The Recession Garden
Is there anything so utterly hopeful as planting a garden? I planted mine about a month ago (spring comes early in Austin--the last average frost date is Feb. 15.) Already it's been battered by hail and tonight, temperatures are dipping into the high 30's. And I am fretting. It's a small garden: eight vegetable plants (seven of them tomatoes) and about the same number of herbs.
The tomato plants are so fragile, and yet so tenacious. Staked and tied against our spring winds. Every bit as miraculous, in their way, as the hummingbirds that my husband has coaxed to his feeder. (They are astonishing, nothing prepares me for their shocking smallness, the sheer absurdity of this thing, the length of my thumb, but muscular. Their feet are absurd semi-colons.)
Now I discover I have joined a movement. I have planted a Recession Garden. A Recession Garden is, among other things, an expression of anxiety about the current economic climate. The more I learn about the possible collapse of the banking system, the more anxious I become. And the more I learn about the economics of food production, the more difficult it becomes to know how to eat.
So I plant tomatoes. Me, and apparently 44 million households in the U.S., who are planting anywhere from a pot of basil on the windowsill to a full kitchen garden. I'm somewhere in the middle. Since I'm fretting about my garden (assuming we don't get a freeze tonight, the next big worry is opossums, which our local long term Texas gardener, my neighbor Bud, assures us will eat my tomatoes.) Seems an odd response to anxiety to do something that induces anxiety. It's not as if these seven tomato plants and lone chili plant are going to sustain us. Or even, frankly, save us much money. Still, being outside with my indomitable little plants is soothing. It's that nature thing. I always run my fingers through the thyme, maybe pinch the flowers off of the basil, and my fingers smell of herbs.
Those of you who have much later average last frost dates (in Cleveland, it was May 15, which meant that it wasn't really safe to put plants out until Memorial Day weekend) all I can say is, it's better than you remember.