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June 28th, 2011

cadence of summer

Maybe a twinge of sadness, sure. Or a feeling of not quite having taken full advantage of the situation. Maybe it’s the thought of having to wait awholenother year for black raspberries. The season is just too short. Although my wife assures me that we ate bowls and bowls of raspberries for almost three weeks, to me it feels like the black raspberries were here for a day, like ribbon of migrating birds seen in the sky just one afternoon and then gone. But every end is a beginning, and just as the black raspberries fade away, the red raspberries start to ripen.

As a gardener you can’t help but hear the rhythm and the cadence of the world around you. Flowers and fruits blending and melding together in Ven Diagrams of harvest and ripeness. Raspberries overlapping peas overlapping zucchini, with a steady beat of lettuce and onions, and a slight foreshadowing of corn and tomatoes. And just listen to the crescendo of cucumbers coming on now, a mild rustle to a mighty roar, their tiny tendrils performing feats of super-cucurbit strength as they muscle their way up the trellis. Do they know they are gunning for the pickle jar? Do they sense that the dill over there and the garlic over here will all chill in a summer bath of vinegar and mustard seed? And what’s that popping sound? It must be the germination of the popcorn kernels I planted last week. Yes, here they are now, little green soldiers marching in place to the beat of a summer time drum.

RWG-062811blackraspRWG-062811redraspRWG-062811butterflyweedRWG-062811-tendrilRWG-062811tasselRWG-062811popcorn

Above: Black Raspberries, red raspberries, butterfly weed, cucumber tendril, new corn tassel, popcorn seedlings

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June 21st, 2011

DIY Turnip Seeds Continued….

So far my turnip seed saving adventure is rolling along smoothly. As you may remember, I gathered and bundled a bunch of turnip seedpods and let them hang out to dry for a couple of weeks in the sun. This past weekend, I took the bundle up to the deck and crumbled the dried bunch in my hand and to my amazement, a shower of tiny turnip seeds rained upon the table.

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Dried Seedpods

I’m not sure why I found it so amazing. It was similar to the excitement I experienced earlier this spring when the seeds I started in my basement began to sprout. I guess I’m excited to be playing a bigger role in the cycle. It’s easy to buy a pack of seeds at the store and stick them in the ground, but it’s a whole-nuther feeling to know you have been with these seeds through several seasons. On some level, it’s a lot like parenthood.

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Tiny Turnip Seeds

I wished I had crumbled the seedpods onto a smoother surface. The table on my deck is textured which made gathering the seeds a little challenging, but I made creative use of the dust pan and brush and was able to get all the seeds into a little manila envelope.

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Safely stored for late summer planting.

Of course my experiment in seed saving is not over.  The true test, of course, will be to get the seeds to germinate and grow into more turnips. Stay tuned. I’ll be plating them late summer for fall harvest.

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June 13th, 2011

garden: the verb

In the morning before I go to work, I take a little stroll through my garden. It’s meditative and therapeutic, and it’s a great daily reminder of what my job as online editor is really about: the garden.

I can get overwhelmed with creating online articles and slideshows. I can easily get lost in writing newsletters and cropping images. I can be consumed by Facebook and the petty drama that swirls around on Twitter.

Some days it’s easy to lose sight of the larger picture. Today was one of those days.

But when I plugged my camera into my computer, I remembered my walk in the garden this morning.

Reddish-orange calendula blooming in the morning light.

calendula

The tomatoes in cages surrounded by a living mulch of clover.

tomato-clover

The garlic scapes curling and gliding like swans on the water.

garlic-scape

The bean runners racing up the teepee.

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And I think, oh yeah, I am a gardener.

That’s what’s at the core of my job.
I garden and I learn.
I garden and I create.
I garden and I share.

Or perhaps this is more apt:

The garden teaches.
The garden shares.

Let me also say that I am a committed organic gardener. I do not use chemicals. I do not support poison farming. I fully believe that organic and sustainable practices in our agriculture and food production are the key to improving our health and our environment. Period. No free pass for corporations talking out of both sides of their mouth.

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June 6th, 2011

DIY Turnip Seeds

Late last summer I planted turnips, and by the fall I was harvesting them, delicate and delicious. I covered them in late fall with a heavy layer of alfalfa and straw, and by early spring I was harvesting some very tasty turnip greens.

Turnip greens in early spring

Turnip greens in early spring.

And then the rain started. I feel like it rained for weeks. Maybe it did. All I know is that when it stopped, the grass in my yard was knee high, and my turnips looked more like wild mustard than turnips. That’s when I decided to let them go to seed and see if I couldn’t save the seeds and grow another crop of turnips this fall.

Turnips in flower and seed.

Turnips in flower and seed.

The tall flowers attracted lots of beneficial insects, but I had no idea what to expect from these plants. What would the seeds look like? How would I know when they were ready? Will they be viable?

A bundle of turnip seed pods hanging to dry

A bundle of turnip seed pods hanging to dry.

After a few weeks it became clear that seeds were developing. I left the turnips alone for a while and when the flowers began to fade and fall away, I pulled out the plants. Then I cut a random sampling of the seed pods, tied them together and hung them from my trellis, figuring that they should dry for a while. And that’s where they are now.

A closer look at the bundle.

A closer look at the bundle.

Have you ever grown turnips? Have you had luck saving seeds? I’d love to hear your tales of turnips.

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June 2nd, 2011

In Pursuit of Imperfection

Just because no one has ever asked me why this blog is called the Real World Gardener doesn’t mean I’m not going to answer the question.  Or at least try.

I am a real world gardener because:

  • Sometimes I forget to turn off hose off and I flood my garden.
  • Sometimes I plant things too close.
  • Sometimes the weeds take over because I have other things to do like: go to work, wash the dishes, or take out the trash.
  • Sometimes, however much I would like not to use any plastic in my garden, using plastic is often unavoidable (e.g. the hose).

I am a real world gardener because I am a living example of how easy it is to have an organic garden without trying too hard, without over thinking it.

realworldgardener060211-calendula

the first bloom of re-seeding calendula

Somewhere, somehow, over the course of my life I’ve come to understand that beauty lies in imperfection, which has led me on an interesting path. If this path had a tagline, it would be: in pursuit of imperfection. So if beauty lies in the imperfection, and if there’s also truth in beauty, then the truth is somehow imperfect. Or imperfection is truthful.

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The first zucchini of the year.

How does this relate to my gardening? And what does it have to do with the real world? Well, I love the way my garden changes from day to day, season to season, year to year. It’s an ever-evolving place for me to learn, to make mistakes, to achieve the truthful imperfection that I so admire in the world. And that is the crux of it: the real world isn’t perfect but it is absolutely beautiful, not despite it’s flaws, but because of them.

realworldgardener060211-trellis     This trellis was easy to build with bamboo and twine. It took lots of patience—weaving the net was very time consuming, but well worth it. The peas love it, and soon the cucumbers and tomatoes will too!

This trellis was easy to build with bamboo and twine. It took lots of patience—weaving the net was very time consuming, but well worth it. The peas love it, and soon the cucumbers and tomatoes will too!

Well, I hope this clears it all up for you. -eric

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