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:

For more on the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank:

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.

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:

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.