Pretty soon we”ll all become very fussy about our gardening tasks. We”ll be yanking at weeds as they appear, measuring out soil amendments and keeping track of watering needs.
But for now, plants are pretty much on autopilot.
In many ways, plants would be just fine without us.
Species that grow well in arid regions would populate arid regions. Things that like standing water would thrive in marshland. It”s only because we choose to control the environment that plants come to depend upon us.
If you think otherwise, spend a year totally neglecting your yard. You”ll find out which plants will do just fine without us.
Another experiment is to see what grows when we”re not looking.
I have three tiers of metal mesh baskets that hang above my sink.
A great many things end up in these baskets, including dried herbs, rinsed Ziploc bags and fruit.
While I wasn”t looking, a purple onion began to sprout.
I saw it, did nothing, and the sprouts grew some more.
While the onion could probably still be eaten, the plant obviously wanted to live. I brought the onion to my boyfriend, and asked if he”d place in the dirt as an experiment.
My research reveals it won”t be good as an onion, but we can harvest the above-ground sprouts and toss them in salads, similar to chives. Also, the plant will likely go to seed when the weather warms, which will be better than just throwing the onion in the compost heap.
More proof of the living power of discarded food can be found in a compost pile.
My pile is very unscientific, and basically just a hole in the ground where perishable food is tossed and buried.
When the hole is full, I dig a new one. After years, I return and see if the soil in the first hole looks ready to spread in the garden.
Meanwhile, potato vines are frequently spotted atop the former waste bin.
Last week I chatted with Dave Hollingsworth at the BEC community garden on El Monte. He was harvesting potatoes.
Dave said there”s no reason not to eat potatoes that have grown in partially-done compost.
In fact, growing potatoes in regular soil can sometimes be tricky, because taters like a very loose soil environment.
While doing research, I learned another technique is to place the potato pieces on top of the soil and then cover with straw or mulch.
The UC Davis Plant Sciences guide for the Chico Valley gives a green light for planting potatoes through February and early March. This will mean a harvest by the time the weather gets very hot. Don”t expect them to be very large.
In many ways, potatoes are a lot like fall-planted flower bulbs. We can put them in the ground and forget about them, as long as nature does the watering for us. If not, potatoes want about an inch of water a week.
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