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Indoor Kitchen Gardening by Elizabeth Millard

Indoor Kitchen Gardening by Elizabeth Millard

Indoor Kitchen Gardening by Elizabeth Millard

When I first started reading Elizabeth Millard’s new book, Indoor Kitchen Gardening: Turn Your Home Into a Year-Round Vegetable Garden, ($24.99) I had some idea about growing herbs and sprouts indoors during the winter, but I wasn’t so sure about tomatoes.

For that reason I dashed right past all the basic information about getting started to the back of the book, past microgreens and herbs, past the potatoes! and straight to  tomatoes. Millard acknowledges that growing tomatoes, which we all know love sun and warmth, indoors is a challenge, but she shows that it can be done. The first trick is to choose cherry tomatoes or other small tomato varieties. The second trick is to prepare yourself to imitate a bee ready to pollinate your tomatoes. This is a great project and would have a super payoff when you serve family or friends a salad in February and say, ” Aren’t these tomatoes good? I grew them myself.”

Having satisfied myself that I am not ready to grow tomatoes this year, I went back and read the book from the beginning. It is always wise to learn about basics first. I didn’t mean to scare you off with tales of tomato – and potato – harvests in the house, because Millard gives great advice for those more familiar indoor crops. Sprouts and microgreens and herbs are simpler ways to begin gardening indoors because those crops give you a lot of nutrition in tiny packages, and flavor. I liked the list of possible sprouts beyond mung bean and alfalfa. Broccoli, fenugreek, dill, daikon radish  and kale. Growing pea shoots, sunflower and corn shoots would put you right up there in the high echelons of foodies.

Millard’s style is chatty and she shares her own experiences and preferences. She also includes  troubleshooting tips in each section so you can diagnose droopiness, discoloring, and mold. The photographs are clear, appealing and instructive. Millard’s own garden and CSA farm, Bossy Acres, is in Minnesota.

The New York Times interviewed Millard and the Chicago Tribune named this one of the best garden books of 2014. Many of us are looking for local food, and it doesn’t get any more local than the kitchen counter. The book is available at bookstores, and at Amazon.com  where there is also a kindle edition for $11.99. This is a useful book for a novice gardener, but also for an experienced gardener who is ready to branch out in new direction.

Cultivating Garden Style by Rochelle Greayer and Other Gifts

 

Cultivating Garden Style by Rochelle Greayer

Cultivating Garden Style by Rochelle Greayer

It’s a truism that every garden is different. Gardeners don’t begin by asking “how can I make my garden unique” they begin by looking for ways to bring their passions and preferences into the garden. This search will include choosing plants and planning pathways, but it will also include finding chairs and a table for conviviality, a birdbath for attracting the birds, possibly even a protecting summerhouse. In her new book, Cultivating Garden Style: Inspired ideas and practical advice to unleash your garden personality ($35. Timber Press), Rochelle Greayer provides inspiring ideas and information about different garden designs and accessories.

Nearly encyclopedic this is not a book that requires beginning at page one and marching on to page 304. The bright illustrations inspired me to browse through the book first, trying to find myself within a category or two. Is my garden Cottage Au Courant with its controlled chaos? Possibly. But what about Sacred Meadow? I am surrounded by meadows. Definitely not Wabi Sabi Industrial, but still, I do long to be able to recycle odd and rusty junk into useful and beautiful garden details.

Greayer herself does not worry about purity of style. Though she lives in eastern Massachusetts now, she was born in Colorado, and describes her garden as “Handsome Prairie, with healthy dashes of Sacred Meadow, ForestTemple, and Homegrown Rock’n’Roll thrown in.” Clearly unique gardens are not created by locking yourself into a theme, even if it is your own.

Cultivating Garden Style - Wabi Sabi Industrial

Cultivating Garden Style – Wabi Sabi Industrial

The various themes are beautifully photographed and provide that initial inspiration, but the sections on Learning, Doing, Growing give you practical information about how to achieve the garden in your mind. These sections cross over the various themes. You will need advice about deck essentials, buying plants, choosing a tree, understanding and using microclimates, making paths, or creating visual illusions no matter what kind of garden you are creating. She also provides directions for a number of DIY projects like making planter sconces, oilcloth placemats, a fountain, and lighting fixtures.

Pith & Vigor garden newspaper

Pith & Vigor garden newspaper

Greayer’s prose style is chatty and informative. She loves talking to gardeners, learning from them and teaching them. For years she has written a garden blog, www.studiogblog.com which is currently taking a new form but remains a pleasure to read. She is also the editor of a new quarterly garden newspaper, Pith&Vigor, of which I am a charter subscriber. The first issue includes an interview with Ken Marten and his directions for making an exquisite terrarium, how to make a mushroom garden, a bouquet gathered on the Massachusetts coast in mid-September, an autumnal container arrangement and an article on how to grow giant pumpkins – and compete! Lots more in this issue and to come. Subscribe for $32 a year, for a paper and online subscription by ordering at www.pithandvigor.com. A subscription to Pith&Vigor would make a great gift for gardeners on your list.

There are other subscriptions that will feed a gardener’s interests in more specific ways. Recently I was given a subscription to the quarterly Heirloom Gardener, published by Rare Seeds Publishing, an arm of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. The lushly illustrated current issue contains articles about poisonous plants, indoor gardening with herbs and bulb forcing, crops and seeds of the Incas, and rare fruits. And more. $15 for one year (four issues). Call 417-924-8917 or order online at heirloomgardener.com.

For many years I have been a member of the American Horticultural Society. One of the perks of membership is the bi-monthly magazine The American Gardener with regular articles about plants from ornamentals to poison ivy. Did I know there was anything good to say about poison ivy? No. But it seems it seems that it has the “potential for use in a variety of commercial applications, including an environmentally smart replacement for the petrochemicals used to make paints and industrial coatings.” There are also interviews with fascinating gardeners, book reviews, news about AHS programs  – and more. You can join online. The basic membership at $35 will get you The American Gardener, free or discounted entry into many gardens and arboreta and plant shows around the country as well as the member seed exchange.

I am also a member of the New England Wildflower Society where a year’s membership at the $55 level gives me free access to the famous Garden in the Woods in Framingham, and a discount at Nasami Farm in Whately where the NEWFS propagates many thousands of native plants. I am a regular shopper at Nasami Farm. There are many workshops available at a discount. Membership will also give you a subscription to their newly overhauled magazine, reciprocal admission to 270 public gardens, and borrowing privileges at their 4500 volume library. You can join online at www.newenglandwild.org You don’t even need to be a member of NEWFS to read their blog about native plants, or use their great Go Botany database to help you identify plants. All this is yours for free.

Gardeners are always learning; and a gift of books or memberships in a horticultural society are good ways to keep feeding their hunger for new information, and new pleasure.  Happy shopping.

Between the Rows   December 6, 2013

Timber Press and Rochelle Greayer are helping me celebrate 7 years of blogging here at the commonweeder.com. You still have another day to leave a comment here by midnight Saturday, December 13, and have a chance to win a copy of Cultivating Garden Style AND a copy of my own book The Roses at the End of the Road. I will announce the winner on Sunday, December 14.

Blogoversary – and Cultivating Garden Style by Rochelle Greayer

Cultivating Garden Style by Rochelle Greayer

Cultivating Garden Style by Rochelle Greayer

My first blog post went up on December 6, 2007, which means I have seven happy years to celebrate on this blogoversary. In that first post I wondered whether 67 was too old to begin blogging. I  guess I didn’t need to worry. I don’t have statistics until 2010, but since then I have written 1582 posts and received over 6000 comments. I don’t feel a day older and there are many new ideas and plants, and gardeners out in the world to meet and learn from. And many wonderful books.  In that first post I mentioned Eleanor Perenyi’s book Green Thoughts and I have written about many more garden books since then.

On this Seventh Blogoversary Timber Press and I are giving away a copy of Rochelle Greayer’s new book Cultivating Garden Style: Inspired ideas and practical advice to unleash your garden personality. This bright and cheerful book contains hundreds of ideas for creating a beautiful and personal garden. Browse through the wonderfully illustrated page and consider – is your garden Wabi Sabi Industrial? Hollywood Frou Frou? or a Pretty Potager?  Do you long for a Forest Temple? A Sacred Meadow? Or are you Organic Modern?  Of course, as you browse you might think you cannot pigeonhole yourself like that, and why should you. Rochelle herself describes her garden as being influenced by her childhood in Colorado but she’s a little bit Rock ‘n’ Roll as well as Handsome Prairie.

We all deserve to let our best selves shine, but sometimes we need information about how to make that happen. What do you know about decking or outdoor fabrics? Rochelle has answers and ideas.

Roses at the End of the Road

Roses at the End of the Road

I will also be giving away a copy of my own book, The Roses at the End of the Road, with charming illustrations by my husband. I do give some basic information about growing roses, but when people ask me what my secret of success is I always say it is choosing the right rose. I don’t fuss with my roses or use any poisons. I was a beekeeper and I treasure all the pollinators who come into the garden. I do talk about neighbors, the history of roses, and my own adventures among the roses. I had no long held desire for a rose garden until I planted the Passionate Nymph’s Thigh rose and thus began my own love affair. There is no explaining passion.

To win both of these books all you have to do is leave a comment here by Midnight on December 13 here I will draw a winner at random on Sunday, December 14. Once I have the winner’s address, I will send the books right out.12-2 me illustration

You’ve got to love a man who thinks you look like this. And I do!

 

 

 

 

The Roses at the End of the Road – on Sale

The Roses at the End of the Road

The Roses at the End of the Road

The Roses at the End of the Road is a collection of essays written about our life at the End of the Road. We found our way to Heath in 1979 and located a tumbledown farmhouse at the end of a town road. My husband checked that fact many times. What people think is our driveway is nearly a quarter mile of town road, plowed and maintained by the town. After the big snowstorm in 1982 when the town plow, and the town bucket loader broke down trying to remove the drifted snow off the road so that we could leave the hill, we planted a snowbreak. I figure we and the town are about even on this one. No more broken machinery. Other adventures include tales of neighbors, our daughter’s wedding, the night lightning struck – and what we learned about roses and gardens during our two years in Beijing.

I began the commonweeder blog in December seven years ago. Now, during the month of December I sell The Roses at the End of the Road for only $12 with free shipping. for full ordering information click here. If you can’t wait to read the book it is also available as a Kindle version on Amazon.com for $3.95. This is a great gift for rose lovers, and those who enjoy tales of living in a small town.

Windowsill Art and Gardens in Detail – Book Reviews

Windowsill Art

Windowsill Art

Many of us are very reluctant to put together a flower arrangement. We see photos of complicated bouquets accompanied by complicated descriptions of color and texture and know we could never aspire to making such a thing. In her book Windowsill Art: Creating one-of-a-kind natural arrangements to celebrate the seasons (St. Lynn’s Press $18.95) Nancy Ross Hugo, shows us a way to make arrangements that are beautiful in their simplicity.

I am a person who is known for looking at the big picture. For me the delight of Windowsill Art is the way it encourages me to look at the details, of a flower or twig or leaf.

Hugo knows about plants, big and small. She is the education manager for the LewisGinterBotanical Garden in Virginia and has written four other books including the magnificent Seeing Trees with photographer Robert Llewellyn. In Windowsill Art she explains that she has great fun making windowsill arrangements because there is no anxiety. She also considers making these regular arrangements a kind of spiritual practice that prompts her to notice the changes that every day brings to the natural world.

This little book with its glowing photographs is divided into four sections beginning with Getting Started that will push aside all worries about finding plants or containers or even windowsills. In the next section she goes on to Explore the Process, and then on to Experimenting with Styles and Technique. The final section is a photographic record of windowsill arrangements through the seasons of the year.

Sometimes an arrangement goes solo, a single vase filled with the plants of the season. Sometimes she shows the power of massing when she puts an assortment of related flowers in un-matched containers.

Throughout all this it is clear that there is no plant or part of a plant that Hugo does not find stunning. Vegetables, herbs, weeds, and shrubs find their way into her arrangements in addition to familiar flowers. She even finds drama in the arching branch of dead leaves.

I think this is the value of all her teaching. She knows how to entice us into new ways of looking at the common things around us. And if we learn to see the elegance of a cabbage leaf while we wash dishes, it will not take long before we see the beauty of many other everyday details.

Hugo says, “ . . . although I had been meaning to create something ‘pretty’ every day, it is seldom the beauty or design success of an arrangement that moves me . . . it’s the way they capture the seasons.”

This beautiful little book is the kind of book that would even please a non-gardener. Any walk outside might result in a bit of grass or leaf or flower, all you need to make Art.

Gardens in Detail

Gardens in Detail

Gardens in Detail: 100 Contemporary Designs by Emma Reuss (Monacelli Press $45.) is also about details, but it is the big details of landscape design: repetition, pattern, geometry, symmetry and proportion. Those are big details and Reuss takes us to 100 contemporary gardens around the world to show how they can play out to very different effect.

My garden is not contemporary in the sense that a landscape designer would use that term, and yet any successful elements I have achieved can also be credited to repetition – of my gingko trees in the Lawn Beds – and rhythm – of the curving Rose Walk.

Water features abound in this book. Many years ago I was reading one of Beverley Nichols charming books about his garden where he insisted that ornamental water was essential in any garden. Since I could not imagine how I could get water into my garden I dismissed his dictate. However, more and more gardeners have found ways to put water in their gardens, reflecting pools, fountains, and ponds. Water in the garden is not a contemporary idea

This is the point I want to make. Although you might think that this book would be of limited use on our suburban plots, there is something to learn and adapt from almost every detail described in this book. For example, many kinds of path grace these gardens. In one formal garden the path is closely clipped and edged grass; one path through a meadow is a boardwalk; one is cement pavers arranged in an idiosyncratic pattern; a brick path ends and segues into ‘ sympathetically colored gravel of the dining area.’

One of the techniques I liked, in opposition to severely clipped hedges, is the ‘staggered hedge’ which is made up of several different shrubs. This is a softer, and less work intensive, way to create a boundary. The shrubs would be different depending on your climate.

For each garden the defining details are listed, photographed and an explanation is given for how it works within the design of the whole garden. The instruction is brief but dense as elements reappear throughout the book in a number of different ways. Five hundred photographs make the principles very clear.

Reuss is British, a member of the Royal Horticultural Society and lives in London, but the ideas in this book range from the formal to the more ecologically concerned, as well as from the Arizona desert to Tokyo, Japan.

Reuss stresses that the “key to successful garden design is to be true to the character of both the site and the house – the genius loci . . . and environmental conditions.” That is where we all must start.

Between the Rows   September 27, 2014

Coffee for Roses by C.L. Fornari

Coffee for Roses

Coffee for Roses

Coffee for Roses by C.L. Fornari is subtitled . . . and 70 Other Misleading Myths About Backyard Gardening (St. Lynn’s Press $17.95.) Fornari covers a lot of ground in this book that gives more than it promises. I had to laugh when I opened the book to the first myth,“A perennial garden is less work than an annual planting because the plants come up every year.” That was a myth that I believed in when I planted my first perennial. I soon found there was more to do than wait for the plants to come up every spring.

Then, when I had been tending a few passalong perennials for a couple of years I was stunned one summer day when I was reading Janet Gillespie’s delightful book, The Joy of a Small Garden, and she began writing about moving her perennials from one place to another. Surely not! Surely once you plant a perennial that’s where it will grow forever and ever. Dividing and moving? I hadn’t counted on that!

That brings us to myth # 3 “Passalong plants from neighbors or plant sales are a good way to plant a perennial garden.” Actually I think passalong plants are a good way to start a garden, but these plants are easy to give because they are what some might politely call strong growers, or aggressive growers or sometimes, thugs. I personally will never grow plume poppy again. Beyond thugishness Fornari points out some invasive plants might come with the passalong, because the owner thought it was pretty, and goutweed is very pretty, or because a bit of root or seed came along in the soil. Great troubles may await you.

We had plant swaps in Heath for a few years, but they stopped because in three or four years all of us had the same strong growers and no one needed any more. We were all busy digging out exploded clumps, and weeding plants that self seeded throughout the perennial bed.

Some myths grow out of a poor sex education. A female does not need a male holly (see Myth #36) in close proximity to grow – only to make the desirable red berries. Some biology principles cross species: women don’t need a man in close proximity to grow either, and hens don’t need roosters to lay eggs, only to fertilize the eggs and make chicks. I was talking to an acquaintance the other day and she was worried about whether her husband’s carefully tended tomato plant would produce fruit this year. I asked if it had any flowers yet. The question stunned her and I had to point out that fruits and vegetables begin with a flower, beans and peas and squash and tomatoes all produce flowers. Apples and peaches, too.

I was  surprised to learn all the different ways that flowers seduce pollinators into their service. Perfume, of course, but color? Vibrators? Landing strips? Mother Nature certainly is creative.

And while we are talking about sex and reproduction Myth #21 explains why you can plant pumpkins and squash in your garden and not end up with “squmpkins.” It is true that pumpkins and squash  can cross pollinate but that means that if you are a seed saver you cannot use the seed from those cross pollinated squash and pumpkins because you don’t know what you will get. Fornari gives you lots of information about the birds, bees and plants that you may not have considered before, but which may save you some blushes in the future.

Fornari not only explains why some myths are untrue, she gives additional related information. When she explains that spiked shoes (Myth #57) don’t aerate lawns, she goes further and explains the various ways you can maintain a healthy lawn as well as dangers like overwatering.

We all get our information about gardening in numerous ways. Experienced gardening friends are usually a font of good information and advice. But many friends are not all that experienced, though they are willing to repeat a tip they “heard somewhere.”

I get a lot of information from books, but even when books tell you something that is true, they might not tell you all the ramifications and consequences that follow. For example many years ago I read, somewhere, that tansy would keep away bugs. You could put it in your hat, or put it by your door, and then not be bothered by bugs. You would even reap a benefit if you planted it with your roses. I don’t recall the promised benefit; it has been erased from my memory by the terrible consequence – a field full of tansy that also infested my raspberry patch and vegetable garden. I am constantly waging battle with this invasive plant. It may be true that tansy keeps away bugs, but I cannot warn people enough about the dangers of tansy which spreads by roots and by seed. It is pretty, but it is dangerous.

Fornari gives you complete information when exploding a myth. She has been gardening for many years at Poison Ivy Acres on Cape Cod, written six books including Your Garden Shouldn’t Make You Crazy, hosts a two hour GardenLine call-in radio show, and won awards for excellence from the Garden Writers Association. You can find her wit and wisdom on her new blog www.coffeeforroses.com. No bum information anywhere. ###

We Have a Winner for Hellstrip Gardening

We have a winner!  A copy of Hellstrip Gardening: Create a paradise between the sidewalk and the curb by Evelyn J. Hadden will be sent to Rose of Rose’s Prairie Garden. Congratulations, Rose!

Chasing the Rose to Heaven in Your Own Garden

Chasing the Rose

Chasing the Rose

Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the Venetian Countryside (Knopf 26.95) is Andrea di Robilant’s quest for the name of a rose that grew on his family’s former estate near Venice. His journey took him from the wild overgrown park on the estate that had left his family decades before, to Eleanora Garlant and her rose garden, the largest in Italy with 1500 roses, as well as tales of his great-great-great-great grandmother Lucia with her love and knowledge of roses, the Empress Josephine and the histories of many individual roses.

For centuries people have considered the Rose a romantic flower, inspiring poets, artists and rose hunters who dared the treacherous and distant mountains of faraway China. Di Robilant’s researches are a romantic quest in themselves, and while his explorations and discoveries are fascinating to a rose gardener and lover, there is an enchantment in his travels, captured by Nina Fuga’s simple and graceful watercolor illustrations.

When I planted my first old fashioned roses I chose Madame Hardy, Comtesse de Murinais, Konegin von Danemark and Madame Plantier and other lady roses who were famous enough or loved enough to have a rose named in their honor. When I walked past these roses early in the dewy morning I imagined us all primping and preparing for the day together. My reaction to the roses is very similar to di Robilant’s in Signora Galant’s garden. “When I saw the ‘Empress Josephine’ spread out against Eleanora’s corner pergola, I inevitably conjured up the real Josephine. And so it was with the other roses arrayed around it. I was no longer simply walking along a path looking at the roses on display, I had stepped into a crowded, lively room filled with roses that were looking at me.”

Although di Robilant sometimes writes of the gardens of the wealthy, it is the stamina and resilience of these old roses that fascinate him, and me. I was moved by the amazing story of Pierina, a teacher who married a civil engineer and followed her husband to Irkutsk in Siberia where he was overseeing the building of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. There she continued to teach school, and wrote about conditions for labor organizations. She survived the Russian Revolution and many other trials until at age 74 she walked to Vladivostok, and from there made her way home – and continued to teach!  Stamina and resilience. Signora Galant named one of her new hybrids Pierina.

Heaven is a Garden

Heaven is a Garden

While Chasing the Rose is the tale of a quest, Jan Johnsen’s book Heaven is a Garden: Designing Serene Outdoor Spaces for Inspiration and Reflection (St. Lynn’s Press 17.95) shows us how to make our garden a place to return to time and again, a refuge of cool tranquility.

Johnsen is a noted landscape designer who has worked around the world, teaches at ColumbiaUniversity and the New YorkBotanical Garden. She brings us her varied experiences with the cultures of the world and ancient principles of design to illustrate ways we can organize our garden and landscape space to be comfortable, beautiful and meaningful.

Although we don’t often think in mathematical terms when we are in our gardens Johnsen reminds us of the importance of proportion and the Golden Mean. Even a rectangle can lack harmony and therefore be unsettling or uncomfortable. The golden ratio, “a universal constant,” used by artists and architects requires that the long-side of the rectangle be approximately two-thirds longer than the shorter side.

Other geometry in the garden includes graceful circles and ovals. She reminds us “that designers should enhance our fondness for circular gatherings by creating protected, circular spaces for conversation . . . that are not cut by paths or movement.”

One chapter is given over to the magic of water. Every year I come to an ever greater appreciation of the power of water in the garden. Johnsen shows us cascades, musical streams, and fountains including a mist fountain. But even a bowl of still water has power. I remember an exhibit at what was then the Arts Council on Franklin Street. One element was a peaceful corner that contained nothing but a large pottery bowl of water on a slightly raised platform and a bench. When classes of teenagers came with their teachers I was amazed to see how many of them sat quietly in meditation before that bowl for as long as they were permitted.

Fortunate are those who have large stone outcroppings. Many years ago an acquaintance asked me what to do with the stone ledge that rose out of his lawn. I suggested some plants that I thought would thrive in its crevices or at its borders. My ideas were dismissed, and he went looking for large delivery of soil. I saw this as a missed opportunity and Johnsen illustrates what loveliness could have been created.

Heaven is a Garden contains beautiful photographs illustrating the elements of water and stone, of trees and flowers, of soothing green and brightly colored garden corners.

Most of us will not be able to install grass steps or arrange for standing stones, but Johnsen shows us how we can all create an unhurried garden where we can lose track of time.

On the hot summer days that await us, we can find adventure as we read Chasing the Rose in the shade, or we can re-evaluate our plantings on leisurely strolls and consider ways to discover that Heaven is a Garden in our own garden. ###

Between the Rows   June 28, 2014

Don’t forget, you have until July 6 at midnight to leave a comment here and a chance to win Hellstrip Gardening by Evelyn J. Hadden

 

Local Hellstrip-Curbside Garden Teaches a Lesson

Hellstrip Gardening

Hellstrip Gardening

I have been reading Evelyn Hadden’s book Hellstrip Gardening: Create a paradise between the sidewalk and  the curb, with all its beautiful photographs of  the different ways a curbside garden can be created.  Hadden includes gardens from across the country from Oregon and California to Minnesota and New York. Different climates and different inspirations.  I was very happy that she also included Rain Gardens as one of her themes because many urban areas have a great problem with rain runoff. In these days some rains have become amazingly heavy, stressing storm sewer systems that then flood waste water sewers. It is ever more important that we all work to keep rainfall  where it falls. We can make sure we have many permeable surfaces – and raingardens. I know in Cambridge, Massachusetts where my son lives, there are rules about how much square footage in a house lot must be permeable. You cannot build or cover more.

While Heath is a rural town and I live where there is not a single sidewalk, there are local towns that have sidewalks and some of them even have hellstrips, an area between the street and the sidewalk. However, I have a friend with an absolutely fabulous curbside garden.

Curbside garden

Curbside garden

This photo gives an idea of how this curbside garden works in the streetscape.

Curbside garden

Curbside garden

With heucheras, hostas and creeping phlox in this area there is a  wonderful arrangement of foliage color and texture.

curbside garden

Curbside garden

A great use is made of everygreens which can supply a surprising range of color.

 

curbside garden

Curbside garden

Small trees, shrubs, ground cover – and flowers! This curbside garden has everything!  And something for every season.

If you would like to win a copy of Evelyn Hadden’s book, Hellstrip Gardening, leave a comment here before midnight July 6.

20-30 Something Garden Guide by Dee Nash

20-30 Something Garden Guide

20-30 Something Garden Guide by Dee Nash

When did you start gardening?

I was 25 and we had moved into our first house on Maple Street in Canton, Connecticut. It was a big old Victorian with a large front yard shaded by the maples that marched up and down both sides of the street. It had almost no backyard, just an 8 foot wide cement patio between the house and a steep weedy bank.

My first plantings were marigolds planted on either side of the back door. Bit by bit I turned the bank into what I called a rock garden. No real rock garden aficionado would have recognized it as such. The function of my rocks was to help hold the soil and some very common plants in place. The only plant I specifically remember was basket of gold, Aurenia saxatilis, (perhaps because it was the most successful) but I certainly knew nothing about Latin names or plant taxonomy at the time. I was lucky; basket of gold is perfectly suited for sites that bake in the sun and have well drained soil

Seven years later my first, very small, vegetable garden was between the side of my house on Grinnell Street and the driveway. Lettuce, peas and beans were my first crops. Thanks to the gift of a load of compost from a new friend, the garden did very well.

I mention my own experience because Dee Nash’s new book, the 20-30 Something Garden Guide (St. Lynn’s Press $17.95) takes me back to those blissful and excited days when I knew nothing, but plunged ahead anyway. Nash understands that a young adult’s first forays into gardening are often constrained by full time jobs and caring for young children. She successfully introduces novice gardeners into the basics of gardening with encouragement and some of the latest garden knowledge and techniques.

The 20-30 Something Garden Guide is divided into three main sections that first take the gardener into a container garden, and all the basic information about potting soil, garden soil, fertilizers, watering, and bugs. Let it be known that Nash’s own garden is organic. In addition to providing herself with healthy food and beautiful flowers, she is determined to do her part in supporting the natural world with its pollinators and other bugs, good and bad.

She also takes the gardener into the second and third years of gardening, as knowledge and experience grow. Learning to be a gardener is no different from learning math – you learn to count, then add, then multiply. Knowledge and interest build on each other and pretty soon you are learning the difference between open pollinated plants or hybrids or GMOs. We may start out thinking utilitarian thoughts about fresh food, but soon, we are appreciating the beauty of our vegetable plants and thinking about making the vegetable garden prettier. With Nash as our guide our perspective of the values of the garden are always shifting and enlarging.

Of course, even when you are concentrating on vegetables, herbs, and those flowers that attract vital pollinators to your garden, it is inevitable that you will want to add ornamentals and look for ways to design a garden with paths, flowers, and a place to rest. “Here’s where we look at creative ways to enhance your garden so it becomes the place where everyone wants to spend time  . . . having fun with garden art . . . And we mustn’t forget about making places for just sitting and doing nothing at all.”

For those energetic moments she includes good instructions for DIY projects like building raised bed frames or laying a stone path. Her recipe for manure tea requires little energy, but if you have access to manure this is a great way to fertilize the garden.

Gardening in Heath as I do with no smartphone service I am amazed by a Nash tip. How many seeds or plants to buy? “With the help of Siri on my iphone, I keep notes throughout the garden season. This info syncs with my laptop and makes my job easier in January when I am tempted to order too much, too soon.” The young adults of today have so many new ways of keeping records and reminders and getting information!

On the other hand she encourages those without experience, land, or smartphones to start small and begin. I was pleased she devotes a chapter to the joys and benefits of a community gardening.

Nash is an engaging writer, with a conversational style. She is an excellent coach, like the one she urges every new gardener, of any age, to find in the first pages of her book. We all look for information and advice in different places. I began with a subscription to Organic Gardening magazine. It was my bible. Nash’s book will serve well as a bible for today’s new gardener. The book includes a good index, and list of online resources from seed companies that have signed the Safe Seed Pledge, to plant and equipment suppliers and conservation organizations.

If you want more advice from Dee Nash you can visit her at her informative and inspiring blog www.reddirtramblings.com and http://20-30somethinggardenguide.com where you’ll also be able to link to the Dear Friend and Gardener virtual garden club where a whole variety of gardener/bloggers (including me) will be writing about their vegetable garden adventures this year.