Life as I know It

My photo
San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Friday, February 4, 2011

Walking Hand in Hand With Mother Nature

My little garden-herb shed 'Sprig' bursts with new seeds, starts, and baskets of seed potatoes and alliums.

Spring is stirring inside me just as surely as it stirs in the seeds I sowed last week. The seeds are already up and showing their first cotyledons. Hurrah! M√Ęche, mesclun, calendula, love-in-a-mist, poppies, violas, butter lettuce, radishes, and carrots are tempting the hungry sparrows.

I love this time of year and catapult out of bed and into the garden early each morning. So much happens every day and so much needs my TLC. I don’t mind the extra hours, the extra clipping, mulching, and weeding because the garden gives back much more than I ever put into it.

Every inch of the soil is covered with a layer of clean straw. I don't believe in tilling the soil. I feel that it destroys the structure and injures so many things. So, like Mother Nature, I constantly top the soil with a protective coverlet of mulch. This will keep the soil moist, mostly weed free, and it will nurture it and all the critters. I had to hand apply it and watched closely so that my seedlings weren't covered.

The tight fists of the Mission and Brown Turkey figs are already thrust into the blue sky. The wild currant drips with hummingbird-thronged pink blooms, and the hollyhocks, dependable hollyhocks, are centered with fuzzy-rumped bumblebees. 

Out in the herb courtyard, the espaliered triple-graft heirloom apple already blooms. It began blooming in January, which is a shock to me. I have more lessons to learn whenever I go outdoors–so much life in my tiny garden.

I ran out of room in the garden and decided to call some of my antique buckets and barrels into service. They work fine for plants, but the tinware really heats the soil quickly. So I lined half a dozen of my antique tins (which have drainage holes) with fresh straw. The straw acts as insulator and as it breaks down it enriches the soil. I planted the seed potatoes, shallots, onions (red and white cipolla), and garlic in the buckets.

Small seed potatoes were placed on the soil and covered with two inches of straw. As the potato vines grow I will "hill" them with more straw and soil.

Early mornings are great out at my work bench. Seedlings of California poppies are started in the egg carton. The aqua vessel on the egg carton is an old fashioned thumb pot, which is used to water seedlings.
I planted my new artichokes inside gopher baskets.

Tight bud of Victoria Cherry Rhubarb. I've surrounded the fountain of artichoke with these parasol-leaved beauties. I already can imagine how they'll taste in a cobbler or a pie.

Isn't it gorgeous?

Harvested and cooked the last of the carrots and replanted in my trusty old washtub.

This is butter lettuce and the rainbow colored carrots, which are miniscule now, but coming. The carrots grow beautifully in this deep tub, but I miss the fun shapes they make when they're grown in clay or rocky soil. They're hilarious and kids love them when they're not straight.

Love these.
Until next time and thank you so much for your letters and e-mails. Today I received a special letter from a loyal reader. I wanted to share this one letter with you because it is so dear and it made me cry. These are like soul food to me and help me understand just why I do what I do.

Sending love,

P.S. Please drop in for a visit at my Lowe’s blog posting. No matter where you live, there is something for your garden on the blog.

P.P.S. If you missed my interview last Sunday on "We Dig Plants" on the Heritage Radio Network, it is archived here.


Marigold Jam said...

Your spring obviously comes so much earlier than ours - how wonderful to see such progress already and that blue sky is beautiful. Love the wonky carrot! It's always good to know one is appreciated isn't it? And I guess you reach so many people with your writing.

Have a good weekend.


Harvest Moon by Hand said...

Enjoyed seeing the first signs of spring and your garden. Spring is still a few months off here, so my daughters and I are in the planning stages of what we want to grow again this year...and some new things we'd like to try. The variety of sliced carrots is so colorful. Looks delicious!


FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Good morning dear Sharon ~ I can feel your joy and enthusiasm and your post is such an inspiration to me. I love your gardens and your sweet shed.

I just read another of your writings in one of my magazines the other day and they are always such a treat. I also, like your letter writer, have the magazines tucked away and take them out every now and then for pictures and reading inspiration.

Thank you for sharing so much with all of us.

Love ~ FlowerLady

Alyssa said...

What a beautiful letter! "Hand in Hand with Mother Nature" What a nice way to say it. Your pictures are beautiful and so refreshing after Mother Nature's blow of snow here in Massachusetts.
I have a question for you...I have some alliums that I forgot to plant, about 100 of them actually! How can you forget that, you might ask? Tending to so many other elements in the yard, writing, teaching, etc...The Fall is such a busy time here! Anywhoooo....Can I put them into a pot of soil and force them to bloom in my sunny window? Or, would this not work. We need a burst of melting! ;)Alyssa of Boston Bee

Michelle said...

Your pictures are so beautiful and inviting. You really have me daydreaming for some spring! I am already thinking of trying some straw bale gardening this year, in addition to my regular things. BTW....thanks for the kind comments on my blog. I do appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sharon, Clearly you are already off to a flying start in your garden. The days here are still too cold, windy and wet but your garden seems to be humming with new bursts of life already. You do seem to be very well organised with your seed sowing. For my own part, I raise very few plants from seed as I found previously that I would be tempted to buy countless packets of seed, many of which never saw the soil!!

marcia said...

Please realize what your posts mean to me these days as we are buried under heaps of snow in Massachusetts. .. excitement and anticipation for spring, living the dream.. while still savoring the season we are in!

We cover our raised beds in old hay from the horses and the rabbits and it is such a delight to see all the life under all that hay in the spring. But we have to keep the free-ranging hens OUT of there!

I LOVE the display of seed packets. It's art. an inspiration for my earth school...the children can choose what they want to plant and we can make a art display of the packets!

Chloe loves your stacks of buckets in your garden. So much better than plastic pots, she says!

What kind of funky carrots are those? I'm planning a separate child's garden this year.

happy day!
love marcia

Debra Howard said...

Oh what a delightful website! I really enjoy your watercolors! I never considered my old washtubs as containers for my vegetables before! I always just fill them with flowers. Hmmmm, now you have me thinking. I am glad to find someone else who thinks tilling is bad. It always just seemed to make a weed problem. I would much rather smother those weeds with mulch and after a couple years of mulching... Oh what lovely soil I have!

Donna said...

Sharon, I loved this post and am so inspired after reading it and seeing all the wonderful outdoor garden photos. I will definitely be doing more plantings in pots and buckets. Thank you! Waiting patiently for spring...


Lori ann said...

dear sharon,
as always, you totally amaze me. spending time in your garden is enchanting. and i always learn something new.

going to lowe's and the radio show now!


As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

Another fun post which I enjoyed reading. I have to say--the topmost photo in this post looks like it was made to be a book jacket cover. The books, the watering cans, the colorful seed packets--it's great!

Pondside said...

Today's post was like a shot of sunshine - thank you! You are quite far ahead of us, down there. Up here in the northwest we are still a bit sodden and cool, but the buds are fat on the magnolia tree and the daffodils are higher every day.
Last night we enjoyed a Paso Robles wine and I thought of the family and friends - virtual and present - who live in the included.

Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

Spring! You are so good at getting everything started. Great use of old hanging baskets over those precious little plants. I may do that with some of mine that need retired. It is nice to have been gardening long enough to have great things like that to repurpose!

John'aLee said...

Just love your blog! You are so inspiring.

Unknown said...

My dear Sharon,
Todays entry is a breath of fresh air to your snow bound friend in MA. I don't think we'll see bare ground for another month! Your garden happenings and teachings will be a delight and a wonderful source of inspiration as we thaw out on the East Coast! I've got plans for a window sill Herb Garden...and a container herb garden this spring too!
Love and happy dirty hands to you!

Vee said...

What fun to know that I can come here and find a jumpstart on spring. You don't till the soil? I have NEVER heard of that concept, but I already like it a lot. :D Keep right on having fun in the garden. Looking forward to seeing more!

Anonymous said...

Fabulous post, Sharon. Your spring starts early. I'm like you in that when the weather is nice, I'm out of bed early and outdoors to enjoy the birdsong and puttering before things get noisy. 50 degrees this morning so it's getting there, slow but sure. You're right. The garden indeed does give back much more than it requires. Thank you for the inspiration!

Claudia said...

Hi Sharon - I sit here with over 30 inches of snow on the ground - so I'm gardening vicariously through you! I cannot wait until Spring begins here and I can start working in my garden.

We're thinking of starting a vegetable garden this year - but we have such a deer and bunny rabbit population, I'm wondering if it would be a lost cause?


Lemon Verbena Lady said...

Dear Sharon,

Thanks for sharing all of your gardening love and produce with us! In SWPA we are actually seeing the ground again! Yipee! Although we have a lot of frozen parts still! Thanks for sharing that reader's letter. Hope that reader can get a copy of your book. I know they will enjoy every story, drawing and photo. You have a positive effect on the world, Sharon! We are all blessed to have you and your writings in our lives! Looking forward to your new books! xxoo Nancy

Kit said...

I am enjoying "visiting" Spring with you. We are deep in cold and snow but that is okay, I like it. But your blog gives me a taste of what I have to look forward to. Thanks! Kit

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Dear Marcia and Chloe,

The carrots I'm growing are the Carnival Blend from Botanical Interests seeds, but most catalogs and companies have some sort of blend of their own.

The twisted carrot was grown in bad soil. You can emulate this (and much funnier ones) by adding rocks, clayish soil, etc. to a container for carrots. I outline this in my 1994 book Hollyhock Days. I have seen so many funny ones and the kids love them.

The one I pulled yesterday was called "The King's Carrot," because our grandson Asher is Birthday King for the weekend. We all ate straight carrots at our "unbirthday party" last night, but Asher got the special one and he loved it.

Good luck you two,


The Herbalist's Cottage said...

That letter made me tear up too!
How wonderful!
Love Leanne

Cheryl @ TFD said...

Thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving a sweet comment! I can't wait for spring and to be able to get outside and start growing things again. I love your blog and this post is so informative. I never thought to plant anything in buckets, will have to try it. You have a new follower! Have a good weekend and happy gardening! ~Cheryl

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

Sharon, what wonderful inspiration you are this cold morning. You brought to mind about using straw for gardening. Years ago I did this. Now that I have returned to my homeplace and have a small garden and lots of pots - I will do this. Thank you for reminding me that "my" Spring is just around the corner.

Anonymous said...

Wow,spring? Plants growing? Really. I'm looking out my window at howling wind and blowing snow. My little chickadees are blowing past the feeder. Thanks for getting my mind off of winter for a little while.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the messages on my blog. I look forward to feeling the soil again, but it will be a while. You live in another world - where things are still growing. A fun place to visit.

Marcie said...

Winter continues in my northern locale, but I feel blessed that I can enjoy the greening at your end of the nation through your descriptive posts!

I got my green today at the food cooperative. Along with their spectacular hand-crafted organic tofu, I got the most beautiful blue green kale and my sons opted for coconuts! :)

Susan said...

Spring is definitely starting to show here in Seattle. My daffodils are up 4-5 inches, forsythia is blooming, and my lovely hydrangeas are in bud. I love Spring! Renewal of life. Thank you, as always, for letting me share your life. xoxo

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

I loved seeing a preview of Spring on this post, Sharon. In my area we have to wait until March to see bulbs poke their head out of the ground, and May to plant vegetables and flowers. It seems like quite a long wait right now, but I love to plan and dream. I will also enjoy reading your Lowe's blog!

Kay's flowers said...

Hi Sharon,

All the pictures were great but I especially liked the first one and the one of your work bench. I really liked how you have your seed packets displayed and all the clay pots and everything else on the bench are so artfullly placed.
Thanks for another great post.



kj said...

be still my heart!!!

i'm going to get to see and hear all about the gardens and flowers and vegetables and soil i love?


and that letter: thump thump: just about made me cry too.


Buttercup said...

Love seeing the plants. We've got three feet of snow out the window, though thankfully it's a beautiful sunny day. Have a wonderful Sunday!

Lili said...

Oh I so needed to see all that garden loveliness. It will be a while before we will see anything like it around here. And I had to chuckle at your shock of finding that apple blossom in January, it just tickled by funny bone and made me imagine what if that happened here too! It makes me happy just knowing how much fun you are having in your garden! And you can bet I'm trying to soak up all your garden tips you tell us about too. I think Henri will especially like the no tilling one! xoxo ~Lili

rebecca sweet said...

Sharon, as usual you've put me in such a wonderful frame of mind to start my day. How I treasure drinking my first cup of coffee, stealing a few moments for myself to read your blog. And the timing of this post couldn't be better! As I sit here, my muscles ache and I'm wondering how I'll make it through the day! Yesterday I spent the entire day bent over covering my garden with a thick layer of mulch, transplanting seedlings, and weeding. Spring is definitely in the air (and my muscles know it!).

Marguerite said...

Sharon, I loved how you planted up your antique containers. I too have some old milk buckets and you gave me some ideas. I also chuckled when I saw the egg cartons. I have been collecting these for the last month to help with my seed starting.

Marcie said...

Sharon, Thanks for your comment on my Quiet Country House blog. I did do a post yesterday, but am posting at my new address these days:

Thanks for trying to keep up with me! lol

Nina Suria said...

Dear sharon,
Love this entry and all the pictures you have posted(espc. the twisted
carrot). You're really a green thumb lady :)


Dawn said...

This post was such a lovely sight for sore, wintery, bleak eyes!
Today the sun is shining and the creek is roaring with melted snow. I spotted some tiny beginnings of wild greens and was filled with joy. Yay! Winter is almost over now!
I love looking at your garden and knowing you'll be taking those plants from garden to table, and sharing the delicious recipes. Loving the rhubarb!

xoxo Dawn

Claus said...

You are such an inspiration Sharon!! You make me want to spend hours and hours working with my plants, and planting seeds...if only I didn't have to work 9 hours in an office...such is life!
have a lovely day!!

Thea said...

i need a garden bench. i had to sell mine when i moved, and i still miss it. thanks, Sharon

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Thea dear,

OF COURSE you need a garden bench. Even if it is a tiny one you can use it for pots, tools, and starting plants.

Here is your assignment. FIND ONE.



compost in my shoe said...

Spring is just starting to suggest itself and I for one am so ready. I love that seed rack! They are such pretty packages to be smashed together in the brown paper envelope they came in. I am jealous of rhubarb as that one does not grow so well here. California looks like a good place to be a gardener right now!

Privet and Holly said...

As I look
at our forecast
for a high of
8 degrees F today,
I wonder if there
IS something on
your other blog
for me?? LOVED
this taste of
spring sunshine
and tender plants.
And the letter
from your fan is
so precious.
xx Suzanne

Carol said...

Dear Sharon, I can imagine you catapulting out of bed into your magical garden. I am so inspired by you and your way of growing veggies in planters. How lovely you are able to garden now. Here there is so much snow and the temps will go down to about 4 degrees tonight! It is a tonic for me to visit you! I love your purple gloves . . . in fact all the colors in your photo holding the tin bucket. What a treasure your letter is. You touch so many with your earthy magic. I know it is not really magic. Your great efforts are clearly revealed in your home and garden. Beautiful!! Thank you for touching my life too and for your kind, supportive words. Happy Gardening!

Mary Bergfeld said...

What a magical garden you've created. I'd be up with the birds had I such a lovely spot to retreat to. Your posts too are beautiful. I do so love to visit here. I hope you have a great evening. Blessings...Mary

Zuzana said...

Dear Sharon, this was a feast of a post for the gardener in me.;) I have nowhere your size of a garden, only two small patios, yet I love to make them into luscious places of absolute tranquility, as they provide me with so much joy in the three seasons of the year, when I get a privilege to use them.
Your post with all those beautiful pictures stir a deep longing within me make for the new season of spring to arrive, yet it is though still somewhat removed from our reality here in the North.
Have a lovely day,

Casa Mariposa said...

I love your love of crooked carrots, straw blankets, and washtubs worn but still worthwhile. :o)

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi dear,

I love the farmy look of the old metal. I know they're not elegant, but neither am I!

Crooked carrots are the best!



Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

I look longingly at my raised bed garden under the snow. It was -8 when I got up this morning but a warm up is on the way... yeah!

This has been a hard winter for so many of us east of the Mississippi.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

So sorry Brenda. But you know that we deal with drought and heat and...I guess it all balances out somehow.

Friends, please note that once you join my Grimy Hands Girl's Club I will send you a small gardeny gift. I just need you to send me your mailing address. This applies to only the first 100 charter members.

All joys to you,


Vicki Boster said...

Such a beautifu post my friend - I am so jealous of you being able to dig in the dirt - how I long for that! Will our spring ever get here - I want to be planting flowers so badly!!

(If you get a chance - please visit the "back sundeck tour" on the sidebar of my blog - my flowers were fabulous last summer.) How I want to be doing that right now!!

Exactly how do I join your dirty hands club - count me in!!


Corner Gardener Sue said...

I love your yard! It looks so homey and inviting. I use a lot of tubs, too. I was thinking about planting more veggies and mints in them this year, and not as many flowers. I want to see if I have any bottoms of planting baskets to protect plants from the rabbits like you did.