This past weekend I did a couple of presentations at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum that had nothing to do with growing edible plants. And yet, on the breaks in between the talks, the number one thing everyone asked me about was how to grow something at home that they could eat.
Washing my hands in the bathroom, snarfing a quick sandwich next to my car in the parking lot, struggling to get my PowerPoint to work — it didn’t matter where I was or what I was doing, people really wanted to know things about growing food.
I honestly lost count of how many times I was asked whether it was safe to use water from rain barrels on edibles. Time after time, though, I told people the same thing: I wouldn’t do it. Though there are few studies on what’s in the water inside rain barrels, research has shown that it often contains chemicals from roof runoff and air pollution, as well as bird poo, mold, fungi and other stuff that sounds unappetizing at the very least.Read More»
I have wanted a worm bin for years, ever since I read Amy Stewart’s great book: “And the Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievement of Earthworms,” to be exact. Yesterday, I finally bought one while attending “Burst Into Spring,” an annual lecture series put on by the Isanti County Master Gardeners.
I was invited to the event to speak about my new book, “Decoding Gardening Advice,” and over the lunch break I got to talking with Roger Welck from Princeton, Minnesota. He’d heard my talk and wanted to know why I’d discussed compost, but hadn’t covered vermicompost.
Time was the only reason, I told him. Vermicomposting is touched on in the book. But I’d removed those slides from the presentation for that day because it was kind of an involved topic, and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to fit it in. “Damn you!” he joked, gesturing toward his vendor table laden with bagged vermicompost, worms in buckets and worm bins.Read More»
Apparently, Monsanto’s board of directors asked the company’s scientists to check into this whole global warming thing and find out whether it is real. And, if it did turn out to be real, they also wanted to know if global warming could have a harmful effect on crops.
Not surprisingly for those who dwell in the thinking world, the scientists answered “Yes” to both questions. Also not surprisingly, there were no headlines screaming “World is Screwed: Even Monsanto Says So!” There is, however, a good article by David Gustafson, one of the Monsanto scientists, in the June issue of Pest Management Science. I’m betting that it wasn’t widely read, though.Read More»
With honeybee populations declining in recent years, gardeners have been searching for ways to encourage other pollinators to stop by and help out. One pollinator I hear mentioned more and more often is mason bees, and seed catalogs are increasingly offering all kinds of mason bee nesting boxes. They’re cute, these little bee condo things with all those little round holes. So I got to thinking I should buy one.
But then I stopped myself, wondering if it was okay to just introduce mason bees to my garden, my neighborhood, Minnesota? I emailed Jeff Hahn, a helpful entomologist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service, and he said he didn’t know a lot about mason bees. But he recommended I talk with Joel Gardner, a grad student who is studying them.Read More»
If you’ve never checked out Mary Gray’s garden blog, Black Walnut Dispatch, do it today. Just do it. No, of course you don’t have time, but do it anyway. Smart and funny—really, really funny, Mary Gray is a landscape designer in Burke Virginia, who just happens to have a creative writing background, too.
Her most recent post, “So I’ve Ripped Out My Lawn, Now What Do I Do,” takes turf grass re-purposing to a whole new level. And here I’ve been recommending people just flip old turf over to create berms.
There are people who dream about what they would like to do with their lives in a perfect world. And there are people who just go ahead and do whatever it is they’re dreaming about, knowing that the world will never be perfect so they’d better just go for it. Karla Pankow is in the latter group. And if you’ve ever met her, you know that’s not surprising. As hooky as it sounds, if positive energy could take human form, it would be Karla.
Not long ago, Karla was willing herself up out of bed every morning to go to work as a pharmaceutical sales rep. After seven years, she was beyond disillusioned with the profession and thinking about how to escape. And then it happened. She was laid off in the midst of yet another company restructuring. Today, less than two years later, Karla and her partner, Elizabeth Millard (a longtime writer friend of mine), are running a small organic farm they named Bossy Acres.
I wrote about Bossy Acres, and their recent move into the greenhouses of Grow! Twin Cities in this week’s issue of the online magazine, The Line. Grow! Twin Cities doesn’t have a website up yet or I’d post the link. But they do have a Facebook page if you’d like to follow what they’re up to.Read More»
I have no idea what I was thinking trying to brighten up the winter by planting paperwhites in bowls filled with colorful glass marbles and water all these years. Yes, sure, the flowers are nice enough. But that sickly sweet smell they give off is worse than being trapped with a bunch of over-perfumed grannies in a hot elevator.
That’s why this year, even though red is my least-favorite color, I brought home a couple of big-ass amaryllis bulbs and gave them a try. (There are other colors, just not at my local garden center on the day that I thought I must buy some.) Wow! I’m going with these every year from now on. Not only do they have no smell, these long-blooming flowers—four from each bulb—are huge. And I have to say that even midlife-crisis-sports-car red has definitely lifted my spirits during this cold, gray stretch of the season.Read More»
I’ve lived in Minnesota for more than two decades. But I admit I had no idea that frost went by all sorts of different names until a couple of years ago when our local paper mistakenly proclaimed that the world was covered in “whore frost” and we should all get outside and see it.
Who wouldn’t want to see that? Turns out, they were talking about hoar frost, which is not anything like the aforementioned frost, I’d imagine.
Hoar frost occurs on winter nights when water vapor (fog, for example) touches very cold surfaces and freezes. Words can’t come close to describing the storybook beauty of hoar frost.
So, as always, when I woke up to a hoar-frost-covered wonderland last Saturday, I grabbed my camera and snapped a few photos. Enjoy!
The crocodile fern (Microsorum musifolium ) really couldn’t be more aptly named. Exotic yet easy to grow as a houseplant (if you can find it), this fern has fronds that look remarkably like crocodile scales. I snapped this at our local conservatory, which was filled to bursting with Minnesotans looking to get out of the cold this weekend.
Of course if you live in a warmer place, you can also grow these outdoors. I’ve got a friend who says they carry crocodile ferns in big-box stores in the South. Luckies.
Yesterday I posted the inaugural photo for a new blog feature: What In Tarnation? And today, I couldn’t resist adding one more because, hey, there’s a lot of weird stuff going on out there in the world and I like to take pictures of it. Might as well share, right?
This hideous mess certainly did solve the question of: “Hmm, what should we plant on that slope, honey?”