What do you do when you see somebody just totally fucking up? I asked my dairy-farm-manager friend once why he let me keep Frances in a stall at night for a year or longer without telling me that it was the dumbest idea ever. (Unless the weather is simply brutal, cattle prefer to bed down out in the field. Even in the worst weather, they prefer a run-in shed where they can seek shelter on their own.) His reply was that some things are better learned on your own. And then he smiled broadly.
So perhaps the Nauglers will one day learn how to garden.
Perhaps they won’t.
But it actually makes me despair to see those kids work hard (and they are the only ones who do around that place) creating the Blessed Little Garden, and know that they are doing it pretty much for naught.
First, my credentials: I have gardened, successfully and not-so-successfully, in four states: North and South Carolina, Alaska, and Kentucky.
Those four states have widely diverse climates, and climate changes everything.
For example, this is the back of our house in Alaska. The dining room is the one with all the windows, and jutting out onto the deck is the greenhouse. Greenhouses are used oddly in Alaska. I used to open up ours around tax day (April 15), as soon as the temperature in the greenhouse would reliably stay close to freezing or above. Then I could start seeds in there on heat mats and under some supplemental light.
But I used the greenhouse all summer long. Where we lived, tomatoes and cucumbers simply could not be grown outside. They didn’t die. They would actually grow, some. But they refused to set fruit. It was not warm enough at night. So I grew them in the greenhouse. The place looked like a jungle by August.
The garden there was located where the photographer is standing, off the deck in the side yard. It was all waist-high raised beds. There had been an in-ground garden in the back yard the previous owners had built, but I had little luck with it, due to the growth of the trees in the yard and the resultant shade. Rather than cutting down trees, we just opted to move it.
And even with those high raised beds (to warm the soil earlier in the spring), even with clear plastic covers (again, to warm the soil), I still had to grow things like green beans and squash under clear plastic hoops. It was just not warm enough if I didn’t.
What I did not have to do was cover the cole crops.
Ever see those gigantic vegetables being shown at the Alaska State Fair? Like this?
Ever wonder how in the world they do that?
First, they use hybrid varieties. Second, they start the seed indoors well before breakup. Third, there is almost 24-hour-per-day sunlight in Alaska during the summer. The giant veggies are almost all cole crops. Coles just get bigger and bigger with increased daylight. Fourth, it is relatively cool in Alaska in the summertime. No July and August steamy hot days.
And that’s the deal here. Alaska has cool summers (relatively speaking). Cole crops like it cool.
I didn’t have to grow mine (which did not get that big but were more than healthy) under tunnels because they like it cool.
In the Lower 48, the opposite problem occurs. The soil and the air get too warm for the coles. This can happen rapidly in the spring/summer, or we can have a longer, cooler spring and it happens slowly. In the first situation, all the cool weather crops bolt and go all to hell. In the second, they do great but the beans and tomatoes limp along.
This is the reason that a whole lot of people (including me) grow cole crops in the fall, not the spring.
Here are my cabbages (on the left, turnip greens on the right) from a couple of years ago here in Kentucky.
That was taken probably in September. I started the cabbage plants from seed in August indoors where I could monitor the babies and keep them cooler, then set them out when the evenings weren’t so hot. The hoop material is bridal veil tulle. It’s cheap, very wide and keeps insects off, but allows rain and sunshine in.
We harvested all the greens it was possible to consume (and they were clean with leaves intact and no bugs) and about twenty cabbages, from which I made a mountain of kraut.
The nice thing about this is that as the plants mature, the days get cooler and cooler. They also get shorter, but not enough to significantly affect growth.
Most people I know around here grow coles and greens in the fall.
Gardening Rule #1: When setting out to learn to garden, look around you. Find a neighbor who actually has a garden in your area and ask them some questions. (Do not come back later when they aren’t home, take their water, and leave the hose running. It’s bad form.) Plant what they plant. They’ve already made mistakes, and you can avoid those.
It is not necessary to experiment alone and have to make every single mistake every gardener on earth has made to learn to garden. Even you hate everyone around you, and none of your neighbors will speak to you because you call their family members names and accuse them falsely of assault, you can still find this stuff out by following blogs or videos of people who actually know what in the hell they are doing.
Here is what is most likely going to happen.
Nicole’s lettuce will probably come up. They might actually harvest a little of it provided it doesn’t get too warm quickly. If it warms up a lot, the lettuce will be there but it’ll be bitter.
Spinach might do okay, but that little raised bed will grow enough for a garnish.
If she did (or the children did, since they do all the work) what I think, and planted seeds for cabbage and broccoli in the ground directly (I see no plants), they are more than likely doomed. There is a reason that garden centers sell those flats of started plants. It’s to get a jump on the season so the plants can grow while it’s still cool.
If I’m completely wrong and a miracle occurs and everything in that wee little plot grows gangbusters, there will be enough for one meal. Maybe.
There is nothing wrong with being a rank amateur. I was born to city parents. I never grew anything in my life until after I was married. I planted my first garden in 1971, and have had one for many of the years following, except for the few years we spent in an RV. I’ve made every mistake imaginable.
But what is deplorable is to make no progress whatever toward learning anything, year after year, while simultaneously setting yourself up as some sort of guru or expert.
And it’s even more deplorable to extract so much labor from children who never see anything positive in return for doing that. What those “unschooled” children are learning is “don’t bother with a garden, nothing ever grows.”
It would be one thing if Nicole ever followed up on anything, so we could all learn from her mistakes. But she doesn’t. There are photos of outhouse/shower combos being started, but then we never see that again unless later on we get some off-hand comment that the project was abandoned.
There are photos of rabbits (poor, poor rabbits) who are never seen again.
There are photos of about a dozen roosters, fate unknown.
There are gardens with no produce.
And there are detailed photos of shit-containing buckets but not one of any compost bin(s).
They are about as “self-sustaining” as my little dog.