Wednesday, June 17, 2009

http://punkrockgardens.com/

Yay! I have my own domain and blog space. Check us out at: http://punkrockgardens.com/ The move allows for more of the functions I need as I try to report on some of the gardening and growing news in central pa. I'm hoping you like it too. I would so love comments.

I may start to use this blogspot page as a photo gallery since I am quickly finding that I have more photos than space much of the time. Or I may add another tab on the punk rock garden domain for a photo gallery. Thanks so much for visiting!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

So you don't think you have a space to garden?


We talk about planting in containers. We talk about small space vegetable gardening. My lovely friend Sue Tanner sent me this photo. She captured the work of a determined gardener growing food near Boyle Road in Adams County. This is truly punk rock gardening.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Inspiration from Above

By T.W. Burger

The great thing about epiphanies is that you just never know when they’re going to happen.

An expected epiphany would be a contradiction in terms.

So, on a recent Sunday, I stood, coffee in hand, looking out over the creek, the trees, and the critters I could see.

I had been watching a great blue heron in the bright sunlight, spearing his breakfast in the rocky shoals. Something caught my eye, a glittering movement, a bright sparkling thread of light, a chain of diamonds trailing from the branch of the big oak right outside the window.

First, you have to understand that I love nature writing. My shelves are crowded with books by Loren Eiseley, David Hopes, Henry Beston, Edwin Way Teale, Annie Dillard, and the like.

Through them I learned that as vast as the world may be, there is enough wonder and horror in the average back yard to keep me goose-bumpy and awake many a night.

Eiseley wrote of playing with a fox kit, and of dancing with, I think, a Sand Hill crane. Teale and his wife tracked all four seasons as they made their way across the U.S. Beston wrote stirringly that animals are “different nations” with attributes different and sometimes better than our own. Dillard wrote a passage about the death of a frog in the jaws of a giant water bug that gives me the willies just thinking about it.

Now, you would think that after so much reading about the finned, feathered, furred, hooting, clacking, chirping world would prepare me for just about anything.

That was before I saw the squirrel pee.

Yeah, I know, all God’s creatures gotta go. But you know it’s just not something one thinks about. Gathering nuts for the winter. Running helter-skelter into the paths of cars. Scolding the cats from the tree branches. Building nests of leaves in the branches of trees. Eating the stalks of my corn plants, (Which had me telling the cats that for all the free food they were mooching off me, they could try a little predation once in awhile. They just blinked and told me to talk to the shop steward.)

Nobody ever mentioned, well, squirrels’ bathroom habits.

But there he was, in full sun on a thick branch, letting go, his tail and head held high. He looked like he was smiling, but I may just be projecting. The, um, product ran off the branch and trailed off to the leaf litter below, making the glittering chain that had caught my eye.

He finished his business, flicked his tail a couple of times, and launched himself into the air to another branch. Back to work, scolding, nut-gathering, and so on. It’s a tough life.

I stood there, finishing my coffee, happy to be reminded that there is always something new to learn from nature. One just has to pay attention, to be still, and be open to new possibilities. Not a bad lesson on a Sunday morning.

I resolved to spend more time walking along the creek, and in the woods.

And to always wear a hat.



© 2005 Marsh Creek Media,
Gettysburg, Pa.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Plants Have thier Own Purpose


There are people gathered in Millersville right now who would be very comfortable with two concepts that recently sunk into my hard head.
Articulated by Doug Tallamy:

We need to abandon the idea that we are planting purely for the aesthetics of plants.

Landscapes need to be functional for nature.

Today, the Native Plants in the Landscape Conference begins. The conference, held at Millersville University, is a respected gathering for native plant exploration and education for home gardeners and plant professionals. I could not attend this year. But I will next year. One of the featured speakers at the conference is Douglas Tallamy, author of "Bringing Nature Home" and Professor of Entomology at the University of Delaware.

At the Manada Conservancy Native Plant Sale at Meadowood Nursery, I had the pleasure of hearing Tallamy speak. I also was able to walk the nursery with him.

Tallamy's book sheds light on the intricate web of nature and explains that native plants support insect life significantly better than alien plant species. Insects native to an area have, over time, become genetically predisposed to eat and utilize native plants for shelter and reproduction. Native Pennsylvania oaks, for example, host caterpillars which feed migrating birds. A strong argument is made for utilizing native plants in our suburban landscapes.

Gardeners, while often convinced of the importance of native plants, worry about tearing out their established gardens in order to replace their plants with natives. I asked him about the best plan for adding natives to your landscape.

"First, make sure there are no invasives , then replace your plants through attrition, " said Tallamy. Reduce the amount of lawn you have and plant your areas densely with native plants. " Almost everyone has more lawn than they need. " Gardens tightly planted provide food and shelter for insects and wildlife and can gradually allow nature to rebuild the food web. The hope is to create a corridor through suburban landscapes that allow wildlife to move freely and find shelter and food.

Gardeners nurture plants. So the idea of pulling out your hybrid tea to replace it with clethra feels a little counter intuitive to us.

"People need to know it's O.K. to kill a plant." said Lorrie Preston, President of the Appalachian Audobon Society. Preston and Tallamy have similar thoughts about integrating natives. She suggested looking closely and really thinking about some of our problem plants. Rather than babying a plant along with additives or keeping it in bounds with excessive pruning, take the plant out and replace it with a native.

"Plants have their own purpose. We have to understand and think about how a certain plant can serve nature." said Preston.

Plants Have thier Own Purpose


Doug Tallamy, author of "Bringing Nature Home" and Professor of Entomology at the University of Delaware, signs autographs after his presentation at the Manada Conservancy's Native Plant sale held at Meadowood Nursery, near Hummelstown, PA.

Luna Moth


I had the experience of seeing this beautiful moth at Meadowood Nursery recently.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Garden Yoga


Bending back and to the side to reach behind the japanese willow, I found myself as twisted as a Henry Lauder's Walking stick. I was trying to reach into the back corners of the garden while touching up the mulch. It occurred to me, while not as graceful, some of the silly positions I found myself in resembled yoga poses.

There is the "balance on toe to avoid squashing the sedum" pose. This move allows the gardener to step inside an established garden and mulch behind spirea.

The "crouch careful twist" is used to avoid rose thorns while smoothing shredded bark. Balancing on one arm, repeatedly wave the other arm back and forth across the top of the mulch while avoiding the rose bushes until you inevitably need to stop and get a band-aid.

The most often used pose is the "downward facing gardener". For this pose, shovel several good sized piles of bark in between plants. Place feet, slightly spread, in front of the echinacea, bend at waist and lunge toward the lungwort. Stretch to reach the piles and smooth. Hold pose until your back gives out.

Anyone heard of something called a rake?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fresh Food for Health


Nevin Kreider and daughter Regina ,6, sell fresh tomatoes during Palmyra's Producers Only Farmers' Market in 2008. Kreider grows the tomatoes in his greenhouse in Elizabethtown and sells them at various farmers markets in the area. Kreider also sells tomatoes at the Farm Show Complex Farmers Market in Harrisburg.

Fresh Food for Health

Each time you choose locally grown organic foods, you are making an investment in your future health care said Jennifer Halpin, Director of the College Farm Project at Dickinson College. Sometimes you might have to spend a little extra. Or we might have to change our patterns a bit. But the effort is rewarded with food of greater value.

While she made many compelling arguments for buying local, healthfully grown food, Halpin's health based explanation held a special resonance. She was one of the speakers at the Carlisle YWCA Women's Symposium, "It's Easy Being Green."

When making food decisions, concerns about consumption of fossil fuels during long transports of cheap fruits and vegetables and possibly even concerns about the chemicals the food has been treated with, can seem abstract. Distant. Not part of our immediate concern. But Halpin made me think how much more value truly clean and nutritious food holds.

The produce grown and shipped to us from far away, is bred to ship and store well. It is not bred for nutrition or taste. Simply compare the nutritional value of grocery store ubiquitous iceberg lettuce to many leafy greens that are currently available in our farmers markets. Think of the red globes of cellulose sold as tomatoes compared to locally grown tomatoes. Cheap food is cheap in the worst sense. It has little value to our health or our enjoyment of eating.

We are lucky. We are surrounded by great markets and CSA's in this area. So finding healthy food is easier. We also have support in that search. Check out this site:

Buy Fresh Buy Local:

http://www.buylocalpa.org/

All you have to do is type in your zip code and they will help you find what your looking for. I entered my New Cumberland zip and excluded restaurants from the search and I found 30 producers in a 30 mile radius. They also have a social network component called "Good Food Neighborhood" which encourages sharing of local food experiences.

Another reason to be grateful we live in Central PA? A new farmers market is debuting next Wednesday, June 3rd. Called "Farmers on the Square", the market in Carlisle will run from 3pm to 7pm each Wednesday in front of the 1st Presbyterian Church on N. Hanover Street.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bloom of the moment


Love the perky stems and bouncie bluish bloom. Baptista, False Indigo.

Spring Salad


Lettuce, chives, small strips of arugula, micro-green cuttings from radish with a few hot house strawberries and a vinaigrette and I'm happy. I'm even happier that all but the berries and dressing came from my back yard.

I'm also happy that interest in growing food is, well, growing. And any new gardener should be happy that it is truly easy to do. Decent soil, good sun, proper water and a little love keep your veggies happy. And, if you plant early to mature tomatoes or beans or squash, there is still time to try it yourself. You might squeak by with some lettuce. Especially lettuce that would get just a little shade during the hottest times of the day. We'll talk about late season planting, well, later in the season.

I covered my earliest veggies with row cover draped over simple bent pvc. I was able to safely start my crops that way about two weeks early. The best bang for this effort happened with the cold season crops. The lettuce, spinach, onion, cilantro all thrived. The lone tomato that I added to the box didn't die but didn't do much either. My inside tomatoes grew better.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Chic Chicken Shoulder Accessory


I've been spending all my time outdoors. I will reach a balance and start writing again soon. But for now, a little entertainment. I didn't know how hip I am. The Washington Post proclaimed backyard chickens "the chic garden accessory" of the summer. http://tinyurl.com/qq9k8b

Friday, May 15, 2009

PRG and Gardens Update


My garden is a symphony in spring. The bold notes of the white tulips are followed by the quiet low sounds of the trillium with a rumble of the pulmonaria, then the roar of the white iris. A high note of early lettuces for dinner dances across the top of the music. The crescendo of the new dawn heirloom roses is soon to explode to the first strawberries. After that, a lull. Perhaps an intermission.

During this intermission, japanese beetles take center stage for a moment. These non-native pests, the subject of this next column by our fabulous guest columnist Terry Burger, arrive and sadden us all with their pillaging.

To my knowledge, there is no good control of these beasts. I've heard reports that traps just draw more in from everywhere and milky spore is slow and only modestly effective. I suggested to a friend that she cover her roses with a crop cover during the bad beetle days. She said she grows roses for the ornamental beauty and covering them.... well... defeats that. For a few weeks at least. She's right. But I may still cover mine.

Thank you, Terry! Your column is a fun look at the frustrations that we all have when we see our beloved plants gnawed to nubs.

On another note, I am hoping to move this site to my own domain and start blogging on a completely redesigned page sometime around the end of May. I will let everyone know when I move. It will be: www.punkrockgardens.com. I may keep this site active as a photo gallery. I usualy have more photos than I have space. This time, tho no. But I'll post random images for some Friday fun. Thanks for visiting!

Cherry Tomatoes for Breakfast


My son eats a wide variety of healthy foods. His older sister, in contrast, needs most everything she eats to be fried or processed. I'm not sure, but I think it might have something to do with my son growing up being lugged through vegetable gardens. He loves to eat cherry tomatoes for breakfast.

I find this a great incentive to grow your own.

Volkswagons in love

Volkswagens in Love.
By T.W. Burger.
The flower garden was going pretty well until recently, when I noted that a number of leaves had gone to lace, as though putting on airs. Japanese
beetles.
As a kid, I always thought Japanese beetles were kind of pretty, like small jewels.
That was then. This is now.
Now, there they were, uncountable clusters of them. I swear, on quiet afternoons I can hear them chewing.
So, what to do? I have no experience in these matters. A friend suggested a new kind of trap, the nature of which I still find vaguely disquieting.
Apparently, bug scientists have come up with bait for these traps that not only attracts the beetles, but fills them with desire. No, not desire; raw, drooling lust is more like it.
"It's really simple," my friend said. "The beetles are fooled into this mating frenzy, and then they fall into this trap and can't get out."
Frankly, it sounded an awful lot like my life during my 20s and 30s. But, putting my queasiness aside, I got some of the traps and placed them in strategic positions around my garden.
Oh, my.
It is a scene I find nearly impossible to describe without leaping far beyond the boundaries of good taste. Think of an armored office Christmas party, or an orgy of animated beans. Think of Volkswagens in Love.
The idea behind the traps is that there is this little thing that holds the bait, some little sponge or something sopping with lust-making beetle pheromone juice. The beetles, thoroughly porcupined by Cupid's arrows, clamber all over the upper part of the trap and, in this case, the branch to which it is tied, cheerfully greeting and getting to know 20 and 30 of their
best friends, one after the other.
Finally, exhausted, they fall into an hourglass-shaped plastic bag, from which there is no escape.
They don't stop, um, greeting one another in the bag either. I made the mistake of picking one of the bags up in my cupped hand when it must have had a couple hundred beetles in it. I will probably have nightmares.
But, nightmares aside, the traps worked. Sure enough, the cannas, the ones that haven't already been turned into brown doilies, are standing in the sunshine un-munched and peaceful.
The question arose of what to do with this embarrassment of beetles once they have greeted themselves to death. Remembering that someone I know swears they make great fish bait, I took a squirming bagful to the back yard and dumped them into Marsh Creek.
A shimmering wad of Japanese beetles plopped into the water and bobbed to the surface, separating as they made it to the surface. A few managed to drag themselves up onto the bank, there perhaps to reflect on what must have seemed a remarkable day. The remainder of the flotilla paddled around in the grip of the main current, swinging out into the broad body of the creek above the dam. It was still the hot part of the day, so the big fish had not yet started feeding,but a few smaller fish began to thin the numbers of the convoy, some of whom seemed to be merely waving their legs around drunkenly.
Perhaps they still thought they were at the party.
The galaxy of dizzy jewels drifted out of perception. It would be twilight soon. I did not think they would be swimming for long. The thought struck me as I headed back up the hill that whatever substance so love-struck the beetles might make its way into the fish population of the creek. By that time the next day, Marsh Creek could be filled to the brim with randy bass, lovesick carp, and catfish inclined to compose bad verse. What have I done? I thought.
I went to the tree to sling the plastic bag back under the bait. The leaves on the branch above bore a darkly shimmering mass of very friendly beetles.

"The wages of sin is death!" I yelled.

Nobody listened. Nobody ever does.

C 2005 Marsh Creek Media,
Gettysburg, Pa.

Yards of Mulch


I suspect many of you have a big pile of mulch in your driveway about now. I am looking forward to digging into mine! Above is an old photo of our son near a pile of mulch.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Chicken Whisperer


A friend told me we'd have fun with the chickens. He was right.

They've grown very quickly. At about 5 weeks old now, they clearly have their own personalities and seem to have grown accustomed to being pets for our children and the neighbors. The kids have been really sweet with them.

I like to have them following me around the garden as I putter.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Container Curiosities


The fed-ex quy was animated and wide-eyed when he asked me, “Is that BROCCOLI?” as he pointed to the large pot on the base of my front stairs.

“It is,” I told him. The normally pressed for time guy, paused, and asked me several questions about it. I told him he could check out my raised beds filling with green around on the side if he had time. He dashed to take a quick look.

I’ve noticed others point and wonder at the large cabbage-like plant as they walk past my home. The mature broccoli plant was not grown under lights in my basement like the rest of my veggie seedlings. A friend grew it in a greenhouse for me.

Most of the seedlings I grew are now lined up against the side of my house. Some are tucked in raised beds. I have coverings for them if it gets cold. Many are transplanted into terracotta pots, waiting to fill in a bit, before taking their place along side the broccoli on my stoop. Some will help decorate the back porch or fill in spots in the ornamental garden.

While initially wanting to rely on edibles alone in my pots this year, I’m already feeling the need for flower. I have to admit it. I see a few annuals tucked in around the peppers and trailing from the tomatoes. Flowers drew me into growing. I can’t leave them now.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Purchasing Plants for Preservation

A hushed “awww” was just audible when the senior botanist pointed to the image of the baby.

A baby Asplenium rhizophyllum.

You know you’re in company of true plant lovers when the crowd “coos” at an image of a baby walking fern, born on a rocky cliff in Pennsylvania.

The senior botanist was Dr. Ann Rhoads of the Morris Arboretum, University of Pennsylvania, and author of “Trees of Pennsylvania.” Manada conservancy members were treated to a talk by Rhoads, during their native plant sale members night at Meadowood Nursery, Friday. She explained ways of identifying plant communities in our forests.

Purchasing Plants for Preservation


The community gathered at the sale marveled at the plant selection and quality of the native plants grown by Meadowood Nursery to benefit the conservancy. One patron said she was amazed by the growth of the nursery over four years.

I was amazed by the fascinating variety of trees, shrubs, grasses and perennials that are native to Pennsylvania. Strolling the immaculate grounds of the nursery, I felt I was in a mid-sized garden center where the plants held all the possibility of any landscape plants anywhere.

It is possible to sculpt your landscape in a creative and interesting way using native plants. Go by the sale Saturday, 5/2/2009. You’ll see what I mean.

Purchasing Plants for Preservation


As part of member's night at Manada Conservancy's Native Plant Sale, two owls were released back into their habitat after being rehabilitated. They were of different personalities and flew in opposite directions. The crowd was of one mind, however. Everyone was delighted to have a close up view of such a regal bird returning to the woods.

Purchasing Plants for Preservation

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Why Native? Here's why


Sitting down to write something about native plants feels like trying to write something about plants.

It’s far too broad a subject. And one, on which, I have a lot to learn. Luckily, I’ve had the pleasure to get to know a few native plant enthusiasts and I want to share some about what I’ve learned about native plants so far.

Many of us know that plants native to a specific area grow particularly well, because they are genetically suited to the specific growing conditions having evolved over centuries to prosper in that specific climate. It is right plant, right place cubed. We’ve heard the arguments that natives are easier to grow.

We also know that because native plants naturally prosper, they require no chemicals to thrive. Good arguments for natives can be made on a purely economical basis. Native plants cost less over time because they don’t require chemicals or, once established, as much or any watering.

Why Native? Here's why


Some just prefer the aesthetics of native plants. Little brush strokes of purple from native Redbud flowering, can be seen though our Pennsylvania woodlands right now. Successful landscapes often draw inspiration from nature. A beautifully fragrant and graceful flowering Clethra alnifolia fits much better in a wooded landscape as compared to a Hydrangea paniculata sporting 12 inch blooms. In some ways, we’ve bred our plants to be showy to the point of gaudy.

But it seems protecting nature, both by avoiding chemicals and providing food and shelter to wildlife, is igniting passion right now and convincing folks that gardening with native plants is crucial for our ecosystem.

From the soil, to the birds, to the insects, “Nature contains incredible layers of relationship.” Said Jan Getgood, of Meadowood Nursery, an all-native plant nursery near Hummelstown, PA.

Getgood says as we’ve re-arranged mother nature in our developed areas by introducing non-native species, we’ve impacted the biodiversity that has historically relied on native species.

Boiled down, certain insects only feed on certain plants. Birds for instance, search for certain insects; often in spring, caterpillars. Native oak trees, for example, support the most butterfly and moth species, over 500, who lay their eggs in oaks. Those eggs become caterpillars and feed the majority of migrating birds.

Birds need the protein provided by insects to feed their young. While birds gain sustenance from seeds and berries, that’s not enough to support their offspring.

Why Native? Here's why



Native shrubs can also benefit birds. “Spicebush is a Mcdonalds for birds”, said Judy Bono, a York County Native plant expert during a talk at Penn State Master Gardeners “Garden Wise” seminar. Spicebush is also a host plant for the spicebush swallowtail butterfly.

Butterflies and other insects search out only select plants – known as host plants- to lay their eggs. The monarch butterfly only lays in milkweed.

Bottom line is, fewer native plants, mean fewer insects, which means fewer species of birds.

It is a complex system. Luckily, Doug Tallamy is in town to explain. Tallamy, author of “Bringing Nature home” will be at the Manada Conservancy’s Native Plant sale hosted by Meadowood Nursery. The sale is Saturday, May 2, 2009, free and open to the public. There is a Friday night event at the Nursery for members.

For more information on the sale and directions: http://www.manada.org/nativeplantsale.html

More on starting with Native Plants and Doug Tallamy to come.

Why Native? Here's why

Friday, April 24, 2009

Tuned into Nature


She knew there were birds down the road in the patch of woods. She’d hung a bird feeder, but for over two years, the seed remained uneaten. Looking around at her farm, she noticed all the spaces nearby were wide open. There were lots of cultivated farm fields. There was a lawn.

In one of her many moments of tuned-into-nature clarity, Jackie Doyle, of Doyle Farm Nursery, realized there was no place for the birds to rest or hide or find food near her home. That was 1986.

Today, at Doyle’s farm, birds sing a symphony, actually kinda loud, as Doyle’s peacocks show off their tail feathers and Jackie, as she has for most of her life, tends her plants. Her home is now surrounded by gardens with tall trees and shrubs. Birders travel to her farm to watch the birds she has attracted with her plantings.

Doyle Farm Nursery specializes in native plants and is located in Southern York county. Perennials, grasses and ferns are featured. http://www.doylefarm.com/

Tuned into Nature


Doyle’s evolution to native plant grower has been a curvy path through the woods illuminated by those tuned-into-nature moments of clarity. She has an extensive horticulture background and has meandered through growing organic vegetables and herbs for sale at farm markets, to finally setting up her nursery at her home.

“I like to do as nature does.” said Jackie. Describing herself as a gardener’s gardener, she hopes to share her experience with others. “ The idea is to bring more people into Natives,” said Doyle.

Explaining that she wouldn’t advocate tearing out all non-native plants, she tells her customers, “ wouldn’t it be nice to provide a host plant for a butterfly while planting a beautiful plant?” A host plant is a place where a butterfly or other species lay their eggs. Native species can only use specific native plants for hosts.

Doyle’s gardens demonstrate another of her observations from nature. Noticing how trees and shrubs regenerate themselves in woods, Doyle said a light bulb went off in her head and she came to understand what she calls, “mother planting.”

Tuned into Nature

In nature, small seedlings grow up protected from wind, harsh rains or heavy snow, at the feet of large trees and shrubs. The seedling is mothered by the larger plants. The seedling grows, and as the larger plants die, the new tree is now established and strong enough to replace the original tree.

Mother planting can be used as a way to gracefully add more native plants to the landscape. Doyle has planted small native trees and shrubs inter-mixed with her older plantings. She plans to take out older non-native species as the new plantings fill in.

She has “mother planted” in another way. Doyle has inspired a community of native plant enthusiasts in the area.

Judy Bono, a knowledgeable native plant gardener and proprietor of The Gardener of the Owl Valley said, “ We started working with Jackie more than 10 years ago. She was our source of learning and a plant source. The quality of her plant material is so good.” Bono said, “She is my favorite person to talk to about herbaceous plants.” Jan Getgood of Meadowood Nursery, an all native nursery in Dauphin County, called Doyle a mentor.

Doyle is considering slowing down. She said her favorite thing in the world is sowing seeds. She may slow down by growing fewer plants, but let’s hope she continues to sow the seeds of passion for native plants and continues to share her experience.

Tuned into Nature

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Produce Direct from Producer


There’s a surprise in each box. And the prize is perhaps the opposite of the cheap plastic toy we used to find at the bottom of a box of sugar-laden cereal.

As a member of a CSA, each week, it’s fun to open your box and peer inside at the selection of healthy, locally grown produce your farmers have provided for you.

The farmers take pride in their produce and enjoy knowing who they are growing for. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Members buy shares of produce grown by local farms. Members get to know the people growing their food. You get to know the face behind your food. Typically, CSA farms grow sustainably.

We are lucky to have several great CSA’s in Central PA. But they are filling up fast. Beth Weaver-Kreider of Goldfinch Farm near Wrightsville in York County, PA, said they’ve had more first time inquiries about the CSA this year and they have sold out of shares faster this year than any time in their years of farming.

Seeing the pleased reaction of their shareholders each week is a great joy for Beth and for Amy Leber of Shared Earth Farm in Mechanicsburg, PA.

Produce Direct from Producer

Produce Direct from Producer

Shared Earth Farm CSA started small. Like a seedling, really. Amy Leber started growing vegetables “part-time” on her farm while remodeling her home and raising a newborn. Her first year, she served 7 shares. In her fourth season, she’s offering 120.

Amy and her mom provide most of the labor on the farm. They’ve found the growth of their farm to be a natural evolution. Its hard work and they love it. Similarly, when they’ve needed something they’ve found it.

When they needed two doors for the new greenhouse, they found exactly two doors stored on the property. When they started running out of refrigeration room, a member offered a refrigerator. They recently asked their members for help in covering their greenhouse. Thirty members turned out to help.

Shared Earth Farm members pick up the produce at the farm and can pick from a choice table of goods in addition to their shares. At the table, they offer interesting veggies like yard long beans or a miniature cucumber that a member nick named, “cuca melon” because they resemble tiny watermelons. Members can pick their own flowers and herbs as they are available. Other locally produced food can also be picked up at the farm.

Amy’s committed to sustainable agriculture and to the importance of locally grown food. This she shares with Jon and Beth Weaver-Kreider of Goldfinch Farm.

Produce Direct from Producer


Beth Weaver-Kreider remembers it was a rainy Monday morning when her husband Jon purchased the land at auction for Goldfinch farm. When they initially looked at the rolling York County acreage, they weren’t sure it would work for their CSA. Looking closely, they saw the hills offered plenty of level space for planting. In their 9th season now, their beautiful farm will provide 180 shares to their customers.

Jon Weaver-Kreider studied agriculture in several forms, including an internship on an organic farm, before he and Beth started their first farm on rented Lancaster County land in 1999. They follow strict organic farming guidelines.

They also feel it’s important to be in contact with their customers. As often as possible, Jon and Beth personally greet shareholders at their pick-up locations at the Farm and in Lancaster County.

Along with more than 30 vegetables, Goldfinch farm offers strawberries and raspberries in their shares. Members can pick their own variety of berries along the fence rows at the farm and flowers later in the season. The produce is picked less than a day before pickup.

Some other local CSA are:

- Dickinson College Farm: Serving only the Dickinson College Community based near Carlisle, PA. Organic Farming practices used. http://www.dickinson.edu/storg/sisa/index.html
- Garden of Edenbo: A salad CSA. http://agmap.psu.edu/Businesses/3352
- Joshua Farm: Harrisburg, PA. Supporting at-risk youth in Harrisburg. http://www.localharvest.org/farms/M14359
- Prescott's Patch: Fruit and Veggies with pick-ups in Bainbridge and Hellam. http://www.localharvest.org/csa/M7085
- Spiral Path Farm: One of the largest and oldest. Perry County. http://www.spiralpathfarm.com/csas.html
- Spoutwood Farm: Southern York County. http://tinyurl.com/cwgw9o

Produce Direct from Producer

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dickinson College Farm contibutes to Enviromental Award

The beautiful stone foundation barn along the road looks like any other picturesque barn in Pennsylvania. But as you walk up the lane toward the greenhouses, off to the left, you see canvas covered yurts, chickens free ranging, and a row of shiny solar panels. New shine meets old wisdom in harmony, straddling old and new farming practices at Dickinson College farms, near Boiling Springs, PA.

It is a lab and health service. The farm, which provides fresh, local, organically grown produce to college food services, along with offering work study and internships in forward thinking agriculture, was part of the reason the Dickinson College was one of fifteen institutions to be awarded the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence announced Tuesday.

Specifically, the farm’s composting of 700 lbs daily of food waste was mentioned in the Governor’s award. The farm has generated enough compost from this practice to feed all the plants on their farm for 2009. This compost not only benefits the farm by providing nutrients to grow more food for the college, but it saves the college money by reducing the number of dumpsters needed to haul waste to the landfill. Of course, we all benefit from the reuse of the material.

The farm is a lab, as well, because they involve many departments of the college to maximize the beneficial use of resources from heating the greenhouses efficiently with solar energy and using pond water for irrigation to reusing grey water.

There’s much more to be said about the farm and the cool folks who run it. But for now, heartfelt Congratulations. For more info: http://tinyurl.com/d2p5pf

Monday, April 6, 2009

How to Hug a tree? Hire Professional Tree Care


GUEST COLUMNIST: Jon Schach, ISA Certified Arborist PD-1580A. Jon is an arborist representive for Good’s Tree Care Inc. of Harrisburg.

Tree Guys are Not all The Same, Buyers Beware

In a down-turned economy we are all out for a bargain. If it’s not a bargain, most of us will walk away from the table. We’ll put off buying the new car or the new couch until we get through the slump, or until that year end bonus comes in. Some purchases can’t be put off however; a painful toothache, faulty wiring in the basement, or a large dead tree towering over your property. In the first two instances most of us will hire a professional. We look for the letters DDS or DMD at the end of the name on the door before we let someone take a drill to our mouths. We do some research to make sure that the electrician that we hire to repair faulty wiring in our home is a certified journeyman with a reputable firm.

Unfortunately, the same rigor is not always applied when we hire a tree service to remove the large dead tree in the yard or for other tree related services. Instead, many look for the bargains in the kid that mows the lawn, the handy-man neighbor with the reciprocating saw and a ladder, or the wife’s uncle who worked for a couple of years as a logger in Maine in the 1970s. More commonly, we sign up for the bargain offered by the “tree guy” that comes in with the lowest price out of several who stop by after you blitz the yellow pages for free estimates. Buyers beware.

Tree guys are not all the same. In the state of Pennsylvania you need a license to cut hair professionally, but you don’t need a license for cutting trees in the same capacity. Anyone with a saw and a pickup truck can respond to your call for tree work, and say, “I am the man for the job.” It is up to you to decide if that is indeed the case. So what should you look for in a tree service? At a bare minimum, you should ask for proof of workman’s compensation insurance for all employee’s working on your property, as well as, sufficient liability insurance specifically covering tree care related operations before you allow a tree service to perform work in or on your trees.

How to Hug a tree? Hire Professional Tree Care


Say for instance you hire the “tree guy” with a saw and a pickup truck to take down the huge tree in your yard. Chances are he won’t do it alone. He’ll call a couple of buddies to help him out. In this scenario, say the buddy breaks his leg or suffers a severe head injury while working at your house. If the “tree guy” doesn’t carry worker’s compensation insurance for his buddy, chances are the buddy will have to sue someone to pay for the medical bills. Well he isn’t going to sue the “tree guy,” because what is he going to do with a saw and an old pickup truck? He is going to sue you.

Or same instance different scenario, you hire the “tree guy” and things don’t go quite as planned and the big dead tree is now occupying the space that was once your upstairs bedroom, hallway, and bathroom. When you find out that the “tree guy” doesn’t carry liability insurance to perform pruning and removals of large trees, you are going to want to sue for damages. But then you ask yourself, “What do I need a saw and an old pickup truck for?

My reason for writing is not to instill fear and distrust in the homeowner looking to hire a tree service, nor is it to destroy the reputation of several small legitimate tree services in our region. Rather, I write to offer an explanation for why the estimates you receive for services tend to vary a great deal; The playing field is not always level. Further, I write to expose the risk and liabilities involved for both homeowner and individuals involved in tree related services performed without sufficient coverage in the event of an accident.

This current economic climate sets the conditions for a race to the bottom. As buyers of services we seek out the lowest price, the bargain, even if that price carries risks. On the other side of the transaction are a growing number of guys with saws and pickup trucks laid off from companies that had always handled the details of indemnity. Work that involves pruning or removal of trees carries inherent risk. Don’t make matters worse buy bargain shopping. You hire the dentist and the electrician because your life and property depend on it. Make a point to hire a professional tree service, because the same is true. Look for companies that are accredited by the Tree Care Industry Association (formerly the National Arborists Association) and staffed by arborists certified by the International Society of Arboriculture. Doing so will help insure that your trees and property are cared for safely, efficiently, and in a manner that follows the best practices standards developed by the tree care industry.

Jon Schach, ISA Certified Arborist PD-1580A
Jon is an arborist representive for Good’s Tree Care Inc. of Harrisburg.

Dirt Specked Daf


Afternoon light illuminates a daffodil that was sprinkled with both rain and rebounding soil during our recent rains.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Check the plant's background


I’ve wanted a gardening knife. I’m told they make weeding and dividing a breeze. After today, I’m convinced I need one. I need a knife for a desperate fight. I am embroiled in a war and I’m concerned it may go on all summer.

I took home a strange plant I met at a farmers market a few years ago. I thought it was good looking, so I planted it. A dear friend had warned me about that sort of thing. She always goes online and does a background check before planting anything.

She’s right. I’ve learned the hard way. Invasives invade. Like the marauders on those credit card commercials, they can be brutal.

I should have educated myself by searching on line or looking in a book before I added the innocent looking delicate flowering Pink Evening Primrose, Oenothera sp., in one of my more meticulous ornamental beds. It is actually a native of the southwest and a good choice for a large dry area where it could romp. It is prolific flowering and growing.

This is how bad it is. The plant is terribly impolite. It’s gotten right in the face of my favorite plants and even entangled its root system with theirs. Can you imagine? I'm having trouble digging it up without uprooting my other plants. I'm concerned for that garden. I may have lost it to the primrose.

I have seen this plant out and about as well. It isn’t only to be found in back alleys. I purchased more of it last year at a high-end garden center. Invasives are out there, looking good and looking classy, and just waiting for a na├»ve gardener to take them home and put them in a garden bed.

Better get that knife if you don’t want to do background checks first.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Mini-farmin' Mom


It’s been cold here in Pennsylvania but that hasn’t stopped me from being busy in the garden. I don’t have a farm, yet. But that hasn’t stopped me from farming. Mini-sized.

I have a 10 square foot farm working in my basement. Under my seedling benches topped with precariously placed grow lights almost kissing the tops of my plants, I have my worms in their composting bin and three baby chicks nesting in their box. My son says we have a lot of pets. He’s including the worms in the pet category.

I giggle at the contrast between the Eames rocker, which sits next to the worm composting bin, and my "farm". The chicks are also in close proximity to a pristine 1950’s Haywood Wakefield dresser. It’s fifties mod-living for my chicks. The Red Rock and Barred Rock chicks are dubbed Poachy (thanks I-Carly, not), Lovey, and Dixie. My four year-old was in charge of the names. I’m not so sure that was so smart. And yes, my four year-old does watch I-Carly. I may be a better gardener than parent in certain moments.

Spring planting, horticulture classes, writing a biz plan, and watching the chicks with my son, have kept me busy and away from the PRG this week. Look for another guest columnist soon and several postings on native plants and plant sales coming before the end of April.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tomatoes Anyone?


If you want to start seedlings yet this year, it’s time to do it. If you want to start lettuce or onions or peas, you now have the choice of starting them indoors or directly sowing these cold hearty vegetables.

If you’d like to try a indoor seeding of tomatoes, you should get a move on. It’s widely recommended growing tomatoes for 4 to 6 weeks inside before transplanting.

In central Pennsylvania, the recorded last frost date is May 4th. However, we’ve had frost after that and many use Mother’s day as a safe starting point. We have just enough time to start our seed, but we have to do it now.

Can’t do it now? Not to fear. Erica Beadle, Nursery Manager at Highland Gardens said they will stock over 40 varieties of tomatoes this year. Check out their website for a list:
http://www.highlandgardens.org/

Both Highland Gardens and Ashcombe Farm and Greenhouse will be carrying heirloom varieties as well.

Shirley Halk, a Dauphin County Master Gardener, said people shouldn’t be afraid to try heirlooms. Halk’s heirloom tomatoes have performed every bit as well as any hybrids and taste much better.

Some of the heirloom varieties she suggests growing are:

Old German – A large tomato with a pink inside
Cherokee Purple – Flavorful rose colored favorite
Amish Paste – Plum shaped, excellent for paste and sauce
Green Zebra (not always an heirloom) – Green and yellow tomato with added spice and zing

I got the sense that Halk had grown and loved many other varieties of heirloom tomatoes and would probably discover at least one other variety to add to her list this summer.

Ashcombe Farm and Greenhouses lists their tomato plant varieties at:
http://www.ashcombe.com/vegetablelist.htm

At the end and the beginning



Today, I found myself celebrating old and young beauty. Graceful arching of the over wintered Hakonechloa grass under gray skies made parting with the dry foliage sad, as I cleaned up my perennial beds a bit. Then visiting my tiny greenhouse of seedlings, some begging to be planted outdoors, others just saying hello with their first true leaves, brought home the cycle of the seasons again.

At the end and the beginning

Friday, March 27, 2009

You'll be seeing these plants

Looking out my window onto my still mostly brown landscape, I’m dreaming about how great a bank of richly deep, orange- red coneflower – Echinacea ‘Tiki Torch' - would look behind my lavender by the garage.

As we all think of ways to add the best, most rewarding plants to our landscapes this season, Garden Splendor offers nine plants for our serious consideration.

According to Harrisburg Resident, David Wilson, Director of Marketing with Overdevest Nurseries – the parent company to the Garden Splendor brand - these are some of the Garden Splendor plants offering great promise for 2009:

-Dicentra “Candy Hearts,” a compact heavily flowering bleeding heart.

-Echinacea ‘Tiki Torch,’ a wonderfully rich orange flowering coneflower.

-Sedum ‘Angelina,’ a yellow green ground cover thriving in a variety of growing conditions including dry and sunny locations.

-Veronica ‘Purpleicious’ is the deepest purple of the speedwells.

-Sorbaria ‘Sem’ offers warm colored variegated foliage with cold hardiness.

-Hakonechloa ‘ All Gold’ is a yellow green charming part shade grass.

-Phlox ‘Peppermint Twist’ offers a variegated pink and white bloom on a compact plant.

-Salvia ‘Eveline’ adds bi-color flower power to sage and on a compact plant.

-Penstemon ‘Red Riding Hood’ is a compact and heavily red flowering.


Once my garden starts to green, I know I will want to stick with my relatively simple monochromatic color scheme. But for now, it’s great to browse.

If you google Garden Splendor, you’ll find a informative website. Ashcombe Farm and Greenhouse carries Garden Splendor plants.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Growing Pains



I am infatuated with plants. My particular crush of the moment is on vegetable plants. But I have room in my heart for them all. Sometimes even weeds make me blush. I just can’t choose one type to court.

This indiscriminate love has led me to Punk Rock Gardens. I have the opportunity to take a full time horticulture journey. I’d like to take you with me.

This space has room for discussion of many aspects of gardening and growing. Please know I am a student, learning and discovering everyday after gardening for more than 20 years. While I find certain gardening directions more attractive than others, I embrace tolerance and set no rules.

My garden reflects this. No typical landscape architect would consider plant pairings that suit me fine in my garden. Self-expression has led to a visual adventure in my landscape. There may be more noise than harmony. And honestly, there is very little purity.

I can’t seem to move my thinking past veggies this spring. This is new. I keep asking myself why. I think I finally have part of the answer. My relationship with vegetable plants is simple.

I am conflicted about ornamental plants. I am torn between what I’ve known and enjoyed and what I am learning.

Growing Pains


Judy Bono, The Gardener of the Owl Valley, and Jan Getgood, of Meadowood Nursery, have already taught me much about use of native plants. I have two grassy areas in my garden. I plan to replace the sod with native plants in the spring.

While I am swayed by the multiple reasons to rely on native plants, I can’t promise to tear out my beloved euphorbia or sedum. I love their refreshing architectural shape and interesting foliage colors.

Perhaps the first infatuation with a new plant is what leads some of us to a passion for gardening. You spy a plant across a crowded garden center. It’s a new green in the shade section. Bravely, you edge close to the plant, gently pick up the tag, read the light and soil requirements and think, “ Ahhh, maybe this is the one.” You take it home. Nurturing and watching the plant develop brings either joy or disappointment.

Rules can limit a creative gardening experience. Varying mindsets dictating that planting beds must be certain dimensions or that certain plants should serve only as background plants, while others belong in the vegetable garden, are all under suspicion in my mind.

I leave room for a change of heart. As I learn more, I suspect I will become a bit more of a purist.

There is one solidified aspect of my appreciation of growing. It is my vision of the soil as a commune of living organisms and of the interdependence of all living things.

I hope you grab your shovel, come with your own passions and questions, and join me on this journey. This spring is my first step and I’m loving it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Where can you buy this stuff?


I'm drawn to using native plants. I've recently been extolling the virtues of Lindera benzion, Spicebush. Someone asked me where to find it. It used to be that native plants were really hard to find. That's changing.

Native plant sales are held locally at a couple of locations in early May. I will post more extensive looks at natives and post a list of sales in mid-April. But for now, I know that in Dauphin County, The Manada Conservancy holds their Native Plant sale May, 2, 2009. Jan Getgood, of Meadowood Nursery which hosts the event and grows the plants, said that Spicebush will be available at their sale.

I got good news in two forms when I called Ashcombe Farm and Greenhouse. Kathy McAfee, Nursery Manager, said they do carry Spicebush and have it right now. I found that exciting, both, because they are stocking a cool shrub and they are stocking a native shrub.

McAfee did caution that you need both male and female varieties of Spicebush to get berries in the fall. They are not marked male or female and very difficult to identify any difference. She said you get both nice yellow spring and fall color with either sex and mentioned the appealing spicy fragrance. Another nice attribute? Spicebush swallowtails will visit the plant.

Good sources of Native Plants in York county are the Maescapes Native Plant Sale held May 16th. And The Gardener of the Owl Valley in Hellam.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Enough to Share

Extra Row Tow

If you’d like to plant a extra row and share your produce but you're not sure how to get it to those in need, The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and Channels Food Rescue can help.

Jorja Barton, Central Pennsylvania Food Bank's Director of Agency Relations, said gardeners can search out food pantries, soup kitchens and missions local to them to donate homegrown produce. The Food Bank will be listing information about their “Gardeners Giving Back” on their website shortly. She said Channels Food Rescue also has a “Plant-A-Row” program that provides set pick up points for vegetables so they can be distributed.

Barton said the Food Bank has seen a 33% increase in demand over last year. Certain agencies have experienced as much as a 110% increase, due to job loss, over last year. At the same time, many of the Food Bank’s suppliers are now selling their foods in secondary markets to stores like Big Lot’s rather than donating.

The need for the produce from the extra row is real. I’m going to reach out to Bridges, a New Cumberland food pantry, and see if I can help organize a West Shore effort to both get fresh produce from our gardens out to those in need. And I’m going to be lobbying folks in my community to plant an extra row.

For more on Channels:
http://budurl.com/mjeb

For more on the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank:
http://budurl.com/p8qs

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Victory for Veggie Growing


Today, an advocate for the Victory Garden, Pamela Price, sent a one word tweat. "Joy" was all it said. It was her reaction to the news that the Obama's are tearing up part of the White House lawn for a Veggie Garden.


There is something you can do. You can plant an extra row.



That’s right. That’s the propaganda slogan from WW2 which sent people into their yards to grow their own food in order to take pressure off the world food supply and to feed troops overseas.



In this time of worry and fret and AIG, there’s a way to take a stab at several looming issues while having fun.



The Victory Garden is back. And this time, rather than being proclaimed important by the government as it was for the first time in pre-WWI 1910, the concept is sprouting and growing thanks to the vision of a group of California artists.



A couple years back, Amy Franceschini, a San Francisco visual artist and founder of Future Farmers, created start up kits and modern versions of the WWII propaganda posters. The idea caught on. Organic Gardening magazine published by the Rodale Institute near Reading, PA., profiled the movement in their April edition. Multiple websites are devoted to the topic.


Separately, the National Gardening Association found that interest in vegetable gardening is up 19% since 2008. Folks are reading enough books about food security to make Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver household names. President Obama announced today that part of the White House lawn will be torn up for a vegetable garden to promote healthy eating. http://tinyurl.com/cntvz9



People aren’t getting out in their gardens more because a book was written or a movement re-ignited, but because multiple historic and economic conditions have increased our interest in our food and have led us to buy books about food security. The conditions are fertile soil for the growth of the Victory Garden.

Victory for Veggie Growing


So what are we fighting for? Does the increasing interest in Victory Gardens tied to Iraq or Afghanistan? Not directly.



The movement for victory gardens points out that with one act, growing food, you can positively affect many of the concerns of our time. By growing your own, you can help supply food banks, reduce stress on the environment and make sure what you and your family eat, is safe. You can also save a little money.

Food bank supplies are dwindling while demand is increasing. Local groups are forming to collect gardeners excess and transport it to food banks. (More on this. Check back)



Aside from helping those in need in this deepening recession, the celebration and primal necessity of food draws folks to their pitch forks.

Shirley Halk, a Dauphin County Master Gardener said a variety of forces account for renewed interest in vegetables.



“It’s the prices of things, the recall of things, and the concern over where did my food come from and how was it handled.” And it’s the memories. Halk said, “ People want vegetables to have the taste they had when their Grandmother grew them.” 



Vegetables that end up in our grocery stores are bred to ship well over long distances and be attractive. Flavor has lost out to a beauty standard and efficiency. The transport of those travel toughened veggies burns fossil fuel.

Several studies, including an Iowa State University study comparing the average miles between locally produced vegetables and trucked in vegetables showed that it’s not unusual for a vegetable to travel 1500 miles before landing on your dinner plate.



Home gardeners also have faith that their own vegetables were not doused with pesticides and other chemicals. The primal connection to our own fuel, food, becomes almost sacred as you invest emotionally and physically in your food through growing. 



With your own Victory Garden, you could get your hands dirty and extend a helping hand. And, hey, it's hip. 

For more on Victory Gardens check out this great blog: http://www.redwhiteandgrewblog.com/

Victory for Veggie Growing

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Good Lookin' Roots

Good Lookin' Roots

My four year old is into the lettuce plants I have growing under lights in my basement. Saturday, he drug his grandfather down there to show him the baby plants. While excitedly chatting about how seeds became that bright green foliage, my son pinched off a piece of lettuce and ate it straight off the plant to show grand dad just how yummy. He did this once with the arugula by mistake and wasn't so happy.

His favorite, and a variety I am happy about is Speckles, a lettuce butterhead variety. I found an heirloom organic seed for it at Botanical Interests. I love the red and green combo and it seems to propagate very well.

I also love the roots. The time table for Speckles arrival in PA are all over the map. The latest date I see has it arriving in the Keystone state around 1880's. I tend to believe it goes back 200 years to match the time of the early German migration to Pennsylvania. There is mixed info as to whether it came via Mennonite or Amish, but either way, I love growing something in Pennsylvania that's been growing here a while. Good roots.

And I'm pleased by the roots of my seedlings. Robust.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

GardenWise

Do it now. Mark your calendars. Make a note for early January, 2010, reminding yourself to get information on the York county Master Gardeners GardenWise program. Because you need to attend next year. And you’ll need to register early.

GardenWise is an educational program which focused on forward thinking topics including backyard stewardship to decorative vegetable gardening.

Speakers really knew their stuff. The talented group of Master Gardeners were able to bring in and share with local gardeners noted Audubon Ornithologist Stephen W. Kress, PSU Forestry professor and leader of Pennsylvania’s Forest Stewardship outreach program Jim Finley, and soil scientist Dr. John Dighton who heads Rutgers Pinelands Field Station. All the presenters were knowledgable and engaging.

More than 200 gardeners filled York Suburban High School on this mild Saturday in March. The halls were lively with informational displays and chattering people sharing their ideas.

One point Jim Finley made also described what I witnessed at the event. Finley spoke of the need for developing a community of people to take stewardship of our land seriously and the need to develop linkages in our wooded areas to benefit wildlife. I certainly saw a community of gardeners forming new links at GardenWise.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Seeing Spring

Seeing Spring, by T.W. Burger

It is time.

Spring.

Easter eggs and candy festoon bare dogwoods in the suburbs.

The days suddenly seem almost long enough. The road home is not so often a drive through a tunnel of darkness.

Soon, people on the streets will forego their bulky winter wear, start looking like humans instead of so much dirty pastry.

It is a time to forget to take home the jacket you wore to work in the chill morning because the afternoon is so warm.

This weekend churches will bloom with children decked out in new outfits, the little girls budding out in flouncy dresses in a bouquet, a riot of colors.

Along the drive through the woods to the house, under the winter brown riot of honeysuckle and tear-thumb vine, regiments of daffodil leaves muster for the first assault of the new season. Soon, the dark ground will crumble and heave out new growth of every sort, from early flowers to the first clacking, leggy hordes of bugs that make a gardener’s life so full and varied.

It won’t be long before wood and thicket rustle with the annual commotion of new birds and baby rabbits, a fact the barn cats already seem to anticipate. They seem more watchful of late.

In the muddy pond bottoms, perhaps, turtles and frogs begin to stir, their winter slumber ending. One wonders, maybe, what would that be like, what would one dream in the oozy dark while winter locked the pond overhead under a cracking, singing roof of ice?

It is time to start scanning the wintry gray flanks of South Mountain, looking for that first fog of green, for the first startling lavender of the redbuds. Before you know it, a green cloud of leaves will hide the stony bones of the ridges, the outlines of the hills, and the fat, high houses of rich show-offs cluttering the ancient hills with matchstick arrogance.

Fishermen will finger eagerly through their tackle boxes, dreaming perhaps that this year the cold lightning trout will not be so fast or so wary. Or, perhaps, they dream ahead even further, to the lunker bass lurking in the lakes and ponds of summer.

Along the creek, I keep watch for the scattering of blue herons who make life for the frogs and fish interesting, if shorter. Maybe, with luck, ospreys will again hang out in the dead oaks across the water from the house.

I am giving my editors fair warning. There will be afternoons when it will be necessary for me to take my laptop out to one of the local parks, because whatever story I am writing will somehow need the touch of sun on shoulder, and the sight of children teeming around playground equipment like so many brightly colored birds on a trellis. There is no help for it. It’s not my fault. It is the season, you see.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ideas for Edible Landscapes


Returning home by train from the Philadelphia Flower show last week, I carried a worm composting bin and lots of ideas about using edibles in the landscape. I’m really pleased that I found both.

No less than ten exhibitors incorporated edible plants into their design. Many more used herbs.

I asked my friend who went with me, if she’d had any ‘ah ha!’ moments at the show. We talked about it for a while and both decided that we had seen displays that strengthened preferences we already held, but we both thought ‘ah ha!’ moments didn’t really happen for us.

I realize now, that’s not true. I did have an ‘ah ha!.’

I have many pots in lots of different sizes. I really didn’t want to fill my pots with annuals. And I wasn’t sure I could fill them all with perennials.

My downstairs dressing area bathroom, which used to house nice high heels and office attire, is currently being revamped into some form of seed starting greenhouse. I have way too many seedlings sprouting. My ‘ah ha!’ happened in kind of a ‘duh” fashion. I realized I could use many of those veggie plants in my containers this year.

I’m jazzed about playing with snap peas on a trellis, beet greens and lettuces, and carrots and possibly even corn in my containers. Mixed in with some sweet pea, I think. I will keep you posted.