Duchess of Dirt, educating readers for 10 years

'Sophie's Choice' tomatoes are good for growing in small spaces as the plant will just grow twenty-four to thirty inches tall, but will produce three-inch diameter fruit.
— image credit: Photo by Leslie Cox

Wow. My Duchess of Dirt column is celebrating 10 years this month. This very week, in fact.

Looking back through my history file, this translates into quite a few articles on a variety of gardening-related topics. When it comes to a garden, there is never any loss in finding something to talk about. I just hope I have been diverse enough to cover interesting topics for the readers.

First and foremost, I view my column as an educational tool. In my opinion, everyone should spend at least a little time each day, or week, in a garden. The rewards are phenomenal.

At the top of the list is its benefits as a stress reliever. If you do not do anything else in a garden, tend a small flower and herb garden. Add a dish big enough to hold water for a bird bath. Add a chair and just sit. Stroke your rosemary, rub your palm gently over your oregano, crush a mint leaf. Now breathe.

Next on the rewards list is eating fresh from your veggie garden. Cannot beat it. No excuse if you only have a patio or small garden. There are lots of vegetables that come in a smaller form...perfect for growing in pots.

'Sophie's Choice' tomato, for instance. The plant only gets twenty-four to thirty inches (60-75 cm) tall. Place a tomato cage overtop to give support for the prolific, three inch (7.5 cm) diameter fruits. Sow some lettuce seeds around the tomato plant and you have a cut and come again instant salad. Just be sure to keep it watered.

Just a hint though. If you are bothered by deer, omit the lettuce unless you can place your planter in an enclosed space that will get at least six hours of sunlight. The tomato plant will be okay. Deer do not like them. (Pssst...they also do not like most herbs.)

Keeping on the educational tract...I admit I have been a little less forthcoming in my column about the darker side of the gardening world. Specifically...genetic engineering.

I have touched on this subject three times in ten years and have heard from Monsanto twice. Another wow! Don't think that is scary coming from a multi-national company? Think again.

Have also had communications from others on this subject...and well, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I know where I stand on the matter.

But local or multi-national, I will not be stopped from writing about a controversial subject if I believe the readers should know. Heck. Monsanto has my email address already. What have I got to lose?

And that brings me smack up against another disturbing development in the gardening arena. Bill C-18, the Agricultural Growth Act. If you are not familiar with this, you should be.

This Bill, which has already had second reading in the house, actually covers quite a few amendments. But of paramount concern...if passed...this Bill will take away all rights of farmers and small scale gardeners to sell seed they have collected from their own plants. No more small seed companies selling local seed. No more Seedy Saturday events...unless it is strictly to exchange seed packets, not money. But how does this help the local economy? We will all be forced to buy our seed from the "Big Five" - Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, DuPont and Bayer - who currently already control roughly eighty percent of the seed market.

I think that is quite enough rights in their pockets. It is my hope the readers will reflect on this, take heed and stand up for the little seed companies. Before it is too late.

Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is at and her column appears every second Thursday in the Record.

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