New things that I have learned just this week include that weeding your garden is not a myth.

This is an everything-changer. For there I was, well into Year 59, fully believing that all you had to do was plant the seed.

Or don’t even plant it. Broadcast it: yes. Let the wind and rain and inherent crumbliness of the soil do the rest. Come back in 15 days, play koo-koo-ki-choo with the seedlings, who’s a good seedling? You are! Come back in 30 days, see that seedling starting to assume its recognizable form as broccoli, lettuce, kale, peut-être une fleur. And after 45-60-90 days: eat it! Unless it is indeed a flower; in which case, take a beauteous pic to post with a funny caption.

This is actually what used to happen. I might have had some sort of unbeknownst-to-me time-limited green thumb, wherein whatever I plopped into or upon the ground sprung up like the mighty mighty corn and sunflower rows of yore. Oh yes. I remember those high-as-an-elephant’s eye days back in Texas, and also in Culver City, when I just dug up grass, threw some Amend on there, mixed it all up then planted away and boom up came Eden.

Not so much of that in the last 25 years though. You might think I’d have caught on quicker, but often I am not that quick a catcher-onner. I am the sort of person who can sometimes adapt quickly, for example, to teaching online instead of the classroom. For other things, such as 58 not being a great age to be a starting catcher on a baseball team, or for whatever seeds you cast anywhere in the direction of fertile soil to leap up Johnny Appleseed style — I am s l o w to recognize and act upon reality.

In this particular case, the case of sewing and nurturing seeds towards the goal of harvest, it didn’t used to matter that so little actually grew because I was happy just planting stuff. Whether it grew or not really didn’t make me no never-mind. I’d just plant something else. As a result, I have been cultivating the hodgiest of podges at least since reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which argued with nauseating persuasiveness that America grows too much corn.

No more corn really threw me off my gardening game, I realize now. From the age of 13 — an important age! — right up until 2012, the year I read Omnivore’s Dilemma — growing corn meant agricultural prowess to me. Post-Omnivore’s Dilemma, growing corn meant force-feeding the stuff down some poor already badly-treated steer’s esophagus.

Thus soured on corn, I turned instead to whatever would actually grow under my haphazard seed-strewing strategy. This turned out to be, lots of lavender, quite an impressive outcropping of Mexican cigar plant (Cuphea ignea) and also quite a bit of African basil, which bees love. I’m happy for the bees, yet when I look back on my gardening production of the last eight years: ’tain’t much.

But now I have changed. Now I am intent upon growing food to share with food banks. You don’t need me to tell you, this is serious. The food-insecure population of Los Angeles is greater than the population of many countries, according to the PBS documentary based on From Cows to Concrete: The Rise and Fall of Farming in Los Angeles by Judith Gerber and Rachel Surls. Furthermore, there’s a person camped out on the sidewalk three doors down from my house. I assume that person is food insecure; I could walk by with an orange one day and ask.

The orange tree has been doing its part. I’ve given hundreds of pounds of oranges to food banks, which is what started me thinking that I could grow real crops instead of not really cultivating dreams that don’t actually come true. It makes sense.

So does keeping my four beloved backyard chickens from literally hen-pecking the seeds that do germinate, which is what we are looking at here in this picture: my effort to recycle fallen palm fronds into garden fencing. It’s a work in progress. I think I might really need railroad ties and chicken-wire.

In the meantime, I have gleaned that — what do you know, weeds actually do choke out veggies and flowers. It’s not a myth at all. The key here is to be specific about what you consider a weed. I am pretty staunch on dandelions being food, so what I consider a weed that must be removed from my garden is actually…. grass.

Published by MarkGozonsky

Mark Gozonsky has been writing stories and essays since he was a music snob prodigy in early-1970's San Antonio, Texas. Since then he has written about not only music but also baseball, gardening, teaching, parenting, cycling and the... glory of love. Lit Hub and The Sun have published his work, and so has the Austin Chronicle. He lives with his wife in Los Angeles, where he teaches English to some of the nicest kids in the world at an arts-themed public high school downtown.

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