Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Ah, how we all lean into the sun.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Patience is a prerequisite

"Patience is commonly held to be a gardener's most important virtue, but since a gardener without patience is unimaginable, patience is less a virtue than it is a prerequisite for being a gardener in the first place."

- J├╝rgen Dahl, The Curious Gardener

The peas finally came up. Eh hem. I put some of those babies out a month ago. And then replanted. Poor things.

And this is what happens when you decide that the chive seeds just couldn't do it at 70 degrees. They wanted it colder, or warmer. Anyway, they're not coming. And then you plant basil seeds on top of them. And then the chives come up.

There is a drive as I get better at this to push things, to use skill and tools to hurry things. You feel it at the market certainly: those producers with big hot houses, who get their tomatoes in a week earlier, or a nice sandy south-facing slope that lets them bring a crop of asparagus to the market in March - people hop all over them. They're like celebrities. With certain home gardeners, too, there is a slight sense of competition, "Oh, you have eggplants . . ." And then there is the practical factor of just getting a melon to ripen before the days are too short again. Dahl talks a lot and well about the gardener's sense of time, how the plants teach us about our time in the rest of our lives, how, unlike us, they really can't be hurried. The trick of course, is to be ready when they're ready. To be prepared, sensitive, aligned. To have the plan and the seeds, the free time, the intuition, the observations - so that on the first day of the first stretch of true summer weather you happen to be in the mood to put the first beans in the ground. This trick reminds me of motherhood, and of other sensitive, resilient, extremely variable interfaces in my life: if you do it just a little wrong, you can hardly tell in the long run. The peas still come up, the basil and the chives, they still come up, they still grow. But if you do it right, you can tell. You step on the moving sidewalk of life, and it just carries you.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sixty degrees and Sunny

Truli came over for the first time and told me about the sewer credit for buying a tree. We stood around in the yard in t-shirts and drank beer.

Read a bit in the NYT about stay-at-home chicken keepers, of whom I am clearly one. Funny to finally be a joiner, and without knowing it, too. But I believe in this movement, not so much to make ladies feel better, but to give them the power to make this economy over in a new way. As KJ can say better than I, providing empowering opportunities for women in developing nations improves their children's lives, decreases the birth rate, lessens deforestation and other environmental degradation, works against the sex trade and the spread of HIV, etc. Basically, ladies having control over their income is a good thing. So many of the programs that I think really work, like Heifer, Global Sistergoods, and Women for Women, work to give women earning power without taking them away from their children. Unlike the global migrant labor market. And unlike the feminist women-in-the-workforce revolution, which has made child-rearing (some would say child-having) directly opposed to career achievement. It sure seems like instead of trying to fit into an economy invented by men, for men, the truly feminist thing would be to find a new, more cooperative, local, equity-based, family-friendly, and yes, home-made and backyard-grown, way to support ourselves, our families - and each other.

In other news, I can't believe what those seed potatoes (from last years harvest) did in the basement, but I put them in some pots anyway. Such hard work; seems like they deserve a real chance.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

These are the questions

1. Tomatoes. Where to put the tomatoes? According the extremely loose rotational system, they were supposed to go in 2 this summer. They can't go in 1 because they were in 1 last summer, and also to a certain degree the summer before. Really, 2 would be perfect once I pull out and devour all the bolted (raab!) brassicas, except that last summer the tomato plants that were near the kale were half as big as their otherwise identically raised brethren. Some companion sheets that you find on the web say that tomatoes and brassicas are friends, and usually that is enough to make me discount all the other other information for that website. Did no one check? Or did they just have completely opposite results? So 2 is feeling bad to me. Even once they're gone, all the brassica-promoting chemistry (what Steve Solomon calls root exudates) and microbes are still there, right? And that bed was brassica central this winter. I wish I had someone else's experience to back mine up, but I'm not going to get half as many tomatoes this summer testing my hypothesis. So. 3. The cover, which we would need to use to keep the tomatoes growing anyway, is already there. There's been kale in there, but not much, and not for long. But this is what it looks like:

So I just clean it out on the double, right? Eat a lot of greens, leave some parsley and almost all the leeks and just stick those little tomatoes in there and hope for the best. This is what I'm going to do, although I don't like it. Harvesting to bare ground is not my strong suit.

2. The new boxes.

Hand me downs. Treated wood. Flowers. Melons. Broccoli?

3. Starts

Since I did forget these guys on the picnic table last night and they came out ok (although watch those f*ing broccolis just bolt in three weeks) it seems like it's time to just get them in already.
- Radicchio? Where? And why is it not red? I thought I got this variety specifically because the stuff (treviso?) that I had the last two years wasn't red, wasn't heading, grew great and was not what I wanted at all. But here I am with a new seed packet and green seedlings.
- Broccoli. Issue as stated above. These things, if they are anything like the ones that bolted prematurely in fall 08, will get giant. Why am I so determined to grow them? Well, why is sprouting broccoli so hard to get in the stores? Huh?
- Chard. These guys are so flopsy. They will be so happy to be up to their necks in dirt. And so pretty with the flowers. But the treated bed thing. They are at least three years old. Does it really matter still?
- Sunflowers. Still inside but so big. They are getting squeezed as I type. Experiment continues.

4. Will the new gravel pit hold its draw all summer? Will it be shaded enough? Where does one get (small, metal, cheap) kids pails and shovels and rakes? Hmm. Hope it's the goodwill.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


It froze last night. Probably just a little. I'm just saying. Even though this seems like such an early spring and the daffodils are just drowning in cherry blossoms, it is not safe out there. And I almost left those soft little broccolis on the picnic table.


I finally realized that although I would rather be in the garden than looking at this stupid computer, there is a need for record keeping. And I tried the little spiral bound book style. And it sucked.


Fall 07: begin habitation. soil test. sheet mulch approx two rows.

- lesson: don't try to plant in unfinished soil (because nothing grows)

spring 08: rototil and heavily amend mulched area, add a row

-lessons: people grow in rows for a reason; don't grow too many tomatoes; peppers that touch the soil rot before they're ripe

winter 09:

lessons: MUD; sprouting broccoli (at the least the kind i got from Territorial) grows giant and then dies in the first weenie frost. not so kale, lettuce, spinach. spacing, spacing, spacing: not enough; too much.

early spring 09: cloche up; peas, favas, spinach, radishes, winter mix, spring onion Feb 20 in cloche in center row (#2) - first attempt at peas:radishes:lettuce:radishes:peas (whatever that's called); worked pretty well; peas shaded out lettuce eventually but that's mostly because i am a pussy when it comes to harvesting; only the onions mystified me - they never made much of themselves but i think they're still out there trying (! i think maybe peas are bad for onions ?); first salad harvest March 6 for Cynthia's b-day: miner's, mache, spinach: so proud. and the garlic! effortless! and the shallots! who knew?!

lessons: cloche rocks. miner's lettuce rocks. corn salad ditto. escarole double ditto. did i mention garlic and shallots.

also the whole starts in the basement with flourescent lights set-up happened at this time. toms, basil, peppers started feb ? toms up to bigger pots March 18; start lettuce and cabbage inside, lettuce outside.

lessons: lettuce starts rock. i didn't even know i could grow heading lettuce. the inside of a solid head of lettuce is like cotton candy. what are all those goombahs with the tiny leaf mixes doing? fava beans are so beautiful but definitely a calorie loss.

summer 09: row #1: wall of tomatoes (more san marzanos? earlier?) that all fell down and rotted because of that dumb biodegradable twine but i still canned! some of our own! sauce! tomatoes, one poor cucumber (more cucumbers!), volunteer winter squash crowding everything like crazy and making the twine break, some sorry peppers (though i dried a bunch of little hot ones), some bolted-ass basil. row#2: favas, peas (be still my heart how zelda felt about those peas; more peas!), various and sundry small greens and such underfoot. row #3: garlic, shallots, giant cabbages, bush beans we had to pull out before they were done, nasturtiums (more nasturtiums!)

and then there was that whole other garden called southside: corn, squash (less squash!), beans (plant sequentially, fool!), volunteer winter squash (kabocha and delicata)

and then there was this:

lessons: don't start your basil too early, you won't even know what to do with it and then you will hate it and let it get giant and it will bolt. peppers that touch the ground will rot before they're ripe. just generally putting potatoes in the ground anywhere is not a good technique. cabbages make an unbelievable amount of food. automatic, overhead watering is where it's at. still, leaving in the middle of the summer is a mistake. the beans that you plant at once all come ripe at once. everything they say about zucchinis doubling overnight is true. the whole volunteers from the worm bin thing. grow what you can harvest. be ruthless. you can try again next year. there is lead in our dirt.

fall 09: building boxes, even though we swore against it, to raise dirt level above contamination because we are growing a brain here after all. one whole row dedicated to cloche greens and leeks #3, one to exposed brassicas #2, tomato row (#1) mulched with straw from chicken area (which now i think was not such a good idea). razed southside garden. stuck some garlic, shallots, lots of daffodils all around under the trees. we'll see how that works out.

lessons: put flowers everywhere, they make you so happy and the lettuces like them.

lessons cont: i do not know what to say about these potatoes.

lessons cont: learning how and when to interplant, getting better at thinning for eating, liking the look of it better all the time, but man is my (developing) style inefficient (long on puttering hours of harvesting). chard = amazing. mustards must be the fastest food you can grow not in the summer.

winter 09 and spring 10 together because time feels like it is moving quickly and i am sick of typing this:

row #2 (planted mid-august): did well considering late planting date. ate lots of chard - which was there since spring - until it bit the dust in december (should have cut it all), ate kale, collards, but hestitant harvesting because of appearance and how much does it need to grow well in spring? anyway, it all did. also sorrel in row #2 and under cloche in row 3.

row #3: so much f-ing parsley. i said i was going to do it and i did. all the greens i have seeds for pretty much. continual harvest, though only for special occasions during dec-jan. hopefully i will always remember that i spent winter solstice (between parties) harvesting salad for big dinner at P & H. pretty much completely awesome. already can't remember what else i put in the salad. think it was january when we (me and babies) harvested the brussels for dinner with same cats. i bet they made something awesome. so sad that i can't recall at all.

and then spring came early even for here, and everything grew.

row #1: attempted (extremely detailed, to be transcribed when i have a lot of laundry to fold) pea planting scheme starting feb 20; no evidence 14 days later; dug up some of the rows and replanted march 6. still no sign from 2.20 planting or 3.2. i think it's the damn mulch that i couldn't remove all the way because it is all broken down. see: lessons, fall 08. on 3.8 (i think) i put left-over fava seeds and a row of Dwarf Grey in row #2 where the rotting chard stumps were. so sad about the peas. maybe give up on row 1 for a while. sigh.

row #2: everything bolting, ecstatic, lush. though not grown enough to get good raabe. but so many leaves! went to groc. yesterday and bought only meat and grapefruit. last week made lentil-sorrel soup from d. madison. personal triumph. but what am i going to do in there? cut it all and plant peas?

row #3: crazy overgrown mess gradually being thinned into the perpetual salad bag in fridge. better hurry up. is this where the tomatoes are supposed to go? tomatoes and herbs? or break up the tomatoes? put some in the pots where the potatoes are supposed to go? stupid tomatoes. leeks still finger thin; pull em and eat em? or wait?

oh and then the starts. but that's not history, that's the present. thank god.