Global Warming/Climate Change Equals More Bugs

Listening to public radio is so interesting. I’m always learning something new. We used to listen to NPR on the way to school every morning growing up so now I think of it as news masquerading as story time. I don’t know how many times a day I start a story with, “I was listening to the radio and I heard…”

Well, let me tell you a story about a story I heard. If you’ve been following along, you know I hate bugs. According to the “Plant Doctor” Melinda Myers, who was on Charlotte Talks recently, our unnaturally warm winter is going to result in more bugs bothering us than normal. Stupid global warming/climate change!

I didn’t hear the whole conversation so I don’t know exactly why there would be more bugs than usual, but I’m assuming they just have more time to wake up and multiply. Having never gardened before, I don’t know what’s normal for populations of bugs, but when she advised us to “grab the bugs early before they multiply into the hundreds,” I have to admit I got more than just a little freaked out. By the way, she really meant “grab” the bugs. Like, with your hands.

An example of my psychological problem with bugs: just a minute ago, I moved my foot and some fuzz from my slippers ended up on my lap. I almost jumped out of my skin thinking it was a bug! A fuzzy red bug, spawned from my shedding slippers. I need an intervention.

With “hundreds” of bugs to deal with this summer (Sacre Bleu! Invaders!) a question remains: will I be able to conquer my fear and save my darling plants?

Who will save me?

Frugal Gardening Tips: Recycled Containers, Water Conservation, & Natural Insect Repellant

I’ve been doing a lot of aggressive reading lately. Reading becomes a sport when you check out too many books at once from the library. Trigger happy and manic, I reserved all these gardening books in about 2 minutes, not bothering to think, “Alex, is there really enough time to read all these books before they start costing you a precious $0.25/day/book?”

Now, faced with a looming deadline, I can’t afford to waste any time leisurely meandering my way through my stack of pretty books. If I put as much energy into exercising as I do into reading, I might be a really good athlete instead of someone who is overly educated on very specific topics like how to make your own worm poop. But believe you me, that information is going to come in handy soon and the ability to run for longer than a minute–well, that could be handy too… Moving on!

I did finish You Grow Girl and it’s as I feared: I love it. I love everything about it. If I were to write a book on gardening, it would be this book. If I could live inside a gardening book, I would nestle between the section on growing edible flowers and the entire chapter on how to combat evil, nasty bugs and diseases. And although it is clearly written for the female audience, I do believe men would find it helpful too. Jordan may want to skip the chapter on sewing a gardening tool belt, but otherwise it’s got amazing bits of information on every single page.

Here are some things I learned that I never knew before:

  • You can use pretty much anything as a container for seed starting and growing.
    When I first started this project, I thought I would need to buy lots and lots of expensive containers and gardening gear. That is not true! I have begun to collect pretty much anything that can have holes drilled into it. My seeds will be started in toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, yogurt cups, butter containers; tin cans, plastic buckets, trash cans, old tupperware–all kinds of junk will be repurposed into suitable housing for my veggies and herbs!
  • You don’t have to buy an expensive rain barrel to conserve and collect water.
    You can buy a rain barrel if you want to, or you can make your own. However, there are lots of ways to collect water throughout the day. We can save the water from our showers and sinks that runs while we wait for it to warm up, rain water can be collected in buckets placed on the porch, we can reuse our pasta, leftover tea, and laundry water. Who says our water bill has to be high this summer? I laugh in the face of the water company!
  • You can combat insects and woodland creatures naturally without expensive and/or environmentally harmful sprays.
    You can use companion planting, i.e. planting something that attracts good bugs that will eat bad bugs next to a plant that attracts bad bugs, to go on the offense for you; you can lay down copper pennies to keep slugs and snails at bay (I feel slightly bad about this one because the copper shocks the poor guys); and burning frankincense, yes the stuff that the wise men brought to baby Jesus, discourages birds, squirrels, and cats from taking up residence in the garden.

FYI, I am not looking forward to plotting ways to murder the bad insects that will inevitably invade my sweet garden. I already know that I will be a ruthless killer. And isn’t gardening supposed to be peaceful?

Gardening Books, At Last

It has happened. I finally made it to the public library to pick up my gardening books just in time for the weekend. Oh, the joy of Saturday morning when I can sit down, linger over my coffee, and start reading. Saturdays are the best day for reading because you aren’t rushed and you can pause at appropriate intervals and tell your fellow sloth factoids that begin with, “Did you know…?”

Here’s my pile of artfully stacked library books. You’ll notice that the second book in the stack says “You” at the top and features a graphic of a woman with a ponytail sprouting out of the top of her head. This book is called, You Grow Girl by Gayla Trail (I wasn’t lying in my earlier post) and it will probably end up being my favorite.

Here is the list of books I snatched from the library. They are all so pretty!

The Cook’s Herb Garden, Jeff Cox & Marie Pierre Moine
After just a cursory glance, I have already decided that I need to buy this book. It is an encyclopedia of herbs and edible flowers with pictures, descriptions, habits, and cook’s notes for all kinds of herbs including many that just tickle me with delight. Have you ever heard of the herb(s) Good King Henry/Fat Hen? It has such a delicious name I can hardly stand it! The book also has tips on how to dry and freeze herbs and recipes for salads, sauces, liqueurs, and tea.

You Grow Girl, Gayla Trail
I hate to admit it, but I love this book already. It’s like the Stitch ‘N Bitch of the gardening world. I like the sassy titles, the tips to make your pots grow moss so they don’t look store-bought, and all the sections titled make it, grow it, brew it. There is even a section on how to deal with the bugs and recipes for homemade natural bug repellent. I guess I’m going to have to face my fears sooner or later. :-/

Container Gardening Through the Year, Malcolm Hillier
Unfortunately, this is not a book about vegetable container gardening. Nope, it’s about flowers. Beautiful flowers in containers. This is what happens when you order books in haste. You can see evidence of my irrationality and crazy here and my rational, prudent side here.

Garden Anywhere, How to Grow Gorgeous Container Gardens Herb Gardens, Kitchen Gardens, and More–Without Spending a Fortune, Alys Fowler
I included the subtitle because this book is exactly what I’m looking for. We need an inexpensive and thrifty way to grow vegetables and herbs, because let’s face it, we might not succeed. I don’t want to have spent my hard-earned green on gardening and then have nothing to show for it. Eek. Things I like about this book: 1. the introduction is all about slowing down and not stressing out (I need to adopt this philosophy right now) and 2. there are lots of ideas on how to repurpose scrap wood into containers and how to use all parts of the garden, even the weeds!

Incredible Vegetables from Self-Watering Containers, Edward C. Smith
I started reading this book immediately because I was so interested in self-watering containers. I never even knew they existed, and wondered why doesn’t everyone use them? I quickly learned why. I don’t know if Jordan and I are crafty enough to build our own self-watering containers and we surely can’t afford to buy them. We’ll just have to resolve to be crafty and make at least one with the pretty cachepot that Jordan’s momma gave us. I’ll let you know how that goes.

The Container Kitchen Garden, Anthony Atha
Flipping through this book, it seems to be a nice introduction to container gardening. I should have started reading this one first. There is a lot of helpful info on choosing the pots and containers, a nice index of herbs and veggies in the back, AND a page of herbal beauty treatments. How sweet of this man to think of us ladies.

The Complete Herb Garden, John Stevens
When I opened up to the title page I found a label that says, “Presented to the Library by The Charlotte Herb Guild.” I didn’t know we had an herb guild. How fun! This is really a reference book and not so much a practical guide so I probably won’t actually read it. Too many words.

Any book or web resource that I should be reading that I’m not? Suggestions welcome!

Using Up Leftover Store Bought Parsley

Yesterday, I bought this beautiful bunch of parsley for the low low price of $1.79. The recipe I was making only called for a 1/4 of a cup of chopped parsley which can be gleaned from about 7 sprigs. Unfortunately, the grocery store only sells parsley in bundles of about 30 sprigs. And even though I am a neo-home economist and I will definitely find a way to use the parsley, I would venture to say that the majority of people would let the poor herb get brown and gooey and disgusting in the bottom of their crisper. Can I get an “Amen”?

I read a book last year called American Wasteland by Jonathan Bloom. He traces America’s food waste from the field where the produce is picked to the trip across the country where food spoils and get squished, to the grocery stores that throw away food before it even hits the shelves to our own refrigerators where we fail to consume all the food we purchase. How is it that we have the luxury of throwing away food when there are so many people starving in our own country?

Fortunately for my old-fashioned frame of mind, being clever with the way we repurpose an item, be it food or furniture, has circled back around and is now the trendy and praiseworthy thing to do. Who knew canning could be so cool? Maybe I’m just strange, but I can’t wait to preserve my leftover vegetables.

To the task at hand, what to do with the leftover parsley?

  1. Make Parsley Pesto, strange thought but people do it all the time
  2. Make Chimichurri, fun to say and fun to eat
  3. Use it as a medicinal herb to fix yo’ stinky breath
  4. Channel your Ancient Greek alter-ego, make a wreath out of the herb, and crown yourself champion of using up leftover parsley!

I also learned something else about the curly herb on the website Simply Recipes that’s sure to make Jordan wag his tail in delight. Parsley plants don’t attract bugs and slugs, perhaps because it’s considered a “bitter”? However, according to Wikipedia, it does sometimes attract butterflies and birds. What’s not to love?

I look forward to our life together Petroselinum crispum.

Vegetable Container Gardening 101

I woke up this morning and realized in a panic that I haven’t planned our container gardening schedule. And we have no supplies. And we can’t find a good online source to tell us exactly how and when to plant exactly what we want to eat. Now, it’s still January so I think we have plenty of time to get it together, but I fear that we should already be germinating little bean seeds in homemade egg carton planters. Sigh. Often I doubt Jordan’s and my ability to successfully grow a bounty of veggies and herbs based on several factors:

1) Neither of us really enjoy getting dirty. (Very early in our relationship Jordan remarked sincerely, “I’m so glad you aren’t outdoorsy!”)
2) We are both currently obsessed with other things, see About for more information.
3) We are both really bad at killing bugs.

However, we vow to conquer our fears of the dirt and creepy crawly things and to chronicle our successes and failures so that other sustainable lifestyle seekers can learn too!

My brother Chris is a green thumb and oh-so-generously gifted me two fruit plants for Christmas. I don’t think they will bear fruit any time soon but they truly represent the beginning of my food growing mission. Note the plant on the left with the droopy leaf. I believe it’s droopy because of 1) lack of water and 2) these tiny weird bugs that are happily thriving all around the leaves.

In an effort to destroy said bugs, I passionately sprayed them with some homemade household cleaner. They are still happily alive today. After examining the plant, I backed away and whined to Jordan, “Honey, will you throw away this plant for me?”

And so begins our adventure in vegetable container gardening.