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Planning a May/June Garden

[Note: this blog first appeared in May 2016 on the Garden Tower Project’s blog.]

Strawberries are flowering and ripening—goumis and raspberries and blueberries are all fruiting or about to. Lettuces and kales and other greens are growing well. Spring peas, radishes, and carrots are in place. Plants seeded last fall and perennials are emerging now.


What to do now:

As plants emerge that you do not want in your garden—extra raspberries, rampant garlic, dandelions, chickweed, etc…you can:

  1. compost them (in your Garden Tower)
  2. eat them, or
  3. share them with other gardeners.

At this edge point in the season, the USDA hardiness zones are still obvious—with late frosts and freezes threatening fruit blossom and tender greens the further north you go. Plants in warm microclimates such as close to the ground will get a jumpstart on the rest of the crowd.

Because the season is underway, an astute gardener will be picking up on what kind of season it looks like we are having—dry, wetter than normal, temperatures above or below normal, etc…and planning to advance or delay planning. Not confident about when to do things? Ask an experienced gardener, extension agent, or master gardener in your area.

The growing season in zones 9-11 tends to run from February to late June and again from September to December—so your seasons might begin to wind down or prepare for hot, dry times. Planting in the shade or sunken beds can help your heat and drought tolerant plants make it through the season before fall planting picks up again!

Now is also the time to have your fall bulbs planted and mulch your raised beds. Mulching probably deserves its own blog for regular gardening. It introduces a few concerns, but the soil-building benefits and weed suppression far outweigh any concerns. Now is a great time to build new beds and plant them using a technique called sheet-mulching or lasagna gardening.

As soon as you are past your frost date, it is time to put out frost sensitive plants like cilantro, tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes, corn, beans, eggplant, and many of our favorite herbs and foods. If you live farther north, check how many days it is from germination to harvest (listed on your seed packets and in catalogs). Otherwise, get a jump start with seedlings already going.

Remember that small transplants do not have large root systems. They are very tender and sensitive, but might have an easier time transitioning to a new site than larger seedlings. When buying seedlings try to choose from a local nursery that has started the plants in your climate and taken the time to “harden them off” by setting them out overnight and throughout the day in your current conditions. Some nurseries ship in trucks full of flowers from out of state. These plants can have a really hard time adapting to your particular situation.

Speaking of flowers, make sure you include several varieties in your garden. Pansies and violas are edible flowers that are abundant in spring and fall shoulder seasons. Nasturtium flowers, with the spicy, peppery flowers, are frost sensitive summer garden flowers. Marigolds are classic flowers with their strong scent that confuses pests. Lupine, a nitrogen fixer, provides some elegance in the garden. Sunflowers are amazing in their diversity. Other gardeners prefer perennial flowers that attract butterflies and other pollinators: bee balm, daylilies, coneflower/Echinacea, and coreopsis name a few.

Established beds probably want some fertilizers. Foliar feeds first thing in the morning are pretty amazing. It’s proven that plants open the stomata on their leaves most in response to birdsong—so feeding plants at the crack of dawn makes sense. Fish emulsions and sea vegetables bring critical nutrients to your plants. Fertilizing now will help roots continue to establish and build overall plant health.



Remember, soil should stay moist, but also drain throughout most of the growing season. Transplants and young seedlings will need watering regularly to help them grow and keep the soil softer for their adjusting roots.

The world is greening up now—and gardening is in full swing, but take some time to enjoy the beauty of your garden and dream of bountiful harvests.





Mother’s Day, 2017

Mother’s Day, 2017

Right now, my husband is making breakfast while I linger in bed. My son is cuddling next to me watching me type out these thoughts. My teenaged daughter is entrenched in her bed. Everyone is enjoying the break from the harried pace of weekday mornings on this gorgeous May Sunday. Facebook greetings and well-wishes are going out. It is a wonderful day to celebrate mothers.

Enjoying the day

Enjoying the day!

Being a mother has as many faces as there are mothers, but here are a few thoughts about mothering:

  • Being a mother sometimes means allowing your body to be transformed—I think I used the term hijacked during my first pregnancy—by the development of another person. Other times, mothering means making a commitment to a person to help them develop and grow.
  • Dinner tables become the stage for sharing stories, playing games, family debates, arguments, and forgiveness. Our family table is, at some microscopic level, probably still covered with clay, paint, paper mache, candle wax, poked with felting needles, and yarn. And of course the energetic layers of so many birthdays, potlucks, tea parties, holiday dinners….
  • The garden becomes a surprise of beans planted in clumps instead of rows and the flowers pulled out with the weeds.
  • Your bed becomes the scene of cuddles and tickles and snuggles, and comforting tears, sick kids, and hugs of appreciation.
  • Being a mother means driving…the endless driving (or bus/train trips) and the support of all the activities you are transporting your child to.
  • Being a mother means creating the space for a person to go through all the steps to becoming an adult—a healthy, contributing member of a healthier society—knowing and supporting the acquisition of the skills needed to thrive.
  • It means surrendering your life to be in service to another person’s best interest—forever.
  • It means failing in that surrender, because you are only human. And you are only human in a society that is not set up to help anyone succeed in being healthy or whole. This means taking responsibility for the wounds you inevitably, unintentionally inflict.
  • It means holding your heart open while pieces of it leave on their own journey through life.
  • It means continuing to grow and develop on your human journey through life—developing your skills and insight, so that you become a better mother, a better elder. That means facilitating community and culture towards wholeness.
  • It means holding irresponsible people accountable for the harm they do to your children, their development, and the world we all share. The Earth is our first mother.

We are all responsible for the well-being of our Earth. We are all able to respond to the needs of the Earth. While we are checking in today with our human mothers, why don’t we take a moment to appreciate and care for our first mother. The birds outside are singing…the catbirds are watching the berries grow toward ripeness…fish are nesting in the lakes…frogs are calling by the pond.

Learning from our Forest Elders (AUDIO & VIDEO)

What could be more vital? Caring for our forests, caring for and protecting the next generation…

Farming the Woods

catching and storing wisdom for future generations

by Steve Gabriel

01-09_MNGKenTour_SteveI was fortunate to take a twisty path through my college years; I attended a wide array of programs around the country and overseas that really opened my eyes to various perspectives and approaches to earth repair, which I came to realize also called for the healing of social relations, too. As a college student in the early 2000s, I struggled with two aspects of my emerging personality; one was the desire to spend time outside as much as possible in my life, and the other was my increasing awareness of environmental destruction and its devastating implications. As many young people at that age, I felt a bit daunted and helpless at the situation; how was I to do anything to make any change in the world?

During that final year of completing my degree at Empire State College

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Bird language

As I am sitting with my children this morning exploring word families (1st grader) and paragraph revision (8th grade grammar); negative exponents; chemical make up of sugars, starches and cellulose…the birds outside are singing their morning songs.

We live in a network of utility lines, fence rows, pasture areas, strips of forest, and houses. Our forest garden with its shallow pond and various shrubs, bDSC00597erries, insects, etc…makes for a bird haven. It is the language of the various birds that is pulling my attention. Not many alarm calls this morning. Lots of song, some territorial chatter. Yesterday a pewee caught my attention. Today the cardinal is the strongest voice near the window. I love that my daughter is my confirmation–that I am beginning to be confident–but her skills are better and continue to evolve.

In her skills I recognize that her literacy is broader than my own. I may have studied literature, history, philosophy, and religion. My years of German and Sanskrit studies went more deeply. However, her skills with language are quite possibly not only broader–but more useful in navigating the daily world and appreciating its beauty and life.

To find out more about bird language, check out this site.

Crafting Your Day with this meditation…

Find more about Mindvalley here: .

12 Steps to Thrive


I struggle often with the Be-ing vs. Do-ing aspect of life–wishing to give so much. As I was writing about some goals today, I wrote: “I want to understand that BEING in the world is a gift to others and I want to model that.”  Being in the world is a gift. I think it is a precious gift to be in the world–birds chirping, warm spring mornings, the cat curled up nearby. Coffee ready to pour. AND it is more than a gift for ourselves. We can make our BEING a gift to others.

Beginning of spring, CC-Takashi .M on flickr

Beginning of spring, CC-Takashi .M on flickr

Sacred time…

I have been, over the past two years, developing what is sometimes called a sit spot. There’s not a lot of mystery to it. I go out most mornings as close to dawn as possible and sit.

I take in the light,
the wind,
the plants,
the birds at the nearby feeder,
any insects that are moving…
and I take a moment to be thankful for them.
I take a moment to check in with what is going on within.
I set my intentions for the day
and connect with the mystery of how life unfolds around me.
I feel gratitude.
I open my heart.
This is not merely a sit spot.

Somewhere here is a "sit spot"

Somewhere here is a “sit spot”