LAURA DIAZ DE ARCE
It started with a basil plant that refused to die.
It was the middle of January when Publix had put the basil plants for sale. I was doing some recipe that called for fresh basil, and there was a negligible price difference between the plant and a bushel. As the plant contained more basil, I thought what the hell, why not? I took it home, took some leaves, left it outside by the door and promptly forgot about it.
For context, I have murdered an obscene number of plants with my general lack of attentiveness.
Basil was no such exception. I had murdered its kind before, others that I had also gotten at Publix on a whim and a sale had fallen victim to my blasé approach to herb care. But this little sucker refused to keel over. Or, at least, it was so slow to shrivel I would throw a bit a water on it on my way out and it would perk up.
After a time I noticed that yes, this plant was still alive and I began to wonder if I could do more. Grow more. I have since sprouted tomatoes, black beans, dill, cilantro, cucumber, radishes all from seeds. Plus a few small plants that I have repotted and grown. I have began a little container garden and working to make a large vegetable patch in our small backyard. Whereas before I was inattentive, now I go out and water all my new seedlings with a hand spray bottle. This past weekend I re-potted the basil plant & sang “Hey Jude” to the thing while it moved to a larger pot.
I can scarcely recognize myself.
Underneath it all, much of this action is fueled by distress. There is more than a little Chicken Little in me in that I have a tendency to be an alarmist. I am perpetually worried about catastrophes and especially in light of what seems to be accelerating climate change plus the constant threat of political upheaval, my Chicken Little-ness does not seem particularly unreasonable. Then, these past few months when Florida was hit with sudden cold spurts which we do not regularly experience, I, panicking, tried to keep my new tomatoes alive. They survived, but if this is me with just a few herbs and vegetables, I wonder how people who rely on their homegrown food to survive do it.
There is an undercurrent of urgency as to why I’ve gotten into gardening. This is my version of doomsday prepping. In the event of a large scale economic collapse or environmental catastrophe, I want to be able to provide food for my loved ones. Or at very least, if times are hard, not spend money on herbs.
But this “hobby” has lead me to become obsessed with food growth in an almost distressing way. I stay up late, watching gardening videos on different conditions in case everything goes belly up soon. There is more than one time where I have sat in my underwear watching instructions on aquaponics at 3AM.
Why aquaponics? Because HEY! We could go through an unseasonable summer and I can grow delicate herbs indoors and it would be a good system to use if nuclear war sets as long as we have access to bottled water that has not become radioactive and…
I’ve even sized up my bins and looked into water pumps.
It’s not my fault really. Behind a lot of the gardening hobbyists in online communities is also this belief system that yes, disaster is coming. We may as well be prepared. In that, I’m not alone in my ever increasing paranoia and seed hoarding.
A lot of people get into gardening for an eco-friendly hobby. Something delicate and enjoyable. But here I am, planning for the end of times. Looking into vegetable rotation, having a home compost bin, and converting our tiny front lawn into a working garden.
At least when shit hits the fan I’ll have tomatoes.
Laura Diaz de Arce is a writer and general malcontent from South Florida. She mostly writes for Smoking Mirror Press in between angry letters to her congressmen. Her story ‘Without Him (And Him, And Him) There is No Me’ appears in Tragedy Queens: Stories Inspired by Lana Del Rey & Sylvia Plath OUT NOW from CLASH Books. Check out her work at smokingmirrorpress.com
You can find her complaining in ALL CAPS on Twitter @QuetaAuthor