I use straw bales for insulation against the back of my house and then mulch with the damp, dark straw in the spring, but in a quest for mesclun seed, which I think I can still plant, I found an amazing account of gardening in and on straw bales--two seasons of vegetables on a very much raised bed. Not for city gardeners, but what a fascinating thing to try.
I was doing a little weeding today and under the cauliflowers found a lot of reddish plants that I realized were young amaranth plants, small because they're shaded by the cauli leaves. I count on the amaranth to reseed itself every year. It grows to six feet and has strange dangling furry red flowers and looks quite weird and wonderful with the sunflowers (which also seed themselves). But when I saw all those small plants massed in the shade it struck me how much like Swiss chard they look. I [...]
Tom's home from college and full of ideas for making our lifeways sustainable. "Aren't they already?" people ask, thinking that because I've written several books about eco living I must do things perfectly myself. But I'm a working mother and an American to boot, and definitely not perfect. I don't do much driving, but I fly a good deal and that's about as energy-intensive as you can get. I'm an adept vegetarian cook, but I don't cook very much these days--especially in the last month, because I've had a severely [...]
I've been browsing for rainbarrels, thinking of ways we might make it easier to keep all the vegetable and flower beds watered this summer. The barrels themselves seem easy, and reasonably priced, but I'm trying to figure out how to get the water from the barrel to where it needs to be. In the course of my explorations online, I've learned about a different approach, called "rain gardens." This means making a garden where the rainwater already falls, with moisture-loving plants. This page of Rain Garden Tips from Wisconsin explains [...]
Second day of spring garden clean-up. I found this a surprising activity when I moved to New England: raking in the springtime? But now I am an old-timer and know that the tide of winter recedes here slowly and leaving much debris behind. Branches and leaves, mostly, but also clumps of sod, thrown up by snow plows, and gravel drifts. Tom, home from college for two weeks, has become a gardener, and Rachel is full of enthusiasm for seed planting. We were all out this weekend raking and scraping, filling [...]
I followed one of our cats, Jelly, outside this morning. There's almost no snow left, and we've all been talking about spring this week because it's been so warm (it's going to be painful when winter comes back). I bent to pick up a plastic wrapper from my sunny border, which faces east, and saw the first flowers of the year: lovely tiny bright yellow winter aconite. These grow from bulbs and spread profusely in milder climates, even in nearby New York State. But mine survive and bloom every year, [...]