Make your own free website on Tripod.com
Hey, there, Vince.

I've finished writing the Winter column. The only thing outstanding is permission from cornell university to use their black walnut article (see table outline towards middle of column.) 

Please, review contents and let me know about any editing needed. Thanks.   See below for write-up.

Do you still need how-to articles for Christmas gourds?

Kasin.

TTGV - Winter 2003

Oh, my goodness!  Is it Autumn already?!   Wonderful stories of leaves turning colors of reds and oranges, chilly mornings, gardens starting their winter slumbers have graced my email box and sprinkled through the message boards.  Before we know it, Christmas and holiday celebrations will be upon us with their wreaths and candles and cheery songs.  But before we welcome  the end of the year, let's offer our final salutations to late  summer and make sure our passing into Fall will be a good one.  

Late Summer Watering
    Depending on the rains to keep your garden heat resistant in warmer climates may be a mistake.  The rains may be too erratic to count on.  Using a soil probe will be your best friend in keeping your late summer plants from getting too thirsty.  And also remember the "M" word.  Mulch, mulch, mulch. 

    For cooler climates, you want to tone down your watering frequencies and amounts.  Listen to what you garden is telling you.  If the leaves haven't dropped already, they are probably turning for Fall.  Growth is slowing.  Sap is dropping.  One thing you don't want to do is overload the roots with water that needs to rise up the trunk when the seasonal focus is descending sap.   Gourds are water loving plants, but even they can get too much of a good thing.

Weeds -- still!  
    With the late summer rains, weeds can grow six feet tall in undisturbed areas.  Hopefully, your garden isn't one of these!  Grin.  Now, with the ground softened by late summer rains, your weeds will be easier to pull up and out, by the root!  Make sure you address them thoroughly because they have one main thing on their "minds" - seeds.  If you're not into yanking, try hoeing. Young weeds shiver at the thought of being hoed down under hot sun.  Either way, let's avoid weed propagation by applying some current, sweat equity as an investment into our nearly weed-free garden for next year.  Weed seed is not what we need. 

Is it time to harvest my gourds?
   
We've touched on this before, but it's well worth the effort to do a little repeating.   Gourds are long growing, 150 - 165 days average.  Maturation is achieved when the gourd has taken in all the nutrition from the vine sap, which means it dries  without withering.  The gourd can only take in sap nutrition when the vine is green and the juices are flowing.   When you see the stem turning brown, good news!  The gourd is soon ready to be harvested.  Measure the brown stem.  If it's four to six inches of brown, you can safely harvest the gourd.  If the gourd has matured  properly, a gourd with a brown stem of four to six inches will not wither as it's drying.   
   
    How does a gourd dry?  Gourds have pores running inside to outside, somewhat similar to an egg.  Escaping water will follow those pores from the inside to settle on the outside surface and eventually evaporate into the surrounding atmosphere.  Mold can form on the outside of a drying gourd, which if you think of it, is perfectly normal . . . but not perfectly healthy for you!  Never dry gourds inside.  Some people are very allergic to gourd mold - it can even contribute to asthma.  So better safe than sorry.   It won't hurt the gourd to leave the mold in place through out the drying time, but if you don't like the mold and want a smoother finish, take a bleach rag and wipe off the mold at regular intervals. 

    How long does it take for a gourd to dry?  It varies on how much moisture in the gourd and in the surrounding air.  It depends on how thick the gourd skin is, and how much air circulation you have around the gourd. 

    How much moisture is in the gourd?  Gourds are typically 90 percent water.  Wow!  As you can imagine, it will take several months for a gourd to lose that much water.  There is a way to hasten the drying process.  Within the last few years, it's been termed  green pealing.  That is, you take a straight bladed knife (not serrated) and scrape off the thin, pale green outer gourd skin.  Wash once in ¹bleach water, then set aside. 

    How thick is the gourd skin? That varies with each gourd.  Knowing this does little to help you predict when the gourd will dry anyway. Just know that it's a factor and keep your drying methods well done so you'll have plenty of gourds to craft next Spring or so. 
      
    What kind of air circulation to I need around the gourds?  The more air, the better.  Some people like to set their gourds up outside on pallets or on wooden racks.  Some folks sling  wire or plastic hammocks under porch or ramada rafters and lay out the gourds up there.  It all works equally well when you have the head room.  My suggestions are:
  1. pick gourds with 4 -6 inches of brown stem
  2. keep as much air around the drying gourds as you can - try to not stack up drying gourds so they are touching
  3. keep the gourds up away from pets, kids, and critters that would like to munch or damage them
  4. wipe off mold with bleach water if you want
  5. turn them regularly - once a month is fine
    What is stem-down drying?  When folks use racks to dry their gourds, they sometimes turn the gourds upside-down, letting the sap drip from the cut stems.  Some say this helps really large gourds dry faster and better . . . and they've had success with this drying technique.  There has been some reports that this method removes sap from the gourd too quickly, and it ends up with sunken sides.  My suggestion is try it once or twice on a couple gourds  of similar size and weight that you can spare and see it how it works for you in your environment.

    Can I dry on concrete?
  It's not suggested that you dry gourds on concrete.  Concrete is porous and can absorb water, keeping your gourd too moist.  Yes, even the hardshelled gourds can rot.  Remember, keep as much air as possible around your drying gourds.

    Can I leave my gourds in the field?  Sure.  Large gourd farms leave their gourds in their fields rather than face the near impossible task of picking them all up!  And the majority dry just fine.  Know that leaving a gourd in the open fields or garden may render your seeds nonviable.

Speaking of seeds . . . 

Saving Seeds.
    Some of you are curious about that wonderful gourd you purchased at the local fair.  Can you save the seeds?  Sure.  Will they grow?  Maybe.  Like any relationship worth getting into, you're going to know some of the history of the other individual.  What is the history of the gourd?  Was it planted far enough apart from other gourd strains to assure genetic purity?  Did it comes from a line of great looking gourds, or was this one a fluke?  Was the gourd harvested too early, so many of the seeds didn't mature?  Was the gourd allowed to freeze, rendering most if not all of the seeds nonviable?  What kind of relationship and investment of time and resources are you getting into with this kind of seed harvesting?  When you can answer these questions, you will have a better gourd growing garden in the near future. 

    If you want to save your own gourd seeds, congratulations!  You're upholding a long-held tradition.  Just remember, the seeds are only as good as the gourd they came from; the gourds are only as good as the seeds they came from.   Basically, this is  true.  Lesson learned.
Quick Questions


Is it a conspiracy
?   Kat wants to know.
    Kat has a question . . .  she wants to know why her gourd vines are only producing male flowers. Not a single female. Sounds like a conspiracy! 

 
   No,  Kat, it's not a conspiracy.  Gourd vines naturally produce male flowers first on the vine, then females.  (Refer to Through the Gourdvine, Volume Three,  Kasin's Korner  for details on identifying male an female gourd flowers.)  [Vince, a link to your order desk would be good to refer to here.]  What you're seeing is a natural growth pattern for hardshell gourds.  Once the females begin, the males continue so pollination can occur.

You may want to take advantage of the early males.  Gathering their pollen which can be stored for later use is possible.  With a soft bristled brush, scoop up as much of the pollen as possible and shake it into a plastic baggy.  After harvesting as much pollen as you can,  insert the brush into the bag (which will be pollen covered), and use a rubberband to securely tie off the opening of the bag.   The idea is to keep the pollen cool but not wet.  So keep the bag securely closed and in the refrigerator until your shyer females start to grace the garden.  When they do,  take your pollen bag to the garden, and with the pollen-laden brush, gently stroke over the females.  Full instructions for hand-pollenating can also be found in Through the Gourdvine, Volume Three, Kasin's Korner.

*****

Harvest now?
Hello, Chris. Kasin Hunter, here.  You sent this question below:
From: Chris B
Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2003
To: editor@throughthegourdvine.com
Subject: quick question

Hi and Good morning,

I am a first time gourd grower. My vines are going crazy and the gourds
are beautiful. Now for the question: when should I harvest them? I'm
just not sure when the best time is, and I surely don't want them to begin
rotting! If you could also direct me to a site that can show me how to dry
them, that would be fantastic. Thanks and have a great day, Chris.
Good question, Chris.  Harvesting of gourds should not happen until four to six inches of the stem to the gourd has turned brown.  When brown, no more nutrients can get to the gourd.  If the stem is green, nutrients are still getting to the gourd; the gourd is still maturing.  

Another way to tell if a hardshell gourd is mature is the loss of the fine hairs over the outer area. Young gourds have a fine growth of very short hair which is lost closer to full maturation. However, this is not as good an indicator as a brown stem. A brown stem is still the best indicator of a mature gourd.

When maturation happens (when the stem is brown) depends on the gourd and the area where it is grown. Look for the brown stems, then have fun with your harvesting! And remember, the main reason a gourd rots is because it hadn't matured enough, no matter what time of the growing season it comes off the vine.

Kasin Hunter, columnist for Through the Gourdvine.

*****
Harvest Now? (2)
Begin forwarded message from camerdot4:

Can you tell me if I goofed by "pulling" the gourds from the vine before they were brown?  One (out of the 6) has a ruined sof t spot.    How can I dry these pulled on properly?  Your info will be very helpful.  (Still have quit a few on the vines, but these were IN OUR SATSUMA TREE!)  

Thanks

Hello,  camerdot4.

Yes, you goofed.  :)  Gourds need time to fully mature before they should be harvested.  Even though the fruit might look ready, the sure sign is the stem.  When 4 to 6 inches of the stem is brown, the stem is dry, and the gourd can be harvested.  Up until then, the vine is still providing nutrients to the gourd and the gourd is still maturing.  But don't get too upset about some of the gourds caving in.  Even mature gourds sometimes do this.  Just wasn't meant to be.

Normal harvest time for gourds is September to October, depending on when they were planted, kind of gourd you have, weather, etc.   Regardless, checking for the condition of the stem is the way to go. 

By the way, I completely understand about your SATSUMA tree.  Do you have an orange, tangerine . . .?  Great fruit, from what I've learned.

Happy gourding. 

Kasin Hunter, columnist for Through the Gourdvine.

*****
Harvest Now? (3)
hello (from bonnie),
 
i've got about 9 med. size "unknown" gourds, that i planted about 3 months ago - lost the seed packet, but they look like some kinda bottle type.
 
my ? is, when do i know when its time to harvest?  they seem to have stopped growing, half the vines are yucky (ants and aphid damage), but the gourds are green, heavy and healthy looking (6-10" tall).  we got a hold of a magazine with some articles written by you (issue #1-2) and i am so excited and inspired to grow a huge crop this spring.  but when time allows could you give me some harvesting tips?  wasn't able to find the info on the website.
 
i live in jamul (san diego county), past spring valley, el cajon, before tecate to give you a general local.  been here about 2 years, many clear sunny days and starry nights, love to garden and every year i try a novelty crop - thus, these questions.  yes, someday, i will cruise the farm in fallbrook.
 
thanks for your time and shared info,
 
-bonnie


Hello.  Kasin Hunter, here.  

Congrats!  Unknown mystery seeds are my favorites.

my ? is, when do i know when its time to harvest?  they seem to have stopped growing, half the vines are yucky (ants and aphid damage), but the gourds are green, heavy and healthy looking (6-10" tall).  we got a hold of a magazine with some articles written by you (issue #1-2) and i am so excited and inspired to grow a huge crop this spring.  but when time allows could you give me some harvesting tips?  wasn't able to find the info on the website.

First, I would suggest you get with Through the Gourdvine's publisher and procure the 3rd issue. It has great stuff in it to like fertilizers, companion planting,  and  nitrogen-fixing legumes which are really a great thing to do now with gourd season coming to an end --  if you want a really healthy ground for gourd season come Spring. His name is Vince and his email is  editor@throughthegourdvine.com.   But as far as giving you some tips right now.  Absolutely.  

You harvest when the stem is four to six inches of brown.  When it's brown, then you know the gourd is no longer receiving any nutrients from the vine.   The gourd is as mature as it can get.   Leave about four to six inches of stem on each gourd.  Set aside to dry on wood pallet or like (not concrete due to its porosity and interaction with water) and let dry for 6 to 12 months.  Some folks like to hang them upside-down so the water drains from the cut stems.  Just make sure that there is as much air all around the gourds as possible.  The process of drying involves the movement of water from inside the gourd to outside through the pores of the gourd skin.  What is left after 90 to 95 percent of the water has evaporated and the gourd has transmuted is the interior seeds/membranes and the woody outer shell.  

Of course, since there is water in the equation, there will be mold. Mold is okay.  Just don't breathe it in, which means DON'T ever dry gourds inside your living quarters.  Very bad for the lungs.   Some folks dry gourds out in the fields.  This is okay is you don't want to use the seeds again, as the seeds will freeze when left outside over winter.   Some say field-dried gourds clean better before crafting. But this has yet to be proven to my satisfaction.

i live in jamul (san diego county), past spring valley, el cajon, before tecate to give you a general local.  been here about 2 years, many clear sunny days and starry nights, love to garden and every year i try a novelty crop - thus, these questions.  yes, someday, i will cruise the farm in fallbrook.

thanks for your time and shared info,

-bonnie

Any place where you have 150 - 160 days of growing season, you can do gourds outside quite well.  Dig into the Through the Gourdvine magazine articles for batches of information, and if you have any more questions, feel free to write again.  I love chatting with other gourders.

Kasin Hunter.

*****

Mulch - the M word.
Hello, Kathy.  Good to hear from a reader again. I always enjoy these contacts.

To your question:


Larry&Kathy wrote:
Kasin, I found your article in the fall 2003 issue of "Through The Gourdvine" very informative but I have a question about mulch.   The local parks and recreation department has piles and piles of wood mulch from trees and branches that have fallen over the summer.    It's quite possible that walnut trees have been included in the mixture.  Is it safe to use this mixture in my gourd patch if it is aged for 6 to 7 months?   I like the idea of free mulch but not if the walnut toxins are going to harm my crop.  Thanks for your help.  Kathy

Good question, and one that has cropped up several times on my various gardening boards.  Here are some quotes and various information on walnut material used as mulch:

"The hulls from black walnut contain a chemical plant inhibitor (juglone) that can restrict the growth of some plants . . . Compost the hulls for about three months before using them as a mulch. Partial decomposition of the hulls will oxidize the juglone, making them safe to use on plants."


The juglone toxin is poisonous to some plants like tomatoes, potatoes, apples.  The damage Join the Organic Gardening Web Ring Go to the previous site in the ring Go to the next site in the ring Go to a random site in the ring List sites in the ring occurs in the root zone and can occur within 50 to 80 feet over the walnut's root zone, which of course gets larger as the tree grows.  Some trees, vines, etc. can tolerate Juglone, but why not find a safer location for them rather than take the chance?
*****
Allelopathy
  • Avoid walnut sawdust and mulch unless aged for at least one year
  • **   The walnut problem is not well substantiated by current research"



  • The following is from this web page: 
    Cornell University : Cornell Cooperative Extension
    Walnut and It's Toxicity Explored
    By, Tom Rood

    It seems everywhere we go, whether at Rochester's annual flower and garden GardenScape show, presenting one of our slide programs for daylilies, or just visiting with garden friends, the question always seems to come up "What can we do with our black walnut trees. Nothing seems to grow under them." Actually, one can do quite a bit. But it will take a little planning and perhaps a little experimenting as well. Depending upon a frame of mind, black walnuts can be either a blessing or a curse. I happen to love black walnuts and hesitate to remove them. We suggest to all to give them a even chance to show what beauty can be developed with just a little fore thought on what to plant under and near them.

    As with any tree, one must consider two important things. The first is how much shade the tree will provide. Many plants require full sun for several hours each day to grow well. There are some, like hosta for one example that require some shade. Look for plants that will thrive in the amount of light available at the location to be planted. Second, most trees have extensive root systems and any planting over them will be in competition for available soil nutrients and what little rain fall escapes the tree's canopy. The tree usually wins. However, persistence in supplemental watering and fertilizing can overcome some of the deficiencies of location.
    As for black walnut, and several similar nut bearing trees, they throw us a third curve ball. They can be toxic to many plants. The trees produce a chemical commonly called juglone. To grow plants under or even near black walnuts we must understand how juglone works.

    Our research produced several articles concerning walnut toxicity from juglone:
    UNDER THE BLACK WALNUT TREE by Frank Robinson Horticulture magazine October 1986. Mr. Robertson at that time was estate manager at Albemarle Farms, Charlottesville, VA. He is now executive director of the American Horticultural Society, Mt. Vernon, VA. Most sources quote his work, oftentimes without giving him credit.
    Michigan State University's web site for black walnuts (no longer available)
    The Green Thumb Garden Handbook by George (Doc) and Katy Abraham, 1971, Prentice-Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs. NJ., page 85.
    Ohio State University Extension's web site for Black Walnut Toxicity
    The Dawes Arboretum, Newark, OH web site. List of trees and shrubs not affected by Black Walnut Juglone Toxicity
    What appears below is an attempt at combining this research into a single meaningful one with reference to the source. The sources quoted do not always agree on the toxic effects of walnuts.
    "Many years ago a quinone called juglone was isolated from the husks of walnut. Juglone was found to be highly toxic when injected into alfalfa and tomato plants and has even killed apple trees growing near walnuts. Experiments have found that a toxic effect of walnut bark causes a growth failure of tomatoes and alfalfa within the root zone of walnuts. There are, however, some conditions under which these plants may grow near walnut trees without apparent damage. A scientific term used to describe one plant's suppression of another through the secretion of a chemical in the environment is Allelopathy."[Mich]
    "Juglone is a toxic substance, a napthaquinone that has been isolated in many plants in the walnut family. Some of these containing juglone are: Persian (English) Walnut- J. regia, Black Walnut- J. nigra, and Butternuts- J. cinerea,-J. sieboldiana, -J. mandshurica. There are some hickories which also yield juglone: Shag Bark- Carya ovata, Mockernut- C. alba, Pecans- C. olivae formis, and - Pterocarya caucasica." [Mich] Abraham adds C. Illinoensis.
    "Wilting caused by contact with walnut roots occurs in a relatively short time, even when there is ample soil moisture. Wilting may occur on only a part of the plant, or the whole plant may be affected. It is wise to detect this early, as plants in the early stages may recover when additional water is applied. Later wilting becomes more severe, there is a browning of the leaves and wilting usually results in the death of the plant. The observed toxic effect of Walnut can also be partly offset by liberal supplies of nitrogen." [Mich]
    "This toxic affect on surrounding plants appears to be related to root contact, as walnut hulls and leaves used as mulch have not shown toxic effects on plant growth. [Warning- Robertson disagrees.] Because Walnut roots do not occupy the surface layers in most soil, many shallow rooted plants growing under walnut trees don't come in contact with the roots and are not affected by them." [Mich]
    You've probably always heard that you should never add black walnut sawdust [or wood chips] to the compost pile because the juglone will kill everything that grows in the compost. Abrahams says that's not necessarily true; that juglone is not found in walnut saw dust or wood chips. Nor do dead walnut trees exude juglone. Juglone is harmless to humans so you can go right ahead and safely eat fruit and vegetables grown near walnuts. [Abraham]
    Robertson doesn't agree on the use of walnut residue in composting. He has this to say about black walnut saw dust, husks and leaves effecting plants. "Tomatoes growing in clean soil in pots were severely stunted when leaves and nuts fell into the pots while we were on vacation. I know what juglone can do. I have seen a 15-year-old rhododendron killed a few weeks after its owner mulched it with black-walnut husks, and roses injured by an application of compost containing black-walnut sawdust." [Robinson]
    "The juglone toxin occurs in the leaves, bark, and wood of the walnut but these contain lower concentrations than the roots. Juglone is poorly soluble in water and does not move very far in the soil. Walnut leaves can be composted because the toxin breaks down when exposed to air, water and bacteria. The toxic effect can be degraded in two to four weeks. In soil, breakdown may take up to two months. Black walnut leaves may be composted separately, and the finished compost tested for toxicity by planting tomato seedlings in it. Sawdust mulch, fresh sawdust or chips from street trees prunings are not suggested for plants sensitive to juglone, such as blueberry. However, composting of bark for a minimum of six months provides a safe mulch even for plants sensitive to juglone" [Ohio]
    To be on the safe side, composted material containing juglone should be allowed to breakdown over a period of time before use. This composted material can be used with plants that are not susceptible to juglone damage. If it is important to use it for general composting purposes, testing it first with a few tomato plants for a few weeks should reveal its level of toxicity.
    "Juglone is a strong toxin that may prevent plants from fully utilizing energy so that the plants cannot meet the minimum energy level required for life. Juglone is released from walnuts in several ways: leaves falling and decaying; nut husks; root leakage and decay, and rain-drip from the crown. [Abraham]
    "Tomatoes and alfalfa have been grown normally close to young trees. This suggests that either the toxic substance may not be formed yet in the young trees or that the roots of the young trees are few and do not come into contact with those of the plants beneath it."[Mich] This is an important observation. It may mean that susceptible shallow rooting plants might survive the killing effects of juglone as long as the plant roots do not contact or grow close to walnut roots. However planting susceptible plants under walnuts in raised beds for example makes them vulnerable to rain-drip off the tree leaves and from falling leaves and nuts. "Tomatoes are particularly susceptible to the chemical juglone. Any tomatoes planted within the root zone of a black walnut (or closely related trees such as butternut- Juglans cinerea) will display what is known as walnut wilt. The woody stem tissue turns brown, and the plants soon wilt and die." [Robinson]
    "Many plants such as tomato, potato, blackberry, blueberry, azalea, mountain laurel, rhododendron, red pine, and apple may be injured or killed within one to two months of growth within the root zone of these trees. The toxic zone from a mature tree occurs on average in a 50 to 60 foot radius from the trunk, but can be up to 80 feet. The area affected extends outward each year as the tree enlarges. Young trees two to eight feet high can have a root diameter twice the height of the tree, with susceptible plants dead within the root zone and dying at the margins." [Ohio]
    "Plant roots can encounter juglone when grown within one-half to one-fourth inch of walnut roots. Many walnut roots can be found at a distance of up to two times the crown [drip] radius from the trunk, but some may extend out as far as three to four times the crown [drip] radius."[Abraham] Three to four times is not an exaggeration and should be taken into account before planting susceptible plants.
    "Evidence also indicates that the toxic effect does not remain in the soil more than about one year after removal of a walnut tree." [Mich] This means that we should wait at least one full year after removing a walnut or related tree before planting susceptible plants near the tree's location.

    "
     Under the article, there is a list of plants that can be planted where a black walnut used to be - a sign of compatibility.


    Taking all of the above into consideration, I'd not recommend using this fiber as mulch.  With so many other mulches available, why risk your crop?  There are various organizations that supply mulch for the garden.  Look in the phone book or contact your local Extension office for leads.  These organizations are sometimes connected with your local dumps and recycling centers.  They take in clippings from the community, chip it and mulch in mountains of materials.  You back up your truck and hall it home for a small fee.

    If you'd like to read more, here is the search I generated:
    http://web.ask.com/web?q=Is+walnut+tree+mulch+safe+to+use%3F&o=0&qsrc=0&askbutton.x=0&askbutton.y=0
    Copy the entire line into your web browser. 

    Thanks for the contact.  Best wishes in your planting.

    Kasin Hunter, Columnist for TTGV.








    Feng Shui in the Gourd Garden
        Right up front, you have to understand that my ear will be the first one to pick up when it comes to listening about things outside of  the mainstream -- that is, anything that's not mainstream USA, or Western, as it's been refereed to.  I believe that we live in an energy soup, even though we tend to believe that the physical essence is "it".  I do my morning yoga facing east to greet the new day.  I even have a real,  copper, meditation pyramid in my backyard.  How bizarre is that!  However, one of my mottos:   prove it to me eventually, or lose me.  So I began my search for scientific proof of feng shui's beneficial use in the garden. 

        To most Americans, the words "Feng Shui" are nothing if not somewhat familiar.  We've heard of it, but probably can't give a lot of details about it.  After participating in various feng shui and Chinese Astrology  message boards on the Net, feng shui is still a mystery to me. 

        In fact there are as many kinds of feng shui as there are chickens in the coop, and each one, be they 6,000 years old or 3 years old,  has its own set of supporters and naysayers.  Each one has been debated as to which is the most "authentic".  There are several "masters" for each kind, and each of those - their right to the roots of their feng shui style and right to the master-head -  is debated as well.  "My teacher's better than your teacher."  Neener, neener, neener . . . 

        Feng shui  has been touted to be useful for increasing ones health, ones wealth, ones fertility, ones business contacts, and even ones relationships with family and lovers.   Are we looking at another snake oil here?  Feng shui principles are found mishmoshed in with color therapy, herbal remedies, flower essences, aromatherapy, ayurvedic lifestyles, radionics, reflexology, reiki, etc. etc.  But where's the proof that it really works?  Show me the money!

        Yikes!  Finding any scientifically proven facts about feng shui was nonexistent in the time I spent on the Web researching this ancient art.  What was available was page after page of numerical formulas, long trails of history to ancient masters, short trails to current money-making pursuits offered thickly about the WEB  for feng shui tools such as baguas, mirrors, compasses, dragons, coins, frogs, wind chimes, jewelry, bowls, foo dogs, etc. etc.   (And we're supposed to lessen the clutter our environment?)  There was also endless repetition of what feng shui principles are supposed to work for us and which ones don't, repetition after repetition. Just reading over 10 pages on the subject showed me that a lot of cutting and pasting has been going between web pages and web pages from books on the subject.  One page even went so far as to refer to feng shui as a science.  However, not once did I find a reliable scientifically based experiment or even a reference to a scientifically based experiment  that proved any of the feng shui principles.  Not one.  Much was spouted; nothing was proven.  In fact one page out of  my research from the UK stated in plain talk that the principles of feng shui have not yet been scientifically proven.   And many of the feng shui pages have disclaimers on the bottom of their pages basically stating they're not responsible for the results of their "facts",  suggestions and guidelines. 

        In one talk group, this was offered:  "There simply hasn't been enough formal "Western style" research into  Classical Feng Shui, nor enough reliable documentation of its effects, to
    know "scientifically" what "the Right Stuff" is.
    "  It was also stated that feng shui had to be on target or it wouldn't have lasted as long as it has.  Made me think of the 'earth is flat' idea . . .  

    So how much weight should we give to the principles and practice of feng shui?
         How much weight should we give to faith?  To superstition?  How much weight should we give to coincidences?  How much weight should we give to personal interpretation of events in our lives such as deja vu, inspirations out of the blue, dreams that offer answers, the warmth we feel from seeing a genuine smile?  Feng shui means wind and water.  Although feng shui deals in large measure with what we perceive as physical objects in our environment, it also deals with the energies in and around those objects. That energy has been labeled "chi", "ki", "qi" "life energy", etc.  We perceive a monolith ahead of us, but it's the unseen mechanics of the wind (aerodynamics - the study of gases in motion, like wind) that moves the flags by the path.  If the wind's path can be altered by the monolith structure, could we not then alter other energy by other physical presence?  My answer:  sure.  Looking at Vedic shapes in Hinduism for Yantra meditation, those practitioners  think so too.  Specifically, it may not be the shape of an object or drawing that generates energy, but it moves Macrocosmic energy around it.  And in walks the placement of objects in feng shui.

      tripura-sunddari  yantra-tara  yantra-kali  chinnamasta 


    Let's take feng shui on a walk around the garden.
        You may view feng shui as an art, as a superstition (³Pythagoras° be damned), results based on mathematical formulas, as a science - or even some combination of any of these.  You could be right because the "reality" of anything in life has to be filtered through our human perspective/belief system, time, and other continuing dynamics.  We haven't proven scientifically that feng shui works.  But that doesn't mean that doesn't work.  (Sorry. Double negative. )   It doesn't mean it works, either.  How can all this be written in stone?  Many of the resources I've studied stressed the importance of ancient dictates written in stone, if you will, in regards as to what works and what doesn't for energy flow (chi flow) in various settings.  And then there are the caveats and outright contradictions.  Such as, pastels work better in the bedroom, but that concept was extended to include intense reds -- hardly pastel.  Sleeping with one's head to the south was advised by one practitioner, but others have said "no way, jose"; always sleep with one's head to the north since it helps you sleep better.  Even though trees are supposed to be planted in the east and southeast of the yard, the caveat here was that trees could actually be planted anywhere if they are to be used a screen. Vedic or not to vedic?   The nice thing is that in practice you are not fixed to set-in-concrete rules about your garden.

        What it comes down to for me is read the guidelines, then do what feels right.   Do what works -- for you and your gourds and don't get hung up on all the trappings.. 

        Practicality.  What works in the garden will depend on what plants you have in what soil, what part of the country you're in, how much time you have to spend on your garden, what kind of flow you enjoy in your outer rooms, what colors and shapes you like to see or not in your garden space.  Victorian gazing balls, like any other spherical formation,  may absorb and give out energy equally, but if you just don't like the looks of big balls in your garden, what kind of energy will come out from you each time you have to look at it?  Buddha's may be great for energy flow in a garden, but what if whimsical fairies bring a smile to you instead?  In short help your garden achieve its beauty, and you will see that when it happens.   Study the suggestions, then do what works for you.

    What works?
         Having a garden is much like having a relationship with the earth. Our energy interacts with the garden even when we're not thinking about it.  We exhale.  Our breath leaves us and nourishes the leaves.  We inhale.  The oxygen from the leaves wash our lungs with life-giving air.  This is just one example of  how our energy interacts with the garden, the world around us.  With any relationship, there is a sensitivity that could be developed to increase communication between the partners.  You and your garden can be partners on a wonderful adventure. Open your sensitivity to its needs.  Here's some practice exercises to increase your awareness and love of your garden.

    1. Know that your garden has ups and downs, moods if you will, better yet - daily and seasonal changes.  This relates very well with the Chinese concept of time - that it's circular, not linear.  For daily change awareness, in the morning get up just before sunrise and before you saturate your senses with coffee or teas, slip on your favorite sweater and step outside to your garden.  Find a good place to sit or lie down where you won't be bitten or otherwise disturbed.  Sitting barefooted or laying down on your back nude is best.  Someway get your flesh in contact with the soil.  Look around.  What colors are coming to view at this time of the day?  Are the leaves drooping or erect?  What scents come to your nose?  Where does the wind caress your body?  Is the breeze coming from the East, the West?   Look at the new tendril growth on the gourds.  How do they twist - clockwise, counterclockwise?  Is the green deeper, richer in some parts of the plants than others?  Take a handful of soil. Is it cool, warm, damp, dry?  Do you feel life coming from it, or is it pretty much dead?  Is it crumbly, sandy,  rich with humus, clayish?  When the sun is up, see where the sun strikes your garden at this time of day, at this time of year.  Where do the shadows fall?  Are there any new weeds or other new plants sprouting that you didn't know were there?  
    2. Later in the day, visit your garden again.  Go through the same exercises.  What has changed?  What has stayed the same?  Are there different scents on the air?  Are there new animal or insect visitors? 
    3. Just before sundown, go out once more.  Conduct the same exercises.  Do you notice that the leaves, the flowers look different?  How?  Does the air feel lighter or heavier?
    4. These awareness exercises can be conducted not only on a daily basis (what a nice way to relax!), but also on a seasonal basis.  Your garden can reflect each turn of time as the seasons pass.  Get to know and enjoy them.  It's your garden talking to you, telling you what it needs, how well it is doing.  What a wonderful relationship you have!
       
        Now that you're in touch with your garden in a very intimate sense, let's look at some of the feng shui suggestions I've found in my sources. 

    pa-kua
    A Pa-kua (bagua)
    These can be used like a compass to activate properties on land or in home.



      

    rama


    Footnotes:
        ¹bleach water -  one gallon of tap water with a "glug" of bleach.  What's a glug?  Upturn your bleach bottle, then quickly right it.   If you feel a need to measure, 1/4 to 1/2 cup of bleach per gallon would be fine.  Personally, I just glug it. 
       
    "²Allelopathy  -  The inhibition of growth in one species of plants by chemicals produced by another species.
        ³Pythagoras thought he could explain all the mysteries of the universe through math.




    Mind Expansion
        Following is a list of videos, consultants, and text references for feng shui use in the garden spaces.  Read and view at your own risk/benefit.    Thought you might want to know.

    Vedic Symbols - Yantras
     
    -- 

    "Don't go barefootin' in a chicken yard."
    Main web sites: kasinhunter.com, gourds.biz
    Kasin Hunter Snail Mail -- 4865 N. Casas Serenas, Tucson, Arizona, 85705
    (Pay for ART FROM MY HEART merchandise with secure Paypal
    --https://secure.paypal.com/refer/pal=kasin%40flash.net) No Fees!