Reflections on Gardening

Willits Earth Day Garden Workday

Read all about our Willits Earth Day Workday in the Willits News and the Willits Weekly

What We're Reading in April 2017


The Climate-Friendly Gardener: a Guide to Combatting Global Warming from the Ground Up

The Union of Concerned Scientists has released a guide to combating global warming through better gardening practices. The guide explores why growing your own food and localizing food production is a step towards combating global warming, and then explains what gardening practices are best to achieve this climate-friendly outcome. Some of the main tips the Union of Concerned Scientists present are listed below. You can click here to download the guide in its eleven page entirety, which includes useful information on best compost recipes, how to go pesticide-free, and when and how to water, to name a few.

1. Minimize Carbon-Emitting Tools and Products. This includes gasoline-powered lawn mowers and other equipment, as well as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which require a lot of energy to produce. The guide provides several tips for avoiding garden chemicals and fossil-fuel-powered equipment.

2. Use cover crops. Bare off-season gardens are vulnerable to erosion, weed infestation and carbon loss. Seeding grasses, cereal grains or legumes in the fall builds up the soil, reduces the need for energy-intensive chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and maximizes carbon storage. The guide recommends that gardeners plant peas, beans, clovers, rye and winter wheat as cover crops and explains the specific advantages that legume and non-legume cover crop choices have for gardens.

3. Plant Trees and Shrubs Strategically. Trees and large shrubs can remove significant amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over long periods of time. Well-placed trees also shade buildings from the summer sun or buffer them from cold winter winds, reducing the need for-and cost of-air conditioning and heating. UCS’s guide discusses the most suitable types of trees for a climate-friendly yard.

4. Expand Recycling to the Garden. Yard trimmings and food waste account for nearly 25 percent of U.S. landfill waste, and the methane gas released as the waste breaks down represents 3 to 4 percent of all human-generated heat-trapping gases. Studies indicate that well-managed composted waste has a smaller climate impact than landfills. The UCS guide describes how to create a climate-friendly compost pile.

5. Think Long and Hard about Your Lawn. Residential lawns, parks, golf courses and athletic fields are estimated to cover more than 40 million acres-about as much as all the farmland in Illinois and Indiana combined. A growing body of research suggests that lawns can capture and store significant amounts of carbon dioxide, but some newer studies warn of the potential for well-watered and fertilized lawns to generate heat-trapping nitrous oxide. The science is unsettled, but there are practical things gardeners can do to maximize lawn growth and health with a minimum of fertilizer and water. The new UCS guide summarizes the science and offers tips for homeowners to make their lawns truly “green.”

Winter Gardens Get the Fame They Need

Here at the Gardens Project we LOVE winter gardening and feel that it just does not get as much love and attention as summer gardening does. Summer gardening bears the fruits that we all love and enjoy: Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Zucchini, Melons, and other juicy and sweet fruits that we so love. Who doesn't love spending a hot summer day with chilled watermelon slices?! Winter gardening is the time for Chards, Kale, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower; vegetables that just aren't as sweet and juicy as their summer counterparts. But, still enjoyable! Winter vegetables make great soups for rainy and chilly days.

But, this winter, winter gardens are getting the publicity they need. While Obama is occupied in Copenhagen with Climate Change talks, the White House staff and USDA are busy preparing the White House garden for the winter. The USDA is promoting their "know your farmer, know your food" campaign where "every family needs a farmer". Part of that campaign is providing funding for farmers to extend their seasons by hoop houses and other winter infrastructure. The volunteers at the White House are also planting rye, a resilient cover crop that will add nutrients back into the soil. The USDA is stating that the White House garden is a more sustainable garden - helping water quality, improving the soil quality, and reducing the impact of climate change. Isn't that nifty? Lets hope USDA passes that message on to Obama ..

You can check out the White House youtube video here. Hopefully this will help give winter gardening the boost it needs to reach the fame and status of summer gardening.

P.S. If you haven't heard yet, Kale is a superfood!

Beached Whale has a Future as Compost

When a beached blue whale washed up on the shores of Fort Bragg, its disposal became a pressing issue. How to deal with a rotting, incredibly smelly, 50 ton creature? And how to respect the majesty and legacy of such a creature in its disposal?

Our friend, Martin Mileck, over at Cold Creek Compost had the answer - compost it! The initial plan was to send the whale to the landfill, but Martin fought to have it composted instead. And we, at The Gardens Project, greatly appreciate his efforts. It seems only fitting to honor this majestic creature by turning it into top-notch soil that will nurture gardens and farms around Mendocino County, instead of removing it from natural cycles and letting it go to waste in a landfill.

In order to get the body of the whale, Martin had to agree to donate an equal amount of compost in the upcoming year. Martin is already very generous with his compost and has donated many yards of the delicious, stinking stuff to The Gardens Project, but maybe now we can expect a little more. A blue whale more. Thanks, Martin! And thanks to you, blue whale! Many thanks. Long may you roam.

Click here to read the article in the Ukiah Daily Journal.

Bats Are Beneficial!

From Smithsonian magazine, October 2008, page 33:

Making History, Dark Knight
Kenneth R. Fletcher

Bats are a big help to plants because they devour leaf-munching insects, according to researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. The scientists conducted their investigation by covering plants with plastic and wire-mesh structures that let insects in but keep large bug-eating predators out. The research team then compared three groups: plant that were covered during the day (when birds are looking for food); plants that were covered at night (when bats are awake and hungry); and a control group of uncovered plants (open to all comers). The result? Plants sealed off from the bats had more leaf damage and were more infested with insects than the other two groups. While previous studies have extensively documented the beneficial relationship between birds and plants, scientists “have completely overlooked the important ecological role of insects-eating bats,” says Margareta Kalka, the study’s lead author. The Smithsonian research reveals that bats might do more to help sustain forests than we previously thought, says Kalka.


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