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Lazy Sunday

17 Jun

Borage flower

There’s nothing lazy about this Sunday in the garden, but it is a lazy Sunday for the blog. I’m in the process of staking my tomatoes, a post will be coming up about that this week. I’m taking an iced coffee break because it’s scorching hot right now.

I’ve opted to just post some pictures:

Happy Sunday, Happy Father’s Day, Happy Gardening!

Eggplant to be

Spinach Harvest

Garlic scapes

Garlic flowering

 

Easy on Fridays: Spice it Up!

15 Jun

Yum!

Mock chicken (Gardein) spiced with a lavender sprig, dill leaves, and chives and garnished with some micro-greens. All spices and garnish fresh from the garden. Bon appetit!

**Easy on Fridays is a recurrent event where I post a simple picture from the garden… because really, who wants to do any work after 5pm on Friday?**

On the Origin of this Human as Gardener Species

14 Jun

Hydrangea Macrophylla

As the summer takes on full steam and the garden thrives, I find myself consumed by plants. Every waking minute I am either thinking about plants, reading about plants, or noticing other’s plants wherever I go. It’s a healthy obsession, and a few days ago my thoughts wandered to the origins of my gardening.

It seems like several lifetimes ago when the people I lived with and I decided to fix up the backyard that came with the apartment we rented. During the cleanout process we stumbled upon some wooden sticks protruding from the ground. Only a handful of yellowed to brown leaves remained on the sticks.

A voice that was mine but that I did not recognize said “let’s save it”. The people I lived with insisted it was dead. “Don’t bother.” I stuck to my guns and we did not remove the unsightly sticks.

It was not the best time in my life, in fact, it was the worst, but something happened while I lavished the plant with my attention and affection. It whispered thoughts of resilience, hope, transformation, growth. Thoughts that lingered in my unconscious.

Fun fact: the color of the flowers are influenced by the type of soil they grow in. Blue when grown in acidic soil, pink when in alkaline soil.

Some years later I now look back to that plant, who grew from bare burnt stems to beautiful blue blooms with adoration. I too have bloomed since then, have transformed, have discovered my own resilience, my own growth.

Earlier this week I walked in Lowes to buy some wire (for tomato cages, weekend project!) I came upon the same plant in the distressed section. Although I never shop for plants in big box stores (I grow organic) I couldn’t help it. Here she was again, in need. She who helped me grow, who introduced me to gardening, who taught me to believe in myself, here she was again beckoning for help.

And here she is in my garden. The brown leaves pruned, the overgrown bare stems cut back, after some serious watering, and much love, she now stands tall and beautiful, singing the same songs of hope, resilience, and faith. Today they aren’t thoughts for burying. Today I sing with her, as we share the same lyrics.

Hello, old friend, teacher, inspiration…

Mulch Your Center

13 Jun

Pine branches to be used for mulch

In the hope of increasing my water conservation efforts, and because I am not around all day long to watch for signs of evaporating water from the garden, last weekend I layed down a layer of mulch.

I considered various kinds of mulch, straw, pine needles, dried leaves, rocks, plastic sheets. In the end, because I want everything to be of use and to give back to the garden, I opted for pine needles. This year the plot is mostly comprised of tomatoes, peppers, chilis, and eggplants. Everything else in the ground is a friend to these stars, like the borage, the basil, the catnip, and the marigolds. Pine needles seemed the best option for my acidic-soil loving plants.

On Saturday morning, armed with determination, I strutted to the back of the backyard to cut down some branches off the pine tree. I sat down comfortably and proceeded to strip the branches of their pine needles. Yes, I thought this was a brilliant idea.

The Garden Assistant helping to strip pine needles from the branches

An hour later, and the temperatures rising well into the 90s, I had enough pine needles to cover maybe one plant. Great, I thought, only fifteen plants to go. The heat was becoming unbearable. Desperation was increasingly building inside of me. “The plants! The plants! They will die of thirst! Hurry with those pine needles! You won’t have enough time! Why did you procrastinate so much!” These thoughts were sounding louder and louder. “Enough” I said, as I noticed the yelling in my ears. “Look around. What else can you use?” and just like that, I was guided to the farthest corner of the yard. There, hidden behind some broken branches I discovered a mound of grass clippings pushed against the fence. Perfect!

I grabbed the biggest bucket I could find, and carefully sorted through the clippings to make sure there were no weeds hidden among them. So, I now have dried grass clippings as mulch. Eventhough it was a desperate deviation from the plan, I still love it and so do my plants.

Back section of garden plot after mulch was laid down.

It always takes me aback how impressive is the decrease in water needs once there is mulch in the ground. It reduces the evaporation of water from the ground, protects the soil from erosion, prevents weeds from sprouting, and if using organic mulch it also feeds the soil as the material decomposes.

Mulch around my growing Anaheim Chili plant.

The experience reinforced in me the need to adapt to the flow of life, instead of succumbing to desperation and anxiety, calm yourself. Find your center and you will find an answer. Pine needles were my original goal, but the glass clippings work well and were certainly a lot less work than breaking up pine needles from a branch. When we allow our intuition to guide us, we end up with the right answer at the right time, and in this case, one step closer to sustainability in the garden.

Good Black Gold

7 Jun

Compost bin- third layer- old potting soil

 

The ideology of sustainability in gardens and farming has been part of my lexicon for a very long time. Given that the earth has traditionally provided its own resources, and given that reliance on foreign resources is relatively recent, it just makes sense to have the earth work within itself. It wasn’t until I became a gardener that I transferred that ideology into practical concrete actions.

Part of that recycle, upcycle living means composting, and I was ashamed that I wasn’t practicing what I viewed as essential. Well, no more.

Last weekend, I created my first compost bin. A week later, and I am already craving to create another.

A free vet supplies bin. Go to vet clinics, they will be more than willing to get rid of some of these!

I found this vet supplies bin for free which locks itself so that no critters can open it. I whipped out the hand drill (god, how I love power tools!) and using the biggest bit, drilled holes on all sides.

I filled the first part with brown organic materials, mainly dried leaves left over from the fall.

For the second layer, I added some organic fertilizer and some store bought mushroom compost I had been using on the garden soil. This acts as an activator, I read.

The third layer is old potting soil that needs nutrients.

The last layer is all veggie waste, scraps from the kitchen, and coffee grounds. Refer to this list for knowing what to put in there and what not to.

I mixed the layers well and poured some water, enough to make it moist but not wet.

Now, time for the sun to do its job!

I read quite a few articles on composting and opted to do what feels most natural to me, which ends up borrowing from several of those sources. I’ll include those links at the bottom.

In a mere few days I have seen the colors change in the bin, and I am itching to create a new one to keep filling with kitchen waste. We eat a LOT of veggies and fruits a day, we need to compost the peels!

I’m excited about growing black gold for the garden, and being one step closer to sustainability. Water conservation, well, that’s another story… one step at a time…

Here are some of those sources I consulted:

http://www.composting101.com/

http://vegweb.com/composting/

http://eartheasy.com/grow_compost.html

http://www.howtocompost.org/

When you’re away…

5 Jun

Unknown. Flowers at Denver Botanic Garden.

Over the last week, I had an out of town visitor, leaving me with little time for the garden. As part of a “tour” of Colorado, we visited the Denver Botanic Gardens. It was my first time there, and although it’s not as impressive as some on the East coast (although I since have heard that the Chatfield Botanic Garden is without a doubt more impressive), it was still pretty awesome. What could be better than being surrounded by plants, plants, and more plants? (Most did not have labels, much to my frustration)

Roof of Ting at Denver Botanic Garden.

I loved the Ting. Both this one in particular as well as the concept. A ting is a Chinese covered resting place in a garden. It’s a place to rest from the walk, take shelter from rain (as we had to do), and I would add, a place to reflect and express gratitude for the grandiosity of nature.

View from inside the ting

The week has passed and I am back to my routine, my garden, my meditation. While I was away, my plants wept at my absence. Early blight set on (or was it powdery mildew?). I found them sad, with yellow spots on their leaves, and barely grown. I sprinkled cornmeal around their base. Cornmeal is miraculous. Within two days new leaves had sprouted, and they grew about an inch. The tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and cucumbers all had it, and then didn’t. Cornmeal is a staple in my garden from now on.

Ildi tomato leaves. Was it blight or powdery mildew? Either way, cornmeal did the trick!

My tobacco plant was infested with June beetle bugs. They have devoured the beautiful leaves. I opted for a garlic spray this time. I chopped a garlic head, added boiling water and a tiny bit of vegetable oil, and let it sit for a few minutes, strained it, and poured it into a spray bottle. I sprayed the leaves, the bottom, the top, even a bit on the soil and around the pot. It worked! The leaves are still pretty chewed up, and the bugs came back two days after spraying, so I have to continuously spray them.

I love how there’s always a challenge in gardening. Boring, it definitely is not. There’s always a mysterious bug, or fungi to take care of. It keeps one on one’s toes. My garden might not look like the Denver Botanic Garden, but it’s mine, all organic, and as sustainable as I can make it with my resources. I nourish it, but in the end, it also nourishes me.

Mothering on Mother’s Day

14 May
Garden View on Mother's Day

Garden View on Mother’s Day

On Sunday, I took my mother and my son to a plant sale at St. John’s Cathedral where Plant a Row for the Hungry were having a small event. They didn’t have a big selection of vegetable plants, so I bought my flower-loving mom some Geraniums. As usual, I picked up a packet of free seeds from Plant a Row, and made a donation to the church’s nursery for a special Mother’s Day tote bag.

Goodies from Plant a Row 2012- seeds, coupons, sign, and tote bag

Goodies from Plant a Row 2012- seeds, coupons, sign, and tote bag

On our way home, and hungering for some plants, I decided to stop by Paulino’s Gardens. The place was packed! I bought my mother some more pretty flowery plants that she likes, and of course, I could not resist to buy some for myself. I bought a comfrey plant, which I had been on the lookout for since their leaves make a really nice organic fertilizer. I also bought a grown Borage plant, since my seedlings are still really tiny.

Comfrey

Comfrey

Finally, it was around 1pm when I made it to the garden. After a Gayatri mantra chant, I immediately set out to work. I gave the soil one last airing, gathered the babies, and got down and dirty!

The scoop: Three different kinds of tomatoes, Heirloom, BigBoy, and Ildi. Bell peppers of different colors, an Anaheim chili, and eggplants are the stars of the show. To help them, I invited some of their friends over: basil (to aid in flavor), borage to deter tomato worms and improve flavor and growth, marigolds (to keep flies and mosquitos away), chives, onions, and leeks. This year, I have been studying up on companion planting. After all, you are who you associate with (In Spanish, “dime con quien andas, y te dire quien eres”) This link has been super beneficial to me in determining who to plant next to whom.

View of the garden plot

View of the garden plot

After I did all the planting, I kept coming back to admire the garden, pausing to smile at the plants in their new abode, and marveling at an awesome Mother’s Day.

Progressing Soil

5 May

Working the soil

Mother’s Day is coming up, the safe day for planting outside in Colorado! Aside from it being the most appropriate day (growing as mothering and all that jazz) it’s also the most exciting day for me as a gardener.

In preparation for it, I did some of the final tilling of the soil. I’ve been working it every other week, turning it, adding compost, airing it. If anything, it’s definitely helped develop my arm and back  muscles!

Last year my container-grown plants gave a high yield, but the ones in the soil plot did not. I’m certain it was the soil. It was its first year and it was almost solid clay. Poor drainage did not even begin to describe it. I could’ve made pots out of that clay!

This year I began taking care of it in February. I added store-bought mushroom compost and some home-grown organic matter.

Today, as I tilled the soil, I found some earthworms! I’ve never been so excited to discover wriggly crawlies! This means the earth is finally getting enough oxygen for them to survive. And of course that they are producing nitrogen, so needed for plant growth.

We all need a solid foundation in order to find our balance. Some lucky among us can find their center even in wavering tightropes, sand or clay (like dandelions). But most of us need the solid earth, airy and silty, in order to thrive.

I’m hopeful that all this hard work will pay off and this planting season will be fruitful.

Namaste, yo’s! 🙂

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.

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