Apr 29, 2010

To Weed or Not To Weed: Carolyn Summers Weighs In

Restoring The Web of Life
Carolyn Summers
New York Horticultural Society
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Tuesday night I was exhausted and I thought about skipping Carolyn Summers talk about native plants.  I doubted one more blah blah would make a difference.  I was wrong.

Summers made the case for native plants.  I am not going to repeat all the reasons for planting regional species and how plants and insects are interconnected.  Nor am I going to make the case for how native plants can be used in an ornamental way.

I wanted to know about weeding, specifically about weeding out invasive species.  For the last couple of years, I have worked on two wetland areas: saltwater and freshwater.  Planted with over 100,000 grasses, natives, and trees, these two wetlands are filled with more invasives than plants.  The theory:   natives crowd out the invasives over time.  In fact, Summers said that once natives take hold the root systems are so strong and tight; that is hard to even add an additional plant.

In the beginning we tried to apply this theory, but it became apparent that the invasives were winning out.  Summers solution:  DO NOT WEED.  Keep cutting down the weeds.  By depriving a plant of its ability to photosynthesize, the plant eventually will die.  

I am going to hang up my hori hori. Take out my pruners and watch what happens.


Apr 27, 2010

Do The Math: Garden Buddy for Your iPhone

I need this.  Recently I had to calculate the amount of soil and compost needed for 22 raised beds.  Each bed is 4 x 8 x 12. 
Now all I need is my iPhone.

Garden Buddy, Garden Math by Island Apps.

"Garden Buddy is a handy little App that simplifies common lawn and garden calculations.

This version of Garden Buddy is for the North American market and uses inches, feet, pounds, and cubic yards as its measurement units, a metric version will be available soon.

Garden Buddy includes the following tools:

Area calculator
(Provides square feet for round, rerctangular and triangular gardens)

Mulch and topsoil calculator
(Calculates number of cubic yards to order for a given area and depth)

Plant quantity calculator
(provides number of plants required to fill an given area with standard spacing)

Soil calculator
(Easily calculates how many pieces and pallets of sod to order for an area)

Fertilizer calculator
(Provides quantity of fertilizer to apply based on soil test)

Pond calculator
(Calculates number of gallons, recommended pump size and liner size based on measurements)

Materials coverage quick reference
(Provides a handy reference table of coverage of various materilas for a given area and depth)

Date on 47 common vegetables
(Includes planting months, row spacing, plant spacing, how much to plant for a family of 4, and days to harvest when planted from seed)

All these tools and information are made available right on your Iphone, right when you need them, out in the yard or at the garden center.

Your suggestions for the addition of new tools and calculators are welcome and all updates will be free.

Everybody needs a Garden Buddy."

I'll say.


Apr 24, 2010

Paula Panich Writes A Letter

I don't get much mail anymore, not even junk mail.  Some days the doorstep is bare.  Last week was different.  I came home exhausted, stepped out of elevator and spied a familiar red and blue borderA border I hadn't seen in many years.

My parents were great travellers and my childhood was spent opening envelopes with red and blue diagonal lines from around the world.  Each one filled with onion skin paper, its thinness making it all the more precious. 

I set this current missive on the kitchen table; grabbed a glass of water; fingered the envelope; gazed at the stamp (meticulously chosen) and smiled.  My friend, Paul Panich is a careful person. She appreciates paper, fountain pens and words. As Amy Lowell said, she squeezes a lot into those little inkdrops.

I am not sure we can call email, correspondence. Perhaps, this is another word that will disappear from everyday speech.  I am lucky to have a friend who still writes letters, I want read over and over again.
"And none will hear the postman's knock
Without a quickening of the heart.
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?
- W.H. Auden
...and me

Apr 18, 2010

I'm an Addict: Xa Tollemache

Xa Tollemache
A Garden Well-Placed
A Designer's Harmony Between House & Garden
The Royal Oak Foundation
Seeds for Thought Garden Lecture Series

"The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied.  They always look forward to doing something better than they have ever done 
Vita Sackville-West

Xa Tollemache's Home:  Helmington Hall

I'm an addict: 
My idea of a good fix is planting a garden.

Xa Tollemache minced no words at her talk Tuesday night.  She made it clear from the beginning, that gardening is her life.

Xa's description of a garden "A matrix of energy".   A lot of energy is what you need to design gardens the size of Rhode Island.  From Dunbeath Castle in Scotland (1860) to Wilton House in Salisbury (1653), Xa started at the top of Britian and worked her way down to southern end of the island. 
Photo from Xa Tollemache

Few people get to design gardens which include cutting gardens, walled gardens, conservatories, kitchen gardens, knot gardens, woodland gardens, follies, wildflower meadows, rose gardens, and 500 acre English "parks".  Xa is a great plantswomen.  The combinations were beautiful.  When designing a garden, she paints a picture in her head and this becomes the basis of her planting design.

Using house, landscape and the lives of the people living in the house,  Xa's starting point is personal. This includes her way of describing plants:  "Every plant has a shout out moment." And some "plants die very disgracefully. "
Photo from Xa Tollemache. Helmington Hall, The Knot Garden with Xa and her busband's initials in two of the knots. 

Besides a lot of pretty pictures, a few gardens Tollemache designed stood out.  In the photo below, the garden design is contemporary.  The water fountains were fashioned from old kitchen washtubs.  The majestic simplicity of this garden implied that Xa could bring a different aesthetic to her repertoire.
Papaver orientale Patty's Plum photo by Steve Law - a favorite of XA

Rosa 'Queen of Denmark'
Photo from countryliving - used by Xa in her gardens

 Fuschia Hedge- used by Xa in a country garden

There were many OO-AH moments in Xa's lecture,  but no AHA moments.  My husband asked what I had learned from Xa (pronounced ZA).  I had to think for a second... or too.
"Garden as though you will live forever."
xa tollemache

Apr 14, 2010

Does The Living Wall Need A DNR Order? Kari Elwell Katzander says NO.

Above photography:  Green Education Services 11/30/2009
First two photographs:  Mingo Design, Kari Elwell Katzander

Up, Up, and Away:  The Green Walls Revolution
Metro Hort
Monday, April 12, 2010

"Kari Elwell Katzander, owner of Mingo Designs, describes her self as one who "creates outdoor environments that redefine traditional city spaces.  Transporting the inhabitant through our garden installations, clients are suddenly in the eye of the cosmopolitan storm." 

Kari is the designer of the largest green wall in North America:  PNC Bank building in downtown Pittsburgh, PA.  It is a south facing wall on a 30-story building, made up of 602 modular panels, holding roughly 24 plants each and covers an area of 2,380 square feet.

According to Green Education Services, "The wall coverred by the installation is already performing as expected, with temperatures behind the green wall approximately 25 percent cooler than ambient temperatures.  Altogether, each of the 602 panels provides enough energy savings to offset the carbon emissions equal to that made on behalf of a typical person."

That sounds pretty impressive.  And thanks to Kari, who is particularly forthright, the living wall is still in its experimental stage.  She is constantly tweaking the components and the system she has devised.  She showed several examples of residential installations in her talk on Monday night.  Apparently a livng wall is a hard sell.  And the more she talked, the more I understood why and more I questioned the entire green premise of a the living wall.

Here's the deal.  A living wall is challenging.  Plant Connection, Inc. is the nursery, Katzander uses for all her green wall material.  They grow the plants in modular panels made out of stainless steel or aluminum for a minimum of 6-8 weeks, in order to allow the roots to get established in a horizontal position.  Every panel has its own irrigation tube.  Of course, the plant material varies depending on light conditions and zone.  However, Kari pointed out that maintenance is required every two weeks.  Plants are routinely cut-back and eventually the plant material needs to be replaced.  Whether growing in 3" or 6" eventually the plants will become root bound.

I began to wonder, if the whole idea, which is sold as part of the sustainable gardening movement, is really more part of the Emperor's New Clothes Movement.  By the time you add up the initial cost, the maintenance requirements, the water usage and eventual replacement of all the plant material: how much energy savings really exist?

Kari's  intention may be to put her clients in the eye of the storm, but its likely that the work itself is the eye of the storm.

Apr 11, 2010

Earthworms make "group decisions"

Photo by Lara Zirbes
A 'herd' of worms travel together

Earthworms form herds and
make "group decisions"
by Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News

"Earthworms form herds and make "group decisions", scientists have discovered.

The earthworms use touch to communicate and influence each other's behavior, according to research published in the journal Ethology.

By doing so the worms  collectively decide to travel in the same direction as part of a single herd.

"Our results modify the current view that earthworms are animals lacking in social behaviour," says Ms Lara Zirbes, a PhD student at the University of Liege in Gembloux in Belgium.  

"We can consider the earthworm behaviour as equivalent to a herd of swarm."

Ms. Zirbes and colleagues were originally interested in how earthworms interact with other microorganisms in the soil.

These interactions are part of the important ecological role of that earthworms play.

However, the researchers began to notice that the earthworms seemed also to interact with each other.

For the rest of the article go to:

Apr 5, 2010

The Hippie Vibe Is Back

Image from Gustave Caillebotte's painting, The Gardeners 1875-77
from Garden Tools: Suszanne Slesin, Guillaume Pellerin, Staford Cliff, Daniel Rozensztroch

Helen and Scott Nearing may have started it all, but after hearing Stephen Orr talk about his new book, Tomorrow's Garden, I started researching the garden sharing movement.  Here are some resources and ideas for starting your own garden sharing movement.  Let's green America and share it!

Not able to devote as much time to your garden as you'd like? Interested in having a vegetable garden but don't have the expertise to grow one? As a Santa Monica home or property owner, you can list your space with the City's new Garden Sharing Registry.
Once registered, you'll be able to choose from a list of avid gardeners in need of space to grow.  Together you and your gardener will structure a sustainable partnership that makes sense to both of you, including schedule, type of gardeing project, how the cost of seeds, supplies, etc. will be handled, if and where gardening supplies can be stored on the property, and the length of commitment.

This site also provides a good model for:
  • Home Owners Registry Listing Application & Prospective
  • Gardener Registry Listing Application

http://www.urbangardenshare.org There is limited green space for food and flowers in this place we call the urban jungle.  Matching homeowners(with garden space) to gardeners (with experience) is the perfect solution for cultivating both food production and community.  Condo and apartment dwellers are faced with containers or p-patches as their only propects for vibrant gardens.  Homeowners can be overwhelmed by yet-another-garden-project. 
Together, we make a great team.
  • Create a Garden Profile
  • Create a Gardener Profile
  • Dig In To The Listings

Anyone! Everyone! Can Share!
That's the very idea...We want to encourage healthy community building and I can think of no better way than growing and sharing food.

Our hybrid of community gardening and social networking is the safe, easy, and fun way for gardeners to find land and for land to become productive.
  • How It Works:
  • Create A Profile
  • Search The Map
  • Find A Partner
  • Set Up A Garden
  • Share & Enjoy
Join us to find or start a yard share in your town.
CSAs and community gardens fill up fast. 
Food is expensive! Grow together!
Who we want to see: healthy kids who love the smell of dirt, blocks with foreclosed homes becoming vibrant neighborhoods again, tables full of delicious safe food at costs we can all afford, and neighbors who become real friends...join us -it's free!

To see lots of urban and rural garden projects worthy of support.

"When you share with someone else you always get benefits back. My dear neighbor from childhood was the first to share her garden with me. She allowed me to help her pick peas and beans (of course I got to sample them) with her while she told me stories and just shared her life with me. That experience fueled my own gardening passion as I became a teenager but also the relationship with her gave me an anchor as I went through those teen years."
From James Cascio at openthefuture.com


one garden at a time, we change the world.
Image from The Imperial War Museum, London
from the Ministry of Food exhibition

A Tree En Espalier

"You see, I try to walk the tightrope of accomplishment between the chasms of notoriety and oblivion; were I not a product of my time, I should never be conscious of anything but my accomplishments.  Hence the desire to become a tree espalier!"
mAN rAy

Blogging a way of keeping awareness.