There are some things I never forget: Where each plant in my garden came from. Who unlocked the secret of successfully growing carrots for me (John Navazio, then a senior scientist at Organic Seed Alliance). Who shared the best strategy for keeping tomato diseases at bay (Tom Stearns, the founder of High Mowing Organic Seeds).
And who helped me understand the finer points of growing onions from seed: Don Tipping, the founder of Siskiyou Seeds, an organic, farm-based seed company in Oregon.
Mr. Tipping, who started the company in 1997, likewise recalls the provenance of each piece of tactical wisdom he inherited from others, offering a grateful nod to mentors along with his instruction. His onion teachings include insights from two well-known organic farmers, one from either coast, and aphorisms from older traditions.
“The best fertilizer is the gardener’s own shadow,” he said, repeating a Chinese proverb that isn’t onion-specific, but advises us to be observant. Rather than getting swept up in a flurry of chores, it counsels us to mindfully read the signals about what each particular crop needs.