Kale is not only good for you, it also looks great in the garden, too. It’s an architectural vegetable, with strong defined stems and leaves and heavy contrast between tones of green and purple.
Now is the time to started planning your garden. And, while you’re planning, think about your mood. If you’re prone to the blues, or just want more energy, plant vegetables and herbs that will give you a boost.
I saw this article from Rodale’s Organic Life, Fight Depression by Growing a Good-Mood Garden. I don’t know about you, but gardening always puts me in a good mood. The combination of being outdoors, digging in the dirt and seeing the (literal) fruits of my labor on a daily basis puts everything else in perspective. Sometimes when you’re stressed, all you need is a spade and some weeds to get your aggression out.
The article recommends the following mood-boosting crops to plant:
St. John’s wort
Of these, the only ones I grow are sunflowers and lavender. Tomatoes don’t grow well where I live, although I do have some luck growing them inside the sunporch. However, I will have to add blue potatoes and chamomile to the list—the benefit of the latter is that I can also make a tea from it.
While it’s best to continue to take any medication you’ve been prescribed for your moods, adding these to your garden can only help. Get out in the sunshine and get planting!
Want to learn more about gardening, especially in small spaces? Take my class on Skillshare. Click here to learn more and to sign up!
As someone who’s interested in seed saving, the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI), a project out of the University of Wisconsin, makes me happier than an Orange County Housewife in a diamond mine.
While many people in my community hate Monsanto, et al because of the possible impacts of GMOs and so-called Frankenfoods on health, my issue with these major seed producers is the limits they put on farmers who wish to save the seeds from their crops. I get that they’ve spent a ton of money on R&D for their special seeds and they want to protect them. But, there’s a fine line between wanting to protect your intellectual property and being greedy. When farmers can’t save the seeds that those crops produce for the next year, and farmers who don’t want the seeds in the first place end up with them in their fields, and Monsanto can turn around and sue them for using their patented product, well, that’s bullshit.
Their shenanigans not only impact the often shallow pockets of family farmers, they also impact the biological diversity of the plants available, which, in turn, jeopardizes the entire food supply. Add in to the mix the effects of climate change and not even magic seeds will save us.
OSSI is to seeds what open source software is to technology—no one owns a patent on the seeds. They’re for everyone to use. In fact, each seed packet contains the following pledge:
This Open Source Seed pledge is intended to ensure your freedom to use the seed contained herein in any way you choose, and to make sure those freedoms are enjoyed by all subsequent users. By opening this packet, you pledge that you will not restrict others’ use of these seeds and their derivatives by patents, licenses, or any other means. You pledge that if you transfer these seeds or their derivatives they will also be accompanied by this pledge.
As more people turn to their land to grow their own produce, the use of non-patented seeds will become more vital. After all, seed saving and trading has been a pivotal part of farming for hundreds of years. Your neighbor has a ghost pepper that grows well in your climate? Great, hit him up for a few seeds to grow your own. The guy down the block has the best cherry tomatoes you’ve ever tasted? See if he’ll share some seeds from this year’s crop. The point is, Hannah Housewife shouldn’t fear that Monsanto is going to come after her in its sue-happy glory if she plants some tomato seeds she got from her neighbor, and sells the excess crop at her roadside farm stand.
And, this doesn’t just impact farmers in the US—it’s a worldwide problem. Big seed producers have farmers all over the world by the balls, forcing them to buy new seed every year at high prices. In response, seed banks have sprung up to give farmers a choice in what they want to produce.
Read more about OSSI
Learn more about saving seeds from Vandana Shiva:
Gardening and parenthood are very similar. You have the best of intentions for the seeds you plant; you feed them, nurture them, make sure they’re not hanging around bad influences (like weeds and pests), support them, and do everything you can to ensure that they grow up healthy and strong. But, in the end, you really have no control over how they grow and how productive they are. I was thinking about this during the week as I checked on the seedlings I planted a few weeks ago.
While quite a few of the seedlings are stoked to be in soil, others are having a rough go of it. I lost a few cucumber transplants (I guess they don’t like to be transplanted; however, a few of the seedlings are thriving) and my garlic (which I had put in starter pots) is pretty much dead. The spinach started out unhappy, but seems to have adjusted, and I even have a few little spinach sprouts that have surfaced. The strawberries, borage, sunflowers, radishes, onions and lettuce are growing like gangbusters. Even the strawberry plant that my husband uncovered when mowing the lawn (the grass was taller than our toddler), is fruiting like crazy.
So far one of the best parts of moving to a new home is discovering what the previous owners had planted. The previous owners really liked roses, since there are tons of them everywhere, most of which are desperate for a serious trimming. While I was trying to plot where to plant my two fruit trees, a tree in the middle of the courtyard caught my attention. Yellow clusters of flowers hang from the branches, and sway ever so gently in the breeze. It smells heavenly—even my son giggles when I hold him up to smell it (though he may be giggling at the sniffing sound I make when I’m showing him how to smell the flowers). I have no idea what it is. It smells a bit like the honeysuckle scent that Bath & Body Works used to sell in the 90s. The adventure is in trying to figure out what it is.
Gardening is hard work! Studies have shown that gardening and yard work can torch major calories. This is especially true with starting a new garden, as I’ve learned over the past week. We finally started moving into the new house, and my first order of business was getting my seed starts into the ground.
Always be prepared to change your plans
Unfortunately, the previous owner hadn’t mowed the courtyard area—the site of my garden—in quite some time. The grass was so tall that I almost lost my dog and my nearly two-year-old. This put a huge dent in my original design plans. I had intended to place my garden right next to the greenhouse, but the weeds and the ground were not going to let that happen. Luckily, I spied the border of what-had-been a garden in the past, so I went back to the drawing board and planned for this new site.
Invest in leather gardening gloves
With hedge clippers in hand, I hacked away at the weeds, which included grasses and wild roses. I had thought about using the weed whacker, but in typical fashion I forgot to take it with me to the new house. After that, I took out the hoe and started pounding away at the stubborn weed roots. The roses were the worst—they have more pricks than a bar in San Diego on a Friday night. My hands were thrashed by the time I finished clearing the area. And I still had to give up and think of another way to get rid of them.
Poo cures everything
My hubby brought two truckloads of finished manure from the stables where he keeps his horse. Since it’s a finished product, I shoveled it directly into the garden bed to supercharge my plant. The existing soil isn’t bad—in fact, a gardener couldn’t ask for better. But the addition of the manure will help nourish the plants.
Did I mention, always be ready to revise your plans
After putting in the soaker hose, I planted all of my seed starts and planted more seeds in the soil. While I had the best of intentions to plant everything neat and orderly, I had to give that up midway. My son had swiped some of my garden tools and was chasing the dog around with the weeding tool. I had to look up and yell, “Hey, stop it!” which made it impossible to plant anything in neat rows.
In the words of Beyonce, pretty hurts, especially when we’re on the subject of roses
This year will be a bit of an experiment to help me understand what grows well and what doesn’t. So far the strawberries and peas are kicking ass so we may be subsisting on that for a bit. Since the roses that had sprung up in one half of the garden were so difficult to hack up, I decided to plant a smaller garden this year, which is for the best…and it saves me from the risk of a horrible rose thorn-induced infection.
Since I’m only using half of the garden space, I can properly get rid of the weeds growing in the unused space, which will make the soil there super fertile next year—though hopefully, by then I will have found out which crops can grow well in the space, aside from strawberries and peas.
Things are growing in the greenhouse! I’ve been transferring sprouts from the egg cartons to bigger pots. While I’ve been trying to keep track of where I replanted everything, there have been some discrepancies between the pot and the paper. So, I purchased some faux wood plastic plant labeling sticks and wrote down what is planted where.
Being cheap, it pained me to purchase the labeling sticks. I remember when I was a kid, my brother and I would save our Popsicle sticks so that our mom could use them to label her plants in the garden (We also used them to make skis for my Barbie dolls to enjoy some winter fun). Unfortunately, it’s winter so it’s not really the best time to be noshing on a box of Popsicles, and aside from the orange flavor, I never really liked them anyway, especially when they got the fuzzy freezer burn on the them. But, I’m sure there are people who spend money on more ridiculous things for their gardens. According to a survey from the Garden Media Group, gardeners spent a total of $29.5 billion on their gardens. That’s a lot of wood-esque plastic labeling sticks.
We still haven’t heard about the house we put an offer on, so until then I’ve been reading gardening books and mapping out the details of the garden I will plant. I really can’t get enough of The Elements of Organic Gardening (2007) by Prince Charles. He’s the OG organic gardener who has planned and planted some gorgeous gardens on his properties at Highgrove, Clarence House and Birkhall. This book is serious gardening porn for people who love to ogle big fancy, yet incredibly useful, gardens. He trained the branches on his apple trees to form an arch. Seriously, he has functional and aesthetically pleasing green spaces on lock!
What gardening books are you reading to inspire this year’s garden?