Ah friends, my two-week vacation is slowly coming to an end. It has been really nice. I am so completely unwound that I feel like I am ready for a vacation. Isn’t that the way of things? I managed to get through all but one gardening book I had piled up for my time off. The one I am still reading is called Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener. It is really good and I am eager to try my hand at it in my own garden. Perhaps I will manage to create a tomato that ripens early and is less prone to blossom end-rot. Wouldn’t that be something? Also radishes. I grow a mild pink variety and last year I also grew a spicier purple variety, wouldn’t it be fun to have a radish that is purple but a little less spicy to slice and eat raw on sandwiches? There aren’t any flowers in particular I’d like to try this with, but you never know.
The New American Landscape: Leading Voices on the Future of Sustainable Gardening is also quite good. This book is composed of essays by various names in the sustainable gardening field on a number of different topics from managing the home landscape to waterwise gardening to soil health. In case you are wondering what sustainable gardening is, the definition used in the book is,
using methods, technologies, and materials that don’t deplete natural resources or cause lasting harm to native systems.
Simple enough, right? Yet in the general world of gardening as conducted and encouraged by big box stores, sustainable is not encouraged.
One of the essays, “Flipping the Paradigm: Landscapes That Welcome Wildlife” by Douglas W. Tallamy, made me laugh because he talks extensively about the importance of insects in the garden, and not just pollinators. I thought you all might be interested given my post about insects not that long ago. Tallamy notes, and he has the citations to back it up, that ninety-six percent of the terrestrial birds in North America rear their young on insects, not seeds or berries. Insects are high-quality protein that growing birds need. No insects, no baby birds.
One other book that is excellent, Planting in a Post-Wild World by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West. At first I thought I would not like this book because they began by disparaging people who advocate planting native plants. But, but, but I spluttered. And then a lightbulb moment. Native plants are definitely good and Rainer and West advocate for them too. The problem is the people who say native plants and only native plants and if you plant something from Asia in your midwest garden you are some kind of heretic.
These garden designers encourage creating gardens based on landscape archetypes like grasslands, woodlands, shrublands, etc. Pick your archetype and go from there. It is about matching plants to the site and creating plant communities whether that plant is native to a midwest prairie of the Russian steppes.
They do a fantastic job in explaining their design process and how to do it at home. I took extensive notes and find myself full of ideas. My soil is extremely sandy and I have always thought I need to work at improving it. When it comes to vegetables, that is the case, but when it comes to the grassland plants I enjoy, Rainer and West tell me to forget about it. I shouldn’t be wasting my time doing this, instead I should be busy searching out plants that like the kind of soil I have, and there are plenty.
I can’t say enough what a good book this is. I have been trying for years to create a grasslands-type garden in my front yard and have succeeded in creating a wild, weedy mess. Now I feel like I know what I can do to correct it. It will still be pretty wild but if it goes well it will be a more contained and more varied wild with a lot fewer weeds and a lot less maintenance. I have quite a bit of planning work to do to make it happen and not being a person of great wealth, it will take years to plant it all up because I can’t afford to buy all the plants in one go. But ideas and a plan make a good beginning and will go a long way to correcting the helter-skelter way I’ve been going about things.
On a side note. I have some catching up to do on replying to comments and visiting blogs. Bear with me as I get back up to speed after vacation. All too soon it will be like these last two weeks never happened.