This is a story about planting with EarthBoxes, a clueless first-time gardener, and a great big thought that came from a tiny seedling.
The part about the girl goes like this: She has never had a green thumb, or so she’s told herself for years. She bought a tiny cactus last year and she watered it every two weeks. It died after the second watering.
She kept an aloe vera plant slightly longer than that, but it was hidden by the deathbed rosemary and sage, which began wilting on the drive home from the garden center, anyway.
On one occasion, her father asked her to water his plants for him while he was on vacation. The first thing he did after he set down his suitcase, upon returning home, was to call her and say that the plants were all brown.
The enormity of caring for plants scares her now.
She doesn’t want to be a killer anymore.
This weekend, her father offered her his EarthBoxes. He’d bought them the summer before last, and wasn’t thrilled with his results. But the sunshine at their mountain home only peeks through the trees long enough to say hi and borrow a cup of sugar. It doesn’t stick around to grow vegetables. Too much work.
So she took the EarthBoxes, with measured excitement, and learned all she could about them.
Raised above ground, EarthBoxes are perfect for locations with less than suitable soil, and unpredictable rainfall levels. They also cannot be overwatered, because they have a built-in pour-spout that leads to an under-soil reservoir that drains itself if it has too much water. It’s difficult to do anything horrifically wrong when you’re planting with an EarthBox.
At least, she hopes.
Planting in the First Earthbox
She decided on herbs and strawberries. She would plant four EarthBoxes full of them. And then she saw how much seedlings cost at the garden center (not to mention organic potting soil), so she settled on three. Three EarthBoxes.
After disposing of the old soil (which contained fertilizer she didn’t care to use), she cleaned out each EarthBox with a good spray of water and vinegar, lugging everything up and down stairs and in and out doors. She was dirty, sweaty, and mostly pessimistic. Then she poured in the new potting soil and carefully began.
First, with basil:
Another type of basil, two types of rosemary, chives, and oregano followed.
They were beautiful. Magnificent. The bounty of the earth, looking down on the town in all their glory.
Until she had to put the EarthBox cover over them.
Wiping her hands on her jeans, she groaned a sigh fit for a farmer and looked across her back yard area.
Mysteriously, this chair had appeared – from outerspace or somewhere like it – the week before. It was turned upside down, alone, forlorn. So she took a picture of it.
And then cross-processed it, because that’s what you do with pictures of old chairs.
With the first day done, she thought to herself: How powerful this feels, being able to grow food. It’s freedom. If you can grow your own food, and live off of it, imagine how unstoppable you’d be.
Your life wouldn’t be dependent on stores and money and apples with stickers on them. You’d be completely self-sustaining.
She refused to tell herself, through the entire night, that she wouldn’t last the summer eating only strawberries and herbs. Her first big thought was too sweet to ruin. At least, until the next day.
The Lavender Sidebar
Somehow, by the grace of grapes, she managed to convince her man to take her to the garden center, because she wasn’t done yet.
The sheer excitement of helping living things grow (so you could eat them) had overcome her, and she wanted to do one better. Not only would she be planting in EarthBoxes, but she’d also be planting lavender in the ground.
It seemed like a good bet; she knew lavender grew like weeds in the quirky Colorado soil. She knew, because she spent the better part of last summer hunting for it in areas where no one would notice a few sprigs missing.
She dug giant holes in her back yard. (She uses the word “yard” loosely, because it’s more like a tiny terraced mountain.)
“Digging holes,” she thought, “isn’t nearly as fun at 36 as it was at 8.” And then she started looking for buried treasure, so it was more exciting.
She placed her first baby lavender in a hole:
Clearly, she’s as bad at judging distance as she is at keeping a cactus alive.
So she filled the hole partway with a mix of potting soil and original, red Rocky Mountain soil.
And then she put the baby back in.
(In fact, she put four babies in four different holes.)
Stroking them gently, she talked to them about how big they’d grow very soon, and how much she would love to use their buds for tea and toner.
While she was doing this (really incredibly insane thing), a neighborhood cat stopped by, looked at her, and said:
“WTF are you doing, lady? You just dug hole right next to where I poop.”
And then the cat turned, looked up at his friends, and said, “What do you guys make of all this?”
And they said:
“We do not approve.”
So she hopes there’s still lavender in a neat little row tomorrow morning. And she hopes there’s not poop on it.
EarthBox Numbers 2 and 3 – The Home Stretch
After she successfully shooed the cats away (for the moment) with a fallen branch, she planted the remaining EarthBoxes.
One with three strawberry plants (she wanted to plant six, but her man said, “Why would you want to kill three more plants?”)
And one with lemon thyme, parsley, peppermint, and sage.
Once again dirty, sweaty, tired, and a little bit stinky, she fell to the ground to take one picture of the entire set-up. She thought maybe she’d just stay there all night.
As she reclined in the dirt, she began to think more.
About self-sustainability. About responsibility. About how effing hard it is to grow your own food.
The Big Thought that Came from a Tiny Seedling
She reached out and pulled a piece of lemon thyme off the plant. It smelled like sunshine and tasted of green.
“I will never be able to eat any of this,” she thought. “It’s been so much work. They’re so beautiful right now. And if they grow – if they don’t die – they’ll be glorious. How could I ever mindlessly eat something I feel like I know so intimately now?”
The Big Thought: Perhaps if we were all in charge of growing, raising, killing, and fully preparing our own meals, we wouldn’t be so thoughtless of the food we do have. We’d be more grateful. And there would be no waste.
Perhaps – and this is just a naive, precious thought from a pretend, wannabe, first-time gardener – but, perhaps, the rise of industrial farms and store shelves and drive-thrus was the beginning of our actual decline. Of our true disconnect from who we are and where we come from. From where we receive our energy, our health, and our continued existence.
And for as much as she’d preached it, as much as she’s believed it, she finally realized she didn’t know it until she actually experienced it herself. Even if it was in a tiny way.
So you know what she did?
She rescued that mystery chair from it’s upside-down world, placed it in front of the planters, where she plans to sit for a while, every day, thanking her food for growing so she can eat it.
She hopes that gives it a reason to live.
Gardening Tips, Anyone?
I need them.
Give them to me.
I know you know the secrets of keeping plants alive, and I want to know them, too.
Oh Ms. Crunchiness we have mutual thumbs. I bought herb seeds and planted in Mason Jars with gravel at bottom, for herbal home window sill garden. Some popped up right quick, splendid thought I. But not being very patient, I returned to nursery and purchased already growing herbs, a plethora of them, as they provided my need for “right now”. I planted and planted and got dirty and was happy. By the 2nd day my Catnip wilted withered and withdrew from life. My Creeping Thyme crept no more. Dill began drooping yellowing yet striving to remain in the now. Parsley Sage Rosemary Lavender Basil are brilliant. Not sure what went amiss with Catnip, Dill and Thyme. I’ve not tried Earth Boxes, just big on sale planters. After 6 days, the Mason Jars are showing more growth, including Wild Flowers & Mixed Flowers. Only time will show if I’ve managed to have at least a Chartreuse thumb lol
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I was curious if you ever considered changing the structure of your blog?
Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could
connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or
two pictures. Maybe you could space it out better?
make your own worm bin or compost pile! it will be great to put waste after crunchy recipes, also you get the finest fertilizer that’s cheap! Also, if you choose worm composting, you have extra worms to fish with! Green, cheap, and a great garden! what else could you wish for?
I’ve been using earth boxes for about three years now; I lurrrve them! If you follow the directions and keep water in them you’re plants are bound to do great. I’ve used mine for tomatoes and peppers mainly and even grew the same plants in the ground and the earthbox so I could compare the results. I must have stinky soil because, whew boy, the plants I plant in the ground barely produce a thing, whereas the ones in the earthbox are prolific.
I do tend to get tired of watering by late July, and letting your boxes go dry is a no-no. My parents fill theirs up every day and they got twice the tomatoes I did.
For those who want to try earthboxes on a budget, you might want to google homemade ones, I know I’ve seen a lot of tutorials out there.
I’ve also had good luck growing herbs like lavender and basil in terracotta pots, they like to go a bit dry.
Well, if u look up online, some plants grow really well when next to other “compatible” plants.
And also. Befriend all the good little bugs. Like ladybugs, dragonflies, spiders, bees, and this is not an animal, but birds. They help with pollinationa and pest control.
You crack me up.
Hey woman! *waves* Long time no seeeeee! 🙂
Still giggling …
This may help if you decide to plant more. It is a companion planting guide. Some plants have “preferred” companions they like to live by. They also have plants they just don’t care to associate with and being by each other will kill one or both. Here’s the link http://www.ghorganics.com/page2.html#SAGE:
Good Luck. I look forward to lots of pics
My hubby just planted oregano in the same container as the blackberry and I was a little worried… but now I’m not! Thanks for the link, it’s got some neat info.
I’m no garden expert, in fact I’ve killed lots of plants unintentionally, but that’s how we “grow” right?
Here’s something that may help: there are series of books called The Ringing Cedars, or the Anastasia series, which are one of the most incredible group of books I’ve ever laid my hands on…you really have to read them to believe them. One of the books mentions imbuing the seeds with your DNA by putting them in your mouth before planting. This way, the food/herbs/etc grow in accordance with our needs. I just think that concept is awesome. Haven’t tried it yet though, so keep us posted if you do!
“Before planting, put into your mouth one or more little seeds, hold them in your mouth, under the tongue, for at least nine minutes.”
This is the website where you can check them out, and where this quote is from
That’s my vote, love your blog and your infusion of humor into it!
Two words… fish emulsion. Vegetables love it. It’s stinky. It may just keep those cats away too… or it may attract them 🙂
Growing food takes quite a bit of water and not only are our water rates really high, but they base our sewer rates off of our water usage so even though some of the water we use is going into the ground and not into the sewer, we still pay as if it’s all going in the sewer. I think that stinks too, frankly.
Nevertheless, we grow what we can and this year we’re putting a drip-line in (which is always a good idea). We are also growing some of our veg in the front yard where it gets more sun. I just noticed another neighbor doing the same!
Good luck with your boxes, growing food is exciting, satisfying, and sometimes even heartbreaking. You’ll learn so much as you go, but don’t forget to talk to neighbors and friends within your same micro-climate for good advice on what works and what doesn’t. Gardening folk love to share!
I got awfully carried away with that comment and really rambled! Sorry!
I love your rambles! (You know that.) Also, it was held in moderation ’cause it makes me approve any post that has more than two links in it. I wish the dang spam filter could delineate between GOOD links and dumb ones. Ha.
Checking out the links now. Awe. Some.
I do a big herb garden every year. And I take such pleasure in it. I don’t walk by them without touching them and enjoying their nice smell. In fact, the boys always cuts lavender to put in the bedrooms when we have guests. Makes their rooms smell so great. I often get a spring to put under my pillow.
This year, we’ve started a pretty decent sized garden. You should give seeds a go. Good and cheap! We’ve got lettuce and kale and spinach coming up right now. We had a bad hail store recently and everything came through unscathed. I was shocked.
I’ve planted some nasturtium, just because I think the kids will get a kick out of having flowers in their salads, and lots of herbs. Zucchini and some tomatoes and some other goodies. Should be a good time.
I’m hoping to freeze and preserve like a son of a gun. I like the idea of being able to pick dinner out of the yard. Seems like it’ll really free us up financially and give us fresh healthy options and we’re sort of a little less dependent on what’s available. There’s just nothing but good.
I know your garden will be great! You’ll soon be addicted! Check out http://Cooksgarden.com They have some good looking and interesting stuff.
My dad had the greatest green thumb. And he swore by this guy, Jerry Baker. He uses lots of grocery store items to work his garden. My dad mixed up all sorts of weird tonics with beer and eggs shells and what not. Check him out. You might find something interesting. http://www.jerrybaker.net/garden/homepage.aspx
Kristin @ Peace, Love and Muesli
Do not feel slighted by the dead rosemary, it is near impossible to keep alive. It’s really finicky. Especially inside.
I’ve never heard of Earthboxes but if they work, awesome. Beware the mint, it is a beast and will take over your entire box. It might need it’s own box.
I’m for sure planting herbs this year, which I try to do every year. This year, though, I’m going to bring them inside and try to keep them over the winter. Should be interesting, as I don’t have much of a green thumb either. I also ordered lavender, calendula, and chamomile seeds from mountain rose herbs, so I’m going to start those as soon as I get them. We’re still having pretty cold/on the verge of freezing weather here, so I don’t dare start anything outside for at least another few weeks.
Yay for gardening!
My Calendulas are thriving and beautiful. The leaves make a nice, unique and tasty addition to my salads. The flowers are also edible and make a great salve for rashes and other stuff. Enjoy!
Almanac.com and OrganicGardening.com have good advice for beginning gardeners. They have everything that I could recommend right off the bat. Any questions those sites can’t answer, I’d be willing to take a stab at (if you have time).
This post reminded me of one over on Nourishing Days: Our Journey To Agrarianism: How We Live Our Life IS Our Vote. Growing your own, whether it’s a kitchen herb windowbox or a 20-acre farm with livestock, is something I feel very strongly about. Your Big Thought, especially, is an issue that I hope is growing in others’ minds as well. I know I’m not the only one who feels that we would benefit from a little bit of backtracking.
Actually, I had read that post minutes before I started planting. My sister reads Nourishing Days often, and she’d posted a link to it to her Facebook wall.
The first night after I started, I spent an hour on the phone with my sister talking about all of it – and how, when I read that post, I thought, “Wow. Great thoughts.” But once I actually started doing it, I GOT IT in a way I hadn’t before.
Very, very powerful post. I hope everyone takes a moment to click on the link and read it. (It’s a lot more cohesive and on topic than mine was.)
Thinking about going back to our roots, or “agrarianism” as Shannon terms it, is a really scary thought. And I don’t blame anyone else for thinking that, since while I was reading it through the first time, my initial thought pattern was, “This is all conspiracy theory stuff. It’s not that bad. Just fear.” And then I read it again, because something resonated with me. It’s not fear. It’s taking control – I honestly believe that. And it’s something that I’ve wanted for my family since I could think of starting a family, when I was old enough to realize what was going on in our country.
I’m looking forward to reading Michael Bunker’s book whenever it shows up on my doorstep. And even more, looking forward to implementing what I can from the ideals when I have the chance. I hope your garden thrives! Hit me up if you have any questions. If I can’t answer them, my mother, the Queen of Green, can.
I haven’t read it yet, but my sister is HIGHLY recommending “Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front” by Joel Salatin. The farmer from Food, Inc. If you read it, let me know what you think. I’m going to try to get a copy of it soon, too.
Thanks for the good vibes and the help. I may need it. Everything’s still alive this morning. So, so far so good. Ha!
Love this story. Can’t wait to see what happens next.
Blah—- *clothes hangers = clothes PINS.
You know what I mean. 😉
Heavy Metal music. Yes. Don’t look at me like that. I’m serious. They did a study, where they set up several green rooms of plants, one was completely quiet, while the others each had a different type of music playing, from classical, to heavy metal.
They proved, without a doubt, that while any music will encourage better growth (as all the music green rooms had a better growth than the quiet one), the heavy metal green room was very obviously the best out of all of them.
And if you don’t want to bother your neighbors with heavy metal, this is what I do with small, outdoor, potted plants, like yours: go to the store and get a large clear storage box. Punch a few small holes in the sides for ventilation, and then set it upside down over your plants. Viola! Your own mini greenhouse. My herbs always grew like weeds when I did this (which is good, because plant growth was part of my senior project, and I needed those things to grow for my grade).
I imagine that you can probably do almost the same thing with plastic wrap. Stick four skewers into the four corners of your potting boxes, and then drape plastic wrap over the top (you can use clothes hangers to hold the plastic wrap in place). But that will make your own green house as well.
All you have to do it is remember to water them on time, and let the sun do the rest. 🙂
Hope this helps!
Okay, this is awesome on two levels. First, when I was talking to Skip about ways to make sure they grew and were happy, he gave me the whole heavy metal spiel, too.
Secondly, we live right next door to a local eatery/bar that has MANY nights where they’ll play their music outside really loudly. Annoying to me, but maybe the plants will love it.
It’s like … like it was meant to be. I’m going to try your little mini-greenhouse thing during hailstorms, though. We tend to get a good bit of those, though the hail isn’t ever all THAT big. It’s probably my biggest worry right now – waking up to find my babies battered into the soil.
Ah, see? Great minds think alike. 😉
Just remember about those ventilation holes on the side, if you’re using the clear storage box method. Plants take in carbon dioxide and then let out oxygen, so if you cover it all up, they’ll “drown” in the oxygen that they let out because it’s not being released from the space.
It’s all very circular, isn’t it? We breath in oxygen and breath out carbon dioxide, the plants breath IN the carbon dioxide and breath OUT oxygen, we breath in oxygen…
Isn’t it beautiful the way nature works?
Anywho, rambling here, but I was so glad to have been able to help! 🙂
Which garden center did you go to? I want to try my hand at lavender, too. Hopefully the (damn) deer won’t eat it!
I actually bought mine at a smaller local garden center. However! I noticed Whole Foods had some really pretty lavender seedlings when I was there last week. Good luck!
Sorry I haven’t got any good tips for you but I have got to say THANK YOU!!!I am a first time gardener this year as well. As a matter of fact I havent planted anything yet but this weekend is the big weekend. I plan to keep track of the progess (maybe I’m being too optimistic using that word, lol). I am so excited and so afraid at the same time. Please make sure to keep us updated. And yes growing your own food is hard but so worth it, or so I’m told. We’ll see at the end of this whole experience whether that’s really true or not! Thanks again!
Good luck with yours! We’ll have to confer on what works and what doesn’t, from a complete and utter newbie perspective.
All I have to say is, take a big bottle of water out there with you and keep on drinking. Whew!
You’re so cute. 🙂
I wish I had some advice to give you, but my thumb is about as green as yours sounds. Haha.