A Gardener’s Earth Day

Yesterday was Earth Day. Begun officially in 1970, Earth Day is an annual event designed to increase awareness and appreciation of our natural environment and is designated as April 22 every year. Many communities and volunteer groups use the day as an opportunity to improve and clean up their local landscapes. It often receives a marginal amount of publicity and press as it approaches and then, regretfully, is ceremoniously forgotten until the next April.

While millions of people need to be reminded to stop and smell the roses, literally and figuratively, gardeners are able to celebrate Earth Day on any day of the calendar. We live the environmental awareness and appreciation that Senator Gaylord Nelson envisioned when he proposed the concept in the late 1960s. For gardeners, nature and all it has to offer is in our blood and sweat.

 

My garden on Earth Day

This year I didn’t do anything special for Earth Day, other than being a gardener. As I went about my day participating in typical gardening activities I was aware periodically that it was Earth Day, but there were no banners or balloons and no thought that my activities would only take place on this one day. I worked to improve my environment and prepared to increase awareness of it to others, but I do that almost every day. However, this year Earth Day did provide some personal milestones.

I mowed the lawn for the first time this year. Recent wet snow and warm temperatures seemed to increase the growth of the grass dramatically and it was long and shaggy in sections. Even with a mulching mower the grass clippings were too long to leave on the grass, a practice I highly recommend to return nutrients to the soil. So I bagged the clippings and added them to my compost piles to help kickstart them into action.

Fresh-mowed grass

Green grass is a great nitrogen source for compost piles and my piles were a little dry and brown after sitting through the winter. Leaving the grass clippings on top of the pile can lead to matting and isn’t an efficient way to add them. I thoroughly turned the piles for the first time this season to incorporate the grass. My compost piles spent Earth Day waking up.

I brought out plastic sheets and built hoophouses in my garden, but not because it was Earth Day. I’m about a month away from my last frost date but I want to get some tomatoes in the ground. The hoophouses will help warm the soil and in a week I’ll bring out the season extenders, my Wall-o-Waters. Last year I had good success planting tomatoes a few weeks early and I’ll do it again.

Future home of tomatoes

I finished the chicken run yesterday by attaching the last outside door latch and by building the ramp the chickens will take from their coop. There are a few clean-up items to accomplish but the chickens are in the coop and will soon be exploring their outdoor environment. In a few months we’ll be collecting fresh eggs. This small effort at improving the sustainability of our plot of land has nothing to do with yesterday being Earth Day; it’s just something we want to do.

The chicken ramp

I continued preparing some trees for planting. The Arbor Day Foundation send me 10 small trees after a recent donation; something I do regularly, not just on Earth Day. I’ve been hardening them off by putting them outside during the day so they aren’t overly stressed when I plant. Yesterday was the last day of hardening off. I don’t think all of the trees will survive my winter, but I’ve chosen good spots to give them the best chance. Even the success of one tree will improve the environment.

Yesterday was the first time I spotted new asparagus spears. I planted 20 crowns last year and they did well until the snows came. I’ve been a little worried that they didn’t survive the winter, but they did and I can relax about their fate. They didn’t know it was Earth Day; they emerged when they were ready.

New asparagus spears

Don’t misconstrue my Earth Day attitude. Earth Day is a wonderful celebration. It brings environmental awareness to mind for many people who foolishly overlook it on a daily basis. It invigorates many groups, particularly youth, to make major improvements to city parks or blighted areas. In a few participants those activities might be a spark that ignites a desire to live a life dedicated to beneficial environmental knowledge and sustainability.

I call that mindset being a gardener. I think it would be great if everyone were a gardener, every day. That won’t happen, but I can do my part by spreading the word and encouraging more people to become gardeners. Earth Day highlights the concept and shows what is possible when people devote time and attention to the idea.

To me the best way to celebrate Earth Day is to make it a continuous event. Treat every day you’re in the garden as if it were special, one worthy of media attention. Strive to make others aware of your environmental activities and hope to ignite the gardening spark in just one other person; and then repeat that over and over.

Whether you mow your lawn, turn your compost pile, raise chickens, grow trees, worry about your plants’ progress, or not, get involved in your environment. Get outside and live April 22 every time you get the opportunity.

Today I’ll continue my work to gopher proof my garden; deer proofing comes next. Trees will be planted. Plants will be watered. Weeds will be dealt with. The list of gardening chores will get longer. And I’ll finish this blog article.

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