I recently was asked if I was familiar with local gardening guru Carol Deppe’s new book “The Resilient Gardener” (Chelsea Green Publishing Co., 2010).
The name was vaguely familiar, but I had not heard of the book. Oregon State University’s bookstore had it in stock, so I bought it. (Please don’t tell my wife I purchased another gardening book).
There really is no substitute for a regional authority. Deppe is a local gardener and plant breeder with a PhD in biology from Harvard University.
There are 12 chapters that run the gamut from “Gardening in an Era of Wild Weather and Climate,” which is chapter 3, to separate chapters on corn, beans and potatoes. I jumped to the one on wild weather and climate change. Deppe presents several points concerning climate change: Historically we have had radical shifts in climate regime both on a local level as well as global.
She makes a point that the local change can have a greater implication and impact upon our gardening habits, such as colder arctic air becoming the norm as opposed to an increase of a few degrees globally.
I particularly liked the part about how war, famine and climate change in the Middle Ages led to some wholesale changes in agriculture. Grain was the primary grain being grown in the 14th century. The little ice age that lasted from 1300 to 1850 changed all that. Grains do not like the cool, wet weather that persisted for years. The resulting famine, coupled with wars, encouraged the peasant farmers to diversify. They did this by growing vegetables, root crops, fruits, pasture and forage crops. Legumes such as peas and beans became more common, as well as raising forage for livestock. Animals became much more integral to farm production than they previously were. Rotation of crops became more common.
Does all this sound a bit familiar? Well it should; this is the agricultural model our forebears brought from Europe to America.
I’ll continue to share Deppe’s vision in future columns. If you can’t wait like me, just buy the book.