Using Wood Chips in a Vegetable Garden

Wondering if using wood chips in your vegetable garden is a good idea? We'll discuss some pros and cons in this post.

Four or five years ago, we had to have a tree in our yard cut down. We asked the arborist to chip the smaller branches, and we used those chips to mulch the paths in our raised bed garden. A year later, we discovered the documentary, Back to Eden, about Paul Gautschi and his method of wood chip gardening.

We were intrigued, and as I looked at the paths in our garden I noticed that as the chips were decomposing, the soil was becoming black and gorgeous. We’ve been mulching our garden with hay, leaves, and grass clippings for many years, but thought that it might be worth experimenting with wood chips. We’ve had some amazing results, as well as some dismal failures. Here’s some of what we’ve learned.Continue Reading

How to Grow a Pumpkin Pie

HOW TO GROW A PUMPKIN PIE: Ask a kindergartener if it's possible to grow to a pumpkin pie, and they'll likely answer a resounding yes, especially after reading to them from the Scholastic Reader, Grow a Pumpkin Pie.

Ask a kindergartener if it’s possible to grow to a pumpkin pie.

I LOVE this age. They are old enough to understand, and young enough to still be magical in their thinking. And while they get that a pie won’t grow in the garden, they’ll still likely answer a resounding yes to your question.

Especially after reading to them from the Scholastic Reader, Grow a Pumpkin Pie.Continue Reading

20 Medicinal Herbs You Can Grow From Seed

Is your local nursery's selection of medicinal herbs uninspiring? Thankfully, there are lots of medicinal herbs you can grow from seed.

Have you been dreaming of getting your garden started? Me, too. You’ve spent the winter with your nose in those seed catalogs, and you’ve probably placed an order or two (or three).

Do those dreams include an apothecary in your backyard? You know, a place where you can grow healing herbs to dry and store. To use for balms and teas, tinctures and oils.

Next time you visit your local nursery, check out their section of medicinal herbs. Chances are the variety will be less than inspiring. Oh, you’ll find lavender and peppermint. Maybe even chamomile and lemon balm. But if your daydreams include herbs like arnica and comfrey, you’re probably out of luck.Continue Reading

Tips and Resources for Your Hardiness Zone

Find Tips and Resources for Your Hardiness Zone, although with information on first and last frost dates for your area so that you know when to plant.

What’s a hardiness zone and how do I find mine?

The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the standard by which gardeners can determine which plants are most likely to thrive in their location. The map divides the United States and Canada into zones based on the average annual minimum temperature for that area.

This information is particularly useful when purchasing seeds, plants or trees for your garden. Each plant will bear a tag indicating the zones in which it will best grow. Trying to grow plants that are not suited for your zone will generally result in weak growth, disease, and even complete failure.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. Permaculturist Sepp Holzer, for example, has created microclimates on his farm that literally change the hardiness zone allowing him to grow lemons in an alpine climate. It’s exciting and encouraging to know such work is being done, but beyond the scope of this post. We’ll stick to the basics here.Continue Reading

The Easiest Way to Pick Up Fall Leaves

Are you killing yourself raking those leaves? Here's the easiest way to pick up fall leaves!

Picking Up Fall Leaves Can Be Quite a Chore

Fall is really beautiful, but do you ever find yourself groaning when it comes time to pick up those leaves? Raking has to be one of the worst tasks around, and for some reason, it’s a killer on my back.

There are some tools out there designed to make your job easier, but I’m not sure they’re necessary. We’ve never had a leaf blower, but when I watch people using them to pick up fall leaves, they really don’t look all that easy. The leaves still end up blowing all round the yard and they are still whole, making them a less valuable commodity, at least in my eyes.Continue Reading