Saturday, May 2, 2009

How Does Your Garden Blow?

Each year around this time I like to go around dispensing my indispensable gardening advice.

Last year, you may recall, I encouraged you to replenish the nitrogen in your soil by urinating in your garden. I don’t know about you, but this enabled me to grow almost enough corn to cover my legal bills.

This year, since the economy is so bad, I will present some thrifty ideas to save you money while still producing a healthy and robust crop of vegetables that will feed your family for months (assuming, of course, you have a family of slugs and beetles).

First of all, do you really need that roto-tiller? Your snow blower can fill that function. Consider how remarkably similar its hardware is.

Picture yourself steering the snow blower into your garden, angling the handles to achieve adequate digging. Because dirt is heavier than snow, you can expect it to be only thrown a few feet, so you can conveniently rake it back into place.

If you’re not sure your snow blower is burly enough to handle a few inches of topsoil, you probably don’t live in Maine.

Secondly, don’t splurge on any fancy mulching methods to control weeds. I’ve seen people buy wood chips, hay, or even black plastic to control unwanted growth around plants.

A company out of Florida, recently featured on NPR’s fear-mongering program “Marketplace,” is selling “SmartGrow” pads of human hair that hinder weed growth and then decompose into the soil.

Yes, I said human hair.

This is also a great way to keep wildlife out of your garden; even deer and rabbits will be so completely grossed out that they won’t want to come within 100 yards of it.

The downside: these pads are imported (the Chinese save their hair and sell it; there seems to be no market for American hair), and more expensive than you would think.
Despite the fact that the average American can grow more hair on his back in a week than a village of Asians can provide in one clipping, a ten-by-two roll of SmartGrow costs $16 plus shipping.

Screw that stool sample. Last year I used leaves and newspapers to mulch the garden. They’re more or less free and abundant, especially for me, because I get copies of newspapers that print my column. There’s nothing like the feeling of watching a fallen tomato rot on something you’ve written.

The only downside of leaves and newspapers is that they’re too light. The first intemperate fart from a neighbor out walking his Rottweiler could scatter half my mulch across the whole neighborhood, never mind what the average warm summer breeze can do.

Of course, nothing makes your garden economical like growing a cash crop. You could go traditional: cucumbers, pumpkins, and other bland foods that no one wants to eat are typically offered at rural roadside stands for mere pocket change.

But if you take a look at what’s in demand, you’ll quickly realize that what your garden needs is a few maple trees.

Maple syrup is selling for upwards of $50 a gallon in New England, according to the Associated Press. I’ve seen reports of $80 to $100 a gallon in other parts of the country as timber scarcity and disease cuts into supply.

By now, the dollar signs should be showing in your eyeballs.

The only downside, of course, is that maple trees take years to grow.
No big deal. It will take you that long to get your snow blower unstuck from the garden, anyway.

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