A MAJESTIC ANNUAL I loved last year and someone I plan to invite back: the silver-leaf sunflower, Helianthus argophyllus, a native American wildflower of great substance and stature. But why is it so hard to track down seeds or plants of this very tall, multi-branching beauty, with its handsome foliage and extra-long bloom season? It’s worth the hunt, which I’ve been doing this week with both your garden and mine in mind. [read more…]
I share this piece of land I call my garden with an astonishing range of creatures tiny to large: from insects to black bear. I'm (mostly) glad for their company, and always learn something from every encounter.
PLANTING PEAS—that first traditional first task of each new food-growing year—took on new significance this spring. I’d just finished watching a lecture on Gregor Mendel and his pea-breeding experiments in an online biology class I’m taking, when the snow finally melted and the soil warmed enough—well, almost enough— to have at it. The peas I like best, and how I plant them, all with a new reverence for the genetics built into a single Pisum sativum seed: [read more…]
SUDDENLY EVERYONE is waking up. Each morning as we run up to full-on spring, another bird voice seems to join the strengthening chorus. But what are birds vocalizing about, and why—and how can we learn to tell who’s saying what, even when they’re out of sight? In Part 7 of our popular ongoing series, Ellen Blackstone of the BirdNote public-radio program helps us understand what’s going on as we look—or turn our ear—skyward. [read more…]
I ALWAYS SAY “feed the soil, not the plants,” which for decades has meant to me to turn in compost—lots and lots of compost, and then more—and every few years a topdressing of organic fertilizer. Lately I’ve been curious what more I can do, as stressors ranging from dryspells to disease test me and the plants. I’d often read about inoculating the soil with mycorrhizae–myco means fungus and the suffix means root, so literally root fungi, a word used to indicate a symbiotic relationship between the two. Until last fall, at garlic-planting time, when I purchased $49.50 worth (enough for the garlic, plus my whole vegetable garden) I’d never experimented hands-on. More about my mycorrhizae adventure: [read more…]
AT EVERY LECTURE I GIVE (and often in comments here, too), I’m asked: “What can I use to get rids of garden ‘bugs’?” My advice: Don’t waste money on something in a spray bottle, but shop instead for plants that attract bug-hungry birds, to make a garden that’s hospitable to them (including a water feature that remains unfrozen all 365 days, or at least a seasonal one). Don’t kill off critical soil life with chemical fertilizers or nasty weed-and-feed, either. Love your soil, and nurture that precious bottom of the food chain, where all the little guys who are our checks-and-balance system of life reside. My 101 on making a bird garden, plus some garden-sanitation tips (as good in spring as fall). The real “news,” as doodler Andre Jordan well knows: Birds (and frogs, and snakes) are environmentally friendly.