Akilah's Column

Gardening: Necessity and Response | July 15, 2013

Akilah's Garden

I am a winter person. I like the cold, just so long as the temperature doesn't dip below 28 degrees, and as long as it isn't icy. My favorite clothes are winter clothes, sweaters, boots and scarves. I enjoy knitting and occasionally, crocheting. I also like the winter because it's the time that I start planning my garden. I browse through the gardening catalogs and magazines, deciding what plants might perform best in my shade garden, what herbs I can add and make use of. This year I spent a little time learning about Pennsylvania natives, where I could get them, and what part of the garden they might enjoy the most.

This year, I started vegetables from seed. After a blackberry bush planted last year decided not to return this spring, I replaced it with tomato plants and three black raspberry plants. My garden's design was inspired by the Matria Garden in Oaxaca, Mexico--where wooden crates have been recycled to make raised beds. Free wooden crates are not so easy to locate in Philadelphia, but I managed to get my hands on four, ...

read more ...


Click to Read More ... Join the Conversation



Video of the Month


I hope that you will take a few minutes and watch this video of Dr. Masaru Emoto's experiments with water. Dr. Emoto's research assists us in becoming aware of how consciousness alters the molecular structure of water. That's huge!



(Cont'd from Above / Main Page)

and I found two plastic ones in the garage, courtesy of my house's former owners.

My garden is also inspired by my last fall's reading of Mel Bartholomew's book, Square Foot Gardening. Bartholomew travels the world over teaching the art of square foot gardening, which requires far less water and keeps pests to a minimum. It involves no weeding, and you can grow enough veggies, even in a 36-square-foot bed, to feed a family of four, during the summer.

Sometimes when I look out my kitchen door into the backyard, after a day or two of heavy fertilizing rains, or off my front porch into the herb garden, I think of the women gardeners in my family. My mother was amazing with houseplants, but it was her sisters that were the avid, skilled outdoor gardeners. Gardening connects me to them.

My aunts gardened and preserved: spiced peaches and watermelon rinds, stewed tomatoes and fruit preserves. They even made the bottles of wine on the table at big family dinners. Curiously, I never heard any of them talk about their gardening experience. Maybe it was something they didn't think about; maybe it was just a part of who they were; maybe they did it out of necessity. I do not know. What I do know is that I have to garden. It keeps me sane and calm. I don't stress about things during the garden season. I look forward each week to receiving revelations from the plant world. I love the peace and serenity of the garden. I also like the labor. There's something I enjoy about the way my quads ache as I climb into bed at night after hours of turning the soil, and even my achy shoulders from lifting those bags of mulch from the trunk of my car. The experience of gardening, though, has evolved and expanded since I planted that climbing hydrangea in my first garden in 1996. While it still brings me hours of joy and satisfaction, gardening has now become a form of protest. As we increase our awareness of the relationship between the food we consume and our health and wellbeing, it becomes more interesting and important to think about growing for ourselves what we eat. Just consider that, for example, the types of preservatives that are used in our foods, especially processed foods, are now being linked to Autism and even Parkinson's disease. The following is from www.wholevegan.com:

"Many preservatives can give health problems. They can cause different allergies and conditions such as hyperactivity and Attention Deficit Disorder in the some people who are sensitive to specific chemicals. The foods containing additives can cause asthma, hay fever and certain reactions such as rashes, vomiting, headache, tight chest, hives and worsening of eczema. They may affect RNA, thyroid, and enzymes (affecting RNA can cause tumor growth). Most have not been studied for safety or toxicity. They are all synthesized chemicals that don't even have common names. Most artificial flavorings are derived from petroleum. Most artificial flavors actually contain many chemical ingredients, not just one. Many of those chemicals are volatile."

Besides the increasing desire to eat organic fruits and vegetables free of pesticides, there is a growing urban gardening movement in the United States which is responding to what I call an assault on one of our most basic human needs: food. Ro Kumar, editor of www.localblu.com, a blog that covers urban farming and sustainability, says that urban gardening renews local economies, promotes environmental stewardship, focuses on local politics, promotes a revolution in health and nutrition, and, finally, encourages community interaction.

Over the past five years, we have witnessed the creation of numerous groups and collectives that are responding to the food and nutrition crisis. Website such as www.thedailygreen.com keeps us informed about government regulations and the quality of the fruits and vegetables in our supermarkets. The Daily Green has recently compiled a list of fruits and vegetables, which the USDA has approved of, but which Daily Green has still found to contain up to 50 different pesticide residues. They call their list The New Dirty Dozen: apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, hot peppers, nectarines, peaches, potatoes, strawberries, spinach, sweet bell peppers, kale, collards, zucchini, lettuce, blueberries (considered the most contaminated fruit). If you need to be even more convinced of the need to engage in protest gardening, you need look no farther than the outrage over Monsanto and their genetically modified seed plan. Monsanto is one of the largest pesticide and biotechnical corporations in the world. It began by selling saccharin to Coca-Cola and moved on to market Agent Orange to the military industrial complex. I see genetically modified seeds as nothing more than another biological weapon with a potential damage far beyond that of Agent Orange. Many countries in the world, most recently Hungry, have banned the use of Monsanto's seeds. In the United States, Monsanto gets a stamp of approval, and US food labels do not have to indicate whether any of the contents contain ingredients derived from GMO's.

I am beginning to see more articles on the risks of consuming genetically modified foods. The effects are greater for children and newborns. It doesn't look good. I am also becoming aware of seed companies like Seeds of Change, Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply, The Cook's Garden, nurseries all over the country, who do not and will not sell any genetic modified seeds or plants. That looks good.

But most of all, I am seeing the creation of a new pattern of expressing our discontent—evidence that things on this planet are changing. It seems we are moving away from taking it to the streets. We are moving away from picketing and sit-ins, walk-ins and marches. We are beginning to respond to injustice differently. Instead of engaging our energy in fixing what's wrong, we are creating the new way. Protest gardening is one of the ways we are doing it. Protest gardening brings us joy and wellbeing. I think that's what a shift in consciousness looks like.

Those are my words for this month. In preparation for an upcoming edition on the environment and biosphere, I am reading some new works. I discovered Dianne Glave and her book, Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage. Glave is in the guest blog spot this month, an article that first appeared in The Children and Nature Network. Enjoy.

~ Akilah

Reading recommendation for this month:


If you would like to know more about Dr. Emoto's work, I would highly recommend his book, The Hidden Messages of Water. I have a totally different perspective about my relationship with water as a result of reading this book. If you are looking for some information that will expand your awareness this summer, The Hidden Messages of Water just might be it.

comments powered by Disqus