Gardens build America

Happy Birthday America! We are so blessed to live in this big, diverse and imaginative country that has set an example of self government and led the world for over 200 years in most areas including agriculture. Our country faces many big and new challenges but if we follow the example and display the courage and will power of our ancestors we will confront these challenges, accept the responsibility, find solutions and make the commitment to keep our country strong and leading in an ever changing world.

Horticulture and agriculture have been critical to the development and growth of our country since the beginning. The first settlers at Jamestown were dangerously close to failure until they got aid and instruction from the Indians who were already familiar with this land, the crops and growing conditions. These true native Americans helped the settlers grow enough corn, beans and other crops to survive and grow the colonies. The settlers learned they got much greater harvests operating their own independent farms than with the original collective style production. Over time they discovered new crops, new varieties, new cultural practices, figured out ways to harness water for irrigation and dramatically increase production. These breakthroughs allowed folks to specialize in other trades with fewer required to produce the food crops. This made possible the industrial age, manufacturing growth and even the information age as fewer and fewer were required to produce the food we eat and more of us could focus on other areas of manufacturing, distribution or service.

Today we can farm or garden by choice rather than because we have no other choice, a challenge still confronted by many in developing countries. When our country started it was all about locally grown, because they had no other choice and organic, because they had no or limited access to inputs for fertilizer and pest control. Today you have the freedom to choose locally grown, grown in the USA or grown most anywhere in the world. You have the freedom to choose many different styles of organic production or what we now call traditional production aided by fertilizers, insecticides and fungicides. The breakthroughs in varieties, equipment and crop inputs are what has allowed such efficiency that so few in our country can feed so many and yet we have the freedom and distribution channels that you can decide what type of food production you want to eat. You can eat only what you grow in your own yard, what is found at the local farmers market or the full smorgasboard of vegetables, fruits and grains available at the full line grocery store.

Nothing beats the beauty, joy and satisfaction of growing your own food to feed your stomach and body or the flowers to feed your soul and delight your neighbors. If you can’t or don’t want to grow your own, how blessed we are that you can hire someone else to raise you food and flowers in your own yard, on farms in your community or you can access the safest food in the world as close as a neighborhood grocery.

Those of us who are gardening locally need to be especially attentive to the water needs of our plants in this intense summer heat. Soak your plants regularly, consider mulching the top of planting beds with bark or hulls and think about installing drip irrigation to battle summer drought and to nourish your plant’s. Insect pressure is also greatest at this time of year so be watching for pest damage and consult your nurseryman for assistance.

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