Godless in the garden


Godless in the garden

Discussing all aspect of gardening.

Location: Planet Earth
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Comment by Plinius on October 5, 2012 at 1:07am

Of course there is terroir! You made me think of the red oranges that grow in Sicily on volcanic soil. The taste is unforgettable - and you cannot grow them anywhere else with the same result.

Comment by Daniel W on October 4, 2012 at 10:36pm

Annie, I know that other traits are affected by local conditions, so flavor would not surprise me.  I've moved a few plants from my late parents' yard in Illinois to my yard in Southwest Washington.  The shape and size of the plants, and the leaf color, is very different here.  Then moving some 30 miles to my new place, again significant changes.  For example, in Illinois, the Sempervivum were big, juicy leaf, medium green leafed plants.  Here, they are smaller, sage green.  At the new place, they have red tips to the leaves.  Also noting differences in leaf and stem color for peaches, plums, and some alliums.  So if the plant shape and appearance is different, maybe the flavor is too?

Comment by Annie Thomas on October 4, 2012 at 6:34pm

So glad you are enjoying the topic!  There is a wonderful book titled, "Terroir: The Role of Geology, Climate, and Culture in the Making of French Wine" bu James E. Wilson.  It's a large and rather expensive book, but I wonder if your local library would have it?  It is written by a geologist and the biggest complaint about the book is that it is so heavy in geology (which is one of the things I enjoy about it).

I remember watching the movie "French Kiss" many years ago.  I love the scene where the main character brings out a box he made as a school project that is filled with little vials of different scents.  One has lavender, another truffles, etc.  This was my first introduction to the concept, but also made me wonder what other plants retain something from the soil they are grown in.  Now, some believe there is really no such thing as "terroir", but I beg to differ.

Comment by Daniel W on October 4, 2012 at 6:19pm
Comment by Daniel W on October 4, 2012 at 6:15pm

Annie, that's wonderful information!  Thank you!  Terroir.  Learning something new.  It's so cool!  

Comment by Annie Thomas on October 4, 2012 at 6:07pm

Sentient- The "weird thing" you think about is not weird at all, but actually a whole study of agriculture.  "Terroir" is a term used to describe a specific area of soil and all of the characteristics of it.  It includes the climate, the topography, the native vegetation, minerals in the soil, and many other things that are escaping me at the moment. ;-)  I always interpret it as the flavor of the land.  It is most commonly used when discussing wine, the terroir of an area also affects coffee, tomatoes, and a growing list of plants (some are even using it to describe and differentiate cheeses).  It is a French word, but the concept of terroir is now believed to date back as far as 3000 BC Egypt, as they understood the importance of the interaction between the environment and the grape vine.  If you google "terroir" you will get plenty of information, in case you are interested in further reading.

I wholeheartedly agree that the local soil gives a certain flavor to some harvests.

Comment by Daniel W on October 4, 2012 at 5:53pm

Season in Spokane is too short for me!  I would have to build a greenhouse!


I love my raised beds.  For me, the 4 X 8 size is perfect - I can reach to the middle without stepping into the bed, and the 1 ft tall height lets me pull weeds and tend the surface easily.  Amazing what a little elevation can do.  Since the boards are sold as 8 ft long, I can cut exactly in half for the ends.  If they were sold 6ft long, I might make them 3 X 6 which would also be fine.  


All of my cultivation is with shovel, hoe, garden rake, trowel, hands.  That's a good reason to put in a lot of compost, loosens it up very well.  Also very easy in the raised bed, much better than at normal "ground level".  


A weird thing I think, or like to think, but have no evidence is real.  I like the idea of growing in the local soil, even if heavily amended and enriched, rather than in an entirely artificial medium.  It's becuase I want to believe the local soil gives the food a local flavor.  I read somewhere that in Italy, the grape vines can't be irrigated, which means the grape roots grow deep into the local subsoil, giving the wine a local flavor.  True?  Myth?   But I love to think my tomatoes, and chilis, and onions, and garlic, and figs, and....  have a "local" flavor.  Probably my imagination.


Love your comments too.  I feel like we are neighbors.

Comment by Joan Denoo on October 4, 2012 at 1:44pm

No, I probably have just been at it longer. Maybe. Also, like you, I look to research to verify "old farmers' tales". Does clover feed grass? yes! Does soil need to be treated in healthy ways? Absolutely! Other than that, I just experiment, observe, record, ask questions, read research and then do what seems to make the most sense.
Raised beds make excellent sense if you don't use power cultivators, although there are small ones available. I like to get my hands and shovel into the dirt.
Your strategy to plant clover or beans in new raised beds is a good one. Crown vetch works too, but is pesky because it sticks to everything. Turning it in the spring is a big chore and I don't do it any more. I used to. Now, I plant peas or beans and just trowel them in or compost them in the spring. Not at all physically demanding like turning earth. I am doing more no-till gardening and get excellent results. Companion planting is a given. 
I love your comments, suggestions and shared pleasures of a garden. We had heavy frost in my garden but the Spokane weather reports stated overnight lows of 34. My garden definitely got below 32 degrees. My water pipes are scheduled to be blown out tomorrow ... hopefully before they freeze and break. I usually have at least one pipe explode when we turn water back on. It is a pretty sight, but requires immediate repair. 

Comment by Daniel W on October 4, 2012 at 11:58am

Joan, I think you are a more sophisticated gardener than I am.  You have a lot to share.

I have been thinking about planting clover or beans in my new raised beds, to turn over in the spring before planting.  That would give a good dose of "green manure".  Not sure if I will do that this year.

Comment by Joan Denoo on October 4, 2012 at 11:35am

On rethinking my first year of growing in boxes using corn, if I were to build them now, I would use legumes because they pull nitrogen out of the air into the soil. 
Discovery in Legumes Could Reduce Fertilizer Use, Aid Environment

Legumes Give Nitrogen-Supplying Bacteria Special Access Pass

plants themselves allow bacteria in. Once inside the right cells, bacteria take nitrogen from the air and supply it to legumes in a form they can use, ammonia.


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