Tag Archives: Garden Rant

Great Ground Cover for Shady Spots

Gardening in the sun comes easy to me. In the shade? Not so much.

Organic gardening is easy.

Sunny days make organic gardening easy.

That’s why I was really glad to see Garden Rant publish a WONDERFUL article by Susan Harris, who is one of my favorite garden writers, that is packed with ideas for filling in the shady spots in your landscape, literally.

I have found some these plants, like Comfrey, on my own but, if I’m being honest, accidentally!

So, here, in one place, courtesy of Garden Rant, is a really solid list of plants to help fill in the blanks in the shady bits of your yard, garden, landscape.

Comfrey grows in shade and is good for your garden.

Comfrey feeds your soil and attracts pollinators.

BTW, Comfrey is a real find for any gardener. Nancy Bubel, author of The Seed Starter’s Handbook and my heroine of seed-saving fame, wrote a beautiful article about the joys and uses of comfrey way back in 1974 for Mother Earth News…and it is as information packed today as it was 42 years ago.

NOTE:  Mother Earth News posted this warning about the article that is important for you to read if you intend to use Comfrey for tea, as a vegetable or for your livestock:

This article was originally published as “Comfrey for the Homestead” in the May/June 1974 issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. At that time, comfrey had not yet been declared potentially poisonous to humans and animals and this article contained information about using comfrey as a vegetable, in tea and as livestock fodder; none of these applications are advisable, according to FDA and FTC recommendations. Comfrey contains at least 8 pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which can build up in the liver to cause permanent damage and sometimes death. Because of this, comfrey preparations are not sold for oral or internal use in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada or Germany.

I planted my Comfrey before I knew any of this….but I use it only for improving soil, speeding up composting and attracting tons of pollinators.
Enjoy!

 

Advertisements

Protein From The Garden – from Garden Rant

If you struggle with the ethical issue of killing and eating animals, like I do, you have either become a vegetarian or are becoming one. I am on the cusp.  I eat fish – only wild caught and wild harvested.  Occasionally (maybe 10 times a year), I still eat poultry.

Eat vegetables for a protein rich, ethical diet.

My backyard garden is full of protein rich plants.

On average, 98% of the year, I am vegetarian, growing as much of my own food as I possibly can; buying the rest from local, organic farmers.

My choice opens me up for a lot of “advice” from well-intentioned people who love me and who think I simply don’t get enough protein.  As one of them quipped, not so long ago, “I’ll buy you a walker when your muscles break down.  You’re too old to cut out protein from your diet.”

The truth is, I haven’t cut out protein; I’ve just changed the source of my protein to foods that don’t cry, don’t make friends with each other, don’t lovingly care for their babies, don’t greet you in the field.  Up until this morning, I didn’t really have an argument that supported my food choices.

Garden Rant and Evelyn Hadden have provided me with knowledge I need to defend my choice!

Turns out that foods I grow (like kale and beets), foods I love (like sunflower and pumpkin seeds and cheese) and foods I buy locally from my organic farmer friends are packed with protein!

FYI – I can’t quite get my arms around eating insects – one of the protein sources Hadden cites. But I’m on board with all the rest and grateful for a chance to eat without any compromises.

So if you are just thinking about changing some animal protein to plant, or if someone is telling you you have to eat meat to maintain your health, check out Hadden’s article and consider the options she offers.

Oh, also courtesy of EvelynHadden, if you want to find out just how much protein the foods you’re eating have, check out the protein content at the USDA National Nutrient Database.

 

Grow So Easy Organic – Best Gardening Resources Online

The Internet is a wonderful place!

It has made the job of finding information on just about anything a whole lot easier.  But sometimes, the Internet can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you are looking for information quickly and if you want a reputable source.

There are more than 20 million sites that talk about organic gardening.  But the odds are that many of those sites aren’t really going to provide information that organic gardeners are looking for.  In fact, a lot of them are just trying to sell you something.

I don’t have a problem with companies trying to sell me something. In fact, I really look forward to the seed and supply catalogues that I get throughout the year.  But I don’t want to read about the latest gadget for growing tomatoes if I’m in the middle of a battle with bugs and I know I’m losing.

I want to get information – fast – and from another gardener that I trust.  So that’s how I chose my favorite gardening web sites.  The sites listed below help me make my garden grow better, arm me for all the little tragedies that come along with life, make me smile,  and warm me on cold winter nights.

I hope you enjoy them.

A Way To Garden
Margaret Roach is truly one of my heroes…not just in the gardening world but in the wider world of surviving.  I met her through her book, The Gardener’s Way.  It was the cover that made me buy it.

Her hands, holding green beans, her nails caked with dirt, the clothing in the background clearly worn for work – all these told me that she was a real gardener.  She was someone who enjoyed digging in the dirt.  I was right.

A Way to Garden was her first salvo in sharing  gardening, expertise that had been refined and honed as the editorial director of Martha Stewart Living.  But it’s when Roach severed ties with Stewart’s empire, moved to upstate New York and started living on the land she bought as a weekend getaway, that she started really digging into dirt and life.

She has written a another book since A Way to Garden – And I Shall Have Some Peace There – about her country life but it’s her blog that I really, truly love.

First of all, the information on her blog is mind-boggling and top-notch.  Secondly, Roach brings in some of the tops gardeners and horticulturists in the country and asks them to share their secrets on everything from raising garlic to pruning berry bushes.

Secondly, Roach’s writing is like music to read – rich, warm, inviting and always, always friendly.  She isn’t trying to prove anything anymore to anyone.  She is really writing from the center of her gardener’s heart and I love getting her newsletter in my inbox!

The Bug Guide 
If you don’t have your own book on bugs and you want to find out what a bug is quickly, check out this site.  A wonderful guide from a reliable source and one that Margaret Roach brought to my attention.

It’s a community website called BugGuide.net – a place where naturalists ranging from amateur to expert share photos of insects, spiders and other bugs and  beasties.

BugGuide.net was started for two purposes – one to expand knowledge about bugs that they say are, “…oft overlooked and oft-maligned.”  But it was also started to help make people more enthusiastic about these critters some of which can be very helpful in the garden.

Roach says Bug Guide, “… has long been a go-to resource for me, but now I’m starting to engage further.”  The site offers a “how to” that makes using the site easier and also tells you how you can participate.

Earth Easy
I know.  This web site sells products…a lot of products.  But, if you look carefully at what they sell, all of their products are geared toward sustainable living and saving the planet.  So I’m interested in what they sell.  And I’m interested in what they are saying.

Earth Easy  is a business that was started by a family that got a chance to try sustainable living, themselves.  Living on a small island, long before sustainable living was a buzzword, Greg Seaman and his family developed techniques, ideas and processes that made their lives rich and full and much less damaging to the planet than a typical family’s lifestyle is.

At Earth Easy, you will find a ton of gardening advice for free.  But what I like even more is the stable of contributing writers that broaden and deepen the information available on this site.

The writers frequently offer tips on how to have a much smaller footprint in our lives.  For example, one of their contributing writers, Geoff DeRuiter, shared his quest to produce just one, small can of trash in a year.

DeRuiter, who is currently pursuing a PhD in Bioenergy and Biocarbon Sequestration did it.  And he offers some solid ideas and information on how all of us could help reduce the waste that streams from our houses to landfills every day.

Earth Easy also sends out one of the better newsletters you can find online.  When their newsletter arrives in my inbox, I take the time to open it, browse through it and read about all the other people and ideas that are out there, in the organic gardening world.

The Garden Rant
So, maybe this isn’t an advice site for gardeners but…it sure has some of the best gardening posts I have read in a long time.  And the writers at Garden Rant aren’t afraid of tackling political problems like Genetically Modified Organisms and “garden police” tearing up back yard gardens because they aren’t up to “code.”

Written by “…4 different gardeners from 4 different corners of the United States,” this blog makes me smile, makes me angry and just plain old makes me come back for more.

The information is spot on, the writing is friendly and easy to read and the topics cover just about everything that an organic gardener and follower of sustainable living could want to know.

The four writers have been raising cane online for 6 years now and they’ve gotten a whole lot of attention from some of the biggest media outlets in the country including the New York Times, The Washington Post and Garden Design Magazine. 

So if you want to laugh and cry and learn about everything that can and does happen to gardeners and in gardening, this is the site for you.

Root Development of Vegetable Plants
Okay, this is a real niche resource.  But this is also what I love about the Internet.  Where else could you find information like this?

Written in 1927 by John E. Weaver and William E. Bruner, two botanists at the University of Nebraska,  Root Development of Vegetable Plants is almost 100 years old but if there is anything you want to know about the roots of any vegetable plant, this is the site to turn to.

I confess I have not read it every page but if I have a question, I gleefully put myself in the hands of Drs. Weaver and Bruner.  And I have learned a whole lot about why my plants do well or do poorly just by understanding the basics of how plants work!

Grow Girls Grow Organic
This Linked In group was started by me about 3 years ago and while it’s small (only 550 or so members), it includes gardeners, growers and friends from around the world.  Less structured and more informal, I welcome anyone who has any interest in gardening from back yard vegetables to rice paddies in Thailand.

Members can post questions, provide answers or just share links to their blogs about their own gardening experiences and backyard lives.  No advertisements are allowed on the blog and I try to police this are carefully – walking the fine line between promotion and providing information on something that might make gardening life easier.

I learned about Foodie Bugle from the Grow Girls Grow Organic members, found Hudson Valley Seed Library and High Mowing Organic Seeds through this group and have picked up quite a few tips on raising some veggies I thought I was already good at.

And I’ve gotten some hearty laughs and made a few friends along the way just from gathering together a group of gardeners from the United States and across the globe.

If you’re already a member of LinkedIn just search for Grow Girls Grow Organic and join in the noise about gardening and living!  Yes, guys are welcome to join too.

Peaceful Valley
Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply, aka Grow Organic, is another organic growing business that started small in 1976 and just kept gaining sales and customers.  Peaceful Valley, named after Peaceful Valley Road in Nevada City, California, is now owned by Eric and Patty Boudier.

Visit their site and you’ll find a lot of excellent information on just about every gardening topic you could wish for.  You can read their online advice and you can watch Patty do video segments on everything from pruning fruit trees to planting tomatoes.

One note of caution:  the last time I ordered, Peaceful Valley had very high shipping rates for its products.  So, although I like the information they share, I don’t like paying almost as much to ship seed garlic as it costs to buy garlic.

If you live West of the Mississippi you may find their shipping rates are lower.  But the East coast pays a premium for Peaceful Valley products that we can get from growers like High Mowing Seed and Hudson Valley.

For the last two weeks, I have shared  books and web sites that are my best friends, especially in winter.  On cold, blustery days, when all the leaves are gone and the ground is covered with snow, I spend time gazing rooting around these sites and reading my books.

I plot and plan what I will grow and draw a garden diagram I know I will never follow.  And I spend quiet hours visiting my online friends and re-reading the books by my old friends that have helped me create this sustainable life of mine.

Next week, I’ll begin delving into the plants I will plan for and plant in 2013.