Category Archives: Gardens to Drive
Working with Mother Nature and the Community to Solve a Problem
By Debra Knapke
You may have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while. There has been a lot going on this past spring, summer and fall, and blogging, unfortunately, became a lower priority.
One project that was all-consuming in the spring was the transformation of a waterlogged park into a constructed wetland. In less than three months an amazing team of people created a place that would normally need a year or more of planning.
In the first season, volunteers have seen many different species of butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies. We had frogs and toads in the wetland, and frog eggs in one of the shallow pools. The upland plants were visited by a myriad of bees, beetles, wasps and more. The bluebird boxes were full and the resident bats and tree swifts ate any visiting mosquitoes. Next year, one goal is to inventory the animals that use the wetland for food and /or shelter.
I invite you to take a moment, 5 minutes and 34 seconds to be precise, to experience the making of a wetland.
Poem by Louise Bogan; images by Teresa and Brian Woodard taken at the Odonata 2017 conference.
You are made of almost nothing
But of enough
To be great eyes
And diaphanous double vans;
To be ceaseless movement,
Link between water and air,
Earth repels you.
Light touches you only to shift into iridescence
Upon your body and wings.
You split into the heat.
Swift beyond calculation or capture
You dart into the shadow
Which consumes you.
You rocket into the day.
But at last, when the wind flattens the grasses,
For you, the design and purpose stop.
And you fall
With the other husks of summer.
Where Beauty and Wisdom Grow
By Michael Leach
In a world where social media and the daily news serve up an ever-increasing diet of violence, vulgarity and vitriolic verbiage, gardens and gardening are needed more than ever. Whether it be a few potted plants on a window sill or carefully tended acres, gardens make an instant and effective antidote to media overload.
Such thoughts were inspired by a recent visit to the Columbus Park of Roses for the dedication of a new entryway to the 13-acre site, one of America’s largest public rose gardens. The new entry is a fitting welcome to the 12,000 rose plants that grow in spite of often-harsh Ohio conditions. That perseverance is something to marvel at. More than 400 rose varieties, from some of the oldest heritage types to the newest hybrids, are featured. The park also has perennials and herbs.(For additional information on the garden, visit http://www.parkofroses.org.)
The Columbus Recreation and Parks Department and volunteers keep the flowers blooming. That’s another bit of inspiration from the garden — cooperation.
Elegant in its simplicity, the new entry features several stone columns, each adorned with a metal plaque containing wisdom for the ages. The pillars were donated by community groups, businesses and private citizens.
Few sound bites or FaceBook posts are ever as revealing or comforting as the thoughts of the poets, gardeners and others displayed. Here’s a sampling of the words and flowers that grow in our part of the Heartland.
As we tip toe into a chilly 2017, we wish you a very happy new year and share our gratitude for your generous support in 2016. Just five years ago, our trio met at a garden writers’ conference and decided to begin blogging about gardening in the Midwest. We’ve covered new plant introductions, new books, gardening tips, destination gardens, landscape trends and issues of the heart. Thanks to all who have explored our blog, offered comments and contributed to our collaboration in so many ways. We wish you all the best in 2017 and share these 2016 favorites to inspire your gardening in the coming year.
Kiss of the Sun for Pardon by Michael Leach
Garden Downsizing by Michael Leach
Asters Sages and Milkweeds Oh My Part I by Debra Knapke
Asters Sages and Milkweeds Oh My Part II by Debra Knapke
Beautiful Brassicas by Teresa Woodard
Garden Tour Round-Up by Teresa Woodard
By Michael Leach
Traffic-stopping maples and forests aflame in gold, red, yellow and maroon foliage grab most of the attention in autumn. They should. Yet nature also offers visual delight that must be carefully sought out when scanning the fall scene. The rewards of such a leisurely pursuit are the grace notes of this splendid season. These small treasures range from dogwoods to tomatoes.
Dogwood trees are among those that make spectacles of themselves with dark red fall leaves. Their berrylike fruit adds a bit of sparkle — and a popular bird food.
Avian visitors, however, ignore the almost gaudy fruit of Callicarpa or beauty berry. These remain until early winter in my garden.
Autumn crocus flowers last only a few days but their overnight appearance surprises and delights. Plus they serve as a hope-filled reminder their spring-flowering cousins are only a few months away.
Raindrops on fallen and fading leaves show nature’s magnificent artistry can be found on the forest floor as well as in the branches overhead.
While the flavor of tomatoes fades at bit with cool weather, their jaunty, party look lasts until frost.
The woody stem and smooth skin of a pumpkin makes an appealing combination that lasts far longer than a mere jack-o-lantern.
Art brings garden feel to subway tunnel
By Michael Leach
I didn’t expect to have a garden moment in the subway of the Atlanta airport, but it happened.
Shunning the train to get in some needed walking en route to my gate, I passed several pieces of sculpture by African artists in one of the connecting tunnels between concourses. The greenish color of some of the stones, the serene faces and fluid lines suggested life outdoors and fresh air. I coveted several as focal points in my landscape.
Among my favorites were Galactic Dancer by Tapfuma Gutsa, Woman Showing Traditional Salute by Edronce Rukodzi, and Caring Mother, by Lameck Bonjisi.
Adding further outdoor ambience was a colorful installation suggesting a leafy canopy running the entire length of another connecting tunnel. Recorded tweets and trills of bird songs added to the fantastical effect of being deep in a whimsical, shaded garden.
Had I known my flight would be delayed by nearly an hour, I’d have hoofed it through the rest of the tunnels to see what was on exhibit. Or backtracked to look more closely at the photo exhibit and permanent exhibit of Atlanta’s history.
To learn more about art in the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport visit: http://www.atl.com/about-atl/airport-art-program/.
By Michael Leach
One of our readers, Rebecca Stultz, asked about bringing no-till farming practices into the home garden. This was in early March, just as the spring rush burst upon us. Thank you for your patience, Rebecca. We hope this guides you in making yours a more sustainable landscape.
At first, no-till may sound exotic but probably most gardeners use aspects of this approach to agriculture. Do you mulch to reduce watering, weeding and improve the soil? Have you spread sheets of cardboard or layers of newspapers to transform a portion of lawn into a new garden or landscape bed to spare your aching back? That’s part of no-till.
No-till has been out on the farm for years. Time, fuel and soil erosion are reduced simply by skipping traditional plowing. Remains of the old crops serve as mulch that eventually decomposes into organic matter that enhances soil quality. Cover crops are planted to enhance soil nutrition and tilth. This approach requires special seeding devices to minimize soil disturbance that brings fresh weed seeds to the surface where they sprout and cause trouble.
Now to Rebecca’s questions.
When and how should compost and/or fertilizer be added/incorporated in each year’s cycle for no-till?
A professional soil test will show what type soil and its nutrient content, the amount of organic matter and other aspects of your soil so you can tailor amendments precisely.
Some anecdotal information I found shows that Ruth Stout, garden author and contributor to Organic Gardening used no-till for decades. At planting time, she scratched the soil’s surface enough for the seeds to make contact, lightly covered them, and sprinkled cottonseed meal along the “furrow.” Her 8-inch layer of hay (preferably slightly spoiled) continually decomposed and was renewed, so compost, cover crops or other amendments weren’t necessary. She touted thick mulch as a way to eliminate watering, weeding and most other maintenance. That amount of mulch seems excessive but it quickly settles to a 2- to 3-inch mat.
Lee Reich, a national garden writer and no-till fan for 20 years, prepares the planting area by covering it with a 1-inch layer of compost at planting time.
If fall leaves are not tilled or forked in, how thick a layer is practical to leave on the beds and still plant rows of seeds?
Remember the mulch is pulled back at planting time to expose only the soil you want to plant in. You don’t cover the seeds with mulch.
As for handling leaves, personal experience shows that 2-foot layers of sugar maple leaves “stored” overwinter in a vacant bed become a 3- to 4-inch layer by late May. This layer goes to nothing before the next leaf drop. No forking or spading is needed.
Because my leaves are collected with the help of a lawn mower, they mix with grass clippings, that probably speeds decomposition. Even without being chopped and mixed with grass clippings, autumn leaves in the forest all but vanish by mid-summer.
The more mulch the better
“Whatever you use, don’t skimp on mulch,” Barb Flick says in an Oregon State University Extension article. “A heavy layer not only keeps weeds from growing, it also keeps the underlying soil moist, greatly reducing the amount of watering you need in the summer.”
Using a thick mulch over several years adds more organic matter helps soil become like a sponge in absorbing water, says Mike Hogan, Ohio State University Extension educator and professor.
If the recommended 8 to 10 inches of mulch is hard to come by, Flick suggests using sheets of cardboard or layers of newspaper on the ground. This smothers out most weeds and keeps weed seeds from germinating. Cover this with a layer of mulch.
This is what Christine Voise does. In addition to her regular job as geographic information system and accession specialist at Ohio State University’s Chadwick Arboretum, she grows fresh vegetables for restaurants. Thick mulch keeps plants — and gardener — cleaner because there’s no mud to splash onto leaves, fruit or track inside.
Voise only waters the plants after planting and relies on a thick mulch around to get them through. Years of heavy mulching has enriched the soil to that sponge-like quality.
If straw is used as a mulch around plants, in the fall should it be left on the beds under the leaves or put in the compost bin?
Add mulch whenever it’s needed. Whatever the material — leaves, straw, hay, compost, grass clippings — it all eventually decomposes. If there’s still several inches of straw or other mulch on the beds, fewer leaves will be needed to maintain the desired cover depth.
What cover crops work well in suburban garden beds?
There’s plenty to learn about cover crops in an article in the July 8, 2015 edition of Organic Life. Cover crop benefits include suppressing weeds, building productive soil and helping control pests and diseases.
You may not need to use them. A thick mulch also cuts weeding, watering, soil erosion, while improving soil quality after it decomposes.
Personal experience makes me leery of cover crops. The only one I tried was so vigorous it took weeks to kill and delayed planting.
Precautions — Common sense dictates some basic sanitation no matter what approach you use to gardening. Reduce chances of diseases or pesky insects hanging around to attack future vegetable crops by collecting vegetable leaves as they fall off. Remove spent plants for municipal composting collection. If you have a hot compost pile, such debris can be disposed of there because high temperatures kill pathogens.
A Big Idea for Pint-Sized Urban Green Spaces
By Teresa Woodard
Two Midwestern cities — Chicago and Columbus — are converting public parking spaces into postage-stamp-sized parks called “parklets.” And, thankfully, they’re outfitting them with plants and seating areas.
According to Governing Magazine, the parklet idea started in 2005 in San Francisco when a design company descended on a downtown parking space, fed the meter and created a p0p-up park complete with sod, public benches and leafy trees. They called it Park(ing) Day, which eventually became an annual event.
Late in 2009, New York City adopted the idea of pint-sized parks as it converted street spaces into pedestrian-only plazas. San Francisco opened its first permanent parklet in March 2010 and has since completed 27 parklets and has plans for another 40.
In Chicago, the parklets are called “People Spots.” The first opened in 2012 in Andersonville, and five more followed as part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Make Way for People program to turn streets, alleys and vacant city-owned parcels into vibrant urban hubs.
In Columbus, a non-profit group PlaceMakes has opened four microparks, including three temporary parklets and its latest West Cherry Street project. Here, two underused city blocks have been temporarily closed and turned into a dynamic public space. Community residents painted the street bright blue with big red and small yellow polka dots. They further enhanced the space with picnic tables, planters and a community mural – all funded by grants, business donations and volunteers. They’ve also organized a “Cherry Sunday” series including events from poetry readings to vertical gardening workshops.
A few blocks away, the latest Columbus parklet stands in a parking space in front of a cafe and just got approval from the city to remain two months longer than planned – until September – because it’s been so successful. The parklet features a wooden structure with seating, planters and two semi-transparent lithographs of Columbus buildings by local artist Leah Storrs. The parklet is also equipped with solar panels that power the letters “A,R,T” on a sign mounted on the street side that reads “PARKT.”
Check out these websites to find a parklet or build one near you.
A Love Affair: Bumbles and Common Milkweed
By Debra Knapke