January 2022

Diversity, Monoculture, and Greediness

I was looking at some of my past gardening photos and I ran across these pictures from the 2009 garden.



What struck me about these photographs, was the diversity of produce that I was harvesting at the time. I had lettuce, chard, carrots, green beans, radishes, turnips: everything I would need to make a nice salad, or an interesting stir fry. I didn’t have lots of any one item, but I had a little bit of a several vegetables.

You can also tell from the 2009 garden layout that I had planted a lot of different things. The rows were short, but there were many rows.

In 2010, I had longer rows, and less diversity – not quite a monoculture, but certainly less diversity.

I remember when I first planted potatoes, back in 1999 – and how happy I was when I harvested just one big bowl of potatoes. But, as time went on, it was not enough. I wanted more potatoes. I was disappointed a couple of years ago by the number of potatoes I harvested. So that is why, in 2010, I planted three long rows of potatoes. And certainly, having a lot of potatoes did serve us well. We had potatoes well into April. But three rows of potatoes meant less of something else.

Last year I started tomatoes from seed but when I planted them out the weather turned hot and dry for about a week and my poor little seedlings wilted. So off I went to buy some tomato plants and I became rather greedy. I bought a lot of different varieties. I had something like 30 tomato plants. That fall, we canned a lot of tomatoes.

The Pantry - Fall 2010

That means I still have tomatoes canned from last year . I like have a full pantry. But I also like a diverse pantry. It doesn’t take many cucumber plants to get overrun by cucumbers and, consequently, by pickles. So I really don’t need to plant a lot of cucumber plants. Perhaps I still need to plant just as many potatoes as I did last year to last through the winter. But I know I could also get by with planting less tomatoes and still have enough to can to last me over the winter. I also know I don’t have to plant as many edamame beans – since I still have 10 quart bags frozen from last year. What I need to do is figure out how much is enough and how much is too much.  If I operate from an attitude of abundance and not from an attitude of want, then perhaps I will have an abundant garden, full of many different good things to eat.



When I was little, I would get a treat every summer. Once, every summer, my mum would buy me a half-pint of fresh raspberries and I would eat the entire half-pint in one sitting. Back then, raspberries were only available in season, and then, as now, they were very expensive. So I would get just one half-pint a summer. Because of this, or maybe in spite of this, raspberries became my very favorite summer fruit.

So, when I finally had a yard of my own, I was delighted to get some raspberry starts from a friend. I planted them in my small yard behind the little garden beds that I dug. But soon I discovered a downside to raspberries, at least in this part of Indiana. Raspberries bushes seem to be a favorite habitat and food for Japanese Beetles. Just about the time that the fruit was ripe, the Japanese Beetles would descend in droves, buzzing and making it mighty unpleasant for picking raspberries or any other garden produce for that matter.

So eventually I decided that I wanted to move those raspberry bushes somewhere far away from the rest of my garden beds. I still wanted raspberries, just not the accompanying beetles bothering me in my garden. So I dug up the vines and transplanted them outside the fence along the alleyway. Each summer I would try to pick as many raspberries as I could before the beetles came. Surprisingly, there were a few years when there were not very many beetles and I was able to pick raspberries to my heart’s content. But, in other years, the beetles were bothersome. I suspected that the spring weather had something to do with the number of beetles, but I did not keep any records.

One year I tried a technique to force my raspberries to bear in late summer rather than early summer. I cut them all back at the beginning of the spring. True enough, I did get a crop in the late summer, but it wasn’t as abundant as I wanted.

Finally, a couple of years ago I made my peace with the beetles. I decided that I can still pick my berries, and just not get bothered by the beetles. What did it matter that these beetles are buzzing around my head? I am not really bothering them and they are not really bothering me; they are just living their little beetle lives and doing what beetles do and I can do whatever I do and we can live in harmony. I picked raspberries and the beetles buzzed.

Last year, other things drew my attention and I did not tend to the raspberries. So this year they spread and filled up that space on the other side of the fence. And now I have raspberries. I have LOTS of raspberries.













I have more raspberries than I’ve ever had before. Before, I had enough so that I could eat my fill and maybe have just a little bit to share. But this year as I am picking, I am eating my fill and yet my bowls are filling up with the raspberries I pick.

I have so many raspberries that I can even think of preserving some.



And so, I made jam.



Why so many raspberries? I wonder. Maybe because I made peace with the Japanese beetles?