Sunday, May 15, 2011

Piece of Advice #95: Grow something

I've been absento for the last few weeks concentrating on the project of putting together 6 raised beds, mixing some good soil, and planting stuff.  I've been gardening with my neighbor in some unused collective space for about 3 years now, but the results have been less than exciting.  We can grow green beans, zucchini, and some herbs, but our tomato yields have been poor and root veggies haven't been much better.  So this year we are trying the method advised in Square Foot Gardening.  Hopefully, the mix Mel Bartholomew advises using will produce better results than the rocky, nutrient poor soil + fertilizer base we've worked with so far.  I haven't given up on that.  I spaded old leaves and wood ash into the existing garden and will add manure mulch as plants emerge, but we're going to use that space to grow stuff that will grow pretty much anywhere.

In any case, why should you grow something?  Because people need to know where there food comes from, how it grows, and what it tastes like when it is fresh and not steeped in a chemical cocktail.  We as a society need to realize how terribly dependent we are on a food system that cares nothing for us as individuals and is content to undercharge consumers for "convenient" no-nutrient food while stealthily overcharging citizens via subsidies for Big Ag and Big Oil and uncounted environmental damage to the land we will need in the future long after it's been totally degraded.   Our meat comes from animals who live short, terrible lives in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and whose poisoned, overmedicated flesh is sold to us as Grade A.  Most everything else contains additives, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, or soy.  

Gardening is the first step to becoming less dependent on a system that cares nothing for health - human, animal, or environmental - and only for profit.  It's also good for you.  Growing things is practicing hope.  It makes you move more in a variety of ways - digging, hauling, weeding, watering - and burns calories.  People who garden connect with other gardeners for tips, and for encouragement.  They share resources.  They spend time together outside under the big free Vitamin D dispenser in the sky.  They make critical community ties.  The first time I sat down and had a meal with my neighbor - whom I've been living alongside for about 7 years now - was last weekend.  I threw a chicken and some vegetables into a roasting pan at 4 PM and went out to dig out some sod with her.  An hour and a half later I realized her husband was out for the night and she would be eating alone.  I invited her over and we all ate dinner together.  It was really nice, and I would not have done it had we not been working on our mutual project together.

Even if you only have time or space to plant in pots, try to grow some herbs because cooking with herbs is far, far superior to cooking without them.  Plant some seeds, watch them come up, and realize what a miracle it is that life generates from such simple things - seeds, water, soil, sun.


  1. Sound great, Grerp! I am making my first foray into the raised bed garden - from container garden. What exactly is the soil recipe recommended?

    Also, am starting a honey bee hive, there's been a delay in my bees coming, but my cute little top bar hive is ready and waiting. And, although the bees will fly far and wide for their sustenance, I am tucking flowers in all around the place.

    Thanks for all you do.

    signed, Jayne

  2. Jayne - it was primarily peat moss, sand, vermiculite, wood ash, organic fertilizer and lime. We threw in some topsoil too.

    I envy you your hive. That sounds really cool.

  3. This is wonderful advice. I planted some arugula and it was quite nice to watch it grow. Once I "retire" I will definitely try to plant more. Do you have any suggestions as to what to start with?

  4. I'd recommend basil. It's easy to grow, looks cheerful in a pot, and tastes great in a bunch of stuff.

  5. I guess this means I have to learn how to cook.

    I'm currently working on sewing. It is amazing how modernity creates such useless women. I basically have to start from scratch.

    You're a stay at home, right? Was this always the case? Is it easier to be domestic once you don't work?

  6. Yep, I'm at home. It is easier to be all domestic if you don't have an outside job, but not if you have little ankle biters hanging on you all the time. I taught myself a lot of this stuff after my son could be trusted not to put his hand in an open flame or fling himself down the stairs to see what flying felt like. Before that I was mostly just keeping him alive.

    Basil tastes great on turkey sandwiches with garden tomatoes. Mmmmm. Basil. Mmmmm. Garden tomatoes.

  7. Haha, my husband's cousin has three young boys and every other week it's "Off to the emergency room"- this week the boys ran head first into each other. Just to see what would happen.

    I will take your advice on the basil! Thanks!

  8. I'd recommend basil. It's easy to grow, looks cheerful in a pot, and tastes great in a bunch of stuff.

    Basil was my first gardening success story a few years ago. It grows like crazy. I was able to give a little of it to a few neighbors.

    Good suggestion, Grerp.

  9. God, what an awesome post. My dad's been doing this, as well as traditional gardening, for years. Lots of high grade compost, vermiculite, and peat moss. Spread it all out on a big tarp, and mix liberally. He's even got the original Mel Bartholomew "SFG" with Mel's awesome 70's beard.

  10. I would suggest garlic as an easy beginner's herb because it needs very little care. Buy bulbs at the store, break them up into individual cloves, and plant them several inches apart in rich soil so that the tops of the cloves are just beneath the surface. Water regularly to keep the soil lightly moist. The green tops can be snipped and used like chives or green onions. When the tops eventually dry out and wither, dig up the mature bulbs.