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.