Derek Jarman’s Garden

Photo by angusf Avant-garde filmmaker Derek Jarman spent the last years of his life, after an HIV diagnosis, tending a bleak, wind-swept patch of land opposite a nuclear power plant on the southern coast of England. With just a few hardy plants and some scavenged pieces of wood he put together a stunning garden. He wrote a book about it called, simply, Derek Jarman’s Garden. You can also view a flikr photo set here. Photo b...

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Waiting for our tomatoes/Tomatoland

...easonally–when they’re coming out of our yard–and make do with canned and dried tomatoes for the rest of the year. Basically, we believe that fresh tomatoes are a privilege, not a right. Right now our tomato plants are covered with blossoms and tiny green fruit, and I’m almost frantic for fresh tomatoes. (The basil is in! Where’s the tomatoes?!?) Yet I know better than to buy a tomato at a store. I haven’t for...

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Advances in Gardening Series: A Garlic Mystery

  One of the new features of the garden this year is a long, trough-shaped bed that Erik installed along the edge of our patio. Its inaugural crop was garlic, which is generally a very easy plant to grow. We’ve done it before, many times, successfully. This year it didn’t work. The stalks failed to thrive. Many plants did not set bulbs at all, looking instead like green onions. The heads that were formed are quite small.  We’...

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Genetically-Engineered Organism Secretes Diesel

...n produce 15,000 gallons of diesel fuel per acre annually, over four times more than the most efficient algal process for making fuel. And they say they can do it at $30 a barrel. Normally I am opposed to genetically modified plants but this would appear to be a contained situation. Would it be a good thing for the planet if we had unlimited diesel fuel? I would guess that the CO2 would be net neutral whatever escapes the exhaust pipe would have...

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Compost Rebuttal

...ens. Kill root nematodes. Don’t just believe me, listen to soil scientist Dr. Elaine Ingham in this youtube video: Ingham’s work is controversial, but I believe time will prove her ideas correct. To grow fussy plants like vegetables we need to introduce beneficial microorganisms and fungi into the soil via well made compost. To make that compost we need to monitor the pile’s temperature carefully (it should be between 55ºC a...

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Borage: It’s what’s for dinner

...erved in sugar for cakes, or tossed into salads. I’ve heard of freezing them in ice cubes for fancy drinks, which is a lovely idea. Obligatory health warning:  I’m going to quote this directly from the very useful Plants for a Future database, from their entry on borage: The plant, but not the oil obtained from the seeds, contains small amounts of pyrrolizidine alkaloids that can cause liver damage and liver cancer[238]. These alk...

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Advances in Gardening Series: We’re maturing

...dreams of your own spring planting. Back in November, I cleared ground and planted the Phan/Fan with medicinal seedlings. See some of that history here. Now we’re at the end of February, and the Calendula and chamomile plants are mature. The Calendula (the yellow flowers in the pic) is giving off lots of blossoms, the chamomile–not so much. That’s garlic growing on the far right. It’s beginning to brown at the tips, but I...

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Stinging Nettles and Cat Allergies

...incredibly strong Strain to a new jar Drink it iced, room temp or gently reheated. Try to drink that quart over the course of the day. Don’t keep it around, because it will lose its potency after a day. Pour it on your plants and make a fresh batch. Kitten facts for those interested: Kitten is genderless for now. We took he/she to the vet, and the vet was genuinely puzzled. Tricky kitty! We have to wait for more certainty. Kitten is abou...

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Juicing Cane

At Camp Ramshackle, the plants that thrive are the ones that don’t require too much attention. Our sugar cane, started as a six inch start, is case and point. I harvested a stalk to add to lemonade. I first removed the thick tough skin. Once the skin was peeled, I sliced the cane stalks in half. Resident child labor juiced the stalks. Despite the mechanical help of the juicer it was an arduous task. Our yield was meager a...

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Lead Update

...isk of lead poisoning through the food chain increases as the soil lead level rises above this concentration. Even at soil levels above 300 ppm, most of the risk is from lead contaminated soil or dust deposits on the plants rather than from uptake of lead by the plant. If the Wallace Labs report is correct, we’ve got a serious problem. It is possible that, in sampling and averaging multiple locations, we hit a “hot” spo...

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