My neighbor was right. She's older than me, she knows!
OK, so there hasn't been any snow, but we've been hitting almost near record lows for this time of year.
And I was panicking over getting compost?! For what?!
I've now got tons of compost and have yet to do anything. It's nippy out there! Nuh-uh. Going outside and getting all dirty with wet soil AND being cold is not my idea of gardening.
I haven't planted any new seeds either. It feels almost like fall weather out there and my polar bear instincts have this come hither it's hibernation time again.
Now where is the man who was wearing the shorts just the other day? Wonder if he had to get out his warmer clothes too.
It would seem that winter is actually extending itself. We were all shouting for joy seeing such a mild winter, no snow in November and barely any in December. We rejoiced, we had laid our gardens and got ready for a mild winter....that seems to not end! If last year is to be a repetition of this year, that bodes for a VERY short gardening season. Spring no longer seems to exist. In its place is cool weather that lingers on 'til almost the month of May. No transition into spring, but quick and dirty into the hot and humid heat waves of summer. Take that, plants!
I gathered a few more Violet flowers the other day. Same situation as with the other Viola flowers; they seemed saddened by the cool weather. Dandelions I've seen but a few and even some of the Tulips it would seem have adapted to grow very short and then put out their flowers.
In short, I'm holding off to plant anything until the weather gets warmer. In previous years, I had started seedlings inside, especially like with plants that have a long growing time, such as with Tomatoes. Not wanting to buy the pesticide-laden ones, I was growing them inside myself. No more. Not with this kind of weather. The little seedlings are just waiting to be transplanted, waiting for a bigger pot and bigger space. And still many of the seeds I've sown have not come up. I did get a few more seeds to plant when it's time, such as Rosemary, Oregano, Thyme and Parsley.
And these herbs, they remind me that I saw my neighbor and had a long chit-chat about the city plots they offer. He said they're located in a strange, out-of-the-way kind of area, fenced in. He had one last year but the lady who had a plot beside him was pretty beastly. She was always complaining about weeds and chastising him for not coming every day to look after his garden! Poor him, he's a nice man, too polite to say otherwise against her.
He gave up his plot this year, he said, and when I mentioned they had put me on a waiting list, he said to call again or go to city hall directly. He said that after a certain date, if there are remaining plots, that anyone who already has a plot is free to use the empty ones. Apparently that beastly woman had 3 or 4 of them! I was thinking, Really? Weeds?! How wonderful!
I'll have to find out. Meanwhile, I've been looking for some videos to show my boss about how sheet mulching works, thinking he might prefer the easier method of laying down cardboard to tilling. Plus, we already have cardboard boxes, and what's the difference of going to the store and getting compost instead of topsoil? None! Just a different bag!
And another meantime, I've been assessing the area behind the balcony. I picked up some cardboard boxes to do sheet mulching, and I've been observing how the light affects the area. Beneath the balcony is a piece of lattice that you would think would allow the rays of the sun to shine through, yet so far I've observed that the sun only hits the far end near the gate and a tiny bit onto the area farthest away from the house. In short, most of the area gets indirect sunlight. I'm still thinking about putting in Violets (there are some at work) and Mint and Chickweed, but it seems experimental and not sure how my landlord will take it....Yep, still a project on the "to-see" list.
I did get another idea to put some pots under the front stairs leading up to the balcony. Looking at the space, it gets sun, but because of the stairs, some shade too. I was thinking a few boxes of Lettuce, Cilantro and Spinach might do well there, but another experiment to see...
Well, I guess that's just how it is with gardening: lots of experiments and learning! The journey is what counts, not the destination :)
Now if that gardening journey could actually begin! ;)
C'mon, sunshine, we're waiting for more light and heat this way, please! Alrighty then, see you soon, sunshine :) I know you'll be here soon. I will wait, for patience is a virtue, and all things that happen, happen when they do...
Foraging has begun! A very meager start, but it has!
I awoke to see the stringy and limp plants of Nasturtiums peeping through the curtains of my bedroom window. Sigh, I suppose I should have listened to the wisdom of my neighbor, such finicky weather as we have been having! Paddling to the kitchen, I was tempted to open the patio door and step outside to have a further inspection, but cold beckoned me to stay inside. Yes, dear neighbor, you were right. Let us wait another week to plant.
Off on a bike ride to work and what do I see? Another neighbor hard at work sowing seeds and preparing the garden! OH! to plant now or wait?! Why does it seem Mother Nature is all topsy turvy and can't decide?
Ah, but let use see at work...And what I do I see, but Violet flowers! Oh, but they seem sad, some frost bitten almost. They seem they had eagerly come to play in sun, only to be blasted by the cold weather that stealthy came to ravish in the night.
I gathered the flowers, thinking of such great medicine ahead! Lovely Violet flowers, you shall be dried and your sweetness imparted in tea to come!
I surveyed the rest of the land. Baby Violet leaves were there, not even fit for a nibble or a salad. The same with Dandelion leaves and Strawberry leaves...blast this grass everywhere! Eh, not much else peeping through, no sign of Blood Root as there was last year, nor ramps nor even hostons (baby Hostas). No sign of any Sow Thistles or Dock...too early still, all are waiting, waiting for HER, Mother Nature, to make up her mind!
Waiting, sunshine...what say you?
Ah yes, let the moment decide!
So I will too. 'Til tomorrow then. It shall be as the moment dictates.
See you then, sunshine :)
The weather has been holding up nicely and it was just yesterday that I hung up some Nasturtiums baskets. One of them had two plants that seem not to have had enough light, but the others are doing nicely. Sage and Rosemary got plunked outside too. It rained today and Sage seemed to have toppled a bit, but plants do have to adapt to the "real world" conditions and not always be mamby-pamby in the house! Besides, Sage was starting to have a weird growing pattern from searching for the light coming in through the patio windows during the darker days of winter. Now she'll be due for a pruning, I mean, a haircut.
Even before the final day, I start coaxing Sage that she needs a haircut. "You're not growing right," I'll tell her as I'm fussing over her, taking off any yellowed leaves, checking the soil, making sure she has enough water. Then I turn to Rosemary and say, "Yes, you seem to be growing just fine, have you seen Sage? She seems to be toppling all over the place!" Then I create this image in my mind of the scissors and I wait and see how Sage feels about that. It seems so cruel, I know.
And then the day comes, and Sage gets lopped off and you'd think something terrible had happened. Then 1 month goes by and she seems a bit better, and 2 months go by, and WOW everyone's out to look at Sage, growing so lush, and just look at those leaves and aren't those flowers stunning?!
I have to tell Sage that she'll be just fine, just wait and see, and I liken it to getting my own hair cut, sometimes it just has to be done (and I've had bad haircuts, too, believe me, the last one I got, let's just say I'm still growing it out and won't be visiting that lady again!).
All pruning, er, haircuts, aside, Borage is fairing well despite being in poor potting soil from last year. I mentioned the desire to get some compost and when the weather was so ripe, so oh-so gorgeous last weekend, I felt frustration that the person whom I needed help from was too busy at that moment. I had to wait, to bide time, to be... patient. I really wanted to plant. The seeds I sowed, so many didn't take because of the lack of nutrients and I wanted to get that soil, I just wanted, I just wanted....
I let the wanting go and said, it is as it is. When it will happen, it will happen, and when it does, it will be the right time.
Boy, after that let go, what did I see at the local mall but tons of bags of organic compost!! So close by, and the other compost I had been eyeing before was not organic, just boasting of worm castings. Well, I was plumb happy when I saw those bags, I kid you not! Don't have them just yet, and when I saw them, it again reminded me of that ID Ego that was prodding me, NOW, it MUST be NOW. Just like a 2-year old, never can wait.
I liken the world that we live in now, with its fast pace, nano-second clicking and zero tolerance for patience to be the world of the ID.
But no, it need not be now. There was no way I was going to lug 2 big bags of compost on each shoulder and walk home! Now maybe if I had a wagon with me...
But I digress. This weekend I have hopes of putting my balcony garden together. My neighbor said she will wait another week or two, as last year it snowed and her Hibiscus plant lost all its leaves and she didn't want a repeat experience. I don't see any snow in the forecast, but the weather has been rollercoaster-ish, so I can understand her perspective.
Myself, I took out the pots from the shed and plopped them onto the balcony, all just waiting for the next step (yep, compost and new seeds).
I put out the 2 large planters of Comfrey and immediately my neighbor was curious. "What does that look like again?" she asked. Describing Comfrey's flowers, I couldn't do her justice. I assured her that when she she bloomed and the butterflies would come, oh, but then all would remember Comfrey for sure!
Early Spring has arrived indeed! I noticed the first of the Dandelions have made their appearance, those savvy opportunists, beating their yellow-headed flowers against the hot bricks of buildings, soaking up the first rays of the mirrored sun. Periwinkle I also see everywhere, and the Crocuses, Narcissuses and Tulips have started to sprout.
Oh, see the newness of spring! Soon the fever will come rushing in, and that magnanimous sun will have seduced many more a-plant to beckon forth!!
Plans at work for a garden seem to have been left not in the lap of zen, but in the mind of memory. Seems boss is keen on ripping up the grass and tearing up that 10-year-long-undisturbed-brimming-with-micro-organisms-rich soil, only to then add further insult with chemical topsoil and some sort of antibiotic-caca sheep manure. It doesn't take a permaculturist to see that the hummus-rich land that has been untouched for years is ready for the planting as is, that using a simple technique as sheet mulching, all veggies and herbs would simply be effulging with the very life force that is vibrating in the soil, does it? Apparently the old ways of agriculture are the norm and such silly words as I have written are a neophyte's rantings. So be it. I'd not only sheet mulch much of the land to plant veggies and medicinal herbs, I'd let those stinky weeds such as Hawkweed, Yellow Dock, Creeping Bellflower, Dame Rocket, Dandelion and Violet have many a-field day and bequeath their glorious wonders on soil and...me!
So I let my boss do as he deems fit.
The little plot of land behind my balcony awaits my design. Will there be one? I look at the land, in the mid-day sun, and none of it touches the earth. The grass is rough in places, with earth showing through. Not a veggie patch certainly, but maybe, perhaps, just some Violets and Chickweed running amok the soil. Perhaps some Mint might not mind to spread itself around. Hm, to do so would mean not applying any mulch over the cardboard/compost, just letting the compost do the double-work of compost and mulch. How much nicer it would look with mulch...
How I long to tear down that balcony that bars sun from this earth! But then, how would I get into the house? Silly me!
I look at the land that my neighbor downstairs calls his own, such boring lawn as I have seen everywhere. Behind the shed, his and mine, are such fun plants that grow. Yes, Sow Thistles. They are so sweet, and so happy when I come and I partake of their joy. They don't like the man with the cigarette and his devil-may-care-Die! attitude as he attacks them with his weed wacker. But when they grow back, I come and visit them and smile at them and tell them how smart they are to make quick and put forth their yellow flowers. So many think Sow Thistles are such nasty, bitter things, but I don't think they've ever sat with any of them at any time, ever had a conversation with them or ever tasted of them in a green juice. And yes, they make for some tasty green juices when fruits are added!!!
Such are the rantings of mine today! Oh, sunshine, I shall continue to await with patience, that the day I may call mine shall see me sowing seeds that come beating for a heart-to-heart with you. You have won over so many other hearts, how can I not begin to tell you that mine has been lost the day I was born, eternally yours, we have never been apart, you and i...
SPRING IS HERE!!
The sun is shining, there's zero chance of snow on the horizon. No clouds, just blue sky and folks are out about doing their spring cleaning thang: cleaning out the garage, getting the bikes oiled and tuned up, taking off the winter tires, and getting out the top soil! I smelled someone having a BBQ on my way to the mall, where the local supermarket had several pallets of top soil. Only topsoil, unfortunately, but bags had already left the pallet and were getting some good use somewhere.
No need for hat, scarf or gloves, even a jacket was a bit much. I had myself started with my own spring cleaning by taking out the spring clothes and starting a pile of items to donate, but after seeing someone in shorts, I may have to rethink the wardrobe and take out some summer goodies already!
Aaah, spring! Yesterday the Tulips were peepin' through and today I saw Periwinkle. Yes, a few Periwinkle flowers on a salad is just fine. Toxic in high doses, but then, just how many flowers do you wanna eat? A few make a salad pop and the taste is not much, like a road side nibble, but with a lot of colorful appeal :) They look like Violet flowers, but not quite, and like Coltsfoot, you notice the flowers first before the leaves. A bit like Violet with a slight mucilaginous quality and both are laxative, but as I said, a few and no harm will it you do...
And you knew that Tulips were edible, right? Oh, yes indeed, and they taste different depending upon what color they are. NOW, the petals are edible but the inner bit with the stamens are NOT. I remove the inner bits and then stuff them, you know, like mini squash blossoms. Best eaten the same day, because like other edible flowers, they don't keep long. Sure, you could always take off the petals and then freeze 'em and throw 'em in a soup come winter time ---I'm rather biased when it comes to soups, I confess, because I throw so much in my soup pot cauldron!!
The soup I just made had half of wild greens, like Motherwort leaves, Plantain leaves, Violet leaves, Wild Carrot leaves, Mallow leaves, Red Clover leaves and Goldenrod leaves. 'Course, I added in some root veggies and Italian herbs to smooth out the taste of all that greeny goodness ;) Woulda been nice to add in some sundried tomato, but they were out at the grocery store. Maybe next time I'll add in some Yarrow leaves, forgot about them!
Soups are always good, even in the height of summer you can make cooling soups like Gazpacho or green smoothies. I find the concept of a green smoothie much like pureed soup, only that greens are blended with fruit and it's drunk cold and not warmed up. Greens are always HOT, as you may have noticed, at ANY TIME of the year. Greens are the new black, is what I say. Always trendy, always in!!
And speaking of soups, they'll be lots of yummy plants to look out for during the spring time: baby Violet, Dandelion and Plantain leaves; Garlic Mustard, Mustards like Dame Rocket and Barbara's Cress (think of them like mustard greens, flowers are edible and can be used in salads), Wild Leeks (also called Ramps) and Japanese knotweed. Small Hostas when they are furled (called hostons) are a tasty treat ~yes, add to soup~ and don't worry, they'll grow back in no time. If you're wondering about taste, kinda like asparagus.
Most of the wild edibles like Dock, Wild Lettuces and Sow Thistles will have small green leaves that are just slightly bitter, great for soups, fine to chop and add to salad. As the plants grow, you'll still want to be eyeing those leaves for that bitter element: they make excellent greens to add to green smoothies and green juices. Dandelion, Violet, Plantain, Wood Sorrel, Lamb's Quarter and so many others also make yummy green juices and smoothies which I'll be writing about as the months progress :)
Also be on the look-out for spring flowers such as Linden, Coltsfoot and Violet, which you can dry and use for infusions later for colds and flus. Dandelion flowers should be a-plentiful soon enough. They're edible (sure, the lil green bits on the back of the flower are a tad bitter, so what) and you can infuse them in honey and vinegar, or add them to salads and soups. Some people like to fry them with a batter (tempura batter) and make fritters while others like to chop 'em and add 'em to pancakes and quick breads like muffins and loaves.
Two years ago I infused Dandy flowers in honey. Notes: make SURE they are absolutely dry (wait 2 days after the last day it has rained). They will make the honey runny and yep, slightly bitter. I wasn't too crazy 'bout it, even being the Crazy Cat Lady Who's Mad Keen on Bitters ;)
Last year I added some flowers to pancakes and smothered the tops of them in a rare treat of molasses and brown rice syrup. After eating pancakes my belly was plumb stuffed full! Right, exactly why I only eat such rich treats but once a year ;)
Not sure what fun concoction I'll do this year. I had gotten the idea about drying the flowers and using in part as a flour, but like Goldenrod flowers, timing is crucial as they'll burst into fluffy seeds right there as they're drying if you pick them too late.
Dandy flowers always make me think of timing and the preciousness of time. Suddenly, they are all there, bright fields of yellow flowers abundantly and beating against every hot brick wall and fence of every store and house everywhere. And the window of opportunity to enjoy them is so short: 2 weeks maybe, and then !poof! all gone. Funny how so many people curse that blasted weed Dandelion, but there's nary a flower to be found come summer. Well, there are rare exceptions but yellow flowers in summer are usually Sow Thistle and Wild Lettuce dandy-look alikes. Edible, too, and slightly bitter, almost...dandelion-ish. Here are some Dandy ideas fer ya :)
Hoping to get some compost tomorrow. Going to have to plant more seeds as it seems so many have not popped out into seedlings. I know the soil is poor in nutrients, it's the same potting soil as last year's, but it could also be the seeds, they might be old. I usually plant more than 2 seeds per space to make sure I have enough, but this year I planted exactly 2 seeds and I shoulda been a lot more generous!! That's alright, because once I get the compost I can plant directly into the pot and it'll save me the extra work of having to transplant them....
Aaaah, SPRING is here and summer lovin', hot diggity do and fairy fun are all on the menu! And gardening, foraging and the rest of it too, of course ;)
Enjoy the sunny beat of spring, sunshine :)
Snow in April. It would seem that with global warming, the winter season has been displaced. In December, when the weather was mild and there was no sign of snow, we rejoiced. Now, in early spring, when April showers should lead to May flowers, it seems April snow will lead to a rainy May. And the flowers, what about the flowers? Buds delayed 'til May perhaps, then swiftly into summer shall the weather change. Who knows....
The lingering cold weather meant that Cuke and Borage seedlings, taken out when the weather seemed more promising, have suffered the fate of returning to the Earth. New seeds were planted with the hopes that surely the warmer weather will beckon forth soon.
How interesting to see and observe the seedlings. What manner of plant is this? Don't you find that many seedlings appear to look the same? Wormwood, Rosemary and Sage...similar in their bitter aspect, but as unique to each other as sun is to moon and sky is to cloud.
And what's this? Aaah, little Dame Rocket seedlings, growing on a repurposed kitchen cart. Strong they seem, looking for the day when fresh soil will meet their roots and they can showcase their lilac flowers, sharing their perfume with all who dare to stop (and smell) this precious moment in time.
One need not stop to smell roses, for any plant will do. A simple Aloe plant, for example, can offer such wonderful experiences. Indeed, if you would but listen, if you would but see, you'll notice that each plant has a certain energy, and each plant also has moods. It's like you and I, as vast and open as the universe, moods as diverse as each wave that laps upon the shore. We have a core energy, a spark that defines "me," and then plastered with ropes and chains of mind thoughts and happy, sad, cruel, dark, jealous and joyful emotions that come beating with each passing breath.
Are they singing? Are they happy? Do they tremble when they see you or are they so generous in their giving energy that you have taken but one moment to appreciate them?
Save the hands of time for another day. Lay the mind to rest, leave it at the door. All your troubles and tasks, problems and memos will still be there when you come and pick them up again.
But for now...see the wonder of this plant! Look at this seedling, see how she just moved? What do these eyes see? What does this nose smell? Ah, wait, she speaks. Yes, Aloe speaks.
You asked a question. You had a desire. How better to know her, you asked? So sad and frustrated with mind, frustrated that you can not hear the music in the pines. Sssh, say all the plants, to be is enough.
One lets go and swims in the womb, where everything is as it should be.
Use the hairs on my face to sense?! you ask Aloe incredulously. How can I do that, use the hairs on my face to sense?
What a strange suggestion! One never really paid attention that one had hairs on the face, especially being in a woman's body. But yes, it is so.
One tries, but the effort seems to blur all and frustration returns.
Aloe smiles and says nothing more. Her bright energy shines of happiness, a heart that radiates light and joy. One need only to look with sensitive eyes; one can see such delight in just being, and the thankfulness that brims with newfound friendship.
Snow may have come, but plants remain true. Being, now, it is more than enough.
So there's good news and bad news. The good news is that some of the little seedlings are growing a little too well. Those would be Borage, Cuke and Nasturtium. I took off the lid of the greenhouse for a few days until today, when I finally got around to repotting them. Borage plants are enjoying their permanent home while Cukes, Tomatoes and Peppers got potted into bigger, but temporary pots. While the spring weather is here and the snow has melted, plenty more warmer days will be needed before the little ones can brave the big outdoors.
Nasturtiums were by far the fastest growing plants, all 12 of them! I potted 3 per hanging basket and can't wait to see these lovelies trailing down :) Last year I enjoyed their leaves and some of their flowers for so many days that I got a little bit spoiled because I sure missed them when they were gone! About a dozen Radish plants also settled into their cozy home today: a white dish pan for doing dishes that I drilled in some holes for drainage. I must be one of the few people who still hand washes dishes these days ;)
The bad news is that I need compost. Having a balcony garden, I of course had potting soil from last year, but each year the soil needs to be refreshed. Just like with a garden where you add compost each year, so the same with planters: you want to use either 50% old potting soil with 50% new potting soil OR use 2/3 old potting soil with 1/3 part compost. I think I've used as much as 1/2 compost and 1/2 potting soil in the past and the plants fared just great. The soil is, after all, a bit sterile compared to the garden; there may be some bugs that come to visit, but nowhere near as many as in a garden, and the soil microbiome is not the same at all. Indeed, to enrich the soil, you can add worm castings and use compost tea for fertilizer. Fish oil and seaweed fertilizers are also other good choices.
When it comes to compost tea, I don't let my tea ferment, but I do add some of my medicinal herbs diluted with water come watering time. What that means is, I use some leftover infusion and dilute with water, about 1/4 cup infusion to 4 cups water. The herbal infusions should be those that are high in minerals, such as Comfrey and Nettle. I have added various other mild herbals teas, such as Mint and Chamomile, but with less success. I've also used liquid chlorophyll (the kind they sell in health food stores) diluted with water, and even used liquid Concentrace minerals.
While some plants enjoy the potassium and calcium from crushed egg shells like Tomatoes, others benefit from the magnesium and sulfur from Epsom salt, such as Tomatoes, Peppers and Roses. Simply mix 1 TBsp salt per gallon of water and use. Drying egg shells couldn't be easier: rinse any gooey part off, then crush slightly and lay out to dry on a solid sheet in the dehydrator (or spread out on newspaper). No need to turn it on, you can let the bits air dry. Once dried, crush to a powder in a high speed blender. Like coffee grounds, I sprinkle some egg powder around the plants on the soil, then add some water. And yes, spent coffee grounds are another cheap, DIY fertilizer. They add nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous to the soil, so Tomatoes, Corn, Spinach, Roses and acid soil lovin' Blueberries wouldn't mind at all. Coffee grounds have been shown to deter garden critters such as rabbits and squirrels, but I wouldn't rely solely on this method.
In fact, last year I doused the top of the soil with Cayenne pepper powder to deter the squirrels. I found that it worked on the plants that had a good amount added, but not on the plants that I had added just a bit. This year I'm thinking to add some garlic juice (yes, you can juice garlic) or onion juice and dilute with water, and to cover the top of the planters with a gardening plastic that still allows for air circulation and sunlight to come in. Keep you posted on my progress, because there are quite a few members of squirrels that like to peruse my pots in the spring, and not just for their viewing pleasure ;)
Bring it on, sunshine, because the plants are getting ready for ya over here :)
Curiosity Got The Cat: