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Gardening Tips from the Masters

Dear Friends,

Can you name this Beautiful Creature?

It’s Spring full bloom and friendship is in the air as you can see in our photo here. But take a very close look—what is different about this photo?

It is vegetable garden planting time here in the Northwest. As you may remember last summer I initiated the planting of our first garden on our property. This year we are making it a communal effort. I sent an email to all the condo owners, asking them to let me know the kind of vegetables they would like to see in our garden. This coming weekend we will start our planting. As you can see, I have gotten the ground prepared with three trellises in the back for peas and beans and other “climbing things”. Our plot is very small—9 by 15 feet, so we are supplementing with potted gardens everywhere in our courtyard and walkways.

We are going to have two planting—one, for spring time, cooler weather plants and the second is in mid June for summer crops. Thus far the consensus is that we want a lot of herbs—basil, tarragon, mint, rosemary, Italian parsley, thyme, green onion, chives, and garlic. I will also plant kale, spinach, and other wounderful greens. Perhaps for this first planting we will do some climbing snap peas for the lattice with beans and climbing cucumber in the second planting. The June planting is very exciting as we plan to do a better placement for our tomatoes (in pots, next to a wall that soaks up the sun’s rays and heats up), zucchini, eggplant, some squashes—we’ll see. Of course, all the seeds and seedlings will be organic.

The question I’m asking myself this week is how to space the plants. Being basically a novice, I am consulting with our local nursery, my relatives and friends who are gardeners and farmers. They are great with all sorts of ideas. I’ve been looking at my vegetable gardening books. In next weeks newsletter you’ll see the results of this planning in pictures from the garden.

Here is an enticing herb garden suggestion for my book, Gardening For The Future of The Earth by Howard-Yana Shapiro, PhD and John Harrisson (2000). In this wonderful book the authors show how the masters of organic gardening do it. As they say, How to create natural bounty in your own backyard and help save the planet one seed at a time. More specifically:

All your main culinary herbs can be planted accessibly in an ascending spiral using an easily constructed mound with a base diameter of 6 feet, rising to 3 to 4 feet in height. Planting can also take into account the edge between the sun and shade preferences of plants; in the case of herbs, the sunny, dry side is suitable for rosemary, thyme, and sage, while the shadier, moister side would be best for cilantro (coriander), mint, parsley and chives.

Do you not have enough space for a garden? Plant in pots and place on your decks, or any free spaces you can find around your home. Planted pots of organic herbs and vegetables will cheer up your home, green the environment, and supply healthy, vital nutrition.

So, this is the beginning for us with our little condo pea patch—baby steps. We taught everyone that organic is the only way to go and everyone seems to be on board. It’s a process and as I look at our property’s potential in the future, for going green and growing food, I see the enormous possibilities like the square footage of flat top roofs with easy access. How amazing it would be to convert that unused space into raised gardens. Stay tuned.

My other personal gardening book that I love is The New Organic Grower—A Master’s Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener by Eliot Coleman (1995). The author advocates vegetable gardening as a business. His plan is to devote five acres of land as the optimum size because it is about as much land as a couple or small family can manage to create a successful business as a vegetable farmer. By manage, Coleman means both practically and professionally—practically, by using the low-cost equipment and simple techniques that fit the tasks, and professionally, by making sure there are enough people per acre to stay on top of things. Two and a half acres is more than sufficient land to grow a year’s worth of vegetables for 100 people. Small 5 acres farms feed most of South America, Europe and Africa. Family owned five acres organic farms could feed the world.

This brings me to our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)—Helsing Farms. They have put out their Spring emailing for membership for the coming growing season—and, I signed us up. We will get our first weekly shipment of organic produce in mid-June. Here’s a sample from their email:

“Despite hail and other questionable conditions the 3 acres of strawberries that we planted in February are looking green and plump. Hopefully there will be lots of strawberries for you this year and then next summer when they begin producing in earnest we’ll also open the field for u-pick.”

“Our two greenhouses are doing well this year. Last year the onions, leeks and shallots we planted germinated rather poorly and we didn’t have as many as we had planed for. This year they look great, we’ll be planting them out in the field in the next few days. Planting onions is tedious work, not to speak of weeding them 3 times as they stay in the ground all the way from April to September, but they sure are worth it!”

“We put our first planting of seeds in the ground on April 19th. The soil seemed warmer and more awake then in years past. We happily planted snow peas, red and golden beets, green onions, fennel bulbs, rainbow chard and some beautiful hardy green butter head lettuce. We are getting excited for the first vegetables and fruits of the season. Usually we have kale and rainbow chard to eat all winter and into spring, but it all froze this winter.”

Your farmers, Annie, Sue, Rosalio, Bonfilio, Tomasa, Adelpho, Victor, Oly and Zac

There is much more in their letter, but they do bring you along in their farming journey—don’t they? They love their gardening, and they provide the best, mouth-watering recipes for hearty home-cooking with the produce they deliver each week. You should check out CSAs in your area.

Sincerely yours,

Seann Bardell

Clinical Note:

Garlic has been appreciated since the dawn of civilization. The remarkable properties of garlic can be understood based on the occurrence of a number of relatively simple sulfur containing chemical compounds ingeniously packaged by nature in garlic. Next week’s email will be devoted to taking a look at this. Suffice to say each vegetarian capsule of our Freeze-dried Organic Garlic contains 4 to 5 cloves of exceeding potent garlic—26,000+ ppm alliin and is excipients free.

The Last Quiz Answer: This is a baby spider monkey. They are called spider monkeys because they look like spiders when suspended by their tails. Spider monkeys are usually all black, but some have flesh colored rings around their eyes and white chin whiskers. Their hair is generally coarse and stringy. The male’s body length 38-48cm, tail 63-82cm, 9-10kgs. The female’s body length 42-57cm, tail 75-92cm, 6-8kgs. Males and females look the same.

Spider monkeys are generally found in lowland rain forests from Mexico to South America, along the coasts and the banks of the Amazon, south to Bolivia and the Matto Grosso in Brazil, and the mountain forest slopes of the Andes. They are restricted to arboreal habitats, mainly in the top of the tree canopy.

Do you know who Cesar Chavez is? Probably you do. What about Dolores Huerta, do you know who she is?I didn’t, but last week I had the privilege of hearing her talk on our local PBS affilate on Conversations. The show’s moderator asked Dolores (regarding her co-founding of the Farm Workers Union with Chavez, and the 1965 Grape Boycott, which was the most famous and effective boycott in the US history), if Cesar was the frontline activist and she served more at the administrative level. She gracefully corrected the host informing him that they were both equally out there as activists. She had been jailed over twenty times standing for the rights of farm workers. It was a half-hour interview and I have the link for you. What a beautiful elegant human being! Watch it, you will be blessed—Dolores Huerta on Conversations.

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