Eat (and Produce) Good Food: 13 April 2014

Great news: the tomatoes are starting to show! In other nightshade news… buds are forming on the “Jalapeño M” and “Garden Salsa” pepper plants.

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Flowering tomatoes

 

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Tiny “Sweet 100” baby tomato

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“Big Beef” Big baby tomato

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“Garden Salsa” buds

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“Jalapeño M” buds

My plan to rehydrate the trough soils worked very well. Unfortunately, the parsley, cilantro and chives are still not very healthy. It is clear now that I need to re-transplant them into deeper pots. While I am at it, I may as well move the spearmint and dill into pots as well, completely vacating the troughs. Maybe my upstairs neighbor would like them for some flowers that would be better suited to that style planter.

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While the troughs cast a shadow that I will be glad to remove, additional planters may cause a congestion problem. Then again, maybe not: I’ll be able to place some right up against the rail and I won’t have to dodge the shadows anymore. We’ll see. Also need to get some cages for those tomatoes soon. One of the “sweet 100” vines is grabbing another, but I don’t expect they’ll lend each other enough support.

4: Eat (and Produce) Good Food: 2 April 2014

So I finally got all my (surviving) plants transplanted Wednesday; the thyme didn’t make it. I can’t believe how quickly the soil is drying out. It has been somewhat cool and humid, but I am clearly not watering enough. The plants in pots are doing reasonably well, but those in the troughs are struggling. I got the sage into a pot a few days ago. One of the sage plants was really busting out of the starter pot, and now that it is in a full-sized container it is really taking off! I tried to get the basil in at the same time, but was unable. I had to drill a drain-hole in the pot, but the battery for my drill was dead. The basil was the last to be transplanted, yesterday.

As mentioned above, I have a number of plants in coir-lined troughs hanging over the patio railing that are really suffering. Since I did not plan properly, I did not place enough soil in the troughs. The shallow soil combined with the aeration of the coir and not watering enough is really drying it out. The soil is so dry that it is rejecting new water. I thought about taking them out and adding soil, but I have been informed that working the soil while it is too dry or moist can really mess things up. After pouring a generous amount of water over all the planters (much of which just ran straight through) I used a spray bottle to distribute about a quart of water evenly over the surface. This got created a saturated layer over the surface. Then I placed fresh potting soil over the surface that was near optimum moisture content. Finally, I watered the new soil into the existing. Hopefully, this will help infuse the whole bed with moisture. I will need to watch closely.

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left to right Cilantro and Chives in Trough

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left to right Parsley, Dill, Spearmint and Cilantro in Trough

The plants in pots are mostly growing, though some are simply holding steady. Both varieties of tomatoes are showing some yellow flowers! I need to find out when I should put up a cage around the tomatoes for support. Since the plants are all reaching for the sun, I have begun a rotation plan, simply turning each pot 90-degrees clockwise. I’ll have to see how quickly they respond to calibrate the frequency.

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clockwise from bottom Serrano Pepper, Basil, Purple Bell Pepper, Sage, Garden Salsa Pepper, Rosemary, Oregano, Jalapeno Pepper, Beefsteak Tomato, Cherry Tomato in Pots

Back on the 23rd of March I sprayed all the plants with a foliar application of John’s Recipe. This will be a bi-weekly application continuing this Sunday. I’ll check the packaging about the recommended frequency for soil soaks, but if it is also bi-weekly, I reckon I’ll alternate the foliar and soil applications on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, I don’t recall when I did the first soak (which would be for all plants, but sage and basil because they were still in starter pots), but March 19th is a pretty good guess.

On April 2nd, while planting the basil, I also spread some fertilizer, raked it about with a small cultivator and watered it into all the beds. I hope I don’t regret not being more careful with the measurement.

1. Eat (and Produce) Good Food

So, I just moved to the Austin area and finally have my garden started. Well, sort of. I could, no should, have planned it better, but I found myself in a $#¡+ or get off the pot situation. That tends to happen, probably because I am a perfectionist. More probably because I tend to swim in abstraction to the exclusion of the concrete. When I try to plan these things out I will easily spend months or years reading and watching videos to learn about my interests (theoretically) and never really get around to doing anything since I am not perfectly prepared.

I am also very uncomfortable in situations where I am not an expert. I know everything, you see, but I can’t seem to remember things I’ve never done before, like investing in gardening capital. Realizing that if I did not throw myself out of the comfort zone of books, the internet and daydreams and into action now, I may never do so, we hit the road.

Now, the The Natural Gardener in Austin is a slice of paradise blossoming on the border of the Texas Hill Country. We first went on Pi Day, but we spent so much time marveling at the gardens, guests and animals that we ran out of time to actually buy anything. We had to get the kids fed before an aprandial breakdown. We came back the next cool, foggy, lightly drizzled morning. We found the  employees to be pleasantly engaging, knowledgeable and glad to be of service. They would have been much more helpful had I been prepared to ask the right questions. The wife and I went hog-wild buying plants, but had no idea what to do as far as containers and soil. To say I had no idea regarding containers is a misstatement. I was totally excited about doing this recessed hurricane lamp style self-watering planter. While this will probably be a great idea sometime, it neither addressed nor considered the more practical concern of what volume of soil placed in what apportionment of planters do I need? We picked up a bunch of plants and not nearly enough soil then headed off to a big box home improvement retailer for containers.

I grabbed a couple of homer buckets and was demonstrating to my wife how the recessed hurricane lamp style self-watering planter works, but all she saw was a tacky orange bucket on the balcony. So we picked up some more stylish planters instead, cheap plastic with a weathered bronze appearance. We grabbed three fairly large ones that could be nested into the smaller ones to create the self-watering effect. We also got a couple of English horse trough planters that can hang on the rail of the patio; they are metal frames with coir liner. Finally  we got a hanging planter from which I was considering to plant a tomato upside-down.

Once I got home and was faced with actually transferring soil and plants into containers, it quickly became apparent that I was unprepared. I dug out my documentation and started assessing what size these plants may hope to attain and put a pen to paper to see which plants I’d put together in which containers. I did not have enough containers The recessed hurricane lamp style self-watering planter concept was going to consume two planters for each application, making matters worse.

I started with two Gorizia rosemary plants in a large container. Then I placed two Italian spice oregano in another. That used up about 3/4 of a bag. I put the three Nelly onion chives in half of an English horse trough and ran out of soil. That hardly put a dent in the queue waiting to be potted, and I may need to re-pot some of these when they grow to full size. I watered them all in and gave a quick shot to all the other little startlings, being careful not to get water on the leaves of the garden sage.

Total plant inventory:

  • 3 Italian spice oregano
  • 3 Sweet Basil
  • 2 Garden sage
  • 2 Gorizia rosemary
  • 2 Cilantro
  • 1 Plain Parsley
  • 1 Spearmint mint
  • 1 Lost the Label oregano
  • 3 Nelly onion chives
  • 3 Sweet 100 tomatoes
  • 1 Big Beef tomato (grafted for improved performance)
  • 2 Garden Salsa peppers
  • 2 Purple Bell peppers
  • 2 Jalapeño ‘M’ peppers
  • 1 Serrano pepper

Once I get some more containers and soil and get everything planted, I’ll post some pictures. I claim victory not on account of preparedness, but on execution. The execution was far from flawless, but I have moved beyond reading, watching and dreaming. Commence phase one of my one man (and a woman and three boys) revolution in America: Eat and produce good food!

It has to start somewhere

It has to start sometime

What better place than here

What better time than now

All hell can’t stop us now

 Guerilla Radio, Rage Against the Machine

The Kingdom of Heaven is like…

A growing number of persons are coming to realize that human societies and economic modalities are on the verge of radical, fundamental change. This change will occur with or without the consent or intention of anybody. On the one hand, if the dominant economic paradigm persists on its current course, the resources fueling the economic engine will be so depleted and the planetary biosphere will become so poisoned as to trigger a shocking “correction”. On the other hand, a slim probability exists that people may change their individual and corporate behaviors so as to mitigate the inevitable damage.

Faced with this grim realization, various individuals and groups are endeavoring to develop strategies and tactics to either avert this disaster or prepare for it. Others accept, even champion, the idea that the human race is, and even should be, doomed. I am not so optimistic that the disaster can be totally prevented. Nor am I so pessimistic as to accept that the human race will be annihilated in the absence of any effective effort to change course. I am of the opinion that the changes necessary to achieve sustainability are so incompatible with the existing societal and economic structures and the time to implement such changes before the cataclysm is so short, that the reforms themselves would be catastrophic.

The notion of a top-down solution has been championed by many. This is a delusion. The entities in power at the top depend on the status quo as the foundation of their power. If world leaders betray their real constituents, the corporations and investors perpetuating the problematic economic modalities, they will be removed from power by any means necessary. If a concerned party were to attempt to seize power by force, they will be met with unimaginable resistance which all but guarantees a swift defeat or protracted, devastating bloodshed and destruction. The so-called “War on Terror” has excused our leaders to terrorize their subjects into accepting a legislative-judicial-executive complex capable of suspending due process to quickly and quietly halt any such activity.

Even if an organized revolution were successfully carried out, history teaches us that the new powers will serve their own interests over and against those of many, even those who supported their rise. Besides, our social and economic systems are so bewilderingly complex no person, group or machine can possibly fathom the myriad effects of any singular policy, directive or restructuring much less a comprehensive program for change.

Our singular, collective hope for positive, meaningful change rests on a critical mass of individuals independently exercising their liberty to disengage from the dominant economic paradigm and dynamically engage society. Several seemingly insuperable challenges are immediately apparent. First, a great many people will have to break their addiction to consumerist candy. The very act of abstaining from the consumer culture isolates a person from society-at-large. In response to this isolation and societal pressure, participants will desire to gather together for mutual support. This assembly would attract the attention of powerful adversaries. The powers will exert their influence to infiltrate, disintegrate and marginalize the newly-formed community. Any resistance by the community to these efforts will be used by the powers as evidence of their dangerous and potentially “terroristic” character.

How do we disengage from the dominant economic paradigm? Grow and eat good food. Go on a media diet. Perform a consumerism cleanse. These activities are mutually re-inforcing. The effort and expense of producing or otherwise acquiring local, organic produce will make it more difficult to have time to watch mainstream media garbage. The time and expense of good food and the break from advertising will promote better purchasing habits. How do we dynamically engage society? Raise awareness of the corporatocracy. Have fun! All the doom and gloom of the challenges we collectively face can be a real downer. Learn to take seriousness humorously; sometimes take humorousness seriously. Laugh, learn and love!

Persons interested in disengaging from the dominant economic paradigm and dynamically engaging their society must remain geographically dispersed. They must seek support from those of like mind through media such as the internet and independent press, through horizontal networks, and small gatherings. They must seek to educate and raise awareness among their friends, neighbors, co-workers and the public without raising flags of any color. They must be like “a little leaven hidden in three pecks of flour.”