Gardening at the End of the World

Since fully immersing myself into the gardening hobby — some would say obsession — my primary focus has always been on growing food. Growing lots of stuff to eat. Producing.

Not from any kind of necessity, but because good production is a nice, tangible result of your efforts. All that food, those jars of pickles, those hot sauces you share, the jars of salsa that are 17x better than store bought, all of that stuff is something you can see and touch and enjoy.

To me, it’s not much different than recording music at home or writing or painting. When you’re done, there is something to show for your efforts.

Carrots, garlic, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, green tomatoes. One harvest of many.

As the world is lit on fire, this is the first time it actually feels like a necessity to do my gardening.

As I get early spring work done to prep for prime growing season, every allergy-related cough triggering some “what if?” anxiety about Covid-19, that soil looks less like soil and more like life in waiting. It looks like potential.

The decision about when and where to plant radishes no longer seems so trivial. (Plant them all the time. Plant them everywhere.)

Just winging it when it comes to crop rotation, when to get spinach in the ground so it’s ready to harvest just in time to replace them with tomatoes, and when to seed autumn broccoli to replace the tomatoes as summer draws to a close, suddenly seems like it would be irresponsible. These are now important decisions. I can’t just wing it.

Mother Nature knows what to do. Plant the seeds and she’llĀ  do her best to make something happen. We’re just here to help her along and to make sure her babies (which are our babies too) have their best chance at thriving.

I guess they’re like kids in that regard.

Eight, ten, twelve weeks from now, when roving bands of armed scavengers are prowling the neighborhood looking for people to rob and hoping to uncover an epic stash of toilet paper, one of those groups of criminals will spot my garden and they will see food. Lots and lots of food.

There may be a shootout. Hopefully they’re not the raping type, but the sort of person who sits at home polishing their guns, eagerly awaiting a breakdown of social order so they can finally shoot their neighbors, probably is the raping type. The Venn diagram of Can’t Wait For Civil Disorder So They Can Shoot Their Political “Enemies” people and Would Rape You At Gunpoint people is basically a circle.

They won’t be stealing kale from my garden because I do not grow kale. Kale is disgusting.

They might try to steal cucumbers, but I’ll defend my cucumbers to the death. And besides, they won’t get many. It took me a few years, but I finally learned that even a mere four cucumber plants is WAY TOO MUCH. Do you know how rapidly those things produce when they are in good sun, good soil, and are on a trellis?

Think about how many cucumbers you want to eat daily, then double that. That’s how many.

When the virus has ravaged most of the population and the water is fetid and undrinkable due to being filled with bouyant, rotted corpses, I suppose I’ll have to rely on the mildly antibacterial properties of hot peppers to keep bacterial infections at bay. I grow a lot of hot peppers.

Several types of hot peppers, with habanero dominating the middle in bright, fiercely hot orange

In truth, though, I don’t imagine they will be enough to protect me from the backed up sewers and filthy water, but I can dry some and grind them down into a fine powder, which I’ll then use in booby traps to fight back the inevitable raiders. This stuff is MURDER if you get it in your eyes. (Or on your crotch. Wear gloves when you cut them, and don’t use the bathroom until you’ve washed thoroughly. Trust me on that.)

I’m not good at working on cars and Youtube will be dead, so when it comes to vehicles, at best I’ll have to nail spiked boards and scrap metal to my tiny import for runs to the abandoned grocery stores and liquor stores, running over evil scavengers and white-tailed deer as I do. This won’t be Mad Max, though. We won’t be fighting over gas. We’ll be fighting over the last case of warm Yuengling. And this isn’t a desert wasteland, it’s the suburbs.

Which in a lot of ways is much worse.

My hope is to have a productive enough garden this year that I won’t be forced to eat human flesh in order to survive.

That’s the world we live in now.

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