Posts Tagged ‘Gardening’

Seasons change, as they say.  But in this past few months when the leaves were turning colors and frost was putting an end to the gardening season, I was going through a lot of changes of my own.  The political consulting firm I worked for shut its doors and I found myself not just looking for work, but also looking for answers to some questions brewing in my mind.  Do I want to keep working in politics?  Or maybe do something a little different?  Do I want to stay in DC?  Try out some new city?  Or maybe go back to my native Pacific Northwest?

True to my want-it-all generation, I found myself answering “yes” to all of those seemingly mutually exclusive questions.  And then I received a terrific opportunity that let me have it all.  I’m moving to Portland, Oregon, for eight months to work on post-Census redistricting, which will keep me connected to politics but let me develop a lot of new skills in statistics and demography (and form my own consulting LLC in the process).  But I’ll be back in DC on a regular basis, and will return to my lovely (now subletted) Dupont Circle apartment after this is all over.  Relevant to this blog, I’m going to keep my garden plot (but make it really minimalist this year), and will remain actively involved in planning the next DC State Fair.

So as with the past few months, 2011 will be a bit of a hibernation for this blog.  I’ll post a few garden updates in the spring and summer, do a a tiny bit of posting about Portland, and help advertise DC State Fair events and deadlines.  And if I take this round-the-world tour of the world’s street food capitals next Oct/Nov that I’ve been dreaming about, I’ll post my culinary adventures here as well.  Expect a return to full DC gardening glory in 2012.

But for now, let me show you the last thing I made with my garden’s 2010 bounty.  Just before I left DC on December 21, I went out one last time to my garden plot, which was blanketed by an inch of snow.  But under the icy crust there were carrots, leeks, and the sweetest kale you can imagine.  I combined these ingredients with rich stock, cannellini beans,  sweet Italian sausage, and bacon to make a Tuscan soup that fed me for three solid meals.  It was the perfect way to close out my garden, and a satisfying way to leave DC for my 2011 adventure.  Happy New Year!


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This year my mother decided to put in some raised beds out on the south side of the house, where there’s enough sun to grow vegetables.  Thanks to her hard work and one of the sunniest Olympia summers on record, her beds are positively overflowing with produce:

raised beds cropped (Large)

From left to right, she is growing salad greens, peas, strawberries (and a beautiful rosebush), Brussels sprouts, and tomatoes & basil.  Then, just to the left of these beds, she has the beginnings of a long-term berry patch and herb garden:

blueberries and herbs cropped (Large)

The raspberry vines won’t produce anything until next year, but the blueberry bushes are already making fruit.

blueberries ripening (Large)

Though I’m quite proud of my little community garden plot back in DC, seeing my mom’s garden has caused me to experience some rather unfilial jealousy.  For one, she still has beautiful lettuces and salad greens; mine long ago bolted in the sweltering DC heat.  Second, her tomato plants are enormous, lush, and totally disease-free.  There hasn’t been any threat of late blight out here in the Pacific Northwest.  Though she might complain that tomatoes take too long to ripen here, I think she’ll find these healthy, grapefruit-sized Brandywines are well worth waiting for:

green brandywines (Large)

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One year ago today I started this blog, en route to DC after finishing grad school. I wrote:

Some of the recent trends in environmental living – eating local, reducing one’s carbon footprint, etc – are ideas I’d like to adopt into my everyday life, at least to the extent that the constraints of time, geography, and personal finances allow. I’m not in a position to get religious about this, but I’m trying to make the sorts of incremental changes that eventually add up.

Tangentially, I’ve been bitten by the gardening bug. […] It’ll mostly be container gardening again this season, but perhaps in the future I’ll get a plot at a local community garden.

Over the course of the year, a couple of things happened.  As a political analyst, I got VERY busy with the election season and stopped having the time to blog – or, for that matter, to put much effort into being eco-friendly.  But then after the election when things were calmer I was indeed assigned a plot at a community garden, and I recommitted myself to my earlier goals.

So here I am, blogging again, and finding a good balance in my life.  As I said in this blog’s first post, it’s not easy to make monumental lifestyle changes, even if you feel passionately about a cause.  So I’m going step by step, shifting more of my grocery shopping towards sustainable and local food, maintaining a vegetable garden without using chemicals, and generally being better about reducing, re-using, and recycling.  I am not, and never will be, the world’s most zealous environmentalist, but I’m doing what I can to become greener… gradually!

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I have the luxury of being able to walk to work, and on my daily commute I usually listen to podcasts on my iPhone.  Just as there are blogs to suit every taste, there are podcasts in every theme imaginable – including cooking and gardening.  I subscribe through iTunes, but the podcasts are available direct on the web as well.  Some of my favorite are:

  • Greendays Gardening Panel: This is a weekly feature of KUOW radio in Seattle, in which gardening experts discuss some topic and also take questions from listeners.  My grandmother has called into this program on a few occasions in years past!  The program is accessible, but not too basic, and the call-in portion offers a glimpse into the woes and successes of other people’s gardens.
  • GardeNerd Tip of the Week: An enthusiastic, compact little podcast, clocking in at no more than two minutes per episode, the straightforward suggestions are helpful for beginners and good reminders even for those with gardening experience.
  • Ken Druse – Real Dirt: Sage advice from a nationally known garden expert.  Thanks to Susan Harris for publicizing (and appearing on) this podcast.
  • Good Food with Evan Kleiman: Another NPR show available in podcast form, I love this show’s discussions about food, wine, trends, and politics.
  • Dinner Party Download: This awesome podcast was highlighted on The Kitchn recently.  It’s only partially about food; the show also functions as a weekly news summary and history lesson.  The conceit is that each segment is akin to a phase of a dinner party, starting with an ice breaker, moving on through cocktails and small talk and a guest of honor, and ending with a foodie main course.

Does anyone have other suggestions for podcasts about food, gardening, or sustainability?

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Despite what I have written about community gardens as a potential deterrent to crime, it appears that garden plants themselves are sometimes the targets of crime.  My mother alerted me to this story from yesterday’s Seattle Times, headlined “Green thumbs with sticky fingers: Plant thieves strike Seattle yards, parks.”  Plant theft is apparently a common problem, yet not one that is taken particularly seriously except by the victims.  (A cultural note: in Seattle community gardens are almost universally referred to as P-Patches).

The realities of city living can be harsh: Windows get smashed. Fender-benders abound. Then, when you least expect it, someone goes and makes off with your shrubs.

“I expect cars to be broken into,” says Beacon Hill resident April Jahns. “But stealing shrubs seems really bizarre.”

Around Seattle, thieves have plundered P-patches and pilfered public parks. About $2,000 worth of plants has been lifted from Capitol Hill’s Volunteer Park alone over the last 16 months, according to Seattle Parks spokeswoman Dewey Potter, while homeowners and others report thefts ranging from Seward Park to Washington Park Arboretum.

Honestly.  What kind of person would steal plants right out of the ground?  What a shame.  And the article makes it clear that this isn’t just a case of indiscriminate vandalism.

Not far away, on a wooded hillside across the street from Pacific Medical Center, Vinh Nguyen and a crew of volunteers have been restoring native species at 5-acre Lewis Park in hopes of promoting local wildlife. The project is part of the Green Seattle Partnership, which aims to restore 2,500 acres of forested city parkland.

But late last month, someone uprooted a dozen or so plants, many of which Nguyen had bought in Bellingham with his own money. “They’re impossible to get here,” said Beacon Hill resident Dee Dunbar, a project volunteer.

Nguyen is still rattled by the situation. Like others, he said, the thieves appear selective and knowledgeable. “They didn’t steal the cheap ones.”

And because so much was taken, it leads him to think the plants are sold — perhaps by an unscrupulous landscaper — to unwitting clients.

People there are literally chaining up their plants to prevent theft.  It made me think about the Temple Garden I wrote about yesterday; I wonder if they’ve had a problem with plant and/or fruit larceny.  And I wonder if theft of larger garden plants and shrubs is a problem around DC’s neighborhoods.  Have people here had stuff yanked right out of the ground?  It’s not something I’ve heard about, but maybe it doesn’t make headlines because there are so many more egregious crimes to report on.

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The community gardens of DC come in many shapes and sizes. I have a plot at the Newark Street Community Garden, but I like to visit other gardens to see what’s growing, what’s interesting, and what’s different. I’ll make it a semi-regular series on this blog. Yesterday I visited the Temple Garden, which is on 15th Street NW behind the crazy-huge masonic temple. Google Streetview has a better picture than I was able to take while the skies were overcast:

Image via Google Streetview

Image via Google Streetview

The thing that makes this garden so different from the Newark Street Community Garden is the lack of fencing. There are some low fences and hedges around the whole of the garden, but the individual plots are not separated by fences. Wandering around the Temple Garden’s woodchip paths, it was hard to tell where one plot ended and the next began. It had a lovely balance of vegetables and flowers, planted in delightfully haphazard bunches.


At Newark Street deer are too much of a problem to allow this openness, which is a shame. What a luxury to be able to plant raspberries and not worry that deer or other critters are going to nab them:


I spoke with a woman tending to her plot, and she said the openness of the garden helped foster a very friendly community. She also said that interest in the garden had really peaked in recent years, which I know for a fact to be true. I tried to put my name on the waiting list for this garden last year and was told that the waiting list was already so long they weren’t adding anyone to it. Ah well, it’s still a nice place to visit.


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The DC blogosphere has been abuzz about MTV’s new season of The Real World, which starts filming here in Dupont Circle later this month.  Some people are very much against the whole idea, while others are more pro.  As someone who hasn’t watched the show since the 90s, I count myself among the bemused, and just hope it won’t be too disruptive to the neighborhood.  (Also, it’s bizarre that the cast members will now all be younger than I am; as a high schooler watching the show, I remember the casts seeming like actual adults).

RWDC_herb_gardenYesterday I was on my way home from Adams Morgan and walked by the reputed Real World house at 20th and S Streets, and saw some onlookers taking photos.  It’s certainly a lovely house, but I was more interested in what was in the parking strip in front of the house on the S Street side.  An herb garden!  Parsley, basil, rosemary, and other herbs were growing in a little raised bed between the street and the sidewalk.

True, the herbs look like they pre-date the arrival of the MTV crews.  The parsley, in particular, looks like it was from a previous year’s crop that re-seeded itself.  So it’s more likely that the previous residents planted the herbs and had to abandon them after MTV took over.  The herbs were kind of half-heartedly roped off, and I wouldn’t suggest doing some kind of major raid of the goods.  But the public nature  of the bed puts it more in line with the herb garden at U and New Hampshire.  At the very least, I hope someone in the new cast likes to cook and will put those herbs to good use!

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