Half-Assed Gardening, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Permaculture

First, a clarification: I don’t really think that following permaculture principles in the garden is “half-assed”. There’s a LOT of work involved, and I’m by no means a permaculture expert. BUT, a lot of the permaculture garden ‘hacks’ I’ve implemented align nicely with my half-assed way of doing things. 

I’m really only good at two things: researching stuff to death, and having a “what the hell, let’s try it and see what happens?” attitude. I’m a researcher by day (for real, my job title is actually Senior Researcher), so whenever I am undertaking a new project my first step is to research the hell out of it. When my secondary trait of “try it and see” kicks in, things work beautifully. Unfortunately, I’m also an over-analytical, over-critical, over-thinker. So sometimes I get stuck fast in the research phase. I just keep reading and gathering and amassing more and more information until it gets overwhelming. I end up losing sight of what I actually want to do and become so lost in the details that it feels like an impossible task.

This happened with gardening. I’m not a gardener. Really, I’m not. I’m lazy. I’m prone to half-assing stuff. I can’t be reliably depended upon to water anything regularly. I’m not good at following rules. So the more I read about how to garden, the more it started to feel like this is just something I wouldn’t be good at. I mean, there are SO MANY rules! I got hung up in wondering what kind of soil I had, and all the nit-picky tips and tricks for growing perfect tomatoes, and knowing that my personal situation was never going to lend itself to daily weeding. I figured gardening was too big an undertaking and that I should just focus on something else. Continue reading

Garden Planning 2015 – Decisions, Decisions

I’ve been seed shopping for months now, but have yet to actually order anything. When it comes to the garden, I’m way too indecisive, and sometimes having the whole world of seeds at my fingertips is a problem. I might be better off if my only choices were round orange pumpkins, regular old red tomatoes and long green cucumbers. But how can I possibly decide when there are over 140 amazing varieties of winter squash in the Baker Creek catalog? Or nearly 75 different kinds of beans?

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I need an intervention.

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Creating a Backyard Habitat: Planning for Pollinators

I’ve mentioned a few times (most recently in my Food Not Lawns post) that our garden serves two equally important purposes – to provide us food, and to provide a habitat for birds, bees, beetles, butterflies, squirrels, rabbits, spiders, bats, or whoever stops by. So far we’ve been pretty successful in increasing the wildlife in our yard with a few simple things. There’s still a lot more I want to do (plant milkweed this year for the dwindling Monarch Butterfly population, for example), but these are some of the ways we’ve turned our backyard from dull lawn to vibrant habitat:

Plant pollinator-friendly native flowers

Native flowers are a great way to attract loads of pollinators and beneficial bugs to your yard – ladybugs, lacewings, bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, parasitic wasps. There are a number of options for gorgeous native wildflowers to add to your garden, just be sure to choose a variety of colors (red, yellow, purple, white, blue) and a variety of flower shapes to attract different types of pollinators. If you’re selecting flowers yourself, this chart is a great starting point, as it lists flower characteristics and the types of pollinators they attract. An additional consideration is to pick flowers and plants with overlapping bloom times – you get season long interest in your garden, and pollinators get a nectar and pollen season that stretches from spring to fall!

I’m not super fussy with planning elaborate gardens. I’m not an artist, and I don’t have the eye for it. I admire those who do, but I’m just not a painter of gardens! So rather than purchase individual seeds and map out a large flower garden, I went with a variety of mixes from American Meadows. My wildflower patches are more of a crazy mixture than formal garden, but they look pretty awesome. Continue reading

Dear Snow, Please Stop

The steadily deepening snow has sapped me of all motivation. I’ve got like three different posts about gardening half written and I just can’t find the energy to finish them when Spring feels like something that will never happen again. And just now I’ve used up all my energy getting out on my roof to try to clear snow because our ceiling has started to leak. So here’s a view of my world right now, just outside the official snowiest city in America. Continue reading

5 Things to Do With An Overabundance of Winter Squash

Every year in the garden it seems that something goes mental and you end up with some crazy overabundance of one vegetable. You find yourself pressing pints of cherry tomatoes or baskets of green beans into the hands of anyone who even comes close to your door. The joke of course is zucchinis, and that you shouldn’t leave your car unlocked in the summer lest someone fill it with summer squash. That was me the year before last – zucchini coming out my ears. Every time I’d pick one, three more would pop up. So I spent my entire summer Googling new things to do with summer squashes.

Well, this past summer I planted only a few zucchini and they all failed on me. Gardens are fickle like that. Instead what went absolutely nuts were the butternut squash. The Butternut Rogosa Violina “Gioia” Squash to be exact. Those squash did not give a shit about anything. Squash bugs killed off most of my awesome Black Futsu Squash that I was super excited about, but the Butternuts just shrugged them off. They LAUGHED in the face of pests and just kept on chugging. By the end of the season, the squash mound was epic and I had close to 40 squash. Continue reading