Archives

FoodScaping

20170519_103515

Foodscaping is becoming more of a “thing”–at least I hope that it is. I was probably a very early adopter, not because I am so very clever or such a trend setter, but because the best sun in my yard happened to also be where I was growing some wildlife plants. But I started foodscaping back in 1995.

This is my tiny vegetable garden.  Along with the lettuces, there are 2 kinds of parsley,  dill, lemon balm, chives, sage and lemon thyme.  For flowers, I have the bidens I posted about last week,  violets and alyssum. Still to come are marigolds, tomatoes and pole beans.

Still,  I do not foodscape nearly to the extent–or with the same gorgeous results–as Brie Arthur, author of The Foodscape Revolution: Finding a Better Way to Make Space for Food and Beauty in Your Garden.  When I tell you that the book is published by St. Lynn’s Press,  you will know that it’s going to have that same comprehensive blend of chapters  that not only tell the reader why a foodscape garden is a good idea, but also how to grow all sorts of vegetables  (along with a chart for “hardscape” plants–perennials,  trees and shrubs–for different regions of the country  in case you are creating the garden from scratch and not just tucking edibles in among existing ornamentals).

Of course there are some of the author’s favorite recipes, and methods of preserving your harvest once your plants are ready. One of the sections I found most helpful,  particularly if someone is a newer gardener, is the pages about how to know when to harvest your vegetables.

Arthur shows some projects she has planted that are absolutely lovely as well. And she even has a section on edibles in containers,  if perhaps you are gardening on a balcony or don’t have a bit of land for planting.

What was most noticeable to me is how different her edibles are from mine. While I will occasionally grow corn, if I am going to take up that much space in my garden,  I usually devote it to non-edibles for wildlife.  I suppose I could split the difference and grow something like Aronia, for example.

She also doesn’t talk a lot about herbs, although she does grow them. Her containers have them and her plantings feature them and she does mention basil a few times. For me, herbs are probably 50% of what I grow,  and I always grow more than what I need so that some can flower for the pollinators.

I don’t find this a weakness in the book; I just find it interesting.  As I always say,  if we all liked the same thing,  we would have a very boring world!

As usual,  St. Lynn’s kindly provided this review copy to me but all opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Advertisements

Wordless Wednesday–The Monarch

Kylee Baumle’s The Monarch: Saving Our Most-Beloved Butterfly (kindly provided by St Lynn’s Press for review,  although of course the opinion expressed herein is my own) has a bit of something for most readers. There’s a naturalist component,  a good deal of gardening,  and even some crafts and recipes thrown in.

Incidentally,  for those of you who might wonder why I am always raving about how wonderful the books from St. Lynn’s Press are, this is one of the reasons.  They are just so interesting!  While other books might focus on merely gardening for butterflies,  or perhaps the life cycle of the monarchs and its migration journey,  not Ms. Baumle’s. We  get it all.

We also get the best varieties of milkweed to grow,  an extremely well-done discussion about why one particular annual milkweed is not really recommended, and a moving story about a tagged butterfly that she found.

She even gives a shout out to the various citizen science projects you can join (including the Million Pollinator Project that I have just finished  posting about).

In short,  for all things monarch, this book is excellent.  It’s highly comprehensive and yet really readable at the same time. It’s a wonderful addition to my library!

Support Pollinator Friendly Businesses

Readers and shoppers, this one is for you! This is free rein to go out and support those businesses that engage in pollinator friendly practices.

Now, how does one measure that? As with everything, one has to be sure that there isn’t “green-washing” going on. If a retailer is selling plants, or seeds, make sure they are appropriate for your area.

You remember I talked about knowing how to read a plant tag and knowing what was “perennial” back in March when I was discussing plant shopping. Just because a plant is labeled “perennial” at a large national retailer, it does not mean that it will necessarily be “perennial” for your area.

So one way to avoid those issues is to definitely shop local. Another way is to look for plants that are locally grown. Many of the plants will have their place of origin–or a grower–listed on them. At least at some of my garden centers, some of the plants will say “Connecticut grown” right on them. Even some of the national retailers sell some of these.

But “Connecticut” (or where ever) grown does not indicate that the plants are pesticide free, of course, and if you want a pollinator garden, that’s what you should hope for. Many retailers have started phasing out the neonicotinoids, which are believed to be harmful to bees, but they still may use other pesticides.

You will see some seeds now labeled as “organic” but it’s still rare to see a plant labeled as organic, even plants that we regularly buy for our vegetable gardens. I wonder what it’s going to take to get to that?

And of course, these smaller retailers often have a selection of gardening books. So even if you don’t want to necessarily go out and garden, you can often find interesting books on their shelves. You can perhaps help support the cause in that manner by buying a book–or two. As an avid reader myself, I know that I rarely buy just one (sort of like the old Lays potato chip commercial–no one can eat just one?)

So it’s just about plant shopping time in my area. This year, when you’re out shopping, please consider those garden centers and retailers that engage in pollinator friendly practices. I am not going to tell you what they are–but if you get there and don’t see a lot of local plants, native plants, or any organic plants, then I think I might find a different place to shop!

So What Is A Gardener To Do In Winter?

I spoke to a newly retired friend recently and she was lamenting the lack of structure in her life–and the fact that her retirement fell at the end of the gardening season so that now she had to get through the entire winter before she could garden again.

I am quite sympathetic to this plight since most of my periods of unemployment have also fallen in the winter (and to be honest, the one that did come in the summer wasn’t truly enjoyable enough that I could just sit back and enjoy it–who enjoys unemployment if it is not of one’s own making?)

So for all of us gardeners who find ourselves with extra hours in the cold and the dark this winter (or any winter) I thought I might offer some suggestions. I offer many of these same suggestions at the end of my “Putting the Garden to Bed for Winter” lecture because I suspect that garden club folks might need a little help getting through winter–as do I!

One of my suggestions is to count birds for Project FeederWatch–but that doesn’t work if you’re not into birds of course. If you are, it’s a great “citizen science project” and a great way to give back to the online science community. More information about that project can be found here. And it’s not too late to sign up for this winter.

There are many online volunteer science conservation and observation projects that you can participate in over the winter. I had my backyard certified as a habitat one winter through the National Wildlife Federation.  Not only is that fun (and you’ll probably come out feeling better about your “yard,” however it’s defined. It can even be a balcony) but you’ll learn a lot too. And you can find out what you need to do to make your yard better as well. More information is here.

If online isn’t your thing, late winter and early spring are the time when lots of plant societies are putting on symposia and flower shows. Any group that I have ever belonged to was always looking for help in that area with their various shows and symposiums and day long series of talks. A little “Googling” around ought to help you find out plenty of places to volunteer in person depending on where you live–or stop in at a local garden center. They might be able to direct you. And if not, you can still soak up some warmth and maybe come home with a new plant or two to tide you over.

Finally, there are lots of books, blogs, podcasts and the like that are always putting out the latest and greatest ways to grow things. All of the early issues of the “horticultural” magazines will have the latest and greatest new plants that are coming onto the market. The plant societies have already introduced their new varieties for 2017–some old and some new. Maybe this is the year you decide to re-vamp a garden (or several) with some new–or tried and true varieties. Winter is for dreaming–spring is for planting.

And before we all know it, it will be time to get back out into the garden!

 

 

Another Great Book For Holiday Giving

20161128_153655

I don’t know about you, but I love the idea of foraging. But of course, I only love the idea if I can safely identify the plants I am foraging for–and then I need to know what to do with them. Not everything can be tossed willy-nilly into a salad (or should be. Some things are far tastier prepared in other ways).

Well, of course my favorite publisher, St. Lynn’s Press, has come up with the perfect solution! I was delighted to discover The Scout’s Guide to Wild Edibles  by Mike Krebill in my mail on Monday. I  immediately sat down–before my coat was even off–and began paging through it. It’s that good.

First of all, it’s a perfect size. You can easily take it outside with you on a hike or a longer camping trip without feeling that you’re lugging a heavy field guide.

Next, although it is compact, it manages to pack a lot into its small size. There are photos of the plants, not drawings, which is important to avoid misidentification. And there are photos of several stages of plant growth, so that you know what to choose.

When a plant like poke weed, which can be toxic in some stages, is suggested, not only are numerous photos of the right stages of the plant shown, but other hints for avoiding the wrong stages are given, such as avoiding leaves with any purplish color in them, and changing the cooking water at least twice.

And, once you have found the plants, there are some wonderful sounding recipes listed, including one for a garden weed quiche he called GAZP, microwave purslane pickles, dandelion donuts–you get the idea. There are some very creative ideas here.

Both common and botanical names are given for the plants, there are numerous appendices of plant parts, for types of cooking and preserving, of phone apps and other foraging references–this is a complete book in a compact package!

Krebill’s background is equally impressive. He has been a science teacher, run a nature center, and of course been involved in scouting.

This really is a complete book. I am totally impressed.

 

A Voice of Reason

Thanksgiving for those of us in the United States will occur in 3 days. Perhaps our Canadian neighbors have gotten it correct in holding it earlier, in October. For one thing, we here in the United States would have more time between holidays.  And we might be able to take a bit of a breather as well after our hectic election seasons, no matter who we all supported.

20161008_092408

So forgive me if I turn my thoughts to garden books that might make great gift books for the holidays. Once that I have read recently is Jan Coppola Bills Late Bloomer: How to Garden with Comfort, Ease and Simplicity in the Second Half of Life.

The book is a gem published by St. Lynn’s Press. I am so partial to their books–I have not come across a bad title yet. And while I will tell you that St. Lynn’s kindly provided me with a review copy of this particular book, I have purchased several of their books on my own and loved them all equally as well. I encourage you to check them out. Their web site can be found here.

While this book, dedicated ostensibly to gardeners who might be considered more mature (hence the subtitle “in the second half of life”), quite honestly I found much practical wisdom in the book for gardeners of any age seeking low maintenance, beautiful and sustainable gardens.

Bills is upfront about the fact that she is an organic gardener and won’t use chemical pesticides or herbicides–so you know that right there I am going to love this book! She also advocates many sustainable practices such as using fall leaves to enrich the soil, using water on the property wisely, (and as our droughts seem to rotate around in different parts of the country, I think all of us can get better at water use!) and perhaps most interestingly, intensive planting to crowd out weeds.

This is something that I have been attempting in my gardens for years. She tells several stories about how she was called to potential clients gardens to thin out the overcrowded mess, only to find examples of beautifully planted gardens. She tells of one garden where the garden was flourishing and lushly planted and the only places where she saw weeds were in a spot where some overgrown hostas had been removed. She pointed out to the homeowner that by removing the plant material, she had left space for the weeds to grow, and suggested dividing some of the other hostas to quickly fill in those spaces so there would be no more room for the weeds. It’s a great lesson, and not one that only “mature” gardeners need to hear!

The other thing that Bills talks about is tools that every gardener needs but she doesn’t necessarily talk about ergonomic tools for the older gardener. Because she is still a working gardener, she clearly doesn’t need these. Someone picking up this book may be looking for suggestions on tools for working with arthritic hands or backs. Those are not here. But that is the only shortcoming, if you can call it that.

I definitely recommend this book for lots of examples of gardening smarter, not harder. And don’t necessarily be put off by the title. There is much wisdom here for gardeners of all ages.

Gardening for Cocktails and So Much More

CHG cover

C. L. Fornari’s The Cocktail Hour Garden : Creating Evening Landscapes for Relaxation and Entertaining by St. Lynn’s Press is more than just a book about creating landscaping for happy hours  (although true gardeners might say that all landscaping is made with “happy” hours in mind because the garden is a happy place!)

St. Lynn’s Press kindly provided this book for my review,  but of course  my opinion is my own.

Fornari would agree that her book was written not just as a “how to ” for creating spaces for entertainment.  Indeed,  there are chapters about bringing fragrance into the garden,  about attracting butterflies and about planting for the birds and about bringing the four elements of earth, air,  water and sky (specifically the sunset vista) into the garden.

In addition to the chapter on the four elements,  there is a whole chapter on Sunset : After-Twilight Plants and Lightning.  In this chapter,  Fornari discusses plants with white and silver foliage,  garden lighting and the moon garden.

A note here. Every chapter has a plant list. I am not sure if this is becoming a new trend but I am seeing it more often in gardening books. It makes great sense. I much prefer this format to the few chapters of introduction and then an encyclopedia of plants!

Fornari’s other chapters include Fragrance,  Illumination,  The Green Hour Vegetable Garden and Herbs, Flowers and Other Beverage Ingredients.

While the theme of cocktails is maintained throughout,  the many lovely photographs of herbs planters, for example, and perennial borders, are inspiring for all gardeners.

Fornari consistently asks about plants, “what do they bring to the party?”  She also suggests that we, as gardeners, ask ourselves to take a break every day –whether it be for cocktails,  coffee,  or just a quiet moment when we untether from our technology –and that we create a space in our gardens where we can enjoy being there and with nature.

For inspiration,  The Cocktail Hour Garden is just what we need. There are even garden inspired cocktail recipes using what you grow.  It doesn’t get any better than that.