The Lewis School Garden
Planting Fruit Trees
Community Growing
A Dream that Healed the Earth
Beauty in the Garden
Gardening in the Summer of 2011
A Personal Garden Vision
Gardening for a Purpose
Garden Observations are a Bonus
Gardening with Natural Principles
Community Growing
Hidden Places for Growing
Still Learning as Always
Connecting Gardeners, Community, and Opportunity

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Lewis School Garden

A new garden is being started on the Lewis school garden site which has been overgrown with weeds, blackberries, and black-walnut seedlings for over three years. Two high school volunteers are scheduled to start working with me next week during our Thanksgiving break.
      I am thrilled to have this opportunity to build a sustainable future by sharing my experience of growing plants by working with nature. I am fortunate for having worked under Alan Chadwick at the UCSC Garden Project in 1968. Anyone who knows about Alan's passion for beauty and knowledge of plants understands what a remarkable experience it was to work under his supervision. He was inspiring. His vision included the abundance that the Earth provides.
      For the new project, I have completed a lovely colored drawing of what the garden can be. Young gardeners will see an uncared for site. Since young gardeners cannot see my vision, I drew an image of the possibilities which shows the fence covered with scarlet runner beans, gourds, morning glories, and sweet peas on one side of the garden. The small narrow space seems transformed by this spectacle of vines alongside the boxes neatly planted with herbs, vegetables, and flowers.
      Once I made this vision in my mind, I felt the garden site was transformed. In fact, the next time I visited this site, I felt glad to be there. I felt the possibilities. As a gardener, I create the garden in my mind first. This vision drives the garden.

November 23, 2013
First garden work day was a great success.  A huge compost pile of this year's leaves and grass clippings is made along with a smaller one for leaves that are partially rotted.  Two boys worked on this.  Two girls organized the two wood piles moving huge beams to consolidate the useful wood.  Our youngest student replanted clivia and fortnight lily in a redwood planter by our gate.  This had to be moved to make room for the giant compost pile.  A student also carefully pruned the rose along the fence.
     I am so proud to be working with these students and look forward to our next work day.

November 25, 2013
     My husband, Barry, came by and gave us some advice on filling in the old pond which Nick carried out beautifully.  Barry checked the wood and said he didn't want to make benches and a table out of that wood as it is not good quality.  He is bringing some of our extra plastic chairs.  Now we just need a table.
      Today our youngest 8th grade student said he is trying to listen better after I asked him if he minded me getting after him about things like listening and not interrupting.  He said that my comments were making him try to listen and not interrupt.  Jasmine and N. also remind him to listen and stay focused on what he is doing. 
     M. got all of the bamboo poles trimmed and stored for the growing season. 
     Jasmine and our youngest student actually planted bell beans as a cover crop to enrich the soil in three beds.  It is a good feeling to have seeds in the ground and watered.
     It is wonderful  to have industrious young people working on this project.  They have high standards for conduct and for the aesthetics of the garden workspace. 

November 29, 2013
The students want to keep gardening.  By the end of the week, we will only have skipped Wednesday, Thursday, and Sundays.  We have huge compost piles and have started planting in the beds-- so far onions, peas, bell beans for cover crop, flower bulbs, and sweet peas.  Today we ate turkey sandwiches at the table and chairs that Barry delivered.  

     We are making some community connections.  The neighboring deli is going to add their leaves to our compost piles tomorrow.  A friend of mine is calling me when she makes cuttings of her chrysanthemums so I can get them for our garden.   Ed Canivari who owns the property next door said that the roses along the fence date back to 1908 and came from his parent's garden.
     I am very proud of our bed preparation team today that included Jasmine, Itzel, L., A., and N.  

December 17, 2013
All of the beds visible from the gate have been planted in a winter cover crop of peas or broad beans.
Those of you who have worked on this project from the start, know that we have been working towards completing the planting all the way to the back corner for a month.  This is quite an accomplishment considering the amount of boards, blackberries, and roots that were removed.  A. V. completed this with me.
      The compost pile is even hotter this week, a sign that the bacteria are doing their work.
      I decided to leave the three black walnuts that are against the far south wall.  I will graft good tasting walnuts onto those trees in January.  We may get walnuts in the years to come. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A New Peach Tree

This peach tree is bearing fruit for the first time. It grew from a seed put into the compost. You can see it now several years old growing near the roses and grape arbor. It is now August first, and the fruit is almost ripe. The fruit looks perfect. One dropped off the tree today so I tried it- a white freestone peach, not too tart. Although not fully ripe, it was so good that I ate all of it. I am hoping for excellent flavor when fully ripe. The tree has not been sprayed with any chemicals, and there is no sign of peach leaf curl. There were a few leaves that had curled early in the spring which I removed. This tree has shown less peach curl than a trees like Muir and Indian Free that are also growing in my garden.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Planting Fruit Trees, March 2012

When I was a child, I could disappear into the privacy of the fig tree below my house. Its supple branches spread along the ground making an ideal temporary second home with plenty of space for my dog and me. Just up the hill from the fig tree were two orange trees and farther up were two large lemon trees with yellow oxalis flower blooming under them in February, and just beyond the lemon trees was my home. The whole east-facing hill was a sampling of all of the types of fruit that grow in central California. These trees were interspersed among my family’s apple orchard that my grandfather had started.

It was my grandfather who had the vision to plant this variety of fruit trees long before I was born.
He knew that the top of the hill was a good site to build a house which my dad later built. I didn’t get to know my grandfather very well. He died when I was young, but he influenced my life and the lives of my grandchildren by planting those fruit trees. We don't yet know how these trees will inspire the next generation - For you, Ellie and Ben.

I grew up knowing the smell of fig leaves, the softness of a young peach, the silver leaves of olive trees, the smell of orange blossoms, the taste of ripe apples, the juiciness of fresh plums, and the way my dad smiled when he offered me an unripe olive to taste. Fruit was there for me to pick in the summer. In the spring the trees blossomed each kind with different flowers - the peach with pink flowers and the plum with white ones. The apples blossoms are still my favorite with white in the inside of the petal and pink on the outside. Their fragrance is like no other. In the winter the trees revealed the pattern of their branches and the brilliant mustard flowers grew in between the trees.

This month I planted two new fruit trees, a peach and an apricot, while I thought of my grandchildren. One child will turn a year old and one is expected to be born next month. Last year I planted two cherry trees for my first grandchild. This year I also grafted a delicious late apple variety on to some volunteer apple trees in my yard. These trees will bear fruit years in the future.

When I purchased the two trees this year, a lady in line at the nursery asked me how I could plant trees that take so long to grow that I might not eat their fruit. I didn’t tell her about what my grandfather planted for me but I did explain to her that I couldn’t imagine not planting fruit trees. I am glad that the trees live a long time and will provide fruit far into the future.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Community Growing
Today I showed Aranis how to sow seeds of fava beans for a crop that provides beans while enriching the soil with nitrogen and other nutrients. She also added some flower seeds for beauty and grass for additional organic material to work into the soil in the spring. These seeds are planted at her home. She also has kitchen scraps mixed with soil and weeds breaking down into compost in a five gallon bucket. Growing crops for soil-enrichment and using kitchen waste to make compost are two ways to improve soil.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Dream that Healed the Earth

This past Wednesday morning, I had a dream that young people had an app on their phones that allowed them to pool information about the health of the Earth from anywhere on the Earth. The information on this phone app was updated and edited much the same way as Wikapedia from reports sent by locals as well as travelers. Information gained from precise measurement and chemical analysis by independent observers was most valued. The information was put on a map of the Earth using symbols.

The information allowed the rating of farms, forests, fields, deserts, factories, and cities with a map symbol ranging from green for a sustainable area to red for severely damaged area with toxins that take years to break down. A yellow symbol is an area in the process of becoming sustainable. An orange symbol means an area needs to change practices immediately so restoration can take place. The goal is a sustainable Earth. “A sustainable society is one that satisfies its needs without diminishing the prospects of future generations.” Quoted from Lester Brown of Earth Policy Institute. This definition of sustainability is the criterion for the rating of the areas of the Earth.

People used the information on this app when making choices about what products to purchase, what cases to bring to the attention of the government, which lawmakers to reelect, which multinational companies to hold accountable, etc. The Earth healed. This was my dream.

When actions are known because of transparency, persons or corporations committing unsustainable actions can be held responsible. As people’s actions all over the Earth are known and correct stewardship is demanded by masses of informed people, the Earth will heal.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Beauty in the Garden

What is it that inspires me to go into the garden on a foggy November Sunday morning? The beauty. The dew collects on the Asparagus ferns giving them a silvery sheen. Brilliant pink roses announce their charm. The wild Baccharis pilularis or Coyote Bush covered in white fluffy bloom with its sweet scent will always remind me of fall. If you grow up in California and play outdoors in the hills as I did, you become familiar with this scent. These plants grow in the open grassy spaces between the Oaks. I have cut them for display in the house where their fluff falls on the table below.
The vegetable plants show their exuberance as they push up through the soil; fava and bell bean seeds, garlic, red onions, and also the flowering bulbs that promise color in winter. They express beauty in the patterns which their unfoldment follows. The bulbs are straight up and the winter beans slightly nodding with their leaves poised to lift and spread.
Always the surprise and wonder draw me. There will be some discovery today. Perhaps it will be new blossoms of sea-blue winter iris or a hummingbird at the pineapple sage. The wonder that I am part of this life is more that my mind can comprehend but my heart has always known. I share this life with the plants and animals I see around me and the microscopic life in the soil. Sometimes I see a favorite animal like a toad. I am at home.

Today's wonders were the last gifts of the season: a bucket of tomatoes in red, orange, yellow and green; a few last zinnias and chrysanthemums, and a couple of red kuri winter squash. This was probably the last time till next year that I will bring these treasures into the house. Soon the tender summer plants will turn to mush when they freeze. Then the onions, garlic, green manure legumes, chard, cole crops, and orange calendula flowers will have the garden to themselves. As I picked the last pear tomatoes, I was sad and appreciative. We have eaten some wonderful fresh salsas, salads, and tomato sauces, and the vibrant colors of the tomatoes have brightened our kitchen counter since July. I discovered that I will miss them like friends who move away for part of the year.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Certainties, October 2011

I am comforted by certainties in a time of little sensible political action amid world-wide environmental degradation and a poor economy. Some of the few things I can count on are the golden light of fall, acorns falling with the brown oak leaves, and the emerging green grass transforming the dry faded golden hills.
Another certainty is the funny things that kittens do. There is one kitten by my side as I write. Actually she is now moving under my journal, on me, next to me, oops!–over my journal. Now she is high on the book shelf after some tiny flying insect or spider that I can’t see. Now two of the smaller stuffed animals are falling on me from the shelf above the bed where I am sitting as the kitten explores.
When this active kitten first arrived, she seemed uninterested in people. We have recently adopted her along with her four-month old sister and their mother. During her first few days with us, she and the others stayed close to the bathroom where I had their beds and food. By the second week, they were joining us in the living room. The others were interested in being petted and purred vigorously when they were handled and came to sit with us on the sofas. It crossed my mind that the most active one needed more petting so she would become more social. I soon noticed that when she got around to being with her people she was most attentive–purring, laying nearby, stretching out on her side in front of me, moving under foot, or snuggling with me depending if I was lying down or walking. I realized that she is just a very busy cat and socializes when she gets around to it.
She is a cat after all, and does things her way. No extra petting needed. Weeks later, she is near me when I lay on the sofa in the evening. She even watched a documentary about dogs with me one night. I could tell she was watching because her head moved slightly as she tracked the motion on the screen. She got up and left a few times but went right back to her position facing the television each time.
My husband has named her Rudy. She is the smallest. The mom, he named, Claire. The sister kitten he named Theo or Thea. All names are from the Cosby Show. Sometimes my husband calls the mom Mrs. Huxtable. I can be certain that Rudy will have a busy day today.

Gardening with Nature’s Principles during October in California
A big change happens in California after the first inches of rain fall in October. The grass seed and other wild-plant seeds sprout and grow. Growth is fast in the soil that is still holding warmth from the summer sun. Soon green is visible after the long summer drought. The plants that grew with the last rainy season have withered and dried. In wild places, the dry plants are thick and some are tall. There the green is barely visible two weeks after the first rains . Where last season’s golden brown dry plants have been mowed or eaten by grazing animals, the bright green velvet coat of plants already shows its vibrancy. Perennial plants like the roadside fennel begin to grow from the base of the old dry stalks.
In my garden, I cut down the finished perennial plants and compost them. No one does that to the plants like roadside fennel. By late spring, their old dry stalks are concealed by the new growth if they haven’t blown down during winter storms.

This October, I copied nature and sowed my winter green manure crops in between the finishing tomato, squash, and corn plants. I can remove the tomatoes, squash and corn plants after the last harvest, while letting the seeds get a good start in the warm soil. My time is limited as I teach full-time so I dug compost into beds only when essential for a particular crops like onions, garlic, and cabbage. I didn’t dig or weed to sow the green manure. I just tossed the bell beans and mixed cover-crop seed in between the finishing crops and scratched them into the soil with a hand tool. These beds will get a good dressing of compost later when this green manure crop is double-dug for the next planting in the spring or dug even earlier for lettuce and spinach which will be protected under row-cover or glass.
This green manure sowing was very easy and took about ten minutes. I could have been watching baseball on TV and done the sowing during the commercials if the Giants were in the World Series.

The garlic is up and growing along with the cabbages planted in August.
This year I am planting Chinese Garlic. I recently read Chester Aaron’s book called "Garlic is Life". I was so inspired to try other varieties of garlic that I found this more spicy Chinese variety at Imwalle’s Gardens in Santa Rosa. We tasted some of it before planting to determine that it really had a noticeably different taste from the California Garlic commonly sold in the grocery stores, and it does seem a little spicier.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Garlic is Life for its beautiful descriptions of living in Western Sonoma County. As I had also lived in the Occidental area, I loved having Chester’s words bring back my connection to this land of tall firs and grassy hills. His writing also tells of his gardening and how that connects him to warm memories of his parents. If you love gardening, this is a good read.