Posts tagged ‘soil’

February 2, 2013

Connectedness

Breathe in. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
When you take a breath what do you think about?

Do it again. This time, think about your breath and the air you breathe.
Where does it come from?
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

Did you think about the plants and the trees?
I know. Many of us don’t want to stop and think about that. We feel weird. Or think others will think we’re weird.
But the plants and trees give us the gift of oxygen every second of our life.
And we, in return, give them carbon dioxide.
We have a relationship with the plants and the trees around us.

But it’s easy for us to forget.
It’s easy for us to forget that we have a relationship with the plants and trees on this planet.
But there’s more to it than that.
We have a relationship with every living species whether we want to admit it or not, we are connected.

When I stop to think about that, it makes me wonder, why is it then, that we find it so easy to abuse that relationship?
Why is it that we get so focused on “me” and lose focus on them?
Why do we find it so easy to ignore the earth and neglect the environment?

I know, some of us, myself included, like to think we’re being conscious of the environment. I recycle, I shut the lights off when I’m not using them, I don’t use chemicals in my yard, I compost and I try to be conscious of the Carbon Footprint I’m leaving behind, but the reality is, I like my life.

I like sitting on my iPad, typing away in my dining room, while the furnace runs to keep me warm on this frigid day. I like my car and the ability to go where I “need” to go whenever I want to.
I like the convenience of the stores that provide the “necessities” within a couple of miles of my home.

I like my life. And the reality is, to acknowledge that I’m connected to this planet, to the air, to the water, to the plants and the trees, and every living being from the microbes in the soil to the animals in the jungle on the other side of the world means I need to take responsibility for it.

Most of us would do anything to take care of our family and friends if they were in need. They are our blood, they hold a special place in our heart and we wouldn’t want to lose that. Yet to ask us to think about the earth, the environment or the living things around us is a different story. We take it for granted. In our lifetime, we’ve always had air to breathe, water at our disposal and food on our tables.

What if you chose not to feed your children or take care of an elderly grandparent or neighbor, how would you feel? Would you feel a pang of guilt in the pit of your stomach? Would you heart hurt knowing you’re neglecting them when you could be and should be doing something to help?

So why is it that when the plants and trees that supply the air that we breathe get neglected or the water that we take for granted that runs from our taps everyday gets wasted and when we abuse the resources that the environment provides for us, by using more than our “fair share” do we not feel equally guilty? Why do we find it so easy to disconnect ourselves from this?

What if we didn’t? What if, instead, when we go out the door or look up from our phones or out the windows of our house or cars, and we started paying attention to the air we breathe, the amount of water we use and the ways we could take care of the world around us a little better?
What if we treated the air, the water and the environment like family? Would you do anything differently? I know I would.

And when you really stop to think about it, we should. Because whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we are connected. We’re connected to every living thing around us just like we’re connected to our families and friends. Yes, we have a direct relationship with some, and a more distant relationship with others, but it’s no different than the relationship we have with our parents versus our distant cousins. And while we might feel a tighter bond with our mother or father or siblings than we do with our great aunt she is still family nonetheless.

So let’s pretend, even if it’s just for a moment, that the air is our mother, the water our father, the soil our siblings and the oil our grandparents. Let’s pretend we love them and value them the same as we do our families. Let’s pretend we care. Because if we do, we might change how we treat them. We may start paying attention to them. We may begin feeding them, nurturing them and watching out for them. We may restore the neglected relationship we have and start living in harmony again.

Let’s pretend for a moment that we are connected to the entire world around us. Let’s pretend that if we care for that world, that it will care for us.

Because guess what? She’s not called Mother Nature for nothing. We are connected.

Kate

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May 29, 2012

Location, Location, Location

At first glance, you may think you’ve crossed wires and are reading a post from a realtor.  Not so, but when it comes to planting, regardless of what kind of plant it is, location is just as crucial as buying a house (okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but you get the point).

What do I mean by location, location, location?  When it comes to plants there are three basic factors to consider that help determine the best location for your new plant(s).

The first consideration for location is the sun factor.  Most plants are pretty particular about how much they like.  Give them what they need.  Put sun plants in sunny locations and shade plants in shady locations.  Plant tomatoes in sun.  Hostas in shade.  (I still scorn the first person to use Hostas as landscape plants in Southern and Western exposed foundation plantings.  Those poor Hostas!  What did they ever do to you?!)

The second consideration for location is the soil factor. While some plants can handle a range of conditions, others can’t.  Don’t put water-loving plants in sandy soil and plants that like “free draining” soil in clay.  For example, Willows love water.  If you plant them in sand you will either be watering constantly (not exactly a very environmentally friendly thing to do) or they be stressed (kind of cruel), but they will chase water wherever it might be, including underground water lines and water mains. Unless you like calling Roto-Rooter, skip the Willow if you have sandy soil and plant something that likes good drainage in its place.

The third consideration for location is the exposure factor.  When it comes to exposure this is where it’s handy to know a plant’s origin.  Let’s take Birch trees for example.  When I was growing up many homes had one single Birch tree right smack dab in the middle of the yard.  People love them, myself included.  The white peeling papery bark, the airy, wispy canopy and the unique branching habit.  Beautiful.  But, unlike taking a walk through the woods where you might see a limitless number of Birch among other hardwoods, many Birch trees in front yards have had issues.  Lost limbs, storm damage and overall just stressed.  Why?  Because Birch trees in their native habitat are understory trees, meaning they receive protection from the canopy of larger trees.  If they were to plant themselves in their ideal location, it would not be in the middle of a lawn with blazing hot sun and no protection from strong winds, storms or winter cold.  But we love the beauty of Birch trees, so we plant them there anyway.  Unfortunately, the stress eventually catches up to them and they just can’t survive.  Bummer for the trees.  Bummer for us.

You get the picture, right?  Location, location, location.  Put plants where they like to be and they’ll thrive, put them in less than desirable conditions and they’ll struggle.

So knowing all of this location stuff, why on earth do you think I would I build my raised vegetable beds in shade?  No, I did.  Seriously!  This past weekend I finally had a little window of time and ventured out to get my garden planted and started looking at my plan and siting and realized… there’s no sun on my garden.  Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration.  There is one corner of one bed that gets about an hour of morning sun and a corner of the other bed that gets about 25 minutes just before the sun sets.  Holy cow was I ticked when I realized this.  How did this happen?!?  What was I thinking?  Seriously!  So ticked.

Okay, in my own defense I must explain. You know how it’s hard to see change in people we live with?  Kids grow-up so fast, adults ahh.. um… age, but we it’s not until someone points it out who hasn’t been around us every day that we realize how much we’ve changed.  Well, the same goes for my garden.  You see, I have a little problem with plants.  If its alive, I want to keep it.  If it’s on its last leg, I want to revive it.  If it’s a volunteer, well it must like it there, who am I to remove it?  Add to that the novelty of growing at least one of just about anything that comes my way and lo and behold the raised garden is in the shade.   You see, about 5 or 6 years ago  I got a couple of ash and elm volunteers on my fence line and left them.  They weren’t doing any harm at the time so why remove them?  Besides, they provided a little screening too.  Fast forward to today and I can’t even reach the lowest branches to limb them up, which is what I originally thought when I discovered the shade.  But after a closer look, I realized these trees are probably 30 feet high and have a combined canopy of about 60 feet shading my entire garden.

So now what?  No, seriously.  That’s what I’m asking myself.   Per my previous paragraph, I have a problem with plants (and trees and shrubs) so it makes it really hard for me to remove them.  On one hand, these are healthy trees.  On the other hand, they were volunteers.  On one hand,they screen the power pole.  On the other hand, they’re growing through the power lines that connect to the power pole.  And did I mention they shade my garden.  And while I’ve been gradually converting my landscaping to edible landscaping and this would definitely speed up the process, I’m just not ready to bail on my raised beds.  Oh, and did I mention how ticked I am that I will now have to pay someone hundreds to cut them down whereas if I’d had the foresight I could have used my own saw to take care of them a couple of years ago?  Yeah, ticked.

So, learn from my mistakes.  Location is of utmost importance.  Before you plant, or let a volunteer continue to grow, think about the future.  Sure it’s just a little guy now, but what’s it going to be when it grows up?  Will provide shade?  In the right place?  How big will it get?  Will it get too big for the space? Is it an understory tree? Does it need protection?  Will it get it?  How high are those power lines?  Will it get big enough to touch them?

The same goes for edibles.  Some like rich soil, some not so much.  Some are finicky about water, others could care less.  And when siting your plants, make sure you’re not planting your tallest plants on the South end of your garden.  You don’t want them shading everything else out.  Well, unless you do.  In other words if you’re trying to create cool and shade in an otherwise hot environment, but that’s another conversation.

So needless to say, the raised beds didn’t get planted this weekend… and more edible landscaping did.  But there’s a lot more I wanted to do and a lot more plants to go in the ground, so I’ll keep you posted on what ends up where and how they do.  2012 may turn out to be one giant experiment!

Kate