Category: Gardening

Gardening Journals

The Great Potato Blight of 2021

photo of pile of potatoes
Photo by Marco Antonio Victorino on

It’s time to drink in celebration and despondency.

Those are the two primary reasons to drink, right? We drink after work, or after the workweek, to celebrate it. We pop champagne to celebrate a big life event. We say “This calls for a drink!” more often than we say, “Let’s go pray!”

And we drink when sad because we’re degenerates.

That, anyway, is my experience, which parallels GKC’s observations in “Omar and the Sacred Vine” in Heretics, where he cautions readers to drink in celebration (healthy drinking) but not for one’s health, to correct a problem, to address a poor disposition (unhealthy drinking).

I would drink in celebration tonight because, despite drinking over the past eight days and following a horrible diet, my weight this morning is a half-pound below pre-vacation weight. I have no idea how it happened, just as I have no idea how I can fast and diet to the point of shaking for eight days and add a pound.

So, it’s time to celebrate with a drink. And heck, based on that 8-day micro-experiment, maybe I’ll lose more weight.

But I’m also despondent. While on vacation, the Demon Blight came and took out my potato crop. It was a huge crop. I planned for a harvest of nearly 500 pounds. It’s gone now, except for a few … Read the rest

Potting-up, Burlap Bags, and a Dearth of Perfect Love

Notes from the Garden

Happy first birthday to my granddaughter, Edith (Stein . . . but she’s not Jewish). I’ll be growing pumpkins for the grandkids for however long my ghost breathes.

* * * *

The May Gardening Push continues. This unbelievable cold snap has pushed back growing and planting, forcing me to “pot-up” my tomato plants (a chore I enjoy “in the moment” but that seems like a waste of effort . . . if I could just “time” the initial planting with the passing of all frost).

For non-gardeners: The act of “potting-up” means taking plants from a smallish container and putting them into a bigger container, so you can later put them in yet a bigger container or the ground.

Like I said, a waste of time, but fairly important or the plants’ growth will be permanently stunted.

One thing I like about potting-up, though: I am occasionally able to salvage two or three plants from the same small plant, creating two or three large pots. Over the past few days, I have potted-up 30 tomato plants from about 20 small containers, and they all look vibrant and healthy.

I continue to plant potatoes like a mad-man, though I’m a bit concerned at how bad the (very) expensive seed potatoes look. They’re soft and the sprouts have black tips. Neither, apparently, are a cause of concern, though, based on what I … Read the rest

Wild Gardening Notes

Note One: I need to come up with a better name than “Wild Gardening”

I’m greatly encouraged by my wild garden experimentation.

But I need a different name. “Wild gardening” is already being used, and it generally denotes something different (lots perennials, edible weeds, etc.). That’s not what I’m doing.

My concept: Allow greens to go to seed and blow all over the place. Leave vegetables like tomatoes on the ground to be reabsorbed by nature. Ruthlessly take out weeds before they go to seed. Eventually, the “good” plants will outnumber the weed plants and give me a great harvest every year with little effort.

The initial results are greatly encouraging. As of right now, I have at least 75 volunteer lettuce plants: 30 Jester, 30 Black Seeded Simpson, and 15 Salanova. The volunteers will probably produce about 50 pounds of lettuce, which translates to about $250 of produce . . . .with virtually no effort. I also have more cilantro plants than I can count. And that’s just after my first year in my  new garden that was entirely lawn at the end of 2019.

A few notes:

1. The cilantro thrives in the wild garden. I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes over everything, but that’s alright. People love cilantro and it’s easy to yank out. If I see it crowding my lettuce, the cilantro gets yanked like a weed.

2. I use … Read the rest

Garden Writing is About More than Plants

The biographical, philosophical, meditational, and countercultural world of American gardening literature

Riddle: What literary genre has historical roots that predate Socrates; features hundreds of American writers including Thoreau, Washington Irving, and Edith Wharton; and is a genre that you’ve probably never even heard of?

Answer: American gardening literature.

Don’t roll your eyes.

It’s a thing.

American gardening literature is a blend

In fact, American gardening literature is a big thing.

I have three volumes of gardening literature anthologies in my home library alone. Amazon has an entire department dedicated to “Gardening & Horticultural Essays.” Yes, just “essays.” It has two dozen other departments dedicated to gardening and horticulture in general.

The genre of American garden writing runs the gamut from technical to inspirational, from garden bed blueprints to meditations on weeding.

There are, for instance, seed catalogs that merely list seed specifications. They hardly qualify as literary endeavors. And then there are literary seed catalogs . . . those rare (and free!) publications that are informational, occasionally witty, and serious about their prose (one of my favorites is published by Wild Garden Seeds in Oregon).

Among contemporary books, you have The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, which is my standard “go-to” book but hardly qualifies as serious literature. And you have Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening, by theologian-gardener Vigen Guroian, which might be lovely but scarcely talks about gardening techniques.

And then you have The Read the rest

How I Use the Gardening Blockchain Crypto-Johnson Rod Algorithm to Deal with the Modern World

Confused and Contented in the Garden

“I want to live happily in a world I don’t understand.” The financier/philosopher Nassim Taleb starts one of his chapters with these words in Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder.

Taleb goes to great lengths to point out that modernity (a thing he loathes) is a highly complicated world that, truth be recognized, nobody understands. The world is integrated, labyrinthine, complex, technological, speedy–all adjectives he employs. And he’s right.

It reminds me of a conversation that my wife and I had last spring. She was talking about a friend’s investments and his conviction that the United States economy is going to fall apart. In addition to gold and silver, he’s also buying guns. She asked what I thought, and I basically said, “Yeah, maybe. And definitely, at some point . . . like maybe in 500 years or maybe next week. Who can possibly know? You know what I know? I know that sickly spinach plant I re-planted two weeks ago is going to make it. That’s what I know.”

I don’t understand this world. Heck, it goes beyond that: I don’t understand the world, trust the world, or even particularly like the world.

The World

Now, by “world” I mean the modern world, the cultural-economic milieu in which I find myself. I’m not referring to creation or other people in general. I’m not a Gnostic who thinks … Read the rest

Why Gardening = Freedom

From the Gardening Journals

Gardening is anti-government. The gardener is, in a little way, an anarchist. He doesn’t pay tax on his produce and no one tells him what to grow.

If you meditate on this, you begin to realize the immense importance of private property. Without private property, there is no freedom. That’s not rhetorical flourish or poetry or exaggeration. It’s naked reality.

If the State can take the position that all things come courtesy of government (“you didn’t build that”), then the State can even take away your garden, either directly (by seizure) or indirectly (by taxation). It reminds me of this quote from von Mises:… Read the rest

Sodomites and Gardenites

“[L]et us cultivate our garden.” That’s how Voltaire ends his novella, Candide. Great advice, that, though academics argue that, instead of a peaceful resignation, Voltaire was instead using “gardening” as a metaphor for improving the world.

That kind of interpretation strikes me as absurd, but I’m no Voltaire scholar, nor do I want to be. I mean, heck, the guy supposedly once engaged in anal intercourse with another guy in order to see what it was like. When his partner eagerly suggested later that they do it again, Voltaire declined, saying, “Once, a philosopher. Twice, a sodomite.”

That line is pretty funny, but the background disturbing, hence my lack of eagerness to study Voltaire and form an educated opinion about whether Candide suggested that people cultivate their garden literally or “cultivate the garden of the world” (metaphorically), though I would add that Voltaire was a gardener.

I’ve adopted the literal meaning of Candide’s words. The world hasn’t been cruel to me like it was to Candide. Far from it. But I’m increasingly living in a world that makes no sense to me, and I’m done trying to figure it out.… Read the rest

Rodriguez, Mother Teresa, and the Garden

Art, Charity, Simplicity, and Detachment

I frequently experience a soft yet unequivocal intuition that tells me gardening is a monastic-like pursuit.

Indeed, it’s even a bit stronger than that:  the intuition tells me that gardening is a holiness-like pursuit.

I don’t know where the intuition comes from. I’m not convinced the intuition is right, but the intuition strikes me for two reasons: it’s undeniably there, and the reasons it’s there are undeniably murky, at best.

That intuition first became conscious for me nine years ago over the same weekend when I watched the documentary Searching for Sugar Man and started reading Mother Teresa: A Simple Path. Neither has anything to do with gardening, but upon reflection, I concluded they have everything to do with gardening.


Searching for Sugar Man tells the story about Sixto Rodriquez, a folk singer (Bob Dylan knock-off) in the late 1960s.

He lived in downtown Detroit and spent his days doing manual labor and his nights performing in dives of dangerous neighborhoods. He got noticed and cut two albums, including one album in Los Angeles. The albums did nothing, and he went back to his life of manual labor.

He didn’t know that his music had caught fire in South Africa and sold hundreds of thousands of copies. When combined with bootleg sales, millions of copies proliferated through South Africa, where he was “Elvis popular.” In the 1990s, two … Read the rest