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Posts Tagged ‘Mother Nature’

So I made a trip to see a curious creature this week-the garden center ( This was after having made an online order of seeds and starters).  I am happy to report that I stuck with my initial garden plan!  This year will include two types of potatoes, pole beans, bush beans, a lettuce mix, snap peas, a basic herb selection and two types of sunflowers.  Ok, I fibbed, I threw on a small and charming rhubarb start because I dream of one day making a strawberry-rhubarb pie from scratch!!  It is with this desire of “from-scratch” that the garden center becomes an odd concept in my mind.  Without them where would I begin as a Hopeful Gardener?  I think maybe a seed swap or a neighbor with a prolific garden?  Maybe scavenge from a wild version (that’s assuming I know what I am looking at) ?  I certainly see the irony in my comments on a resource I so clearly must take advantage of.  As I browsed the massive selection of seeds, soils, sprays, plants, gloves, tools and every decorative garden stake known to man I began to note the sterility, tidiness and not to mention extravagant selection and required consumption in the modern gardening experience.  How is it eco-conscious to buy plastic bags of fertilizer every season?  Or a new set of plastic tools?  The ultimate silly that I recently laid eyes on was the plastic compost tumbler.  When I saw this product all I could imagine were people buying it with the best of intentions to begin composting and having it sit outside with a handful of rotting vegetables in it for the next few years, the novelty of it having worn off and the plastic with us forever.  Naturally there is a place in the world for businesses to offer gardeners and farmers the tools to do their craft.  At what point are these offerings keeping gardeners isolated from or even working against their purpose to cultivate and enjoy the world around them?

In this second year of my established garden I have worked very hard to not require a “tidy” garden from myself.  I have avoided artificial mulches, fertilizers and the overwhelming desire to weed like its going out of style.  When I fertilize I enjoy using Dr. Earth products.  They create organic products and much to my enjoyment only allow their products to be carried at independent garden centers (however I get mine at an Ace Hardware- not a chain?)  I discovered how effective it is to re-use and re-classify materials I already have for gardening.  This has significantly cut down on what I need to go and purchase new.  The most obvious example is the re-use of containers for planting-although I do use some of the old plastic starter plant containers to transport mulch and compost to different beds.  I treat my garden tools well and I don’t get hooked on garden gadgets.  You really only need a certain number of tools to do most garden jobs and a little research will save you money.  I will admit, the closest to “gadget” I get is my bulb planter.  Since bulbs are some of my favorites to cultivate this tube with teeth is indispensable when I am digging 60, four-inch deep holes into the ground as the bitter November winds blow.

A peak of green from a mysterious bulb...

One of the best gardening moment I had so far actually happened today.  I took some composted mulch I have been working on for a year and a half and spread it around my garden bed.  This pile was partially in place when I moved into my house and I amended it with  kitchen leftovers and cover soil from when I took out a number of fabric weed sheets.  Since the bottom of the pile was a bit of a mystery and the top was less than carefully planned I waited two winters while I turned and observed.  Today I laid it around my new bulbs and hardy perennials, mostly as a mulch and hopefully as a mild compost.

Funny enough I plan to go to the garden center this weekend and buy the bags of soil I am going to use to start my vegetable garden.  The goal is to get what I need and get out (a good goal to have at any store!)  Until my dreams of self-sufficiency and homesteading more fruitfully blossom I will admit that a Hopeful Gardner has to start somewhere. The important thing is that I finish in the garden bed, not at the check stand 🙂

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After some consideration these gardening posts will probably come in two parts.  The first being a discussion of any gardening related reading (all of my reading and reviews will eventually make it to the Resources and Inspirations page) and then news on my Spring 2011 Hopeful Garden.  In documenting the process I am looking forward to better understanding the work a garden truly involves and how certain styles of gardening relate to the eco-conscious movement-could this be the “green” replacement phrase I was looking for? I may need to post a poll to get that one figured out 🙂

Now that I am typing and talking to myself, these gardening posts are probably going to come in three parts.  1.) Gardening reads and musings    2.)  Updates on Hopeful Garden 2011    3.) The progress of my current garden beds, always a source of curiosity and wonder.  Today I shall count all this explanation as my musings and discussion-I never want anyone to feel as if they are slogging through a post!

Hopeful Garden 2011 is still just that, hopeful.  Not in the negative *sigh* kind of way but more of a twinkle-in-my-eye way.  The goal is before I head to my soft and fluffy bed that I write a list of exactly what I want to grow.  Nothing else, just that.  It’s a starting point for all that research and seed shopping.  I am sticking to foods I know I am willing to eat if they survive; beans, potatoes, lettuce, zucchini, pumpkins, herbs and rhubarb.  Not wasting is a huge part of these eco-focused lifestyle changes.  In addition, I am planning a to do a “bag garden.”  For those who may not know, this means taking bags of garden soil, cutting a large window in the top and punching numerous holes through the bottom and planting directly in them.  It doesn’t sound pretty, but its the easiest way to get a veggie garden started if you don’t necessarily have the perfect area to start with.  The bag will smother the weeds and leftover turf during the growing season and once the plants are done you can tear away the bag and break it all into the ground, making way for a more sophisticated bed next year or even a start for the fall and winter plants.

All three colors!

Finally, my current garden which I have illustrated with a little photo from this morning.  This was taken during a break between pounding hail and rain! I really tried to get the crocus perspective.  These are the children of a previous year’s planting and I am proud that I was able to help preserve them and that they came back so strong!!  From some garden gossip I heard crocus wear themselves out pretty quick so I may need to look into adding more this coming fall.  But for now I will enjoy the added color.

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I figure I will just dive in to this post since I spent the whole morning online trying to plan my mega-garden and now feel that I have much to say!  And none of it has to do directly with gardening!  Instead, its more of the confusion in planning for the spring/summer and thoughts on what gardening entails in modern life.  A great book that made me really meditate on this subject is Michael Pollan’s Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education.  As usual Pollan adeptly blends his own gardening experiences with the history of horticulture.  As an aside, if it is just the plant stories you are interested in Pollan wrote a book called The Botany of Desire (also an excellent documentary) that delves into the histories of four of the most influential plants in human history.  What Second Nature offers is a look at the what the act of gardening means to people, how it signifies a person’s place in the human culture and where the balance is between clear-cut nature control and letting nature run rampant around your home and yard.  After scolding myself for not being a more prepared gardener (I am only now starting to write modest plan of what I think I want to grow)  I make sure to remember this book and how an appreciation for what is going on in your yard, whether you have it under total control or not is the new essence of gardening.

As I was researching my hopes and dreams for a more substantial garden this year I ran into the familiar feeling of needing to go shopping.  I don’t have the right seed starter, I don’t have seeds, my garden tools are lacking, I could stand to have a soil testing kit, and so on and so forth.  Then, I remembered my very current experience with gardening.  It has been limited to fall and spring planted bulbs.  My favorites for fall planting are hyacinth, tulip and crocus.  I know something else is planted out there but I cannot for the life of me remember what it is!  Spring plantings have been a little less successful simply because I have the worlds shadiest yard and most of the popular flowers for summer demand an intense amount of sun (never shall I get to enjoy a lily)  But, my luck has been with begonias and anemones.  Everyday I leave the house I always peruse the garden bed which stretches from underneath my living room window to the driveway.  There has been snow, drenching rain, hard freezes and lots of wind this winter, but I am astonished to report that right on schedule, my crocus from not last November but the November before that have come back with force and became a thick strip of orange, white and purple edging.  This in concert with the peeking tulips (both old and new), hyacinth (old) and a couple of lavender plants that beautifully wintered has made me absolutely appreciate the effortless work of Mother Nature. I realize that any effort I make to add to my surroundings will be met with just the right energy from Mother Nature.  With this thought in mind, I will be grabbing some seed packets, picking a pretty good spot and forging ahead with sunflowers, potatoes and beans.  Hopefully Mother Nature agrees with me 🙂

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