Salad greens are one of the first crops that I start outdoors. It snowed today, but as soon as the soil is workable, I will be out there, seeds in hand, to get started. As with Seed Starting 101, I have created a permanent page that lists all of the best posts around the subject of growing (and eating) lettuce and salad greens. If you come back looking for it in the future, you will find it over here on the Resources page (link in the top bar).
The photo (above) depicts a winter salad mix that I grew in a big washbasin the last two years. It includes a really pretty burgundy mizuna variety called ‘Red Frills.’
Let’s talk about fungi.
I first heard about mycorrhizae — pronounced my-corr-rye-zuh and literally translated to mean “root fungi” — about 8 years ago while I was travelling to promote my first book. At an event in Oregon, a fellow speaker gave a presentation on the mutually beneficial relationships that are forged between fungi and plants, both above the ground and in the soil. I regret that I only caught the final minute or so of the talk, and to this day I can’t recall his name, but the seed was planted in my brain. Fungi are more than just another organism doing its own thing out in the big bad world. They can (and do) form cooperative communities with other organisms, including plants.
And then it sat there quietly waiting in the background for 7 long years.
It must have been intimidation that caused me to avoid pursuing it, because it wasn’t disbelief. In many ways, the basic principles behind the way that mycorrhizae acts in the garden closely resemble my own personal journey with holistic healthcare. Rather than treating each symptom individually, an holistic approach to wellness takes the whole system/being into account and seeks to address the root cause of the problem in order to restore balance and harmony. These experiences with holistic health have had a profound effect in how my approach to gardening has evolved over the last decade or so. It has been a time of great learning and my commitment to looking at the bigger picture has been strengthened by the anecdotal evidence that I observe in my gardens each year.
2011. It was the first year in my new garden, and with what initially felt like space to spare, I went wild, starting seed from every tomato that caught my fancy. I had heard about Italian long keeping tomatoes and was eager to try them. These are tomatoes that don’t ripen well on the vine within the growing season. Instead, they are brought indoors before the frost and hung in a cool spot (usually a basement or garage) to be enjoyed fresh throughout the winter. For the first time in my adult life I had a basement, so it was all systems go. I started the seed from two varieties: a small orange, bicolour fruit called ‘Giallo a Grappoli’ and the more commonly known red type ‘Grappoli d’Inverno.’ It turned out that my eyes were a lot larger than my new garden. When forced to make a choice I chose orange, ‘Giallo a Grappoli.’
As the Vernal Equinox draws tantalizingly close, the birds can sense the coming change. Already, their calls are more raucous in the mornings — their numbers are increased on branches excited for above-zero days and equalized day and night.
Where we live, we can’t really count on true Spring weather until later in April but like the birds, our eyes are widening and we stretch ourselves that much closer to the morning sunshine as we urge on the change.
BONUS: I was really happy with this drawing and thought I would try offering some prints, cards, and iPhone skins.Check out our Society6 shop
This post is the second in the “Drawing from Nature” series by Davin Risk. All birds have sprung purely from the imagination and any similarity to true species is entirely accidental.
Throughout my gardening life there have been many plants that I tried to grow with middling success, until I observed them growing in the wild. Sarracenia (pitcher plants), venus fly trap (Dioneae muscipula), episcia, and ginger are just a few that come to mind. Seeing them in their natural habitat helped me understand something about the soil, light, moisture, or the communities they grow in that allowed me to better approximate their needs at home in my own garden and pots.
In June 2011 I travelled to Denver, Colorado to speak at the Denver Botanic Gardens. One of many things I was excited to see in the area were cold hardy cactus growing in the wild. I’ve been growing Opuntia humifusa and other hardy cacti in pots for years and had only recently began to have success with them in the ground. But I still felt that there was something that I was missing.
A pretty typical cactus garden with lots of space between plants. Note that I took this photo on the roof of one of the buildings at Denver Botanic Gardens.