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I Asked Gardeners How Climate Change Hits Them

I Asked Gardeners How Climate Change Hits Them

I connected with gardeners from across North America and Europe to understand how climate change is affecting their ability to grow our most valuable resource: food.

What does “climate change” actually mean at the grassroots level?

When most people hear the term they think of rising seas and hotter temperatures. Many are aware of potential collapse, but it all seems theoretical for now. The grocery stores remain stocked and we go about our daily lives.

While political leaders and scientists discuss broad mitigation strategies, the effects of climate change are already impacting those on the front lines of human survival.

Distant heat domes and flooding dominate the headlines, but food production is where it becomes real for all of us. Farmers and gardeners are the first to experience the early stages of the global crisis. We must pay attention to the signals food growers are sending.

I connected with gardeners from across North America and Europe to understand how climate change is affecting their ability to grow our most valuable resource: food.

The results were shocking.

Given the wide geographic scope of my audience I expected a range of feedback – some positive, some negative. What shocked me was the uniformity of responses around the world.

I expected some reporting bias in the responses because those experiencing negative changes would be more likely to respond. However, the survey was targeted at general gardeners (i.e. not at a collapse-aware or climate change population), so I anticipated a more even distribution of comments.

I’ve included a selection of the best verbatim comments below, but if you’d prefer a summary I’ve listed the common themes here:

  1. Extreme Weather Patterns: People are experiencing more extreme and unpredictable weather, with severe droughts, intense heat waves, early frosts, and heavy rains becoming more common…

…click on the above link to read the rest…

*Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…

*Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…

If you listen closely you can hear the beasties in your garden just a-singin’ that tune. And who can blame them? Warm temperatures and lush green gardens? They enjoy them as much as we do. But sometimes they can be enjoying our landscape a little too much. So now what do you do?

Visit the garden chemicals section at your local big box store? Reach for your favorite “natural” or DIY concoction? Ask your neighbor?

Hmmm, maybe not.

What is the best way to deal with the problem? Three letters answer that question. IPM.

Scoutcat logo courtesy of C. Ware, copyright 2000

What is IPM? Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the management approach you should use to solve pest problems. It can manage all sorts of pests with minimal risks to people, pets, and the environment. IPM’s emphasis is on the management of problems rather than eradication. It focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage by managing the ecosystem.

IPM is a five step process: 1) correct pest ID, 2) monitoring and assessing pest numbers and damage, 3) pest ID guidelines for when management action is needed, 4) preventing pest problems, and 5) determining correct control measures. Let’s take a look at each one.

#1. Pest ID

Correct ID of the problem-causing critter is the most important aspect of IPM. If you don’t know what you’re dealing with, how can you devise an effective control strategy, if indeed one is needed?

So what is a pest? Pests are organisms which damage or interfere with desirable plants or damage structures. Pests also include organisms that can impact human or animal health. Pests may transmit disease or may be just a nuisance. A pest can be a plant (weed), vertebrate (bird, rodent, or other mammal), invertebrate (insect, tick, mite, or snail), nematode, or a pathogen (bacteria, virus, or fungus).

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

February is…

February is…

…National Pesticide Safety Month. Let’s review some key points of safe pesticide use.

Socrates said, “ The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms”

So let’s define a pesticide.
A simple definition is any substance used to control, deter, incapacitate, kill, or otherwise discourage organisms harmful to plants, animals or humans can be classified as a pesticide. A fuller definition can be found here. Germane to our discussion, herbicides make up 80% of all pesticide use. As gardeners we should know how to properly handle any chemicals we choose to use.

Anytime you use a pesticide, be sure to read and follow label instructions. The label will include important information for protecting yourself and it will tell you how to apply the product in the way that it will work best. Be certain the pesticide you’re using is correct for the job.


All pesticides carry labels which provide varying levels of information including the signal words “Danger”, “Warning’ or “Caution”. These signal words have specific meanings in relation to the pesticide. Products labeled “Caution” are the least toxic, “Danger” are the most. More information on signal words can be found here.

Correct and controlled application is responsible pesticide use. While some pesticides can be broadcast, e.g., pre-emergents and some lawn grub control products, most of them need to be precisely applied. Use correctly calibrated equipment recommended by the label directions and apply precisely. Avoid overspraying and watch out for drift.

And finally, wear protective clothing and use the correct application method and equipment as stated on the label. Always keep children and pets away while you’re applying any product. Observe wait times before allowing people or pets back into or onto treated areas. When you’ve finished application wash your hands, face and any skin that’s been exposed to the product. If needed, launder protective clothing separately from other clothing.

For more information:

How healthy is your soil?


In celebration of World Soil Day, December 5, 2021, we want to help farmers around the world to better understand their soil.

Our soils are an incredible resource – they have a remarkable ability to clean water and help mitigate climate change, they support biodiversity and are the reason we can grow nourishing food. However, the ability of soil to deliver these benefits has been compromised by widespread intensive farming – so much so it’s been estimated we have only 50 harvests left until our topsoil is degraded beyond repair. But not all is lost. Every day, farmers are transitioning to more sustainable farming practices which can not only prevent further deterioration of the land but can regenerate it too. 

But where do you start? You can’t manage what you don’t measure – a clear indication of the health of your soil can help show you where to go next and illustrate the effectiveness of new management practices. Here are three simple soil tests from the Global Farm Metric that you can do to understand, manage and protect the health of your soil and the vital services it provides.

These tests indicate the state of your soils in terms of structure, the amount of organic matter and biodiversity. You can do this in your garden, allotment or farm. 

On farm scale, choose three fields that are representative of your land (e.g. with different soil types or different enterprises such as arable or permanent pasture). Follow the sampling protocols – time of year and weather (e.g. after heavy rainfall or frost) can sometimes affect your results, so tests are best done throughout the year, when soil is moist and not waterlogged or frozen. Let’s get digging!

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…


“How dry I am “: Four types of drought and how they can affect gardeners and gardens

“How dry I am “: Four types of drought and how they can affect gardeners and gardens

Linda’s post last week about “drought-resistant” plants made me think about drought and how different types of drought affect gardeners in different ways. In her article, she defined drought as “an unusual lack of rainfall”. This is one of four different kinds of drought that climatologists talk about, and I thought it might be interesting for you to hear about how the four (or maybe five) types of drought differ and how they affect gardeners in diverse ways. A great source of drought information across the U.S. is https://www.drought.gov/.

360° panorama of the northern end on the lake bed of a drying Lake Albert in Wagga WaggaNew South WalesAustralia, source: Bidgee, Commons Wikimedia.

Meteorological drought

The first type of drought, the one Linda described last week, is what climatologists consider a meteorological drought. A meteorological drought is related to how much rain you get compared to usual conditions at your location. I like to think of it as “too many days of nice weather in a row”, since in these dry conditions, the sun is shining and it is a great time to garden, play golf, or do construction. Of course, if you don’t get rain for a long time, you start to see impacts on plants, water bodies, and wells, but meteorological drought is usually not identified in terms of impacts, just on the amount of precipitation measured over weeks, months or years. Meteorological droughts look different depending on where you are. It is possible to have drought even in a desert if rain does not fall over an unusually long time…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

5 gardening tips to keep your plants healthy

5 gardening tips to keep your plants healthy

Sometimes, it may be difficult to know the best ways to keep your plants healthy, especially if you’re not a gardener by profession. We aim to have a highly productive garden that fulfils our needs, natures needs, is energy efficient and low maintenance. If you’re struggling to maintain the health of your plants, don’t worry – this guide can help get your plants flourishing in no time at all, expanding nature for both its beauty and eco-friendly benefits. Read on for more discussion!


Telling you to water your plants may seem very obvious, but you should never underestimate the significance that water has in a plant’s growing cycle. Making up a high percentage of an entire plant’s weight, water is crucial for delivering nutrients from the soil to the plant’s cells, keeping them healthy and strong. It can be a challenge sometimes to know how much water to give your plants, so you need to consider the conditions. Thinking about the climate and soil type can help you with this. It is important to get the balance right since too little water causes plants to stop growing and die, whilst too much water can create soggy roots, resulting in the plant becoming oxygen-starved. A good estimate for most gardens is supplying your plants with around one inch of water a week, whilst gardens in hot climates may need two inches of water per week due to the loss of moisture. Water aids plants in their critical life processes, including photosynthesis, nutrient distribution, and transpiration. Therefore, one healthy soak a week should be enough to keep your plants alive and healthy, helping your garden to blossom with minimal effort!

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Sunchokes: The Ultimate Prepper Survival Food

Sunchokes: The Ultimate Prepper Survival Food

“Keep your face to the sunshine, and you cannot see the shadow.  It’s what sunflowers do.”— Helen Keller.

SunChokesThe sunflower should be the symbol of preppers and survivors, and it’s the unsung hero that every prepper should grow, know how to recognize in the wild, and use.  Helianthus comprises about 70 species of annual and perennial flowering plants in the daisy family Asteraceae. Except for three South American species, the species of Helianthus are native to North America and Central America, but they now grow around the world.

In this blog, we will take a look at Helianthus tuberosus.  Its common names are sunroot, wild sunflower, earth apple, Canadian truffle, and Jerusalem artichoke.  The tuber of this plant can commonly be found in some grocery stores, and it is sometimes referred to as a fartichoke.  The taste is similar to that of artichoke hearts, but it derives this slang name because of its high amounts of inulin.  When the tubers are stored for an extended period, this inulin will convert to its component fructose. Still, inulin is only digestible by gut bacteria, hence the gas that it sometimes causes.

I will show you how to grow, harvest, and cook the sunchoke to reduce the gassy effect.  I will also freeze-dry some and make it into pasta.  Let’s explore this ultimate of prepper plants.


The first thing to know about this plant is that it grows wild in almost any soil.  Colonists first brought it and other sunflowers back to Europe, and it now extends around the world.  Its tuber roots are prolific, and it will take over whatever garden plot you put it in to start.  One planted acre will yield almost 9 tons of tubers…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Increasing Our Gardening Resilience

Thoughts on increasing our gardening resilience

It feels like the world is moving faster and faster in directions I never would have thought possible just a couple of years ago. We knew resilience was important, but now it has become essential, critical to our well being and perhaps even survival. I am going to share some thoughts about pushing a garden to be more productive in ways within the capabilities and finances of most of us. My solutions reflect my agricultural zone (8b) and microclimate, but it is surprising what can be accomplished with very little.

Three resources I lean heavily upon, and will reference here, are: the books written by Eliot Coleman (Maine), Lynn Gillespie’s courses and information found at thelivingfarm.org (Colorado) and the interviews with Singing Frogs Farm (California) found on this website. All three provide a wealth of ideas and processes that those of us growing in residential areas can adopt on a “micro-sized” basis to be quite successful.

It takes knowledge and experience to be successful growing food on a small lot in a residential area, year-round, but it can be done! We can get a general idea of what we need to do through resources like those mentioned and seed company charts, but only dedication, season after season, brings us the knowledge and feeling that we need.

In the garden with the mini greenhouses with peppers and an A frame trellis for tomatoes behind

My garden is about 2000 square feet of actual growing area. It is divided into 40 beds, most of them raised. In this area over the course of a year 140 varieties of 40 vegetables and at least 20 different herbs are grown. Scattered around the rest of the property (a total of about 2 acres) we grow 15 different berries, 10 varieties of grapes, and trees for plums, peaches, pears, apples, cherries, hazelnuts and almonds….

click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 The Woodchip Handbook: A Complete Guide for Farmers, Gardeners and Landscapers: Excerpt

The Woodchip Handbook

The following excerpt is from Ben Raskin’s new book The Woodchip Handbook: A Complete Guide for Farmers, Gardeners and Landscapers (Chelsea Green Publishing, October 2021) and is reprinted with permission from the publisher.

The Woodchip Handbook

By Ben Raskin

Restoring Damaged Soil

With the potential for woodchip to boost soil health, hold onto water and promote plant growth, it is a small step to look at how to effectively harness that potential for rescuing degraded and damaged soils. There are numerous examples of how this has been done, and we’ll look at a few of them here. In some of the studies woodchip and biochar are used either comparatively or in combination, and there is certainly potential for combining the shorter-term benefits of woodchip with the longer-lasting properties of biochar. Both the physical and biological properties of woodchip are used in soil remediation.


We have already seen the potential for woodchip and the fungi that decompose them to absorb potentially polluting nitrates, but there is some evidence that it could be used more widely to help deal with other manmade pollutants, ‘such as chlorinated and non-chlorinated hydrocarbons, wood preserving chemicals, solvents, heavy metals, pesticides, petroleum products, and explosives. There is an even stronger body of evidence on the potential of biochar for this purpose, but creating biochar is more costly and in most cases some of the energy is lost during the production process. Woodchip is cheaper and easier to produce, so it is worth looking at those situations that could use it.

For contaminants that would eventually break down anyway, such as oil and diesel spills, woodchip appears to have the potential to significantly increase the speed at which the contaminants disintegrate…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Marti’s Corner – 40

Marti’s Corner – 40

*  So I decided to follow my own advice and can some vegetables this week.  I bought 20 pounds of potatoes for $6 and then went here:  Canning Potatoes  Last time I canned potatoes, I did NOT soak them first to get the starch out.  When I opened them, I had to rinse them really well to use them.  PLUS, after about 6 years, they have “grayed” somewhat.  I have to kind of sort them and discard the gray pieces.  This week’s final tally:  20 pounds of potatoes = 33-pint jars.

*  AND I dehydrated some corn.  It was $1.39 at Winco.  (prices are climbing!!)  This was all sparked by a recipe I found for Wild Rice and Vegetable soup.  I’ve included the recipe below.  Add meat if you want.  But I’m thinking I’ll make some “Mylar Meals” and give them to my kids for Christmas.  The recipe says it serves 6-8 (that will work for all my kids) and it only uses 1 TB of corn, carrots, etc.  So the 5 pounds of corn that I dehydrated should work.  LOL

*  My garden is still producing.  The cooler temps are allowing the plants to set fruit again.  My lettuce is growing again.  Here is an October guide for zones 9-10.  October Garden Checklist Zones 9-10 | Kellogg Garden Organics™

*  THIS week is the Great California ShakeOut.  The official event will happen on Thursday, October 21, at 10:21.  Your church or school may choose to have their drill on another day, but it will be sometime around then.  Be SURE to talk to your family members about what to do when there is a real emergency.

*  Paul Diffley shared this link with me.  He says they still have stock.  He asked for a discount and they gave him 10% off his second order…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Pruning newly planted trees

Pruning newly planted trees

As the climate warms the value of trees for cooling the environment around buildings, especially in cities, drives tree planting programs. Planting trees is just the first step in growing a tree in a sustainable landscape. Successful plantings require evaluation and guidance of the new tree’s current and future branch architecture. In almost every case, nursery grown trees will require some structural pruning so that a shade tree can develop strong and effective branch attachments that will support the canopy for the coming decades without failure. In this blog I cover maintenance of the newly planted tree including how to structurally prune young trees so that they develop strong and sustainable canopies.

As mentioned in earlier pruning blogs, trees do not require pruning. This is predicated on the assumption that trees are allowed to grow in the way they are genetically programmed to grow without damage. Unfortunately many container nurseries prune trees with a heading cut to the central leader in order to create branches that can further be pruned to make a “lollipop” canopy that mimics the form of a large tree. Consumers have become accustomed to this “in-pot” miniature version of a shade tree and nurseries are accustomed to producing them. Low branches are removed to enhance the tree lollipop shape. Nurseries often stake trees tightly to provide a way to keep them from being blown over in wind events and since all the temporary branches are removed from the low trunk they are top heavy and require rigid staking usually with a stake taped to the trunk. Tightly staked trees grow taller than unstaked trees and their trunks may lack caliper or taper (increase in trunk diameter lower on the stem)…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Xeriscape – landscaping whose time has come.

Xeriscape – landscaping whose time has come.

With drought conditions or lower than average precipitation becoming more widespread across the country, it’s time to revisit the principles of xeriscape gardening. Let’s take a look at the “classic” principles and we’ll update them, Garden Professor style.

Note: If you’re growing food crops to supply your table not all of these principles will apply. Some will, e.g mulching, and some won’t. This blog post is focused on ornamental landscaping.

James Steakley/Creative Commons

As an “official” landscaping technique xeriscaping seems to have begun in the early 80’s. Denver Water, the largest and oldest public water utility in Denver, Colorado, coined the term xeriscape in 1981 by combining “landscape” with the Greek prefix xero-, meaning ‘dry’. The utility then began to formally define the main principles of xeriscaping for members of the Denver community interested in modifying gardening practices to save water. The results were the Seven Principles of Xeriscaping, listed below.

1. Sound landscape planning and design.
2. Limitation of turf/lawn to appropriate, functional areas.
3. Use of water efficient plants.
4. Efficient irrigation.
5. Soil amendments.
6. Use of mulches.
7. Appropriate landscape maintenance.

Let’s review them and apply some up-to-date gardening information.

1. “Sound landscape planning and design” – the ideal starting point for all gardens, “Right Plant, Right Place.” This principle earns a GP thumbs-up.

2. “Limitation of turf/lawn to appropriate, functional areas” – turf has a place in the landscape but perhaps not everywhere or in every landscape. “Right Plant, Right Place” (hmm, that sounds familiar). Another GP thumbs-up.


3. “Use of water efficient plants” – it may be stating the obvious but you want water efficient plants that work in your grow zone or micro-climate. Do some homework and choose plants that will be happy in your region. We’ll give this one a GP “OK” with a few points lost for being vague.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How to Design a Permaculture Neighbourhood

Counting the Days to Maturity: Calculating planting dates for fall vegetables

Counting the Days to Maturity: Calculating planting dates for fall vegetables

While most of the US is still seeing sweltering hot temps, the cool temps of fall and winter aren’t really all that far away for those of us unlucky (or lucky) enough to not live in a tropical climate.  The tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and other warm-season crops planted back at the beginning of summer are still puttering along, even if they might be getting a little long in the tooth and starting to look a little worse for wear ( especially if disease has ravaged them).  For those who aren’t quite done with gardening for the year or who want to reap the bounty of fall crops and get the most out of their production space, fall gardening can be a great tool to extend the garden season.  But knowing when to plant what is tricky, especially when we are talking about different weather patterns and frost dates all around the country.  So a bit of weather data, info from the seed packet or label, a touch of math, and a calendar can be great tools to figure out when you can plant no matter where you are.  Of course if you do live in one of those warmer tropical areas your planting calendar is kind of turned on its head from what us more northern gardeners face. You may prefer to time your planting to avoid high heat.

The first thing to think about is what you can plant.  Cool-season crops such as the Cole crops (cabbage, kale, broccoli, etc.), leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, Bok choi, etc.), root crops (radishes, beets, turnips, scallions), and some cool weather loving herbs like cilantro and parsley are all par for the course for a garden going into cooler fall and winter temps…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Backyard biocontrol – using natural enemies to wipe out invasive weeds

Backyard biocontrol – using natural enemies to wipe out invasive weeds

The agricultural-residential interface

Four years ago we moved to the family farm (where I grew up) and we’ve enjoyed restoring the 1 acre landscape around the farmhouse. Given that the residential part of this farm is surrounded by pastureland, there is a continual influx of weed seeds into our managed beds. While our thick applications of arborist wood chips have kept out many weeds, they still pop up where mulch hasn’t been applied yet or is too thin.

Photosensitized livestock will suffer severe sunburning after consuming Hypericum perforatum

One of these weeds is Hypericum perforatum (also known as Klamath weed or St. John’s wort), a species native to Eurasia. The latter common name can confuse gardeners, as there are several ornamental species of Hypericum also called St. John’s wort, but H. perforatum is easily identified by the perforations in the leaf. This invasive species is a problem for our cattle, as Klamath weed causes photosensitivity when it’s consumed and can be toxic in large amounts.

The weeds to the right of my raised beds include St. John’s wort, or Hypericum perforatum.

In the last few years H. perforatum colonized our stockpile of native soil waiting to be used in our raised beds. It was a small enough infestation that we could pull it all up, but a closer look revealed that some shiny metallic beetles were already busy feasting on the leaves. Putting on my IPM hat, I first needed to identify these interesting beetles. It didn’t take long to find out they were a Chrysolina species.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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