Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Home Groan

Recently the folks at the Central Texas Gardener (a local PBS gardening show) interviewed and took a garden tour with one of the Austin American Statesman's (our local newspaper) popular garden columnist/bloggers.What struck me in this Television looks at Print looks back at Television gardeners love fest, was a statement made by Renee Studebaker of Renee's Roots (The Garden of an Urban Farm Girl), when she recalled seeing a photo of herself sitting in her grandmother's garden, in her diapers, "helping".

I hear this time and time again, that folks just have gardening, especially growing food for the table, "in their blood". They learned at a mother or grandmother or grandfather's knee, getting first hand tutelage in the art of coaxing food out of soil.

And every single time I hear or read of this, I experience pangs of grand/parent garden envy.

I never knew any of my grandparents. Long stories there, but bottom line is both my parents were older than average to begin with, one was estranged from their extended family, and I simply never had any of those doted upon moments where I was shown how to grow anything in a grandparent's garden.

My Dad enjoyed growing tomatoes. But he wasn't an experienced gardener. He grew tomatoes for love all right, but not love of tomatoes.

My father actually couldn't stand eating tomatoes. He developed an aversion to them (or so he said) while serving in the military in the Canal Zone during WWII. To hear him tell it, they all but force fed the troops tomatoes to prevent scurvy and he had to eat so many tomatoes during the war that he lost his appreciation for their flavor forever.

My Mom on the other hand, love love loved eating home grown tomatoes. She enjoyed them sliced with salt and pepper, no further embellishment required.

As much as she liked to eat them however, my Mother would not be cajoled, convinced or coerced into helping work the dirt to produce any. My Mom simply refused to get soil under her fingernails. Period.It was as if she somehow internalized the scene from her favorite movie "Gone With The Wind" where Scarlett, after scrabbling in the dirt for a turnip, was it? states "As God is my witness, as God is my witness they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again.".

Only with my Mom you would sub in the words "and when it's all over," (it being the Depression), "I'll never work in a garden again. No, nor any of my folk.".

Although that is taking it a bit far. My Mom was OK with my Dad growing her tomatoes.She was just not one of those Earth Mommies out teaching my brother and I about the Great Circle of Life by growing carrots or beans or whatever.

So when it comes to growing food now for Hub and myself, I still have many, many lessons to learn.Some things I have learned in the past couple of months include that in a serious drought, if you do not supplementally water your radishes a lot more than I did, they may come out of the ground ropey and tough.
Another lesson learned is that broccolli waits for no woman. When harvesting broccoli, the developed floret you see is essentially the floret you will get.No need putting off harvesting to see if you will get a set of developed side shoots or a large head of florets more similar to the ones in the grocery store produce section.

Nope, waiting to harvest a head of broccoli too long leads to a striking illustration of why they call them "florets" in the first place.  To wit...
After a week of being distracted by other pressing matters, I turned my attention back to the garden beds where I fully intended to stride out and harvest me some broccolli by golly, only to be stopped in my tracks. My vegetables were in full bloom.

I was originally disgusted with myself, feeling that I had somehow failed a test and wasted an opportunity. Then I took a closer look.Those broccolli flowers were absolutely crawling with bees. Happy busy bees, apparently grateful to have something in full bloom in this fairly stark January between spells of cold and of dry.

Bees, as if you didn't already know this, are in a lot of trouble, and scientists still aren't sure what the causes are. Colony collapse disorder, their fancy term for the mysterious die off of thousands of bees, still poses a "why?" that we cannot answer.

In light of that, I feel a lot better about providing our local bees with some winter blooms to visit. Without the bees my chances of growing anything range from slim to none. And, turns out there is plenty of broccolli to go around. So while all my broccolli plants won't be feeding the Hub and me directly, I am happy to donate their pollen to the cause of sustaining my neighborhood bees.

I even figure from now on, to try to remember to put in a couple of extra broccolli plants so my bees can have some bright yellow flowers to visit when everything else has pretty much packed it in for the winter.

Odds are, I am not your Mom or your GrandMom. Nonetheless I am happy to share this lesson, learned at Mother Nature's knee if you will, about how plants do what they do whether you are ready or not, which usually includes feeding somebody, some way.


Iris said...

I was just talking to someone yesterday about this very thing! She convinced me to let a couple of my current broccoli plants flower.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who is a tiny bit envious of people whose grandparents taught them gardening.

Flapjacks said...

my mother kept a pretty rockin' garden before she got too ill to deal with it. my dad liked to grow inedible plants, which were all around the house. he loves the chile piquins.

my rather pathetic little broccoli floret is in bloom also, and it is quite beautiful. yay draught and depression! it's just like the thirties...

TexasDeb said...

Iris - I was gratified to have my "goof" turn out to be beneficial to the bees. I hadn't thought much previously about what they were supposed to do in January with so few blooms around to visit.

Flapper, if you are right and we are headed into another spell like the 30's, then we'd best all get our gardening chops honed, yeah?

renee (reneesroots) said...

Well said, TexasDeb. Trial and error at mother nature's knee is one of the best ways to become a master gardener. Even though my grandparents were farmers and grew almost all their food, my mother had very little interest in gardening. I think that compulsive desire to dig in the dirt often skips generations. Sounds like you inherited the desire even if you didn't get the one-on-one training.