Thursday, July 29, 2010

que jardiner c’est apprendre á philosopher

Saturday, July 24 started dewy and overcast, but was sunny and bright by the afternoon. We harvested our first handfuls of cherry tomatoes and a couple of sweet peppers. We pulled a dozen or so turnips, a clutch of carrots, a bucket of cucumber, and a bunch of yellow summer squash. However, the bulk of the day’s harvest—as is usual this time of year—came from our beds of greens: collards, kale, and Swiss chard.

We await ripening cabbages, potatoes, and apples; based on the number of cucumber flowers, we'll soon be awash in gherkins.

While I delivered our produce to the pantry, the others tended the garden. Our pea and wax bean plants had finished for the year, so we composted the plants and prepared the beds for fall crops. We also turned the compost bins and weeded.

Earlier that morning, some of us discussed the garden’s yield to date. Our harvests seem to be smaller than they were the same time last year; in fact, we are concerned that our raised beds may have gradually declined over the last few years. We’re not sure whether the soil in the beds needs amending, whether our seeds were too old, or whether it has been too dry.

Because we have been recording our weekly harvests over the years, we have a body of data that we can interrogate to determine whether our garden’s fertility has, in fact, diminished. I am almost finished with a set of KPI (key performance indicator) charts that we can use for analysis, and which I plan to publish in the blog.

The fact that I use an acronym like KPI hints as to the day job that I generally strive to keep separate from my gardening avocation: compost is compost, and Excel is Excel, and the twain usually don’t meet. However, there is no need to rely on anecdotes when you have three years of data.

Je veux…que la mort me trouve plantant mes choux, mais nonchalant d’elle, et encore plus de mon jardin imparfait. —Montaigne, "Que philosopher c’est apprendre á mourir", Essais