Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sunday Gardening News! July 10, 2011 EROEI in the Garden

Good morning guys!
I'm up early trying to decide what to write about today.
A friend of mine came by a couple days ago and we were sitting out by the garden talking. She looks around at my rather shaggy looking garden and asks, "Well, what's going on in here? Do you have anything growing in there?"
Absolutely I have something growing in there I said! LOL
Horseradish was sticking up proudly among some sprawling tomato vines, cucumbers were scrambling along trailing cucs like green treasures in the shadows. Purple Queen bush beans and peanut beans were hiding their vast treasures among some lamb's quarters and vines, the red kidney bean experiment was doing beautifully as well as a whole row of tomatoes wallowing amongst the weeds and peppers. At the corner, the elderberry bush has grown and taken over the entire corner of the little garden.
A lot of what is growing in my garden I told her, is for seed. I pretty much just have to leave it alone and let it go to seed.
Her garden, the one her boyfriend takes care of, is pristine. No weeds, nothing out of place. Like a picture.
Mine looks like something a drunk planted. LOL
(ok, nevermind that. )
Here's the point. If you spend more energy growing a garden than you harvest from it in'd starve to death gardening.
An example of how low labor gardening is oftentimes better is some tomatoes we planted this spring.
Along a fence where my neighbor and I planted last year, he had put down a thick layer of leaves and grass clippings thinking to till it under. I asked about maybe just planting through it like in the book  "No Till Gardening" by Ruth Stout.

The Ruth Stout No-Work Garden Book: Secrets of the Famous Year-Round Mulch Method
There it is on Amazon. Check ebay too maybe get a better deal.

Anyway, back to the tomatoes.
Neighbor went along with the idea and I planted I think 8 plants down through all that mulch. Now another thing, here we have an awful time with blackspot bacterial disease in out tomato plants. Every year, no matter what kinds of tomatoes I plant, they always get it.
Also, we have to water a lot in the summer here when it gets hot and dry and have a pump and hose down at the creek to pump water up to the garden.
Well, this year, not only have we not had to water the tomatoes planted in the mulch, but so far they've showed very little sign of that disease. They are also bigger and greener then the other tomatoes planted out in the field.
So. Not only did we not use the tiller, but, we didn't have to pump water, and, we didn't have to weed.
See, how many calories we saved?
Neighbors that garden around here want their gardens to look pretty from the road. I want people driving by to not notice mine. hehehe That's the doomer in me talking.
Also, what happens when there might not be gas for tillers, or if the tiller tears up and you can't find someone to fix it, or have money to pay to have it fixed?
You might want to rethink you approach to gardening.
Why expend 6000 calories to grow and harvest 3000 calories?
I just pulled those numbers out of my...
just trying to make a point.
This is especially true for veggies that aren't really calorie dense like the tomatoes.
I love tomatoes and will grow them till I can't. But, I'm not going to starve myself to death growing them just to make the garden pretty to impress strangers driving by.
Maybe it's time to rethink the idea that the harder you work, the more you sweat and toil, somehow, the more virtuous you are. Seems a bit insane to me actually.
We talk a lot on the Peak Oil forums about EROEI. Energy returned on energy invested.
It makes sense that we should begin to apply that to our everyday lives as well.
We don't. We have been led to believe that anything other than working ourselves to death is somehow immoral, or lazy, or bad.
Businesses don't operate that way. That's why they rule the world and we don't. LOL
They've convinced us that we have to work harder than other workers, or go the extra mile, or sloth is a sin. They don't believe any of that but it sure works to their advantage to have us believing it.
So, the next time you start to freak out because there is some wild clover or dandelions coming up among the pepper plants and are afraid the neighbors will think you're lazy and worthless unless you rush out and cultivate and weed, or, the next time you're at work and the boss wants more labor for the same dollar and you feel compelled to go along with it so that you'll look like a "hard worker" in front of your co-workers...
well, figure it out.
So, don't be a knucklehead and work yourself into a coma to impress people that are not worth your time to impress. Get smart and stop wasting energy.


  1. Hehehe, exactly, Pam. This old lady has learned that the hard way the last couple of years. After all, most of our garden veggies started out as plants in the wild competing with other plants in the wild - and won.
    Thanks for the post. I love the newsblog, but especially enjoy the Sunday gardening posts.


  2. Hey Linda! Glad you enjoyed it!

  3. hey, pam, i'm all about easy, too...that's one thing that one learns from doing an excessively large garden for over 30 years...

  4. same here rb. I'm looking for easier less strenuous methods to get the same amount of food. I kind of like the garden to look a bit wild too. I got all kinds of butterflies and little hummingbirds out there everyday now too. I love watching the little things. Wish I could fly like a hummingbird. :D

  5. Pam, it appears you have learned the Russian art of Maskirovka very well. Hide in plain sight. Save energy, and hid the goodies all at the same time. You get the gold star this week :)


  6. Hey Pam - here, here! My neighbor who used to spray the mess out of everything, before he put in a sterile looking xeriscape installation, just asked me last week why it looked like we had so many weeds! All this while touring my garden looking for all the various colors of hollyhocks I have (he likes the bright red one that is located parallel with his front porch). I told him they're not weeds - they're just plants you're not familiar with. Almost all my weeds go into rabbits and chickens so I don't eradicate them. They don't get consumed quite as quickly as sterile gardeners would like, but I don't care. My yard looks like a jungle, even in a drought!

  7. LOL that's great! it's only a weed if you don't know what it is!
    thanks everyone for the comments, and thank you Sabre! I appreciate your kind words.