Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Gardening with our brains


After more than a month in Cape Town I came home to a late summer garden where beans were bristling from bushes and fence. Also a lot of weeds. Long, hot days, lots of water from the stellar watering team of Julia and Kirstin, and the weed seeds of years resulted in something close to a jungle. And then there is the Wisteria that Wants to Rule the World. It should work for ISIS.

So two straight days were spent gardening. I was eaten alive by striped-leg mosquitoes.


I admired the basil hedges. The Thai basil (left) arrived in a late winter packet from Grow Journey. Late winter is now a funny memory. The fennel is a row I made from many of the scattered volunteers that popped up late in early summer, dropped by my plants last year - the ones that moved with us from Harlem.


And then I picked all the beans, to make way for cooler weather crops to come (I left the climbing scarlet runners in hopes of luring those hummingbirds).

Grow Journey's 'Painted Pony' beans are surprises in disguise. Their slim green pods hide the real treat, which is the beautifully mottled seed inside. While we ate plenty of these beans fresh in July, I now have a pile which I am in the process of shelling. This is the first time I kept beans long enough to dry and harvest just the meaty seeds. They will be cooked gently with whole cloves of garlic and garden thyme, with a nod to Terence Hill, who will always be the best bean I eater I don't know. You have to watch My Name is Nobody to see what I mean.


Grow Journey's packets of Chinese cabbage, kale, and August subscription of bok choy and lettuce mixes will be planted, soon, and then there will the surprise packet of September. What will be in it? I have left rows open in anticipation.


I was thrilled to see a monarch feeding for a long time on the wild ageratum (Conoclinium coelestinum). I had cut quite a lot back in my gardening frenzy, but left plenty of flowers.

And now for a rant.

One of my (many) pet peeves is the thoughtless use, in smugly righteous but underinformed gardening circles, forums, blogs, and conversations, of terms like "chemical." It makes my hair stand up. "I don't use chemicals on my garden," or, "I won't eat food that is grown with chemicals."

Uh, yes, you do, and yes, you will.

For zot's sake. Everything is chemicals. "Organic" is chemicals. What you really mean to say is, I don't use synthetic fertilizers/insecticides." SYNTHETIC. The PR team for good science is about as efficient as Barack Obama's PR team. Which is to say, woeful. The failure in his presidency was his team and his party's utter failure at communicating its successes. Fire the lot.

The good stuff does NOT speak for itself. Good science and good leadership need as much PR as the total shite that is dispensed by people too lazy to read more than the headlines. In its absence crackpots flourish. In the garden, and in politics.

The Grow Journey blog, as always, provides excellent, thoughtful information about healthy growing practises. Problems are identified and sustainable solutions are provided. Aaron von Frank's essay on synthetic nitrogen and why you don't want it in your garden or in the edible landscape that grows the food you buy is essential reading.

As Aaron writes in the nitrogen piece, "some issues take longer than a tweet or a paragraph to explain." And if you are planting anything, or care about what you eat, it's on you to inform yourself. Read that article, and share it. It is fascinating, and important.

Finally, tip of the day, fairly new to me (someone on my Facebook page suggested it - thank you), from a Grow Journey post about preventing garden pests:

Got mildew? Break out the fungicides? "No! Not unless you want to also kill the beneficial fungi in your garden that help your plants," writes Master Gardener Eliza Lord. "Powdery mildew can be easily prevented using organic methods. The easiest, most proven method of treatment involves milk. (Yes, that white liquid from cow udders.) Make a mixture of milk and water (30% milk to 70% water is fine) and spray it evenly on the surface of the leaves of affected plants during the morning on a sunny day... In studies, this method has proven to be as effective as any synthetic fungicide in stopping powdery mildew."

Now: Got milk?

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