🌻 how to include flowers in your garden
my top picks, who controls seeds, & new classes.
wow what a week.
i have been very busy in the garden but the cherry on top of this delightful warm-weathered-week has been the quitted podcast that my friend hannah sent my way.
consider listening to the interview with caleb campbell, a west point graduate who was so gifted at his sport that the pentagon created a new policy enabling the nfl to draft military officers and soldiers — and then he quit the nfl. caleb unpacks our relationships to success, performance culture, the many sides of church, the trap of “the personal brand,” applying performance culture and capitalism to healing journeys, how leaving LA felt like failure, and on and on. absolute gift to my soul and so good i will probably listen to it again.
we’ve all heard, ‘wherever you go, there you are.’ being intentional to quit the right way and do the work to rebalance your system to a consistent energy state of ‘rest’ is a great beacon of hope to me right now.
🌼 FLOWERS x VEGETABLES 🥬
for your garden planning, i’d like to suggest that you add some flowers into your vegetable spaces! we humans love to draw boxes and lines around things and put them in compartments. the earth loves to weave and blend, with all growing things in a single ecosystem.
flowers bring predatory insects to help keep your pests at bay, help support pollination, promote healthy fungal and microbe production in your soil, and level up the appearance of a kitchen garden.
experiment with your style. put a flower in each corner of the raised bed, or let your intuition guide you. put them in pots and place them around your yard. i usually plant all the veggies in my beds first and then cram in flowers every couple of feet. i also love planting them a few inches from the edge so they can grow and hang over. here are some of my favorites.
nasturtium // these are my favorite because of how easily they grow AND THEY ARE EDIBLE. their seeds are the size of peas and they can survive a frost in the fall. you can start them inside 2-4 weeks before your last frost, and i do, but i also plant half of them directly in the ground after the last frost. they grow quickly and don’t love being moved. i eat their leaves and flowers in my salads and they look so fancy. they give depth and a little kick to a salad. 🥗
they come in bush and climbing varieties. your local shops will have basic orange and yellow varieties like jewel and alaska, and you can also purchase lovely, unique colors online - like orchid cream, whirly bird rose, bloody mary, and cream troika. i actually refused to grow them for awhile because i don’t care for the color orange, but you cannot deny how beautiful they look amidst the greens - and now i put them everywhere.
calendulas // these are my second favorite. if in a happy spot, they produce flowers relentlessly and you can make tea with them. i start them indoors 3-4 weeks before last frost but these also grow incredibly well when direct sown after the last frost. i like the strawberry blondes but the traditional orange king is stunning too. you may hear them referred to as ‘pot marigolds’ and yes, they are cousins to marigolds (both inside the asteraceae/sunflower family), but they have their own genus and are a very different flower.
yarrow // yarrow gets 5 stars and only because it’s a perennial and very resilient. not having to replant each year is worth a lot. sometimes they are stinky though, and they can take up a lot of space (over a square foot). most people are familiar with them as yellow or white, in cut arrangements, but you can also grow a stunning red or lovely pastel mix. i have personally had difficulty getting strong colors in the heat, but it may have just been an odd year.
borage // this is my first year growing borage! it is a cousin to comfrey (worth growing to make your own fertilizer) and is supposedly a drought-tolerant plant that re-sows itself happily. its leaves and flowers are both edible; another salad contributor. i planted it in the ground around the base of my fig trees and will pop a few into my raised beds. in 1597, the herbalist john gerard put “flowers in salads to exhilarate and make the mind glad, to the comfort of the heart and driving away of sorrow.” supposedly they have a light cucumber flavor.
takane ruby buckwheat // if you have space to grow a patch of this (2x2’ or more) in your yard/beds, do it. it is beautiful and the birds + bees are obsessed. it’s tall: 2-4 feet.
zinnia // surprisingly i have not grown zinnias in a vegetable bed before; i’ve created cut flower patches in the past. they are such a joyful flower that i am going to pop some in between the tomatoes and kale. if you do not like zinnias (i used to think they were a b&s1c b1c!h flower) may i STRONGLY suggest that you take 5 minutes to explore these and these.
cardinal basil // this is a basil variety i discovered last year - they grow tight bunches of deep purple flowers and can be used in cut arrangements. but do not deadhead the top (terminal) stem above the nodes like you typically would for basil plants. it will stunt them too much and flowers will appear extremely late. i recommend planting basil next to your tomatoes, peppers, eggplant.
dill and parsley // this is just a reminder that sometimes it’s okay to let your plants bolt in the heat, because their flowers are lovely and the insects enjoy them. i try to pluck off the buds on half my plants to keep them producing, and i let the other half go — if you feed the swallowtail caterpillars with these, they won’t decimate your carrots!
chives // LET’S GIVE IT UP FOR CHIVES. chives make everything better and wow they are indestructible perennials. they make lovely little flowers if they are happy, and they taste even better than the ones on wendy’s baked potatoes in the 90s, if that’s possible.
✏️ UPCOMING CLASSES ✏️
i just want to say thank you to all the good teachers out there. the ones who don’t just give information but have mastered the art of alchemy in the room, of predicting questions, of knowing how different types of brains will attempt to problem solve and re-arranging the facts in a way that makes it easier for all of us.
i love to teach and i cannot wait to teach even more this year — but to get outside of your own head and imagine (so much imagining!) how it will go in person or on zoom and always trying to be a mirror to yourself takes so much attention.
if you are desperate to start gardening but don’t know where to start, i have two gardening 101 classes on the docket! ✏️
March 12 @ 3pm EST, in partnership with Backyard Bookclub, is in Winston. more details here.
March 19 @ 4pm EST is a virtual version of this class! RSVP here. the cost is $15 to help me pay for zoom, eventbrite, admin things, etc.
📦 SEED SAVING 📦
i have a faint memory from years ago, reading that saving seeds is intoxicating.
if you have not done it, it seems trite. if you have, you feel the weight of both history and the future in your hands. seeds are beautiful in their uniformity. there is a seriousness to them when you collect enough to fill a jar. i cannot explain it. i thought it was silly but turns out, the phenomenon is real.
i have been practicing, reading, learning how to harvest high quality seeds and am thinking of experimenting with a tiny little seed business, amongst other things.
over 60% of seeds in the world are controlled by 4 companies: bayer [monsanto], corteva, basf, and chemchina. these are also the leading pesticide/chemical companies and their continued acquisitions are raising anti-trust corruption concerns and general ethics questions. there are many consequences of having so few companies control production an access to the world’s seeds. the simplest is due to how large businesses work: in order to scale, they prioritize leading varieties and eliminate diversity.
so, maybe we should all be seeking out heirloom and local varieties from independent growers and doing the collective work to grow the way humans always have grown. i like southern exposure, high mowing organic seeds, row7, and true leaf market.
🍓 STRAWBERRY BABY ALERT 🍓
if this is your year to start a cute little strawberry patch, i’ll be selling strawberry plants at fancy groceries (our retail shop in ardmore) this sunday from 12-4pm. $4/each. you can venmo me to hold yours if you like! my venmo is
thank you to scott, melina, and the generous anonymous ones who have become paid subscribers this week to help support the labor of love that is this newsletter and my other garden efforts. i appreciate you! 💖