Tips and Tricks from the World of a Kitchen Garden

If I were to go back to the states tomorrow to begin my own garden, there are at least two things that I’ll be able to do with great precision and excellence:

1) Freak out a little when I find a spider crawling on me. 
2) Weed.
weeding gardens
I told you we've been weeding...
Wwoofing in the kitchen gardens of smaller homes (as we've done so far) often, I've learned, involves a lot of weeding. In fact, it just might be the reason that wwoofing exists at all. Why not bring some homeless vagabond Americans ‘round to do the down-and-dirty grunt work?

Nonetheless, I’ve managed to find a certain enjoyment in the sharp, crunchy sound of yanking a weed out from its uninvited resting place. It becomes meditative (almost), this process. 

Scan, uproot, pull, shake, toss into pile, repeat.
julius and joelle wwoof
John gathering weeds...view of/from the garden
There are, I must mention, a few other helpful tidbits I’ve garnered form Julius & Joelle’s expansive store of garden knowledge.

For example...

1. Marigolds repel aphids, keeping them away from the edibles. You can also eat the marigold petals (along with the flowers mentioned in this blog post)
I better use this chance to convey how much Joelle [very reasonably] despises the genius who decided to encourage people to spray pesticides all over the garden rather than to plant a natural variety of plants as a form of pest-control. Under the latter method, while other people simply think you’ve created an intricate and beautiful plot of land, you can puff that chest up knowing that you’ve actually established a functional, eye-pleasing garden with its own innate system of checks and balances.

It’s yet another tragic case of abandoning natural gardening wisdom for a “quick fix” solution. Never mind that spraying pesticides over these porous products that you will soon be eating just might have some health consequences. An excellent resource for natural gardening can be found here.

2. The desert succulent purslane, while considered a pest in a garden (discard a single leaf and a whole batch could pop up), is edible! I'd never considered eating a succulent, so this is great, especially since it’s supposed to be rich in omega-3s (take THAT, cholesterol!). It’s pretty tasty—stout and, um, plant-like in flavor…Throw it in a salad or puree in a soup. Check out this link for more edible “weeds.”

3. Roots don’t like lots of oxygen, so don’t expose them for long, and when you plant something, pack the soil down well if the instructions say to do so. Don't be afraid.
Protector of the tomatoes...can ya see it?
planting beans
Seeds for green beans, easy as that! (notice the "well"?)
4. Look, you don’t have to buy a fancy water-sprayer-thing, just stick a pitchfork in the ground and snake a hose through it using the pitchfork's handle to continuously press the sprayer's handle down
watering plants
Wrap your hose up in a pitchfork, using the handle
 as a lever to press the sprayer, and you have
an easy way to water your plants
planting green beans
Joelle makes a trench for the haricots verts (green
beans) and keeps it straight by tying a string between to
pole and hoe-ing underneath for the "watering trench"
5. I’m done buying charcoal. Thruwidit. Make your own charcoal with—you guessed it—wood! 
wwoof grill
Joelle gets primal on the grill
6. You can now make your own "self-watering" tomato plants (kind of…)! Leaves on tomato plants don’t like to get wet, so Joelle showed me this method, and concurrently lowered the blood pressure spike that I experienced upon seeing all of the plastic water bottles they'd been hoarding.

watering tomato plants
making our self-watering tomato bottles
Directions: -Save your big plastic bottles (I don’t typically support the use of plastic bottles—thank you, Massachusets!—but I think this might be an acceptable excuse. Just recycle afterwards, ok?)

-Take the lids off of the bottles, you’ll use these later (hey, cliffhanger!)

-Cut or saw off the very top section of the bottle. Play some loud music, because cutting plastic might make your ears bleed

-Now take those lids, a piece of wood, and a large nail, and hammer 2 holes in the lid

-Put said lid back on the bottles

-Plant your new bottles about 5-6 inches away from the plant you’d like to water, and just deep enough so that they don’t wobble. Pack the soil down. If you’re planting on a hill, keep the plant downstream of the bottle.

-Fill your plastic "flower" up with water and enjoy your tomatoes’ happiness. The water gets sucked down pretty quickly, so it's not a hands-off watering method, but this way you don't have to root around to find the base of your tomato plant.
watering tomato plants
and voilĂ !
Some pictures follow of the best eggplant I’ve ever had. Made, of course, over a simple wood fire. Salt, pepper, EVOO, and a little char.
Oh, did you say local lamb chops? No? OK, you want some anyway?
And there you have it--a taste of what we've been learning in the weeks at Julius & Joelle's farm.
sunset France
How 'bout a little sunset with that dinner?
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  1. To create informal arrangements, use unconventional containers to hold flowers and greenery.

  2. Pretty Gardens I bet you're already making plans for that new yard. I've been planting our garden this week and I have to agree with the perennials - I love them because the opportunity to propagate and expand is awesome.




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