I need your help finding subjects for a project I’m starting this spring/summer. I’m looking to photograph gardeners in their gardens.
What is a garden? My concept of a garden is very open-ended. It can be 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 gardens….
Define gardener? A person who grows and/or cultivates a plant or plants. I want to document as many types of gardens and gardeners as possible… gardener’s of all ages, nationalities, genders, and experience levels…
Please email me: Your contact info, a few words about the garden and the gardener, city, and when you think the garden is at its prime or you like it best.
Note that I don’t drive so I may not be able to make it to your location at this time. However I will be in the following cities in 2006: Chicago (next week!), Toronto (always), San Francisco (July), New York (Sept), Miami (Dec).
Make Herb Tea Fertilizer
Did you know you can make liquid fertilizer for your plants using other plants? Sounds like floral cannibalism but it’s not unlike compost when you think about it. Some plants are high in particular nutrients which can be extracted in the same way that you would make a medicinal tea for yourself. What’s more, all of the plants worth using tend to be invasive in the garden. This year your eyes will light up with enthusiasm at the sight of that ever-expanding patch of comfrey behind the shed instead of glazing over with the thought of digging it up. Hell, I am completely jealous of your expanding comfrey patch. Yeah, come to think of it, I’ll take your shed too.
1. Fill up a bucket, large jar, or other container with the leaves, stems and flowers of pruned herbs. Pack them in tightly. There is no need to remove the entire plant. Just cut it back and you’ll be able to make another batch next month.
2. Pour in water, filling your container to the top.
3. Let the whole mess sit for a day. Put it in the sun to speed things up.
4. Strain out the herbs and fill up a spray bottle or watering can with the concoction.
You can spray the leaves of your plants with this mix as a foliar fertilizer, or just pour it onto the soil.
Herbs to Try:
- Comfrey – High in magnesium, phosphorous, and pottassium.
- Stinging Nettle – Contains magnesium, sulphur, and iron.
- Horsetail – Loaded with silica, a nutrient that makes plants strong.
My tea contains comfrey and stinging nettle (watch those stingers!).
I keep hearing that fancy, mega-expensive containers are one of the current trends in gardening this year. To which I reply with a big fat WHATEVER. You can keep your fancy-schmancy urns and leave all of that quality junk for me.
I found this discarded orange crate while walking through one of Toronto’s “nicer” neighbourhoods. Crates are just tall enough to accomodate leafy greens or herbs with shallow root systems. I decided to fill this one up with a crop of mache. Mache is the de rigour green of the uppercrust and a good choice if growing lettuce feels like a waste of time and space. The succulent leaves make a delicious salad (especially good with figs and blue cheese) but fetches a hefty sum at your typical Whole Foods.
Little work is required to prep your crate for growing. The bottom of mine had large spaces between slats and required some kind of coverage to hold soil in. Alternatively, crates with solid bottoms will require drainage holes to let water out. I laid an average-sized plastic shopping bag inside the crate and cut a bunch of small holes with a pair of scissors to make drainage. The key here is making a vessel that will hold soil, but adding drainage back so your seedlings aren’t swimming during a heavy rainfall.
Next, I filled up the crate with good quality container soil. A cheap container plus cheap soil, equals too much cheap! When it comes to container soil you get what you pay for. Your best bet is usually with the mid-ranged priced soils. Avoid the Miracle Grow stuff if you can. Fill your container to the top and tamp it in with your hands. You want to remove the air pockets and make a respectably flat surface. Don’t go crazy with it — a level is not required.
Once you’ve got your soil in place, cut around the edges with the scissors to remove the excess plastic bag. Pour a handful of seed into your hand and spread it thinly, and evenly across the soil surface. Don’t worry if you have too many seeds as you can remove excess plants later. Add another 1/4″ of soil on top of the seeds and water everything in well.
Leafy greens prefer cool weather and shadier spots. Plants will bolt in hot weather which means that they quickly go to seed and become bitter. How much sun is too much depends on your conditions and the time of year. Mine are currently placed in a sunny spot on my rooftop deck because the daytime temperatures are in the light sweater to spring jacket plus long sleeve shirt range. I will move it to a shady spot when the heat picks up. Water your container everyday. Soon you will see little tiny plants emerging. Here are what mine looked like today 15 days after sowing. Mache can take as much as 20 days to emerge from below the soil so don’t give up if yours take their sweet time. Be patient!
Other suggestions for your crate:
- Rouge d’hiver lettuce
- Red orach
- Kale (grown as baby kale only)
- Thyme – lemon, lavender, orange, silver…
As if gardening with living plants isn’t enough to keep me occupied, I’ve recently become obsessed with plants crafted from paper. Download and construct your own garden of indoor houseplants, from the Epson Hong Kong site. Patterns include ivy, lucky bamboo, saguaro cactus, and a cute barrel cactus.
So they’re not very stylin’, but these self-watering planters made from junked pop bottles are pretty handy for the well-intentioned but forgetful gardener. The bottom watering system keeps cuttings and seedlings on the right side of moist without the discipline (and hassle) of routine dampness patrol.
There’s more talk and experimentation with this concept in the forums.