Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

When my grandfather bought his first house, a grand old Victorian in the heart of Yonkers, New York, he couldn’t wait to make everything “just right.” The previous owner, though, begged him at the closing not to do anything to the gardens for exactly one year. Not really understanding why, he obeyed the seller’s wishes. Over the next year, he witnessed a dazzling display of perennials ebb and flow with the seasons, from the first bright spring tulips to the final shade lovers of the fall, and finally the ornamental grasses swaying just above the snow in the winter wind.

I also have received such an inheritance, and although it may not be as useful or tangible as money, each season around the hill has left me filled with wonder and curiosity, and most importantly, gratitude towards the previous owners, Mr. and Mrs. H. (Of course, Mr. H., I could’ve done without your “home repairs”, but that’s another story entirely!) Check out below the gifts I’ve received over the past year…

Thank you Mr. & Mrs. H., wherever you are!


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Step outside of the garden with me for a moment, and take a look around. Do you see what I see? In the last ten years there’s been a change. Its become cool to be green and carry reusable shopping bags, while the Prius has become the ultimate post-modern hipster statement of cool.

Environmental impact aside, the recent recession has brought even more of a “make do or do without” mentality to the people.

For me, its been a give and take. I try to follow sustainable practices and develop thrifty habits for both my wallet and my world, (and NOT because of the coolness factor) but there’s certainly a learning curve attached to any changes that I make. I plain English, well, I basically screw up everything I attempt the first time around. Whether it be composting,

What could be more thrifty than turning someone else's hideous fashion trash into my treasure?

gardening, bulk cooking or the Great Upcycled Clothing Debacle of 2010 (check out the disastrous photos along the left throughout this post), conservation on any level takes effort and patience.

Why would I even dredge up the horrible memory of these and other terrible failures and share them with you? Trust me, its certainly not because I like to humiliate myself, but to prove the point that living a simple, frugal, sustainable life takes time. The need to consume and waste is so ingrained in us (read: its not your fault, its a cultural norm) that we’ve never been trained in the skills that our grandparents would think to be second nature. Of course I don’t really know how to sew, I’ve shopped at the mall my whole life. That doesn’t stop me from

trying to learn, though. (Now, back to our regularly scheduled garden programming) Along those same lines, I have no reason to become a master gardener with the A&P down the street, but there are reasons why we should try.

So, you wanna live sustainably?

Paperclips as pins? Not a good idea.

Luckily, you, my dear readers, can not only laugh at, but learn from my disasters. First, pick something and stick with it until you master it. (That’s why I’m a gardener and not a gardener/seamstress, apparently!)

Because this is a garden blog, and because our food system is much more fragile than most people realize, (just how close to the edge are we living?) the first step, in my opinion, to sustainability is to become food independent. Like my upcycle project, there are bound to be failures along the way, but food independence is possible no matter where you live or what your budget is.

Apartment dweller with no natural sun? Check out the Sprout People for what they refer to as the “coolest sprouting seeds on the planet.” You’re probably familiar

Said paperslips do not result in accurate measurements...

with alfalfa sprouts, but what you may not know is that you can make then at home in a jar with little to no sunlight. (You don’t even need one of those fancy schmancy sprouting kits, anything you can rinse and drain will work just fine) They’re also ready to eat in less than a week, and pack a serious punch of nutritional value. One serving of those little alfalfas contain 35% of your daily recommendation of protein, vitamins A, B, C, E and K, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron zinc, chlorophyll and as much carotene as carrots. (If that’s not food sustainability, I don’t know what is!) In addition, one pound of alfalfa seeds will run you about eight bucks, as opposed to about three or four for a tiny, store bought plastic container. Even though I have tons of garden space, I still always keep sprouting seeds around – I think they’re one of the most reliable, easy and simple ways to grow your own fresh food around the house.

The moral of this story? Don’t be afraid to try, but don’t over diversify either – traditional societies had a farmer and a tailor, not a farmer-tailor. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn a little bit of everything, but don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work out immediately. Stick to simplicity in the beginning (grow sprouts, knit a scarf) before you move on to the complicated stuff. Most importantly, if you don’t try, you’ll never know. If you mess up, have a laugh! These are skills cultivated by people over thousands of years, yet lost on us. They certainly won’t come immediately – that’s why this post of called sustainable steps and not sustainable NOW!  Have you had any successes or failures at picking up new skills or trades lately? How did you overcome the failures?

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So, probably because I’m a giant garden-geek, I decided to go a search of Google Trends, to see what people have been looking for relating to gardening.

Seems like those Brits have got us beat, since the term “gardening” is searched the most in the United Kingdom, with the United States coming in third after Singapore. Kudos to the US cities with the highest search numbers…  Portland, OR (#4), NYC (#6), Irvine, CA (#9) and Seattle, WA (#10).

In all collective world regions, the phrase “garden” has been relatively constant over the last six years, waxing and

The results of a Google Trends search for "arugula" over the last six years

waning with the change in season, as you would probably expect. It gets more interesting, though, when you search by more specific terms or locations and years.

Maybe we truly have become “The United States of Arugula,” because a quick Google Trends search of “arugula” shows a pretty substantial increaseover the last six years.

Are Middle Americans becoming foodies all of a sudden, or perhaps just trading in the Golden Arches for a little garden greenery? (No offense Middle America, I still love ya!) Meanwhile, searches for “brussels sprouts,” no matter what kids think of them, have increased steadily.

This one is a little but more subtle, but searches for “roses” have definitely decreased in the past few years. Come on boys, I know its a recession, but can’t a girl still get a little lovin’ once in a while? 

Unfortunately though, for reasons I can’t understand, searches for the phrase “gardening” have been decreasing every

year. What gives? I hope its not because search trends for “take out” are going through the roof.

The one ray of hope is the fact that those of you who are still searching the phrase “gardening,” are also searching for “heirloom seeds” like they’re going out of style – take that, Monsanto! Anyhoo, that’s probably enough garden-geekiness for one post today…time to work on moving New York from number six on the top searched gardening list to number five… 🙂

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