Artichoke and Euphorbia Leaves

This is my entry for this week’s photo challenge. It means summer to me because I love mixing edibles in with my flower beds and I find that artichokes look particularly good in a perennial bed. I love the way their leaves are structured. And I love artichokes!

A scanned red tomato, along with leaves and fl...

Image via Wikipedia

For those of us who grow tomatoes, and that is just about everyone who has a vegetable garden, many have probably noticed that there are often little nodes toward the bottom of the main stem of the plant. ‘What are these?, we may have asked ourselves at some point.

They are the root primordia. The root primordia is the earliest stage of root development. If that primordia had been underground it most likely would have developed into a root. This is why, when I transplant my tomatoes I plant them 3-5 inches below where they were in the container. I know it is a little sad to watch your tomato plant shrink in size as soon as you put it in the ground, but, in the long run you will have a stronger healthier plant.

Occasionally the nodes can signal an overall health problem with the plant so keep an eye on it. But the primordia are almost always harmless when above ground and beneficial when below ground.

Those of us who only have a small space to garden in, especially if we want pretty flowers and food, are always looking for ways to maximize the space in our gardens.

Beet Seedlings

Beet Seedlings (Photo credit: TarynMarie)

One thing you can do is plant beet seeds twice as close as recommended on the package, then thin out every other plant when the greens are about 3-4 inches high. That leaves enough room for the rest of the beets to grow and leaves you with delicious beet greens.

The greens are good tossed in a salad but you can also cook them. On the latest 222 Million Tons post titled Save Something From Landfill Day there is a recipe for Linguine with Beet Greens that sounds delicious. If you like to cook and don’t like to waste make sure you click over to 222’s home page and look at the other recipes posted as well.

While I was living in New York I had the honor of serving on the board of the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust; a consortium of 37 community gardens bought by the Trust for Public Land when the current mayor threatened to sell the gardens to developers.

Recently, The Trust for Public Land released control of 32 of the 37 gardens to the Land Trust making Brooklyn Queens Land Trust the largest urban land trust in the country.

Please visit BQLT’s web site. It is still a work in progress but in the future they will have many resources for urban community gardens, as well as more information about what they are up to.

Having been a part of the organization myself I can tell you this is a great accomplishment that was made possible by the hard work of many dedicated people.

Redefine Your Idea Of Lawn

February 24, 2012

When I was working in Brooklyn a lot of my clients had young kids and many would say the same thing to me, ‘I want something low maintenance. I’d love to have a lawn for my kids and some roses.’

Let me explain why these things are mutually exclusive. First of all we’ll talk about the roses. Most roses don’t like high humidity or stagnant air, two things Brooklyn is full of. I’m not saying you can’t grow beautiful roses in Brooklyn, The Brooklyn Botanic Garden does, but they are not low maintenance. Second, they have thorns. Kids are, by nature, curious. You can see where this could lead to a trip to the hospital.

Lawns. By lawns most people mean some kind of turf grass that is either seeded or put down as sod. A lawn requires a tremendous amount of work. Here, in a nutshell, is why. The vast majority of perennials, which includes grasses, has a natural life-cycle. It starts out as a seed, grows (hopefully) into a seedling and then into a full-fledged plant. It blooms, develops its own seeds which it drops and then goes into a resting period we call dormancy, although dormancy can take different forms with different types of plants.

Now, imagine you planted a perennial bed and every time it got to be a few inches tall you mowed it down. That’s what a lawn is. Every time those plants get to be 2 or 3 inches tall you mow them down and they have to start all over again. This is why turf lawns require so much water and so many nutrients.

My solution for people who wanted an area in their yard where their kids could crawl around or play but didn’t want the hassle or environmental drawbacks of having a turf lawn was to install what I call an Alternative Lawn. For sunny yards certain species of Thyme work very well; although it is important to choose the right kind. I’ve experimented and some varieties do not work but some work marvelously. My dad has two Malamutes – the male is 90 pounds – who roughhouse on the Thyme lawn I installed on their property. After three years it is holding up just fine. There are other options for less sunny locations and even areas in full shade.

If you are not ready to completely forgo your turf lawn there is a lot of good information out there about how to shrink your lawn or plant a native lawn. The Lawn Reform Coalition is a great resource. One of their founders, Evelyn Hadden, has just released a book called Beautiful No Mow Yards which has received rave reviews.

The Congress for New Urbanism

February 19, 2012

At Resolution Gardens, which is located here in Austin, I read about The Congress for New Urbanism which had a post about the Partnership for Sustainable Communities which I posted about yesterday. Got all that?

CNU touts itself as “the leading organization promoting walkable, mixed-use neighborhood development, sustainable communities and healthier living conditions.” Co-founders include Peter Calthorpe, Elizabeth Moule, Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Stephanos Polyzoides and Dan Solomon all people with a wealth of experience developing sustainable communities. This organization has some real potential to do good.

Also read about this good news at the CNU website Obama Administration Releases 2013 Budget, Protects Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

How To Eat Green

February 17, 2012

English: Tomatoes at a market.

Image via Wikipedia

This has become such a complicated issue sometimes when I’m in the grocery store I feel like I need a PhD in sustainable eating just to shop. So I did some research and found a few articles that will help us all navigate the aisles the next time we’re in the store buying groceries.

First of all I want to explain what I mean by “green.” I mean food, or other goods, that were grown or produced with the least impact on the environment. So, not just organically but also locally and using fair labor.

In this New York Times article by Elisabeth Rosenthal she explains that much of the produce in the supermarket labeled organic comes from over a thousand miles away and is grown with intensive irrigation – not so green. There is also an excellent short slide show by Marcus Yam that sums up the situation

At GoGreen Kim S. offers up information about how “green” your food is that will help making choices at the grocery store easier. Kim also recommends Local HarvestEat Well Guide, and FoodRoutes as places where you can find locally and sustainably produced food in your area.

At TreeHugger Jess Root writes about how eating green is not just good for the planet but also good for your body and your waistline. Read Seven Ways to Eat Green. (There is a photo with the article taken by Marina Avila of a hamster eating a grape. It just cracks me up every time I look at it!)

There is also a link on Jess’s page for a recipe for grilled avocados. I usually eat avocados mixed with fig balsamic vinegar and a bit of sea salt but this sounded so good I am definitely going to try it.

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