Organics


Local horse manure piled up in an open dumpster

My good friend Paul is in town, and he has a truck. We made our usual pilgrimage to the local horse stables located in North Atwater Village. We took our forks and shovels and loaded up a truckfull of stable waste. It’s free, and there’s plenty… and it’s great for the garden.

The trick is that, like cheese or wine (well… maybe not), you have to wait. The stuff we pick up locally is about 4/5ths wood-shavings and about 1/5th poop. The woody stuff has been urinated on… so it’s all very rich in nitrogen. It’s too strong to be spread directly in the garden – supposedly it can hurt plants – though I am not entirely sure just how. So, it has to cook first. (more…)

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Radishes growing in my front yard raised bed

Introducing the radish. Yes, you’ve met before… but perhaps it’s time to become better acquainted.

Radishes are one of two plants that come highly recommended for beginning gardeners – because they’re so easy to grow. It seems like the seeds all germinate, and come up something like one or two days after one starts watering them. The young leaves are very recognizable once you’ve grown them before. Then, in less than a month (instant gratification in garden-time), you’ve got something edible and even familiar-looking.

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I recommend a couple of videos that I think are really inspiring for gardeners and farmers to grow our food in harmony with nature. They’re both from a site called Ted.com which features lots of really informative talks about science, technology, creativity, brains, art…

Eduardo Sousa and his Geese

Eduardo Sousa and his Geese

The first talk is by a chef named Dan Barber. It’s all about a Spanish farmer named Eduardo Sousa. Sousa produces foie gras (French for “fat liver”)  a substance that I was unfamiliar with until I heard this talk. Foie gras a delicacy made from goose liver. Sousa farms in such a natural way that wild geese come to stay and live with his domesticated geese. The talk is about permaculture, slow food, history, and the joy of great food as the “expression of nature.” Barber’s excellent talk includes a quote I really liked – from Jonas Salk: “If all the insects disappear, life on earth as we know it would disappear within fifty years. If human beings disappeared, life on earth as we know it would flourish.”  

The second talk is  by Michael Pollan, who should be familiar with readers of this blog from this earlier post. His talk is sort of a  whirlwind tour of many of the themes his book The Botany of Desire. He suggests that we could see much of humanity as a vast conspiracy of “corn’s scheme for world domination.” The talk concludes with a great profile of Joel Salatin’s permaculture farm in Virginia which is “well beyond organic agriculture.” 

Don’t spend tooooo much time on Ted.com, but check out these two talks, and let them inspire you to get out and garden!

Here are some garden photos I took last week of some of the promising new developments to come along in March. Spring things are happening in the garden! Arranged in alphabetical order… apologies for my blurry cell phone pictures.

The distinctive maroon bloom of Amaranth

The Distinctive Maroon Bloom of Amaranth

Amaranth is one of plants that you grow once and it generates enough seeds to keep popping up in various places in your garden each year. This one is about 2-3 feet tall, but it can get taller than I am (6’3″) sometimes. I’ve never harvested the actual tiny grain (anyone out there have simple instructions for this?) but I do use the young leaves in salads. I’ve also heard (from Ysanne Spevack of Organic Foodee, whom I met through Erik Knutzen of Homegrown Evolution) that the flower itself is edible, too – just cut it up and put it in salads.

Baby Artichoke Begins to Emerge

First Baby Artichoke Begins to Emerge

I grow a lot of artichoke – one of those great perennials that just keeps giving. The first of the chokes are starting to develop… though it will still be another month or so before the early ones will be ripe enough to eat. The one in the photo is in the middle of the my biggest, seemingly nearly monster-sized plant. The fruit pictured though is only maybe 2-inches in diameter.

Bright Blue Borage Flowers

Bright Blue Borage Flowers

Borage is one of those old-fashioned companion plants that you’re supposed to grow somewhere in your garden (also in this group are rue and yarrow… and some others that I will remember as soon as I hit “publish”.) Like amaranth, borage comes back year after year, a bit more than I really want it to. Mine grows out of interstices in in urbanite bed-wall. It has little blue flowers that face downward. They’re edible, tasting like a mild drop of honey. I put them in salads to add a little color.

Yellow Calendula Flowers Starting to Bloom

Yellow Calendula Flowers Starting to Bloom

Calendula is just starting to bloom. Another simple-to-grow plant that keeps coming back year after year (do you detect a theme here?) It has some medicinal uses, though I just grow it for the bright yellow flowers.

New Jujube Growth

New Jujube Growth

In mid-January, we planted a jujube tree. At the time it was completely dormant, bare and a little spindly-lookin’. I just had to trust that it would happily re-emerge from its slumber. I was a tiny bit worried about it for a month and a half, while I built a fancy-looking, perhaps overly-eleborate and formal rainwater harvesting ring to direct water toward its roots… thinking that it would sad if my high expectations for the tree might be unmet. Now, as you can see from the photo, it’s leafing out nicely.

Peach Blossoms

Peach Blossoms

The peach tree that I was pruning in December is flowering and leafing out. The bees love it. Below it is California poppy and yarrow. A few times I’ve had to trim back broken branches as it gets abused by passers-by.

Yarrow A-blooming

Yarrow A-blooming

And how could it be an area that Joe stewards unless there was plenty of yarrow? The very earliest of the yarrow flowers are already in bloom, with plenty more about to burst open.