on gardening

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    No Trace Paid Member

    A few miles north of Green Gulch Farm is Muir Woods National Monument, a pristine stand of old-growth redwoods. Lately, I’m there a lot helping to pickax open the seized soil in Bohemian Grove so that broad-rooted native grasses can reclaim the tight ground. For the last five years, it’s been my civic duty to volunteer in the woods and work on the compacted ground where a giant Buddha was once constructed. More »
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    Tell It Slant Paid Member

    Of all the seasons in the garden I love the dead of winter best. In icy February when storms from the Gulf of Alaska pelt the frozen ground with hail, the bare-boned skeleton of the dormant garden stands revealed in the stiletto wind. More »
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    Seeds of Plenty Paid Member

    Almost fifteen years ago, at our annual gathering of ecological farmers, I received a bulging handful of Rainbow Inca flint corn from my gardening sister, Dru Rivers of Full Belly Farm. “Plant this corn,” she urged me, “and save some seed to share with new farmers next year.” The beauty of this heritage corn captured me from the first with its dense rows of russet gold, steel blue, and burnt orange kernels wrapped under dark burgundy and pale dun husks. When we ground the corn at harvest time, it yielded a soft mound of lavender-hued meal that we added to our Thanksgiving bread. Best of all, Rainbow Inca corn was generous; even after the first growing season we returned to the Eco-Farm gathering with plenty of seed to share. More »
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    Roots Paid Member

    Whatever you have to say, leavethe roots on, let themdangleAnd the dirtjust to make clearWhere they come from. —Charles Olsen Winter rain, falling for ten thousand years. I celebrate Groundhog Day on my hands and knees in the muddy sludge of the February garden, grubbing out the tangled roots of Michaelmas asters in the rain. Although it is best not to dig in heavy rain, I have no choice. The asters must be lifted and divided before they leaf out so that they have time to become established in the summer garden. Already spring has begun to slit open the primeval eyelid leaves of the flowers; they reveal their first pale green retinas of light, winking against the dark soil of the garden. More »
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    The Nothingness of the Ground Paid Member

    In the winter garden we have been pruning the Old Roses for a solid month, caught in a thicket of crossed canes and swollen buds. We planted this garden almost twenty years ago, and today I am the cowering servant of Rosa mundi and great maiden’s blush. These roses thrash me soundly if my pruning shear mindfulness wavers in their ancient presence. And it does. This morning there was an eruption of wildlife at the base of the great maiden’s blush, a rose whose original name in her native French is cuisse de nymphe, or “The Inner Thigh of the Nymph,” a name which evokes perfectly both the suffused pink color of the rose as well as the source of her modest, anglicized name. More »
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    Agaja's Spade Paid Member

    I have a new spade this winter, heavy, a little stiff, and very sharp. As I work digging a fresh bed for Bleu de Solaize leeks, I think of my friend Agaja’s twenty-year-old spade. Agaja is a friend and a great gardener. Over the years we have dug in tandem, shoulder to shoulder, many a lofty bed of Zen vegetables. Agaja’s spade was fashioned by the Bulldog Tool Company in England, with a solid steel shank and a gleaming digging blade a foot long. Agaja sanded the ash-wood handle clean and painted it morning-glory purple. After more than two decades of digging, the foot-long blade of Agaja’s spade is now seven and a half inches in length and reduced daily by every new bed she digs. It leaves a trail of glorious, well-lifted soil in its wake, soil pulsing with life and laced throughout with fine metal filings from Agaja’s diminishing spade. More »