Archive | April, 2012

The Process

23 Apr

Tulips from the front garden.

“Oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ

tát savitúr váreṇ(i)yaṃ

bhárgo devásya dhīmahi

dhíyo yó naḥ pracodáyāt”

English translation: “We meditate on the adorable glory

of the radiant sun; may he inspire our intelligence.”

Every gardener has their own process. Special shoes to slip on before heading to the garden, a pair of gloves to fit into, a pair of shears to tuck into their apron, a long sigh of anticipation, a smile of expectation. For me, gardening begins with Gayatri Mantra. A Sanskrit mantra, Gayatri invokes the Sun, the light, the force of the Universe to strengthen our prayers, to give power to our intentions. What better way to approach the garden than to ask the Sun to protect our process!

When I first started gardening, I was always so afraid of unintentionally killing plants, of being unable to keep them alive. After a while, I have come to understand that it is inevitable to kill plants. Some will die through no fault of our own. It’s not us, it’s nature! Some live, some die. How presumptuous of us to believe that we have control over life and death!

Sure, the more you garden, the more you understand your plants. The more intune you are to your plant’s signs. More water, less water, more sun, less sun… It become less formulaic and more intuitive. Less plants die at your hands, but some will always die. It’s the inevitability we all face: sure death, our only certainty.

I chant the Gayatri mantra so that my intentions are strengthened, so that I slow down, strip down to the core of my human form, that which is nature, that which is dirt, just like my plants. And from that notion of sameness I can approach them not from attachment to their result, but from the joy that comes from basking in the sun with my spiritual equals.


Playing Doctor

18 Apr

Ill Aloe Vera

There is another illness in the garden. The Aloe Vera is sick. Her leaves have softened, the tips of some have shriveled, the bright green has turned brownish. I don’t know what the offender might be. I wait for the soil to dry before watering, so I know I’m not over-watering or under-watering. I don’t place her in direct sun. I have not seen any bugs on her leaves or on the soil.

My only hypothesis is that there is something wrong with the soil. My instinct said to re-pot her, so that’s what I did. I transplanted her in a bigger pot, made sure to shake off as much old soil as possible from her roots, and placed her in brand new soil.

New pot, new soil.

I cut the pieces that were most damaged. I saved them for a skin lotion. I scraped out the pulp, placed in a small container with a lid, mixed with some warm water, shut tight, and refrigerated. Aloe Vera is great for scrapes and burns. I usually just cut the tip of a leaf as needed, but given that I had to remove these leaves, I decided to keep for later.

The Aloe Vera is one of my favorite plants. They are usually pretty easy to take care of, and the relief of their pulp on scrapes and burns is immediate and better than those triple-antibiotic lotions. I hope new soil was all she needed. I will update on her condition later this week.

Update on the Basil: The tobacco tea worked! I have not seen any new holes on the leaves, and she is recuperating nicely. Yay tobacco!

Basil in recovery!

New to the Family

16 Apr

June-bearing Strawberries

Today I had to return to Paulino Gardens for more potting soil. Last year I had an infestation of white jumping lice and this year most of my big pots still have it. How could they have survived the winter? I put the soil aside and am not using it, until I figure out if I can get rid of the lice. I wonder if the tobacco tea would work. (Any ideas would be greatly welcomed!) This means more soil to buy. If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that there’s no skimping on price on soil. It literally is a life or death situation for the plants.

I buy Espoma Organic Seed Starter Soil for the tender seeds, and EKKO Organic Potting Soil for the established plants. It’s wonderful soil!

While shopping for soil, I couldn’t stop myself from wandering to the plant section. I ended up buying a Plectranthus tomentosa, or Vicks Plant, a Strawberry plant, and Edamame seeds. I’m very excited about all three. If you have a kid that spends any time with other kids, daycare especially, you know how important it is to have Vicks Vapor-Rub around. I’m looking forward to making my own homemade version using the natural plant.

Plectranthus tomentosa, (Vicks Plant) It's leaves are gorgeous!

Said kid also adores strawberries, so what better fruit plant to have?

Edamames are so versatile, fruitful, and don’t require a lot of space. I bought the “Envy” variety, which grows to about three feet tall, and is a short season crop with only 75 days to harvest.  I’m looking forward to making my own tofu!

Edamames "Envy" variety. Before sowing, soak for 24 hours.

Oh, this Spring is beautiful! After a frosty, windy, chilly day yesterday, today it’s back to the 60s! Can’t wait to head out to the garden!

Reuse, reduce, repot

14 Apr

Dill in the Trash Can

I found my dill growing again this year! It was such a sweet surprise! Welcome old friend! I grow dill in a repurposed plastic trash can (the bathroom kind) filled about halfway with soil. I find it a perfect spot since dill grows so tall. It is better protected from the wind, and the summer sun. I just drilled holes in the bottom, and presto! The perfect dill pot!

Nice pots are too expensive for me. If I grew one or two plants in a season then the price would merit it, but growing 50 plants… the price adds up! What’s a girl to do?

Last year I used an old recycling bin to grow plants for Plant a Row for the Hungry (an awesome program by the way, and deserving of a separate post one of these days). Again, as with the trash can, I simply drilled holes in the bottom for drainage.

Notice the red rectangle recycling bin in the background, and the lavender container in the foreground. Photo from 06/2011

I also grew cucumber seeds in these halloween decorations. I didn’t use them for growing this year since it proved a little uncomfortable for transplanting. Keep this in mind with containers that are oddly shaped and narrow. They are now my toddler’s “pots” where I let him play with soil.

This year I’m growing Redina Lettuce in this .50 cent tin from the thrift store. It seems too frail to drill holes through, so instead I placed rocks in the bottom to help the soil drain through.

Redina Lettuce in a red tin thrift store find

The thrift store is the best place to find inexpensive pots (if you go before the growing season starts!). Sometimes they have really nice terracotta ones for a few bucks, or they have other type of bowls or trash cans, or vases that can be repurposed in less than five minutes! I also save all those plastic pots that come with new plants and I reuse them for the in-between transplanting of plants.

I have been meaning to go above and beyond and put some effort into decorating these odd items turned pots, but it always remains in my to-do list unchecked. Maybe this will be the year I actually get to it… maybe I’ll let my toddler play with paints…

dandelion salad

11 Apr

Weeds are nature’s graffiti.  ~Janice Maeditere

Dandelions are popping up all over the garden. I have always had a love/hate relationship with them. Although I admire their strength and determination, and undying persistence so common in weeds; I also abhor seeing them pop up in between my plants in the garden. Instead of ripping them out and laying them to waste, I like to eat them. Everything in my garden is used!

The young greens make for a great salad.  They taste like arugula. To offset the bitterness, I mix in some strawberries. Here’s a recipe for the dandelion salad I had today:

Dandelion young greens (from my garden)
Chives (from my garden)
Oil and Vinegar
Lemon Juice (a few drops)

Toss and enjoy!

As for the dandelion flower heads, I have been harvesting them to make a dandelion wine. More on that next week!

containing the contagion

9 Apr

It’s barely April, but tireless aphids don’t keep calendars. I have my first plant in quarantine. The young pretty basil has been infected. To contain the contagion, aside from removing from the other plants, I tried a tobacco and catnip tea.

A youngen herself, the Burley Tobacco plant teamed up with the teen catnip and donated some of their leaves to the cause. Before taking any leaves, I usually sit with the plant and give a prayer of permission and gratitude at her offering.

I chopped the few leaves and placed in a shallow bowl. I let them soak in water for 48 hours. I seeped through a strainer, and sprayed on the basil leaves and stems.

Since the basil is a small plant to begin with, I only used a few leaves of both the tobacco and the catnip.

Tobacco is said to be a natural insecticide. The effects are short-lived so it does not harm the plants. Do not spray on peppers, tomatoes, or any other member of the nightingale family as they are very sensitive to tobacco. Catnip is also said to be an excellent bug repellant, especially for larger bugs like cockroaches, mosquitoes, and caterpillars. I added a few leaves of catnip for an extra kick, but it would not have been absolutely necessary. I anticipate spraying the basil a couple of times in the next two weeks.

When I first bought the Burley Tobacco plant from the nursery, I thought it was more of a curiosity, a conversation piece. I had not anticipated she would be put to work. But she jumped at the chance!

I hope this tea takes care of the aphids before Mother’s Day (date of last possibility of frost for Colorado) when they will be transplanted in the garden plot.

Easter Tomatoes!

8 Apr

Yesterday was a busy day at the garden. I transplanted the butternut squash, and some of the tomatoes. The tomatoes, my beautiful tomatoes. My little helpers, the kind of kids you can rely on to set the table every night. Reliable and trustworthy, if you love them, they love you back.  I’m growing several different varieties this year, and had started well.  I shouldn’t have touched them. I know better. They are not strong enough to endure the change, their roots are still too weak to grab on to new soil, they didn’t even have their second set of leaves! They were getting too tall for the greenhouse. And more importantly, I was impatient. My ego got the best of me. “But you can nurse them!” The mind will say anything. I thought yesterday marked the day of the Tomato Massacre. After a prayer of forgiveness, I started anew and sowed more tomato seeds. I promised to practice patience.

This morning I woke up to seeing the presumed dead had come back to life! How appropriate that they rose to life on Easter! Tomato Zombies or Christian Tomatoes?! The Universe works in mysterious ways!

I sowed the herb seeds yesterday as well. Two varieties of cilantro, another sweet basil, italian parsley, borage to keep bugs away, and another catnip. I also sowed the marigolds. They’re excellent bug repellants, and help out their tomato friends.

All in all, it was a great weekend for the garden. Gripping emotion and supernatural effects included. Happy Easter!

climbing over the crib’s rails

7 Apr

Today I transplanted the butternut squash. They were outgrowing their seedling greenhouse. Their leaves were grazing the ceiling, in an attempt, I am certain, of pushing through, throwing the infamous rock on the glass ceiling, and asserting their independence. Squash plants are stubborn and strong. Like rebellious teenagers and historical leaders, they find it easy to claim their own space, and their own pace to gather control of themselves and their environment. This is painting them in a good light, and because my perception of them comes from love. Others might describe them as bullies or imperialist dictators, taking over land that does not belong to them, suffocating their neighbors for light, territory, and resources. Still, right now they are my independence-seeking toddlers, who have outgrown their cribs, and are insisting on that coveted Disney character bed. With a bit of a heavy heart, for they are no longer my tiny babies, I have complied. They stand happy in their new abodes, a bit confused and apprehensive about the change, but at the same time claiming victory over my compliance.

As I laid them in their pots, I reassured them, and whispered, in that annoying baby talk reserved for infants. They smiled at me and loudly declared “We are not babies anymore, mama”. Very well, it was a lesson that will undoubtedly prepare me for my own human toddler.

Now that their greenhouse spots are empty, it’s time to sow more seeds!

peeking through the soil

5 Apr

Twas the beginning of April, and all through the land, seedlings were sprouting and facing the sun! This is it plant lovers, the beginning of another gardening season. Another year as a grower has arrived, and dreams of lush greens, juicy vegetables, and dirty hands have wrapped around my every waking moment.

I started seeds early and they have sprouted.  I bought a greenhouse seedling starting tray and it has worked wonders. (Only $5.99 at Paulino Gardens) Most of the seeds have sprouted, and are doing well. I have tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, squash, and beets to nurse into life. My chives from last year are waking up, as am I, merrily humming George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun.

I hope to use this blog as a way to document my garden’s successes and failures. It’ll be a better way to keep track of my progress than relying solely on memory. I also hope to share my reflections on gardening. After all, any grower knows that gardening is about growing more than plants. It is about spiritual, mental, and body growth. It is feeling the sun’s rays all the way in your soul. It is expanding your intellectual knowledge of plants, species, soil and chemistry. It is developing stronger muscles, and welcoming the soreness of physical labor. It is about getting your hands dirty and playing, experimenting, reading, and feeling the passion inherent in seeing your babies grow. By writing this blog, I hope to capture glimpses of my progress, both as a gardener, a mother, and a person in this Earth, connected to the planet that houses her, to the plants that feed her.

Comments, advice, and general well wishes are greatly appreciated! Happy Growing!

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