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Begin Preparations For Y2K Gardens
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
As a kid, I longed for 1986 when Haley's Comet would streak across the sky. Others quaked in fear of that ominous comet that comes around every 70-something years. Now, many of the same omens are forecast for the year 2000.
If the Y2K millennium bug brings the days, weeks, maybe months of chaos predicted, our children will have interesting survival stories to tell their children. This fear of the unknown seems like a good time to make some horticultural hay while everything is going well.
Plan now for a Y2K garden that will be much like our grandparents' Victory Gardens during World War II. Prepare to dry fruits and vegetables and can vegetables like people did during the big war. We can be ready for the grocery shelves that will supposedly be bare as they are when a hurricane approaches.
Experts tell us that vegetable gardening is down to about 30 percent versus flower gardening, which is at an all time high. Let's promote Y2K produce gardens. These gardens will be a revival of spirits, a time of remembering our youth, recollecting the pantries full of county fair winning jars of produce. Could we go wrong teaching our kids about gardening for food?
Instead of spending dollars walking the treadmill, pumping iron and doing sit-ups, we could put those dollars toward building some raised-bed gardens, and get our exercise from using the spade, pulling weeds or picking some squash for canning. Instead of sweating in the sauna or steam room, we can perspire in the garden.
Where do you begin if you haven't gardened in a decade? Like Pike's Family Nurseries in Atlanta says in their commercials, it's fun to play in the dirt again. That is where you begin. Choose a site in full sun and start your soil preparation as soon as it is dry enough to work.
Since your objective is to put up produce for Y2K, then why not grow an intensive garden? Try a series of raised beds four to five feet wide and segregated into blocks. This will allow for easy working from all sides.
Then decide what your family likes to eat and what gives good yields. Consider both interplanting and succession planting. An example of interplanting would be lettuce or spinach around caged tomatoes, or growing climbing beans up corn stalks.
Succession planting means keeping one crop growing right after another all the way until fall's freezing temperatures. It might be nice to have a cold frame to block winds and freezing temperatures for fresh greens growing this time next year.
Mississippi State University offers a lot of help to get you gardening again. County Extension offices have the free Garden Tabloid, publication number 1091. They also have access to the Extension Bookshelf on the World Wide Web for articles like "Back to the Basics: Drying Vegetables," publication number 723 and "Canning Vegetables" publication number 1540. If you have Internet access, you can find these and others at MSUcares.com.
Maybe the recent hurricanes and ice storms with power failures were our Y2K pretest. I know I am looking forward to gardening into the next millennium.