Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Snow Is Expected

Here we go again: bucking advice and moving forward with our own plan.

We planted a tomato plant and a bell pepper plant (it's before Mother's Day, which is a major no-no in Colorado). But then again, we did plant them inside our warm and toasty Early Starters, so they should be okay.

Then again, snow is expected tomorrow night. Egad!

P.S. The spinach sprouted!

Share |

Monday, April 28, 2008

Babies at Home

The P.E. coach at my school asked if I wanted to join him and another teacher for a drink after school. "Sorry, Coach," I replied, "I have to take care of my kids."

Astonished, he replied, "I didn't know you had babies at home."

I explained that I did, in fact, have baby sprouts in the garden and that they needed to be watered.

And aren't they so cute? The white onions are doing really well. We've also got radishes, red onions, and wild flowers. No sign of the carrots or spinach.

A couple of sprouts have appeared in each hole, so I simply snipped them down to one (since I planted them in a perfectly spaced manner). That's the extent of "thinning" in the square-foot gardening method.

I love spring.

Share |

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cultivates Carefulness

I am happy to report that Matt and I made the switch to glass for our portable water bottles (goodbye, Nalgene!).

We shopped around Whole Foods to find suitable bottles. We thought about applesauce jars, but those were only 25 ounces (as opposed to our 32-ounce Nalgenes). I found the perfect grape juice jar, and Matt found a cocktail mixer bottle, which had a narrow spout, similar to his Nalgene.

My friend, Claire, is a fellow teacher and she expressed concern about the breakability of glass in a classroom environment.

As a Montessori teacher, we have glass all over the classroom (even in the infant/toddler classrooms) because it cultivates carefulness. If the children are clumsy or quick, they drop the glass and it breaks. They learn that their actions have consequences in a very natural and concrete way.

I'm going to try and cultivate carefulness with my glass bottle. I'll let you know how it goes.

Share |

Friday, April 25, 2008

Full of Next Steps

I've been really, really trying to emphasize the first "R" of the three-R's in the arrow, but I had to break down and buy a new book--Go Green: How to Build an Earth-Friendly Community. It's super-reader friendly and full of next steps.

Among them:

  1. Get an energy audit done on our house to reveal all the hidden ways we're wasting energy and to help us prioritize our next steps.
  2. Replace all our incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lightbulbs (I think we've done this for the most part, but I'm not sure).
  3. Look into getting a tankless water heater.
  4. Plug everything into power strips that can be turned off at night.
  5. Get a solar water heating and photovoltaic systems added to our home by the time the federal tax credit (up to $2,000) expires by December 2008.
  6. Get solar outdoor lights.
  7. Replace all carpets with non-toxic carpets.
  8. Get non-toxic bedding.
  9. Set up a clothesline.
  10. Turn the water heater thermostat down to 120 degrees.
  11. Leave at least three inches when we mow the lawn.
  12. Collect rainwater in a barrel (and cover with a screen to avoid breeding mosquitoes) to use for watering our plants.

Share |

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Make Your Decision Wisely

Nalgene bottles are under attack.


The bad news is that the bad plastic is also in eyeglasses (sucks for me), baby bottles, and even dental sealants (sucks for me again).

But, honestly, what did we expect? The more we process and produce things, adding ingredients that help us make a more durable and sellable product, the more we screw ourselves over.

The unintended consequences of our actions are so difficult to predict. And even when they are predictable, the immediate promise of profit overshadows prudence.

A huge part of the responsibility is on us as consumers. We have to look at convenient products through wary eyes. And then make a choice. Is the convenience worth the potential risk to my own health and the health of the environment?

Sometimes the answer is yes. (For me, cell phones fall into that category.) Often times, the answer should be no. (For me, microwaves fall into that category.)

The choice is yours; just make your decision wisely.

As for me, it doesn't make much sense to drink from plastic every day. I might make the switch to the metal bottles, but I'm afraid we're going to hear disturbing news about them two or three years down the line.

I think the best bet is to find a thick glass bottle that I like and reuse it. This article suggests that a juice bottle might work well. I'll be on the lookout the next time I go to the store.

Anything wrong with glass?

Share |

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Follow the Directions More Often

Phew. A friend of mine from high school performed Reader Rescue. He said the plant was a jade. Then I was able to perform Google Rescue and learn that I was sunburning my plant. Jades like sun, but they need time to re-acclimate. Thanks, Paul!

In other news, I planted the Chia Herb Garden that Matt bought for me in the depths of the dark winter. It comes with these bizarre soil sponges. They are really sponges that seem to be made out of soil. You're supposed to get the entire thing wet and then squeeze it out. Next you put it into the terra cotta pot and simply lay the seeds on top.

I'm supposed to cover them with plastic wrap or plastic baggies to create a greenhouse effect (the good kind), but we don't have such things around our house. Although, now that I think about it, we probably do have a plastic bag from the phone book that gets delivered to our house every two months. Let me go look for that. I really am trying to follow the directions more often this time.

Share |

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Google Rescue

The Season Starters really do seem to create a little heat oasis on top of the soil. Unfortunately, we had to move them (water and all) to get the soil ready for the tomato plants. We had gotten so excited about setting them up that we forgot to level out the earth beneath them.

We were scooping dirt from unused beds and suddenly Matt reached for pea square and dug his hands straight down into it before I could utter a word out of my agape mouth. Oh well, I'm not that excited about peas anyway. It seems pretty tedious to get them out of their sleeping bags (three at a time?) to generate enough for a side dish.

In other distressed plant news, I seem to be killing a piece of a plant that I picked up at school and replanted. I don't know the name of it, so I can't come to its google rescue. If you know the name of it, please let me know!

Share |

Friday, April 18, 2008

Smooth Operators

Yesterday was a winter wonderland when I woke up. Today it was in the seventies.

I finally got out there and planted:

1) Red and white onions (like 64 of them!)
2) 16 carrots
3) 16 radishes
4) 13 pea plants
5) Two squares of wildflowers
6) 4 spinach plants

We also set up some Season Starters. They aren't exactly smooth operators (or maybe it's us). We had a hard feeling each tube evenly, which is a prerequisite for keeping it balanced. But it worked out in the end. The goal is to heat up the soil, then plant our tomato transplants, and hopefully reap the reward of tomatoes by our July 18th wedding date.

The neighbor's dogs were going crazy during our afternoon frolic in the garden. Yesterday, I bought them some gourmet dog treats (chicken flavored, no less!) and now they are our biggest fans.

Share |

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Fickle and Stubborn and Coy

It snowed yesterday. That's Colorado for you. Fickle and stubborn and coy.

Oh well. It's supposed to be more summer-like today. I guess the upshot is that once the snow melts, we'll have serious irrigation for our beds. I need to get the onions in the ground ASAP if they're going to be ready by the wedding on July 19.

Share |

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Labor of Love

Oi vey. We had to retroactively add drainage holes to our raised beds today. The snooty woman at the gardening store chided us for not having proper drainage holes (and for growing in six inches of soil rather than 12). I was fully intent on ignoring her until I realized that Mel advised the same holes. I must have missed that part.

Since the beds are full of dirt already, it was quite a chore to push the dirt to the side (several different ways within each square foot) and drill a hole.

But that's the labor of love, I suppose.

The temperature drops tomorrow, so I plan on planting some of our cooler weather spring stuff. Good times.

Share |

Monday, April 14, 2008

Response to Reader Question

A reader of this blog, Spazholio, asked: "What are the benefits to square foot gardening over just planting a regular ol' garden?

Quite honestly, I can't compare the two different approaches from practical, empirical knowledge. When I decided to start a garden, I sought out my favorite kind of knowledge: Book Knowledge. I scoured online bookstores for good gardening books. I was roped in by the back cover of All New Square Foot Gardening:

"If you want to grow more vegetables--and flowers--in less space, All New Square Foot Gardening is for you. Author Mel Bartholomew takes you through his proven Square Food Gardening method adopted by satisfied gardeners for more than twenty-five years. Now in All New Square Food Gardening, Mel unveils ten new improvements that save you more time and more money--all with a lot less work. And with All New Square Foot Gardening, you no longer have to worry about weeds and fertilizer! Gardeners everywhere enthusiastically endorse Mel Bartholomew's revolutionary Square Food Gardening method."

The introduction to the book talks about Mel's experience with a community garden. He said people were zealous gardeners for about the first three Saturdays. After that, when the real work set in, their enthusiasm waned.

He designed a way to grow flowers and vegetables in raised beds using carefully mixed soil (from compost, vermiculite, and peat moss). Some of the benefits are as follows:

  1. The crafted soil eliminates the need for fertilizer and facilitates excellent drainage. Further, you don't have to waste a lot of time trying to fix potentially uncooperative soil (depending on where you live).
  2. The beds are divvied into one-foot sections, so the novice gardener can follow specific guidelines about how much to plant (e.g., 16 carrots can be planted in one square foot, or 12 beets, or one cabbage).
  3. You can either put plywood bottoms (with drainage holes) or a weed-blocking fabric beneath your beds, so the number of weeds is significantly reduced.
  4. Because the measuring is so precise, you can plant more precisely, which means you don't waste a lot of time thinning out vegetables.
As a newbie to this gardening thing, all of those advantages resonate with me. Like I mentioned in a previous post, "real" gardeners are definitely snooty and defensive about the traditional method, but I'm not sure why. It might be genuine inferiority on the part of the square-foot gardening method, or it might be that defending a more difficult approach to gardening helps them maintain the exclusivity of the hobby and therefore their prestige within a smaller circle. In other words, the harder gardening is, the fewer the number of people who do it, and the cooler and impressive those people are.

I say it's time to democratize garden (especially with our current environmental degradation). As far as I'm concerned, the easier and more convenient it is for the lay person, the better it is (as long as they don't resort to chemicals or other detrimental means).

Share |

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Blood Meal to Rectify the Situation

I convinced Matt (without much persuasion needed) to make the trek to the gardening store. We are now armed and ready to plant:

  1. Burpee's Heirlooms: Carrot Touchon (Sweet & Tender)
  2. Burpee's Heirlooms: Radish French Breakfast (Crisp & Zesty)
  3. Burpee's Heirlooms: Pea Thomas Laxton (Delicious)
  4. Botanical Interests: Spinach Bloomsdale
  5. Onion sets (um, like 200 bulbs)
We're going to wait until Mother's Day for the tomatoes and zinnias.

The "Plant Doctor" was on call and we asked her to test our soil. When we explained that we do "square-foot gardening" she was very snooty and almost didn't even want to test our "potting mix," as she called it. She also insisted that six inches is not deep enough to grow anything ("You need more like 12".) and she was aghast that we had plywood bottoms on our beds without drainage holes. We will take her advice and add some soon. (Editor's Note: I just went back to good ol' Mel's book and he wrote, "If you decide to create a bottom for your SFG, use plywood sheeting and drill 1/4-inch drainage holes, one per square foot plus an extra hole in each corner." Oops.

It turns our that our soil has perfect pH (6.5) and is pretty good across the board except for a slightly low nitrogen content. She recommended we add blood meal to rectify the situation.

Share |


It's beautiful outside.

Of course, since I live in Colorado, it could easily be snowing tomorrow.

Alas, I took advantage of the transitory warmth to do a little gardening. Or, pre-gardening, I should say.

At the end of last season, I pretty much left the raised beds in utter disarray. I was discouraged by the garden's lack of proliferation last season, and I was cold.

So today I pulled out all the old plants, as well as the new weeds. I turned the soil and evened it out in the beds. They look fantastic. And it took me less than an hour. Hooray for square-foot gardening! There's so much less growing space required, and my soil is pretty much perfect without much effort.

Next steps: Go to Echter's, the premier garden store in Denver, to seek out expert advice about what I can grow that will be ready in time for my self-catered wedding...

Share |

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Fruit Juice Tiff

Matt and I had a bit of a tiff last night. He picked up four bottles of Naked juice, overjoyed that they would only cost us $14. I didn't say anything about it, but apparently my face did.

He confronted me.

I explained, "It's just that I don't really see the point in spending money on fruit juice. If you want the benefits of juice, why not just eat the fruit itself? It costs less. There's more fiber. And you aren't condoning the production of more plastic."

He proceeded to read the salubrious ingredients, including things like spiralina.

I argued that our venerable ancestors did not drink spiralina out of plastic bottles. He could've argued that they also had reduced life expectancies, but instead he tried to argue that they got more nutrients because they were hunters and gatherers.

In my mind, the issue at stake is that we, as a society, tend to have such narrow focus. It happens in important areas, like the Civil Rights Movement. For example, there was rampant sexism within the movement because everyone was so focused on racial equality instead of just equality for all people.

It happens in other ways, too. Like the organic food fad. People were rah-rah organic food because it's so much healthier, and yet we neglect to realize that the carbon dioxide that's created by shipping organic apples from New Zealand is actually very bad for our health.

The movement for a better world is all connected. Reducing our negative impact on the world also reduces our negative impact on ourselves. We've got to look beyond the immediate effect on ourselves and look at the broader implications of our actions.

Eating a locally-grown orange and dumping the rind in the composter is good for us and the environment.

Share |

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Gulps from a Petroleum Sucking Spigot

Last night Matt and I trekked to our favorite bookstore in LoDo (as those wannabe New-York cool Denver residents like to say) to listen to a presentation by the author of the newly published Farewell, My Subaru.

Doug Fine proclaims (from the very top of his soapbox) that if he (a Brooklyn-ite who was weaned on Domino's Pizza) can live locally and get oil out of his life, anybody can.

His argument is mainly compelling (despite the fact that he lives on a 41-acre ranch in New Mexico and seems to sustain himself through the proceeds from his book deal). I walked away from the presentation with the following resolutions:

  1. I will splurge to install solar power on my house.
  2. I will start raising chickens for a daily supply of local eggs.
  3. I will investigate using drip irrigation in my garden.
  4. I will expand the offerings providing by my garden (including a greenhouse where we can grow tropical fruit--yum!).
I especially like how he coined the phrase "Hypocrisy Reduction Project," but I'm wondering why this project doesn't extend to bottled water. I mean really. How can a self-proclaimed local-ite stand on his soapbox (there really was a little stage upon which he occasionally jumped) and preach to us about living more sustainably in between gulps from a petroleum-sucking spigot?

Share |

Related Posts with Thumbnails