Picture Snob

March 19, 2010

On changable weather and the benefits of weeding

All in a day, we go from this:
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to this:
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Just when you think spring has really come, it snows. Last night I heard the plopping and dropping on the roof and the satellite connection went out. This morning there is about an inch on the ground. It is frozen and cold and the daffodils are bent over. The plum tree which had just opened it's white flowers is now covered in white snow. Last week I was hunting for t-shirts and today I'm wearing my heavy wool sweater. So it goes.

Gardeners are always pushing the spring season. I have managed to get a little bit of weeding done on the flower beds. It has to be warm enough for me to tolerate getting my hands in the soil which is usually cold and mucky. I'm always thinking while I do this that there's got to be an easier way. Every year it's the same routine, pulling the grass, the plantain, the selfheal, and staying on top of the soil because if I dig down, I hit the bulbs and roots of the perennials.

Still when the temperature is right, the day sunny enough that the cold soil feels good, weeding is a very thoughtful activity. The Jungians talk about "the task" like sorting beans or separating wheat from chaff as an organizing principal and usually there is a gift or boon to one who completes it. The task is slow, tedious and painstaking. You have to pay attention to detail. And indeed, weeding is that kind of task. You separate the plants you want from the others and while you sort and pull, you mind prioritizes and orders the issues of your life. It happens naturally without an effort. Yes this, but no, not this. Weed pulled out; seedling left. When you're finished and the flower bed looks clean and ready for new growth, the mind likewise feels cleansed and free from the nagging tugs and pulls of half formed thoughts or emotions unrecognized. They have been noticed and discarded or, if worthy of keeping, put in perspective. Weeding is also an exercise which promotes mental health, and combined with a lovely flower bed is the boon granted one who performs "the task".

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February 25, 2010

Is Gardensnob an oxymoron?

I often think this web site is misnamed. It's hard to think of gardeners as snobs. A true snob would hire someone to do the gardening. A true gardener gets their hands dirty, their fingernails broken, their knees soiled, sweats, tugs and pulls, grunts and sometimes curses and experiences the delight of healthy and vibrant plants.

It seems to me gardening triggers some primal circuits in the brain. It an ancient art. It is one that's been around for 10,000 years or more, since humans began to experiment with agriculture and the secret of the seed. When the balmy and changeable weather of spring hits, and our energy rises, so does the urge to plant something. The world is full of possibility and potential and the seed is a living example of that. The whole process of covering something with soil and seeing it transformed into a tiny green shoot is a bit of magic in the real world. Myths were created about this mystery. The story of Demeter and Persephone comes to mind. The myth is quite beautiful. If you remember, Hades captures Persephone and takes her with him to the Underworld. Demeter, her mother, who is the earth goddess, mourns over the loss of her daughter and as a result nothing on earth grows. Everything withers and dies. Finally Zeus takes pity on Demeter and on the humans who are suffering from lack of food, and arranges with Hades that Persephone return to her mother, the earth, for six months of the year which creates spring and the growing season and spend six months in the Underworld with Hades when winter comes to earth.

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The cycle of season for those of us in temperate climates is embedded in our DNA and to participate in that seasonal dance is part of the joy of gardening, and instead of making us snobs, it tends to make us a little humble to be a part of forces so much more powerful than ourselves.

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February 16, 2010

Some thoughts about what to do about leached out soil.

I went out into the garden today to check out what was still growing and viable. I was hungry for greens. The kale looked good and I wish i had planted more of it. It's so hard in the fall, when there are vegetables I'm trying to give away, to think about planting a couple of rows of kale. The broccoli was still putting out flower heads and I harvested some for dinner. I brought the pruners with me and trimmed the plants to they might produce more as the weather warms up. The small beets were ok, but the big beautiful ones had heaved out of the ground and been frozen. There were carrots, of course, and they are sweetest this time of year and have to be eaten soon as they will rot if it warms up.

But what a mess to clean! First dig!IMG_1166.JPG
Then take to outside faucet:IMG_1168.JPG
Rince off with the hose and voila! they are ready to bring insideIMG_1169.JPG They will taste fantastic.

All in all, I have enough greens to eat if the road goes out and I am stranded for weeks. But the rains have been hard and the soil in the garden was muddy and compacted so that my boots got stuck in mud in a couple of places. I was very disappointed in the ground cover I planted. The quail must have eaten most of the vetch and legumes. Only some rye is growing and it adds the least amount of nutrients to the soil. It's going to take a lot of work to get a rich loam out of this mess, but I've done it for years so I know it can be done.

One of the things I'm going to try is to mix this Azomite with the compost and fertilizer I put in each row before I plant. I've never tried it, yet I'm sure after this winter, my soil must have been leached clean of minerals. So I'm ordering several pounds of Azomite and I'll report on it's usefulness. The rest will be up to the truck loads of manure and compost I'll put in the garden.

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At 2 Lbs of Azomite - Organic Trace Mineral Soil Additive Fertilizer - 67 Trace Minerals: Selenium, Vanadium, Chromium

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January 11, 2010

Heirloom plants make a big comeback


41+lEY6ZyyL._SL500_AA280_.jpgThe heirloom varieties started showing up about 10 years ago, and for the last few years have been very big with the gardeners in my location. I have ignored the heirloom craze feeling like it was a passing fad and have kept doggedly to the varieties that do well for me: Early Girl tomatoes; Big Boy; and the Sun Gold cherry. But this year I'm going to explore some heirloom varieties.

What changed my mind is that so many varieties of plants are disappearing. Heirlooms have been ignored largely because industrial farming wanted fruits and vegetables that would withstand shipping. After all, a really ripe tomato can't be rolled down a conveyer belt and be squished into a semi load to be hauled across the country. The large farms also wanted consistency and a resistence to drought, insects and pesticides. Thus arose the horror of "Roundup Ready" varieties of vegetables able to withstand large amounts of that pesticide. Does that whet your appetite? That's when I begin to loose mine.

I started to investigate the heirloom craze and discovered that I have always grown an heirloom variety, Kentucky Wonder pole beans. These beans were considered the food of the gods in Indiana where I grew up. My father's favorite meal was a mess of those beans cooked with pork fat, a side of cole slaw, and fresh, ripened tomatoes with home baked cornbread. So when I started gardening, I chose Kentucky Wonders quite naturally. Apparently, Black Beauty eggplant is heirloom as are Lemon Cucumbers. So I have been growing Heirloom varieties all along. This next year, I'm going to concentrate of heirloom tomatoes. Brandywine Heirlooms are big fruited and gorgeous and furthermore, I like the name, it reminds me of my childhood, so I"m trying to grow them. You can save the seed from heirlooms and they will come true to type next year. Plus they will very slowly adapt to your garden conditions and should improve with time.

I'll be blogging more about this experiment this year and discussing the pros and cons of heirloom seed growing.

Amazon carries quite a few heirloom seeds.

At Black Brandywine Tomato 30 Seeds - Heirloom

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January 1, 2010

Best Wishes for the New Year from Garden Snob 2010


gardenn2.jpgA new year and a new decade! I have some resolves for this blog. First and foremost I will be going into more depth in covering garden problems and processes. I have gardened for forty years and live in an area where there are many expert gardeners, some of whom make at least a partial living selling their produce. I want to draw on their expertise also and also do a review of their methods.

But I have to mention to my readers the reasons for gardening!

One thing that gardeners have going for us is our attention to the seasonal cycles and the renewal and rest that is an intregal part of gardening and our lives. We also reap the benefits of the activity. All that hauling, bending and stooping, keeps us younger and more supple. And the activity is always changing and so provides new interest and challenges. What's needed in the spring for planting is not the same as the needs of harvest.

Then there is the produce itself. There's nothing quite as satifying as going out to the garden and picking what you need for dinner or a salad. Vegetables can never be fresher than this and the difference in taste between home grown and store bought is huge as we all know. What is grown on soil that is nutrient rich without the use of pesticides and chemicals is both healthier and tastier. And then there's the joy involved in being a part of the process of giving life, nurturing it, and then being nurtured by it.

So if you hesitating about starting a new cycle, or discouraged about last year's difficulties, or if you can't wait to get back into the dirt, take heart, because a new cycle of life is coming, the light is returning and preparations for a new growing season can begin. It's worth every aching back, broken nail, and muddy knee. It's self sufficiency at the most basic level and feeds that part of ourselves that has lost touch with the earth and where our food comes from. It's sun and water and soil and the magic of seed. So we gardeners are really happy to be a part of something so basic.

So whether your interest is vegetables, herbs, flowers we at Gardensnob which you the happiest possible New Year filled with abundant growth.

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December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice is a time for stillness and contemplation

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It's always a good idea during this holiday season, to take time for quiet reflection and the winter solstice provides that opportunity. The garden has usually been put to bed, the days are short, and the growing season over. It's important in the our life as well as the garden's life to take time to think over the year, it's gains and losses, the successes and failures and assess the everyday projects and activities that keep us going. It's most important of all to JUST STOP DOING ANYTHING AT ALL and feel what it's like to be at rest.

We can learn a lot from gardening about nurturing, about persistance, about fruition and about being still. The earth, the soil and our efforts need a time of rest. It's something our culture does not value, but it is essential to life and health that every once in a while, we stop trying and sit quietly. Just stare out the window for a while or shut your eyes, or be grateful for what you have. So you might use this solstice as such a time. I wish you many more such times over the holidays and in the new year.

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December 4, 2009

New wine in old bottles is a delicious autumn drink!

I have some friends who are wonderful organic gardeners and they have introduced me to Federweisse or new wine. It is wonderful, light, fruity and tangy and slightly bubbly! Now I have a reason to plant some wine grapes just to make this wine. All it takes is pressing the juice so that it is free of skins and seeds and then bottling the juice and letting it set until the fermentation process starts. The yeast on the grapes provides enough starter, nothing else has to be added. The alcoholic content gets higher the longer it sits, but I love it when it is still sweet and fruity, reminding me somewhat of sangria. Definitely a cheery drink, shown here with a chocolate cake for a afternoon treat.
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At Chardonnay Grape Vine One Gallon

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October 19, 2009

An October garden treat--the last taste of summer

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As the garden winds down in October, I often roam through the rows and pick whatever is ripe. If the day is cool, I make a fresh soup with whatever I have harvested. It's such a delight and I never bother with a recipe because everything is so fresh and tasty. I usually saute the onions and garlic with squash or kale or carrots and then add tomatoes and a sprig of rosemary or some basil--whatever I have found. If there aren't enough tomatoes, I use a cream sauce or add some chicken broth. It reminds me of my childhood, when I would come home from school and ask, "What's for supper, Mom?" and smell the soup simmering on the stove. It's the perfect meal for a cold October night and a great use of the last fresh vegetables from the garden.

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