350 Garden Challenge

Across the world people will be planting gardens this weekend to help combat the challenges of our changing climate. Last year Sonoma County, California residents alone planted over 600 food, habitat and community gardens. Visit 350.org and Transition United States to learn more about this and other important climate crisis initiatives.

I will be planting kale, lettuce and sunchokes (in pots since our threat of frost is not yet past). What will you be doing this weekend?


Much as I love seeds, I am even more of a sucker for seedlings. Case in point, these two six-packs purchased at last Saturday’s farmers market.

The first is a selection of organic lettuce (Little Gem, Red Oakleaf, Green Oakleaf, plus a couple whose names I don’t remember).

The second is Red Russian Kale. I just can’t get over that color…

So while outside it’s been hailing, inside it’s already spring. And with the huge skylight in the kitchen, I may just plant them in bigger pots and keep them on the window sill. With colors like those, they’re just as pretty as flowers, plus they will taste good.

Video: Gnome Management

2011 has finally arrived and with it you can expect to see some changes coming to OneGarden, including more articles, a broader range of topics, and possibly even a new and larger garden to work with. But while all of that is percolating in the background, now is the perfect time to start dreaming toward spring. What do you hope to do with your garden this year? I know I have big plans for mine. Whatever you do, be sure to plan for dealing with pests like these little guys, brought to our attention by Utah State University.

Happy New Year and happy gardening in 2011!

Video: The One Straw Revolution

Destructive, toxic industrial farming techniques not only poison our water and food, they destroy the finely balanced network of organisms in the soil that help keep our land fertile and productive. After a high-pressure career in plant pathology, Masanobu Fukuoka returned to his rice farming roots to figure out how doing less could yield so much more. His book The One Straw Revolution details his work which has greater implications not only for farming but for health, education, and so much more. I’ve written before just how deeply inspiring I found that book, and wanted to share this wonderful video that passed through my inbox this morning.

Product Review: Wonder Weeder

Recently my brother and his family visited New Zealand. They returned bearing an assortment of very cool gifts including a deceptively simple, yet ingenious weeding tool called the Wonder Weeder.

Yes, it does look a little like something cobbled-together in the backyard, but as soon as you get it in your hand it becomes clear just how useful and clever a product this really is. For starters, holding it just feels natural. Its shape automatically encourages ergonomic wrist position, lessening strain on a whole host of gardening muscles. It even comes with a long-poled version to save your back.

It worked perfectly tending the weed-prone spots between my mom’s patio blocks and is also great for places where you need fine control and a delicate touch like containers of seedlings.

So far I’ve only been able to find it for sale in New Zealand but I’m going to dig deeper to see if we can get them here in the states. Until then, I will definitely be bugging my mom to borrow hers as often as I can.

Planning Your Spring Garden

The weather outside may be frightful, but that doesn’t mean you can’t flex your gardening muscles this winter. Here are five simple steps to jump-starting your spring garden no matter how hard it rains, sleets or snows.

1. Find inspiration: Spring’s fall seed and plant catalogs have already hit mailboxes and online catalogs have updated their websites. Not only will thumbing (or clicking) through their colorful pages chase away the winter day’s gray, it will give you a ton of great ideas for next seasons’ plantings.

2. Start a garden journal or inspiration file: If you don’t already have a place to jot ideas and store inspiring images, now is the perfect time to set one up. Whether you buy a journal designed just for gardeners, a spiral-bound notebook, an accordion file to stash torn-out catalog pages doesn’t matter. Use whatever works best for you.

3. Review last year: Now that you have a place to make notes, take a look at what worked — and what flopped — last year. Did your row of heirloom tomatoes have you swimming in more pasta sauce than you could ever give away? Has your prize apricot succumbed to fireblight? And what about that obscure variety of pumpkin that didn’t set a single fruit? Decide what stays and what goes.

4. Make a plan: Start with a list of all the plants you hope to grow, including any that may already be in the space (including perennials, shrubs, and trees). Next, graph it out using mature plant sizes to make sure you have the spacing right. It helps to do the diagram of the available space and any plants that need to stay put in pen (don’t forget containers), then pencil in the rest. That way you won’t have to redraw every time you want to change things up. There are also a number of garden-planning software programs that help take the guesswork out of design. Don’t forget to rotate what you plant where to avoid plant disease.

5. Place your orders: Make sure you don’t miss out on your favorites, especially if you are buying heirloom seeds which often sell out fast. Many plant catalogs offer great discounts, coupons, and other specials if you order early enough. Want to save even more? Talk to fellow gardeners about sharing seeds. They may even have saved seeds or cuttings they’d be willing to give or swap.

Still longing for a little green in your life? A few well-chosen indoor plants or start a kitchen garden with your kids.

Book Review: Grace From the Garden

What do former NBA player Will Allen, educational policy Ph.D. Ann Wasescha and oncology nurse Pat Williams have in common? They, along with twelve others profiled in Debra Landwehr Engle’s inspiring book Grace from the Garden, are changing lives through gardening.

Using language as rich as the gardens she describes, the author gives us a glimpse into the work and inspiration behind fifteen gardens that teach, nourish, unite, inspire and heal. From a memory garden designed to help Alzheimer’s caregivers reunite with their loved ones, to a juvenile detention center that uses gardening to help lost kids rebuild self esteem and learn practical skills, from a wetlands reclamation helmed by young students in the middle of a dessert to a lush family farm populated with food, family, livestock and art, you can’t help but be inspired by these giving gardeners and their stories.

For those who are inspired enough to learn and do more, she even provided a detailed resource list at the end of the book, including links to Will Allen’s Growing Power.

Picking Raspberries

Ripe red raspberries are dark pink to deep red. Raspberries also come in a variety of other colors including black, purple, and yellow/gold. Color when ripe will depend on which type you plant.To harvest, grip the berry very lightly with two fingers (they are easily crushed) and pull gently. If they are ready they will pretty much fall off in your hand. If they don’t, leave them for another day.

Although most raspberry bushes have thorns, I don’t recommend wearing gloves because the berries are so fragile. Long sleeves, however can help protect your arms from scratches.

Unlike blackberries, raspberries leave their hard, white center on the plant so all you get is rich, juicy sweetness.


Plant Profile: Raspberries

It’s June and in Northern California, that means the start of raspberry season. The local berry farms have opened for picking and the stores are full of ripe, red beauties.

This past weekend I did my first ever raspberry picking from a friend’s raspberry patch. There are few things more sweetly satisfying than fresh berries straight from the vine. And the good news is, it isn’t that hard to grow your own. Check out the stats below to see if raspberries might be a good fit for your garden.

Common name: Raspberry
Scientific name: Rubus idaeus
Family: Rosaceae
Origin: Eurasia
Type: Shrub
Exposure: Full sun (may also fruit in light shade in hottest areas)
Height: 4-6′
Width: 3-5′
Growth rate: Fast
Water: Regular
Zones: 3-8
Foliage color: Green
Flower color: White
Edible: Berries
Harvest: Summer-bearing raspberries, throughout the summer; fall-bearing varieties, in fall and summer the following year — consider planting summer and fall-bearing varieties together to extend your season
Propagation: Greenwood cuttings, division
WARNING: Most raspberry bushes have thorns. Try a thornless variety for easier harvest.

A few other quick notes on raspberries:

  • Raspberries do require room to spread, so they are probably not the best choice for small space container gardening.  (I did manage a thornless boysenberry in a pot once, but got very little fruit.)
  • Raspberries do require annual pruning to maintain size and to ensure the most bountiful harvest. The timing and type of pruning varies for summer and fall-bearing varieties (more on that in a separate article).
  • To keep bushes neat, minimize disease and make havesting easier, build a berry trellis.

Learn more about raspberries.