Home & Garden Columns

Garden Variety: Spiral Gardens a Cure for The March Muddy Blues, By: Ron Sullivan

Friday March 17, 2006

All right, up and at ’em. The only cure I know for the March Muddy Blues is time spent with eager green plants, and since it’s still too wet to mess in the mid in most of our gardens, the place to mingle is the neighborhood nursery.  

Lucky me: The distance from here to Spiral Gardens Community Food Project’s Urban Garden Center is shorter than its official name. They could fit only “Urban Garden Center” on the A-frame sign on the Sacramento Street median strip; I guess that’s to the point. Most of the youngsters there are food plants or California natives, but there are wild cards and volunteers, some in the ground and some in pots, some landscape inhabitants and even some houseplants.  

It’s not exactly news that I’m fond of wild cards and surprises. (OK, not surprise snowstorms in March, those can stop now, thank you.) A nursery where I catch myself saying, “What the heck’s that?” is a place I enjoy. It’s even better when everything’s tagged and I’m still asking. Better still, when so much of it is food. I’ll try anything once. 

Except snails. Snails are the enemy, not the dinner. Besides, as the mulberries bloom I get that seasonal post-nasal drip that makes eating snails redundant. I’d rather just throw them into the street and tell them to go play in traffic. 

I’m not sure I’d eat an endangered species either, but growing things for food is one way to make them less endangered. Growing things for food in an area of the city that doesn’t have supermarkets within strolling distance is about remedying another kind of endangerment, and that’s part of Spiral Garden’s mission. Lately I’m a bit burned-out on non-profits and do-gooding, myself, but the Les Blankian motive, Always For Pleasure, hasn’t lost its power to move me. It’s not just my own pleasure. I think the world would be better off if everyone had more pleasure.  

The pleasure of eating fresh produce gets lip service but it’s still underappreciated. The pleasure of eating produce just a few yards from where it grew is more rare, and so is the related good feeling of growing your own. We’re in a great place for it, where we can grow all year, and Spiral Gardens is a good place to get starts for adventurous and for comfortably familiar eating. This year, e.g., they have a purportedly mildew-resistant squash. They have rarer things like opa, a funny tuber with clover leaves on sprawling stems.  

If you want to grow food but are new at it, Spiral’s also a great place to learn, hands-on and from experts. Just go volunteer now and then; call or drop in when they’re open. Like rare seeds, which need to be grown out and re-gathered to stay viable, garden knowledge is best preserves by dissemination—and that’s part of Spiral Gardens’ mission too.