01 May 2010

may day!

May Day is all about flowers for me, and new spring growth! May poles and hit-and-run nosegays on your doorstep, and a humble cactus overwhelming you with a gorgeous abundance of blossoms.

You can barely see them, but look close... there are two cilantro seeds emerging... and just this morning... one tiny rosa bianca eggplant. (Upper right-hand corner.)

The peach tree is loaded.

The more I learn about fava beans, the more I love them. In the language of permaculture, they are nitrogen fixers (like all legumes) which means they extract nitrogen from the air and convert it to plant-available form. They're also soil cultivators with deep roots that penetrate, loosen, and aerate the soil. Freed from their pods when young, the beans are a tasty raw snack.

This sunflower planted itself, so it's already towering over the garden beds. Sunflowers attract beneficial insects (like ladybugs) and I just learned from Toby Hemenway that they are nutrient accumulators. They draw nutrients from deep in the soil and concentrate them in their leaves, making them a great addition to the compost bin. I've tucked giant sunflower seeds all over the garden. They can be harvested as sprouts, moved to another spot, or grown to maturity for the birds.

I was first introduced to permaculture concepts by Andy from Oregon Tilth, at Luscher Farm, the Lake Oswego community garden where I used to grow food in Portland. Toby Hemenway (author of Gaia's Garden) is teaching courses on permaculture design in the Pacific Northwest. I'd love to plan six weekends in Portland to participate at PSU. On Toby's recommendation, I'm exploring the upcoming training in Orange County instead. The focus will be more on plant communities for Southern California, and the commute makes more sense, sustainability-wise.

I love so many things about San Diego - the ocean, the cultural diversity, the sunshine that allows us to grow food all year long - but I my heart leaps at the thought of visiting Portland every month.

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