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Monday, July 17, 2017

Energy conservation--mine

I spent much of last weekend bashing out a new slide talk for garden clubs. When I got home Monday from presenting it for the first time, what I most wanted to do was get out into the garden. I’d been harboring some resentment about spending nice days indoors working on the talk, although this was totally due to my own procrastination.

Stuck inside looking out
   The only downside of starting work in the garden at two in the afternoon was the outside temperature. It was in the high eighties. My motivation to work outdoors drops off sharply when the temperature passes 80. On cool spring and fall days, my idea of heaven is to be out in the garden. In summer heat, not so much.

In May, it's great to be outside

    I’ve certainly got sweat equity. I’ve put in many hours toiling over the vegetable garden under the hot sun. The only reason my skin in the game isn’t lobster-red is fanatical application of sunscreen. But when it’s hot and there’s no shade, gardening stops being fun and becomes just hard work.

I can relate

    This makes me feel like the consummate wimp, of course. People in Phoenix and Savannah probably don’t let a little heat keep them from tending their gardens. I recently heard an Arizonan describe getting up at 3:00 a.m. to do her outside chores before the 120-degree heat of the day sets in.

    That’s the approach I’ve decided to try. I won’t be getting up before dawn. But if I can be in the garden in the relative cool of 6:30 on days when the temperature is heading for the nineties, I can put in a good two hours before wilting.

Sunrise at home isn't as alluring as in Banff

    Part of this new plan is a liberating decision not to carry out my usual morning routine. No reading the paper over breakfast, just a quick cup of tea. Sunscreen on my face only. The dog can come outside with me, but she’ll have to wait for her walk.


    So far I’ve done this twice, when I had work to do on my new planting project that couldn’t wait, but the weather wasn’t cooperating. Both times have been fun and productive. By 8:30 or 9:00, the day already felt rich with accomplishment.

    What does this have to do with sustainable gardening? A gardener’s energy and enthusiasm are finite resources too, like fossil fuels and peat moss. If sustainable gardening is such a harsh mistress that it demands working in the garden at the hottest time of the hottest days, it’s likely to find few lasting converts among home gardeners. 

Catching more gardeners with honey

    Monday afternoon my desire to plant shrubs trumped the heat, but the sweat running down my face reminded me of why early morning gardening had seemed like a better idea. 

    In deciding what we’ll to do to be part of the solution for environmental problems, each of us makes our own calculations. How much time, energy, money, and hard work are we willing to invest?  We might as well be realistic about what we expect from ourselves.

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