Nourishing the North Shore is in its final week of our May fundraising campaign and we are on our way to meeting our goal.

Every dollar of support is welcomed as we try to create paths for opportunity and access so everyone can choose to participate in our local food system. For more information about Nourishing the North Shore or to donate to our campaign, please visit our page on Patronicity: https://www.patronicity.com/nns2021.

News from the garden:

I spent the weekend with my 10-month-old nephew, and watched, fascinated, as he tasted the earth for the first time. His brain is processing so much information at once that it was impossible to gauge his reaction, but I do revel at the fact that the associations he has with me are dirt, chamomile, worms and garden flavors.

The connection our society has to the natural world is growing more distant with each generation. Where trees, animals and the elements once defined our perceptions of reality, machinery and technology have increasingly stepped in.

In an interview, Gopal Dayeneni, founder of Movement Generation, pointed out how this shift has happened most subversively in our language through metaphor: When we need rest,we “recharge our batteries.”

Our brains are “wired” a specific way. I think we’ve found comfort in the predictability of the machine and the fact that humans perceive themselves to be in control of machines and technology, though of course we’re learning that we are not.

Nature is full of the unexpected and unknown, it challenges our beliefs and the structures we have imposed on our own societies to create order in chaos.

As many reexamine the values upon which our current social, economic and political order have been based, I hope that we turn back toward the earth as teacher and remember the lessons from which humans were born.

The garden provides an opportunity to constantly engage with those values and lessons, and experiment in a small way with changing or maintaining them. Is your garden bursting with diversity and life, or is it sterile and pruned into submission?

Is beauty the liquid gold of a dandelion, or the eery uniformity of a lawn cut with a straight razor? I propose that what prompts us to judge the tumbling, irregular abundance of nature is a fear of all it seems to represent; a loss of control, the presence of death, divergence, resurgence and rebellion.

So, how do we strike the balance between engagement and interference? Our main garden pursuits of weeding, watering and harvesting simply need to fit within the constraints of the garden’s own needs rather than our own.

Watering is among one of the most challenging lessons for new gardeners because there are so many factors to consider at once. The needs of each plant, the weather, the time of day, and your soil structure all have an impact.

Some garden plants, like blueberries, lettuce,and corn, have shallow root systems and need to be watered frequently when the weather is dry. Others, like squash or sweet potatoes, manage to penetrate deep into the soil where they can access more moisture.

In the summer, rain most often comes as abrupt, tempestuous fronts in which rain is intense but short-lived. Rain gauges are affordable and can give a sense of how thoroughly the rain watered your garden.

Always water plants in the early morning or in the evening rather than in the heat of the day to prevent evaporation. Use generous amounts of mulch, such as compost-mulch or salt hay on beds to help retain moisture. Bark mulches used in landscaping should be avoided on vegetable beds as they actually leach nutrients out of the soil.

Discovering soil structure, or texture, is a simple test you can do at home that offers insight into the composition of your garden. Put screened topsoil, water and soap in a jar and shake!

Over time, the layers of sand, silt and clay will become visible to show you what percentage of each makes up your soil. Each has its benefits; heavy clay soil is generally low on organic matter and can be challenging for plants to establish their small roots in, but it also is great for water and nutrient retention.

Sandy soil drains quickly and is easy for plants to grow in, but it requires frequent watering and application of natural fertilizer as both pass through quickly.

Cooperation, collaboration and cohabitation all govern the natural world, and the more that you engage with your garden, you may begin to feel the dissonance and disconnect between nature and our social order.

I humbly suggest that you allow yourself to sit with discomfort of being a student, perhaps you will find that the rules with which we govern ourselves, make decisions and judge each other become unnatural.

This column is part of Nourishing the North Shore’s educational efforts. For more about the nonprofit, see www.nourishingthenorthshore.org

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