Seeing the empty shelves of toilet paper got me like, “How many times do you people shit each day?”
I’m also pleased to tell you we don’t have any hand sanitizer in the house and we’re fine with that.
We did do stuff to prep for the outbreak though, and one of them is something no one’s talking about.
We planted vegetables.
Now before you say, “it’s cold where I am,” or “I live in an apartment,” read on. None of that deters me from telling you why this is important and why you absolutely can (and should) plant right now.
In Italy, shops, bars, and restaurants were ordered closed. Maybe that won’t happen here, but even if it doesn’t, you still should plant vegetables because…. and I’m putting this in all caps and bold in case you’re scanning this
THE SUPPLY CHAIN IS GOING TO GET FUCKED UP
Not just the chain between farm and store.
The seed. The fertilizer. The pesticides. The workers who pick the food. The rubber bands that tie the spinach. The boxes they’re shipped in. Those little red net-bags. The fucking annoying stickers. You name it. Some of it comes from China, and delivery of any component can be held up for any reason.
Anyone who’s lived in a place with a fucked-up supply chain will tell you, fresh vegetables are a luxury.
Don’t panic. Just do something.
WHAT I PLANTED
I live in Southern California, so obviously the weather is on my side, but I also have a freaking postage stamp for a backyard. Here's what I planted, except for the melons, but those are still good.
- TOMATOES. They’re weeds, basically, with really strong, long taproots that will find water and nutrients anywhere.
- STRING BEANS. If you’re in a small house or apartment (more on this later) these are good because they’re lightweight vines and vertical, so they don’t take up that much space.
- CUCUMBERS. Really a little early to plant these, and they’re fussier, but plant a few and see if you can get them to go because they’re badass when they work.
- PEPPERS: This is the first year I’m really making an effort with these. I’ll keep you apprised.
- POTATO: Cut an organic potato in half and bury it. That’s it. They’re fuckin’ seeds already. Bam! You do need a big yard…so, there’s that.
- MELONS: These need a tiny tiny bit of space to grow in, a deep well of dirt for the roots, and a massive amount of ground to spread over, but that last bit can be concrete or whatever.
MORE ON TOMATOES
I’m kind of a tomato whore (I give bags away to the entire block in September), so I have a few more facts, options, and techniques you may find interesting…
- VOLUNTEERS: They’re weeds, these things. Let the earliest and latest fruits ripen and drop. Next year or the year after, you may be pleasantly surprised to find another plant….but only if you…
- DO NOT BUY HOME DEPOT FLATS: But heirloom or organic varieties from a small nursery if you can. Most of what you get at chain stores will be Monsanto seeded, meaning plants grown from the next generation will be sterile and sad.
- There are two kinds of vine. DETERMINATE are more bush-shaped, with cherry fruit that grow super freaking fast. INDETERMINATE are vines, and the tomatoes can be plum or the size of a small cow. I love beefsteak varieties, but don’t plant those right now. They take forever to grow, and they are so prone to splitting and other deformities you’re going to be sad when you have to throw half of it away because it’s inedible. “Early Girl” varieties grow and ripen fast, and have massive harvests. THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT DURING THE CRISIS.
- Again, right now is not the time to experiment with delicate heirlooms. Save it for a post-covid world. Stick with the workhorses.
I grew up in New York, so I feel you. But please do not despair!
CONTAINERS: Grow shit in window boxes, containers, or hang one of these bad boys from the fire escape. UPSIDE DOWN TOMATO PLANTER
POCKET GARDENING: The earth is everywhere. That seems obvious, but where I grew up, it’s not. Look around your building for a place where the wall meets the street, or the concrete’s broken up, or the neighbor’s yard creeps onto the property.
Because my house’s footprint is so small, we pocket garden along the edge of the driveway. The actual space a plant needs to grow is so small, I can grow a metric fuckton of food. I lash the branches to the fence with strips of cloth so the vines don’t take over the driveway. Vertical is your friend.
YOUR ASSHOLE LANDLORD: Plant behind trees and in unused corners. If the neighbors or landlord bitch about the plants, shrug and maintain plausible deniability. Tell them it must be a volunteer, but hell, since it’s already there you’ll promise to clean it up once the beans/cukes/tomatoes are gone. If they pull your plant, you may have to resort to violence, but it’ll be worth it.
BUT IT’S TOO COLD TO PLANT!
Yeah, I know I live in SoCal and I’m an asshole but…
You can plant flats as long as it’s not going to frost again.
Literally, in a week or two.
If you’re not comfortable with that, start seeds indoors, in the comfort of your home. By the time you move them outside, it’ll be warm.
And again, if you want the fruits to make fertile seeds, only use organic or heirloom seeds.
THE PARK: I’ve seen people plant in the unused corners of the public park and that’s awesome. You’ll have to share what you grow, but that’s also really cool.
COMMUNITY GARDENS: These are going to become critical. There are groups here planting in abandoned or empty lots. If you can’t get on the lot, there’s probably a bit of dirt on the street-side of the chain link. Stick a seed in it.
FALLEN FRUIT: Is your city a Fallen Fruit city? Check here… http://fallenfruit.org/projects/public-fruit-maps/
Okay, I’ve gone way, way, way off path here. Sorry.
It’s just amazing to me every year what’s gifted to us in the form of a seed, and how with a little ingenuity and God’s grace we can provide for ourselves and others.
It’s hard out there right now. Let’s prepare to help each other with the unexpected things we take for granted.
Keep in touch.
My Facebook Group is COVID-19-free. We talk about books, romance, and bingeworthy TV shows.
As a bonus…living where I do means I get extra asshole points. Some of my tomato plants are perennial.