EVERYTHING FAMILY &
"Mother of Family Ideas"
While driving home, I see spaces
where houses or companies could not fit. I wonder why no one
plants gardens, flowers or trees in these gaps between
neighborhoods, shopping strips and restaurants. The benefits
could help feed families, improve the environment and connect
people that might otherwise be strangers.
After conducting some research on the
Internet, I discovered successful gardening truly is a team
effort. Gardeners can gain more than just advice and tips from
neighbors - they can trade seeds, tools and plants. Local or
online gardening groups can also be a source of information
One such good place is http://www.homesteadgarden.com.
Edited and published
by freelance writer Sara Noel, the site offers gardeners
opportunities to learn more about gardening, discover its
benefits and connect with others.
I also read an article, Choosing
Gardening Tools, about gardening tools by award
- winning, horticultural expert
Swindells. For more information and updates check out his
daily blog at http://www.gardenmessenger.blogspot.com.
thought of taking on a gardening adventure might intrigue
people, the costs might cause some to shudder. Many small
handheld tools cost an average of $4.99. Bigger ones can sell
for an average of $10.00 and up. Brand, type and size usually affect
pricing. Then there is the cost of seeds, sod, a wheelbarrow
and other items gardeners sometimes choose. By the time they
add in furniture, elaborate decorations and even art, the
costs spiral upwards to the hundreds.
may run from the idea of starting a community garden,
especially if it is just to fill in the space gaps in
residential and commercial areas. Instead of doing this, I
would like to share some ideas from Rachel Paxton and Sara
article Budget Gardening, Paxton discusses ways to
save money. For example, she advises gardeners to watch stores
for end of season sales. She points out, "even annuals that
are almost out of season are a good buy. They won't bloom
again until next year, but for the savings you're getting it's
worth it to plant them now and wait until next year to enjoy
"it's fun to trade plants with friends and family. I've
landscaped much of my yard this way. Iris bulbs from one
friend, grape vines from another, it adds up fast! And all
from people who were looking to get the excess plants out of
their yard, adding "this is the best way to plant your yard
with no expense at all."
article, Gardening On a Budget, Noel has ideas too,
including "drive around your neighborhood and see what's out
there that grows well in your zone." She adds "don't forget to
keep in mind if you're designing and planting in shade, sun,
or partial shade or partial sun."
writers advise gardeners be creative when choosing planters.
Old boots, buckets, metal boxes and birdhouses all make for
good containers. I see mailboxes, little red wagons and
wrought iron decor used for containers. For more ideas go to
you choose to use be sure to drill holes in the bottom so
water can drain.
Now that I
gave you ideas for how to save money with gardening, how do
you go about starting a community garden? Contact you local
city and ask if you can use small spaces for this idea. Be
sure to ask about any permits, utility lines you might disturb
if you dig, and other need - to - know information. Perhaps
they might even loan you supplies, sod, seeds and people to
Once you get
a plan, design signs to ask for volunteers in your community.
Include a date, time, location of meeting and contact
information so people can request directions, let you know
they will attend and ask questions. Contact the media, local
radio stations and even schools when asking for support.
Gardening is often perceived as a fun way to give back to the
community, help the environment and is good for families and
meeting, ask people to donate equipment, seeds, sod and
anything else that might help. If some people have experience
with gardening they can be leaders and help others with tasks.
Be sure to include everyone so all feel included. Thank
everyone for coming and have a creative reminder of important
dates, including additional planning, ground preparation,
planting and maintenance of the garden.
of pictures and start a scrapbook that shows how people work
together, and progress in the garden. This could be a useful
tool if you plan to request financial support from companies
looking to strengthen their image in the community. If you
decide to start a non-profit organization to help run the
garden, you can get a tax exempt number. Companies and
individuals can possibly save money on taxes by deducting
donations to the organization. Check with your local tax
office for more information.
many types of gardens and before you can do much, you will
need to decide what you will grow. Combining fruits,
vegetables, plants and flowers will take plenty
of knowledge. Sara Noel, advises gardeners consider many
features of the space, including "scale, balance, focal point,
rhythm, harmony-unity and color" so plants do not look crowded
or out of place.
Ready to start a community garden? If
yes, I wish you the best of luck! If yes, yet you still want
or need more information, check out these sites where I found
McQuillen is looking forward to being a freelance writer and
enjoys her time with Gaslight Writers, a non-profit writing
group dedicated to encouraging writers and sharing dreams.
She is the webmaster for their site which can be found by
In the fall of 2007 she hopes adult writers of all levels will
attend the workshop she is planning. Information about it,
including early bird savings, can be found on the group's
website. Ms. McQuillen is also the author of 100 Things To
Try, which offers writing skill activities for kids in
grade 2-5. More information can be found on a website she
created for kids, Make Writing Fun,
When not busy
with writing, she enjoys cooking with her two kids, reading,
movies, supporting the military and thinking of new ideas for
others to use. Her favorite quote is a proverb, "the journey
of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
Philip Swindells has over 40 years
gardening experience. A former botanical garden curator and an
international horticultural consultant, he has worked
extensively overseas. The Author of more than 50 gardening
books, he has been awarded a Quill and Trowel Award by the
Garden Writers’ Association of America. He is also a former UK
Garden Writer of the Year. He writes a popular daily garden
blog with gardening news, views and updates
contact Ms. McQuillen, please send an email to
To make special writing requests, please send an email and
include "special writing requests" in the subject line.
This is a
free reprint article and may be used provided that her bio,
and those of the writers included in this article, remain
intact. All links must remain active.
MORE articles and
information about gardening:
Deck the Hall with Fall
Field of Dreams: Farm
Summer Garden Tips
Small Space Gardening
Plant Veggies in the
Late Summer Gardens
New Trends in Gardening
by Sally, The Gardening
splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob
the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of its simple
charm. If every flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose is
Therese of Lisieux
seemingly opposite, have the same concerns: the environment. The
first is a back-to-the-basics simplicity in gardening, using the
old methods, the old tools and, of course, organic gardening.
Look for old-time galvanized watering cans, wooden-handled
tools, small wooden stools for weeding, and real reel lawn
mowers. With the old-time reel mowers, there are no worries
about engines, oil, and gas; there’s little noise and the
exercise is nearly peaceful. A reel mower is also economical;
prices start at about $150 or less.
trend involves new products that are environmentally safe—made
from natural ingredients. Look for the new Organic Pharm
pesticides that come in special products for flowers, vegetables
and more. New products baits made with natural minerals also
protect plants from slugs. Herbal Armor Repellent is 100% DEET-free
and gives 100% protection from mosquitoes for 1 hour and 95%
protection for three.
Herb of the month
Cilantro-Coriander (Cilantro’s seeds)
many famous chefs, specialists in Mexican cuisine like Bobby
Flay (“Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill Cookbook” and Rick Bayless
“Mexican Every Day Cookbook”), cilantro, a staple herb in
Mexico, is now common in American cuisine. It is also immensely
popular. A new variety, “Delfino,” is an All-American selection
and has leaves that are less coarse and more decorative,
maintaining the popular kick in the taste. One strong warning,
however: It inhibits the growth of many
other plans, both herbs and vegetables, so keep cilantro out of
the herb and kitchen garden and grow it in a pot on the porch or
Old timer’s garden lore
planting summer bulbs in rows or orderly patches, pick up a good
handful of small tones and gently fling them where they are to
be planted. (Think skipping stones in a lake.)
Plant the bulbs where the stones land and a natural
looking group of blooms will result.
Reading on the garden bench
Kitchen garden: An American potager handbook” by Jennifer
colorful cover is only the beginning of this enticing book.
Starting with the origin of kitchen gardens (Even the
kitchen garden’s French name--potage!), the book is
an apt late-spring read covering such areas of kitchen gardening
as it history, principals of the gardening, several designs, and
the important factor of maintenance. If you
are thinking of a classic kitchen garden this year, it’s not too
late to start one, and reading this book is a good start.
read the print on seed packets, looking for vegetables with
early harvests and flowers with early bloom dates.
There is a different in harvest dates even among a
specific variety of vegetables, for instance, eggplants, corn,
peppers or tomatoes. Consider Early Sunglow corn, Early Glow
strawberries, Early Summer Crookneck squash, Early Jalapeno
pepper and more. Early Scarlet Globe Radish (Harvest at 23
days.) might be the first homegrown vegetable on your table.
If you aren’t growing your own seedlings,
consider the names of nursery plants, “Fourth of July Tomato,”
for instance. (Smaller tomatoes like cherry and salad types come
in earlier than the larger and especially the heirloom types.)
More tips on short season gardening will appear in
summer’s Garden Party Columns.
Sally Ketchum is a northern Michigan food and garden writer. The
emphasis on her kitchen garden this year will be making the
optimal use of space. Email Ketchum at
The Winter Garden: Look out the
by Sally, The
“Bittersweet,” “Free gift,” and “Winter Garden,” opposites that
are jammed together and seem to cancel each other and cause a bit
of tension. Poets call that “poetic tension,” and the battling
words are called an oxymoron. Yet, we might love bittersweet
chocolate, and respond to the offer of a free gift, but when we
come to “Winter Garden,” we say, “What?” Yet winter gardens are a
reality, but they are like a child’s hidden pictures. You might
have to look hard to find them.
you’re home and have a few minutes, try this: Look out the
window, the nearest window. What do you see? Snow? Ice hanging
from the neighbor’s eaves, or worse—your own? Or, is the scene a
February thaw leaving soggy drifts on grass that is a
non-descript, brownish gray?
The aim is to consider the view a garden, because in
the minds of horticulturists, master gardeners, landscape artists
and artists of every kind, whether the scene is beautiful and
artistic or unkempt and helter-skelter, a winter garden is exactly
what is outside your window. If it is helter-skelter, the project
needs a makeover.
Things to consider
…The lay of the
land, itself, small hills, rises and falls
… Demarcations, tree
lines—curved or straight, paths, fences, flagstone areas or hedges
… Existing focal points,
large trees, arbors and entrances, decks
As you study the view, look hard (as in those hidden
pictures) for all the things that are there (You can always
discount them later.), write them down. Are existing focal points,
natural or constructed, where you want them? Should a corner be
minimized or emphasized? If you have a large tree, consider
evergreen ground cover around it for the winter garden.
Consider the rises and falls. Are they attractive, or would
leveling them be pleasanter and/or more easily maintained? If the
rises are pleasing, plan not only tall spring and summer flowers,
but also herbs, grasses and shrubs that over winter, are evergreen
or leave graceful, seeded stalks along the rises. (Ornamental
grasses are perfect.) For the next winter’s garden, plan now,
plant this spring. Tall plantings work for the back of borders and
corner plantings, too. Shrubs and small ornamental trees also add
color, those with berries or those with colored bark. Ornamental
crabapples are gorgeous and are major attractions for birds,
especially the first robins of spring. The resulting height from
tall plantings draws the eye upward, a contrast to a snow-covered
… List basic garden elements
Along with focal points, demarcations
result in discovering beds, borders, and paths--all garden
elements. Whether or not they exist in your garden now, keep these
in mind for future plans. Determining how much and what use of
space is suitable for the size of your land is an early step in
planning. The tiny garden of an apartment can’t sensibly contain
large statuary. On the other hand, a quarter acre of lawn in a
winter snow plain is boring if it is simply bordered by trees or a
Small details count, for instance, most
garden statuary must be protected during the winter. If art is
your pleasure, look for winter-proof sculpture. A summer picnic
area too far from the house to carry food back and forth might be
just the place for a reading, resting and conversation area, but
what about that area in winter? A defining row or low
clipped-round shrubs that sets the picnic area apart in the
summer, might be an interesting curve or row of snow-frosted
globes or closely planted, a low hedge that leads the eye to an
interesting tree with a birdfeeder, a garden gate or corner of
tall evergreens. Boxwood is beautiful for this use, and if you
look for varieties that have “winter” in the name (“Wintergreen,”
“Winter Beauty,’ etc.), they will do well in the northern
All plant choices for a winter garden in
northern Michigan must be hearty.
Good choices: Conifers, large or small, are evergreen, and they
come in many colors and shades. They’ll bend low, loaded with
snow, but will snap back later. Firs, spruces, and pines winter
well, and deer usually avoid them. Yews have the bonus of color,
red berries into the winter, but protect them from deer.
Chokeberries, thicket-type shrubs, are a bit wilder, but the red
berries will stay since birds usually prefer other fruits.
When we consider that we have perhaps five or six
months of spring to fall gardening weather, establishing a
pleasant winter landscape is sensible. With consideration of
proper design, beauty in changing weather conditions, pattern in
color and lack of it (think negative space), the prospect of a
winter garden becomes not only worthwhile, but also pleasurable
and the time to start is now, looking your windows.