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Not Your Grandmother's Flower Garden

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Rebel Gardens



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October 31st, 2010

I recently had a rare chance for conversation with rialian in person, about gardening and Samhain and various Celt-influenced pagan traditions. He mentioned in passing that the first pagan tradition he considered himself a part of, like many, consider Samhain the beginning of the dark half of the year, a crossing over point, and the last harvest for the agricultural year. In this particular tradition, last harvest means that anything left in the garden or the fields by nightfall on Samhain was left for the faeries, the land spirits, the flesh-and-blood animals. For most things in our climate, this makes sense. Even if it weren't potential first frost where he and I live, by now bugs and rot have gotten into most summer vegetables and some of the herbs. Time to let things go.

And yet, both Ri and I, like many subsistence farmers and permaculture oddballs the world over, have taken to growing winter crops and attempting a four-season harvest. What of those things planted in the fall? It is a neat little conundrum for those of us mixing spiritual tradition reconstruction with personal gnosis, environmentalism, and a changed climate. Me, I've spent the day cutting back the herb garden for winter, making little bundles and drying them for future culinary gifts and consolatory fancy dinners come the snowbound part of winter. Some things need harvesting before the frost comes, and of those, I'll leave the rest for faeries, or land spirits, or compost. The walking onions, the rosemary, these things are still mine.

The fabulous parties of the last couple of weeks have brought me a great deal of joy in this darkening, dying bit of the year. Standing in the kitchen surveying the counters overflowing with food that I and the land have grown is bringing me peace. I just hope some of you locals like sage. Or pineapple sage. Or tiny jalapenos. Or lavender.

July 7th, 2010


Dear Rebel Gardeners,

I am looking for resources, both to have as references and to read for general knowledge.  Most of my garden-fu comes from a combination of talking to people whose gardens I respect, getting tidbits off the internet, and doing experiments.

Now that I've got the basic hang of it, I think it's time to do some reading.  What books, periodicals, or internet resources do you recommend? 

July 6th, 2010

blight help

So it looks like we are getting signs or early blight on our tomatoes. does anyone have a suggestion on an organic fungicide?

May 16th, 2010

Dear sub/tropical [$sitename],

I'm in search of tasty plants to grow during my long, hot, wet, subtropical summer and am soliciting recommendations of herbs, vegetables, fruit and/or edible flowers of the Carribean and Pacific, the Gulf Coastal US and west Africa [source of quite a few Southern staples]. Any favorites remembered from grandparents', parents', aunties'/uncles' and/ or your own gardens are most welcome, along with preparation and storage tips and tricks (what do I do with it once I've grown it?) I am not as familiar with SE-Asian/Pacific or Carribean cooking as I'd like, but/am quite ready and willing to learn.

crossposted a few places inc dw, lj, rebelgardens

April 13th, 2010

It is no secret that one of my major motivations for wanting podisodd and I to buy a house was gardening. With enough deck space in many rental homes to container garden to my hearts' content, though, what that mostly means is perennials.

After three winters of failed efforts and quite surprisingly despite all snowpocalypse, last summer's purchase of blood-red chrysanthemums came back. So did the sage, which was no surprise, bigger and better and more threatening to my summer food plans than ever. Also no surprise were Mark and kiarrith's Egyptian Walking Onions, which never quite died beneath the blanket of ice covering the vegetable garden well into March, or last year's potted oregano, plopped down in the vegetable patch sometime in Autumn on my officemate's suggestion. Potted lavender, also a first-ever return after many years of wailing and gnashing, has regrown in its container from alizarinorchid, as has the potted mint that tried to send escape runners the fifteen feet down from our deck last summer.

It's not just the perennials that are welcomed back in the garden, though, but sunflowers of unknown colour and tiny sprigs of dill that are coming up wherever they fell. I am desperately trying to catch up to their population and move the hapless seedlings out of the path to where they belong. There are equal chances of me accidentally leaving a sunflower in the centre of the path and of me accidentally transplanting some noxious weed directly into their proper home. Every time I see a new seedling come up where it's not intended, I giggle at the possible reaction of our home's next owner, even if we do badly sod over the vegetable patch before we go. Sunflower surprise!

In fact, it's a good thing I'm behind on my planting this year and have no plans to expand the garden. For the first time ever, what I've already got is enough to keep me busily satisfied. Now if only the weather would break again, so I can take the ten or so peppers and eggplants out of their temporary ant-infesting home in the kitchen and put them in the ground between the herbs where they belong.

What has everyone else in the temperate northern hemisphere got coming back? This concept is new for me, and I'm all excited.

February 26th, 2010


Silent Rave
So, I've managed to figure out how to effectively use zucchini [basically dice it small and add it to anything], so I wonder if anyone has any extra zucchini seeds?

We have none...

February 25th, 2010

Seed Gifting

Silent Rave
Right, so, I lied.

Garden would not leave my brain, so I began seed organizing.

I'm happy to take any and all seeds folks wish to get rid of and here is a list of seeds I have a lot of and could happily give out:

Snap Peas
Red Cabbage
Mustard greens [asian]
Kale [green and red varieties]
Beets [golden and red]
Corn [black popcorn and blue hopi dent]
Hot Chile Lombak pepper
Aji Dulce spicy pepper
Black Plum tomatoes
Matt's Wild Cherry tomato
Cucumbers [japanese, italian, and homemade pickles varieties]
Spinach, longstanding bloomsdale
Dill [oy, we have a lot! should've organized this ages ago]
Basil [haha, I have a million varieties--seriously, at least 10]
Cosmos [flowers, mixed colours]
red poppy
sugar peas
sprite melon seeds [saved from a melon, store bought]
sugar pumpkins seeds [saved]
acorn squash seeds [saved]
"little" bell peppers [saved]
rainbow swiss chard
collard greens

Folks, please let me know what seeds you'd like some of [and if I should mail them soonish or wait til we are in the same city (if that's likely to be any time in the next couple months)]

February 1st, 2010

For those locals/fellow campers who may be interested in doing a seed ball 'workshop' (again), possibly this time with fans, hair dryers, or a warm oven for drying so they don't sprout within 24 hours if it rains, I will have approximately 20 lbs spare terra cotta and rather a lot of Mid-Atlantic wildflower mix this May.

January 7th, 2010

My [3 year old but tiny as can be] bell pepper plant set 2 peppers a couple weeks ago.

They are both still smaller than my thumbnail.

One is now bright yellow shading into orange.

I do not think they are growing any bigger.

I wonder if they will be edible...ponder.
On rialian's advice, I requested my winter holiday gift pile contain a second edition of a book I already owned. Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home Scale Permaculture, Second Edition contains several new and expanded chapters on urban permaculture and working with much smaller suburban and city lots than the previous edition or any other permaculture book I've seen were willing to tackle. As the primary planner and gardener for a tiny rowhouse lot, the new content is extremely relevant to my needs. Skimming through the new content, I've been enthused to find most of Hemenway's observations matching up with my own experience of the past two years here, and to watch him take those observations and run with them.

Many of the book's new observations center around two main points of note in dealing with urban/small-suburban land. The first is the extremes of microclimate created by urban architecture and materials. The second is that the usual urban or crowded suburban property, for all practical purposes, has fewer zones.

My household's property, as I've come to think of it in practical terms, includes zone 1 ( kitchen window, deck, and front step gardens), zone 2 (vegetable garden and under-deck shade garden), and a very small portion of zone 3 (blueberry and raspberry bushes at the forest edge, which is also the edge of our property line). But beyond this property line, as Hemenway notes from his own experience moving into an urban environment, is more of zone 3 and all of zone 4. Neighbors in my rowhouse block and I share vegetables, and some of us even have agreements that one another can pick from our gardens when we are away on vacation and the fruits would be wasted. Raspberry bushes in protected parkland down the street provide fruit once a year for no effort in growing or tending. If any of us have a tree fall, there is the possibility of free mulch. The extended zones are still there; it just requires co-operation with neighbors and the park system to take advantage of them.

Hemenway also notes that urban zones contain different resources than one generally thinks of in permaculture, but they are resources nonetheless. Concrete and brick blocks (jokingly referred to as 'urbanite' rocks) are available; there is garden space in empty plots, and, most peculiarly to the crowded environment, there are often more complex building materials available. In a show of just this, this morning on my way to the office, I managed to flag down a neighbor who has been replacing the old, drafty windows in his home, and had someone doing work outside today. On my way home today, I shall pick up three household windows from which to build cold frames for my vegetable garden, extending my growing season for the cost of some cheap boards, and saving my neighbors a trip to the dump and the cost of wasting windows there. Hopefully, come Spring, I can give them some of the early greens made possible by their trash. Trash to lettuce, the power of community and urban permaculture.
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