Tag Archives: gardening

Letting your plants go seed

When I was a teenager, I can remember waiting in the doctors office and perusing a hunting magazine. I had no interesting in hunting, but it was the only thing to read in the days well before iPhones. Between the articles of using store bought fox urine versus to the real deal for God only knows what, I came across an article that has apparently stayed with me for years. It was a first hand account of a man who successfully tracked down a prized deer, but couldn’t bring himself to shoot it because he was in awe of the beauty and strength of this animal.

As my plants in my garden are maturing, I haven’t been able to pick some of them for very much the same reasons as the hunter above. Watching something grow from seed since nascency, then becoming ripe and the flowering, then seeding, then dying is a beautiful process to watch. It is hauntingly a fast forward preview of our own cycle of existence in this embodiment, and in mankind itself.

I knew I was too late picking my freckled lettuce when I snapped off a leaf and chewed it, only to have an extremely bitter taste in my mouth. I have developed great respect for lettuce plants a they are some of the most disease resistant, insect resistant, drought resistant, and delicious plants that can be grown. When they are mature, they go right into seed making mode and grow a crown on top reminiscent of something truly Royal.

It is odd growing plants in Hawai’i, a place where you can plant any time of year and produce. As this past week was the first day of Spring, many of my plants are behaving like its Fall and either harvesting or going to seed. Rather than greedily picking them all, I am letting some continue their short life cycle on this earth with hope that they will produce more offspring with their withering.

On a bright note, I did harvest my first pumpkin. It was small and beautiful and made my mother in law very happy. I plan to take it on “tour” to show all my students, coworkers, friends, and clients with whom I was showing weekly pictures of progress like some deranged parent. Who knows, I might just eat it one day 🙂

Patience paying off: garden starting to show its bounty

What a wonderful week in gardening! The romaine lettuce seen in the featured image is just one of the main attractions that has come from the soil this week. After successfully pollinating my pumpkin flowers using a paintbrush, a small Kabocha is starting forming (see below). It is growing about twice its size daily. A few fairly heavy showers have been a boon to the dry soil and many magical things are starting to happen.

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A cucumber vine (below) is now is sprouting four fruits at the same time, when I was lucky to get one from the first plant that grew which recently died off. You can see a young cucumber here which start off prickly until they mature into succulent morsels.

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A home made trellis made of three bamboo sticks and twine has made this bitter melon  a happy plant. I am using materials found around the house to use as “props” for my plants. It seems as though my Iyengar training is staring to “cross pollinate” into other areas of my life. You can see the clovers below that add fertilizer by fixing nitrogen into the soil.

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Below you can see a daikon which started to flower with a long stalk and small lavender colored petals. For those with a botany background taking a second look a the plant, is shows that the daikon, a carrot, and burdock all came from the same seed ball and are occupying the same space. I will let this daikon flower produce seeds so I can replant more next season.

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And making a rare cameo, your’s truly holding a recently harvested daikon. Remember how small my last one was from my post about the chisai (small) harvest? Well this one is full size and more than a handful.

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And to attract bees and other beneficial insects, I am adding sunflowers to the garden. I transplanted this beauty a few days ago. It also provides shade and wind protection.

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Like a hungry serpent, below the creepy crawly pumpkin vine ventures well past the garden searching for more space. This is about 15 feet long now, but I have heard these could grow up to 50 feet. If I blink, this plant will probably wind up in my neighbor’s yard. Perhaps I’ll offer him a pumpkin 🙂

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Chisai (small) harvest

The first “bumper” crop came in from my garden. Let’s just say it was a bumper from a Mini Cooper instead of a Hummer, but at least I’m keeping it green 🙂 Chisai (small) is the word my Japanese mother-in-law used to describe my harvest. Although these plants are tiny compared to the one’s seen in the store, they are indeed some delicious delicacies. I’d like to share them with you.

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Above is how the cucumber from a few posts ago turned out. It was near the ground and grew into a circle. This was probably the first bona fide vegetable I grew from seed, so I am extremely fond of it. As Fukuoka’s theory of gardening was based on the concept of “mu” or “nothingness” this cucumber reminded me of an enso circle in Zen Buddhism which symbolizes that we are nothing and everything. In a strange cosmic way, I felt this was Fukuoka’s way of giving me his blessing for my garden. I also harvested this near his birthday on Feburary 2 (he would have made 104 this year). After showing this to my family, I cut it into three pieces and we all enjoyed it.

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Below are some Romanine lettuce mixed with daikon leaves. The daikon leaves were spicy and mustardy and mixed well with the mild Romaine. As you can see this is about a tenth of the size of the variety that comes in your caesar salad. But we ate these without any dressing and they were delicious!

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Below are snap peas. These have come from a confused plant which has tried to latch on to anything it can to trellis itself upward. I thought the windy dry weather had done them in, but they rebounded nicely and produced these beautiful pea pods. Sweet, crisp and succulent.

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Below is a “preemie” daikon. If you have ever seen one of these in real life, you’d know that they are huge with a root the size of toddler’s leg. This little guy was growing right next to another daikon and was competing for space, so I decided to pluck him and add him to my stir fry. When they are small and young like this they pack a spicy punch much like horse radish or wasabi. Bold, assertive flavor from this pint sized offering.

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A few haricot verts from my bush bean plant. These grow quickly. The beauty of bush beans is they magically keep giving and giving. In fact is in encouraged to harvest often so the plant does not flower and go to seed.

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And last but not least, this wonderful Kabocha pumpkin plant is snaking through my garden like a dragon complete with scales. I’ve never grown a pumpkin before and didn’t realize what a regal and dynamic plant it is. It uses its tentacle like vines to secure it to the ground like staples and behind the “head” large yellow flowers bloom on the body like fireworks. A female flower finally emerged but has not opened. The large black bees which circle overhead will certainly pollinate this plant once the female flower opens.

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Although the plants are small, these mini harvests have given me hope. As one of my Facebook friends said “Don’t be put off if things grow smallish this year. They will grow bigger and better each year.” There is a nice quote from Audrey Hepburn: “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” With all the craziness in the world right now, my garden and my yoga practice have kept me grounded and optimistic about the future regardless of world events. Although you couldn’t taste these, I hope they were a feast for the eyes. Many blessings!

Anything worth attaining takes patience

I have to admit I’ve been in a bit of a rut of late. After the election, the holidays, and the daily press after the inauguration, I have lost quite a bit of my inspiration. My yoga class this morning made me feel like my teaching has gone to pot, but I am wise enough to know that my critical voice is sometime irrationally loud.

After an unusual hot spell in Hawai’i, followed by a strong windy weekend, many plants in my garden were damaged, and birds ate a good number of my snap peas which were just about to ripen.

In mental health counseling, people who get in bad emotional shape tend to have several stressful events in a short period of time and somehow lump all of these events as coming from the same source. Like it is some kind of fate they had these things happen to them. I caught myself having this kind of thinking and am wrestling my way out of it.

Today I did a few positive things to set me in another direction. After the “bad teaching” yoga class, I gave myself a few minutes in a restorative pose to lengthen my spine which is something I haven’t done for a while. Afterwards, I came home and spent some time in my garden. I felt the soil and it was dry and sandy. The garden in its own way told me what it needed. When the day cooled off I gave it a good watering and pruned a few of the damaged parts of my snap pea plants that were ravaged by those horrible birds.

I realized that I will not have a bountiful harvest after just a few months of gardening with no prior experience, but also saw that it is a process which will encompass many years. Just as I have been teaching yoga for many years and still have a long way to go to have any sense of mastery. This is the way of all things in life that are worth attaining. You may never attain them, but the process is satisfyingly challenging.

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Flowering Fukuoka garden

I am about three months into my Fukuoka gardening project and am starting to see a lot of plants flowering. To bring new readers up to date, this is a method of gardening pioneered by Masanobu Fukuoka, whose philosophy is to allow nature to do the work with minimal interference from human interaction. This is easier said than done, as human nature likes to poke around as I often do to my poor plants in this garden. Keep in mind, I just planted this on my bare lawn without any soil, chemicals, or soil amendments. This is simply from laying down a bed of straw, casting seeds in the form of seed balls, broadcasting White Clover seeds, and just a small amount of pelleted chicken manure. Also keep in mind that I have had very minimal previous experience in gardening prior to this experiment.

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This is the very first cumcumber in the making from the garden. My wife and I hand pollenated it by removing flowers from a male, and inserting the stamen into the open female flower. The female flower has a “tiny” cucumber looking stalk. I believe this is successfully pollenated and growing at a rapid rate.

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This is a healthy looking snap pea plant (above). I added this wooden trellis as the plant started expanding beyond the garden stick.

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A kabocha pumpkin plant (above) produces huge yellow flowers which ants seem to love. Perhaps they will assist in pollination when a female flower comes about. I am finding the ratio of male flowers tends to be quite high compared to female flowers which come later.

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A bright green head of Romaine lettuce is extending its ribs up through the hay. I snapped a leaf off today and it had a rich “lettuce” taste that I haven’t been able to get from the store bought variety.

img_1767If you have been following this gardening project, you will have known that I have had a hard time growing beets. I finally have a batch that made it past the seedling stage under the protective leaf from a Chinese mustard green. To date, I have planted about 50 different kinds of seeds, but many have not made it.

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With a hand sickle, I cut tall grass in the garden and place them on top of other unruly plants. I have stopped using the term “weeds” because I realize that in this method, all plants have a purpose. The biomass from the non edible grass and horse herb provide mulch and suppress the plants in the garden that are bullying the young crops. When decomposed they in turn feed the garden with nutrients.

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The “skyline” of my garden is rapidly changing and getting taller.

 

 

Fukuoka was right: weeds and plants coexist nicely

One nice thing about the holidays is the time off from work has allowed me to spend more time in my garden. But as my mother-in-law likes to point out, I don’t do much in my garden except stare at my plants. Guilty as charged! I find the evolving life mesmerizing.

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You can see from this wide shot how lush my garden has become. The steady rains of Hawai’i in December means all the time I would have spent watering can just be spent in observation. I have added a few large round flat bricks to give me better access to the garden.

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This snap pea plant (above) is using both my trellis and a long grass blade to prop itself up. These can grow up to 6 feet tall (2 meters).

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In my determination, I have replanted new beets which are coming up out of their seed balls. The lesson I learned is not to move the straw around too much as there is tons of new life hiding inside. That decimated my original crop of beets.

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A tiny tomato plant (with the jagged leaves above) has peeked through the ground cover. The “weeds” that my neighbor identified in a previous post in combination with White Clover have proven to be fertile “green manure” for a host of other plants. This proves Fukuoka’s theory that plants can live in harmony in conduction with other plants which many consider “weeds.”

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Underneath this tall grass (above) is a patch of Romaine Lettuce. The grass has protected the lettuce from the onslaught of slug invasions that have also claimed many of my plants. I am finding the more lush the “weeds” and grasses grow, the fewer plants succumb to the slug and snail attacks.

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This bitter melon plant (above) is thriving with its roots in the straw, weeds, and clover underneath.

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You can see this nice row of daikon growing (above). At least I think it is daikon. The constant challenge in Fukuoka gardening is identifying seedlings and young plants as they randomly pop up. Before I thought it was annoying, but now it is fun as it forces me to constantly learn about new plants.

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On the other side of the yard, my wife has a “traditional” garden. As you can see her plants are doing very well. She has had to replant and resoil a few times to keep her garden in good shape. Every night we go on “slug hunts” with our flashlights to keep pests out of both our gardens. It is actually nice bonding time for my wife and I 🙂

It’s been quite a year…

As I was walking around the block after tonight’s dinner, I had a chance to reflect back on this year of intense change. Despite having some major personal losses, this year has also had a few bright spots for me.

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One major highlight was finally meeting H.S. Arun. In the above picture, before a class in his Kailua workshop he asked me “how much do you weigh?” “200 pounds” I replied back. He then had me sit on him as a weight for his Upavishta Konasana. He asked me to take my hands to Urdvha Hastasana to centralize the weight. We really bonded well during the workshop. Thank you Robin Mishell for the photo.

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My classes are growing. I used to have an average of about 6 people per class. This year it has grown to about nine. The really nice thing about these numbers are that many of my students have been practicing with me for more than 5 years, and a small handful for more than a decade.

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I’m still in teacher training. Despite all that has happened this year, I am still working toward my Junior Intermediate I certification. Above is one of my mentoring teachers Ray Madigan with Laurie Freed (in Kurmasana) who passed her Junior Intermediate II this year. Along with Shelley Choy, Ray has been leading trainings a few days a month. I am blessed to have these small sessions with my teachers.

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My garden. I can’t express how much pleasure I derive from gardening. Watching life grown and change daily before your eyes awakens me to the miracle of this existence. Above is a tiny lettuce sprout springing out of the straw. I may even start another blog just focusing on my garden and the techniques of the Fukuoka style.

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My loving, talented wife. She has propped me up during my down times, and I have propped her up during her down times. We make a great team and I love her very much. Also helping to keep joy in our lives is my hanai niece Sasha who often joins us for our misadventures like eating robot served sushi.

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Lastly, my blog. If people keep viewing at the current rate, I should make 100,000 views this year. To me that is far higher than I have ever dreamed for this little blog of practicing Iyengar yoga at home. Thank you all for your readership, and I hope to have some great posts in 2017…