Gardening with Gabe (5/22/2017)

Episode 1: The Basics or On Gardening

It seems to me that a lot of people my age 0 didn’t really grow up around gardening. Neither Belle or I had really ever been taught or even came into much contact with plants that did anything more than look or smell pretty during our childhoods. If this is the case, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people these days just don’t really understand gardening.

Now, don’t get me wrong: people understand that plants = seeds + dirt + water. But past that most people who haven’t had someone to mentor them probably don’t know dirt 1 from mulch 2. This is okay. We here at Saint Gabe’s Organics are new gardeners ourselves. The important thing is that in order to go anywhere you have to take your first steps. We’re here so that you can take your first steps with us.

In that spirit, I thought I would begin by addressing a few core questions:

  1. What is gardening?
  2. How do I garden?
  3. (And briefly) What do we mean by ‘organic’?

What is Gardening?

Well, since I’m a nerd scientifically-minded nerd, I’m going to start with the core principles of life, then chop all of the ones I don’t want to talk about right now, and ta-da!


So, this little buddy is kinda the crux of our job as gardeners. Khan Academy, which is the best, has this to say on homeostasis: “Living organisms regulate their internal environment to maintain the relatively narrow range of conditions needed for cell function. This maintenance of a stable internal environment, even in the face of a changing external environment, is known as homeostasis.” In short, gardening is the act of cultivating an environment in which your plants are able to maintain homeostasis.

An apt metaphor is that of a zoo, which much strive to maintain cold arctic environments for their polar bears and penguins 3 and much warmer ones for their elephants and lions. Sure, zookeeping includes the duties of caring for the animals, but the very idea of the zoo itself is predicated on providing habitats in which the animals can survive: no habitats means no zoo, right? In this way, the act of gardening is very much just providing a habitat where your little buddies can flourish.

How do I Garden?

Well, here we must return to the zookeeper. When caring for animals (glorified mobile plants), one must consider the following categories: food, water, environmental needs, and any extraordinary needs the animals may have. These essentially have direct analogues in the gardening world.

Plants, as a whole, have a few essential requirements: nutrients, water, a growing medium, oxygen, carbon-dioxide, light, and a good environment. Since this is aimed towards the basics, we’ll simply say that much like animal life, plants require specific nutrients to flourish. Next, plants need water, which is generally fed directly to the growing media and roots in a process apparently called ‘watering’. The growing media is sort of like a home would be for an animal, it houses and protects the root system. Oxygen, carbon dioxide, light and environment are all a little bit tied in together. Every variety of plant is a little bit different in its specific preferences, so gardening is the act of managing and balancing these things against each other.

Sounds complicated, right? Well, not exactly. Because plants have been around for a pretty long time [c: PennState]. This means they’ve gotten very good at taking care of the details. This means that if you put even a modicum of effort in, along with a bit of consistency, you’re probably going to have alright results. So basically, give something good soil and enough water without drowning it (plant’s roots need oxygen, and if water doesn’t drain off soon enough they can drown), and there’s a good chance if it has enough light it’ll grow.

Now, this is all fine and good, but I haven’t even touched organics yet.

What do we mean by ‘organic’?

Well, organic can mean a lot of different things in a lot of different contexts. In our discussions on organic gardening, we’ll be defining organic gardening as:

Gardening using practices that aim to promote positive soil health and beneficial biology and combatting pests and diseases without the use of any toxic additives or ~cides (pesticides, herbicides, etc.).

Essentially, the aim here is to simply promote beneficial biology over harmful ones (doing this effectively gerrymanders 4 the bad biology into such crappy neighborhoods that you don’t even have to worry about their vote I mean effect </salt>). Y’know how you go to the doctor, whenever they give you an antibiotic, they tell you that you should stock up on yogurt? The idea behind that is to get a lot of good biology in your gut. In organic gardening, the only difference is that we’re trying to promote good biology in the soil and around the plant instead of inside an organ. I’ll save most of the major arguments for growing organically later, but I’ll simply explain that the reason that putting chemical fertilizers (salt-based fertilizers) in your soil isn’t organic is that the salt kills off much of the bacteria in the soil (much of which is beneficial, eliminating much of the benefit they would have provided to the plants and degrading the soil over time in the process. This is bad and not sustainable on a large scale. Plus organics are very cheap.


0: 24, but it doesn’t matter
1: Dirt

loose soil or earth; the ground.

2: Mulch

a material (such as decaying leaves, bark, or compost) spread around or over a plant to enrich or insulate the soil.

3: Don’t quote me on that.
4: Gerrymander

manipulate the boundaries of (an electoral constituency) so as to favor one party or class.

[All c: Google]

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