Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Taking Risks

Admittedly I'm a bit of a risk taker when it comes to planting early. But with risk comes reward. Despite my neighbors' warnings last season, I had the first garden in... and the last one out. The hoop houses did wonders. Today I launched in and direct planted just a couple of fairly fragile seedlings as an experiment.

First a cabbage. This one is a real risk. The spindly stem nearly twisted over when I plopped it in the ground. I tried double protecting it from insect invaders by surrounding it with plastic containers with the bottoms cut out. We'll see...

Next, a San Marzano tomato seedling. What was I thinking there? Too cool still for tomatoes. Oh what the heck.

Also some catnip (not pictured) and finally this bush bean, which I have high hopes for.

I remain on rhubarb watch, noticing some small holes on the leaves which have now outgrown the cold frame. Who is chewing on that I wonder?

The green bunching onions are flourishing happily, and you can really feel spring taking hold now. I love watching the garden greening up. You can practically hear the plants growing. There's nothing better than morning tea outside on the lanai. All is well in the world today.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Promise of Gooseberries

I planted a red gooseberry bush last spring and it did absolutely nothing all season. I really didn't expect it to survive the winter, but this spring it is teasing me with robust greenery and the promise of future fruit. I've never had a gooseberry bush before so I am very excited!

The garden is so full of life now. 

Birds of every feather are gathering to sing and dance their mating rituals. Keeping up with the nonstop demand for seed is turning into a full time job. I try to rein in my wild creature feeding addiction but I am a sucker for a hungry little face or beak. It's really best if wild animals forage themselves, it ensures a varied diet. Feasting on nuts from a supermarket just fosters dependency.

Nursing squirrels now battle all over the yard for territory. One hides a nut I've given her for safekeeping while another secretly observes from a distance, then sneaks in to boost it. 

Alas, the poor finches have also had their feeder ravaged by very some naughty Red-winged Blackbirds who have eaten most of the nyger seed.

It's the wild kingdom out here. We have rabbits, raccoon, opossum, skunk, hawks, geese, owls and unfortunately coyotes, but on top of all that, now a neighbor's pigeons have gone rogue to hang out at my feeders as well.

I don't blame them for flying the coop really, the alternative was pigeon pie.

Yes, the garden is flush with life.

Plants are blooming everywhere now. The pale pink hyacinths are up.

Daffodils, pansies and early tulips. I really love this time of year when there is still the slightest nip in the air and everything is fresh and new. The heavy work is yet to begin.

It's been just a perfect Easter Sunday. Hope yours was too.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

You Know You're a Gardener When...

The pants you choose at the Ralph Lauren Outlet sale are dark green because they won't show grass stains.

Friday, April 22, 2011

GMOs Linked to Organ Disruption?

Oh boy. Need another reason to plant an organic heirloom vegetable garden as a food source for your family?

Jeffrey Smith reports on the new study that links kidney and liver organ disruption to the consumption of genetically modified food.

Here's a link to the actual paper on the study.

Dr. Oz did a recent show on this crucial issue and explained the direct connection of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) to the herbicide RoundUp. Jeffrey Smith was a guest on the show. Take a look:


Things are just getting out of hand with food manipulation, in my opinion. The rationale is that genetically-engineered food is necessary because we can produce more of it and do it cheaper and faster with less earth and water. The truth is we need better quality food and we need to eat less of it. We need smaller, more energy efficient housing and fewer developments of monster homes sucking up our agricultural land. Maybe we would all eat a little less if the quality of our food was better.

#1 Heirloom Organic Seeds for vegetables, fruits and grains (fed to us and the animals we eat) 
#2 100% Organically grown foods (no herbicides or pesticides)
#3 BPA-free containers to store it all in

Here are some links to Margaret Roach's excellent blog that deals with the GMO seed issue and how it relates to your garden and your seed order.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Loss of a Friend

It's gloomy weather today, which suits my mood having learned that my friend, Roger Nichols, has died. Roger was a gifted recording engineer who worked with some of the best, from Diana Ross, John Denver and Frank Sinatra, to Placido Domingo and Steely Dan. He won seven Grammys, and could do magic with a mix. A serious fitness buff, Roger was in amazing shape and rode phenomenal distances on his state-of-the-art bike. He would summon me to hike the trails in the mountains up Mulholland Drive, and despite being older than me, left me in the dust heaving for breath.

Roger was a most generous fellow and of such eternally good spirit that he always managed to make light of every negative situation. One day as we were headed up for a hike I noticed Roger's car was making an annoying repetitive beeping sound. He said it was a minor thing that the dealer wanted $500 to fix. "So, now, I like the sound," Roger said. He was just that way. He could find music in anything. Roger generously did a couple of audio mixes for me on some television pitch reels I was working on. All he asked in repayment was a hot meal and well, maybe some of my baked goods. An amazing guy. He'll be deeply, deeply missed. Listen to NPR's salute to him here: NPR Roger Nichols Salute

Preparing a New Potato Bed

Plant us... PLEASE!

Digging into clay is no picnic, especially wet clay but I have to get more of these seed potatoes in soon. A rototiller would really come in handy right about now.

I'm putting in as much compost from the bins as I possibly can to get a better tilth. Improving the structure of clay soil is simply all elbow grease, I'm afraid. Compost, compost, compost. I'm also wondering about adding a little sand to the mix. Horticulturist Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott at Washington State wrote a paper on the subject and stated that not adding enough sand to the soil could be detrimental (if I am reading her paper correctly. Check it out for yourself.) She has a website, The Informed Gardener that busts all sorts of "Horticultural Myths." I'm looking forward to reading through her list, because I find that misinformation gets repeated over and over on the web and sometimes ends up in published articles and is then considered factual. It's wise to absorb as much data as you can on any subject, but experience is always the best teacher of all.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Looking Up

The clouds from my office window this evening.

Self-Sufficiency, etc.

Ah... early tulips popping up between the river rocks. My eyes rejoice at the sight.

Well, I'm off to an early Easter dinner with the in-law contingency, (such a fun group,) but I wanted to leave a few choice links on the blog for those who are starting to think about turning their urban or suburban home into a healthy organic food-growing machine. Anyone can do this. I mean, look at my rhubarb showing spirit and it's only mid-April. Scroll down to the post from April 7th and you'll see it was only a little red nub in the dirt 10 days ago. Now look! That's a rhubarb pie growing there in that tiny patch of earth.

The garlic is looking pretty happy too.

And the bunching onions are now arriving on the scene.

Backyard farming isn't a new idea by a long shot. Here's a link to a 1976 article in Mother Earth News by Julie Reynolds. The Integral Urban House, was a profile of a Victorian home in Berkeley, which Reynolds states was (and I quote) "one of the country's most innovative and successful "urban home-steads.""

See, homesteaders have been reaching into urban centers for well over 30 years, so what are you waiting for? Start with something easy like a pot of patio tomatoes, carrots or strawberries. It's so much fun. For the serious city homesteader there are books a plenty on the subject. Like Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen's 2008 tome, (revised in a 2010 edition) "The Urban Home-stead."

The Urban Homestead (Expanded & Revised Edition): Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City (Process Self-reliance Series)

Apparently the New York Times mentioned that it was "the contemporary bible on the subject."

Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living
Still afraid you'll make a mistake? Take a course. The "Institute of Urban Home-steading"in Oakland, California teaches courses on the practice of sustainable living and they also now have a book out on the subject,"Urban Home-steading, Heirloom Skills For Sustainable Living."

If we all start looking to yards as our potential Eden instead of merely a weed-free chemically treated lawn that (sigh) needs to be mown and edged, then we come so easily to the realization that we should be filing those spaces with fruits, vegetables and herbs that feed our tables. Your yard should work for you, instead of against you. I'm passionate about this. Can you tell?

Have a peaceful Sunday.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

New Beginnings

Spring is such a special time. From the ashes rises the Phoenix.

What was old, is new again.

The hearty of spirit always survive even the darkest winters of desolation.

Joining tender spices that abide through an esprit de corps.

But, it's the veritable fruits with the deepest roots that inevitably will push through to yield anew.

Nature's metaphors are not lost on gardeners. Fertile ground bears the most delicious fruit. The force of nature never wanes... and nor should we.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mulch Magic

This Italian Parsley survived the winter, as did the sage, thyme, strawberries and so many other crops I mulched. I repurposed hay from a local church's Christmas play. It reeked of manure. I wonder what their stage smelled like. But boy did that hay keep the beds all toasty. As of today all seven vegetable beds are now turned, cleaned and ready for action. I pulled out ten potatoes, two turnips and three beets hiding in the soil. Two veggie beds are now planted with four kinds of onions, heirloom purple string beans, garlic and heirloom white carrots.

I also tried to sneak a quickie lettuce crop into the rhubarb bed before the rhubarb took off. I hope it doesn't mind. Just looking for some early tender greens.

Tulips, daffodils and crocus are popping up everywhere. It's so centering to get your hands in the dirt again. Immense satisfaction at a full day in the fresh crisp air.