Posts from the ‘Gardening’ Category


I got inspired over the weekend to do some clearing in the garden.  And I can learn most of life’s important lessons from my garden.  I was looking for a place to plant squash and cucumbers.  It’s time to make room for those summer veggies.  I was looking into the spot where nasturtiums have been growing, and then I realized it was time to clear the favas.  I had planted them to feed the soil, but didn’t get to turning them into the soil until too late.  And once they bloomed – beautifully – I was easily convinced to let them grow pods for eating.  I have been harvesting the favas for the last week, mostly eating them raw in the garden.  But now it was time for a grand clearing.  And it felt great to make room.  I left the roots in the soil with all those nitrogen globules (my highly scientific name) in place, and added some compost in each large hole I dug for my new veggies.

Then I had to do something with the favas.  Usually I make a puree similar to the one in Chez Panisse Vegetables, great with homemade ricotta, by the way.  But that was too demanding for me, tired from gardening.  So I found a great recipe on 101 Cookbooks (Heidi Swanson) for grilled favas.  And how delicious they are.  I LOVE being able to just toss with olive oil and salt and throw them on the grill (like I do to my asparagus).  Then once they are done, you can relax with friends at the dinner table and shell and eat them, pausing and chatting (and drinking rose, if you like).  A lovely Saturday dinner it was (so great I made them again tonight) relaxing in the garden with friends.  And there are still more favas in the fridge……….

gathering in the spring garden

We had a lovely set of spring gatherings in the garden last weekend.  It was a great time for spring cleaning in the garden, and  be able to enjoy relaxing there.  We had done some pruning, but there was so much more to be done: weeded, cut, clipped, raked, swept.  And I’m not talking about finely manicured, just a basic level of tidiness – such that you could walk down one of the paths without getting pushed or punctured by roses or lavender, or slip on a gross grapefruit (or 2 or 10).  Thanks to a lot of hard work (and gratitude for some help we got), the garden is looking lovely, with roses, calla lilies, and wisteria blooming, along with the potatoes, peas and favas.  It was lovely to celebrate Spring’s renewal with friends and neighbors.


my favorite dirty word

………is compost.  Many cringe or get squirmy at the thought.  And please don’t look at the following pictures if you think they will present a problem.  But now that I have spent years perfecting(?) my approach, my visits to my compost pile bring me more joy than you might ever think.  Sometimes I just add the pail to the pile and walk away, but typically I fill the pail slowly with rainwater (from the rainbarrel) while I rake up some decaying leaves – which are plentiful in my garden.  I then add the leaves to the pile, and pour the rainwater on top.

If I have a little more time, I visit with my worms.  I take my favorite fork and turn the pile, hunting for the squirmy worms and other bugs and organisms in the compost, teeming with life.  I find the worms to be the PERFECT pet – no training or cleaning up required.  They just quietly do their thing, and turn our garbage into the most amazing soil for our garden.




spring potatoes

I love the colors purple and green together in the springtime.  And I love discovering vegetables growing and hiding underground.  And what should I dig up today when I was peeking at how far along those baby potatoes might be?  Purple potatoes.  I had forgotten that I planted the purple ones (among others) late last year.  I usually order my seed potatoes from Peaceful Valley up in Grass Valley, and plant them in November; but now is a great time to plant potatoes as well.  The fresh ones have such a vivid color and taste to them.  I can’t wait to dig some more (thought I would wait for my daughter to help, seeing that they are planted in “her” bed) and cook them up.

pea trellis

I have been wanting to build a new pea trellis for weeks, but it has fallen down on the list of important things to do around here.  The last few years we have built a bamboo teepee and hung netting around it.  Last year we tried this wonderful jute netting, which the squirrels quickly chewed through, thus making a mess of my dear pea plants.  This year, I had a slightly different idea – an A frame of bamboo with twine providing the vertical support.   Tom helped out with the binding (he is the knot man!).   No squirrelly problems thus far, and it gives me such joy to look at the kitchen window and see the trellis, with the peas trying to reach up and grow.

rain filled barrels

It’s raining today, finally (we really need the rain here).  I also finally decided to practice what I preach (not that I typically evangelize), and installed 2 rainwater barrels at the Pumpkin House.  We got them quite cheaply from the City of Oakland Rain Barrel Program.  I have used the water for my compost pile, and other hand watering in the vegetable garden – especially during this dry winter!  They only take a few days of rain to fill, and unfortunately don’t capture as many gallons as we begin to use in our veggie garden.  But it is so wonderful to collect the rainwater and return it to the earth while using it to feed ourselves (and our worms).

early spring planting

I finally got to plant in the garden this weekend.  What a nourishing 30 minutes it was.  Or maybe it was an hour………… as I weeded, turned the soil, turned the compost pile, dug out some fresh compost, added it to the bed, and planted the little lettuce and kale seedlings – amongst some of their older cousins.  Sometimes I start my own, but now that local growers Kassenhoff sell seedlings at our local farmers’ market, it feels great to get them and plant them – all in a day.  And perhaps because the well-tended organic seedlings are started nearby, they all seem to flourish and grow well in our garden.  Here’s to the homegrown salad we will be enjoying in about a month……….

I also finally found flowerettes growing in my cauliflower.  I have been checking them weekly, hoping that they would finally grow the little ones.  It happened quickly, likely with the recent warm weather, as the little “flowers” are already an inch across – maybe you can see below.


I like to think of pruning as a mindful therapeutic activity.  Working from a morass of tangled grape vines, or canes, to a select tamed few that will hopefully bear fruit later this summer.  You have to make some quick (or in my case not so quick and sometimes hard) decisions about which are the best canes to save, and then follow with lots of cutting and clearing.  It is a wonderful metaphor for a simple life.  And I now have lots of bundles of cut and tied canes for future fire starting activities.

winter garden

It took me quite some time (over 10 years) to get used to gardening in the winter.  Coming from a place with a snowy winter, November was a time to finish up the season’s garden and turn to cross country skiing, making soup, or knitting by the fire.  Not to plant.  But I have grown to enjoy the pace of the winter garden, as long as I don’t strive too hard.  Some kale, potatoes, cauliflower, and perhaps some garlic.  I keep trying to grow snap peas (or as my daughter says, “snack peas”), but it is always a battle between me and the slugs and snails.