Archive for the 'Seeds' Category

A different kind of weeding

While Lauren and I were locked deep in conversation with a Victory Garden visitor (Well, let me be honest about this…said visitor was expounding on the lack of grocery stores in the Tenderloin and the state of Grocery Nation in San Francisco, and Lauren and I were more trapped than locked deep…), I noticed a man down at the far end of the garden. He seemed to be running up to the statue that sits between City Hall and the garden, smacking the statue and then running away. Then repeating this. Again and again.

I dismissed this behavior as a figment of my imagination, and turned my attention back to the lecture at hand.

A few minutes later, a man in a black leather jacket strode forcefully past the garden, heading toward UN Plaza.

“Want me to come plant some weed?” he yelled.

None of us were quite clear about what he said at first, so I yelled back, “What did you say?” I can hear the collective groan of anyone and everyone who has told me not to engage crazy people in the street. But I cannot help it. I simply have to be polite.

“Some weed!” he yelled back, never breaking stride. “I’ll come in there and plant some weed. It’s a community garden, right?”

“I guess that’s why they have 24-hour guards,” Lauren said.

“Oh my gosh,” I said. “I never thought of THAT kind of vandalism. That’s kind of subversive and brilliant.”

“I think that guy’s having his own kind of day,” said the man who we’d been talking to. Lauren and I turned, and I realized that the prospective weed planter was the same guy who had been slapping the statue down at the other end of the garden. There he was, his arms wrapped around the narrower sibling to the first statue, lifting his body up so his legs stuck out horizontal to the ground. Then he dismounted the second statue and strode toward the street.

“I think,” said the grocery store lecturer, “that’s what happens when you start your day with a breakfast of vodka.”

“Or weed,” I said.

I am more compulsive in other areas of my life

Apparently, over the winter, someone decided to throw approximately 1,000 small twigs into my garden plot. It’s lucky that, although I definitely have areas in which I exhibit great symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, the garden is not one of those areas. Therefore, on Sunday evening, I picked about 428 of those twigs out of the garden before giving up and just deciding that the remaining ones provided some interest, and also a good challenge for the seedlings to come. The really strong ones, after all, ought to be able to push the twigs out of the way, right?

Don’t worry, Master Gardeners. I’ll pick more out in the next couple of days.

Besides the twigs, I needed to remove the clumps of grass that had infiltrated the plot over the winter, which is miraculous, because how the grass was able to be all sneaky like that underneath 20 inches of snow baffles me considerably. I also yanked any dead plants that would have come out if said snow hadn’t snuck up on me itself before I had time to clean much up last year.

Sage coming back to lifeBut there were signs of life. Besides the garlic and the aforementioned baby spinach that is just coming up all on its own, it appears that one of my sage plants is resurrecting itself. There were some green baby leaves that are destined to become tasty treats sooner rather than later.

I yanked the rest of the sage plants as carefully as I could so I wouldn’t disturb the newcomers, and took all the dead plants over to the compost pile. Then I set about turning over the soil, unearthing all manner of worms who were not particularly thrilled to see me hanging out. Then I got moving on dropping in seeds in my normal, laissez faire manner, starting with the chard, which has bony little seeds that I loved from the moment I saw them.

These are the cutest seeds ever.

After the chard, I moved on to the rest: spinach, rosemary, sage, Italian parsley and some green beans. Once I had put far too many seeds in, as usual, ignoring the wise advice of the back of the seed packet, I covered everything up. Then I stepped back from the garden plot, the sun setting behind me, and nodded. Oh, tasty spinach. Oh, tasty chard. Oh, delicious herbs. I hope some of you come up soon, despite my best efforts to plant you incorrectly.

Starting, with seeds

This garden plot has absolutely nothing going for it.I have been struggling with a distinct lack of gardening momentum. The weather finally kicked into gear and warmed up, and yet my garden plot sat, in the backyard, untidy and neglected. Sure, there’s some garlic poking up through the ground, but the rest? Home to dead sage, dead Texas Tarragon, dead rosemary, dead greens…well, you get the idea.

I never even put in a seed order. How ridiculous is that? Every other gardener I know spent the miserable winter ordering seeds willy-nilly, but I couldn’t even get myself to imagine that far in advance, so I skipped that whole process. I mean, yeah, I did buy those Italian seeds back in February, but that doesn’t possibly compete with all those gardeners who spend time plotting out their gardens on graph paper long before winter winds to a close.

On Sunday afternoon, though, after reading the Michael Pollan article I mentioned on Monday, I couldn’t hold out any longer. I took a walk over to the co-op to get a few things, and availed myself of their rack of Seed Savers seed packets. Thank you, New Pioneer Co-op, for not only providing me with a source for my favorite single source honey and a prodigious amount of wine, but for also allowing me to be utterly lazy about planning my garden yet still buy really quality seeds from a cool source.

I went for things I could plant this early in the season, because it looks like we still have some fairly chilly nights ahead. In other words, I did not pick out basil, but I did grab spinach, chard, green beans, rosemary, sage and Italian parsley.

I headed home again, seeds in my Inadvertent Gardener tote bag, glad that even though I’d procrastinated into the late afternoon, there was still plenty of light out in the garden. As I walked down Washington Street toward home, imagining how I’d lay out the seeds I just bought. Who needs graph paper, anyway?

The cherry blossoms tell you when to plant

Although I have professed my love for the flowering trees of D.C. (and, oh yes, that does include the cherry blossoms), I’ve got to admit – I never spent much time when I lived there thinking about their symbolism.

I mean, the cherry trees? To me, they symbolized the hurray of Spring, and they symbolized that the traffic around the Tidal Basin was about to grind to a halt, and they usually symbolized we were about to get a raw, wet, nasty day, generally timed to directly coincide with the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s long-planned parade, that would knock all the delicate blossoms to the ground as if they were snowflakes.

So I perked up, last May during my visit to the San Francisco Botanical Garden, when Gordon Wilson, the docent leading my walking tour, started explaining what the cherry blossoms meant to the Japanese.

Cherry Blossoms, San Francisco Botanical Garden

“They used them to indicate when to start the rice seed,” he said. “When the trees bloomed, it meant a period of warm weather was coming.”

According to Gordon, the next step in the process came after a specific iris (and although I was taking notes, I didn’t get the name of this one) bloomed as well. That indicated a period of wet weather would be coming soon, so that’s when the rice farmers would plant their crop.

See, this is the kind of gardening marker I can get behind. When this very visible thing happens, start the seed. When this very visible thing happens, plant the seedling. This doesn’t require hoping that the almanac is going to hit the last frost date accurately this year, or require searching old blog posts and for indicators of when the weather might turn.

Just blossom: start. Blossom: plant. Very simple, and beautiful, to boot.

An impulse purchase of the foreign kind

While traveling recently, I wandered into a store that sells almost exclusively all things Italian. From homemade pasta to gelato to wine to incredible cheeses, it’s a little bit of Italy without the hefty plane ticket.

Italian seedsI have always thought of this particular place as a purveyor of the makings of a feast, but have never extended that impression to the kind of feast made from garden goods. But on this particular visit, I found myself face to face with a giant display of Italian herb and vegetable seeds.

I should note that, while seeds remain a bargain compared to the cost of actual produce at the store/co-op/market, these were not the world’s cheapest seeds. But I found myself unable to resist the musical seed names: basilico a foglie di lattuga sounds so much more romantic than lettuce-leaf basil. Rucola coltivata? Way better than arugula. Basilico violetto aromatico sounds like a character in an opera. And bis di lattughe da taglio? Sounds like I couldn’t just make salad out of it…I could date it, too.

Really, what does it matter that I can’t understand any of the growing instructions, either? It’s not like that has correlated, for me, into anything resembling growing success.

And at least I can guess what “Di facile coltivazione anche su balconi e terrazzi”means. It means, “Your handsome Italian gardener will plant this for you while you sit on your balcony or terrace and sip a glass of Montepulciano. It will be easy.”


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