Category Archives: Garden Journal

Learning to Compost

by Jennifer McJunkin

Producing compost and growing a garden seem to go hand in hand. Having never grown up with a composter, the idea of composting is as mysterious as it is fascinating. My first introduction with composting was, as a child, watching my grandfather set out soybean grounds left over from the few occasions of making soy milk at home.  The grounds would sit outside for about a week or so (I’m not sure if anything was added to them) despite the constant complaints from various family members about the odorless but ugly heap.  Yet, the grounds fertilized and helped produce some of the biggest roses in my aunt’s garden.  Turning waste into proper nutrients with the purpose of feeding plants directly relates to successful gardening.  As we are taking nutrients straight from the earth, it is only fair to put it back in order to perpetuate the growth of the plants.

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Foraging for Flowers, Searching out Secrets

by Kelsey Laws

At the garden plot, I keep getting the urge to dig up the Johnny jump-ups growing through the cracks between the walkway stones and adding them to our group garden patch. I can’t quite bring myself to do it, because I still feel like I’m on borrowed land, but I’m not sure it would be wrong. They don’t belong to anyone’s plot in particular.  And while they may not be terribly productive as a source of food, they are edible, like the few other flowers I’ve planted in our garden.

In gardens I tend to be drawn more to the flowers than to the vegetables. I like that they’re beautiful, of course, but I also like the way a showy bloom may have hidden uses. I like knowing what flowers I can eat, because almost anybody can figure out a bean or a pumpkin, or a head of lettuce if it grows long enough, but it’s like I know a secret.

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Virtue in Unlikely Places

by Kristen Merrill

I am not a patient person. It has never been a strength of mine. I finished undergrad in three years with a double major because I didn’t want to waste my time and my parents’ money by dragging it out for another year. The oven never cooks fast enough for me and I’ve ruined more than one batch of frosting by applying it to a cake before it had a chance to fully cool. I come by it honestly as both of my parents are the kind of people who will do something themselves instead of waiting for someone else to do it. New Englanders through and through, they need to get where they’re going fast and soon. No time for lollygagging. My father is a champion tailgater. He once tailgated a logging truck on a rural Vermont road for 25 miles before passing it. There were no other cars on the road. We were not in a hurry. But he found the only other vehicle around and followed it closely enough to let the driver know that my father did not believe he was driving fast enough. My brother has the same impatient gene. While stopped at a crosswalk, waiting for the pedestrian light to change, he said “50 seconds! Who needs 50 seconds to cross the street?”
Patience: not a Merrill family virtue.

So for the life of me, I can’t understand why I chose to start the container garden on my deck from seeds rather than sprouts.

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What exactly is hydroponic gardening?

by Katya d’Angelo

I’ve heard of growing plants using the hydroponic method, which judging from the name (hydro) uses water, but I never really knew what it was all about. So, I decided to research it a bit and find out.  According to one of my gardening books, hydroponically grown plants grow bigger and faster than ones grown in soil. Although it does not explain why, my assumption is that the nutrients are being fed directly to the plant roots, which allows for a quicker and perhaps better absorption.

Apparently, plants can grow in almost any other material besides soil. These include sand, gravel, rocks, or the water solution itself. Seeds can be started in those materials, but for the water solution method, seedlings must be started beforehand and transplanted later to a homemade or bought hydroponic container.

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My First Garden

by Alison Gross

I am a gardening novice.  I have never tended my own garden, and I have very rarely planted anything, or even cared for potted plants. I come from generations of women who have cared for and maintained beautiful backyard gardens.  It is unfortunate that the only time I can remember putting a flower into soil was shortly after my grandmother died. For as long as I could remember, she had the most beautiful backyard full of roses, begonias, and apricot trees.  She loved spending time in her garden and because of the cooperative Central California weather she would be out there year-round.  She would pick flowers from her garden to make bouquets for her home, and can apricots from the overflowing trees.  One particularly warm summer, I helped her use some of the apricots to make ice cream.  To me she was the ultimate gardener.

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Confessions of a Second-Story Planter

by Sarah Warmus

“[I]n the meantime we’ve got it hard
Second floor living without a yard”

I’ve never had my own garden.

Sure, when I was younger, I helped my parents in their flower and vegetable beds, but it was a chore, a punishment for lying or staying out past curfew. I hated it – and, at times, them – for taking me away from the TV shows, music and phone calls that seemed crucial to my teen existence.

As soon as I could, I fled to university in the big city, where I didn’t have to hear about pests getting into the lettuce. I loved the freedom of being able to choose the where and why of when I got dirt under my nails – never! – and embraced living in a concrete jungle. It didn’t faze me when a dormitory or apartment lacked outdoor space; if it was near the action and lights of the city, then that’s where I wanted to be.

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Securing the Future of a Garden

by Daniel Amstutz

The lot next to my apartment building used to be an abandoned, weed-strewn wild until my landlord bought it and started landscaping it into a memorial garden.  As I was talking to one of my downstairs neighbors as he and his roommates were building a raised bed for their garden, he expressed surprise that our landlord was not going to build anything on it.  He was not complaining, of course – our downstairs neighbors had been growing seed starts for at least two or three weeks.  Yet, in our heightened awareness of money and economy, a question immediately springs to mind: would it not be more economical, and more profitable, to construct a permanent structure on this land?

Looking out over the lot to the southeast. Photo credit Daniel Amstutz.
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