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Garden Economics

02/21/02 12:00AM By Henry Homeyer

I wish the experts and analysts who dissect the economy were gardeners. Maybe it would help them to become more optimistic, as we gardeners tend to see the glass as half-full, not half empty.

There are natural cycles in the garden. There are years when cucumber beetles eat the leaves off my young squash plants, and I have to replant. Others years? No problem. Some years we have too much rain. Last summer we had a drought. But most obstacles can be overcome, and generally I harvest an adequate number of zucchinis, tomatoes, and beets. And I remain optimistic through it all.

The economy of the country also moves in cycles. Consumer confidence rises and falls. I think the leaders of the country need to be more upbeat, to remind us that dips and swings in the economy are as natural as potato bugs. After all, decisions about layoffs and slowdowns in the manufacturing sector are influenced by the mood of the country.

To me the fall in gasoline prices is good, because I can fill up my tank for less. To others, it means a fall in retail sales, which is bad. But I look around and see no reason for alarm. This is a country with an educated work force and with incredible resources and infrastructure. Most people want to work, and to see their employers do well.

I understand that bad news sells papers, and that politicians want to be seen as saving us from calamity. But I fear that if our leaders keep on telling us the sky is falling, we'll turn into a nation of Chicken Littles.

Every year I try new approaches to gardening, and some of them work, while others don't. I tried new tricks for growing eggplants and for peppers last year. I had a great eggplant crop, but a terrible year for peppers. When I compare notes with my gardening buddies, I tell them first about my eggplants. Only then do I describe my failure with the peppers.

The eggplant trick, by the way, is pretty easy. Eggplants like it hot, so put dark rocks or jugs of water between the plants to absorb the sun's heat during the day. This will help keep them warm at night, particularly if you use row covers.

Bill Clinton, for all his faults, was an upbeat and optimistic president. I once talked to the White House gardener, who told me that the Clintons grew tomatoes in containers on their roof. Perhaps that helped Bill to keep a positive attitude.

So, President Bush, I wish you'd tell us more about our eggplants, and less about the peppers. I understand that not all is perfect with the economy, but we need to hear more about the good news. If we all think positively, perhaps this downturn will be a short one.

This is the gardening guy, Henry Homeyer, from Cornish Flat NH.

--Henry Homeyer is a gardening writer and columnist.




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