Had RIPE been around when I first moved here in 2000, it would have saved me a whole bunch of silly trials and embarrassing errors. And the grub would have been better, too.
For years I shoved tomato plants into the hardpan of my backyard, kicked up a little dust to cover the roots, and watched in astonishment as they up and died — that is, if they bothered to up at all. Same with eggplant, beans, cucumbers, and on and on.
Combine this with my imprudent habit of fixating on a plant –MUST HAVE IT — regardless of climate requirements or where on earth I had to send my hard-earned dollars to get it, and you can guess just how disappointing and expensive my gardening attempts turned out to be. (Let’s not even talk about my rainforest phase).
As a gardener, up in the hills of Altadena, I was both avid and ignorant – a dangerous combination. I didn’t know any gardeners in the area; my immediate neighbors were certainly nice, but growing things didn’t appear to be a priority. That left me to my own devices, and I became the product of self education and a bad teacher.
This story has a happy ending. I joined RIPE (COFEA, originally) about two years ago. Thanks to members’ advice, contributions (vegetable and powdery mineral), and examples, my backyard has three raised beds crowded, laden with all the bounty that would never grow before. And though I will still read about and then fixate on a particular plant, usually it’s something edible that can be found outside of Tasmania.
The Tale of the Egyptian Walking Onion is the perfect metaphor for the change this group has brought to my gardening life, and why I now feel part of a community of generous, like-minded but smarter, spirits.
Recently a member posted a request for Egyptian Walking Onions on our community site. Great name, right? According to Wiki, It has this unique walking-growth habit that “makes it a favorite with kids.” Worked on this big kid – MUST HAVE IT.
I tried all the local nurseries, but not one carried the plant (“Egyptian Working Onion? No, but we have Spanish onions.”) A couple of online sources had some available next month, and they advised to reserve it now. Just after punching in the first four numbers of my credit card, I stopped. Had I learned nothing in these two years? Why not throw a couple of $20’s on the compost pile while I’m at it.
I brought up our community site and put out a “Me, too.” Three members responded within a couple of hours (even one who was vacationing in Argentina), and within 8 hours I had the plant in my hot little hand (thanks, Ellen).
Not only that, suddenly the community site lit up with requests for, and promises of, Egyptian Walking Onions. A smelly little star is born.
That’s it really, except to say I always have something to contribute to the RIPE crop-swaps or to give away mid- swap. And that’s because, these days I get straw for the raised beds from Gloria and Steve, organic seeds from Christina, seedlings from some members, and advice from all.
RIPE member Karin Bugge is a freelance writer and regularly blogs at altadenahiker.blogspot.com.