Urban Garden Improvisation

| August 19, 2018 | Reply
Urban Garden Improvisation

Urban gardening in a small space could be called “Improvisation is the name of the game,” or, “One thing leads to another.” As for most gardeners and family farmers today, gardening is not my profession. It is my passion and the fuel that feeds me, both literally and spiritually. I am an actor. I became a professional actor in 1980. I became an urban gardener in 2012, when I started this channel.

Urban Garden Improvisation - biomass

Dried legume biomass

Improvisation is a method of acting, and one of the main rules is to never deny what’s just happened. Usually, there is no script, and you make up a sketch on the spot. Sometimes there is a script and actors go off script and improvise lines and action. Sometimes improvisation is required, when things go wrong. If you are on stage in front of an audience, you don’t deny what’s just happened, you work it into your action.

Urban Garden Improvisation - pots with biomass

“Cornfield” with biomass

Actress Holly Hunter Improvised

In the 1980’s, I attended a play on Broadway, “Crimes of the Heart,” in which Holly Hunter was making her Broadway debut. I managed to get a seat on the back row of the orchestra, but I could clearly see when something unexpected happened. Holly opened a coke bottle on a mounted bottle opener on the kitchen set and her hand got cut. I could see red from the back of the house! She didn’t miss a beat. The tale she was recounting to her sisters was very important, but she had to deal with the bleeding. She grabbed a towel and clamped down on her hand and kept talking. A vivid moment in the theatre. The same thing happened to Leonardo DiCaprio when he broke a glass in a scene in “Django Unchained.” He couldn’t deny the blood coming out of his hand, and incorporated it into his menacing scene.

Urban Garden Improvisation - pots with coffee grounds

Pots with Coffee Grounds

One Thing Leads to Another

I often think of improvisation in urban gardening. One thing leads to another. Improvise. Don’t deny, accept what’s happened and go on. Maybe, because I have a year-round urban garden, more of my decisions happen on the spot, without planning. If I had a long winter to plan, and had a defined rectangular garden with long rows, and more rain, I would improvise less.

Urban Garden Improvisation - coffee grounds

Coffee Grounds

Today, my new friend, Angie in Kentucky, sent me a photo of her fresh picked corn, and it set me to salivating. If you’ve followed me since the beginning, you know how much I love corn, tomatoes, and watermelon. Growing up in the South, there was nothing better.

Urban Garden Improvisation - minerals worked in

Pots with minerals worked in

Last week, a storm hit Angie’s garden, and their good-sized corn patch got pummeled. She and David went out in the dark with flashlights and staked it up. If they’d left it till morning, they would have lost 90% instead of 10%. They had to improvise, and it worked out. She got me to thinking about corn, which I haven’t grown since 2015. Like watermelon, you need space and heat, two things of which are in short supply here in Los Angeles near the ocean.

Urban Garden Improvisation - corn seed

Po’suwegeh blue corn

Just then, I happened to go look at my seeds. I ran across a pack of corn seeds sent to me by Pat Smith in Mobile. As you saw in the video I did with Pat last year, she grows food in a food bank that feeds the Gulf. Baker Creek had donated some seed packs for the food bank and she sent me a few leftover seeds.

Urban Garden Improvisation - seed pack

Po’suwegeh Seed Pack

I Planted Corn in August!

Well, it occurred to me that having all those pots just sitting there, that I grew legumes in for green manure, was a waste. I had not planned to at all, but I wound up spending an hour preparing those pots for corn. I turned over the dried legume biomass, added a scoop of compost and a scoop of coffee grounds and worked that in. (Corn is a heavy feeder.) I worked in a scoop of Azomite minerals and organic tomato vegetable fertilizer, and watered them well. Then, I planted the corn. The seeds are big, blue and beautiful. Growing Po’suwegeh Blue corn played a pivotal role in the revival of an ancient pueblo north of Santa Fe. The corn meal is traditionally grown to make blue corn atole, and if I manage to get a few ears, I will make this!

Urban Garden Improvisation - holes for seed

(4) 1″ Depressions in Each Pot

I hadn’t yet read about the corn, and turns out, it takes 110 days to mature. I reasoned that, at the very least, I’ll be creating biomass to add to compost and beds. And all it cost me was an hour of my Sunday, and a few cents for the minerals and fertilizer. And what a great experiment! I always had it in my mind you had to have 16 square feet of ground to succeed at growing corn. You need at least 16 stalks for good pollination. But, that’s just what happens above ground! Of course, 3-gallon pots may not be sufficient to grow an 8-foot stalk, but 5-gallon may be. At any rate, there’s the biomass.

Urban Garden Improvisation - okra

Clemson Okra Planted in Container

Pat had also sent me Clemson okra seeds. I actually didn’t learn to love okra until I started gardening. Now, I simply can’t get enough. (I eat it raw!) When I first went out, I was just going to plant a few okra seeds in one 7-gallon pot, which I did. When I saw all those pots not being used, it hit me! Pull them together and make a cornfield on the driveway! Urban Garden Improvisation.

Urban Garden Improvisation - plant tag

Seed Planted 8-12

I’ll be reporting on the progress of this in a future video. To quote a famous line from a very popular ski-fi movie, “Never give up, never surrender.” (“Galaxy Quest”) That’s what I live by in gardening. I know I said in a recent video that I’d given up trying to grow watermelon, but that only means HERE, I haven’t given up, given up.

Urban Garden Improvisation - watered pots

Watered Pots of “Cornfield”

Please check out my new playlist from Kentucky! More educational and inspiring videos to come! Thanks for reading! – Kaye

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Category: Curbside Gardening, Seeds, Urban Gardening, Vegetables, Warm Season

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