Category Archives: Vegetables

The Gardening Riffs of Michael Nolan

When I first heard of Michael Nolan, a.k.a. The Garden Rockstar, about month or so ago, I was a little incredulous. Rock star gardener, wtf? To me, rock and roll means staying up all night rocking out with your you-know-what out, drugs and other craziness, not getting up at the break of day to make sure your baby tomatoes made it through the night, and fretting about rain or drought.

Curious, I checked out the book he co-wrote with Reggie Solomon, I Garden: Urban Style, and found out that this primer for urban veggie-heads indeed rocked the Casbah.  We’re reviewing it in Greenwoman Magazine issue #1. 

A Must-Have for Balls-to-the-Wall Urban Gardening Boyz & Grrlz.

Then I heard through the gardening grapevine that Michael was doing guest posts in May for gardening blogs.

I wrote him. Hey, man, lay down something at my blog!

He wrote back. Sure thang.

He even sent me a picture that made me laugh.

Michael Nolan, setting yet another trend; this one in rocker-gardener hairstyling.

Soon I got his post, which I share with you below:

By Michael Nolan

From a dormant, dismal, discouraging, dingy box on a suburban map
Life springs from the soil and sprouts as if to shout defiantly
“I’m Free!”
Stretching ever higher and upward toward the heavens
Like a tiny green-winged angel
becoming sweeter the more it reaches out to God.

Though I am one of those “plant people” who talks to my seedlings as though they were old friends, more often than not I am quiet while we share our time together.  In those silent moments of meditation when there is only me, my soil caked hands and the plants that bring a joy unattainable in any other way, I find peace and a better understanding of myself as a person.  

As I tend to their needs, they return the favor many times over.

* * *

Equal parts tenderness and badass. The perfect combination in a gardener (or garden writer). Okay, consider me a groupie.

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Sexy & Scary Ass . . . Carrots?

It’s only Wednesday in another wild & wooly week.  I’m still harvesting & chopping & figuring things out, hort-wise.  The community garden has been without water for the last ten days, with no notice from the City, I shall add, and before our first killing freeze, I will also add, so I’m done there, ready or not.  I pulled all the tomato vines yesterday and now I have green tomatoes everywhere, kitchen, back porch, dining room, most small but full of potential.  I made salsa, again, knowing those days are drawing to a close as well, and I still need to dig up a few tender plants, like that lime geranium out back, and do a few more “fall things” (which is kind of a joke because I have never done fall cleanup, but now I have to, at least at the community garden). 

By November I figure I can begin to plan my rest and relaxation for the long, cold winter, taking my usual several month sojourn to secluded tropical island paradise, with of course, a trip back to Colorado for the New Year, hot chocolate by the fireplace, hot tub evenings under the starry, crisp sky, and, of course, plenty of skiing.  (Yes, that is another joke, although maybe someone in our family will go skiing, once or twice.)

In the meantime, I thought I’d amuse you with a couple of pictures of carrots, one that came yesterday from writer/gardener/homesteader Pat Cook-Gulya (Scary Ass Carrot) and the other from my garden (Sexy Legs Carrot).  It is strange how gardeners think alike. “I have a picture of a weird carrot!” “Me, too!” 

What a Cutie! Or, I thought so . . .

Halloween is a comin’ so I figured it apropos.

I also had my own picture of a carrot with five “legs,” sort of like a less-endowed orange octopus, weird as heck, but Pat’s carrot creeped me out–it was sooooo much better.  I do not have a clue what causes these mutations . . .

Pat Cook-Gulya's S. A. Carrot (quite obviously a victim of carotenoid crystal formation)

* * *

Okay, I’ve been thinking about it all day so I went ahead and looked it up.  Here is some information:

Mutation of a Chitinase-Like Gene Causes Ectopic Deposition of Lignin, Aberrant Cell Shapes, and Overproduction of Ethylene

Ruiqin Zhonga, Stanley J. Kaysb, Betty P. Schroederb and Zheng-Hua Ye1,a

a Department of Botany, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602
b Department of Horticulture, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602

And, the Abstract:

“Chitinase-like proteins have long been proposed to play roles in normal plant growth and development, but no mutations in chitinase-like genes have been obtained previously to support this hypothesis. In this study, we have shown that the gene responsible for the elp1 mutation in Arabidopsis encodes a chitinase-like protein (AtCTL1). Mutation of this chitinase-like gene caused ectopic deposition of lignin and aberrant shapes of cells with incomplete cell walls in the pith of inflorescence stems. The AtCTL1 gene was expressed in all organs during normal plant growth and development, but it was not induced by wounding, salicylic acid, pectin fragments, or ethylene. Consistent with its ubiquitous expression pattern, mutation of the AtCTL1 gene affected many aspects of plant growth and development, including exaggerated hook curvature, reduced length and increased diameter of hypocotyls in dark-grown seedlings, and reduced root length and increased number of root hairs in light-grown seedlings. The mutant phenotypes could be rescued partially by ethylene inhibitors, and ethylene production in the mutant was significantly greater than in the wild type. Together, these results suggest that AtCTL1, a chitinase-like gene, is essential for normal plant growth and development in Arabidopsis.”

That certainly cleared things up for me; after I read it four or five times.

Then, of course, I had to look up Arabidopsis.  Found this tidbit in Wikipedia:

“By the beginning of 1900s, Arabidopsis thaliana had begun to be used in some developmental studies. The first collection of its mutants was made around 1945. However, Arabidopsis thaliana was designated as a model organism only in 1998. It is now widely used for studying plant sciences, including genetics, evolution, population genetics and plant develpment.  It plays the role for agricultural sciences that mice and fruit flies (Drosophilia) play in animal biology.” 

How interesting! By the way, Arabidopsis is a member of the Family Brassicaceae. Carrots are members of the Family Apiaceae (or Umbelliferae).

Do you feel smarter now in biology? I certainly do!  

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