Plant Panic

I just watched an interesting video, 41 seconds long, entitled, “Scientists Discover Plants ‘Panic’ When It Rains”.

It says that droplets of water, containing bacteria, viruses, or fungal spores, are the main cause of disease spreading among plants. For that reason, when it rains, plants release a protein that causes the plant’s genes to prepare to defend themselves. So it’s kind of like human panic. Red alert, all hands on deck!

Nature is amazing. I’m impressed that plants have this coping mechanism. Anything that allows them to thrive is spectacular.

But it also makes me sad, because one of my favorite things to do is water the plants in my garden. I know I have a tendency to anthropomorphize things, and that’s a bad habit, but as I water my plants, I’ve always imagined them thinking, “Ahhhh, that feels good. Sweet relief. I was thirsty.”

Now I get to think that I’m freaking them out.

The last thing I want to do is cause my plants distress. At the very least, I’ll be directing my water stream at the roots as much as possible from now on, in hopes of maintaining a peaceable kingdom. I’d like my garden to be as Eden-like as possible.

garden-of-eden

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Little Free Gardens!

Recently I started a Little Free Library, and it’s been so popular that I can barely keep up with it. I’ve also blogged about Chat Benches, which is another community-building idea whose time definitely has come. From here, a friend told me about another fantastic idea: Little Free Gardens.

According to the website, “The goal of the Little Free Garden project is to foster communities committed to growing, sharing and cultivating food in small gardens, placed in residential or public spaces.”

What a brilliant concept. And it’s simple, really. 1) Build a box, perhaps 4 feet by 2 feet and 12 inches deep. 2) Plant vegetables or fruit therein. 3) Place it in your front yard or in an approved public space, so that the produce can be shared by anyone who wants or needs it.

Not only are you helping to feed others, but you are educating them about the value of fresh, high quality, local food, and encouraging gardening. It’s also a great way to meet your neighbors and build community connections.

What’s not to love about this idea? If you don’t have the time or space to plant a little free garden, please consider hopping over to their website and supporting this organization in its good works.

clases_doctoradoe

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I Don’t Do Mow

The other day I drove past my rental house and discovered that my tenants had worked wonders with the yard. Not only was the lawn mowed, but there were pretty flowers in pots on the front stoop, little fences around various plantings, and questionably tasteful yet charming lawn art here and there. In the back, they had placed a few tables and chairs with cheerful little umbrellas.

In other words, they’re taking much better care of the place than I did when I lived there. It kind of feels like I won the lottery. I don’t ever want them to leave.

And as the cherry on top of the yardwork sundae, I have married a man who actually enjoys mowing the lawn! That, in and of itself, makes him quite a catch, even though it’s a tendency I can’t relate to at all. He says he likes the mindless physicality of it, and takes pride in how beautiful things look afterward. I’m glad he isn’t into toxic chemicals to make the grass even greener. That we agree on. So more power to him, I say.

Personally, I can think of no bigger waste of time than mowing. Manicured lawns are a foible that has been visited upon us by the French. It’s not what our yards want to do with themselves, and no one should have to put so much work into keeping up appearances. We mow to follow rules that we’ve imposed upon ourselves. Nature could care less about our stinking rules.

I think all yards should have native plantings. I think if we all were to xeriscape, the planet would be in much better shape. So much water is wasted on lawns, and so much damage is done when we fertilize them.

I think we should all plant fruit trees and let the neighbors help themselves. I think we should have vegetable gardens to teach our children what real food is supposed to taste like. I also think weeds have as much right to exist as anything else. I want rabbits to want to hang out in my yard.

In the first house I owned, I planted confederate ivy in the front instead of grass. I never watered it. I never did anything to it, other than occasionally cut it back so it wouldn’t choke the sidewalk and cause a tripping hazard. I lived there for 23 years.

I’m sure my husband would be horrified, but not overly surprised, to know that if he were ever abducted by aliens, the yard would wind up looking extremely different than it does now. Things would definitely be encroaching upon one another. Survival of the fittest.

Watching people sweat behind gas propelled machines on a beautiful sunny day seems to me to be the biggest waste of life and the worst of ecological insults. We should all be on our knees, getting our hands dirty, working the soil and planting for food, beauty, and the chance to do something, anything, other than mow.

Natural garden

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Farmers’ Markets

The farmers’ market in the small town where I just bought my house actually coincides with my regular day off. Yay! So my newest tradition is to go there every week while they’re open, June through September. It’s a delightful way to spend a summer afternoon. It beats the hell out of shopping at Walmart.

I like supporting local farmers, and not having to worry that my fruit and veggies were treated with harsh chemicals so that they’d survive a long truck drive to market. Often the things I buy are still warm from the sun and dirty from the soil. I love that.

And I tend to eat more fruit and veggies if I’ve made the effort to go to a farmer’s market. This is, of course, a win for me. And everything is fresh and usually delicious.

I also love that they take WIC (Women, Infants and Children) vouchers, and if you have an EBT (Food Stamp) card, you get 50% off. And then there’s the SFMNP (Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program). This provides low income senior citizens with vouchers that can be used for produce, honey, and fresh-cut herbs. Since I’m sure I’ll qualify for that some day, I hope that program still exists in about 20 years.

Even if you don’t qualify for any of those programs, the items available at farmers markets are usually very reasonably priced, because you’ve cut out the middle man. And you know you’re supporting the local economy. You also get to people watch, which is an added bonus.

I often buy cherries and then sit on a park bench to eat them and watch kids toss the ball around, women pushing babies in strollers, and cult members passing out leaflets. Politicians sometimes show up to glad handle their constituents, and often there are experts discussing recipes or giving good gardening advice. And I usually get to hear at least 3 languages on any given day. That’s music to my ears.

It’s a great way to meet local artisans, too. Butchers. Bakers. Candle makers. Purveyors of honey. Artists. Florists. I’m dazzled by the color and creativity.

I wonder why pet shelters don’t bring animals there for adoption? “Look honey, I bought peaches and a puppy!” I think it would be a perfect pairing.

Most of all, I like the sense of community that I feel at farmers’ markets. In a world that’s increasingly divided, it’s nice to be able to come together over something we can all agree on: good food. I’ve yet to see a fight break out at a farmers’ market. It’s kind of like an unspoken neutral zone.

Even though Autumn is my favorite season, I’ll be kind of sad when October rolls around and the farmers’ markets close for the year.  Take advantage of them while you still can, folks, and maybe I’ll see you next summer!

farmers market

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I Made This!

After so many years in Florida, I have an aversion to yardwork. To me, gardening means sweating, getting a sunburn, and encountering fire ants, snakes, scorpions, and spiders the size of your hand that can rear up and hiss. Yardwork, to me, is the stuff of nightmares.

But now I live in the Pacific Northwest, where the creepy crawlies seem a lot less creepy to me. And while we’ve experienced a few heatwaves, they are blessed relief compared to the 110 degrees and 100 percent humidity that is Florida. I actually like being outside here. Rather than avoiding it, I take advantage of it. Here it’s a gift, rather than something to be suffered through.

So I’ve decided to start off small. I have been growing tomatoes. Last year I planted them on the ground and discovered that there’s quite a bit of natural competition for these juicy red balls of perfection. I refuse to use pesticides and I can’t fault other mammals for taking advantage of a good thing when they see it, so this year I’m using one of those upside-down hangers, and having a lot more luck.

It’s silly how excited I get, watching my little garden grow. When I finally get to harvest the literal fruits of my labor, there is nothing on earth that tastes more satisfying to me. “I made this,” I think, as I put it on my plate. And that makes me proud.

I think every parent should introduce their young children to a vegetable garden on whatever scale they can. Whether it’s rows of zucchini in the back yard, or just a tomato plant on the balcony, it’s a vital experience. Too many of us are too far removed from the reality of the food chain. We forget that the things that we put into our bodies don’t spontaneously appear on our supermarket shelves. It’s important to know that.

That feeling of being able to produce something that ultimately sustains a healthier you is like nothing else you can experience. Think of it as an opportunity to be even more connected to the web of life. I admit it. I’m hooked.

World Naked Gardening Day? And I Missed It?

Jeez! Why do I always seem to find out about the cool stuff after the fact? I’m marking my calendar for the first Saturday of May next year, because that’s when World Naked Gardening Day rolls around again.

I love to skinny-dip. There is nothing more liberating than swimming in the nude. But opportunities to do so are few and far between, and I suspect that this will be even more the case now that I reside amongst the frigid waters of the Pacific Northwest.

But gardening in the nude sounds quite appealing as well. Adam and Eve did it, after all. And it’s a great chance to expose parts of you to the sun that are normally cloistered under layers of prudish clothes. I’m also all for any event that promotes a positive body image. And you don’t have to do this in public. You can do it in the privacy of your own garden if you prefer.

An opportunity to commune with nature, get some much needed Vitamin D and have some lighthearted fun, feel free, and flaunt the norms of society all at once? Oh yeah. Count me in.

naked-gardening

[Image credit: patheos.com]