Take a walk one night this week past ten, if you can. It’s rare air out there, breezing around the brink of summer and fall. There’s a unique quiet on the side streets and trees lit with Chinese lanterns and colored lights. Plaster madonnas peer past their plexiglass cases. Discarded miniature rockers and outgrown baby bouncer toys wait to move again. The requisite construction debris, with once treasures in heaps, lines a few row houses parallel to mine. I usually like to look between the buildings to see the back of my house and view it as others passing by. Tonight I delighted in my neighbors’ individual lots in their varying stages of care and decay. It’s worth a walk on a weeknight, when the more diligent have turned down their beds, to catch a city sighing under sleepless moon and clouds outlined in inky blue.
And you? What do you see when you take a late night stroll?
Go ahead … gimme the dirt.
I am often out and about in the ‘wee’ hours. It is often a peaceful time, cooler than the day. Except for sanitation trucks and buses which can be horribly noisy, it’s quiet. Looking around at what will be crowded in a few hours, bus stops are empty. A few scattered people walk around- some staggering after what appears to be ‘one too many’. An occasional random door opens and someone steps out for a cigarette, sometimes close enough to nearly gag on the smell. When weather permits, a look around the sky may reveal a planet or two outshining everything else except for the moon.
Back on planet Earth, looking up and down the street you can tell where gardeners live. Flower pots may line the edge of stairways up to a porch and someone’s front door. There’s not a clue about who lives behind those dark windows, but whoever it is they take time out of their day to keep their plants watered. There are occasional trees growing next to the curb, some enclosed in short wrought iron fences, others a small brick circle or square. Someone here cared enough to protect a silent, still, but living thing. A few small garden plots behind street level fences are obviously being cared for. Foliage, various colors of flowers, and even a few stalks of corn- there’s an intelligence at work here. This is not something that came about by random chance.
In contrast, some yards are overgrown with weeds and in disarray. Are the occupants here too busy- do they even notice the colorful orderly yards surrounding them as they walk by?
The occupants of a few homes lacking any space to plant make due with small window boxes filled with flowers. Here lives a gardener. Despite their geographical disadvantages they went out of their way and brought a little extra joy into their lives.
I will probably never see or get to talk to any of these people, but on some small level I do know them. It’s amazing what you can learn about people from a handful of silent green plants.
I love that, Ralph. What great details. I was thinking about that last night, too … all the different ways of being a gardener. I’m rethinking what I wrote about feline/canine plants. I’m beginning to think it’s more about the gardener’s style and how that style determines the plants s/he surrounds him/herself with, as well as a survival of the fittest for those plants. Some don’t like too much attention, and won’t last long with a fussy gardener who might overwater them. That gardener may think the plants are no good, and not choose to raise that type of plant again. On the other hand, a gardener with less time to tend to the plants will find s/he has more of a green thumb with the more self-sufficient numbers and keep choosing to rear those particular ones.
Speaking of all this, I’m still trying to get a sense of the banana plants. They seemed to miss you almost immediately, limping a little after you left (no lie! It’s like they knew – plants are very smart creatures). I set them on the front porch to liven them up with some sun (but not too much sun), and they seemed to like that but we’re still feeling our way around. Any further advice is welcome!
I always kept the bananas on the west side of the house- not because of the direction but that’s where I had a place to keep them. They don’t seem to need much sun. When they get sun, brown patterns appear on the leaves and gradually get larger. When I had them there were rarely any brown areas except shortly after I put them in the sun. If they are getting much brown areas on the leaves now try giving them less sun. Mine are almost completely green. For the most part I kept them inside right behind a sliding glass door where they got a little direct afternoon sun, mostly indirect. I rotate the pots a little every day so all the leaves get some sun and it won’t start growing in only one direction. Almost always when the leaves would droop I had put them outside in the sun, or a couple times I didn’t water them enough. Except when I put them outside I rarely watered them enough to get water in the dishes, just enough to keep the soil moist. When in the sun I would water them until they were draining out the bottom. The leaves will drip water when the soil is moist enough. Often you can see drops on leave tips or on the floor under them. If you never see those drops try a little more water. I read they don’t like too much wind. If you can, try putting one inside and see which does better. I never left them outside over night so I am not sure how they will hold up on cooler nights.
It took me a while to figure them out too. Now I just look at the leaves, rotate the pot a bit, check the soil color to see how moist it is, and just seem to know how much water to put in. If all else fails take them inside, they seem to like it there. Hope that helps, let me know how they are doing.
Those scenes were actually from Park Slope at night, a few from 10th Street. Someone actually has a few large stalks of corn in their front yard! There’s something almost peaceful at night when the streets are empty, I like it. So far I haven’t had any Lycan encounters. I guess that silver coin in my pocket works.
At our meeting I recall cover crops came up briefly. Two podcasts I heard recently covered the topic.
http://www.TheSelfSufficientGardener.com episode 124
http://sshomestead.com/?p=355 episode 103 which also contains a link to a PDF on the subject. Episode 143 is about foraging
Thanks for the banana feedback, and the links. They’re doing okay as far as the brown spots go … they’re not non-existent but they’re few and far between. What I was noticing more was just some listlessness of the leaves. The leaves seemed bright and perky when you were there. Then, since you left, they’ve been a little droopy. I like your idea of splitting them up and moving them around, and seeing which does better. I was hesitant to do that because I didn’t know if they were having a little separation anxiety and were like siblings, wanting to be close to each other. It was my instinct to do that though anyway (separate them), so I will try it when I get back from Kansas City. As far as watering goes, I’ve been watering them until the water flows through the base, which does not take much. I have not seen the droplets on the leaves, though, so I’m not sure if they’re getting the right amount. My guess is it has more to do with a change in surroundings (that will just take a little time for them to adjust to), and finding the right place for them in this new setting. How have the other banana plant adoptees done? I think I recall you giving a clipping to a family member? Has it fared okay?
Btw, we’re here in KC now, with a friend watching over things back in Brooklyn, so I’ll do some rearranging when we get back tomorrow. One of the first things we noticed here was … what else? A banana plant! Proudly in front of a house near where we’re staying. It looked healthy and happy, and our host said she’s seen them here and there. Although banana plants aren’t the first thing you think of when you think of Brooklyn or Kansas City, I guess plants are more adaptable than we know.
Check out this post on NPR for what some farmers are doing in these hard economic times to diverse their crops, get a little pocket money, and adjust to changing times and populations…
Thanks for sharing your description of a night walk. It makes me miss the city/town environment. I live in a rural environment, so unless there’s a fairly full moon and a cloudless night, there’s not much to see. But day walking is pretty darn nice.
Your fearless friend,
I’ll have to ask my niece about the other ‘sibling’. It was a nice plant when I gave it to her. If I recall bananas don’t like their roots to stay too wet- you may want to cut back a bit on the water unless they are out in the hot sun. Mine are mostly inside and I don’t water them every day. You are probably right about them just needing a little time to adjust to their new surroundings. When I got the original plant it took a while before it started looking healthy again.
There is one more split I have to make soon and I think that may be all for a while. The tiny leaf at the base of the main plant is still there but hasn’t seemed to get any larger. That’s the first shoot I’ve seen grow from scratch so I don’t know how long it takes to develop. There’s so much to learn about plants.
Kansas City grows bananas outside? I wonder how cold it gets there that they can survive the winter. I’ll have to check out what their winters are like.
I am hoping to be able to split off a couple bamboo plants at the root next year. I read you shouldn’t upset the roots during the first year. I made 2 attempts to try to get a small cut ‘branch’ growing but it doesn’t look like that worked. Guess I’ll just have to wait.
So true: there’s so much to learn about plants. And so true: there’s so much to learn from plants. Have you ever read The Secret Teachings of Plants by Stephen Harrod Buhner? (Bear & Co 2004). It’s a good read on relying on our native, intuitive, senses to more fully utilize the gifts that plants have to give. It’s one of several books I have in circulation right now. Unfortunately, reading time is scarce and competes with gardening, dog-walking, blogging, working, living and all those other time-consumptive activities swirling in my life.
As for the bananers (as my good friend Dana Ruppert used to call them), they do seem to be doing better. One of them in particular likes a sun-dappled spot on my front porch and only occasional watering (I pulled back, ad you suggested, and it seems to have helped). I will try to attach a pic but don’t know if I can do it from here….
I’ll have to get a copy of the book. It seems once the plants find a place they like they do well. Rotate the pot a quarter turn or so once in a while so the back side gets some sun & light. There should be a slow but regular growing of new leaves out of the top of the plant. They start off looking almost like a brown string, then grow into a green tube, and finally unfurl into a leave. New leaves seem to get larger each time a new one grows. One leave on the original plant is about 15 inches long and is still unfurling- momma’s got a brand new leaf!