Archive for March, 2011

March 31, 2011

Grow up!

If you’ve started planning your garden and thought… “I wish I had more space” make sure you’re looking up.

Many of us think of veggie gardens as flat on the ground, but a lot of veggies love to climb.  Think peas, beans (the non-bush type), cucumbers/squash as well as ornamentals (ornamental beans, edible flowers, etc.).

Not sure what to grow them on?  Anything! Well, almost anything.  Make sure your structure will support the veggie (or fruit) you want to grow.  Trellises, arbors, pergolas, teepees and corn are all good supports, even an old, or not so old, abandoned swing-set will work.  If you have kids, this is a great way to get them involved and an awesome beginning to a children’s garden.

Trellises are great for screening ugly things, arbors make good entrances, pergolas make nice shade, teepees make great hide outs and a swing set or other found object adds a little humor and whimsy to the garden.  Bonus!

Have you already grown up?  Share the fun you’ve had!


March 28, 2011

Veggies – get planning!

Today I’m happy.  Hopeful happy.  It’s a feeling I get every spring (never mind that the weather and the calendar aren’t communicating very well these days, it is spring).

I’m hopeful, excited and optimistic about what this coming growing season will bring.  Like most, I have a spring to-do list about a mile long… plan my veggie garden, start seeds, order seedlings, clean-up what I left behind last fall, prep the soil and get planting.

Where do I start? The wish list. Oh, that wasn’t even on my list!  My son and I came up with a list of enough plants to feed most of the state, assuming we have a perfect growing season and all of them flourish.  We can hope, right?

Next, I compare our wish list to reality.  How much space do I have? Where did I put everything last year?  What worked?  What didn’t? If you don’t have a garden journal, start one.  It makes this much easier next year.  All of this information is really important for the health of your soil and your plants.

Whatever you do, do NOT plant everything where you planted it last year! Ideally, give your garden enough room to have at least a 3-year rotation.  In other words don’t plant anything in the same spot until year 4.

Many people ignore this, until they have problems.  It’s much easier to start off on the right foot – here’s why:

Reason #1: Plants need different nutrients – some are heavy users of certain nutrients and some replenish nutrients.  If you keep the same plant in the same spot year after year you will start to notice a decline in your garden. Keep them moving to prevent the soil from getting depleted.

Reason #2: Plant fungus such as Tomato blight stays in the soil.  If your plants got blight last year and you put them in the same spot this year, guess what?  They’ll get blight this year.  You also don’t want to put anything in the same family in that spot either.  (Ex. :tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and peppers are all in the Solanaceae family.)

Attention container gardeners: These rules apply to containers too.  If you stored them last year and don’t recall what was where, soak them for 30 minutes in a solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water and rinse well.

Back to the plan. Depending on what I planted last year, I tailor the wish list to the available space and then jot out what to put where.

The easiest thing to do for me is put a list of plants in the same family, figure out how many families I have and then set up a plan.  Nothing specific, just A, B, C and D, where A = Solanaceae, B=Brassicaceae, etc.  This makes future planning much easier, then all you need to rotate the letters on your plan.

There are many more layers you can add to your plan, such as companion plants, 2nd plantings, etc.  But we’ll get to those later.

Happy planning!


March 26, 2011

What is the value of nature?

Lesson #1 – The value of nature.

For each of us, there is a “value” to nature.

To me, it’s invaluable.  It’s my respite, my peaceful place, my school room, the place I go to “get away from it all”, my place to learn.  Nature is such a complicated thing, yet at the same time so obviously simple.  Everything about it works together like a well oiled machine, with uncanny balance.  What one living thing no longer needs, another depends upon.  Nature is the place that grounds me.  If I feel like I’m losing sight of what matters, I go outside.  I’m fortunate enough to live walking distance from both a nature center and a small lake.  These are my quick escapes.  The places I go to relax, unwind and get perspective on things.  My son also loves walks, especially in the parks.  I try not to “teach” him so much as let him just observe.  Kids are so observant, often times he sees or hears things that I never would have had he not been there.  Ever since he was a baby, he’s been calmed by nature.  When he was fussy and it felt like we would never get out of, I would take him outside and it would instantly calm him, so much so that he often fell asleep on my shoulder.  There is something to said about that.  A child that small, only able to communicate through crying, tears and cooing, not able to be calmed in any other manner, yet stepping outside was like flipping a switch. I don’t care what anyone says, there is a connection between people and nature.  I think many of us get wrapped up in the business of our daily lives and often forget to stop and connect with nature.  To me, it’s a priceless gift we’ve been given.

To others, nature has a price tag.  They see dollar signs.  They don’t see the birds eating insects from the bark of the dead or dying trees, or the shelter they provide for other animals.  They don’t hear the leaves rustling in the trees as a breeze gently whispers through the branches. They don’t see that the canopy of the mature trees protect the undergrowth, the saplings beneath.  They don’t see the connection, the thread that ties all of it together. They see the trees as furniture, as gun stock as money in their pocket.  They don’t see that removing trees for their benefit throws off the balance.

I’m not one to get into huge political debates, which must be a recessive gene.  My family loves political discussions, some are even involved in politics or positions very closely related.  Not me.  Sure, I have my opinions and values, but politics typically just frustrates me.  Today, even more so. In fact today I’m whirling with emotion.  Frustration, anger, nausea and fear of stupid people. (Yes, I did just say that.)

I just learned that a bill requiring the Department of Natural Resources to commercially log trees in Frontenac and Whitewater state parks in southeastern Minnesota, will be voted on next week in the full Minnesota House.

This bill orders the DNR to harvest black walnut as “timber resources suitable for harvest”, and use profits to help fund the park system. Bill supporters say the state “can’t afford to let valuable trees rot in the woods”.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m obviously all for funding the park system, I just don’t think that damaging the ecosystem of the park is the way to do it.

I ask you today,what is the value of nature to you and what are you going to do about it?  Not sure?  Go for a walk.

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” ~John Muir

Take care,


March 26, 2011

Walnuts and What?!?

Welcome to Walnuts and Pears!

For a long time, I’ve been trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up.  I’ve been trying to figure out how to utilize my education and life experiences to create something that makes sense to share with others.  Something I really enjoy and have a passion for.

My background is in horticulture and landscaping and I have an obsession with pretty much every kind of plant, so, yes, I’m kind of a plant geek.  I’ve been a resource for family and friends with landscaping and gardening questions, design help, etc. for quite some time and have really enjoyed that, but I would like to do more with it.

What I realized recently is that there isn’t a single resource for all the things that are important to me, so I’ve decided to start my own.  Ultimately I’d like to start a physical space for people to go to learn about all things related to living a centered, healthy, fulfilling life.

Walnuts and Pears is the beginning; a virtual place to share thoughts, observations and tidbits of information on landscaping, gardening, harvesting, cooking, eating, preserving, and healthy, mindful living.  A place with purpose, passion, caring, love and respect for self, others and Mother Nature.

The name of this blog is based on the 17th century English proverb:

Walnuts and pears you plant for your heirs. ~ Thomas Fuller

Walnut and pear trees, particularly older varieties, take years to produce fruit.  If you plant one of these trees today, you are planting, not for yourself, but for your children and future generations.

That’s the concept behind this blog and my future business.  A place to learn how to do things not just for our own benefit and those close to us, but also for those we might never meet.

I hope you have fun, learn a few things, share your comments and laugh along the way.

Take care,


Walnuts and Pears – Living today for tomorrow’s generation.