earth.  The garden gives us location, focus, release of
stress, a sense of worth, and power to overcome obstacles.
    Sacred Rhythms and Spirituality.  Some make a clear
distinction between religious worship and spiritual practice.
However, deep spirituality is expressed in our authentic religious
worship, and our religion cannot help but color our spirituality.
Those who call themselves Christians or adherents of other
traditional religions do not have to neglect or change religious
practice to have a deeper sense of spiritual growth that includes
being attuned to the Earth.  In fact, finding God in all creation
is part of an authentic and universal religious experience.  God's
presence in these creatures and their interactions with others is
detected through our rational powers.  Gardening becomes a
spiritual act on our way to God, Who invites us to enter into the
rhythm of nature and the seasons, to understand and appreciate the
natural growth and creative processes, and to respond to an
opportunity to touch the Earth in a meaningful fashion.  Gardening
uplifts us and allows us a more profound experience through the
prayer of touching soil.  This wordless touch gives praise to God
and flows from our hands and hearts and minds.

    Inherent Modern Difficulties.   The modern complex culture is
one of alienation from the Earth.  Approximately half the world's
people live in urbanized areas, far removed from natural phenomena;
this makes the universal desire for touching the Earth all the more
difficult to fulfill.  People are separated from the urge to touch
the Earth.  Distance occurs through increased blacktop and concrete
surfaces, sterile lawn grass and artificial turf, and lighting at
night which removes the natural moonbeams and the blessed darkness
that is part of life's necessary rhythms.  People lose the sense of
Earth time and Earth space.  Their insensitivity is contagious and
spreads to others.  Their condition makes us ask:  "How can there
be an authentic eco-spirituality, if there is no contact with the
soil itself?"

     Gardening as Sacred Re-Creation.  Gardening extends the
redeeming action of making this Earth holy.  It engages the soul as
well as the body, an act of communion with the Creator, a
participation in a total oblation or sacrifice that makes a
profane Earth into a holy place.  Merely wishing to garden is not
sufficient; the act of making holy or re-creating the Earth
involves careful tending of the garden space.  By doing so we enter
into the ongoing creative process, for creation did not cease
centuries ago.  Gardening is not creating from nothing, but rather
involves minerals, soil, air, water, seeds, helpful insects and
mammals, and a willingness to work.  Believers experience the
invitation to participate in the creative act through their
incorporation in the divine family and the nearness to the Creator.
We learn more about ourselves and our world.  Through gardening,
people experience birth (planting and watering), life (cultivating
and tilling), and death (harvest), a reminder of being part of the
natural processes.

     Other's Loving Touch.  Creative participation involves
encouraging people to touch the Earth -- those living complex
lifestyles, those who age too quickly, the embarrassed and
diffident, and those who think they have very important things to
do.  Yes, it may be embarrassing at first for it involves getting
your hands dirty.  But soften the invitation by helping aspirants
to anticipate the hurdles.  Truly, touching the Earth is necessary
for gravediggers, mud puddle players and potters.  However,
gardening as a common Earth touching experience is for all of us --
young, middle aged and old alike.  We're called to touch the soil,
and to see this as a golden opportunity.  Some prefer a ceremonial
touching of soil in a ritualistic setting, accompanied by poetry,
song, dance, procession, and other symbolic or liturgical
activities.  Others are less drawn to ritual or think such
ceremonies may hurt plants and compact soil.  
     Sacred sites might offer opportunities to touch the Earth.
Sacred sites are those set aside and designated as holy, where the
senses are fully stimulated and where people can rest, find God and
find themselves.  These are places set apart from the more
stressful world which are known to act as magnets to draw believers
together.  Certain springs and rock formations have been known from
pre-historic times to involve the sacred in some way.  These were
often taken over and blessed by Christians and others in later
centuries.  While in one sense the whole Earth is redeemed and
sacred, special places are for us to experience an uplifting, a
spiritual consolation, and introduction to Divine Mystery.  God
does not need them, but we do.  To enhance this sense of mystery,
sacred places are generally made secluded and quiet, partly or
fully enclosed.

    The Garden as Sacred Space.  The domestic garden is an ideal
candidate for sacred space; it is already a place we have come to
love.  While things grow there is a certain privacy to some of the
corners of the land.  There is a sense of quietness and closeness
to the soil.  If we touch the soil reverently, then this act makes
it all the more sacred.  Our garden is a hallowed space spiced by
love and fertilized by sweat.  It shares with all gardens in
bearing witness to a long history containing the devotion and
tenderness of own forebears, even on distant continent garden plots
-- the repositories of past gardening experience.  Sacred space is
more than private space;  it is recognized by a wider audience for
its sacredness.  The commitment to dedicated improvement makes this
particular space or site inviting for people who desire to come,
see and reflect.  


     The Gardener's Expression of Loving Sacrifice

     God, You are Love.  You invite us to become ever more loving,
and to see that our humble gardening efforts are responses to your
invitation to grow spiritually.  Teach us to touch this Earth
tenderly, to feel the warmth of your love found in the creatures
all around us, and to demonstrate that love in the way we treat the
garden plants we nourish and grow.  Give us a deeper sense of
respect for all who seek You in their own life's journey.  Grant us
the willingness to break out of ourselves and to become more whole
and loving in our relations to others and to lead them to need and
find sacred spaces in their own world.  Inspire us to communicate
with neighbors and to even talk to plants and animals.  Help us
extend our sense of belonging to all of God's creatures.

Back to the Table of Contents

    March -- Eco-Balance through Organic Gardening
    Reflection:  March plays out the last of winter with the
unexpected late snowfall.   The agricultural humors quicken within
us, swept on by the gusty breezes, and we increasingly become
impatient for spring.  It's basketball tournament time and the St.
Patrick's Day parade, and Lenten fasts and final preparations for
the social season of spring.  March is not all play and prayer;
the winter pace quickens as spring approaches.  It is a time to
test the soil, a time to gain self-confidence that we can address
basic garden needs in the coming year.

    Wild garlic and the greening dandelion invite the first mess
of the season's wild greens.  The first spears of tulip leaves and
the purple and white violets, snowdrop, crocuses and other very
early flowers give us a sense of springtime coming on the Equinox.
By the month's end forsythia branches are covered with yellow
flowers giving a delight to eyes in need of color change and whole
households craving the sun's stronger rays.  This is the season
when we make decisions on how, when and where to turn the soil,
prepare the beds, plant the brassica seedlings (kale, collards,
kohlrabi, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower) and
add the early birds -- spinach, carrots, radishes, and leaf, Bibb
and Romaine lettuce, as well a large number of other greens.  We
consider various gardening methods and select the one that suits us
best.  Some plant potatoes and sow clover near St. Patrick's Day.
It is a time to think of spreading the wild flower seed in the
once-lawned areas to form an informal wildscape -- an ornamental
landscape planted in a succession of colorful wildflowers, which
are accessible for admiration by residents and neighbors alike.


    Assurances.  Numerous old and new gardening methods can be
used by individual gardeners.  Through proper selection the
gardener and table mates can be assured that the food is organic
(chemical pesticide- and commercial chemical fertilizer-free) and
not contaminated by hazardous materials or unregulated growing
practices.  No such assurances are possible at this time at the
ordinary supermarket, even though some organic labeling does occur
at specialty markets.  The challenge for domestic gardeners is to
keep prices affordable and appearances acceptable.  Today, more and
more fresh produce comes from distant states and lands and much
slips past an overburdened food quality surveillance systems.
Chemical contamination from pesticides is an ever increasing
concern as understaffed regulatory agencies are hard pressed to
monitor heavily laced residual chemicals on fresh produce.
    Organic Food Advantages.  Chemical pesticides that have been
used widely since the Second World War are highly toxic, causing
numerous injuries and deaths through handling.  Some with chemical
sensitivity may trace their maladies to pesticide contaminated
foods.  Costly and expensive pesticides may not discriminate and
thus harm friendly garden creatures.  Furthermore, they are
dangerous when stored around the house, difficult to dispose of
properly, and they contaminate the soil.  Few gardeners are trained
to handle these chemical pesticides safely or to decontaminate
fruits and vegetables grown with chemical pesticides.  Besides
acute toxicity, pesticides can create conditions of chemical
sensitivity among larger numbers (some estimate 15 percent of the
total population).  Conversely, organic (pesticide-free) gardening
techniques are less costly, easier to handle, and are
environmentally friendly.  Organic produce may not look perfect,
but food safety is more than the shiny and waxy appearances of
chemically-contaminated food supplies.

    Certification is meant to guarantee consumers a quality
product.  The certification of organic homegrown garden produce has
been protected at the state level through annual review of
practices, soil testing, and personal visits by the certifying
agency.  This allows the public guaranteed product quality, which
can be displayed by a tag on the produce or by signs at the place
of sale.  The only wrinkle is that my philosophy expounded here
promotes all consumers also being growers, but that is not possible
in this real world of folks who are busy, traveling, impaired, or

    Holistic Health.  Preserving our mental health includes
protecting our physical health, which affects our mental state.  We
seek to balance our physical and mental states and find that
gardening may play a key role.  The new springtime invites us all
to get fresh air and full spectrum sunlight, to listen to children
squealing in sheer delight as sap starts rising in the tree veins.
Being outdoors gives a fresh outlook on life, and heavy problems
evaporate and give us a true pause that rejuvenates.

   Becoming our Land.  We are not God; we cannot do everything.
Our modest efforts are important, but limited in the scale of world
events.  We can hardly become overly inflated by our individual
contributions, for we are not miracle workers.  While each gardener
is unique and maybe gifted, all collectively contribute to the
whole -- and are needed for the health of the whole.  Our limited
endeavors as part of the greater whole have a ramifying potential,
may be inspirational and have catalytic effects on those around us.

    Vital roots make the whole plant -- and planet -- healthy and
vigorous.  Gardening forces us to extend the value of land beyond
mere economics.  Yes, this land is able to produce our food and
make us better for working with it.  We come to know that we become
our land when we eat and assimilate the produce grown on it.  We
should realize how much the land and its produce become part of
each of us, and our well-being depends on our food -- especially
locally grown food.

    We do not wish to "become" some distant state or country like
others who buy all their food at the supermarket.  Rather, through
domestic gardening we become our locality and land, and our land
becomes us.  We are truly localized and rooted in this place,
something missed by those getting food from distant countries or
states.  Besides, we are better able to know and control the
quality of the food grown in our neighborhood.

    The Garden, A Humble Setting.  Sound psychological health
involves knowing ourselves.  Sometimes I get down and out,
bone-tired and feeling that there's little success to my efforts.
Others may label this a short-term depression -- something that
accompanies the cabin fever of late winter.  We don't all panic and
run out to see a doctor or obtain an anti-depressant prescription.
By just walking in the garden there seems to come a new-found peace
in my soul.  It could be at any time of the year, whether in the
bleakness of late winter or the profuse greenery of mid-summer, but
the garden works wonders by just being there for my coming.  I
can't begin to explain what goes on; well-worked gardens are like
old pet dogs.  They uplift the spirits.  The garden is a locus of
loving care, whether done today or at some time during the year.
Loving concern has been given and in my moment of need, it is
returned.  That mutual loving process gives new meaning to life and
makes the little mishaps and obstacles seem so very trivial.  The
domestic garden is capable of all this, and yet it is a most humble

            The Gardener's Request for Humility

   Oh Master Gardener, our personal gardens are not perfectly
tended because we are not yet perfect tenders.  We become more
perfect over time, a maturation that resembles the garden growing
to full productivity.  We enhance this growth process through
diligent care of beings entrusted to us and we do this through your
guidance and grace.  We are mere sowers of seed, not master
builders.  Keep us from losing heart, and give us the energy to
continue to take pride in the modesty of our work.  Let that pride
be not in our achievements, but in those achievements You deem to
accomplish within us.  Give us confidence that the little we do
will add up to much more in the years to come.

Back to the Table of Contents

    April -- Eco-Cycles of Life

    Reflection:   April's buds, showers and emerging greenery
freshen the tired and sleeping landscape and renew us in Easter
joy.  It is more than a time of colored eggs and hopping bunnies.
April is the month of daffodils, lilacs, blooming wisteria, wild
geraniums, of the returning whippoorwill and 120 other bird
species, of geese going north, and young folks just going
somewhere.  It is the time of turning the compost pile and
spreading the more aged contents on the garden plots.  It is the
season for sowing spinach, beets, carrots, lettuce, radishes,
endive, and of planting tomatoes, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, and
other seedlings that have been growing in the greenhouse.  For us
who are early gardeners and don't hesitate to protect the freshly
planted with temporary covers, April is the month when the garden
essentially fills with rows of vegetables.  For those of us living
in moderately temperate climates the last half of April is
generally frost-free and time for planting of hills of corn, beans
and squash -- the Native American three sisters.


    Green Gardening.  Gardening allows us to enter the natural
cycles of life and to live more sustainable lives.  Good gardening
is very good environmentalism in many ways.   We clear and protect
productive land and use it well with proper fertilization, covering
it in winter, and control weeds during the growing season.

    In order to practice good ecology and be in harmony with the
natural cycles of growing things, we select specific ecological
garden practices:

    * Plan and design to exhibit the most intensive methods for
gardening, such as interplanting of one crop while another is
maturing.  This allows us to use less garden space and grow more
produce on it in a given area;

    * Use native or heritage seed and seedlings, or at least
varieties that do not tend to escape and become worrisome
invasive species;

    * Initiate organic gardening methods that do not use chemical
fertilizers or pesticides but use biological or other control
methods, plus available composting materials.  Such
chemical-free places instinctively attract birds and friendly

    * Use small, energy efficient implements;

    * Consider, where possible, beautification designs through
interplanting of flowers, herbs, berries, fruit, and vegetables;

    * Irrigate with groundwater or rainwater collected in

    * Use seasonal extenders (see January note);

    * Practice crop rotation and allow land to have a sabbatical.

    Agribusiness.   The corporate enterprise of food production is
quite different from green gardening goals.  Such practices require
sizeable expenditures of energy for commercial transportation, food
processing and marketing.  For agribusiness products one must also
include energy costs of the wasted produce in picking, preparation,
freight, packaging for market and the marketing process itself.  Up
to half of agribusiness produce is wasted in the process.  Though
some of our domestic produce is never consumed, still it can be
easily composted as garden and yard wastes -- something the
agribusiness  finds difficult to do.  Agribusiness, or corporate
farms, include large-scale feedlots which have livestock crowded in
muddy lots and in unhealthy conditions.  These are fed hormones and
growth regulators which eventually enter the food supply.  These
farms use heavy equipment which causes soil compaction.  The single
crop fields of produce, which encourage pests, require heavy doses
of chemical pesticides.

    Gardening -- A Positive Alternative.  Good environmental
practice is needed to counter resource misuse and abuse, the
presence of which can easily wear us down and discourage us.  We
need positive alternatives to advocacy against agribusiness and bad
environmental practices.  When I returned to Appalachia from
Washington, DC in 1977 it became apparent that in order to keep
sane in such an environmentally devastated region I must give as
much time to improvements as to exposing pollution sources.  Now we
spend half of our time on solar and appropriate technology
demonstration and on raising organic gardens.  Proper gardening is
positive environmentalism; it makes visible to the total community
the hopes for a better world.  It is a sure sign that people even
in damaged areas of the world can start at the grassroots and
reintroduce sustainable living practices.  

    Domestic Gardening as Sustainable.  Domestic gardening can
contribute to reduction of the pollution that could be caused by
chemical fertilizers or pesticides, mowers and tillers, and
improper disposal of kitchen or yard wastes.  Fuel required to
transport food is no longer needed.  Larger quantities of
home-grown produce mean less consumption of resource-intensive meat
and other animal products.  Thus ornamental lawns turned into
productive gardens, especially in affluent countries, could
substitute for the rapidly disappearing arable land.  These
domestic gardens need not be large, for busy people find that
smaller is better.  Small plots do not need expensive tractors
which compact soil and use non-renewable fuel.  Rather, they use
low-cost and easily stored hand tools or small mechanical tillers.

    Knowing Climate and Weather Conditions.  Gardeners know when
the sun rises and sets.  We become attentive to upcoming severe and
mild weather conditions; we learn to become like farmers or
wildlife and tell by the feel of the wind when it will rain or
frost.  We know when to protect ourselves from sunburn or sun
stroke.  We sense when, where, and what to plant.  Being mindful of
the sun's position at various times of the year on a given plot
helps us plan our garden work better.  We soon know where the
afternoon shade first appears and how fast it advances, that
evenings and mornings are the best time to garden and water, that
one makes hay -- and gardens -- while the sun shines.
   An Easter Blessing.  Certainly we do not want to exclude
rituals such as an Easter Water blessing or prayers for a
productive garden.  While remembering that ritualizing is not
gardening, we still should include those proponents of sacred
garden space that are more liturgically oriented.  They can
certainly be part of the support community that helps make the
garden a more spiritual place and gardeners more spiritual people.

    The Garden -- A Green Place.  The good garden is testimony to
the resilience of the Earth to bounce back and return to proper
productivity.  An ideal green garden becomes an attraction for
birds, friendly insects such as ladybugs, butterflies and frogs.
The natural cycles of birth, maturation and fruition can go
unhindered from invasive species and toxic chemical pesticides.
The air is not contaminated from the exhausts of tractors or by
using non-renewable resources.  Collected rainwater is used when
irrigation is needed -- not water from distant sources.  The land
is protected from alien weeds, pest and erosion during non-growing
months.  The presence of such a vital place refreshes our soul and
motivates us to carry on the work of extending good ecological
practice to a broader world.  It is the stepping off place for
rebuilding a broken world.


           The Gardener's Plea for Wholeness

   All Good One, You establish balance and harmony on this Earth
and invite us to protect and enhance it.  Teach us to become
caretakers of your creation and to champion environmental ways.
Prompt us to spread the good news without losing heart, and to make
our homes the beginning of a more healthy Earth.  Show us how to
care for all things even plants -- to water sufficiently, to
fertilize when needed, to provide proper space, and to practice
biodiversity in garden and indoor plants.  Allow us to experience
the many cycles of nature and of life.  Inspire us to participate
enthusiastically in the Earth's regenerative process by turning
waste into resources for new life.  Finally, help us experience
your creative Presence in our midst.

Back to the Table of Contents

    May  --  Aesthetics and Floral/Vegetable Gardens

    Reflection:   May brings flowers, from May Day and the
garlands and floral May poles to the decorated cemeteries on
Memorial Day.  The month includes the Run for the Roses on Derby
Day, the bouquets sent on Mother's Day, and the crowning of
festival and prom queens amid floral arrangements.  May speaks to
our souls of freshness and beauty, before the heat of summer will
melt away the tender green of springtime's delight.  May is when
the sun rises earlier and sets later.  The extra daylight is
refreshing for we have much more to do.  This is planting season.

     Gardens and flowers seem to blend together in this month,  
when the surface is ablaze in color.  There's blooming comfrey and
peas, radishes and Chinese cabbage going to seed, and green
punctuated with purple hairy vetch cover crops.   The month of May
reaffirms the beauty of the garden which also has its plenty of
spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce, radishes, red-stemmed beet greens,
spreading cabbages, broccoli and kohlrabi and blooming chives.  It
is the season of unique tastes -- of uncontaminated, sun-ripened
strawberries and of rhubarb pie.  From nearby trees we can pick and
taste the sweet or sour cherries (provided we beat the birds to
them).  May includes the ox-eyed daisies in the fields, iris,
blooming blackberry, peonies, poppies, rocket larkspur, and a host
of other colorful and well scented flowers.  May is the time of
sweet scented blooming black locust, and Kentucky Coffee trees with
flowers that seem to cling like snow to the branches.  


    Floral Garden.  This year I am committed to having a highly
productive garden interspersed and accentuated by the beauty of
cosmos and begonias and marigolds.  Note that flowers selected for
domestic gardens need not be entirely of a native variety, only
naturalized or traditional flowers which will not be a menace if
allowed to escape.  Some species, such as daffodils or tiger
lilies, will continue flowering in a homestead area long after the
buildings have disappeared.  However, these will spread very slowly
and not be a major invasive threat.  They bloom at a given season
and die back allowing pastureland to yield normal vegetation.
Other flowers attract necessary pollinators which also are able to
collect nectar from vegetables and herbs.

    Flowers as Useful.  The addition of flowers to vegetable-
producing plots may have more than an aesthetic purpose.  Some
beautiful flowers or their leaves can be eaten in salad (nasturtium
or certain lilies).  Others are natural pest retardant agents
(marigold) and still others are harmful insect attractants (evening
primrose attracts the Japanese beetle).  Many colorful flowers
attract hummingbirds or butterflies which also add beauty  and a
sense of restfulness to the total garden community of plants and
animals.  Some use the summer garden as a place for storing and
invigorating indoor houseplants, and then return them indoors when
frost arrives.

   Flower Requirements.  Inserting flowers may require some care
in selecting varieties, in sowing and planting, in weeding, and in
collecting seed or transplanting bulbs.  A small additional space
may be required for such flowers and these can easily be
intermingled among a wide variety of vegetables and herbs.  The
flowering and scent of certain herbs, such as basil or the mints,
can also increase the total beauty of the garden environment.  In
rare cases, such as with daffodils, the very toxic bulb may be
mistaken for members of the onion family.  Do not grow these
flowers where there could be mistaken identity, and caution
gardeners to always check for the characteristic onion scent.

    Floral Bouquets.  If wildscape and floral/vegetable gardens
exist side-by-side, it is always difficult to answer requests for
cutting wildflowers.  Such bouquet gatherings may be possible or
they may distract from the total beauty of the landscape.  We are
generally less reluctant to cut cultivated flowers rather than
wildflowers for decorating homes, worship space and special events.
A general principle is never to harvest wildflowers in the wild
unless they are invasive or naturalized species (e.g., ox-eyed
daisies, Queen Anne's lace or wild chicory).  This is because the
wildflowers are often placed under stress by over-development,
invasive species, or the gatherers inability to distinguish
endangered sub-species from other types.

    Beauty for Its Own Sake.  Embellishing with flowers may be for
its own sake, because their color, shape and smell improve the
quality of our life.  We like the purple blooms of hairy vetch, for
this plant acts as a winter cover, gives nitrogen back to the soil,
and acts as summer living mulch.  But it is also a beautiful spring
blooming plant worth having around just for adornment.  Gardens can
go beyond the utilitarian purpose of yielding food, for gardens can
give pleasure to the eyes of the beholder.  The flowers' colors,
scents and shapes add to the ambiance of the garden, making it all
the more inviting for those tending and those looking in.  Gardens
beckon to designate this as a sacred place, and encourage us to
perfect it over time.  Flowers also dispose those unacquainted with
outdoor exercise to appreciate gardening. They mellow the practical
and the scientific to the art of flower design and growth.    

     Ornamentals and Lawns.  There's nothing wrong with having
plants for beauty's sake.  That is why we advocate edible
landscapes that include ornamentals like holly that can be used for
bird nesting and feeding areas and that may include wildscape with
its possible hundred types of flowers.  Much of the ornamental lawn
that covers suburban and urban America is not necessarily pretty,
consumes resources to manicure, and requires immense amount of
maintenance time.  Consider floral/vegetable gardens instead.

     An Example.  Besides their homestead flower plots, my peasant
Uncle Peter and Aunt Alberta always added a row of gladiolus to
their otherwise quite productive and practical vegetable garden.
They were simple farmers in the Kentucky hills using horses to
operate farm machinery.  However, they deliberately added beauty
down the middle of their half-acre garden, giving a sense of color
and life to what otherwise looked like just another farm field.  As
a youngster I couldn't understand the reason for all of these
flowers, and the added attention these two gardeners gave to them.
Now I do.  All I have to do is look about the countryside and see
so much attention to lawns and flowerbeds to understand the need to
combine garden and flowers.  The tender care of a floral/vegetable
garden has now entered into my own gardening experience.  

     The Garden as Art Form.  Art is found in galleries, museums
and places of distinction.  Through imagination and good work the
paintings and sculpture seem to come alive.  Similarly, a garden
with interspersed flowers is a living art piece, demanding the
skills of designer, gardener and artist all in one.  The landscape
is a canvas on which the aesthetically-minded paint by sowing seed
or planting and anticipating when the work will become colorful.
The ever-changing garden becomes like a stained glass window with
the sun playing off it at different times of the day.  The plant
selection, arrangement and vegetative growth are the oils and
medium of art, becoming part of good art through proper design and
anticipated time of blooming.  This garden art form attracts birds,
butterflies and other human beings.  A vast variation in expression
is part of the power of that attraction which is accentuated by
color, fragrances and touch.  The fruit, berries, vegetables, and
herbs are aromatic and tasteful and pleasant to behold and hold.
The garden stimulates all senses and the power of the hallowed
place enters into our whole being, stimulating the garden visitor
to turn our minds to the Creator.


                   The Gardener's Ode to Joy
     O Creating One, fill our eyes and hearts with the beauty that
flowers give when intertwined with growing produce.  Let the sheer
delight of edible and flowering plants uplift us high above the
everyday world, scarred by human-made ugliness and uniformity.
While we cannot escape that world, nor should we try, we still need
to rest in beauty for brief moments.  These times give us the
courage and the vision to see what the entire scarred world can
become.   Let our delight at this present beauty be wordless praise
to You and inspire us to raise hearts and minds to You in an
ever-swelling chorus of praise.  Touch and cultivate the gardens of
our hearts, filling them with beauty and grandeur, precious
moments' rest in glory's contemplation.  Let these moments be the
foreshadowing of eternal delight.  Joyfully, joyfully, we exult

Back to the Table of Contents

    June -- Resource Conservation Measures
    Reflections:  June is the time of a verdant garden, when
things grow by leaps and bounds.  Bright red stalks of beets, mole
bean stalks and Swiss chard punctuate the greenery as do the yellow
blooms of zucchini, summer squash, and cucumbers, and the faint
blossoms on the many tomato vines.  From the neighboring berry
patches comes handfuls of wild black and red raspberries.  The
flowers of nearby wildscapes include white and yellow yarrow,
baby's breath, the first blooming of wild chicory that will give a
blue touch until autumn, and  majestic Queen Anne's lace.  The
countryside is ablaze in color and smothered in summer scents.  It
is the time of the June apple and mulberry, of the sight of the
delicate pink and white mimosa bloom, and the scent of new mown hay
and blooming honeysuckle.

    Springtime's freshness wears off in the heated glare of the
June sun, which is sometimes punctuated with the rumbling early
summer thunderstorms, that can quickly turn violent with wind,
hail, and lightning.  The June climatic change is bittersweet for
it brings the gnats and mosquitoes, but affords us opportunities to
pause from sweaty work and to cool our sunburned arms and neck.
The hot, drier weather bakes the soil and signals to us to conserve
the precious soil moisture.  It is time to mulch.  


    Mulching Time.  It is the Pentecost season -- the beginning of
ordinary time.  We observe the advent of the long hot summer and
the mulching season, which is nature's best way of conserving
precious water as the hotter days increase evaporation.  We
carefully place straw under the spreading squash leaves and around
the growing tomato plants.  Granted other mulching agents are known
and used, but we prefer natural products such as straw which will
eventually compost into the beds as organic matter.  We look for
bare places as the green cover turns brown with the hot afternoon
June sun.  When we uncover the mulch we discover cool moist soil,
while nearby the mulch-less land is quite dry.  Mulch is our
moisture-conserving friend.

    Conservation Consciousness.  Wasting is wrong, but many of us
never consider the moral aspects of resource waste.  We will try to
halt waste to save money or because the waste itself is
inconvenient or unsightly.  But what about waste that happens as
part of our over packaged and throwaway culture?  We have unused
clothes because of the latest fashion.  We throw out food because
we do not like the inconvenience associated with making leftover
dishes.  We allow dwellings to waste electricity because no one
cares enough to turn off the lights.  On the other hand, domestic
gardening makes us mindful that wasting involves lost time and
human effort.  Through wholesome gardening "waste" becomes a
resource.  We turn so-called kitchen waste into compost and yard
wastes (grass clippings, tree trimmings and discarded weeds) into
valuable mulch.  With proper foresight the valuable living topsoil
in development projects could be saved during construction
operations and restored around many of the less densely constructed

    Land Stewardship.  Good conservation methods in agriculture
(contour plowing, rotation of crops, erosion control, cover crops,
and wind breaks) have always been considered a way to teach
stewardship of natural resources.   We are patiently taught that it
takes a long time to make an inch of soil and a moment's negligence
to lose it.  What is learned through agricultural methods for
larger fields also applies to horticulture.  We need to be good
stewards of the Land.

    Time Stewardship.  Through gardening we learn to budget our
working hours, the areas of life with the highest human waste
potential.  Horticulture, a sub-division of agriculture, offers
opportunities to practice this type of time  stewardship.  First,
farmers and gardeners come to recognize that we are on this Earth
for a very short time and we must make the best of our limited
energy and precious time.  We have only windows of time in our own
lives to learn good gardening practice, to put this into effect, to
teach it to others, and to slow down as health and ebbing physical
strength require.  

    Energy Resource Savings.  One benefit of domestic gardening is
that it saves resources and thus complements the discussion of
April on eco-balance.  Some savings include:

    * Transportation and storage energy --  Food, like all bulky
everyday consumer products, should be produced as near home as
possible because of transportation costs and because we have better
control on the quality of local products. Good ecological design
for food production systems places emphasis on obtaining food

    * Sharing excess produce -- The surplus produce from domestic
gardens that goes to neighbors and the needy also cuts energy cost
to transport comparable food supplies as well as accompanying
portions that are inherently wasted during commercial transactions.

    * Energy needed for larger gardening or lawn maintenance --
hand tools take far fewer resources than those powered by gasoline
or diesel, such as tractors or lawnmowers.  Thus, low intensity
gardening is actually a non-renewable resource savings.  Some of
the techniques listed below will enhance that saving.  

    * Spoiled materials that would have gone to landfills --
These garden wastes require no hauling costs for the domestic
gardener can compost directly in the backyard.

    Resource Conservation Techniques.  Besides mulching,
garden-saving conservation measures worth considering include
raised bed, double-dug, natural pest control, and crop
interplanting techniques.  All five of these techniques are
complementary because they lead to far higher yields of produce in
a smaller space.  Some gardeners may not have the facilities to use
the various techniques or have enough land to grow their gardens on
extensive fields with space to spare.  All good and well, but
excess land can breed a sense of wastefulness in gardening, just
like a spacious house that is mostly unused or an automobile that
is a gas guzzler.  If we have too much of a particular resource, we
should consider sharing it.  Remember that added maintenance and
security will cause us additional stress.  Should my garden be so
large?  Can I share produce with another?  Is it possible to get
someone else to participate in a community gardening venture?  

    The Garden, A Resource Conservation Zone.  The domestic garden
is not a wasteland, nor is waste the product of its operation.  As
our environmental and eco-spirituality grows we become aware that
our domestic gardens calls each of us to use resources well, for
they are valuable and limited.  Just as we were surprised to learn
that natural processes were not wasteful, we learn that our land
activities must also be conservation conscious.  We discover that
everything in nature is recycled.  This is found in vivid examples
of growing, dying, composting and regeneration in the garden.  We
have much to learn from the garden:  to strive to reduce waste to
zero; to reduce the plethora of discarded materials and containers;
to turn garden or vegetative wastes into resources through
composting and mulching; to integrate animals and their waste
products as composted manures into the system; and to strive to
integrate our spiritual life into the rhythms of the natural
recycling process which admits of no waste.


          Gardener's Desire for Self Control

     Conservator of all Life, increase our awareness of the
precious resources entrusted to us.  Teach us to use all material
things to the degree they assist us to attain our end, and never to
overuse or waste resources that You pronounced as good.  Make us
stewards of these gifts, aware of how fleeting is our time and how
fragile are entrusted gifts.  Guide us to protect and conserve the
water that is so precious, both that which we use in our homes and
that used in our gardens.  Protect us from becoming a part of this
throwaway generation, and teach us to reuse cast-off items and to
be sensitive to sharing excess with those lacking in basic
resources.  Lead us through gardening to value this gift of land,
our time, the seasons, the recyclable materials around us, our own
reserves of energy, and the wisdom of other gardeners.  

Back to the Table of Contents

    July --  Quality of Life Enhancement

    Reflection:  July is the season of dog days when crickets and
locusts sing, black locust trees often start turning brown, and the
farm pond scum expands and changes to dark green.  The year's high
noon has arrived.  It is an intensely patriotic time of
Independence Day celebrations and fire crackers, of barbecue scents
and barking dogs, of family reunions and all-day picnics, of sun
block and crowded swimming pools, and of evening cruises in
convertibles and pickup trucks loaded with half clad young folks.

    July, the relaxed vacation time, allows us to pause and
reexamine the foods we eat, along with their nutritional content
and quality.  The spring greens and scallions have given way to
bush and pole beans, okra and the first tomatoes, more summer
squash, and cucumbers that seem to get oversized overnight.  From
the trees come green summer apples and purple and red plums, and
from the patches all around hang the ever-present blackberry and
its berry cousins.  All of these yield exquisite tastes so much
better than the commercial varieties picked green and ripened by
artificial means.  July is the time of tall bluebells and
milkweeds, of blooming ironweed and scarlet sage.  In this lazy
month all take to the shade, except the butterflies and
hummingbirds which seem to thrive in the blazing sun amid the
summer zinnias and cosmos.  


   Food Quality Goal.  High summer is quality time, and we know
what that means with its scents and sight and tastes.  It is the
time to stop at mid-year and reflect at the tripod of good
gardening, i.e.,  amount, nutritional content and taste.  Through
the use of raised beds and other intensive techniques the
quality-minded gardener can obtain plentiful yields;  through
careful selection of crops good nutritional content can be
obtained; and through the further selection of specific cultivars
within these families of vegetables (along with proper harvesting,
preserving and cooking) one can preserve and create tastes that
please the palate.  

   Preservation.  To retain the quality of the garden produce is
a worthwhile goal.  Domestic produce can be fresh, plentiful,
uncontaminated, and varied.  Eventually, though, the crops will
pass through their prime and soon be gone.  Thus the
quality-conscious should give special attention to saving high
quality surplus produce by preservation techniques such as solar
drying, canning, pickling, freezing, and root cellar use.  Thus the
surplus can be enjoyed later in the less productive winter months.

   Commercial Aims.  Current mass produced vegetables involve
picking hybridized unripe produce, shipping for great distances in
refrigerated car, using artificial ripening agents, and selling at
a supermarket chain.  The nutrition of such commercial produce is
limited when it is harvested before ripening, because vitamins and
sugars have not had time to develop.  Commercial producers desire
perfect appearing products, that is, free from blemishes, no matter
how much chemical pesticide is present or how poor the nutritional
content.  Chemical-free commercial produce is not easily found and
is higher priced.  An apple's worm may be unappetizing but it
indicates the absence of pesticides.  One of my otherwise finicky
aunts accepted a few worms on produce and called them signs of
things chemically free and, if accidentally cooked, a source of

    Quality of Life.   Today, many seek a higher quality simple
life that includes smaller vehicles and places to live, fewer
clothes, more time with family (down-sizing job expectations), more
care in growing and purchasing locally-grown organic foods
(nutritional quality), and more time given to the arts and music
(quality leisure time).   Our center has emphasized
obtaining bulk products -- food, water, building materials and
energy supplies -- from sources close at hand where quality can be
controlled as well as transportation costs reduced.  The growing
popularity of "Farmer's Markets" means consumers are returning to
a search for quality, even if it costs more.

    Quality Diet.  Higher quality, larger quantity and broader
variety of grains, fruits, vegetables, and herbs allow for a more
balanced and wholesome diet that uses less of the Earth's
resources.  This quality diet means less use of resource intensive
domestic animal products and encourages more vegetarian diets.
Unit-for-unit, the meat, milk and egg producing domestic animal is
a consuming agent, requiring considerable feed to stay alive,
reproduce and furnish animal products for human consumption.  Some
20 units of feed are required for one unit of final animal product
that is ultimately consumed.  Grain-fed beef is the highest end of
this intensity scale with pork middling and poultry and fish at the
lower end of the scale.  Animal feed (corn, other grains, hay,
soybean byproducts, and pastures) require a major portion of this
nation's arable land.  

   Quality Arguments.  Meat producers say that while meat and
other animal products are more resource-intensive than vegetables,
fruit, nuts, and berries, meat is still relatively low priced,
range feeding reduces the need for grain production, and the food
is highly nutritious.  As the son of a cattle grower I understand
the argument that animal products are complete and nutritious
foods.  However, vegetarians offer the strong counter-argument
that, with care, they can achieve balanced diets.  During the past
century-and-a-half, conversion of American forest and grasslands
from wilderness to range land has had many detrimental effects,
including the destruction of understory (native plants growing
below the forest canopy) plants, erosion, and introduction of
invasive species to many of our public lands leased out to cattle
growers.  A number of environmentally conscious people reduce their
consumption of animal products because of the environmental impacts
of livestock production.

    The Garden -- Gateway to Mystery.  Gardens are in part the
work of human beings, but manifest also the cooperative handiwork
of Creator and diligent creature, garden-maker.  The first Eden was
God's sole handiwork reserved for human use.  Through stumbling and
falling and subsequent toiling and redemption we learn that we do
more than live in a prepared garden.  We help remake the Second
Eden, though we always must be reminded that we are only workers
and not the Master Builder.   However, this invitation to help is
part of a great mystery, that we who have stumbled can rise and
through redemption become something greater.  We are called to
enhance, improve and rebuild a shattered world and thus help return
Eden to its rightful place.  We don't do this alone and that is
part of the mysterious gift of becoming renewers and participants
in a planetary gardening process -- not mere bystanders.  

     Value of the Untended.  Even with this privilege to cultivate
and develop the landscape, we should not lose sight of the quality
of Wilderness, -- God's handiwork from the beginning.  While
wilderness is a counterpoint to cultivated garden plots, it must be
preserved and allowed to flourish.  Even in wilderness preservation
human beings are more than observers; we are protectors and
preservers of wilderness areas which are integral parts of the
emerging New Eden.  The domestic garden is remade, not by
converting wilderness into garden, but by taking damaged land and
turning it into quality ecological models of what cultivated areas
should be.  Let us also give some time to change back the damaged
lands into wilderness, wildscape and reconstituted wetlands.


              The Gardener's Chaste Desires

     Oh Perfect One, You call me to move along the road to greater
love.  I overlook the ordinary things of life and reach out to the
unattainable.  Help me to value the quality of things I can at
least attain in part.  Allow me the desire to grow in active
contemplation, to speak more perfectly with You and with others,
and to value the quality of decent human living.  In the summertime
of this year grant me a renewed resolution to reach beyond the
routine and seek a higher quality of life that comes through clean
living and growing respect for the needs of other persons.  Protect
me from being misled by material allurements and mere appearances
and pretensions.  Help me prize a higher quality of life.  May my
improving domestic garden mirror the garden of my soul, where a
purified heart is willing to share the good things of life.

Back to the Table of Contents

     August --  Grassroots Training

     Reflection:  For parts of the country August is back-to
school time when thoughts move from vacation holidays and travel to
formal education.  It is the time of high summer, a transfiguring
of the landscape and the first foreshadowing of rapidly approaching
autumn.   The lazy days of July give way to mists rising in the
morning and days that are getting noticeably shorter.  Nature is
giving us clues that not all remain the same: birds start to flock
in larger numbers, cobwebs seem to multiply, the morning mists
envelop the countryside, goldenrod appears in rocky places and
roadside banks, bush phlox punctuates the forest understory.  

    August is the prime growing season when the landscape
(provided rain is plentiful) is verdant and gardens yield their
peak load harvests -- watermelon, peaches, apricots, cantaloupes,
grapes, fresh green corn, cascades of ripe tomatoes, butterbeans,
and still more green, yellow and tan squash.   We pickle the
smaller cucumbers, make tomato juice, preserve the peaches, fill up
the deep freeze with squash, solar dry the first pickings of
apples, and have blueberries, peaches and grapes to spare to make
tasty cobblers.  It is the season of the delicious mayapple and the
teasel, of the sweet and spotted joe-pye-weed and red clover
blooms, of ripe clusters of pokeweed and edible papaws.


     Gardening as Learning Experience.  Gardening can change
people -- both master gardeners and beginners.  The act of
gardening resembles gracefully dying people, who offer observers
teaching opportunities of fidelity, patience and self-control.
Over time gardeners gain respect for nature by enduring the
vicissitudes of the elements, accepting mini-disasters, weighing a
chance to plant another crop, being "up on top" of the weeds, and
minimizing crop damage with an even temper and alternative
interplanted crops.  Beginners gradually enter into the mental ways
and aspirations of the master gardener and can visualize the beds
with or without certain plants.  With the Master the beginner can
wince when the hail falls, pray that the wind will cease, and hope
that the freeze won't come too early.  Together, the experienced
and the one experiencing can rejoice in a satisfactory harvest.

    The Demonstrative Power of Gardening.  Gardening can become a
case study in learning and teaching.  Mistaken ideas that food
originates in supermarkets and milk comes from factories gives way
to the reality of food production in a garden.  Novice gardeners
who were  formerly distant from the Earth become personally
acquainted with it, often for the first time.  When master
gardeners observe the power of demonstration which they have
initiated by their own actions, they are changed also.  During the
major part of the three decades of my public interest work I
thought talks, reports and television shows made the difference.
In recent years it has become apparent that none of that parade of
activities equals the power of showing someone a personally tended
garden.  Rest confident that experience will take hold.

    Reflection on Our Co-Creative Roles.  If time, space and other
factors are right, a new environment is created in the garden that
is a grassroots beginning -- a bottoms-up operation nurtured by the
Earth itself through the ongoing creative power of God working in
the world.  Neophytes perceive that they are not mere observers but
participants in the mystery of garden growth.  Participants need to
have a true sense of awe.  The experienced should never belittle
that experience, but augment it by confessing that gardening for a
lifetime will not change the wonder of maturing plant life.

    Hands-On Experience.  Gardening can be performed at a
multitude of levels.  Near Amsterdam in the Netherlands I observed
an entire school class engaged in planting seedlings in a school
plot.  Some learn cooperative gardening projects through Scouts or
civic or religious associations.  All individuals need to
personally participate.  Encourage the ones who are bashful to take
part in this hands-on experience and do not allow forward members
of the class to perform the experiential work.  Ideally all
learners have their own individual plots, which are their personal
responsibility for planting and harvesting.

    No Quick Fix.  Accountability for seeing the project through
to harvest is a major gardening lesson for the beginners.  Some
want quick fixes in the world around us.  But garden education is
a slow and painstaking process, and learning to plant and tend to
maturity and then harvest takes patience.  Granted, it can also be
enjoyable and is.  But we need to watch and wait, to pull weeds and
to see that the right amount of moisture is present.  We need to
know when to harvest, to weigh results and insert amounts into
record books.  August is the mini-planting season for fall crops.
We need an accountability to the garden space, to keep things
growing throughout the year, especially in late summer.

   Simultaneously Harvesting and Planting.  August is unique.  It
is heavy in harvesting the spring-planted crops and it is time for
planting cover crops and fall vegetables.  Early fall plantings
could be hurt by dry weather and thus require the tender loving
care that comes from watering dry land. But this dual work makes
gardening more productive -- and fun.  Work and play all wrapped
into one, which experienced gardeners don't fully express.

   These experts are often insensitive to beginners who are
unfamiliar with how to prepare soil, recognize plants from weeds,
and how to harvest without damaging the still producing plants.
Many hardly know that peas are in pods or cucumbers grow on vines.
Experienced gardeners are challenged to confront the inexperienced
bias that gardening could be left to rustics, farmhands, and
servants.  A Chicago youth minister called wanting to bring eighth
graders to teach Appalachians to garden.  Voila, the bias!  I asked
whether the kids had gardening experience and the organizer said
they didn't, but could learn quickly.  I assured him that so could
most Appalachians.

    Recording Experiences.  We think we have plenty of time to
record experiences for the learner.  While in India I asked an
88-year-old missionary if he had recorded his many gardening
stories with which he would regale his local listeners.  He said
"no, there's plenty of time."  He died shortly after -- unrecorded.
     Gardening experience takes time to acquire and is lost when
the gardener goes to meet the Great Gardener.  We're not permanent
fixtures who garden on Earth forever.  Recording by experienced
gardeners is salutary, for the general store of horticultural
knowledge should embrace an evolving knowledge that includes our
many mistakes.  Oral and video histories of gardeners will be
highly prized, and so we have deposited dozens of them at
the University of Kentucky Library.  Today segregated elders find
it more difficult to hand their garden gems on to younger listeners
through oral tradition, especially in a throwaway culture.

    The Garden as a Ripple Effect.  Passing the experience of
gardening from the expert to the inexperienced is an ongoing
process.  The garden that is well tended becomes a model for what
others can become.  A New Eden is an emerging phenomenon which is
being born.  "Wasted" or non-productive land becoming productive
excites us.  We like what is occurring and want to hasten the
process.  The place of growing productivity may be a yard,
neighborhood, town, county, state, region, country, our Earth.  If
we accept responsibility for our local environment, we can more
readily accept accountability for progressively broader
environmental areas.  The improvements must begin at a specific
locus, a grassroots, a place from which organic growth can occur.
Many beginnings can occur at the same time, a phenomenon that has
been observed often in human history.  Scientists tell us that
enzymatic points are where catalysts stimulate and hasten the
growth process.  Each energized point (garden plot) is influenced
by the other -- a ripple effect of change.  
                 The Gardener's Creed

      Most Provident One, You give us the strength to take care of
what is entrusted to us.  You teach us to be faithful to flowers
and vegetables alike and to share our experience with those around
us.  You prompt us to till and fertilize a larger community of
persons.  Through our faithful attentiveness we attract those who
desperately seek role models.  Through our faithfulness we
encourage faithfulness; through our joy we make joy contagious;
through our precious moments we come to value our limited time
together.  Finally, we believe that You alone can teach us to count
how few days we have and so gain wisdom of heart (Psalm 90: 12).  

Back to the Table of Contents

   September -- Family/Neighbor Bonding            

   Reflection:  September starts with Labor Day when goldenrod are
in full bloom and the crops are being gathered.  It's harvest time
on farms, when entire families helps in an intergenerational
enterprise.  We hasten in anticipation of autumn chill and a
possible early frost.  The heavier mists now hang over the valleys
reminding us each morning that days are warm, but nights are cooler
than the temperature of rivers, lakes and ponds.  Work, even garden
work, includes beating the frost and a mutual sacrifice.

   The birds flock in the evening and nature seems to anticipate
what is in store.  We pick elderberries for pie, press cider, deep
freeze the grapes and continue to use the solar food dryer for
beans and apples.  We notice that the late tomatoes have a
different taste this month.  In the more even temperature of the
month the peppers seem to fill the stalks miraculously with each
passing day and hang heavy in yellows and greens and reds and
purples.  Butternut and winter squash are ready to store; we
prepare the greenhouse for the first transfers as frost approaches.
We trample the late summer woods nearby and find the acorns now
falling from the oak trees.  We taste the most exquisite of all
fruit in the wild, the wild plum.  And we hear the reports of
hunters -- fathers and sons and daughters bonding by bringing home
a mess of squirrel.  We see deer and rabbit and raccoon as well and
hear the gobbling of the wild turkeys.  Yes, this is September.


     Social Enterprise.  Gardening can definitely be a social
enterprise engaging the natural community of plants, animals and
people of all ages.  This intergenerational collection of family
and neighbors includes the expertise of elders, enthusiasm of
youth, energy of the able-bodied, and the attentiveness of learners
and part-time observers.  Elders know what and when to plant and
harvest;  youth take pride in their own budding gardening skills
and ability to store memories for years to come.  They like the
opportunity to experiment and are relieved to know the elders still
have things to learn as well.  However, even enthusiastic youth may
tire easily of garden operations while the able-bodied have the
stamina to continue gardening.  All are bonded in sharing together
the sheer delight and joy of helping a garden grow, even when
risking some plant harm by the inexperienced.  

    Social Gardener Tips.  The social aspects of gardening need
not consume the entire gardening time.  Reserve special times and
special occasions for social (cooperative) gardening.  Show the
little ones where to stand, walk, step or pick.  Informality does
not make good gardening practice, just as rigid formality can be
oppressive.  Establishing a middle ground is very important.  Each
should recognize that people acquire gardening skills at different
rates.  Specific tips to enhance participation by people at
different skill levels include:

    Involve the Family --  The saying that the family that "prays
together, stays together" involves the entire unit, not just a few.
If young and old can pray in their own way simultaneously, why
can't they all garden together?  A gardening exercise can be a
happy occasion when all who desire can be present (even when some
choose not to take advantage of full participation).  Be welcoming,
make rules clear and simple for protection of plants, assist the
old, and reign in toddlers for the garden's sake.

    Include the Neighbors -- Quite often gardeners exclude
neighbors through the plea of wanting privacy in gardening.
However, social gardening, as explained here, is a public act and
one that may intrigue nearby inhabitants.  Create an occasional
gardening event to include others.  The ripple effect of gardening
influence extends out to wider concentric circles and certainly can
easily embrace neighbors who have a hidden interest in what is
going on.  Make them feel at ease in coming, seeing, and even
helping in the harvest.
    Pick Your Own --  Sometimes you have just too much of a good
thing and that includes garden produce.  "Come and pick your own"
is one solution.  First invite local neighbors and then extend to
others.  When you are keeping a tab on the amounts of materials
produced, it is important to have gatherers keep tabs on the
amounts they harvest.  In essence, this is the extent of my garden
rules.  Come and take a specific vegetable if you like, but make
sure to record and tell me to the quarter pound how much you took.
That is because our gardens are monitored and the results shared
with the wider Commonwealth of Kentucky.

    Encourage Others to Garden --  Neighbors can learn to garden
by osmosis and become co-partners in expertise and co-sharers in
produce.  In fact, this may be a higher form of social or joint
community gardening because of the replication effects and the
expanding of expertise through hands-on operations.  Neighbors are
invited to do more than observe;  while maybe reluctant, they need
to experience the risk involved in committing themselves to
gardening.  Encourage them to garden their piece of land, starting
simply and working up to more sophisticated forms of gardening.

    Reconsider Privacy Barriers --  I am not against certain
domestic privacy barriers (especially vegetative and wooden ones)
which delineate a place where people can cook outdoors or just
relax.  People need private getaways from a busy world.  While a
garden may be a retreat to partial rest, it is also public space
different from interior bedroom or outside breakfast nook.  A wire
fence may be sufficient to allow neighbors to peer in and observe,
though the invitation may not be so all embracing as to include
unwanted wildlife.  The invitees do not have a license to wreck,
and you should exclude threatening human or wildlife.

    A Garden Celebration.  A block party can be made into a
social event that includes the reticent neighbors who come and
enjoy the fruits of gardening.  The late-summer evening or autumn
celebration when the harvest is prime could provide the setting,
and part of the food could be the produce from the garden (e.g.,
mint tea, stir-fry, vegetable soup, salads, etc.).  A community
gathering in the cool of an autumn evening is most fitting.   This
can be an opportunity to communicate and the conversation will
undoubtedly come back to particular foods from produce or hints of
what to do next year, for half of gardening is anticipation of what
is to come.

     Garden as Part of Home.  Care and love transforms a house
into a home.  The emerging Eden is the ecos, par excellence.  It is
becoming a home to plants, animals and human beings as well.  Here
is a sense of belonging, of security, of direction and focus.  This
does not mean that the gates to our domestic gardens are thrown
open for all to trespass.  That is hardly a way to establish a
home.  Eden, as home, means that respectful coexisting can occur
with friendly plants and animals and that the good will of a garden
operation can be communicated to an ever broadening network of
gardening enterprises.  We love wild animals in the wild but will
not open our doors to a bear or cougar.  The emerging Eden is
embracing the cultivated gardens of the world as well as preserved
wilderness areas and wildlife refuges.  There is enough space for
all, though not exactly the same space.  However, lovers of
wildlife know that the garden, as home, attracts certain friendly
wildlife (e.g., songbirds, worms, insects, and butterflies).    

               The Gardener's Prayer for Kindness
  Oh, gentle Bonder of the Universe, bring our family closer
together and cement our growing togetherness with your kindly love.
Where families are dispersed give others to take their place so
that they can be bonded together with us.  This bonding is itself
a gift, though through kindness we can help cement it all the more.
We help create our gardening space and we may hold too tightly to
it like old people with a death grip on their precious worldly
wares.  We need to let go.  You allow us to steward your land for
a short time.  Teach us when to loosen and when to make bonds.
Show us that by letting go others can become bonded more closely
without us.  Allow us to be generous, not miserly, open, not
disturbed about others presence, free with gifts given so that they
can be freely passed on in an atmosphere of loving kindness.  Help
us to invite as You have invited us into your family.

Back to the Table of Contents

    October -- Broadening Community Relations

    Reflection:  The leaves are turning a hundred hues and we know
that the ordinary growing season is coming to an end.  Indian
summer days make us wish they would stay forever.  It is warm but
mosquito-less, a perfect season.  Trees blaze at least for a few
days or weeks with autumn reds, rust, and gold.  As the month
progresses, those warning flags of frost bring us back to reality.
The first frost warning sends us scurrying for bags and covers for
the delicate things, such as peppers and the few late beans.  We
strive to keep the marigolds and impatiens alive and blooming as
much as we can, but are counting more on the mums to fill the
flowering gaps of October.  We move frost-sensitive plants to the
greenhouse or share them with neighbors.

     The garden and landscape take on a special character in this
month.  We gather in the crooked squash and pumpkins.  It is the
final call for the yellow pear tomatoes and the Tommy Toes.  The
fall garden planted in mid- and late-August is now beginning to
produce.  The prime focus is the purple turnip and the greens,
along with mustard and kale, that give greenery to the late garden.
It is cover crop season, time to sow the hairy vetch and Austrian
winter peas.  The orange to red persimmons are now ripening and
sweetened through frost, and the pulp can be pressed through a
colander to make a filling for pie and preserves.  It's time to
gather hickory nuts and hull walnuts and risk getting our hands
stained.   The fall apples need picking and we use the solar food
dryer.  There's autumn work to be done.  We need to look after the
elderly and needy who must have winter fuel and their homes
insulated or caulked.                    
   Culture through Cultivation.  Gardeners believe that they play
a role in civilization, for local culture is enhanced through
cultivation -- and gardening is the premier form of tilling the
land.  A further search brings us to the same root Latin word,
cultus, which means care or cultivation.  Yes, we gardeners can
make a unique contribution to neighborhood culture and a broader
sense of community improvement.  If we care to feel even more
important, let us look at the origins and practice of the
democratic process and find that gardeners (such as Thomas
Jefferson and John Adams) have played particular roles in
furthering the American version of that process.   While gardeners
believe in being practical and seeing concrete results, they
furnish a refreshing counterpoint to professional meeting-goers who
appear stimulated by endless conversation and interaction.  It
simply takes gardeners present to bring discussion to a relatively
rapid conclusion -- because we have to get back to important

     Preserving Culture.  Gardeners feel a sense of their high
calling.  Culture is initiated, enhanced and even preserved through
cultivation of land for food and other necessities.  If many of the
world's cultures have arisen where cultivation has occurred, then
a relationship exists between the cultivators and the cultured --
and gardeners stand right in the middle.  Often actual cultivators
have been peons, serfs, slaves, and the lower social strata.  On
the other hand, the benefactors of culture were the higher members
of the social hierarchy.  But some folks stood in the middle, not
letting the lower strata struggle on in an uncomplaining fashion,
nor allowing the elite to get away with doing little or nothing.
At times, egalitarian reform has been attempted (e.g., the Cultural
Revolution in China) with its forced return of vast numbers of
people to the land.  The harshness and lack of planning of such
top-down programs doom many back-to-the-land experiments.  The
gardener's way is to freely and joyfully perform both manual labor
and powerful reflection in the same person.

    Possible Conflicts.  Neighbors may resist this individual
egalitarian thrust by the back-to-land gardener.  For the more
elite neighbors, the disturbance of their uniform ornamental lawn
by gardens is disquieting.  For these conformists the zoned
neighborhoods is meant to look alike, and anyone who deviates in
land use patterns (such as uniform lawn care) merits the greater
community's disapproval.  Turning lawn to garden goes against the
orderliness of the conformist's world order.  Furthermore, the
maverick gardener tills up lawn, scattered paraphernalia, brings in
beehives, and grows all sorts of different plants -- a garden
seeming in disarray.   In response, the gardener does not want
to be directly confrontational and thus must defend a radically
different concept of beauty.  Creative conflict arises from these
differing concepts of community land use (ornamental landscape
versus gardens).  This may involve advocacy before a variety of
departments of a municipal government -- as happened with a friend
in northern California who was plagued by agencies and neighbors
because she installed a native plant xeroscape.

    A Public Process.  Creative conflict as championed by some
social activists is a wise practice for most.  Conflict can be a
golden opportunity to speak up for gardening.  Gardeners can be
evangelists who encourage neighbors to become aware of a garden's
beauty and productivity.  They can affirm the value of a garden
being a natural conversation piece and learning experience, where
isolated people can trade experiences, assistance, and produce.  In
most cases the non-gardener's response is to tolerate the gardener
and gradually become interested without necessarily letting on.

    Gaining Confidence.  Beginners may not want to admit that they
could fail at being a gardener, that their attempted crop-growing
may expose their lack of skills, that they may have many questions,
that they may be dependent on quirks in the weather, and that their
produce may not be perfect specimens for the supermarket.  One
solution is for these concerned individuals to join other beginners
in gardening so as not to bear the burden of failure alone.  They
should grow less difficult vegetable varieties first, then graduate
to others.  They may plant in a less public place until they build
confidence.  They may undertake growing a number of varieties
simultaneously so that the failure of a few will still allow the
success of others.  Lastly, they may be persuaded that failures are
positive learning experiences.

    Expanded Undertakings.  Neighborhood gardening may lead to
gardening cooperatives and community gardens, and then to
broader community activities where common gardening areas are
shared by those who have little or no land or are unable to garden
near where they live.  Cooperatives help people pool resources for
development of buying, growing or marketing associations which
assist all the members.  The gardening community expands its
technical base when working together, for through cooperation the
more skilled influence the less skilled --  an osmotic process of
skills transfer.  

     Garden, Seat of a Tolerant Community.   Being able to include
all in a spirit of sharing resources is part of an emerging new
Eden.   It is big enough to allow the expert gardeners and the
inexperienced to work satisfactorily together.  Certain rules and
procedures may be needed to prevent unintentional damage.
Tolerance is not the same as permissiveness, a truth that applies
to the New Eden as well.  Tolerance in Eden allows space to make
some mistakes and still be included in the whole community.  The
process of becoming an experienced gardener needs its maturation
time.  However, to make experimental errors is one matter; to
destroy the garden's sustainability is not tolerance but license.


           The Gardener's Call for Patience

    Oh Great Spirit,  Who moves across the waters and changed
darkness to light, give us the patience to build community with all
of your creatures and especially with our fellow human beings.
Help us to recognize that not all are at the same place in life's
journey and many do not understand the importance of gardening to
building community.  Allow us to transfer the acquired skills and
experiences -- which are true gifts from You -- to a public forum
for others to hear and understand.  Teach us patience while waiting
for seeds to sprout, plants to mature, and neighbors' hearts to
change.  Open those hearts and minds, should they resist, hide, or
retreat into their own inner worlds.  Teach us to gently prod them
forward and show them that we need their presence in fulfillment of
our own work.   Amid rebuffs help us to remain enthusiastic.  Open
our eyes to see that this struggle is a great foreshadowing of a
better world, a New Earth that we await in patience.

Back to the Table of Contents

    November --  Eco-justice  

    Reflection:  The November skies progressively turn grayer and
the leaves drop from the trees.  Daylight shortens with each
passing day.  Heavier frost retards the outdoor growing season,
except where the temporary cold frames keep the late vegetable
crops snug for another month or so.  We extend these cold frame
coverings (cloth or a light leaf cover) to the Japanese radishes
which get to large size in autumn, as well as to other autumn
greens -- various types of kale, mustard, spinach, endive, and some
turnips.  The rest will remain unsheltered along with collards
which can produce well into winter provided the weather is not too

    November brings Thanksgiving and the sight and smells of
garden produce being turned to food products -- salsify root cooked
as a dish to look and taste like oysters; kale, collards, and
mustard boiled or stir fried;  Jerusalem artichoke roots cut fresh
and tasting like almonds on salads; turnips and kohlrabi sliced and
eaten raw in salad or cooked with a cream sauce; pumpkin pie;
celery in dressing or soup; peanuts sprinkled over the salad; and
horseradish as a condiment.

     The trees are surrounded by the fallen pears and the yellow
jackets vie with us for the riper ones.  The woodlands yield wild
turkey in what appears to be ever more plentiful supply.  This time
of gratitude for God's bounty moves us to pause at the family table
and offer prayers of thanks.  This is a land of abundance, of good
soil, cooperative weather, and hard work.


     Corporate Agriculture and Justice Issues.  If November's
focus is food, we ought to see that one garden benefit is the
opportunity to compare the bounty of domestic plot with the massive
agribusiness ventures which currently provide much of America's
food.  However, this need not be the case.  Good ecology points to
small-scale domestic gardening alternatives.  We spoke earlier
about environmental impacts of agribusiness (April) and reduction
in resource loss (June).  Here we speak of the laborers who work in
the fields.  

      In agribusiness ventures, crops are generally cultivated and
harvested by farm workers who do back-breaking tasks for long
periods of time at low wages, with poor lodging, no access to
profits, and hazardous (pesticide contaminated) working conditions.
In domestic gardens, on the other hand, the gardener can mix work
with leisure, does this in a chemical- and pesticide-free area, and
is not required to work long periods of time in unfavorable work
conditions.  Gardeners can enjoy the fruits of their toil and share
these with others in need.
    Vanishing Agricultural Lands.  Through responsible gardening
one becomes aware how small amounts of land can grow much food.  
The rapid urbanization of our country has taken agricultural land
out of food production and put it into housing and commercial
development.  Today there is one hectare (2.4 acres) of cultivated
land per four persons on this planet.  With rapid population
increases expected for some time in the foreseeable future, the
amount of land per person will decrease further during the 21st
century.  One answer to the loss of prime agricultural land is the
high-yielding domestic garden.  About one-tenth of an acre can
supply half of a person's yearly food needs, especially with
emphasis on such bulk crops as potatoes or sweet potatoes.  If the
person lives on a vegetarian diet, an additional one-tenth of an
acre could grow the extra bulk and special crops needed to meet
basic individual human needs.  If the person's diet includes animal
products, then considerably more land (at least two or three times
as much) is needed to furnish the feed and pasture for the
    The Haves and Have-nots.  The world is divided between the
haves (with superabundance) and the have-nots (with varying degrees
of destitution).  Social justice calls us to share the resources of
this limited planet with others, so that all receive the basics
necessary for a modest quality of life. "We have in this world," as
Gandhi says, "enough for our need but not our greed."  Growing a
garden gives us confidence that basic necessities can be produced
and distributed at the grassroots.  Certainly the Earth is
bountiful, if we use it well and with respect.  The wish that all
the Earth's have-nots obtain enough land for growing their own food
seems farther from reality with each passing year as the pace of
urbanization quickens.  Furthermore, in Third World countries much
of the best agricultural land is coopted and used for producing
First World luxuries or higher priced, resource intensive foods
such as coffee or beef.  
    Keeping the Poor in Mind.  How can I share my surplus
vegetables with distant poor?  It will rot before it reaches them,
and this particular act becomes a virtually empty gesture.  True,
this perishable item can't be shared abroad without great expense
-- but it can be shared at home with the needy.  By becoming
sensitive to needs at home I am stimulated to prod our governmental
representatives to increase a paltry foreign aid food program for
distant hungry people.  Saints Isidore and his wife Maria were so
touched by the local poor that they even shared meager farm produce
from their own table.  

    The Third World's hunger can't be solved by improved
agricultural methods alone, especially when many suffer from
interim calamities such as famines.   My home produce frees up bulk
foods which can be shipped overseas by public and private relief
agencies equipped to collect, haul, and distribute food.  Through
advocacy and financial support along with utilized global
communications and transportation  I (and we) can contribute to
making this possible -- provided alleviation of poverty is a major
part of our national policy agenda.  Some say sensitivity to the
poor is inversely proportional to the affluence of a people.  

    The Need for Both Global and Local Controls.  Contaminating
chemicals are so pervasive today that traces of many persistent and
non-biodegradable chemicals are now found in the Arctic and
Antarctic regions.  An argument for focusing on the local scene
neglects consideration of the larger picture.  We must be aware of
the need to curb widespread contamination of water, air and soil.
The far-ranging contamination of the global environment cannot be
addressed satisfactorily at the local level.  As gardeners, we must
realize that chemical contaminants do not respect boundaries but
move about and become ubiquitous.  Yes, eventually distant
chemicals reach us and as environmentally conscious gardeners we
need to support broader regulatory agencies which monitor
pollutants.  Thus by acting and thinking about our local
environment we begin to think globally and encourage others to act

    A Just Society as Global Garden.  Eden is a place where all
can live and enjoy the fruit of the Earth.  However, this hope
appears beyond the reach of many on this planet, if not the
majority.  The situation in our world of the haves and the
have-nots cries to heaven for change.  Earthly or human solidarity
simply cannot exist while some live in luxury and others do not
have enough to eat.  The disparity is at the heart of the
ecological crisis and holds back the completion of a New Eden where
peace and justice can reign.  Eden's incomplete status prods us to
examine our individual and collective consciences.  What can we do
about this injustice where bounty and want exist side-by-side?  
Shouldn't this excess bounty be shared through radical action,
either through giving by the affluent or taking by the oppressed?
Shouldn't the bountiful individual gardens of this planet be
connected in a necklace that extends beyond national boundaries to
Africa and Asia?  By tackling the global hunger problem we hasten
the day of the emerging New Eden.

               The Gardener's Thanksgiving  

    Oh, Just One, the bounty of our garden tells us that You have
given us much.  We beg too often and we thank You too rarely.  We
begin to sense that a pure uncalled for thanks is a precious moment
and grand undertaking.  Thanks for the beginnings of peace and
justice in a world.  Thanks for the bounty of the garden, the
admiration and inspiration of others, the memories of the
brightness of springtime, the warmth of summer, the glory of
autumn, and the restfulness of winter's blanket.  Thanks for the
strength to appreciate the gifts given and for the sensitivity and
willingness to share with the needy.    

Back to the Table of Contents

    December --  Good Home Economics

    Reflection:   The warm hearth at this beginning of the winter
season invites us to look inward to our home and the garden that is
part of the domestic scene.  Homemaking is part of total gardening,
and home economics has a special place which is good to focus on at
the end of the year.  This is the season for end of year detail,
future budgeting, consideration of Christmas presents that either
do or do not involve financial outlays, and the climate of Advent
introspection and anticipation.  We are pulling in the tents as
Scripture says, compacting to keep more cozy as we prepare for cold
weather and the shortest days of winter solstice.  

    December brings us to garden's bottom line, when the extended
cold frame preserves the late autumn crops for at least one more
month.  It is the time the greenhouse takes over as a fresh food
provider for the next few months -- fresh Swiss chard, kale, mint,
dill, and transferred celery and garlic.  

    Evergreen is in season -- mistletoe, spruce trees, cedar
boughs, and holly.  It is also the time of dried flowers and
wreathes made from of kudzu and wild grapevine.  From the kitchen
comes the smells of hickory nut and fruitcake soon to be wrapped in
bourbon saturated clothes.  There are cookies and plum puddings.
The great outdoors still yields Jerusalem artichokes and parsnips
and several other root crops; the root cellar offers the winter
squash, pumpkins, and other crops stored in this cool, dry and dark
place.  We tap the canned and dried food shelves for what we
preserved when we had surplus during the regular growing season.
All add up to variety and plenty as we approach New Year's Day.  


     Garden Economics.  The clarity and freshness of the landscape
and winter season helps us make our peace with all creation.
Growing one's produce throughout the year adds up in money terms.
Lower income families about 20 percent of their budget on food;
whereas, middle income families spend about 10 percent of their
budget on food.  Certainly this last gardening benefit, economics,
is more mundane than others, but a benefit nonetheless.  When the
homegrown food is fresh or dried mint used as a beverage to replace
expensive coffee or tea, savings can be sizeable (5 plus percent of
average food purchases are for imported beverages).  Besides
beverage alternatives other higher priced homegrown products
include -- various European and Asian greens, fresh herbs such as
basil and parsley, and fresh strawberries and raspberries.  
Furthermore, savings accrue when the quality of the homegrown
produce is considered, for comparable commercial purchases cost
twice as much or more as ordinary fresh produce from the

    Added Benefits.  Beyond cutting the food budget expenditures,
good garden economics includes other salutary effects: time saved
(fewer grocery trips); less need for stressful work;  seasonal
surpluses that can be preserved in various ways;  provisions for
local needy folks; enhanced value to the land with a productive
garden; reduced need for vacations and special recreation because
the garden calls; and the possibility for and actual benefits of
income from selling surplus produce at a farmer's market.
     Gardens and Punch Clocks.  Spending time tending the domestic
garden may not pay well, if one were to receive a salary based on
produce grown and sales of surplus.  Small-scale gardeners soon
realize that they need to work many hours to make what others
regard as an average income.  They know that many commercial
gardens operate by piecework, and small-scale farming is sometimes
subsidized by volunteer labor.  Because so much time is required
for quality gardening we soon account it as a true labor of love.
We consider the recreation of gardening as part of the value.
Economic savings become the dessert, not the substance of the
gardening banquet.  A good rule of thumb is to consider half of
gardening as work and half as pleasure; the work includes the bonus
of economic savings and the recreation gives non-monetary pleasure
-- or recreation time that could be spent in more expensive
pursuits such as the casino or movie theater.
     Knowing Garden Costs.  Gardeners quickly learn that non-basic
paraphernalia, such as small carts and composts tumblers, cost
money but do not add to quality gardening to any major degree.
Money can be wasted on expensive seedlings that can be homegrown.
Savings in gardening involve:  using older and heavy duty
instruments that can be acquired at yard sales or be handed down;
obtaining nitrogen from legume cover and vegetable crops; using
flowers in place of biocides and other pest controls;  growing
one's seedings and saving non-hybrid seed from year to year;
keeping economic as well as garden produce records for the whole
year;  knowing the amount of time spent in the gardening operation;
and totaling all the results at the end of the year for the sake of
personal awareness.  

     Community Provisions.  In speaking of providing one's basic
needs, let's consider the "one" to be a community as well as an
individual.  Not every single person can participate in
food-producing in the same way.  Individuals generally belong to a
viable community of blood, neighborhood or committed relationships.
The actual productivity with respect to gardening may vary
according to the members.  Ideally all members at least give moral
and spiritual support to the total community enterprise -- which is
extremely important.  In rare cases, an individual survivalist may
create a separate viable existence for at least some portion of a
lifetime.  We do not advocate being individual road warriors or
hermits -- even though the latter have a place.  However,
survivalists and isolated individuals are protected by a broader
community with its government and security forces.  Authentic
community self-sustainability goes beyond individual wants and
desires and includes provision for the needs of a larger group of
people living in some form of mutual support.

    Gardening as Peacemaking.  The attractive and inviting home
extends beyond the well-designed and decorated interior to include
the exterior grounds, the adjacent garden, and the immediate
neighborhood.  It is one thing to utter "peace be with you" and
another to make a peaceable activity speak through its existence in
a world in need of authentic development.  As we gain experience in
establishing and enhancing peace in a small part of our world, our
individual home, its immediate environs, and the wider
neighborhood, we become more convinced that this peacemaking can be
replicated in other places by other peacemakers.  Gardening becomes
part of peacemaking, and peace becomes contagious and infects

    The Garden, A Peaceful Rest.  Through gardening and a
reflection on all its benefits we become conscious of the power of
the garden -- the land acting as peacemaking agent and haven of
rest.  The garden helps by affording us an opportunity to discover
and make our peace with nature, fellow human beings, and our
Creator.  The garden becomes a healthy tree in a forest,
contributing to the whole health and harmony of a greater system.
A harmonious world of the new Eden is like a healthy forest with
many thriving trees.  It is our job to build up our individual
garden and to make it more productive.  We are to improve the soil
health of the particular garden system, assume a wholesome role in
preserving its value, and make it economically viable to the
highest degree possible.  Taking from and returning to the soil is
part of this proper practice, this building of a healthy structure.
Mutual productivity is the communication of gardener and garden, a
giving and receiving in a balanced manner.  The emerging new Eden
is the instrument through which the human and Earth community is
reestablished and peace again reigns on this planet.

               The Garden's Peaceful Utterance    

   God of peace, extend the tranquility of your Presence into our
hearts.  Allow our garden to become a refuge from the hectic world,
a haven of rest for the weary.  Help us find the time to protect
this restful place, to see its value, to enhance it, and to make it
a home for ourselves and others.  Improve our dispositions, and
make us willing to live by and testify to a needed sabbatical rest
of all.  Give us the moments of rest we need, and keep us quiet for
awhile, not succumbing to the urge to move about and do more
things.  For a little while make us accept the imperfections that
need addressing, and let things be as they are until they become as
they should be.  Grant us peace, oh Lord, grant us peace.

    Back to the Table of Contents
                    Conclusion:  A New Eden  

     Gardening allows us to be better in tune with our time and
our place.  We are better able to be grounded and to see the needs
which stretch before us.  We know we can do some things and do them
well but not everything.  It reminds us of the last part of
Archbishop Romero's Prayer --

        We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of        
             liberation in realizing that.
        This enables us to do something,
            and to do it very well.
        It may be incomplete,
            but it is a beginning,
            a step along the way,
            an opportunity for the Lord's grace
                  to enter and do the rest.

         We may never see the end results,
            but that is the difference
            between the master builder and the worker.
         We are workers, not master builders,
            ministers, not messiahs.
         We are prophets of a future that is not our own.

     By doing our individual part in extending the garden practice
to more people and areas we are creating a New Eden.  In this
renewed enterprise people are not passive observers but active
participants in rebuilding the Earth.  This collaborative gardening
practice is not a survivalist tactic of a remnant people removing
themselves from a rapidly deteriorating situation.  Rather the New
Eden is a fulfilling promise of the whole Earth community being
redeemed and healed through the prayerful activity of dedicated
human beings on land which has the power to heal while being
healed.  It is small, it appears insignificant, it is at the margin
of political action, but it is well grounded and rooted.

     Emerging New Eden.  Through thoughtlessness we human beings
have damaged this planet, polluted its water and air, endangered
wildlife, cut the forests, and littered the countryside with
debris.  This lack of moral character on our part must not drag us
down.  Part of the confession and restitution needed occurs through
our gardening enterprise.  Here the garden itself does not let past
harm depress us.  We take on a manageable piece of land and make it
productive.  It responds by mutually enhancing our ability to
continue the process which is bigger than what we are on an
individual level.  In fact, the process involves many, many people
who believe that major changes can and will occur beginning first
at the local level.  The New Eden is not single garden plots, but
a collaborative gardening enterprise -- the interconnected
series of plots throughout the planet.    

    The Gardens' Connection.  This New Eden is expressed in the
promise to our first parents as they took their leave from Eden.
It is continued in the parable of a mustard seed and the leaven in
bread.  Other religious traditions encourage individual action for
a variety of reasons which trigger personal spiritual growth as
well.  A garden plot is a leaven, a biological catalysis of sorts.
The growing of the plants leads to others becoming interested and
soon more plots and still others.  The New Eden is a patchquilt of
cultivated plots, a gradual linking of small plots to form a much
larger collection of gardens.   Through interconnection these
become an extended neighborhood where God's grace is at work
through the instrumentality of human beings.  

    The New Eden is a component in the hastening of the Kingdom of
God which has already begun in our midst.  The challenge is to
fashion this New Eden with broad-based support and participation.
One approach is to take the 12 benefits just discussed and reflect
on the characteristics as expressed and enhanced by and through the
emerging gardens of our world -- a wholesome garden, a sacred
space, a humble setting, a green ecological model, an art form, a
resource conservation zone, a gateway to mystery, a ripple effect,
a part of home, a seat of a tolerant community, a part of a just
society, and a peaceful rest.
     Resolving the Tension.  This work tries to avoid becoming one
of many how to garden manuals or a purely spiritual meditation.
Successful gardeners are practical people who can still pray and
take time to reflect and meditate.  If they make time to garden and
establish a place to practice the art, then they have a prayer
place and can become prayerful people.  Through prayer one finds
the courage to continue even when the final result seems far away
in the future.  Yes, we are mere servants, not master builders.  We
have only a finite time to achieve what we conceive in our
gardening dreams.  Part of the dream is to see that I am not alone
in this effort, but I am part of a growing community, a "we", who
also aspire to bring about a New Eden.  

     A Final or Beginning Call.  All are called to help create a
New Eden.  So please pause, find the spot, till the Earth,
experience the vitality of what the Earth can give, and share the
resulting bounty -- and Good News -- with others.


Back to the Table of Contents


    1. Backyard.  In previous writings I have spoken of backyard
gardening.  The term domestic is used in this book because it
covers a broader area whether this be a portion of the property
known as yard, an adjacent or nearby vacant lot, or other land
within easy reach for the home gardener.  Poor land distribution
causes many in the developing world to be landless and that is a
major problem in itself.  While it is estimated that more than half
of Americans have yard space, still some of this land is too shady
or occupied to warrant vegetable growing.  Consider available space
that is at hand, e.g. a nearby vacant lot, a neighbor's yard, a
churchyard, unused portions of a cemetery or farmland, land set
aside for future development, or institutional land that could be
rented or leased or donated for gardening purposes.  Rural areas
have more excess land, but urban ones are often blessed with alert
activists and advocates willing to work for increased garden space.
In rare cases the land (even backyards) may be contaminated with
heavy metals or other chemicals and it may be necessary to replace
with uncontaminated topsoil.
    2. Garden Work.   Large-scale gardening operations involve
repetitious harvesting or planting exercises throughout the day.
Such work can be hot, tedious and back-breaking.  And often the pay
for day laborers is low.  If a domestic garden is not overly large
or has enough helping hands, then the exercise, while physical, can
still be regarded as work and recreation.  Workers can choose the
period of daytime work, can go at their own pace, and can vary the
gardening operations to reduce strain.  In rare cases garden work
takes on a little more stress (to harvest or plant before a storm).
However, the entire process of domestic gardening, if well planned
and within the limits of physical endurance, can be leisure

    3. Cold Frame and Greenhouse.  Greenhouses are fairly common,
and so most readers know what they are.  The reference includes
places where helpful hints can be obtained for site selection,
construction, size, type of vegetables, insulation of, materials
for, and maintenance of greenhouses.  Greenhouses may be
free-standing or attached, the latter being able to supply solar
energy to the building space in sunny winter weather. Reference:
ASPI Technical Paper 4  Solar Greenhouses.

   Cold frames are less well known. They are really
mini-greenhouses that could be of a temporary (plastic or fabric
covering over hoops) or permanent variety.  Cold frames have the
advantage of protecting many weather sensitive plants from both
windburn and frosts.  Temporary cold frames can be used for
covering root crops, such as turnips, which can be harvested in
many parts of the winter months.  If permanent cold frames are
insulated, they will continue to be used through the winter months
in less severe climatic zones.  One type of cold frame (dug-outs)
can be partly buried in the ground, which maintains a constant
temperature of about 55 degrees Fahrenheit year-round and serves as
an insulating and temperature moderating agent.  

    4. Seasonal Extender.  The seasonal extender lengthens our
autumns and springs.  The devices come in all sizes and shapes and
are made with a variety of materials.  The goal is to insulate the
sides and bottom quite well and then capture as much of the solar
rays as possible.  Positioning in a southern direction allows for
better solar heating qualities.  If the seasonal extender is
attached to a building, it may serve as a heating device for the
adjacent interior space.  The office where I work has a small
attached solar greenhouse and we are able to open the windows well
before noon and obtain solar heat from the greenhouse on sunny
winter days.  We estimate that 40 percent of the space heating of
our 2,000 square foot building is provided by a greenhouse one-
tenth that size.  One type of extender is the hot bed, which is a
shell of fresh manure; the heat emitted in the late winter or early
spring composting process allows seeds to germinate and seedlings
to grow.  Reference: ASPI Technical Paper 7 Year-Round Gardening;
Eliot Coleman, Kathy Bary and Barbara Damrosch, Four Season
Harvest:  How to Harvest Fresh Organic Vegetables from Your Home
Garden All Year Long, Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 1992.

    5. Variety Selection.  A number of factors may go into
determining and selecting crops for the coming year's garden;

    * Desirability -- The most important factor is what do the
gardening folks like to eat.  People do not want to plant varieties
that will not be used or have a detrimental effect on other plants.
I ceased raising gourds in my gardens when I found they could
flavor neighboring members of the squash family.  

    * Soil -- What can and cannot grow on a particular piece of
land?  If a crop needs sandy soil, then very tight clay will not
do.  Soil can be improved by addition of sawdust, sand and/or humus

    * Microclimate -- General climate zones are found in most
gardening books and these are helpful in seed selection.  However,
we recognize local microclimates because there are great
differences depending on which side of a hill a garden is located,
whether on high ground or river bottom and how near it is to
forested areas.  Some regions experience early or late frosts and
these determine selection of varieties.

    * Space and Placement Limitations -- Some vegetables take more
space to grow (land extensive) such as pumpkins or corn.  An
economy of space may limit how much of such crops are grown.  Some
vegetables are tall and some squat.   Put taller growing plants
(corn, Jerusalem artichokes, caster beans or sunflowers) or those
growing on trellises on the northern side so these do not block the
sun from lower growing vegetables.  

    * Amount of Sun -- A major determinant is how much sun falls
on a particular site throughout the year.  This does not take
year-round checking to determine.  Insolation on a given site or
portion of a site can be established by the use of a Solar
Pathfinder.  25720 465th Avenue  Hartford, SD  57033-6328   (605)
528-6473.  Some plants are shade tolerant and some are not.  

    * Crop Rotation --  Grow different plant families on the
particular spot in succeeding years, both to reduce the possibility
of pests and for better use of nutrients.

    * Faster Growing Varieties --  Omit planting slow-growing
plants when the hope is to have two crops in a single growing year.
Parsnips, peanuts, and salsify grow quite slow but can be
interplanted with ease.   Spring greens planted in between rows of
peanuts can be harvested before the space is needed by the peanuts.

    6. Sacrifice.  In its root meaning, sacrifice means making
something holy.  An offering to the Divine of an animal is a bloody
form of sacrifice.  But sacrifices also refer to exerting ourselves
in some fashion for another.  We may sacrifice for others either
through our surrender of time or some resource.  The garden
receives the sacrifice of our toil and care.  In one way this place
soaks up our sweat and is made holy in the process.  So gardening
done with joy and openness of heart can be a true sacrifice which
has influences beyond the act.

    7. Gardening Methods.  A variety of garden methods can be
ecologically friendly and yet involve different practices.  I
champion standard European-American Traditional Method as handed
down within my own family.  This includes very early planting, use
of hotbeds where possible, manuring and adding crushed rock dust,
ground cover and some mulch, patient weed control by hoeing and
tilling, harvesting over a period of time, and crop rotation.
    The modern and quite popular Permacultural Method has much to
do with maximizing garden space and some variation in crops using
exotic species.  French Intensive Gardening involves using raised
and double dug beds and plant arrangement to maximize growth
potential on a small space.  Another gardening approach is the
Biodynamic Gardening technique taken from the philosophy of Rudolph
Steiner.  This considers moon phases and times of year, certain
preparations of nutrients, and manner of adding of these to the
soil.  Some practices are questionable from a scientific

    8. Organic.  Organic has several meanings in the literature.
I personally have been trained as an organic chemist and that means
working with compounds made from carbon and (prior to synthetic
chemistry) derived from living substances.  Just as the scientific
term was fluid over the past two centuries, so is the term organic
foods.  Actually, from a chemist's standpoint all foods are
composed of organic compounds.  But a modern environmental use of
the term means avoiding chemical fertilizers, herbicides and
pesticides in the process of growing the food.  Here we use the
term organic in this horticultural sense.  Reference: ASPI
Technical Paper 13 Organic and Intensive Gardening; Rodale's
All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, Rodale Press, Emmaus, PA
    9. Heritage Seed.  In the past many varieties of seed were
developed in isolated places and over long periods of time.  These
became adapted cultivars to particular climates and soils.  They
also acquired resistance to certain insects and diseases and had
abilities to withstand harsh weather conditions.  These had their
own tastes and ripening times.  With the agribusiness techniques of
the past few decades, the pressure has been to have uniformity of
produce, proper shipping conditions and some other appearance
characteristics.  Only a selected few of the cultivars have become
widely used commercially.  This has worried many ecologically-
minded horticulturists because it restricts the genetic pool,
especially when some of the older (heritage) cultivars have been
virtually or actually lost.  Seed banks and exchanges are beginning
to spring up in efforts to save and propagate these endangered but
varied cultivars.

    10. Invasive.  Today a major environmental threat (some say
the most serious one) is the introduction of exotic species which
propagate and spread without natural enemies and with suitable
climatic and soil conditions.  Many examples are within this
country (e.g., kudzu in the southeast and Japanese honeysuckle in
the broad mid-range of America).  A difficult problem associated
with threatening invasive species is that what is worrisome in one
part of the planet or a continent or region is not so in another.
Horticulturists are slow in getting certain plants excluded from
nurseries throughout the country because in some places the plant
is not invasive.  However, from an ecological standpoint local and
regional restrictions are encouraged.  A general rule is that
domestic growers should be reluctant to introduce new species; give
preference to native ones.  Allow naturalized plants, which are not
invasive, or cultivars which have no likelihood of spreading.

    11. Composting Materials.  Compost yard wastes (grass, tree
leaves and trimmings) as well as non-meat kitchen wastes by using
earthworms, friendly bacteria, moisture and air in outdoor or
indoor containers.  The amount of time to turn the waste products
into humus for the garden will vary with the season and the
arrangement of the composting pile as well as the care given to it
over time.  The composting works faster when mixed occasionally and
when the proper amount of water and air are present.  A balance of
carbon and nitrogen must also be obtained.  Under suitable
conditions the waste from animal manures and dry composting toilets
can also be added to the garden as compost. Reference: ASPI
Technical Paper 11 Composting for Gardens.

    12. Implements.  Besides the trusty hoe, consider a host of
garden implements to make life easier and to rely less on gasoline
or electric-powered tools.  Smaller and more energy efficient tools
include: spades, multi-prong forks, hand shovels and spading tools,
water dispensing vessels, hand implements of a variety of shapes
and sizes, and a host of other equipment found in garden supply

    13. Cisterns.  Cisterns or containers which hold rainwater or
spring water have been used for millennia to store plentiful water
supplies during dry spells or periods of drought.  They are of
environmental value as a source of water that would have run off
the roof and out the gutters causing drainage problems.  They can
be constructed in a sealed fashion so that no contaminated
groundwater or outside contaminants can easily enter.  For drinking
purposes use small purifying units at the cistern's domestic
intake.  An added cistern advantage is that the rainwater, that
does not contain the chlorine present in most municipal water, is
superior for garden plants. Reference:  ASPI Technical Paper 3

    14. Agribusiness Expenditures.  For exact calculations, the
freight hauling to bring produce must be included as well as the
resource needed to produce and upkeep hauling equipment, roads and
bridges, and the cost of building and maintaining processing and
marketing facilities.  A more thorough accounting would include:
the expenditures for advertisement of marketable food products,
time and resources needed to display produce, the hauling away of
damaged produce and disposed in landfills, the use of pesticides
and commercial fertilizers on factory farms, the manufacture and
maintenance of agricultural implements and tractors, building and
maintenance of trucking and parking areas, and on and on.  All
agribusiness produce comes at a sizeable cost, if total
amortization were included.  

    15. Resource Conservation Techniques.

    * Raised Bed Gardening -- This technique requires human effort
to construct, but has the advantages of saving growing space,
producing more per unit garden area than more conventional
techniques, and allowing excess water to drain away after heavy
rains. The moist, but not inundated, soil is tilled far more
quickly than non-raised bed areas.  Raised beds permit more
aeration of the produce; and they also do not require as much
bending over by us older folks.  Raised beds may be constructed by
bringing in additional top soil or sinking paths around designated
bed areas and piling the dirt onto the growing area.  The growing
produce can overhang over the paths that are not cultivated and
thus there is savings in what areas need to be tilled and in the
moisture conserved by the path cover (which can be of a number of
substances such as clover or sawdust).

    * Double-Dug Plots --  Another high yielding but labor
intensive domestic garden technique involves digging down and
loosening a lower soil layer below the one foot of topsoil with a
multi-pronged fork.  This allows for enhanced root growth and adds
aeration to the lower level of the soil.  Double-digging saves on
annual tilling demands and the looser soil encourages still more
earthworms.   On the whole, loosened soil increases yields and thus
is a space saver, as is raised bed gardening, for people with
limited gardening space.

    * Natural Pest Control Agents --  As mentioned elsewhere,
interplanting with some types of flowers (e.g., marigolds) and
herbs both attracts pollinating insects and birds and discourages
certain types of pests.  
    * Interplanting -- A great space saver is to plant early crops
and while these are growing, plant a second one within the same
area which will be harvested later.  For instance I interplant
tomatoes in mid- to late spring amid the onion, lettuce or spinach
rows and when these early crops mature, the foot-high tomatoes will
accelerate growth to cover the area for late summer and early
autumn.  I have found that cucumbers and peppers can be
interplanted together and that the harvest of cucumbers in
mid-summer occurs when the peppers are just climbing in height.  By
September and later these peppers will produce free of the now dead
cucumber vine which serves as ground cover.  Much has been written
by other gardeners on friendly vegetable combinations.  
    * Mulching -- Many gardeners swear by mulch, that soft (the
Germanic derivative) covering of loose materials which conserves
much needed moisture during the hot summer months, allows air to
get to roots, moderates the temperatures which are susceptible to
our temperature climate ups and downs, chokes out the weeds that
tend to crowd around vegetables and provides a covering for the
earthworms which work the soil.  Mulch materials may be of many
types and include straw, hay, grass cuttings, rotting leaves,
shredded newsprint, and even plastic sheet and foam materials.  I
have found that green mulching with other vegetables and cover
crops, such as vetch, serves as a good mulch during the crop's
maturation time.  Even when dying back, the cover materials serve
as a dry mulch as well.  Generally, materials which biodegrade and
can become organic compost with time are better than other types of
mulches, such as plastics.

    16. Preservation Techniques.  Garden produce surpluses present
a challenge but can be preserved for non-productive portions of the
year through solar food drying, canning, freezing, root cellar, and
leaving covered in the ground.  References: ASPI Technical Paper 24
Root Cellars; ASPI Technical Paper 6 Solar Food Dryer.  Different
foods preserve better in one or other manner and this allows for
preserving the taste and nutritional quality.  

   17. Unwanted Wildlife.  Wildlife in the wild is a delight to
sight and photograph.  However, it is another matter when they get
into the garden.  Surprisingly, this is becoming a suburban and
urban gardening problem about which we at ASPI get the most
inquiries.  How do you protect from deer, coons, rabbits, squirrel,
mice, and groundhogs?  There is much written both about wildlife
control and wildlife attraction (bats, bees, birds, butterflies,
frogs and other friendly wildlife).  While we can take steps to
invite the wildlife that enhances this particular plot, we also
tell meat eaters that one ecological principle to consider is to
eat what grows locally.  Some want, or encourage others, to harvest
for deer sausage or capture these pesky small mammal strays.  They
may prefer have-a-heart traps and dump captured animals at someone
else's garden -- hardly a charitable solution.  We only grow
vegetables in our remote garden that the deer, rabbit and coon do
not like (okra, the nightshade, onion and brassica families, some
melons, turnips, and mustard).  Dogs at our residential garden are
the best protection against stray wildlife.  Some build double
fences to confuse the deer.  Reference:  ASPI Technical Paper 17
Coexisting with Wildlife.

    17a Wildlife Attractions.  It is wrong to focus only on
wildlife.  A broader sense of homemaking that includes gardening
encourages us to attract wildlife friends  to the garden.  These
will enhance the garden's productivity or be at home without
harming the environment.  Song birds have been decimated through
loss of habitat and need to be welcomed as refugees and as welcome
partners in promoting organic gardening.  This can be done by
affording winter feeding areas, nest locations and bird baths.
Some purists among the naturalist community do not agree with such
positive attraction but if human activity has threatened these
species by destruction of rain forests and other habitats, then we
must also take positive steps to protect songbirds.  The same could
be said for having frog ponds with pure rainwater or attractants
for butterflies or hummingbirds. Reference:  Sally Roth, Attracting
Birds to Your Backyard:  536 Ways to Turn Your Yard and Garden into
a Haven for Your Favorite Birds, Rodale Press, Emmaus, PA  1998.

    18. Celebration.  We have not dwelled on ritual celebrations
which differ both in degree and kind among various traditions.
More liturgical religious communities may wish to include religious
prayers and services, blessings and other such activities.  All of
these have value, provided guests are not offended.  In its root
meaning, Liturgy is the work of the people.  What is more fitting
than to offer the Creator thanksgiving for the works of gardeners?

    19. Garden Seeming in Disarray.  A battle may ensue between
the orderly lawn defender and the gardener who risks some disorder
for the sake of the successful garden.  David Kennedy, an
accomplished gardener and director of "Leaf for Life,"(an
organization which teaches others to dry certain types of foliage
for use as high protein food supplements) says he prefers a relaxed
garden where the turtles, herbs, bees, snakes, etc., try to sort it
out with each other.  He says a pretty good garden is a good thing.
"A perfect garden is an antique vase on a kitchen table waiting for
a Little League team to show up with pizza."  Reference:  Where the
Garden Path Leads, David Kennedy, Big Hill, Kentucky, 1998, p. 45.

    20. Xeriscape.  This is a type of landscaping which employs
techniques (such as plant selection) which require less water than
conventional ones used in a specific region.

    21. Gardening Cooperatives.  There are a number of cooperative
ideas including buying, manufacturing, and marketing coops.  A
garden coop could be growers who work together to find a proper
market for goods or to purchase supplies in bulk quantity.  A group
of growers may decide to cooperate in marketing their products at
a variety of outlets and to determine standards of preparation of
the product for market.  Americans generally find such enterprises
less agreeable to tastes than do other less individualized and more
community-oriented cultures.  

    22. Community Gardens.  The idea of community gardens is
perhaps quite old, for many cultures have such garden areas.  Urban
areas of this country have tracts of land where contiguous garden
plots are tended by individuals generally from the neighboring
areas.  Many of these are organized with supervisors and certain
regulations as to how and what to grow on the land.  Harvesting is
the duty of the particular grower who has charge of the given
sub-plot, or it may be shared in some common pre-arranged fashion.


    Note on Author:  Al Fritsch, SJ comes from a family of
gardeners who raised much of their own food and passed on many
experiences to the succeeding generations.  He helped found the
Center for Science in the Public Interest which is currently a
nutrition organization.  He also founded and directed
Appalachia -- Science in the Public Interest
in eastern Kentucky,
where Al has been instrumental in converting
one-twentieth (2,200 square feet) of an acre of former blacktop
parking into an extremely productive garden that has averaged 1500
pounds of produce per year.  This has caught the attention of
neighbors, supporters and state agricultural people.  He is
convinced of the power of gardening for transforming current
unsustainable practices into a better world order -- a New Eden.

In his "retirement" Earth Healing is his latest endeavor.