Abundance and the Growing of Food
OK … maybe you don’t have the space. And even though you love gardening and want the pleasure of growing things all around you, maybe you don’t have the time. Or people tell you that no one in their right minds would plant a garden in the space you have. The soil would make a great Interstate Highway, or there’s no sun at all, or really the space looks way too hard to clear. Or maybe you just live in a hi-rise—no dirt at all except what settles on you window sills.
Well, as they say Down Under, ‘no worries!’
An Essential Benefit of Garden Planters Is the Control They Provide
You’re a perfect candidate for garden planters. And, dare we say, a most productive set of planters.
So you’ve been to the garden section of your local home everything super store, and they’ve got pots and planters galore. They’ve got plastic planters, they’ve got clay garden planters (you know the sort of orange-y terra cotta kind—or these days more like glazed clay planters.) They’ve got all kinds of hanging baskets and wire baskets and baskets made out of whatever. They’ve got fancy wooden boxes and window boxes made out of plastic. They’ve even got concrete planters. (Heavy!)
And you know what they have most of? Price tags!
Kerry Smith, writing for the Alabama Extension System, says, “Almost any plant grows in a container when proper conditions are provided and adds a versatile splash of color and art wherever desired.” In terms of variety and the right price (free!) Smith says, “Selecting a container that fits the look you wish to create is half the fun of container gardening. Containers can be window boxes (wooden or plastic), wooden wine crates, tires, bags of potting soil, or your favorite old boot!”
If you’re sticking with the DIY thing, your garden planters need a hole in the bottom to provide adequate drainage. Also, as Smith advises, garden planters need to be big enough to hold whatever you’re going to put your plants into. (Best would be a soilless potting mix.) Smith says you need to be careful about how your garden's planters affect watering. Don’t use black garden planters in strong sun. And remember that those terra cotta planters you like are porous and allow more water to escape.
And certainly if you’ve had any experience with garden planters at all you know how heavy the big ones can be. Kerry Smith has a great idea for that. What about filling the bottom of your big garden planters with Styrofoam peanuts? Also you can use fiberglass peanuts. They will also make your planters lighter.
There are important advantages to using a soilless potting mix in your garden planters, says Smith. “Soilless media are free of any disease pathogens, insect pests, and weed seeds. They are also generally lightweight and porous, allowing for a well-drained yet moisture-retentive mix.” (Buy the stuff at garden centers.)
Also, you can make your own. Smith provides a recipe in the Alabama Extension article, which you can read or download if you click on the following: Great Advice for Gardening with Garden Planters.
The Surprising Legacy of Abundance from the Kitchen Garden
Kitchen gardens are not so much a technique as the embrace of a deep connection with the feeling of abundance. If you are surrounded with abundance, with growing things, especially what you eat from the garden, then you feel secure in general terms connected with all things, friends and family, community, and all of your physical surroundings.
To take in some of the history of the kitchen garden is to appreciate what abundance means in human terms.
Simply, a kitchen garden is a garden close to the kitchen. The closeness to the kitchen means that in the middle of cooking, a pasta sauce maybe, you can duck out to your garden, grab a handful of the freshest basil there is, and after a few hours of simmering, eat like a king. So, many gardeners think of the this type of garden as an herb garden, separate from a larger plot located further from the house.
But these days your garden doesn’t even need to be outdoors. Herbs and even vegetables can be grown indoors under grow lights and this kind of table top garden doesn’t even need dirt!
Some historians point to the this type of garden being of French origin. Unquestionably, the great chateaux of 15th century France had gardens close to the kitchen. Further back, the gardens close to the kitchen owe some allegiance to the Italian Renaissance. But the more humble versions of kitchen gardens come from England and what the English call the cottage garden, which has a specific “four-square” design.
According to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG,) “Like a country kitchen, a four-square kitchen garden evokes thoughts of hearth, home, and abundance.”Kichen garden designs are a simple division of a plot into four smaller rectangular plots separated by pathways, which make tending the garden easier. The BBG traces the design origin back seven centuries. You really should read the BBG’s short piece on the four-square garden design: Here’s the link: The Four-Square - A Classic Garden Design.
Of course, this long tradition came to the New World with the first English settlers, and with some help from Native Americans, kitchen gardens became established. Check out what Cornell University has to say about the place of kitchen gardens in American gardening. “The American nation had its beginnings as a colony of settlers arriving to a new world in search of arable land. Garden plots—fields of cultivated land yielding a reliable supply of food for the family—figured prominently in the early American psyche as a means to achieve the household security and economic independence that were elusive dreams for many in the Old World.”
The point is echoed by an excerpt from a paper by James E. McWilliams, originally published in the New England Quarterly (March 2004). “Historians have long noted the magnitude of colonial New England’s agricultural achievements. Yet, curiously, they have largely failed to appreciate one of the keys to the region’s success: the kitchen garden.”
The pleasure of the senses kitchen gardens provide is a gateway to exploring the many practices contemporary gardening offers for increasing output.
Not Just a Workspace Anymore: The Home Kitchen
As if to reinforce the feeling of abundance and connection the home kitchen is changing the physical space of the garden home itself.
It seems only natural that the space where nurturing food is prepared the role of the home kitchen is expanding, and has been for some time.
As we were searching for reasons why the cultural and physical nature of the home kitchen has changed, we found some observations that because women were entering the workplace in greater numbers, and no longer “stuck” in the kitchen, the home kitchen itself changed. Although it is true that there are increasing numbers of women in the workplace, a February 12, 2008 report by Katie Bacon titled “The All American Kitchen,” published in The Atlantic does acknowledges the move of women into the workplace but says there are supporting developments as well. The interview is with Steven Gdula, author of The Warmest Room in the House, subtitled “How the Kitchen Became the Heart of the Twentieth-Century American Home.”
Ms. Bacon summarizes two key developments mentioned in Mr. Gdula’s look at the American kitchen examining, in particular, the decades of the 20th century. One is that the “domestic science” kitchen inventions at the turn of the 20th century, and the processed food science of the 1950s provided a basis for women having more time.
The author himself agrees. “I think women going into the workplace was definitely a byproduct of having more time available, but I think at the same time we’d been marching toward that since the mid-nineteenth century.” He adds, “A lot of this came from the ongoing food technology industry …” And he tellingly concludes, “But I don’t think there was the insight that people actually enjoy cooking, and enjoy gathering with people in a room.”
In effect, the 21st century home kitchen as heart and hearth provides the space for the deeply rooted human experience of socializing around the preparation of food. And more than that the addition of the feeling of abundance that a nearby kitchen garden can provide.
Some researchers take a much more complex view of the role of the home kitchen. Annechen Bahr Bugge, a Norwegian sociologist, says that a person’s identity is formed around the activities that take place in the home kitchen. “There are many examples from modern times that food and eating comprise something more [than mundane tasks:] it is something demanding aptitude and skill, it is something people consider important, and it is charged with emotions.” This is from a 2003 paper titled, “Cooking as Identity Work,” presented to the 6th Conference of the European Sociological Association, September 2003, Murcia, Spain.
But no matter what your point of view, what happens in the home kitchen is likely enjoyed for the 'doing' as opposed to the ‘thinking about.’