Tag Archives: sustainability

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:





Grow Ink

6 Jun

My latest tattoo: Growing.

Tattoos have always been a fascination for me. Although I don’t have many (in tattoo people standards), the ones I do have tell my story. My tattoos tell the story of moments in time, of the different selves I have embodied, of the varied beliefs I have acquired and then shed, of the ones I still keep. Our beliefs, our thoughts, our selves, and our lives are transient, either they grow with us, becoming firmer, rooting themselves to the core and blooming into more complex ideas, thoughts, selves, or they slowly wither with the passing of the season. Neither of those dualisms is more correct than the other. It’s our growing process. We must on occasion shed some of our outdated modes of thinking in order to give space to the new, and we must also keep some core fundamentals that give us a sense of a deeper purpose, a deeper self. Tattoos seem to me like the yoga phrase “As above, so below”.

I look back at my sensitive, fluttery 18 year old self who wanted nothing more than being free and let to wander, and who identified herself with a butterfly, so much so that she tattooed one on her. And, I look back at my fiery, determined self in her mid to late twenties who had achieved some sort of career success for herself, who felt that everything in life was a battle, but who kept her anger at the injustices in her life bottled, and chose no other symbol than a volcano to tattoo on her back. Every tattoo in my body is a chapter of my life. Some chapters remained inkless, but the ones that made it into skin create a rough sketch of who I have been, who I have wanted to be, and who I am today.

It was not with little thought then, that I approached getting this new tattoo on my arm. Man putting seeds in the ground, caring for the seeds so that it might become a tree, (which are also the lungs of the earth, creating oxygen out of carbon monoxide) under the Egyptian hieroglyph for the sun.

This new ink in my arm has become a personal testament to growing, both the plants in my garden, as well as myself as a person, a mother, a spiritual self. With some nurturing from ourselves, we can all become towering symbols for growth. We can all be flourishing lungs of the lives we have created and continue to create.

For a lighthearted read on various plant tattoos, go to this. I enjoyed looking through the various designs.

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