Tag Archives: vegetable gardening

earth day 2010

Our sign at Earth Day

Happy Earth Day everyone!

Last weekend I helped out with the local native plant society’s information table at San Diego’s Earth Day celebrations, advertised as “the largest free annual environmental fair in the world.” Imagine that, in sleepy little conservative San Diego.

Our booth

Some of the plants we had for sale at the table. We ended up not pushing them too hard since a heavy gallon pot seemed to be more than most people wanted to carry around with them on a warm day with thousands of people crowded around. Seeds were and easier sell.

Some of the crowd at Earth Day

This exhibit was encouraging people to grow more of their own food. The cutouts for kids to poke their head through assured some attention from the younger crowd. Not all the kids looked at the exhibit, but a lot did.
There are always displays of electric car conversions...
...but with electric cars starting to come on line, they're less of a draw than before. But people seemed really interested in the electric scooters next door.

It’s always a wide mix of things that you’ll find in a large environmental-themed gathering, from conservation organizations to green-technology vendors to the ubiquitous booth selling kettle corn. What kettle corn has to do with sustainable living I have no idea, but it did keep some of the people fed and happy.

And it’s always a broad sampling of people who attend these fairs. Of the people who stopped by our table, there was the European family that was stranded due to Iceland’s Eyjafjallajoekull volcano, plenty of people interested in to work of the plant society, and even more people who were in the process of replacing their landscaping with less water-intensive plants.

I enjoy talking plants–any surprise since I do a garden blog? Helping to get the word out about the value of native plants, in the wilds or around the home, was extra-cool.

Some of the plantings at Balboa Park's Alcazar Garden

But it was nice to escape the crowds for a few minutes and just look at some plants. Our booth was adjacent to Balboa Park’s Alcazar Garden. The groundspeople are constantly changing the look of the garden. Today it featured flowering blocks of red snapdragons and lavender. It’s not a combination I’d have come up with, but I think I like it. Of course I’m way too curious about plants–and probably way too ADD–to limit myself to two garden plants.

A detail of the pairing of snapdragons and lavender.

Even with grand displays like this near the native plant society’s table, we had a nearly constant flow of people–a sure sign that people are thinking about different kinds of pleasures for their gardens. The times they are a-changin’.

controlled chaos

I often have trouble mixing ornamentals and vegetables together in a garden bed that’s supposed to be “for company,” a bed that’s meant to be attractive as well as containing tasty-looking plants that you’d like to take to the dinner table.



Some parts of the garden where I’ve snuck veggies in with the other plants look a little chaotic, but here’s a patch that I really like the looks of. Earlier I showed part of this corner that the bedroom window overlooks. But new things are starting to bloom, and the colors are starting to really click for me.

When I was putting this bed together, I set myself the main rule of “nothing yellow.” In deciding what veggies to place there, I just stuck to that organizing principle. (Okay, can you tell that I work in libraries and organize information during the week?)

This bed features several edibles: red-stemmed chard, orange-stemmed chard, Red Winter red Russian kale, red beets, plus catmint for tea (and for the cat). The ornamentals include scarlet geum, purple heliotrope, violet blue-eyed grass, the salmon-colored bulb Homeria collina, two blue sages (Salvia sagittata and Salvia cacaliaefolia) plus a few other things not in bloom.

For sure, there’s a lot of red and blue and purple going on here. But several variations on green in the background green do wonders to pull together what might otherwise be chaos.

I’m going to hate cutting any of these veggies for dinner…

casual vegetable gardening

Some things I put in the ground exactly where I want them. Other things I put in once and let nature take care of the rest. Way back in the Paleozoic era I’d bought some red romaine lettuce plants. There were more than we could eat, and a few went to seed. They looked a little unkempt, but the little yellow finches loved the seeds and made a ruckus in the yard as they fed on them.

After the next rains, tiny lettuce plants began to sprout all over. The plants that were in reasonable spots I let grow, and the baby greens from them were as tasty as the red leaves were great to look at. I let a few of those go to seed again, and the cycle started all over. Here are a few plants from the current crop, providing a nice red counterpoint around a green rosemary:


Vegetable gardens so often seem to be disciplined, military spaces with their perfectly aligned rows of exactly the same plant, one after another. Instead of that, why not plant the veggies like they’re an extension of the garden? And why not let some of them go to seed and repopulate themselves?