on gardening

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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 »
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    Spring Weeds Paid Member

    Spring comes to the coast of California in early February, like an over-eager dinner guest arriving an hour and a half before the appointed feast. We have barely recovered from bringing in the November harvest of Baldwin apples and winter potatoes when spring touches the bleak, windswept land. With a mixture of dread and awe, I watch as the white petals of our old plum tree push against their bud casings and burst open, announcing the new season. More »
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    Year of the Rat Paid Member

    In early summer, just when gardeners should be tying up the waving tentacles of Marmande tomatoes or pinching back the tips of imperial larkspur, I find myself once again at the periphery of the garden, sowing a fresh border of Good Bug Blend. This miracle mixture of herb, flower, and vegetable seeds is sown to attract beneficial insects to the garden. These “good bugs” - the golden chalcid and the minute pirate bBug, the green lacewing and the big-eyed bug - are all natural pest control allies that keep the June garden clean of pernicious troublemakers. More »
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    Raven's Edge Paid Member

    IN MEDITATION PRACTICE, as in the garden, often the best learning happens at the edge of what you know, where the sorceress hills at the back of your brain go stone dark and you push through onto new ground. “Not wholly in the busy world, nor quite beyond it,” observed the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson of the garden. This is the landscape I happened upon this winter, standing in the last Green Gulch field before the ocean, when a flock of ravens dismantled my notion of what it takes to make a garden. More »