Hey Toronto! Let’s grow some seedlings together!
I posted about this in the forums but wanted to push it here as well since seed starting season in Toronto is happening NOW.
So here’s the deal: I’ve managed to secure shelving space in a local, community greenhouse to grow seedlings this spring. Because You Grow Girl is also a community, I’ve wrangled enough space for more than just myself to grow. Many of you are also living in small apartments without the space, money, or supplies to grow healthy seedlings, so I thought this was a good opportunity to share in.
This has come about quickly so I haven’t had much time to work through the logistics; however, what I am thinking is that a few of us share the shelf space and in turn share the daily workload of planting, watering, checking up on seedlings, etc. We can arrange a day to work together to get seeds started so if you are a new seed starter, no worries, I’m happy to walk you through the process.
The greenhouse itself also has some expectations as far as membership goes but they are around volunteering time to the park and greenhouse, not payment.
Seed growers always overdo it so I figure that in addition to growing for ourselves we could also grow some that can be donated to a charity that needs transplants. I have some ideas of those in need, but we can decide on a charity collectively.
Are you interested? The greenhouse is in Trinity Bellwoods Park.
I’d like to get an idea of interest and then decide how to proceed from there. We don’t have much time so if you’re in please comment in the forums and we can continue to work this out together.
Update: Just wanted to let everyone know that the space is filled up now.
During our trip to Austin, Texas last week, Ted Forbes, a fellow photo and design geek, drove out to Austin to go on a photo safari. After a series of snafus (mostly my fault), we ended up driving out to Hamilton Pool Preserve, an amazingly gorgeous waterfall about an hour outside of Austin. If you live in the Austin area and have never been, plan to go as soon as possible. It’s one of those places that is so perfect, I suspect it was constructed by aliens.
Unfortunately, we arrived at the preserve about an hour before it closed so there was very little time to explore. We headed straight down to the waterfall and spent all of our time there snapping pictures. On the way back up we walked quickly past a Prairie Restoration Area, and I tell you, I truly wish we’d had more time to explore. It was so, so beautiful. Unbeknown to me, Ted caught a plant discovery on video (it’s just past the first part in which we were making fun of overuse of the word “bokeh”). Watching this video was a bit of an eye-opener for me since this is exactly how I freak out whenever I discover a plant I’ve never seen before. I’ve just never had my ridiculousness played back to me.
Here’s the cactus I was going nuts over:
In the video none of my friends got what all of the fuss was about. But I suspect that you, my fellow plant geek brethren, will.
Phew, that was fast. I put the finishing touches on an article late last night and it is already up on the Guardian website. This one, about the relationship between myself and my maternal grandmother is a bit more personal than usual and I am still getting used to having put it out there. However, it is also just the sort of thing I am pushing myself to write more of despite fears and reservations.
I’ve struggled over the years (more than I care to admit) with feeling like an outsider in the gardening industry. My personal history just doesn’t look like many of the stories I’ve heard from the overwhelming majority of garden writers. And so I have hidden who I am. That’s not to say that my writing is not honest or true, but that there is more, much, much more.
I have often felt that what I had to say about my own experiences was too much, too heavy, too messy, inappropriate for this venue (garden writing) …not quaint and cute enough. I’ve silenced myself in small ways as a result. As what I produce has increasingly become tied to my ability to make a decent living I’ve silenced myself still more.
I took the first steps away from that self-imposed choke hold a few years ago and then moved forward further still last year with the Recreating Eden documentary and a personal piece for Organic Gardening magazine. I saw these venues as opportunities to push myself and reveal more about past experiences that have lead me to where and who I am as a gardener. And as a person too. It’s difficult to separate the two and I suppose maybe the problem is that while my way of creating a palatable public presentation was personable, it withheld the complexity of my humanness. In the end neither the outcome of the documentary nor the article were nearly as dramatic as they felt at the time.
This new piece is another take on the Organic Gardening article, which will be evident within the first few sentences. I suppose the thing is there is no individual story that sums things up. I am often asked to talk about how I got started gardening and I have to admit that I have never been able to answer easily or succinctly. There are many stories, and a book’s worth of experiences that lead me to where I am. I know in my heart that complexity is the truth behind all of our lives and that if I want to see and feel that I am not an outsider (perhaps we all are) then I need to be willing to take a chance and step into my own fears a little bit. Or a lot.
I listened to this essay about the importance of physical labor by urban gardener Mary Seton Corboy yesterday morning on the This I Believe program and thought it was so brilliant I had to share.
Listening to her talk about digging ditches made me want to run outside and dig something… except that it is winter here and the ground is frozen. Day-to-day physical activity is something I miss sorely during the winter months. During the warm months there are average labors like planting seedlings, turning the compost pile, hauling buckets of water to the container plants out on the roof or getting on my bike to go anywhere I want. But in the winter exercise seems forced. I have to make a point to “get outside” on a long hike in the cold, or drag my reluctant ass to the gym where I then use a series of strange machines in a loud, obnoxious environment to achieve what comes so easy in the garden. I also find physical labor, especially in the garden, offers a chance to blow off steam or problem solve as my body goes through the motions of a task at hand. My body takes over on its own in a way that opens up space for my brain to go through its own motions and work through issues from a different perspective. Meditation in motion. The idea that I would be or should be striving to reach a point in my life where I can delegate those tasks to someone else… forget it! I would lose out on one of the places I find joy as a gardener. As a human being.
As a writer and speaker I am sometimes pressured to speak about gardening as easy work. In a way this is true. I try to put a positive and approachable spin on things because I whole-heartedly believe that gardening is something all of us can do. Gardening is for everyone. No one should be intimidated out of giving it a shot. But that’s not to say that it is easy. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it is as easy as breathing. Unfortunately, what comes easy to one person can be utter hardship to another. Factors like personal strengths and weaknesses along with climate, conditions, location, resources, etc can dictate all sorts of subtle and not-so-subtle differences from one gardener to the next. Sometimes it is brutally hard. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it.
I find real joy in hard work and labor. Sometimes I hate it and want to kick at the ground screaming. Never mind the things I can’t control: the groundhog that ate every bean and broccoli seedling; the summer a fluke weather pattern brought a plague of aphids in on the wind. Aphids literally rained down from the sky! Imagine how much hand squishing it took to get that under control.
Sometimes I love it and hate it all at once. I might complain about lifting bags of soil up five flights of stairs and hauling endless buckets of sloshing water through the apartment to the containers out on the roof, but all of that only serves to instill a heightened sense of pride in everything that comes out at the other end of the work: homegrown food and beautiful outdoor spaces to relax in. There are some good stories in there too. I often wonder if I would feel as much pride if the seeds just grew on their own with no help from me at all. Would I treasure each tomato in the way I do? Would I demand to be photographed with every zucchini plucked from the plant? Probably not.
So on top of the body, mind and spirit benefits that come from the hard work we do in the garden there is also the joy, pride, and sense of accomplishment that comes from something that is not handed over on a plate. The sense of something meaningful that is hard won. The taste of small victories.
While in the Cuban countryside, we came upon a number of very old cemeteries that always sat right next to the ocean. I was told that one cemetery dated back to 1919. How they managed to survive the hurricanes when so many homes with much more distance from the ocean haven’t is beyond me.
This particular type of euphorbia seemed to skirt the edges of all but one of them. That one was fenced by a much tougher euphorbia. This plant looks very similar to Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) and I’ve been struggling to decide if it is or isn’t since our trip. Here’s a closer shot.
My argument FOR identifying it as Poinsettia are:
- It gets very scraggly and vine-like when growing in tropical countries. Nothing like the potted plants North Americans display and then subsequently toss every holiday season.
- Let’s compare. Here’s a picture I took in Mexico years ago. This particular plant was growing in the tended garden of someone’s backyard. Plants were being watered with hoses through the duration of our stay. So the difference here is a tended plant versus a plant that is left to fend for itself.
- It was the dry season, which would account for extra straggliness.
- It was growing in sand literally just off the beach. The beach was right on the other side of the cemetery. There were some trees providing a bit of shade but many plants were fully exposed. Let me tell you, it was HOT and the sun was punishing. That’s a lot for a poinsettia to take. They prefer a bit of shade coverage.
- Look at the leaves and the little red bracts. They look right, albeit on the small side. But numbers 2, 3, and 4 could account for that.
My argument AGAINST identifying it as Poinsettia are:
- I find it shocking to believe that poinsettia could survive that degree of extreme heat, sun and drought. See #4 (above).
- There are gazillions of euphorbias in the world. I’ll admit my experience of them barely begins to cover the myriad of species out there. There is a very good chance that there is a plant very similar to poinsettia.
- I am not an authority on poinsettias. I can barely stand the plant. Although I will say that I much prefer it growing wild and straggly. The cultivated potted varieties do little for me.
What do you think? Yay or nay?
As an aside, here’s another shot of the same cemetery. It was pretty incredible. Sigh. Let’s all get on a plane right now and go to Cuba together. I hear it’s warm there.