by Susan This guy may look more like a football coach but if I pointed that out I’d be stereotyping based on looks and
we don’t do that here, now do we? So I’ll just say he’s the gardening coach for the 35 Whole Foods stores in the DC area and I think that’s cool.
Though he calls himself a coach, Mark Smallwood’s official job title is Green Mission specialist for Whole Foods, which means he does lots of training and teaching. And in that vein, I recently heard him spread the gospel of growing food at Kathy Jentz’s seed exchange, where he bragged that the company now diverts 71 percent of their waste from landfills, with the goal of 90 percent by ’09. They actually have garbage audits. And he preaches "Less grass, more food." And this: "You don’t need pesticides anymore" because there are "natural organic replacements," which is kind of a misnomer – pesticides can be organic, after all – but we’ll let that pass. (Are we always perfectly precise in our language? I think not.)
More Whole Foods news: They’re selling fresh aerated compost tea at 15 stores in the D.C. area this year, part of their increased offering of lawn and garden products.
And this veggie-gardening coach gave all sorts of tips, like:
Grow fast with slow – like beets and radishes.
Grow high with low – maybe tomatoes with impatiens (wait – they’d have to be sun-loving impatiens, right?)
Get into companion planting – Google it.
Get into succession planting – Google it.
And I liked these quotes:
"IPM is actually Integrated Pesticide Management."
"Talk to your gardens. Listen to your gardens. Meditate in your gardens."
And "Just email me with your questions. The address is email@example.com." (Try it and report to us!)
From the Green Action part of the Whole Foods website, here are some of their "eco action tips":
Plant a Tree, seriously. A single tree can absorb one ton (2,000 pounds) of carbon dioxide over
its lifetime. One acre of tree cover in Brooklyn can compensate for
automobile fuel use equivalent to driving a car between 7,200 and 8,700
Grow Your Own Plant a garden or a few pots of veggies without pesticides and chemical
fertilizers that can harm both human health and the environment. How
delightful to step out the back door and pick a ripe, organic tomato!
Switch to Organics Organic
agriculture protects the health of all the earth’s inhabitants by
limiting input of toxic and persistent chemicals into the air, soil and
water. Organic methods support natural ecosystems by using long-term
farming solutions that help preserve the earth’s resources for future
Start a Compost Pile in Your Yard As landfill space becomes increasingly scarce and expensive, composting
is an extremely valuable idea for reducing needless garbage. Composting
requires little effort and, in time, will create an earthy, crumbly
substance to help your plants flourish.
Buy Local. Purchase locally grown food when possible to support independent, local
farms and the environment. They use fewer resources on their way to
your plate, and they’re usually fresher, too, since they’re typically
picked more recently.
That last one’s particularly interesting to me, given the pounding they took in Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma. Readers, what’s your reaction?
When the late, great House & Garden magazine was abruptly shut down last November, Conde Nast made subscribers like me an offer: Send in the card for a refund or we’ll finish out your subscription with Domino magazine instead. I took the passive route, slightly curious about what was supposed to replace H&G editor Dominique Browning’s obvious passion and interesting taste.
I got my first issue of Domino this week, and I can assure you, it’s not about passion or taste. I’m kind of puzzled as to what it’s about. Given the tone of the writing and the tame, childish graphics, it seems to be directed at really young people…like ten year-olds who aren’t too interested in houses or gardens.
I do have an idea, however, what the editors are gunning for… jobs at Glamour. There is much more about beauty and fashion here than there is about anybody’s domestic arrangements. We have a puzzling travel diary from Lauren Bush (who? and what’s she ever done?) about when, on a flight, she applies lip balm. We have pages and pages of photos of eco-friendly fashion designers and shopkeepers and their boring brown clothes. In a section called "Nesting," we not only have a full page about the "perfect 10" beauty products, we also have another page of advice about cleaning our make-up brushes and neatening up our make-up drawers. This last article, I think, might prove particularly useful to the Rant’s perfectly groomed readership, who like to keep their tools in tip-top order. Now, get out there and dig in the dirt….but do not fleck your make-up!
And this is in Domino’s "green" issue. Well, here is what’s NOT green and what’s NOT sustainable: treating the house like fashion and redoing the joint as often as you change shoes.
Here’s what else is not sustainable: Laura Turner Seydel’s gaudy 6,200-square-foot house in the Atlanta suburbs that appears in a feature called "3 Green Houses." Could Domino possibly be more clueless? I don’t care how many hemp bedspreads the woman buys or how well-meaning she is, Atlanta is the world’s capital of thoughtless sprawl. I guarantee you that every moment Seydel is not in the house, she is in her car, and that is not sustainable. I guarantee you that the air conditioning blasts half of the year, straining to keep that giant box cool in Atlanta’s sweltering heat. And that is not sustainable.
Of course, the most irritating piece of all is by Cynthia Kling, who decides to go Barbara Kingsolver one better and rough it by spending two weeks eating entirely locally–stuff produced within 100 miles of wherever it is that she lives "right here in upstate New York." The very idea! She has to enlist an actual cooking friend "to show me how the farmers market really works." The tone is so breathless, you’d think she were describing some Anthony Bourdain-type lizard-eating spree in the mountains of Southeast Asia. The real laugh is that Kling’s column is actually called "The Adventuress."
Give me a break!!! It’s freaking Europe here in upstate New York! These days, you cannot swing a cat without hitting a fantastic open air market, or somebody making incredible cheese or delicious wine (Hosmer Dry Riesling, yeah!), or another cute college-educated 24 year-old farmer dying to introduce you to a new vegetable variety. The revolution’s already happened, years ago, and only somebody with little interest in food or wine could have missed it. Yet this kind of thing is somehow supposed to reconcile us to the loss of House & Garden’s fantastic "Larder" page and Jay McInerney’s wine column.
Replacing House & Garden with Domino is all about driving out the sophisticates and crowning a bunch of silly naifs in their place. A slap in the face of every adult really interested in food, home, garden, and the state of the planet. Dear Conde Nast, I want my money back now.
Adrian Higgins does a bang-up job of reviewing Jeff’s latest book, including this: "How do you separate the hype from the facts? Spending 13 bucks on Gillman’s new book, ‘The Truth about Organic Gardening’ (Timber Press), may go a long way." We couldn’t agree more. Congrats to Jeff and Timber!
But on a personal note, I WAS going to review the book myself for my next newspaper column in the same market as the Post, so what should I do after being scooped by Higgins? The term "read it and weep" springs to mind.
How many of you heard the scary report on NPR yesterday about the resurgence of a mysterious disease that’s wiping out bats, so much so that a scientist made the statement you see above—and he does mean ALL the bats of the Northeast. It’s been in the news for about two weeks, but this is the first time I’ve really focused on it. If you haven’t heard, 11,000 bats in New York died last year and now it’s spreading throughout New England. The disease is being called “white nose disease,” because of the powdery fungus on the little bat snouts, but little is known about it. Scientists are not even totally sure it might not spread from bat to human.
Paranoia aside, this is very bad news just as far as the bats are concerned; they are a very important part of the ecosystem as predators, prey, and as part of the pollination system. I don’t know that I’d want to get too up close and personal with a bat, but I’d hate to imagine a world without them. (We love watching them fly around the roof on summer nights.)
And this is especially disturbing coming so soon after the bee colony problems.
If you’re one of those who fear the hardships of having to tend houseplants or consider them only necessary for those of us who can’t garden outside, you’ll be impressed by the non-botanist builders of the oldest LEED-platinum-certified building in the world (located in Buffalo), who not only don’t mind tending 1,000 indoor plants but also insist that they are necessary both for making nature a daily experience in all seasons and for their air purification qualities.
The building is the Ecology & Environment headquarters, built twenty years ago before LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards existed, and a model for sustainable practice well before they received the platinum status. I have to admit I was aware of E&E—I knew writers who did work for them—but hadn’t paid too much attention until I saw the pictures of the interior we’re using in the Green issue of the magazine I edit. “Geez,” I’m thinking, “Is this place an office or a terrarium?” In an article in the Buffalo paper today, the writer vaguely comments that if and when there is an infestation, “E&E brings in other bugs or natural predators to take care of the problem.” Wow. Sounds like a cool place to work. You can sit with the plants and watch the bugs fight.
E&E recently expanded the atrium where they keep many of the plants and were careful to choose those plants that would accept indoor conditions readily. Which means they’re the same old boring ivies (especially epipremnum aureum), pothos, and—yikes—spider plants (chlorophytum comosum) that you see in most offices. And sansevieria trifasciata as well, I see. But as boring as the individual cultivars might be, they look great mixed up, and especially in bulk. Though 1,000 still seems like a lot to take care of. So I feel vindicated. Think I’ll go out and buy some more pothos.
by Susan Ever experience pangs of doubt about a plant, product, or gardening technique you’ve just raved about or
admitted to growing or using, like "Uh-oh, could this be a known enviro no-no and I’m the last person to know it? Could I lose my Friends of Earth membership card over this?"
That’s been my feeling ever since I posted a profile of Nandina domestic and was clued in to its very bad behavior in Texas and Virginia and then my very own county in Maryland. Yet just as many people were telling me it posed no problem locally, so I was confused, wallowing in self-doubt. I quickly demoted both the blog post and the website page to draft status.
But then I remembered that as close as my regular nursery is a major national hot-shot on the subject of invasive plants and because he’s local to me, HE’D have an answer to the question: Can nandinas be grown safely in my region? Or under what circumstances, or which cultivars? See, the seemingly contradictory reports could be answered by all sorts of factors. I’ll dump the whole problem onto none other than John Peter Thompson, I declare to myself. This guy. (Fromhis blog:)
Secretary National Invasive Species Council Advisory Committee; Member, Maryland Invasive Species
Council; LBJ Wild Flower Center Sustainable Landscape Standards
Vegetative Sub-Comm; Chesapeake Conservation Landscape Council;
Landscape Comm, Chesapeake EcoTour Project; Past President, Maryland
Nursery & Landscape Association (MNLA) and Mid Atlantic Exotic Pest
Plant Council (MA-EPPC); Member PlantWise Advisory Comm.; President, National Agricultural Research Alliance – Beltsville; Chairman, The
Behnke Nurseries Co.]
So I wrote, a phone call followed, and he’s assured me he’s hard at work finding an answer to the question,
which interests him at least as much as it does me. Nandina’s now on his list of plants to research, right there with spirea and Vinca minor, and I eagerly await his results.
A current venue for dealing with such questions as plant invasiveness is the Sustainable Sites Initiative. They’re writing standards for certification, and John Peter’s a welcome voice for big-picture pragmatism on the committee making the recommendations. It’s a similar role to the one he plays with the Maryland legislature. There he provides science-based feedback on bills written by staffers with no scientific understanding of the subject, who’ve been known to write "feel-good" bills that are just bad regulation. Having worked in the U.S. Congress for about 30 years, I’m so not surprised.
My friend Pam and I heard John Peter’s talk last weekend at his family’s nursery, and here’s my report.
It’s great that Amy doesn’t mind traveling – actually seems to like it – so her friends and ranting partners around the country can
see her without having to leave town. Like last week when she gave her fun flower talk at the American Horticulture Society in Alexandria, VA and Kathy Jentz and I only had to cross the river to hear it. And after her book-signing session we grabbed our buddy Viveka Neveln, assistant editor of The American Gardener Magazine, and headed for the local Indian lunch buffet for a long gab session. Gossip much?
Then we headed back to the AHS editorial offices – in a funky old carriage house – and were tempted to hang out at length in Viveka’s office. First we noticed the jungle of foliage but it was her book collection that had us salivating and wanted to browse all afternoon. Seems our friend is a total hort nerd with degrees from actual universities to prove it. And a good writer, too? It happens!
It just seems like it should be simple: you plop a seed into some soil, cover it up with more soil, water it,
and something should grow. Well, that works fine for some things (weeds, for example) but with plants, as with humans, reproduction isn’t always the slam-dunk we think it’s going to be.
That’s probably why some gardeners have shied away from seed propagation or haven’t even contemplated some forms of asexual propagation such as grafting or layering. So for anyone who feels feint of heart on this topic, Fine Gardening has released a Propagation DVD containing 37 articles and 17 videos guaranteed to hold your hand through all the scariness of horticultural baby-making.
The articles are divided into three groups. The first group covers seeds—the basic techniques of seed starting, as well as processes like scarification and stratification, which are necessary for certain “special needs” seeds. It includes info on seed gathering and storage and care and feeding of tender seedlings.
The second group of articles covers general propagation techniques, including division, layering, cuttings, and grafting and budding, as well as equipment like indoor lighting and cold frames.
The third group finishes up with techniques for specific plants like mosses, ferns, and species roses. It also ventures into scaling (for lilies) and breeding gladiolus hybrids.
I was glad to see that more than half of the videos cover different kinds of plant division, something I’ve found to be not quite as easy or as obvious as it would seem. There were also several videos on seed starting and a few on cuttings. I wish there was a video on grafting, since this technique tends to intimidate a lot of people until they actually see it done, but maybe Fine Gardening is saving that for the sequel.
The only topic I could think of that isn’t covered on the DVD is tissue culturing, which can, in fact, be done at home with a minimal investment in some basic equipment to create a sterile work area. In my propagation class some students used a Rubbermaid storage box with the bottom cut out and duct-taped in a $30 HEPA filter from Target. It worked reasonably well.
Many of the articles and a couple of the videos are available on the Fine Gardeningwebsite, so spending $25 on the DVD may not seem really necessary. But if you’re serious about learning more propagation techniques, the amount of money you’ll save by propagating rather than buying plants will more than pay for the DVD in very short order.
For anyone who’s really gung-ho about plant propagation, I’d also suggest checking out the International Plant Propagators Society, which includes members with commercial and academic backgrounds, as well as a few serious hobbyists. This group is dedicated to sharing information about propagation and the wealth of knowledge among its membership runs very deep.
Editior’s note: We chose Claire to review this DVD for GardenRant because she knows the subject – a sometimes overlooked requisite for reviewers. We thank her for her well-informed review, and for donating the DVD to the Hort Department library of Merritt College. The photos (top, tissue culturing, bottom, layering) were taken by Claire during her propagation class.
So there’s this one plant I don’t grow in my garden. (I don’t grow it in my basement, either.) But I live among it. Arcata, CA, the little town just up the road from me, is a community of 16,000 with four medical marijuana dispensaries. The official county ordinance on medical marijuana permits up to 3 pounds of dried bud and a 100 square-foot canopy of mature female plants. The Arcata City Council has been looking at regulating grow houses, not to close down indoor grow ops, but to prevent the electrical fires and other hazards that result from faulty set-ups. The fire department will happily come out and inspect your indoor grow operation, they tell us, because they’d much rather prevent a fire than risk their lives putting one out.
Don’t everybody move here at once.
As a gardener, I find this totally intriguing. Cannabis is an interesting plant because it reproduces sexually, with the girls being obviously different from the boys. It’s a very primitive plant, botanically speaking, and a gardener’s efforts (food, light, water, pH, temperature, etc) can really influence the way the mature plant turns out. Is it compact or lanky? How early does it bloom? Does it pump out resin? How psychoactive are the cannabinoids? In all these matters, the gardener exercises a surprising amount of control.
Here in Humboldt County, it’s time to get those seedlings started, and the garden centers are filling fat endcaps with products like ‘Basement Mix,’ a soil-free growing medium for all your indoor hydroponic needs. Fertilizers with names like ‘Bud Fuel’ promise the most awesome–er–lilies–you’ve ever seen. And that’s just at the regular garden centers. We also have eleven hydroponic gardening stores (compared with about seventeen garden centers, small nurseries, or other places that sell plants), and you’d head straight to the hydro stores if you need something more than the routine Basement Mix.
Frankly, I feel kind of left out. This one plant gets more attention than all the others. Has a bigger section of books devoted to it at the bookstore than all the rest. Has more magazines covering it than any other single plant (not just High Times, but Cannabis Culture, Skunk, and others). And oh, what fun they must have at those magazines. More fun, surely, than all the other magazines devoted to horticulture put together.
Don’t believe me? Watch. Warning: this is very, very silly. (and there are more on YouTube)
According to a story I found on the ABC News site: mats made from recycled human hair are great for weed suppression and fertilization. Apparently, a nursery owner in Florida has been testing a product from another Florida company, Smart Grow. He says he’s saved thousands using it. I guess the hair suppresses weeds, and provides a good environment for beneficial microorganisms (according to U. of Florida scientists who are testing this with tomatoes). The hair provides some very slow-release nitrogen as well.
I don’t see this being of great benefit to the average home gardener, especially gardeners like us, who tend to use lots of mulch and whose plots are so plant-packed, the weeds don’t have a chance. At least that’s what I’ve found. I very rarely have to weed, except in out-of-the-way areas I’ve been neglecting.
What I do wonder about is the possible protection against animals that the mats may supply. I have heard of hair being used to repel deer and other plant-marauders, which ARE a huge problem for many gardeners in our region. Now, that would be something.
Here’s a business that thinks gardens crave chocolate too. It’s been open for three years, but I just heard of The Chocolate Flower Farm. (I see that the Heavy Petal and Doug Green sites—and probably others—have mentioned it previously. )
This utterly delicious nursery features plants that smell like chocolate, have chocolate coloring, or are just dark, as well as chocolate-themed gifts. There are seeds and seed-starting kits as well. I normally eschew faddish businesses, but the selection of plants is great, including many I have never seen elsewhere—chocolate-brushed delphinium, chocolate helianthus, and chocolate columbine, for example—and the attractive site is well-organized. (The few comments on Dave’s Garden are positive.)
So in spite of the fact that there is NO space for any of this, I am tempted by Actaea “Black Negligee,” with graceful serrated dark foliage and tall late-season flowers; the lovely Dahlia “Karma Choc,” which supposedly doesn’t need staking (!);and Oncidium “Sharry Baby,” a chocolate-scented orchid.
Apparently, plants with dark foliage used to be called “black plants,” but horticulturalists eventually realized that the word “chocolate” was far more attractive in the marketplace. One has to be careful with dark-foliaged plants; as beautiful as they are, they can fade into the background or appear out of place, if not properly sited. But if you’re looking for them, or maybe just for ideas, this is one place to start.
For thirteen years, Upstate Gardener’s Journal has been the regional publication for gardeners from Ithaca to Buffalo. It has seasonal advice, plant-focused articles, and a great yearly directory of everything garden-related in the area. For example, in Nov/Dec, there was a piece about Sycamore Gardens, which looks highly visitable—actually, gorgeous.
Jane Milliman, the founder/editor of UGJ also writes for the Rochester paper and was nice enough to mention not just Garden Rant but also Cold Climate Gardening and some other friends in today’s column about garden blogging. We don’t have a ton of garden bloggers in these parts, so I hope Jane’s column will inspire more of the local gardeners to start. If (hint) she also writes about blogging in UGJ, more Buffalonians will see it. I mean, here we have 300 people who invite strangers to come through every year, and only 2 of us blog? Come on, people.
Anyway, thanks for the mention, Jane, and keep up the good work with UGJ. That’s her, above. I took that picture at a local garden fair that got pretty much rained out. Nobody came, and she still had to sit there, poor thing.
And thanks to Kathy for sending me this intriguing rant about environmentalists. It asks: "If it’s so easy to see that Greens are often right, why are they so damned annoying? The answer is that they hate people" and goes on to compare and contrast "Dark Greens" and "Bright Greens." Anybody see that breakdown in the eco-gardening community?
Carol atMay Dreams Gardenshas chosen Michael Pollan’s classic Second Nature as the Garden Blogger’s Book Club selection for February-March. I hope to have time to do a little rereading and participate because it’s chockful of challenges to conventional wisdom and a meaty discussion will surely follow.
And here’s a cool new gardenblogger thing to do: The Garden Bloggers Geography Project! Fellow map nerds, this is for us. Jodi at bloomingwriter asks readers to write posts about where they live, then send her the link for her very cool collection. Great idea.
Later today – even more links to recent gardenblog posts, so check back!
Probably, like me, many of you gave up on aquariums years ago, unless your kids are enthusiasts. The last one I had contained two newts. (They were really sweet.) When they finally died—of old age, no flushing!—over ten years ago, we never got a new one. Gardening has more than replaced most of my indoor hobbies, unless it is the hobby of indoor gardening.
A set-up by the master of the Nature Aquarium style, Takashi Amano.
Clearly, these aquaria are about the plants, not the fish. I mean, what do they have in there, a few tetras? Just to provide movement? And from what I understand, most of the maintenance for these is plant maintenance: pruning, fertilizing, and, yes, grow lights. But at least in this case, the grow light set-up would be in support of something that could easily be a gorgeous focal point in the living room, not hidden in the basement. The plants eat the fish wastes, and you need to have algae-eating animals of some type, though probably not snails. To be honest, the whole maintenance routine sounds like a pain. I’d probably want it in some imaginary luxe office, where someone could come in and service it. Still, plants, water, and fish are a beautiful thing indoors, especially in February.
Ages ago Amy recommended the documentary "The Real Dirt with Farmer John," which had won lots of film
awards and tweaked her interest enough to add it to her Netflix queue. So I took the tip and I think it’s appropriate to say my mind wasblown (to use a term that Farmer John himself probably used back at Beloit in the ’60s).
Here’s what Alice Waters has to say:
Farmer John, with boa and pitchfork, is provocative and passionate about cultivating not only delicious vegetables but also a vibrant community of farmers and consumers dedicated to the values of sustainability.
And Joshua Tanzer of offoffoff.com:
A flamboyant, cross-dressing, hippie-loving, third-generation farmer – beaten down by debt, drought and the resentment of his community – saves his farm…by being different.
by Susan Imagine in one weekend: a tasty fajita lunch with Tom Spencer, a Texas-sized BBQ dinner, world-class gardens and garden-themed door prizes, happy hours with passionate gardeners/bloggers, the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, a tour of Natural Gardener Nursery, and MORE. And all that in April when the bluebonnets are blooming. My god, who could resist?
Yes, the Texans have worn us down. Elizabeth and I will be there, absolutely, and we ALL would if we could. But at least two of us will be experiencing gardening and partying Texas-style, a worthy addition to our new book – Gardeners Partying Around the World. Okay, I just made that up but from what we can tell about The County Line, the gang could be getting down. (And we have this inside dirt from Amy, who visited the Austin gardenbloggers on her recent book tour: Prepare to party!)
My only question: Does The County Line have music and room for some two-stepping? And if it does, can we drag Tom along? Otherwise poor Bill from Prairie Point’s got a whole lot of dancing to do.
Just LOOK at the cool weekend in store for us April 4 and 5 in the coolest city in Texas (Is there any competition?) And man, we’re blown away by the great job our friends in Austin are doing making it all happen for us. Be there, y’all!