A Bit of Green in a White World

Despite loving the freedom of a few gardening-free months, there is something to be said for having a little life in the house. A piece of green to brighten up a room. I have one small houseplant in my tiny house — a Christmas cactus my parents hauled out from California when they helped me move. It must still be in a bit of shock, because while usually by this time it’s overflowing with pink, so far this year there isn’t even a hint of bud or bloom. Still, the green is dark and glossy and quite nice atop the wide bookcase against the back wall of the room. The thing is, I want more.

There is an empty pot in the bathroom waiting for a Sansevieria, for starters. I just haven’t found the right plant yet. And then this morning, I saw this:

And I love it.

Now, living in ~ 300 square feet, I don’t exactly have room for a 28 gallon fish tank filled to the brim with skulls and horses and plants, but I could certainly find space at the edge of my desk for something smaller… say, something like one of these:

Here’s what I love about terraria:

– They’re easy to make from stuff you may already have lying around the house, or can find cheap at thrift stores or yard sales

– They can be big or small — whatever fits your space

– They are low maintenance because they are largely self-containted (especially good in water-poor areas like the desert)

– The sky’s the limit in terms of design — create a mini tropical rain forest, a sparse, cactus-inhabited desert, a green mossy hill, or a kitchen herb garden in jars; add marbles or dinosaurs or tiny farmers with shovels and hoes

A few things to keep in mind:

– Choose plants that won’t outgrow the container too quickly

– Keep them in a place where they won’t get direct light

– Water only as needed — there’s no hole in the bottom so excess water won’t drain out

– Remember, the bigger the container, the more plant variety and creativity there’s room for

Check out some of these simple DIY terrarium tutorials (no reason for me to reinvent the wheel when these folks did such a good job with theirs). And as for me… I’ll be keeping my eyes open for the perfect tank or jar and will post progress as I make it.

Fish Tank Terrarium

Apothecary Jar Terrarium

Lightbulb Terrarium


Many Hands Make Light Work

As I mentioned in my last post, a personal veggie garden is out for this season. So you can imagine my excitement when my local Zen Center offered a course entitled “True Nourishment from the Boundless Field” taught by gardening guru and one of the founding members of Green Gulch Farm, Wendy Johnson. Of course I signed up.

Now, I’ll be honest, when I read the description about gardening with mindfulness, I had no idea that the small class would actually be transforming an open field into a 36′ x 36′ fenced and gated vegetable garden complete with prayer flag border and central altar. Nor did I expect to end each day wondering how I would ever move again, my joints were so stiff and muscles so sore from unaccustomed heavy labor. But man, am I glad I went.

It was amazing watching the garden take shape and to learn about the seeds that were selected for their local history and drought-resistance (including Navajo Blue Corn, Scarlet Runner Beans, Aztec White Beans, Amaranth, Quinoa, Hopi Dye Sunflowers, and a wide variety of squash). It also felt great to get my hands in the soil again, to manhandle compost, and feed the soil. But the best part, hands-down, was working with so many wonderful people dedicated to both gardening and the reason for this garden, to help the Zen Center and its community take one step closer to food security.

But the best part is, now that the garden is installed, I can volunteer to help it as it grows, learning about this unaccustomed climate as I go.

Gardening is a beautiful and important thing, but gardening with others makes it that much sweeter. Visit the American Community Gardening Association to learn more or find a garden near you.


Late last week I received in the mail a Stage 1 Water Alert for my area. This was not unexpected. It has been ridiculously dry here and despite the few weeks of intense winter snow storms, the snow pack was negligible. The key restrictions for stage 1 are as follows:

  • No new in-ground planting
  • Outdoor watering restricted to 2 days/week between the hours of 6pm and 9am

The bad news is that due to unseasonably cold weather, I did not have a chance to plant my veggie garden before I got this message. The good news is two-fold. First, I did not have a chance to plant my veggie garden before I got the message, which means I won’t have to watch it whither and die. Second, it specifies in-ground, which means I can probably still plant a few more things in pots. Probably only a couple though. This is only stage 1, and none of us out here can see it getting any wetter.

Teach a Man to Fish

We all know the old saying: “give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” But what happens when the corporations take that one step too far, fishing the oceans and rivers to near extinction? And what does any of it have to do with gardening?

Two things, actually. The first, is that the big fishing question is just one more component of a much larger food security coin that growing our own food at home can help to address. The second, is the growing movement known as aquaponics.

Aquaponics is basically a hybrid of aquaculture and hydroponics, comprised of fish tanks and garden troughs. The waste from the fish fertilizes the plants. The plants purify the water for the fish. And because it all happens in a closed, water-conserving system, aquaponics is especially interesting for low-rain areas such as our high-desert. I hope to be learning and posting a lot more about aquaponics in the near future, but in the mean time, check out these videos from two companies dedicated to growing aquaponic culture, Friendly Aquaponics in Hawaii and Colorado Aquaponics in Denver.

You can also get a basic overview at the Growing Power website.



Today my favorite online edible plant shop, Rain Tree Nursery, announced its end of season sale. This is the time of year I always greet with a mixture of joy and trepidation. Yes, I can save a lot of money on some of the most unusual, interesting edibles around. On the other hand, it’s so hard to decide where to stop. It can be so hard to resist the Double Banana, or the Kashmir Pomegranate, or the Tea Breeze Tea Plant, or the Blue Pacific Honeysuckle with its star-shaped deep purple fruit.

Of course this year, it will be less of a challenge. Those lush Pacific-friendly plants aren’t built for the high desert. Then again, that honeysuckle is rated as low as zone 2, and that banana can be grown indoors in a pot… see what I mean?

To see the selection of sale plants, visit the Rain Tree Nursery home page, and use the pull-down just below the green “Save Now! Spring Clearance Sale And Free Berries” headline about a third of the way down the page to select a category (hey, I build websites for a living and even I had trouble figuring it out).

And do let us know if you buy anything and how it does in your garden. I don’t get a cut of the sale, but love their healthy, happy plants (I’ve purchased many over the years) and would love to see that love spread.

Happy gardening!

Finally, a Start

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.


Much as I love seeds, I am even more of a sucker for seedlings. Case in point, these two six-packs purchased at last Saturday’s farmers market.

The first is a selection of organic lettuce (Little Gem, Red Oakleaf, Green Oakleaf, plus a couple whose names I don’t remember).

The second is Red Russian Kale. I just can’t get over that color…

So while outside it’s been hailing, inside it’s already spring. And with the huge skylight in the kitchen, I may just plant them in bigger pots and keep them on the window sill. With colors like those, they’re just as pretty as flowers, plus they will taste good.

Happy Earth Day and OneGarden’s 2nd Anniversary

It hardly feels like two years since I wrote my first post, but here we are, having survived moves, job changes, garden neglect, and a whole lot more. And we will continue to not only survive, but grow.

Here in Santa Fe the days are getting longer and warmer, though the nights still regularly dip deep into the 30s, so it will still be a little while before any seeds can go into the ground. So while my friends and family back in California are already seeing sprouts, I am starting leeks, lettuce, and kale indoors and dreaming of September’s bounty.

So, in honor of this holiday and my new home, I have two small gifts for you. The first is a wonderful quote from Michael Pollan’s 2008 Earth Day article “Why Bother?”

The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.

The second is something I wrote with the recent political and ecological climates in mind.

Where to Start
We are fighting the wrong revolution –
turning our eyes to the government,
our hopes to the corporate machines.
Our fight is not out there.
It’s right here.
In this small space before us.
In the dirt that needs water.
In the lungs that need air.
In the life that needs choices.
In the voice that longs to be heard.

Right here is the hand that needs holding.
Right here is the land that needs healing.
Right here is the mind that needs changing.
Not the President’s.
Not the policy makers’.
Not the CEO’s.
But ours.
Just ours.
Start here.

As gardeners we all know what one small seed can do. What seeds are you planting this year? What dreams for your garden, your family, or the planet do you long to see bear fruit?


Hope Springs Eternal

According to Plants of the Southwest in Agua Fria (just outside of Santa Fe), the last frost date for this area is May 15th, but that didn’t stop me from buying a boatload of seeds on a little shopping excursion yesterday. I had a general idea of which basics I was looking for: the three sisters, of course, and leeks, but beyond that I had no plans. That is unusual for me. I am a big-time planner, but something about starting a new garden in a completely foreign environment, inspired me to leave at least some of my choices up to fate. I also decided that whenever possible I wanted multipurpose local or native seeds with short growing seasons that were tolerant of heat and drought and whose seeds I could save for next year. So here’s what I came home with (you may need to scroll to find the specific seed):

I am still searching for the perfect chili pepper (I’m leaning toward Chimayo) and a few more types of greens but I’m hoping to find some at upcoming seeds swaps. And now that I know what I’m going to be planting, I’ll be able to do that planning. And don’t worry, I’ll go into a lot more details on the process and the individual plants soon.


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.