Gardening as if my life depended on it

There is a most overwhelming smell that fills the air when nasturtiums die. Last night the temperature got down to -2.5C and my beautiful nasturtiums all collapsed. I checked my post last year and the photo is almost identical – the only difference this year is that the frost came 10 days later than it did last year. Thank goodness I experimented with making nasturtium pesto last Sunday before I lost them all. It’s high in vitamin C so has hopefully bolstered my immune system to cope with this cold snap.

On a positive note it was so cold last night that it helped show me that one of my taps was dripping! It stayed so cold all day that the water was still frozen this afternoon.

Oddly enough, most people decide to start gardening when the weather warms up and they feel like getting outside again. The cold, however, reminds me how vulnerable we all are to the weather and to the established systems (like gas heating) on which we nearly all so heavily rely … and especially how reliant we all are on commercial agriculture. In Canada they’re currently experiencing some extraordinary frosts too, but at the other end of the season. This is threatening the Canola crops on a large scale … and these cranberries on a smaller scale:

So, on the coldest day of the year so far, I’ve decided to start gardening as if my life depended on it. What future generations DO depend on, is our ability to keep food growing skills alive and our foresight to save and preserve non genetically-modified seed that has adapted to changing climate conditions. The only way to keep these skills alive is to learn them properly in the first place by trial and error, and the only way to preserve seed is to keep growing it and allowing it to adapt … especially in our own quirky environments.

Because I can’t grow everything in my backyard I’m gathering seed from my own garden and the gardens of friends and packaging them up to distribute to as many people as possible so that we don’t lose hardy acclimatised seed. The more we can keep growing and then saving, the more we have. I’m cutting up and reusing paper that I can print onto the flipside of … so, voila, Crazy Climate Seeds! You can click here to see which seeds I’ve done so far.

So, today, I went out and collected more seed and tonight I’m separating mixed lettuce seeds into packs.

I’ve also set myself the goal to eat something out of the garden every day. I’m going to record (and hopefully blog if I have the time) what it’s possible to harvest all year round and what needs to be done in the garden to ensure a year round food supply.

Coward that I am in this cold, all I did today was set up my sweet potato so that it would start to shoot over winter and be ready to plant in spring. It’s sitting next to the window in the back sunroom:

Because my main focus was staying as close to the heating as possible I utilised my central heating vents to start drying orange peels to use as fire starters … they dry perfectly over the vents. I also dried some lime zest to keep for later from limes that one of my students grew.

Recognising what other people are harvesting helps plan for next winter’s crop. This week I’ve been given lemons, limes and kiwi fruit which are all ready to harvest now and can all be grown

here. My kiwi fruit still hasn’t had a crop because one of the plants (a male and a female are needed to pollinate) didn’t flower. If only I knew whether I needed to buy another male or another female.

This week I’ve also received Spaghetti Squash and Pumpkins. From my own garden though, I harvested the following for dinner tonight: 3 different potatoes, which were planted at the end of January, some Cos lettuce, Red frilly lettuce and Radicchio:

1 thought on “Gardening as if my life depended on it

  1. Frances van Zinnen

    My small veggie patch is in a pathetic state at the moment but hopefully not beyond salvation. Thanks for the inspiration. I would love to try the ‘cockroach seeds’.


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