Archive for category Lawn, Garden & Composting
Writer’s block descended upon me early this morning. It is not so much writer’s block as having too many ideas for too many topics all at once and not being able to decide between them. Then there were several interruptions. It is one of those days when people assume that I can do as I please since I am self-employed. They are right. I can do as I please, and what pleases me is to be doing my work, right here, at this keyboard, to research topics and concoct articles, to read, to learn.
The interruptions today brought me to a pause, much like when we have placed all our skill and energy into preparing a special meal and reach a moment when all that remains is to wait for guests to arrive. We lose ourselves in the process until a change of pace makes us keenly aware of every detail again.
Perhaps everything we do is like that. Yes. Now that I think about it, every single action or process leads to a pause, many in fact, when we look at what we have accomplished so far and cannot help but give in to a few philosophical musings. This mind shift is what turns our daily activities into living poetry. It connects us to everything in a fresh new way. Some call this epiphany. It is at the source of our greatest moments of gratitude. It comes upon us through the senses, triggered by an object, a color, a smell. The poetry goes like this…
After installing a weed mat, kneeling by this year’s new garden plot - There is a place and time for weeds and a place and time for sustenance, just as there is a time for rambunctious humor and a time for serious, down to business living.
Looking back at the garden, after seeding the first rows – Now the wait. We do not want to wait, yet it is in the waiting, as much as in harvesting, that nourishment is found. Waiting grows our sense of awe. It makes it impossible for us to take anything for granted.
While cleaning the pressure canner and putting away the canning accessories and recipe book - There is much reassurance in knowing that a fresh store of wholesome food awaits. There is much reassurance in realizing that, in spite of our technological advancements, we persist in digging our own hands in the ground to give birth to our own nourishment. This, perhaps, is one of the surest signs of our immutable humanity.
As we disassemble the juicer or blender and take great, carefree gulps of the refreshing, living liquid - If only we could drink in each moment with such a sense of renewal. Each moment is renewal; it is only the observer who refuses, or fails, to know this. Maybe we should drink a fresh gulp of juice, or at least water, every time we lose faith in the possibility of renewal. Maybe that is all it takes to shift our thoughts and find hope again.
My writer’s block is gone at the moment. So I’ll pause while I’m ahead!
Lately, I’ve been getting sidetracked browsing the internet for images of rooftop and balcony gardens. It must be spring. There is something about the angular architecture and business of the urban landscape and the flamboyant, free-spirited flow of the lush terrace garden that I find reassuring. It says something powerful and poetic about nature’s persistence.
While many leave the city to establish homesteads, farms and gardens in the country, many others enjoy the urban lifestyle and choose to find ways to incorporate nature, even sustainability, within the confines of apartment balconies and condo rooftops; proving, quite naturally, that this is not an all-or-nothing world at all.
Gardening is not just for the countryside or suburban backyard, nor is it limited in any way. We grow flowers in pots all the time, don’t we? All that is required are a few proper ingredients, tender care and dedication. This last condition turns out to be quite effortless, for the moment we begin a relationship with a garden, no matter how large or small, it is natural to feel a sense of devotion.
By proper ingredients I also mean proper equipment. A small space can yield an interesting crop. For those who are completely new to gardening, it makes sense to start with a proven system and well spelled-out instructions.
Take the UrBin Growing Kit, for example. It provides endless organic vegetables by facilitating growth through a mixture of the Square Foot Gardening method, all natural soil amendments, and a unique self-watering reservoir. This is good for the gardener with a hectic schedule who forgets to water the plants once in a while (ho! Gosh!), but it also ensures consistent and optimal moisture for your crop. This clever system includes seed trays, for those who wish to start from scratch, but seedlings from a trusted supplier can be used as well.
One of the great advantages of the container gardening method is that it diminishes the incidence of plant disease. Also, when the plants remain healthy, you can reuse the same soil mix for subsequent crops by top-dressing it with a bit of compost. This contributes to a very healthy environment for the plants since, over time, the soil mixture builds up beneficial microbes that contribute to highly efficient nutrient absorption.
With a well-designed growing kit, it is easy to get the children involved with gardening. You know how they love scientific exploration games they have to put together and that allow them to see results over time. Container gardening offers plenty of opportunities for hands-on learning and quality family time.
I love clever systems that use little space and lots of common sense, and that save money and contribute to a wholesome lifestyle on top of this. Simplicity is always in season, after all. I’ve even heard of people who move their UrBin Grower indoors in winter to grow different varieties of edible plants, such as herbs. I think they’re hooked!
Picture this: Sicily, 1934. A young peasant girl walks in the garden… Oops! Wrong show. Don’t you love the Golden Girls? But I digress.
Picture this: It is a beautiful spring morning. Birds are everywhere. The sun rises above the mountain and soon turns spider webs in the field, below the house, into luminescent dream catchers. It is one of those spring mornings when all concerns, no matter how heavily they had weighed on your heart, seem insignificant.
From the window, I can see our first garden; a long, rectangular patch with sunflowers and corn at one end and strawberries at the other. It was a spur of the moment decision. We bought random seeds, tilled a patch, gave each variety of seed its own small territory within the garden, watered them and waited. It did not take long.
This was nearly 20 years ago. I grew up with a garden; a very well-tended and, I must say, esthetically beautiful garden. My father had taken great pains to design it so it would provide sustenance, but also very distinct beauty. I was very young then, but remember the taste of fresh string beans, straight from the garden, unwashed. Can you imagine? Unwashed, in the 1960′s, when the first defense against pest was chemicals.
20 years later, my husband at the time and I planted our first garden without so much as a gardening catalog for guidance. We were both Aries and each one of us as stubborn as two rams. On that morning, as I looked out the window at our first crop, I realized we needed to learn a trick or two.
My husband had installed a net over the strawberries, to discourage birds from stealing them. I personally did not mind sharing, but I could see his point that it was discouraging to lose our entire crop, even to beautiful winged creatures. That morning, however, I noticed something fluttering on the ground, at the base of the netting. I ran out.
A small crow had its leg tangled up in the net and was trying, in vain, to fly free. I rushed back to the house to get a small pair of very finely pointed scissors. I had no idea how I would manage to free the bird without risking having my hand shredded to pieces, but this did not matter. I could always go to the hospital; the bird did not have that luxury.
I took a moment to speak to it softly. What I actually did was to explain what I was about to do. I reasoned that it did not matter that the bird did not understand my words, just calmly stating the facts would calm us both; and it did. Soon, I was able to hold it still, allowing it to see my face the entire time so it could at least, maybe, get from my expression that I was not a predator. I managed to free it without a scratch to its legs and without it so much as attempting to poke at me. When it flew away, I sat there and cried.
I cried because our ignorance had caused an innocent creature to experience fear for its life, and I cried because of how it had trusted me in a moment of utter vulnerability.
We humans go to great lengths to protect our possessions, we even invent poisons to this end, until we realize that maybe there is a better, healthier way. It is, well, only human to want to care for our things and when those things are produce that provide sustenance, protecting them is the smart, logical and natural thing to do. What matters is the method. Had we used a proper row cover, the bird would not have been able to take our berries and would not have become tangled up in a flimsy net.
I suspect that my father, years ago, might not have used row covers in a suburban garden that was visible to neighbors. “How unsightly!” he might have thought. But that was then. Gardening is a balancing act and row covers are part of the landscape, an elegantly efficient part in fact.
Row covers protect seedlings and small, low-to-the-ground plants from intruders of all shapes and sizes, they can extend the growing season and they prevent possible intruders from getting hurt. They also save money. Install once; no need for refills!
As I think back on the view of my garden from a second floor window, years ago, I imagine how it would have looked with a few row covers. Frankly, I find the linear, rounded tunnels add perspective to the garden. And we could have planted an entire, uncovered section just for the birds.