Tag Archives: organic 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 🙂

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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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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.

 

 

Weeds. Weeds! Weeds? My garden update

I didn’t realize there would be so much interest in my garden done in the Masanobu Fukuoka style. So I’ll give an update. First of all, I was very proud of myself after I saw a sea of green bursting underneath the straw. Kind of like when I first had 100 views in one day on my blog, I thought I was some kind of gardening prodigy. My neighbor who is a 60ish year old Japanese woman was over visiting my mother-in-law and I knew she was an avid gardener. I showed her my garden and she giggled. “Those are all weeds,” she said as I showed her the thick foliage seen below.

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As I was feeling a bit dejected and defeated, she did notice a few bright spots of my garden. Below is a kabocha pumpkin that popped up out of its seed ball. You can see the seed ball and pumpkin seed beside it. One thing I notice about seedlings is they wear their seed on their head like a helmet, then cast it off once they are established.

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And despite my constant bothering of the garden, this beet seedling sprung out through the straw.

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The clover is coming up nicely, I never recognized how beautiful of a plant clover is until I started growing it and realizing its usefulness as a nitrogen enhancer for the soil and a weed retardant. According to Fukuoka, the combination of clover and straw will eventually choke out those weeds. And since this is a “natural” garden weeds are not completely eradicated by chemicals, just put into balance in the natural order of things.

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Below is an unknown seedling popping up. Is it a plant or a weed? The wonder of this garden is that you are always observing and educating yourself on seedlings. I told my wife if I can only grow one or two edible things, I would have considered this a success. I supposed I reached that milestone as the clover is edible.

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Another observation about this garden is that the plants that do make it appear to be hearty and healthy. Perhaps this is a microcosm of natural selection. Out of 14 of the types of plants I sowed, I have only identified less than a handful which have made it to seedling.

This weekend, I sowed more seed balls with different types of seeds than I originally broadcast. Fukuoka said that in farming/gardening there are no mistakes, only hints. He felt that mankind has no clue in unlocking the mysteries of nature in terms of growing plants. This is evident as today’s produce is all grown with chemicals and genetic modifications, and yet lacks nutrition.  With all the “hints” my garden has given me so far, I am humbly beginning to see his point.

Here is a link to the pdf of The Natural Way of Farming by Masanobu Fukuoka.