Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Garden: My Other World

Grounded to the Earth

Like so many quilters, I have another life. Quilting elevates me, and sustains a need I have to create with cloth. But the Garden is my alter world. Most days this time of year you'll find me barefoot, grounding myself with the earth. I dabble in everything, but especially heirloom varieties of flowers, vegetables, herbs and edible weeds, and the quest for a righteous compost bin. This spring has been a windfall of salad crops, and diabolical episode of gray mold. It's nothing short of Lord of the Rings out my back door.

In the Epic Battle for Light

These past many years I've battled with a giant pin oak tree. Not only did it finally shade my garden completely, I knew it was secretly stealing all the nutrients from my vegetable beds. It was a hard decision, but it needed to go.

For the eulogy I will say it gave us shade for many years, thank you, and a canopy for sandboxes. I expected to dig up little metal trucks that were lost among the acorns and leaves through the years, but so far none have surfaced. The tree trunk was preserved intact, and one of our sons will turn it into something for his home. In its place, I have a greenhouse ready to assemble, but that may have to wait until later this summer.

The magnolias and pink dogwoods are just finishing their show. I even had a volunteer white dogwood bloom this year. It snuck in while I wasn't watching, and now I'm in love.


In the dark of winter when the ground was still frozen here, I needed a fix. My orchids were happily blooming under grow lights I retrofitted into decorative downlights over my kitchen counter. Why not do veggies inside, too, I thought?

I started some lettuces, chard, and celery in flats in soil, transferred to these open bottom flats, and prompted root development. You can see that there are just small amounts of rockwool around each plant. Rockwool is expensive, and as it is not particularly eco friendly I stretched it thin. It worked. Isn't it shocking that these plants don't actually need soil?

I ordered a pvc set up online. The whole idea of hydroponic growing was daunting to me to start with, and this was easier than building it from scratch. This is the celery planted in the top tier, and before I realized I needed to keep the light out of the root and water area as much as possible. Bad things can happen with too much light, heat, and fertilizer.

Over a few days I had filled all the cups with transplants, and even with the skimpy rockwool they held nicely. I tried to use some clay pebbles to support the taller transplants, but found the pebbles slipped out of the cups, and clogged the system. Yes, we had to disassemble, find the culprits, and get it all back together. 

Within another week or two, I pulled out a few plants to check, and found algae had taken hold in the lower tier. I put 80 little tin foil collars on the cups, covered my reservoir with a dark lid, and was rolling again. This system is referred to as a nutrient film as it flows over the roots, and is powered by an aquarium pump. Liquid nutrients are added to the reservoir, a 5 gallon bucket here, and it has produced a lot of salad greens. 

Endive, mustard, and celery have produced the best. I'll share more current photos in another post.

The Cold Frame

Late this winter we finished up the cold frame. This one is tucked up against the house, and acts more as a holding spot for hardening off seedlings and plants. When plants have been grown in artificial heat and light, they've had cushy conditions. Moving them out into the great outdoors is a rude awakening! Bright sun, wind, rain or even snow at times means they have to toughen up before they can brave it. A cold frame is a halfway house. 

We made a screen inset for the frame to keep out rowdy chipmunks and squirrels who would eat us out of house and home. The insulated lid is up unless it dips toward freezing, but since it's nestled against the house it holds some extra heat. The geraniums inside will go out this week. They need to go so I have room for the plants coming next. It's a constant rotation here. 

The May Garden

Are you a grower? Not only is it a trendy thing these days to garden, it's benefits are pretty incredible. I step out the back door to harvest fresh greens. I have my choice of fresh herbs and plants for cooking or teas. Our grocery bill is much lower as I have such a variety, but of course that is offset by the cost of seeds, supplies, etc. (I also save seeds so that helps, too.) Fresh vegetables are higher in nutrients (as long as your soil is healthy), and I happen to think they just taste superior. Did you ever taste fresh picked kale after only having hard, rubbery kale from a plastic bag? It's sweetest after winter.

A frequent visitor to my compost pile.

Working in the garden is good for your spirit as well as your body. Think of the workout hauling a full wheelbarrow or turning compost piles. And it adds to food security, which is something we all need to be aware of. 

Be brave.
Plant a seed.



Barb N said...

Your gardening is a great way to be 'grounded', haha. Aside from this bad joke, I think it's just wonderful! We live on land that's big enough for a huge garden, but the rabbits and deer would just eat everything unless we fenced it. So I buy rubbery kale :( Or visit our local farmer's market and get my goodness fix that way. Here's to a fun growing season for you!

Angie in SoCal said...

I love those colorful succulents you have in the first photo. I was brave and planted hollyhock seed my nephew sent. Unfortunately I planted them in early April instead of late November - none came up. I'll try again.

O'Quilts said...

WOW I am certainly impressed xoxo