When I grow up…

…I want to be a Gardener.

How do you define a garden?

The answer to this question is important to me because depending on what it is, then it defines me, or at least part of me.

These days I hesitate to tell people that one of my favorite things to do is gardening. I am afraid that people get this idea that I tend beautifully designed English gardens with flowers and bushes placed in strategic locations to maximize the colors and scents.
Nothing could farther from the truth.
My garden is definitely blue collar and the most important issue to me these days is sunlight, specifically where it falls the longest in my yard.
So I tell people I grow plants instead. I figure that is the most accurate description of my activities.
It could be that I am just insecure. I do the same thing with my drawings. I don’t tell people I am an artist either. I draw, with pencil and ink. That’s all.
I am not a writer. I blog.
Or I suppose I could say that I am a gardener, just not a good one; but then that opens a whole new discussion on what “good” means. When I eat my first delicious salad made from stuff I grew myself, I may come to a different definition of “good” than when I am talking about how pretty my garden looks.
And really, Landscaping and Gardening can be mutually exclusive. I mean, a landscaper doesn’t have to grow a thing. He can simply get the plants from someone who grew them.
Does it really matter?
Why do I worry about stuff like this I will never know.
Maybe it is because we have a cold front running through the area and all my plant growing is at a standstill and all I can do is talk about growing plants instead of actually tending to my plants.

All my Irish Eyes sunflowers have real leaves now and I have radishes and lettuce in my square foot gardening beds now. It hit 31 degrees around 5 am this morning and when I left the house the thermometer was reporting 33 degrees. I’ll see this afternoon what effect the weather last night had on my seedlings.
I brought in my 5 tomato plants that are in containers. So far, my tomato plan is working as expected.

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Catch the gardening wave!

He asked, “What are you doing these days?”
I answered: “I am growing vegetables and flowers”
He said, “I buy my vegetables at the grocery store and my flowers at the flower shop”
I thought, “He doesn’t get it”

I read more and more about how people are tuning in to gardening these days. It’s like we sense something.
Is it the ailing economy? We’ve been through bad economic times before, but I don’t remember reading that gardening as an activity took off then.
Is it the end of the world in 2012? Are we sensing that soon we will have to survive without the modern infrastructure of roads and supermarkets?
Are we all just getting older? I read tons of blogs by young people who garden.

What is it?

Speaking as a relatively new gardener, I can say this: It is not to save money. If you are new to gardening, you won’t really save money on produce. Not at first. At first, you get taken by all the beautiful and glossy gardening catalogs and you buy. You buy everything that may make you into a better gardener. This in spite of all the wonderful web sites and blogs out there telling you how to grow plants on the cheap:

http://www.cheapvegetablegardener.com/
http://www.homegrownevolution.com/
http://www.genteelrecessionista.com/
http://www.littlehouseinthesuburbs.com/
http://www.pathtofreedom.com/
and many, many more.

Also, for a good, entertaining story about how quickly and surreptitiously your costs can get out of control, read the book by William Alexander, The 64 dollar tomato .
Eventually, once you get your gardening legs, you will begin to incorporate the money saving techniques you’ve read and heard about, but at first, you will pay.

So if saving money is not it, then what? Well, for one, taste.
It is no secret that farmers today grow food that can be shipped thousands of miles away and last a long time in storage. Tomatoes and strawberries get picked green, long before they develop their deliciousness. Tomatoes, at least, are bred to withstand a beating during shipment and taste is not the number one factor during their cultivation. You are more likely to grow delicious produce in your yard, especially if you grow heirlooms.

Nutrition. It is now known that the vegetables and fruits grown by giant farm monstrosities like Monsanto and others, contain much less nutrition than produce from the past. Agribusiness is just that, a business and their concern is making money, not nutritious food. The reasons as to why food is less nutritious today are related to their growing methods. The produce from your yard will be more nutritious, especially if you practice natural, organic gardening.

Health. By growing your own food, you know what’s in it. No more salmonella or pesticides in your food, as long as you use organic methods. Period.

Exercise and the joy of doing SOMETHING. Get off the couch and turn the t.v. off. Go fight aphids. Go make compost (I am told is addictive). Then go and show off the beautiful stuff you’ve grown.

Nothing in this post is original. I am simply saying that after 6 years of growing plants, I can attest to the truth of what it’s been said about gardening.

Grow and Tell!

How Does Your Garden Grow?


Consider the humble aluminum can. We don’t think much about it. We drink the contents therein and then we either trash it or recycle it and then we forget about it. But the aluminum can is a wonder of modern engineering worthy of a second look. Every aspect of it was designed; more aluminum and you are wasting material; less aluminum and the pressurized contents will end up all over you pretty new shirt. The tab is made just tight enough to keep things in but loose enough to allow even the most delicate fingers to remove it. Then we make millions of exact copies, each performing at the same high level. Yep, pretty amazing.

Is your gardening a high precision enterprise? Do you know the exact chemical composition of your soil? Is your compost controlled to such a degree that you could patent it? Is your knowledge of your plants so deep that you could earn a Botany degree? Are you so tuned to the weather that they call you from the local tv station for the daily forecast?

My sophistication level in the garden rises a little every growing season but I am far from being the guy that understands how fertilizer travels down the soil seeking its point of optimum equilibrium, or any such thing.

Don’t get me wrong. I would love to be a Master Gardener and possess such esoteric knowledge (In the age of Wikipedia, is there such a thing as esoteric knowledge anymore?).
But even at my mediocre level of gardening proficiency, I miss the early days. I miss those times when I just naively put seeds in peat pods, left them to get leggy and weak and then transplanted them into the first open spot in the yard. Sure I lost a lot of plants but I also got tomatoes, peppers, and herbs.

All the same, last year I bought a Ph test kit so I could optimize the soil for Blueberries, and a soil thermometer that in no small part, allowed for record germination rates this year. Will I ever become a Master Gardener? Will my gardening ever reach Aluminum-can like precission? Probably not but I doubt my joy for it will diminish no matter what.

How does YOUR garden grow?