Two Gardens, One Challenge
Plus daffodils announce the season.
Good omens loom on the grounds of Grant County's Volunteer Center and its year-old Commons Center for Food Security and Sustainability ("Uncommon Dreams," November 2013). High above the building in the tree line sits a bulky, basket-shaped raven's nest. Interspersed among the canopy are clumps of mistletoe, lime-colored in the morning sunshine.
Aspects of the Commons' mission seem to coalesce around the bird and plant. Ravens, for instance, are known to stockpile food. In Hopi Indian folklore they are touted as rescuers. Mistletoe, an epiphyte, derives physical support from the tree that it inhabits. And mistletoe berries provide an essential food source to the jauntily crested phainopepla bird, among other species found in our area.
Parked below the trees near an entry stands Alicia Edwards' lavender bicycle. Anti-hunger slogans overlay the bike's frame, bespeaking her decade-long commitment to the fight as the Volunteer Center's executive director.
The color lavender seems frivolous in contrast to Edwards' focused, no-nonsense demeanor — the way, for example, she pauses before speaking to consider her words.
"The Commons," Edwards says, "gives our community the opportunity to participate in finding solutions to food security. This includes food pantry distributions, gardening projects, workshops, work days, education and special events."
The Edwards-Bailey home garden exemplifies the potential bounty and security of raising one’s own food. (Photo: Alicia Edwards)
With the onslaught of spring, Edwards reports that a grounds plan for the three-quarter-acre site is underway. The effort includes building a pump house (a well has already been drilled), and demonstrating the value of using hoop houses ("a $50 investment," Edwards says) for home crop cultivation.
On a typical work day at least 30 volunteers show up for tasks ranging from digging beds to laying wood chips. Edwards hopes to have garlic and tomatoes available for distribution through the in-house food pantry by early fall.
"We have a responsibility to ourselves," Edwards says, "to grow as much food as possible. This allows for both good health and self-sufficiency. Home gardens are hard work, but not that hard. Activities at the Commons show that there's no need to be garden phobic."
Hard work and gardening are second nature to Edwards, yet overall her lifestyle appears to be as balanced as the Commons' exactingly symmetrical facade.
Her strength and physical health are obvious. An enduring relationship with partner Emma Bailey, a sociology professor at WNMU, includes many shared interests — from hiking and biking to producing a recent book, We Are Hope. A compilation of poems by woman residents of Juarez, Mexico, the book also features Bailey's essays and Edwards' photography.
"That's my major creative outlet," Edwards says, "photography."
Not surprisingly, the Edwards-Bailey home garden stands as a significant shared pursuit and ample proof that Edwards lives her vision. Lavender exuberance is everywhere.
Now 10 years old — the mark of a "mature" landscape — the garden saw its best harvest last year.
"Emma," Edwards says, "is a fruitaterian!" Fruit in the garden is bountiful from grapes, figs and peaches to cherries, pears and plums. "We fresh-freeze them for use all winter. For vegetables, we grow tomatoes, onion, garlic and asparagus."
Their garden, like the grounds of the Commons, was envisioned as "a pollinator habitat to grow food on." Lawn grass was removed. Trees were arranged to keep the wind directed above the property. Spaces for a beehive and worm bin are noted. So too is Edwards' fondness for building things.
Projects include a small greenhouse and a hen house for two British-bred Gingernut Rangers. Edwards calls the hens "amazing layers." They are also "extremely sweet, love to eat tomatoes and don't mind being held."
Her conversation lapses for a minute before adding, "People don't realize that the Commons is such a big part of what I do in my own time."
Edwards will have a busy March, even for her. She will be participating in several special events:
- Friday, March 7: "Sustaining Viable Food Supplies Through 2050 with Neighborhood Gardens." Facilitated by George Farmer, with panelists including Edwards, Monica Rude of Desert Woman Botanicals, Doug Smith of Townside Farm and Carolyn Smith, outreach coordinator for the Silver City Food Co-op, co-chair of the Grant County Food Policy Council and board member of the Silver City Farmers' Market. 1:30 p.m., WNMU Global Resource Center.
- Thursday, March 20: Seed-Saving Workshop with Edwards and Farmer at the Commons.
- Friday, March 21, and Saturday, March 22: The Silver City Farmers' Market Fourth Annual Home and Garden Expo, featuring free gardening mini-workshops, the Co-op Seed Share, a Kid's Gardening Expo and Food Fair, home and garden supplies and local service vendors. 12-8 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday at the Grant County Business and Conference Center, Hwy. 180E.
I first fell in love with daffodils when I saw multitudes of them growing on Rock Creek Parkway in Washington, DC. These long-lived perennials with their bright yellow blooms are harbingers of spring; their trumpet-shaped coronas herald the season.
Photo by Jo Whitworth from Daffodil: The Remarkable Story of the World’s Most Popular Spring Flower by Noel Kingsbury (2013, Timber Press, 220 pp., hardcover $27.50).
Everything one needs to know about the species (genus Narcissus) is covered in Daffodil: The Remarkable Story of the World's Most Popular Spring Flower by Noel Kingsbury (2013, Timber Press, 220 pp., hardcover $27.50).
Immersing one's self in a single species can be satisfying if it becomes a positive presence in your garden. In the case of daffodils, Kingsbury writes, "They are not only immensely long-lived, but continually clone themselves to form ever-expanding clumps."
With color photography by Jo Whitworth on every page, the book explains the daffodil's earliest history in Egypt, where they were found buried in the tomb of Pharaoh Ramses II. Later, the species "rode the coattails of the British Empire" and spread around the world.
Daffodils are big commercial crops. In season, bouquets are found readily at the grocer. Because they grow wherever there's a discernible winter, innumerable varieties are available in catalogs featuring fall planted-spring flowering bulbs.
The Heaths — bulb breeders — of Brent and Becky's Bulbs (store.brentandbeckysbulbs.com) offer one of the most comprehensive ranges of daffodil bulbs for sale in the US. My copy of their catalog describes about 200 cultivars.
Enchanted Gardens, 270 Avenida de Mesilla, Las Cruces, will close in July. Jackye Meinecke, owner of the nursery that specializes in native plants, is retiring and has placed the one-acre site for sale. Meinecke plans special sales throughout the spring.
Jean Eisenhower's half-hour, interview format program, "Back to the Garden," now airs on KURU radio (89.1 FM) at 4:30 pm, Thursdays, and repeats at 10:30 am Saturdays.
The Gila Native Plant Society's 12th annual Native Plant Pre-Sale and Educational Fair will be Saturday, March 22, 9 a.m.-noon, in downtown Silver City at 405 N. Bullard St. (the former Workshops of Carneros).
Vivian Savitt gardens at Ditch Cottage in Silver City.