3 Garden Design Tips for Spring Planning

 

 

We’ve had a lot of rain here in the NE this spring. Yet we eagerly run out when the sun pokes through a cloud and continue to spruce up yard and garden. We plan our vegetable beds and flower beds and usually look forward to adding something new. I’ve got three great tips for you today to consider when nursery shopping:

 

 

1. Think foliage.

We drool over the new hybrid creations that flash color and design but I propose looking at plant specimens from a foliage perspective. Check tags and better yet research the plant first to make sure its compatible with native species in your region. Choose native or heirloom varieties. Then look at foliage types for texture, depth, and color. The trick is to plant-wide leafed plants next to ones that are lacier or with a finer texture. For example, hostas have a variety of colors, sizes, and shapes. Their strong root system makes them ideal next to wet areas, ponds. They can handle some shade too. Next, consider planting daisies between the wider leafed varieties such as Leucanthemum vulgare.

Years ago I planted several Hosta varieties ( deep blue leafs next to variegated white and green with yellow tints in between) in a relatively small shaded area to create a textured appearance. It takes a couple of years for new plants to fill in space but it’s worth it. Are deer a problem? Yes, they can be. Hostas are one of their favorites. I sprinkled cayenne pepper on leaves routinely and then added a nonobtrusive wire mess to the area.

 

2. Add food producing plants to your landscapes.

 

In previous posts, I have mentioned adding fruit-bearing shrubs such as blueberries, cranberries, and loganberries into more traditional non-food landscapes. If you spray and/or use chemicals then they are not edible. But if you have azalea, rhododendron bushes on your property, which like an acidic soil and are not treated, then you have a great match. Berries add color and provide food and habitat for many species. Get a soil sample done to make sure soil pH will support the berries. Blueberries, cranberries, and loganberries are all in the Vaccinium family and compatible.

 


3. Plant Wildflowers

Wildflowers can occupy a small land space. I especially recommend them if you have a field of “weeds” and its overrun. While the first year is the most work, the subsequent years need little to no maintenance, are drought resistant, and are sustainable. Meadows provide habitat, shelter, food, and water for so many critters, who are endangered today. My book, At the Garden’s Gate, has a chapter on how to turn lawn into a meadow in 7 easy steps.

We get creative in spring with our land spaces. After winter’s quiet and mono palette we look forward to springs renewal. I know I do.

I hope you found these tips helpful. What changes will you make in your gardens this year? Share your stories. We enjoy hearing from you. Judith.

 

 

 

 

 

Blog: Add More Fruit Trees to Your Landscape

 

My podcast guest this week, Mark Shepard, talks about forest restoration. What is a forest? What is the ecosystem naturally present in a given ecoregion and how can we support that by planting trees? He also recommends fruit-bearing trees for several reasons: find the ones native to your ecosystem region. They produce fruit/nuts, fruits and nuts contribute food source for us and critters, increase diversity in our landscapes and contribute to the overall ecosystem.

Curious? I was too. We would like to increase fruit trees in our backyard, but here in NE, they can be a lot of work with poor returns. As I researched the topic, I came across this video that shows us how to add fruit trees to our yards. However, I had no idea we can keep them short, manageable and add variety. Pretty cool, right? With the right soil conditions, proper fertilizing we can take a relatively small space and put ten fruit trees in the space needed for one fully mature non-dwarf variety. The secret is picking fruit trees from the same family. For example, choose the pome fruits, such as varieties of apple and pears or choose stone fruits, prunus, such as peaches, plums. He suggests great results by not mixing the 2 groups in one plot.

Spring is here. The video and Mark’s discussion give us “food ” for thought (pun intended). We can see our yards with fresh eyes after winter’s barrenness and with itchy feet and fingers think about using our space differently. At the very least adding more plants increases diversity.

What new plans do you have for your yards? What inspires you to add more diversity? All comments are appreciated.

Enjoy. Judith

 

Podcast: Holistic Nature of Us: Mark Shepard Forest and AG Restoration


Description: “Despite the massive human efforts applied to farming, we are woefully short of the inherent resilience, stability, and outright beauty of natural ecosystems. We need to look no further than native ecosystems for a template of how to move forward from the many woes of annual monocropping. This is our goal and mission: Redesigning Agriculture in Nature’s Image.” Mark Shepard, RestorationAg.com
Mark Shepard returns and goes into more detail about succession only this time he addresses our forest ecosystem makeup. Forests are a “phase” in time. Intrigued? I hope so. Join us for an insightful and helpful discussion.

About My guest: Mark Shepard is the CEO of Forest Agriculture Enterprises LLC, founder of Restoration Agriculture Development LLC and award-winning author of the book, Restoration Agriculture: Real-World Permaculture for Farmers. Mark has also been a former member of the Organic Valley cooperative, the worlds largest Organic Farmer’s marketing co-op, since 1995. He is most widely known as the founder of New Forest Farm, the 106-acre perennial agricultural savanna considered by many to be one of the most ambitious sustainable agriculture projects in the United States.

Transcript: #57 Mark Shepard #2 

 

Blog: March: Honoring Women

 

 

 

 

A couple of years ago one of my poems was selected for an international women’s online publication. This poem reflected my reverence for my body. Our bodies are amazingly designed, a masterpiece of complex interconnectedness. Yet, we women have been subjected to the media definition of what our body should look like. Most of us do not fit the bill. We’re not skinny enough, too curvy, not the right hair color, too old etc. What makes me sad is that many of the print models are airbrushed to look the way they do, giving us a false impression. Stripped down, they are no different than the rest of us.

The good news is we are breaking down some of these image stereotypes. I see the younger gals going more natural wearing little to no makeup. I see baby boomers, my generation, claiming our aging, celebrating our accomplishments that are reflected in our wrinkles, our grey hair, Our bodies change as we grow older, we fill out, more flexible and use our sexuality more creatively if we choose.

Who are my heroines? There are so many to choose from. On a recent post, I highlighted Jean Houston, Caroline Myss, and Marianne Williamson. For this month’s national and international theme of honoring women, chose my earth teachers.

Seeds: Vandana Shiva: Seed Saver Extraordinaire! Scientist, pioneer, rebel, activist, saw the handwriting on the wall. When big chemical companies were introducing seeds injected with systemic pesticides she inherently knew those kinds of seed manipulations could cause unforeseen consequences.

“In 1991 she founded Navdanya, a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources – especially native seed – and to promote organic farming and fair trade. For the last two decades, Navdanya has worked with local communities and organizations, serving more than 500,000 men and women farmers. Navdanya’s efforts have resulted in the conservation of more than 3000 rice varieties from across India, and the organization has established 60 seed banks in 16 states across the country. ”

I have read she has had to face great obstacles in her travels of spreading her vision. I admire her courage and fortitude and guiding light.

Plants and Medicine: Rosemary Gladstar: One of our Herb Mothers: I have had the privilege of studying herbal medicine with Rosemary. She and others awakened the herbal movement in the early seventies with the advent of the Aids epidemic. Many fellow herbalists sought out native elders and learned rituals, ceremony to honor the earth. They, in turn, became our teachers, instilling reverence for the species we harvested and consumed.

Rosemary began in California, founded  California School of Herbal Medicine, moved to Vermont and began Sage Mountain Herbs. She’s a co-founder of United Plant Savers and the International Herb Symposium, a biennial event, one I have attended and highly recommend. Herbalism has matured.  Many of the presenters share their vast experiences of using herbal medicine in practice and offer practical, tested advice. I admire Rosemary for her activism in protecting plant species and offering reliable herbal knowledge.

Earth Partner: Pam Montgomery: Pam was my first herbal teacher. We spent several afternoons way back when, as teacher and student, learning about wildcrafting in responsible ways and learning how to make herbal preparations for family and friends.

Today, she is the founder of Partner Earth Education and has now transitioned into Wake up to Nature, in Vermont. Pam too is an activist seeking to awaken us to our partnership with nature. She is one of the founding members of the Organization of Nature Evolutionaries. or O.N.E. This relatively new organization is working with other organizations that seek to have the legal rights of nature finally recognized. They offer ceremony and ritual to help us feel nature’s deep presence. I respect Pam’s dedication and deep commitment.

All three women embody advocacy, education, and action. Today we have many environmental problems. Like many others, I seek to follow those who inspire us to a more responsible partnership with this earth. Is it easy? No, but that’s where passion and courage come in. We all have unique gifts and talents and as my guest this week reminds us, we can make a difference one project at a time and create change.

So thank you Kelly Rafferty and Kyleigh Hillerud for sharing your story. How in eight short months you took proper action, offered education for informed decision making to your college campus and today celebrate zero plastic bags on campus.
Know you are in good company. Established women, young women starting out, making a difference, Isn’t it great!.

Who do you admire? Let us know. Your comments and stories are appreciated. Enjoy. Judith

Podcast: Holistic Nature of Us: Meet UConn Student Kelly Rafferty

Description: Students are making a difference. The University of Connecticut is in my backyard. I receive a newsletter that highlights important work being done across campus. It is here I found Kelly Rafferty and the UConn PIRG chapter tackling ‘zero plastic bags’, taking practical action making this a reality. How did they do? They were successful! The dining Department has done away with plastic bags. Kelly and her group of volunteers polled, presented and accomplished the task of taking plastic bags out of dining services. She and her team offered practical tips, education, and alternatives to students and faculty. After 8 months of diligent work, ‘no plastic bags’ through dining services is now a reality.

Join us for her insightful discussion on the detrimental effects plastic bags have on our health, the environment, how the use of plastic bags depletes our resources and wastes taxpayers money.

About My Guest: Kelly Rafferty is a junior English major student at the  University of Connecticut. She is a member of UConn PIRG, a student-run, non-profit advocacy group. In particular, she has been the campaign coordinator for the “Zero Waste” on campus whose mission is to eliminate plastic bags. Join us for an insightful discussion where students such as Kelly are making a difference one school and one town at a time to reduce waste which helps clean up our environment. Actions we desperately need today.

Transcript: #55 Kelly Rafferty 

Blog: 10 Facts Need to Know About Plastic Bag Use Today.

 

 

 

 

Students at the University of Connecticut are making a difference one issue at a time. Over this past year, the PIRG chapter volunteers got plastic bags banned from dining services. It’s all part of UConn PIRG’s zero waste campaign. Can we make a difference by decreasing plastic bag usage? These students, 2 of whom are my podcast guests this week and next, said yes. They researched the issue, offered education, got students and faculty to sign petitions and basically got the job done. I’m proud of them for their efforts, their enthusiasm and their willingness to create change, one that promotes sustainability and takes care of the earth for the future.

However, I wondered about the facts around our use of plastic bags today? So, I decided to look into the issue more deeply. It’s simply astounding. And I feel saddened to think we have waited so long to take action over a serious problem that has shown us the error of our ways so graphically. Why are we taking so long to make a difference for us and all species?

Let’s look at the UK: Anna Schavorion who writes in Forbes magazine:

England’s single-plastic bag use before 2015

“The use of plastic bags in England’s supermarkets was out of control in 2014. More than 7.6 billion carrier bags were handed out to customers that year and that figure had been on the rise for the previous four years.

England was the last country in the U.K. to introduce a charge for single-use plastic bags. Wales was the first to do so, in 2011, followed by Northern Ireland in 2013 and Scotland in 2014. All saw plastic bag use decrease by 70-80% year-on-year.”

That translates into a huge decrease in personal usage of plastic bags which means a huge decrease in production. Let’s look at more facts:

    1. Ireland alone reduced plastic bag consumption by 1 Billion bags between 2001 and 2011 by imposing a bag tax of $.37
    2. We use 1 trillion plastic bags worldwide, a product that consumes resources, contributions to species deaths, adds to pollution.
    3. The European Union is beginning to get behind promoting a decrease in plastic bags due to the great harm seen in our oceans and other waterways.
    4. Plastic baags contribute to malaria in Kenya.
    5. Camels and other animals such as cows and sheep die from plastic bag ingestion.
    6. 100,000 marine creatures a year die from plastic entanglement and these are the ones found. Approximately 1 million sea birds also die from plastic. A plastic bag can kill numerous animals because they take so long to disintegrate.”
    7. “There are 5 ocean gyres in the world where plastic gathers due to the current circulation. These gyres contain millions of pieces of plastic and our wildlife feed in these grounds.”
    8. According to National Geographic: 18 billion pounds of plastic waste flows into the ocean every year from coastal regions. That’s the equivalent of five grocery bags of plastic trash sitting on every foot of coastline around the world. And 40% of plastic produced is packaging, used just once and then discarded.
    9. How does the US rate in recycling plastics? We recycle 9% compared to Europe at 30%. Here in the Us, we throw away 100 billion plastic bags annually. That’s about 307 bags per person.
    10. If a ton of plastic bottles is recycled, the energy that is saved is the same as the amount of energy used yearly by a two-person household.

What can we do? A lot. Simply stop using plastic bags, straws and be mindful of packaging. Got your bags in the car and forgot to bring them in? I do that too. But, one student reminded me to reverse bag: put all items into your cart, take to your car and bag them there.  When I only have one or two items I tell the cashier that “zero waste is coming. No thanks, I don’t need a bag.”

Got any great ideas for zero waste? Let me know. Thanks. Judith

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