Yesterday I returned from 12 days in California visiting family and friends. It was my first time back there since I moved to New Mexico in March. It’s amazing how just a few short months can completely change your view of the world.
First there was the water, flying into Oakland airport over the bay, lunching in Pacifica, spending an afternoon in Santa Cruz at a house that sat right on the beach… I had forgotten how the water just hangs in the air, suspended like mist even on the clearest day. I had forgotten the soft hands and the wild curls that I used to have before moving here. But mostly I had forgotten the riotousness of the gardens, the colors, the rich, wild scent of it, the abundance. I, who lived my whole life in that place, had begun to believe it was all a dream.
But there I was awake in my mother’s back yard, the one I learned to garden in, surrounded by an apple tree heavy with young fruit, rhubarb plants with leaves as broad as manhole covers, tomato plants peppered with yellow shooting-star flowers and the round, green beginnings of a rich bounty to come. It was glorious to bask in the colors, the textures of wide leaves, to stand barefoot in damp grass.
But the truth is, I missed these wide skies, the hummingbirds and rabbits outside my window, and the sheer force of will and determination that permeates desert gardens and the people who grow them.
Yesterday I actually got outside for a little gardening and met my goals for the 350 garden challenge, finally planting the kale and lettuce plants as well as a bag of organic grocery-store sunchokes that had started to sprout. As planned, I put them in empty pots that I found around the yard, that way I can move them around if I need to (the weather report is still showing nights in the 30s for the next couple of weeks). Now I just need to make sure I water them very, very regularly, but at least that will ensure I get out into the garden on a regular basis.
Hopefully soon I’ll be able to start actually putting things into the ground, but until then, here are a few pictures to tide you over.
According to the National Gardening Association, I have gardened my entire life within a single hardiness zone: 8B (Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys — minus the inland valleys in my case). In fact, I’ve gardened my entire life within a 35 mile radius of the house where I grew up. This is great in some ways. It has made me a much better gardener within my specific region (what I like to call the nor-cal fog zone, where the temperature sits at right around 55 degrees all year round). And I do love the plants I can grow here: tree ferns and split-leaf philodendrons and bamboo and of course all kinds of cool-weather, low-chill and short season fruits and vegetables. I even managed tomatoes 10 blocks from the foggy beach.
This spring, however, I will be packing up my trowel and moving to a climate so different that I don’t even know where to begin my garden planning. For starters, it snows. I haven’t lived somewhere that snowed since I was 6 1/2 years old. And in the summer the heat — a very, very dry heat — can bake the paint right off the house. And did I mention the altitude? Yeah, I’m way out of my depth on this one. But gardeners, we garden. We don’t know what else to do.
So while most well-seasoned southwest gardeners are probably starting seeds, I will be studying. Luckily I have friends out there who can help me understand this strange new/old world.
And even though my new garden may be temporary, I will give it all the green thumb I have. And then some.
Looking at my pictures you may be wondering why I plant everything in containers when I have that nice big piece of dirt just past the concrete patio. After all, planting in the ground conserves and retains water, gives plants more root-growing room, and in general leads to healthier, stronger plants. My reasons are three-fold:
- I rent, and when it comes time to move, it’s much easier to take my plants with me if I don’t have to dig them out of the ground
- I am not the first to rent, which means I have absolutely no idea what may or may not have been poured into the ground by previous tenants
- My apartment is built on landfill and no matter how good the topsoil is that they imported, there’s no way to know what lies beneath, and with food crops, I’d just rather not risk it
It’s finally spring and time for a new start, in the garden and in this blog, both of which have been fallow for too long.
When I started this blog almost a year ago, I had all kind of dreams of what I wanted it to become. I wanted to use it as a place to share my love of gardening with my family, friends and other gardeners. I wanted to help people like me who want to garden, and especially grow their own food, but don’t always have the space, time, energy or knowledge to make that happen. We lead busy lives. We have other commitments. Life often gets in the way of dreams. But just as often it can bring you right back to them, too. So, on to our new beginning:
Hello, my name is Lauren (aka gardenlore).
Gardening is my passion. It brings me joy and peace, a meditative practice, challenges and heartaches, and a tangible way to help make a difference in the world. But since you can’t really change the world all at once, I am going to start with my own backyard.
I’ll post my journey along the way and with any luck, my journey will help inspire you to do the same.