December is a month that gardeners generally sit and watch amaryllis or paper white bulbs grow, or they dwell in anguished anticipation of the first seed catalog. Or they read. I’m in that last group and recently finished The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World by German forester/ecologist/author Peter Wohlleben.

            I was concerned that Wohlleben’s book might be as fanciful and generally ridiculous as Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird’s The Secret Life of Plants (1973) in which in spurious “tests” plants were shown to prefer classical music and register pain in the presence of a broken egg. more 

The lead article under the Soil and Water tab is from the Leopold Center (named for famous ecologist Aldo Leopold). It is an excellent discussion of the NEWEST research on soil health,  beneficial bacteria and the importance of microbes in the soil It also quotes Sir Albert Howard who proved the value of composting and developed the "Law of Returns."

Numbers and gardening.  Every now and again I get numbed-out by numbers. For example, thanks to television political talking heads, don’t we all know by now the significance of 1237?  more

Here’s the question: when is a book not a book? And the answer, no matter what American poetess Emily Dickinson said, is not a frigate taking the reader lands away. For me, the best possible book is one in which I acquire new information, sometimes pit my opinion against the author’s, write “Aha!” or “Oh, no!” in the book margins and finish with a desire to learn more.  more

Three highly readable books and one blog that I recommend for winter reading that best present this new knowledge are: How Plants Work,  Linda Chalker-Scott (Timber Press), What a Plant Knows– Daniel Chamovitz (Scientific American Press) and the soil will save us– Kristin Ohlson (Rodale Press). 
      The blog, The Garden Professors, is easily found on line.  more

Gardening begins for me right after Thanksgiving when I open the first of my pile of books. I love the natural sciences - botany, soils, insects, horticulture, and ecology. I especially enjoy books that chronicle how ideas develop, books that excite my curiosity. (I was delighted to discover that the Latin root of curious/curiosity is ‘cura’ meaning care, attention or anxiety.) more

As days cool and shorten my pleasure of being in the garden, I fill the teapot and launch into the pleasure of winter reading. One of 
my favorite sources for current and breaking science-based news is 
from Science Daily on the Web. Not only is the news current, it is free and you can choose with astonishing specificity those topics you are interested in. more

Soil and CivilizationSomething old is a careful reread of Soil and Civilization a compreh
ensive history of the treatment of soil by numerous civilizations published in 1952 by British author Edward Hyams.  New to me is Hyams’ categorizing man 
as a parasite on the soil – striking an iffy balance between the health of the soil and the crops produced; categorizing man as a disease organism of the soil – vigorous and now regarded as stupid misuse and destruction of the Oklahoma soils leading to the Dust Bowl; and, happily, man as a soil maker – cultures that understood the need for manuring the soil, rotating crops and allowing some fields to fallow.  more

Roman wisdom about gardens. I know that thanks to my library and my garden, I am served heaps of wonder, reverence, curiosity, delight, questions, understanding, good hard work, accomplishment and failure.  Armed with the library and the garden my head, hands and heart are full and Cicero was right – a gardener lacks for nothing. mor

The Chickadee’s Guide to Gardening: In Your Garden.  Choose plants that help the environment  by Douglas W. Tallamy [New York Times, March 11, 2015  Oxford, Pa.] — I grew up thinking little of plants. I was interested in snakes and turtles, then insects and, eventually, birds. Now I like plants. But I still like the life they create even more.  more

Cathie's pick.
This is a book I have been waiting for. It broadens our definition of garden. It empowers the gardener with new vision, understanding and vocabulary and places him smack in the center of the ecological dynamic to ponder the question: as gardeners do we only decorate or do we also understand and support the living layers of our gardens? more

Gardening history books. 
 Many before me have observed that as a species, we either have very short memories or don't learn from history or both. Therefore, acting on the happy assumption that there are some gardeners who not only enjoy reading gardening history but also learn from it, I have two books to recommend for giving and reading.  more

Remembering Tallamy on gardening.  The complex relationship of
insects, birds, 
mals and plants and even soil evolves very slowly. Alien-introduced (nonfood source) plants are capable of disrupting or removing crucial food sources for native species.
 As gardeners or, more broadly, custodians of the land, we need to place equal value on plant beauty and the plant's ability to provide food, pollen, nectar and fruit for birds, insects and wild animals, as well as ourselves. Individually, we need to know (more) about the consequences of what we are doing.  more

Growing older and wiser as a gardener. 
 As a gardener, a writer
and one who is fully enrolled in the school of maturity and wisdom, I was excited to read Gardening for a Lifetime, How to Garden Wiser as You Grow Older, by Sydney Eddison.  Excitement changed to delight to read the teasers on the covers: Use lower-maintenance plants, prioritize garden tasks, accept imperfections, make the most of containers. 
      My excitement-delight morphed to profound respect and reassurance as I discovered that Eddison, slightly older than me and recently widowed, communicates with absolute honesty and reassuring reality, and writes sublimelymore

Poems put into words our love of nature.  For every plant enthusiast who has hiked with botanical intention through America’s forests and plains (John Bartram), scaled peaks or hung in jungle canopies to “collect” orchids and other treasures (Joseph Dalton Hooker), for every natural scientist who worked out the progeny of peas (Gregor Mendel) or rejoiced at the prospect of plant design (Luther Burbank), there is a poet among us chirping brightly about “clouds of daffodils” (William Wordsworth) or an ecologist with the eye of an artist and the heart of a poet (Aldo Leopold) stating in Sand County Almanac that, “A thing (decision, policy) is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”  more


Luddites and gardeners.  Although my non-Luddite relationship with the computer, television, cellphone and other mechanical bits and pieces is sometimes adversarial, I incorporate them into my life. 
     But the real wealth? A basket of fresh veggies, a bouquet of flowers for a friend, the rolling gurgle of a hen announcing a newly laid egg, the smell of fresh bread, a garden filled with insects and birds, a bucket of compost to spread on the garden. My feet are on the ground, my hands are in the soil, my head is filled with experience and knowledge — that’s the wealth. I strive to stay connected, grounded, aware  Read more . . .


6 Delicious Edibles You Can Grow Indoors All Winter


Most homes are heated to a comfortably warm temperature range of 65 to 75F during winter. This is ideal for growing many vegetables, so the winter cold is not as much of an issue here as low-light conditions. Your choice would be limited unless you provide sufficient grow lights to imitate the sunny outdoors.

    As a general rule, leafy vegetables can manage with much less light than root vegetables. Fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes and eggplants need more light to ensure a good yield.


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