Corona Can’t Touch This

Back in 1990, rapper M.C. Hammer released a tune entitled “U Can’t Touch This.” Now M.C. Hammer was referring to the idea that “U” couldn’t “touch” — come close to him — to match his talent and ability in music, lyrics, rhyme, and dance. But if I may, I’d like to extrapolate this to our current world situation. A seemingly unstoppable bundle of ribonucleic acid wrapped in a protein coat is spreading death and destruction throughout the human population. The grim tally has left many of us survivors terrified and wondering if we’ll be the next victim of this modern-day black plague.

But take heart. As terrible as this virus is, and as much as it’s taken away our freedom of movement, human contact, and overall sense of safety, there are some things that, to this virus we can boldly say, “u can’t touch this.”

COVID-19 can’t touch the love we feel for our spouses, partners, family, and friends. The fact that we can’t make contact with them right now doesn’t diminish the love we feel for them, and our ability to demonstrate that love. If we can’t hug and kiss them, we can still talk to them via Zoom or the good old-fashioned telephone. We can write e-mails and texts, or even good old-fashioned pen and ink letters. We can visit them at their residences and talk to them from six feet away or through glass windows. Togetherness may be hindered, but our ability to express love is never halted.

COVID-19 can’t touch our creativity. We may be stuck indoors and unable to work a regular job, dine at restaurants, or attend public events. But if you open your newspaper, turn on your television, or browse the internet, you’ll see all kinds of stories about people creating new forms of stay-at-home-entertainment, online concerts, virtual graduations, and other ways of bringing us amusement and diversion. I’ll bet my whole garden harvest double or nothing that by the time this is all over, new inventions and businesses will have been formed, all stimulated by the needs that this virus has created. They always have been, and I expect they will be again.

COVID-19 can’t touch our human spirit, generosity, and resilience. It’s a cold hard fact that this virus has laid us low. People are getting sick and dying from it, and we still don’t know all the effect that may show up later in the survivors. But every day, you hear about people banding together to deliver food and other necessities to those in need. Groups of people are organizing parades to wish shut-in children a happy birthday. Businesses and other organizations are busy sewing masks to give away to those who need them. Scientists all over the world are working together night and day to find a treatment and/or a vaccine for this terrible disease. And while there are still news stories about selfish politicians and other individuals who place a higher value on coin-of-the-realm than on human lives, there are also plenty of examples (that you don’t always see on the nightly news) of those that want to serve and help their fellow man. “Look for the helpers,” television personality Fred Rogers once said. “There will always be helpers.”

Lastly, COVID-19 can’t touch the human ability to reach out to a higher power. Whatever your religious faith; whatever deity you pray to; whatever higher power you turn to when the well of your human efforts has run dry, nothing – not the virus, not a poor economy, not selfish politicians, not anything can ever come between us and the higher power we turn to.

There is no doubt that the virus has knocked us down. But it has not, nor will it ever knock us out. It may take several months, or even a year or two, but in the end the human race, with its love, creativity, human spirit, generosity, resilience, and ability to tap into a higher power, will eventually triumph.

Oh, and one more thing. When the events of the world seem overwhelming, turn to your garden. Plant a new one or cultivate an existing one. There is nothing like being out in nature to lighten the load of world events. Audrey Hepburn once said, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” There will always be a brighter tomorrow, no matter what things may look like today. And few things can brighten a tomorrow (and a today) like a well-cultivated garden.

The Old Gray Seeds They Ain’t What They Used to Be

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Now is the time to start thinking about your vegetable garden. The seed catalogs have been gracing your mailbox and you’ve had a chance to see all the colorful varieties of fruits and vegetables that are competing with each other for your attention and your dollars. But wait! You’ve forgotten something. What about all those seeds left over from last year or earlier that have just been setting around your house doing nothing. Maybe there’s still life in them?

Whether or not those old seeds are still viable will depend on the seed and just how long they’ve been hanging around, unplanted, on your shelf. Seeds are not a forever thing. Sooner or later they all lose viability and become nothing but dead specks of what might have been. Some seeds can be stored for several years and will still be viable. Others will fail to germinate if not planted after a year.

Research on various types of seeds has given us some guidelines as to how long a shelf life different seeds possess. The website of Johnny’s Selected Seeds has a table that lists different sees and how long you can hang onto them before they lose viability. Here is a link to that table –

https://www.johnnyseeds.com/on/demandware.static/-/Library-Sites-JSSSharedLibrary/default/dw913ac4d0/assets/information/seed-storage-guide.pdf

Another way to check the viability of your old seeds is to run a germination test. The following information come from North Carolina State University Extension.

Seed Viability Test

What You Will Need

Ten seeds of each type being tested
Paper towels
Water
Sealable plastic bags
A permanent marker

Moisten a sheet of paper towel. It shouldn’t be dripping wet, just uniformly damp. If your paper towel falls apart when it gets wet, use 2 sheets, one on top of the other.

  1. Place the 10 seeds in a row along the damp towel.
  2. Roll or fold the paper towel around the seeds.
  3. Place the paper towel into the plastic bag and seal it. Write the date on the plastic bag, so there’s no guess work involved. If you are testing more than one type of seed, also label the bag with the seed type and variety.
  4. Place the plastic bag somewhere warm, about 70 degrees F. A sunny window sill or on top of the refrigerator should work.
  5. Check daily, to be sure the paper towel does not dry out. It shouldn’t because it is seal, but if it get very warm, you may need to re-moisten the towel with a spray bottle.
  6. After about 7 days, start checking for germination by unrolling the paper towel. You may even be able to see sprouting through the rolled towel. Very often the roots will grow right through it.
  7. Check your seed packet for average germination times for your particular seed, but generally 7 – 10 days should be enough time for the test.
  8. After 10 days, unroll the paper towel and count how many seeds have sprouted. This will give you the percentage germination you can expect from the remaining seeds in the packet. If only 3 sprouted, it is a 30% germination rate. Seven would be a 70% germination rate. Nine would be a 90% germination rate, and so on.

Realistically, if less than 70% of your test seed germinated you would be better off starting with fresh seed. If 70 – 90% germinated, the seed should be fine to use, but you should sow it a little thicker than you normally would. If 100% germinated – lucky you, your seed is viable and you’re ready to plant.

You don’t have to waste the seeds that germinated. They can be planted. Don’t let them dry out and handle them very carefully, so that you don’t break the roots or growing tip. It’s often easiest to just cut the paper towel between seeds and plant the seed, towel and all. If the root has grown through the towel, it is almost impossible to separate them without breaking the root. The paper towel will rot quickly enough and in the meantime, it will help hold water near the roots.

Source: North Carolina State County Extension Service — https://richmond.ces.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/SeedViabilityTest.pdf?fwd=no

There Is A New Book Coming Out, And Your Friendly Neighborhood Garden Troubadour Will Be Featured in One of the Chapters!

I’m happy to announce that a new book will soon be released, and I will be featured in one of the chapters. The book is entitled Mature Preneurs Talk – How To Have A Productive, Energized, Creative Life After 50. In this book, author Diana Todd-Banks interviewed a select group of people from all around the world who have created “a life after 50” where they are feeling younger, more vibrant and active, healthier, more mentally alert, and happier. They are also helping and showing others how to achieve the same, and your friendly neighborhood Garden Troubadour will be featured in a chapter of the book.

For anyone who has ever reached a point in their lives where they feel they need to make a change, this book is definitely for you! It will be released at in early October, and be available online, plus in the US, UK, Europe, Canada, New Zealand, Australia to name just a few areas in the world.

Here is the press release.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                             CONTACT: Mark Lyons
                                                                                    mark@greenthumbatyourservice.com

DATE: September 21, 2019

 

Over 50 Mature Preneurs Show How To Have A
Productive, Energised Creative Life
or
Over 50’s Positively Changing The Face of Ageing

 

Palatine, Illinois, USA, September 20, 2019
The over 50’s are the largest demographic in marketing history, millions of baby boomers live in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. Retirement is looming, yet for many they think their future looks gloomy but there is an emerging bright side to discover.

Often referred to by the younger generations and themselves as “the Over 50s,” this group of people, are facing challenges of a type, and on a scale, not experienced by their parents and grandparents.

Living longer than ever has them thinking “What do I do next?” “I’m not ready to retire!” “How can I make sure our finances will last?” and “How do I stay positive and healthy?”

To help these Baby Boomers and over 60’s plus, answer these questions, Mark Lyons, a.k.a. “The Garden Troubadour, Palatine, Illinois, USA was asked to join a select group of Over 50s by Diana Todd-Banks, an Entrepreneur & Int’l Best Selling Author, to provide insights and answers.

Each member of the group has created “a life after 50” where they are feeling younger, more vibrant and active, healthier, more mentally alert, and happier. They are also helping and showing others how to achieve the same.

Ms Todd-Banks invited Mature Preneurs from around the world to participate in the book ‘Mature Preneurs TalkHow To Have A Productive, Energized, Creative Life After 50.’  These contributors come from a diverse range of backgrounds. Many now live a life very different from what they envisaged before they turned 50.

But what have they done to achieve this?

How they reached this point of life energy makes fascinating reading, as does listening to their interviews on the podcast by the same name. All have been guests on Mature Preneurs Talk podcast to talk about their story and message.

Professor of Entrepreneurship Roxanne Zolin, who has written the Foreword for the book recognises their achievements, and says, “You may be asking, what does positive ageing have to do with entrepreneurship in general and Mature Preneurs in particular?”

Professor Zolin answers, “For some this may seem a natural connection, but I hope to interest you in the very deep and meaningful connection between starting a new enterprise after the age of about 50 and reaping the benefits of positive ageing.”

Importantly the contributors in this book write about topics important to them and significant for the mid life group, and at the end of each chapter are contact details for readers to connect and learn more.

For many over 50’s who feel at a loss in life, or who have lost jobs, pets or partners, this book Mature Preneurs Talk will reignite your enthusiasm for life and encourage you to take the path which these creative entrepreneurs have travelled.

Mark Lyons worked in the corporate world for many years in a wide variety of careers in a cornucopia of industries. But it took a career crisis to finally convince him to forever turn his back on full time corporate employment and strike out on his own. Combining his love of gardening, cheese making, and mushroom growing along with his skills as an entertainer, Mark founded Green Thumb at Your Service, a business whose mission is to inspire people to become independently healthy by coaching them on how to grow their own food. Through one-on-one consulting, hands-on classes, and group presentations, Mark teaches people how to grow their own vegetables, make their own cheese, and grow their own mushrooms. Mark is also a musical entertainer who performs at folk festivals, children’s parties, assisted living centers, and farmers markets. It is this combination of music and gardening which led Mark to brand himself as “The Garden Troubadour.”

Mature Preneurs TalkHow To Have A Productive, Energized, Creative Life After 50,’ will be released at in early October, and be available online, plus in the US, UK, Europe, Canada, New Zealand, Australia to name just a few areas in the world.

To listen to Mature Preneurs Talk podcast go to http://maturepreneurstalk.com and select any podcast platform.

One final quote by Diana Todd-Banks from Mature Preneurs Talk Book:

“We all have the opportunity to create our own key to longevity and more and more research is showing this is happening today opening new ways of thinking and with that comes new potential ventures ones that perhaps haven’t existed before. That’s the exciting part! This is why it’s time to let your subconscious take subtle action.”

For media interviews, and to learn more about Mark Lyons go to:

Website:  http://www.greenthumbatyourservice.com
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/GreenThumbAtYourService
Google:  http://www.google.com/profiles/marklyons64
Blog: https://thegardentroubadour.wordpress.com/
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/gardntroubadour
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/garden_troubadour/
LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/markllyons

 To contact Diana Todd-Banks, the Producer of Mature Preneurs TalkHow To Have A Productive, Energized, Creative Life,’ go to https://dianatoddbanks.com or diana@dianatoddbanks.com – 3X Int’l Best Selling Author & Author of 7 other books.

It Ain’t Over ‘Til You See the White of the Frost

old-windmill-at-sunset

 

By now, many of you are beginning to see the sun setting on the horizon of your gardening season. You’re beginning to think about (or perhaps have already started) harvesting the last of the fruits and vegetables, throwing away (or composting) the spent plants, enriching your soil with humus and compost, turning it all over and mixing it in, washing and putting away your tools, and calling it a season. And you can do that if you so desire. But gardening does not have to end just yet. There are still vegetables you can plant and get a final harvest before the frost sets in and the snow flies.

Remember the cool season crops you planted in the early spring? Well, guess what? They work equally well in the fall. Lettuce, spinach, brassicas (kale, mustard, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, etc.), and root crops (parsnip, leek, rutabaga, salsify, etc.) can all be grown in the fall. And should a light frost occur, it will have little or no effect, because these plants can take it. Frost actually improves the flavor of kale and parsnips. In addition, some root crops can be left in the ground over the winter months. So if you have a sudden hankering for parsnip leek soup in mid-February, just go out to the garden, dig up some parsnips and leeks, and brew yourself a feast. Note: please do not announce to your household that you are going out in the garden to take a leek.

Remember, gardening does not have to come to a screeching halt come fall. There’s still some life left in the growing season. Why not make the most of it?

Take A Stand For Gardening And Spread The Word

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“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

Why do we garden? Well there’s lots of reasons why – fresh food, exercise, cost, etc. But perhaps the biggest driver of our desire to garden can be summed up in one word – refusal. We refuse to put up with rock-hard, bland-tasting, vitamin- and mineral-depleted fruits and vegetables that are the standard fare at most grocery stores. We refuse to fill our mouths and bellies (and for that matter, those of our children) with pesticide-soaked, herbicide-infused, laboratory-altered produce. And lastly, we refuse to shell out our hard earned money for all of the aforementioned. We want our fruits and vegetables to taste fresh and provide a full complement of natural nutritive factors that our bodies need to survive and thrive. And we don’t want to live in fear that the produce we are putting into our mouths has been doused with cancer-causing chemicals or disease-laden poop fresh from the animal’s butt. When we grow fruits and vegetables ourselves, we know we have absolute control over what goes on it – or more importantly, what doesn’t go on it.

“What’s your point, Mark,” you may be saying to yourself. “I know all this already. I’m a gardener for the very reasons you just mentioned. And so are my family, my friends – heck, I belong to a whole club full of gardeners. You’re preaching to the choir.” And you’re right, I am. But there’s a reason for that. I want to first remind everyone why we do what we do. And then I want you to carry it one step further.

There’s a whole world out there that’s still dining on bland, pesticide-soaked, industrial produce. But we, as dedicated gardeners, can change this. How? By spreading the hobby of gardening among your family, friends, neighbors, and communities. And then by convincing your communities to spread it among other communities.

How can you accomplish this? Well, you can start by the simple act of sharing. Share your excess produce with your extended family, neighbors, co-workers, and anyone else you can think of. You’ll be showing them what real food tastes like. After they bite into a fresh, home-grown tomato, it will be hard for them to go back to the bland, store-bought stuff.

Second, convince them to start their own garden. Encourage them to create their own production center for fresh, wholesome, pesticide-free food for their family. And then, just like the 1980’s commercial for Fabregé Organics, have them encourage two friends – then have them encourage two friends, and so on, and so on…

Just think what would happen if we became a nation of gardeners and stopped purchasing all that tasteless, pesticide-laced produce. We could bring all of those industrial producers to their knees by hitting them where it hurts – in the profit zone. Then maybe they’d start growing better fruits and vegetables.

A pipe dream? Probably. But certainly a goal worth aiming for.

One more thing. If you do convince your friends, neighbors, community, etc. to start gardening, and they find that they need some help, well, just tell them to contact your friendly neighborhood Garden Troubadour. Have trowel, will travel!

Insecticides, Piscacides, and Homicides

Insecticides

We all want a successful garden. We all want our vegetable and fruit plants to yield large quantities of wholesome, intact, fresh fruits and vegetables. So when we see insect pests turning our plants, fruits, and vegetables into Swiss cheese, we immediately think of three things – kill, kill, and kill again! We want those intruders dead, and we’re willing to go to any lengths to do this. We’ll go to the nearest big box store and purchase the first bottle of unpronounceable chemicals we find. As long as it promises to kill those garden pests, that’s all we care about.

But before you start spraying that stuff on your plants, please stop, take a deep breath, and think about what you’re about to do. You will be introducing a synthetic substance into the environment that may have long-lasting harmful effects. Furthermore, that stuff may hang around for a long time and multiply those harmful effects. These products not only kill the insects that are eating your plants, but they may also kill or otherwise cause great harm to a whole host of other living creatures.

Meet the rogue’s gallery.

Malathion – Malathion is an organophosphate insecticide used to control leaf-eating insects such as aphids, leafhoppers, and Japanese beetles on flowers, shrubs, fruits, and vegetables. It’s also used for large-scale mosquito control. It is available for home use under the brand names of Ortho MAX Malathion and Spectracide Malathion Insect Spray Concentrate. Malathion is highly toxic to fish and bees and mildly toxic to birds. If ingested, the human body converts malathion to malaoxin, which may be strongly toxic to humans. Malathion may also be carcinogenic.

Carbaryl – Carbaryl is the third most widely-used pesticide for home gardens, commercial agriculture, and forestry and rangeland protection. It is most commonly sold under the name Sevin. Carbaryl is used to control aphids, fire ants, fleas, ticks, spiders and other types of garden pests. The EPA considers Carbaryl “likely to be carcinogenic in humans,” due to laboratory studies showing increased tumors in mice exposed to it. Toxicity is low for fish, birds, and other animals, but high for bees.

Acetamiprid – Acetamiprid is a neonicotinoid used to control sucking-type insects on vegetables, fruits, cotton, and ornamental plants and flowers. While classified as “unlikely to be a human carcinogen,” nevertheless, like Malathion and Carbaryl, it is highly toxic to bees.

Permethrin – Permethrin is a dual use product. Medically, it’s used to treat and prevent head lice and as a treatment for scabies. Permethrin is listed as a “restricted use” substance by the EPA because it is highly toxic to aquatic life. It’s sold commercially as Ortho® Bug-B-Gon MAX® Garden Insect Killer Dust. While it’s not toxic to mammals and birds, it is strongly toxic to cats and fish.

Metaldehyde – Metaldehyde is used to control gastropod pests such as slugs and snails. It is sold commercially as Ortho® Bug-Geta® Plus Snail, Slug & Insect Killer. At 50 ppm, it is considered mildly toxic and a breathing irritant.

It’s important to remember that these products are designed for one purpose only – to kill. And they don’t do a good job in discriminating between the “bad” bugs and the “good” bugs. In addition, they do not break down in the environment very quickly, so they tend to stick around inflicting their toxicity for a long time after initial application. So I recommend going easy with these products, or better yet, don’t use them at all. Doing the latter will help insure that we do not cause undue harm to the world around us.

 

It Themes Like a Good Idea

Pizza Garden

 

As much as we all love gardening, there are times when it starts to get a little – well, dull. This is especially true when you find yourself planting the same kind of vegetables in the same space in the same patterns. Year after year, you know exactly what to expect. And it’s starting to get a bit boring.

Fortunately, there is a cure for this. It’s called the theme garden. With a theme garden, you choose a particular concept that you want your garden to reflect, and then you fill it with plants that fit that theme. A pizza garden, for example, would contain the plants of vegetables and herbs that you would typically find on a pizza, such as oregano, onions, basil, parsley, and tomatoes. A healing garden would contain herbs that have medicinal uses.

Here are some other ideas for themes around which you can build a garden.

Heirlooms – a garden of open pollinated, non-hybrid fruits and vegetables

Unusually-Colored Vegetables – fruits and vegetable cultivars that have a color that you don’t normally associate with those vegetables. Some examples would be Purple Dragon carrots, Black Krim tomatoes, Lemon cucumbers, Hopi Blue corn, and Rainbow chard.

A Garden of Song – fruits, vegetables, and other plants that show up in song titles. A flower garden of song, for example could include roses (“Rambling Rose”, “Roses of Picardy”); tulips (“Tiptoe Through the Tulips”), buttercups (“Build Me Up Buttercup”), and begonias (“Scarlet Begonias”)

Alphabet Garden – fruits, vegetables, and flowers that begin with each letter of the alphabet. If you have young children, this can be both fun and educational.

Those are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing. If you’d like more, then check out the website of the NC State College of Design, https://naturalearning.org/theme-gardens. And with a little brainstorming, I’m certain that you, too, can come up with some interesting garden themes. Then you can take your garden from snore to roar!

Themes. The cure for the common garden.

Jump the Equinox

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Don’t try to tell her she has to wait for robins to sing.
Don’t ever say she’s jumping the gun by pushing the spring.
She’ll wave a dirty trowel and say, “So what if I do?
If you had spent your life fighting winter, you’d push it too.”

Pushing Spring Tango, by Peter and Lou Berryman

It’s coming. In fact it’s “just around the corner,” to use the cliché. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the vernal equinox (a.k.a. spring) will arrive on March 20th at 12:15 PM EDT. Oh happy day! Spring will be here at last! Time to put away the snow shovels and winter clothing! Time to dance in the sunshine and warm weather! And, of course, it’s time to get out in the garden, dig up the soil, and begin planting!

Uh, not so fast. We humans with our artificial time measurements may have decided that spring has arrived on a certain day, but Mother Nature may be a little behind us. It is still possible to have snow in March and April and even remotely in May. And temperatures have not yet risen to “let’s hit the beach” levels yet. The soil will be too cold and hard to dig, and even if you do succeed in planting something in it, I can almost guarantee that you’re going to get a whole lot of nothing.

“But I’m so tired of being cooped up in the house and being surrounded by nothing but snow, cold, and miserable wet weather,” you say. “I can’t take it anymore! I want to get out and plant – now!”

Oh ye of little patience. But fortunately there are solutions for eager beavers like you. They are called season extending devices. Collectively, they are physical structures designed to insulate tender seedlings from harsh weather and allow you to get an early start on the growing season and keep on growing after the season officially ends.

There are many examples of season extending devices.

Plastic milk cartons – These are probably the simplest and cheapest types of season extending devices. Simply take a washed empty plastic milk carton, cut off the bottom two inches and use the remainder to cover each individual plant.

Plastic Milk Carton

Bell cloche – These are structures made out of glass and shaped like a bell. They work the same way as plastic milk cartons. They are beautifully constructed and tend to be more aesthetically pleasing than plastic milk cartons. However, they are still glass and will still break if you drop them, so be careful.

Bell Cloche

Row covers – Row covers are fabric blankets that come in a wide variety of thicknesses. They are placed over growing seedlings and supported by metal or plastic hoops. Heavy fabric row covers are used to insulate plants from cold temperatures; lighter weight fabric row covers are used to protect plants from insect pests.

Row Cover

Cold frame/hot bed – Cold frames are mini-greenhouses. They consist of a wooden structure with a hinged transparent lid (the transparent portion is usually made of glass surrounded by a wooden frame. They function the same way as true greenhouses, namely that sunlight shines through the glass top and warms up the inside. The heat cannot escape so the inside remains warmer than the surrounding atmosphere. On warmer days, the lid is opened slightly to allow excess heat to escape. If supplemental heat is provided, then the cold frame becomes a hot bed.

Raised Bed

Wall o’ water – These consist of series of plastic “pockets” that, when filled with water, create a teepee-like structure that surrounds the plant. The water filled tubes absorb the heat of the sun during the day and releases heat to the plants at night. If the temperature should drop to zero and the water freeze, then more heat is released to keep the plant warm (remember, water has to release heat in order to freeze). On some cold nights, it’s not unheard of to see steam rising out of the walls o’ water.

wall-o-water

So if you truly cannot wait for warmer weather, then go ahead and plant. But if you want your seeds and seedlings to actually grow, then I strongly recommend investing in a season extending device such as the ones listed above.

Heal the Crick, Raise the Bed

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Snap! Crackle! Pop! No, these are not the sounds that come from your Rice Krispies when you pour milk on them. These are the sounds that come from your back and your joints every time you bend or squat. And it’s not only the sound, but it’s also the fury – the fury of pain that makes it more difficult to lower yourself down and lift yourself back up. Unfortunately, in-ground gardening requires that you do just that. For many people who can no longer bend or squat without pain, gardening seems like a pastime that’s now past its time. But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you can’t come down to the garden, then let the garden rise up to you.

I’m talking about building raised beds. Raised beds are a system of gardening in which the soil is formed in 3–4 foot (1.0–1.2 m) wide beds, which can be of any length or shape. Inside the bed, the soil is lifted above the surrounding ground and is held in place by a frame made of wood, rock, or concrete blocks. Raised beds can be as high or as low as you want them to be. If you can bend a moderate amount, then maybe you only need to raise the soil a few inches. On the other hand, if bending even a small amount yields an overabundance of discomfort, then you can raise the soil waist or chest high if need be. With a raised bed, you can still garden without having to bend or squat.

Raised beds also have several other advantages over conventional in-ground gardens. The soil in them warms up faster than that of conventional gardens, which means you can get your vegetables in the ground sooner. Raised beds are also easier to care for, as you don’t have to spend a lot of time watering and weeding them. And because they tend to be only about 3-4 feet wide, you can easily cultivate them without stepping inside and compacting the soil.

So if you find that your back and knees don’t take so kindly to bending anymore, don’t feel that you have to give up gardening entirely. You may just have to bring it to a whole new level.

All Together Now

 

On a few occasions I’ve been asked, “Mark, I know that you do both fruit and vegetable gardening and home cheeesemaking. Are those two distinctly separate topics, or can they work together?”

Most definitely, yes, they can work together! In fact, if you combine the two just right, you create wonderful foods that can enhance your dining experiences for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Here are some suggestions.

Salads – You can enhance a salad of homegrown garden greens by sprinkling it with some of your homemade Feta cheese. Or how about using your homemade Blue cheese to create your own Blue cheese dressing to pour on your salad?

Infusing cheese with herbs – When making your own cheese, how about creating something distinctive by mixing some herbs into the curds before putting those curds into your cheese press? Some typical herbed cheeses include Caraway Swiss and Havarti with Dill.

Incorporating vegetables into cheese – The sky is the limit when it comes to making vegetable infused cheeses. How about adding some sun-dried tomatoes to your homemade cream cheese? Or a cheddar cheese infused with finely-chopped onions?

Wine-infused cheeses – At first glance, this sounds off topic. What, you might ask, does making a wine-infused cheese have to do with incorporating fruits and vegetables into cheese? Well, if you grow the grapes yourself, make your own wine, and soak your newly-pressed cheese in the wine for a few weeks, then, in a roundabout way, you are combining fruit and cheese. And if you substitute vodka for the wine you now have infused your cheese with a potato byproduct.

“Gee Mark, I’m not sure about this,” you say. “This sounds rather unusual.” Well, I have a one word answer for you – experiment. Try different combinations of fruits, vegetables, and cheese. After all, that’s how new foods are discovered.

“But what if I create something that looks awful and tastes worse?” Seriously? What if you create something that looks pleasing, tastes even better, and wins Cheese of the Year? Isn’t that worth the risk of maybe creating something awful? And if the worst happens, and your Limburger with Brussels sprouts tastes like the inside of a garbage truck? Then you simply toss it away and try a different combination. No one has to know about it but you.

So go ahead. Experiment with different fruit-cheese-vegetable combinations. And embrace the results – good, bad, or otherwise!