Wherein I interview gardeners of all sorts, visit gardens created by gardening people, and write about the gardener’s world in general. Please also see my gardeners portrait project in progress: The Green Minds Project.
This is the first package of seeds I have purchased for the 2008 growing season. Of course I have acquired other seeds via trades but this was the first I bought. It has a decidedly Canadian sounding name, no? It makes sense given that the plant heralds from Beverlodge Research Center in Alberta. I bought it because one of my longterm goals is to try as many tomato varieties as possible to determine which varieties are the best for container gardeners. My criteria for judging ranges from how they fair and yield in smallish containers to taste and attractiveness.
People often ask me about my own gardens and I often feel I have to explain that despite the fact that I am an artist, they are not really self-expressive or artistic gardens but have become experimental spaces. In some ways they aren’t really mine to do as I please but where I try out different plants, varieties and techniques so I can learn as much as possible within each growing season.
From ages 13-18 I was determinedly set on an educational path towards becoming some sort of scientist. By age 18 I was starting to question that choice as I also had a deep longing to make art and interests in other areas (i.e cultural theory and other humanities subjects). Everything changed one evening when I looked around my grade 13 Chemistry night school classroom and had the sudden, clear realization that while I liked the gadgets and the experimentation I was not at all cut out for a life in science. The reason why I am telling you that bit of history about myself is to explain that forgoing the personal choice for experimentation is not exactly a hardship. I enjoy it equally to self-expression.
In that sense I think I am drawn into gardening through a range of interests. I like the physicality of it, of using my muscles and interacting with soil and plants. I like it as a creative outlet, making beautiful spaces with plants and junk. Which leads to my life-long appreciation for making something out of nothing. Sure we can’t garden with literally nothing, this isn’t magic after all. It’s easy to get caught up in all of the “stuff” we think we need, but in the end we can do a lot with just a handful of seeds and somewhere to put them. It is in that sense that I don’t understand why we focus on depicting gardening as an expensive pursuit. People of all classes garden. Of course there are financial limitations (who owns space and has access to it, and resources that are both financial and in the form of leisure time) but I am just as amazed by the back alley tomato farm as I am by a high-faluting potager. Every garden is a place of wonder with so much to discover and learn from. That aspect of it connects me to my child brain, where my interest in the sciences was really more about uncovering and reveling in a sense of wonder and awe about nature. From that perspective the choices that led me to being so deeply entrenched in this pursuit were the right ones. It taps into several different sides of my brain and has pushed me in areas I didn’t realize needed pushing.
Gardening is a unique activity in that it can be approached from so many different angles. Every gardener has their own personal reasons for being drawn to it and for sticking with it throughout their lives.
So today’s post ends with a question for you. Why are you drawn to gardening? How does it tap into your interests?
Unfortunately when it comes to Mr. Michael Pollan I can not seem to get past an unfortunate and debilitating case of “teenage fan girl ridiculousness” (squeal!) to write about his work with a modicum of professionalism. If you haven’t heard of his writings and work already I would highly suggest running out and getting a copy of what I think is one of the very best books about gardening ever written, “Second Nature.” The Ted talk (above) leads off from ideas conveyed in his book “The Botany of Desire.”
I highly recommend exploring the Ted talks in general since it is a fantastic resource of intelligent and thoughtful ideas and people.
Green Minds is a portrait project exploring gardeners and their passion for growing greenery. I am seeking to validate all kinds of gardening practice. This includes anything from a sprawling lush paradise to a single plant growing in a coffee can. Gardens include but are not limited to: community gardens, allotments, backyards, balconies, rooftops, front yards, containers on a patio or street corner, store windows, fire escapes, windowsills, guerilla gardensÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.
As spring approaches and my schedule for 2008 starts to unfold I am seeking new subjects for the project. Since I live in Toronto I am primarily limited to gardeners in this area. However, I am going to be in San Francisco and Austin, Texas this coming spring and would love to take advantage of those trips to schedule some photo shoots. Other trips may pop up so do not hesitate to get in touch regardless of where you are. I am seeking a diverse group of gardeners and gardens to photograph. Skill level and the maturity of the garden do not matter. I don’t care if your garden is as small as a basil plant in a tin cup. I want to take your picture and hear your story!
Please email me: Your contact info, a few words about the garden and the gardener and the location.
I first came across the work of Derek Powazek online about 10 years ago when I was working as a graphic designer in the interactive department of The Place That Shall Not Be Named. Derek’s retired online public complaints machine Kvetch.com was a touchstone to sanity for me, a place where I could find solace in the sane (and sometimes not-so-sane) ramblings of others slogging away in poorly managed cubicle communities across the globe or post my own discontent. You may have heard about Derek via one or more of the myriad of awesome projects he has spawned since including the recently relaunched Fray, SF Stories, and JPG magazine. The self-described Author, Designer, and Troublemaker is internet famous as the online storytelling guy; he loves to tell stories and is always coming up with new ways to get you to tell yours.
But over the years he has dropped hints of a behind-the-scenes interest in plants. When he recently posted a series of photos showing the assortment of gorgeous and incredibly healthy orchids he is not only keeping alive but prompting to bloom in his San Francisco apartment, I knew there was more there than a passing interest in a couple of houseplants named Fred. Derek graciously agreed to entertain my questions about his orchid interest and success.
One of the things I love best about this site is checking out the fantastic gardening projects members of this site share via the forums. Last week, while making my morning rounds, I came across this fantastic, Godzilla-esque loofah (aka luffa) grown and recently harvested by forum user rachelanderson.
Isn’t it incredible?! There’s enough sponge there to wash dishes and scrub backs for years to come. I would suggest she enter some kind of local Fall Fair event with that thing. I’m afraid of Rachel’s mega-sized loofah, a trait that marks it as a potential candidate for first prize in The US of A or Canada where something as exotic as a loofah is bound to confuse and delight.
A loofah sponge is not the easiest product to successfully bring to full term in cooler climates. The plant needs about 110 days to go from vine, to flower, to fully mature fruit. I’ve covered growing loofahs in the past (page 164 of the You Grow Girl book) and even though I know a thing or two about the process I have never grown anything worth holding up alongside Rachel’s sponge. Her success is so inspiring, I just had to know her secret so I emailed her hoping she would be willing to offer up some tips.
Here’s what she said:
She lives in West Virigina, somewhere between USDA zones 5 and 6.
She shares a garden plot with her dad. They used a giant plastic sheet as mulch that was installed in the spring before any weeds had a chance to come up.
She started the seeds in potting soil around mid-May and planted the seedlings in the garden when they were big enough to make the move.
They put rock dust on the plants in the morning before the dew dried to keep the bugs and deer from eating them.
They did not use any fertilizers.
She attributes most of her success to the plastic mulch which kept weeds from stealing soil nutrients from garden plants. I’m going to add that the mulch probably helped to prevent drought and warmed up the soil earlier, keeping it warmer for a longer length of time.
Thanks Rachel! Your loofah is certainly inspiring and dare I say, ummmm… enviable.