The Sustainable Gardening Library

After germinating for nearly three years, the Sustainable Gardening Library has sprouted as THE centralized resource for authoritative, reliable information on how to garden more sustainably. Help us grow. We're ready to accept additional content from expert sources -- public gardens, arboreta, horticulture education nonprofits, colleges, universities, and government agencies who want to spread the word about their sustainable gardening and farming projects, demonstration gardens, and educational programs.

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HERShovel Product Review

A hybrid shovel-spade, the HERS® is designed by women, for women and comes in three different shaft lengths to accommodate differences in height. I loved the big handle, which allows you to hold it every which way, its light weight, and the oversized gripping tread.

Check out the full review of the HERS® at and see why I gave it a 4.5 shovel rating.

Meet The Artist -- Dan Freed

From Wreckage To Wood Sculpture
Join woodworker and artist Dan Freed Saturday, September 27th at the Sussex-Wantage Library, 69 Rt. 639, in Wantage, NJ for a fun and educational peek behind the scenes of how he made his award-winning Hurricane Sandy Birdhouse Sculpture. Hear where the idea came from and what it symbolizes, touch samples of the wood, and find out what woodworking tools and techniques went into creating it. 

Like many of us Freed was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. But unlike most of us, he used that devastation as inspiration to create Hurricane Sandy Brought to Justice in Sussex County, crafted from broken trees left behind by the storm.

The event is suitable for all ages and Freed encourages parents to let their aspiring young artists tag along, since many of the materials he used are touchable by little hands.

Hurricane Sandy Brought to Justice in Sussex County will be on display through October 31st. Registration via the Library’s website is preferred, but walk-ins are welcome as space allows.

For more information or directions, call the Library at 973-875-394

Is Your Garden Incomplete?

Every dyed-in-the-wool gardener knows that no garden is ever finished. The word “complete,” however, has a more nuanced meaning, in the sense of having all of the parts (paths, focal points, ornaments, etc.) you intended. Since gardening involves a lot of continual tinkering and tweaking, your garden may be complete without ever being finished.

Gardens can also be made to be incomplete. The action of outside forces, such as storms that uproot trees, or a neighbor, town, or utility that cuts them down is one example. Suddenly there’s a sunny spot where once there was deep shade. Or, a wonderful view is revealed that gets your juices flowing about how to make it into a new garden centerpiece.

How do you know if your garden is incomplete? Here are three clues to get you started:

1.    Something irritates you every time you look out the window, walk out the door, or pull into the driveway.

2.    You feel “exposed” and seek indoor shelter, rather than enjoying your outdoor space.

3.    One part of the garden doesn’t seem quite right, but you can’t put your finger on the problem.

What is your experience? Can you add two more clues?

4.    _______________________

5.    _______________________

Get more information about how to create a garden that refreshes your spirit at:

Dee Weeder Review

This month I began reviewing gardening products over on Monica Hemingway’s Gardening Products Review website. It’s a handy place to get the scoop on the latest gardening gear and gadgets before you buy. You’ll find honest, no-holds-barred, objective critiques on everything from gardening gloves to power tools written by people who are out there in the trenches on a daily basis.

Speaking of getting the scoop, my first review is on a hand tool called the Dee Weeder. Check it out at and see why I gave it a five shovel rating.

When Life Gives You a Hurricane – Make a Birdhouse!

 “The hurricane devastated our wooded lot; we’re still in clean-up mode. I was determined to create something that would symbolize the positive energy of new life that can grow up out of death and destruction – the hope of birds nesting and laying their eggs in a house made from the wreckage of Hurricane Sandy.”                      .....Dan Freed, Wood Artist

I know this may sound trivial compared to what has happened to folks at the shore, but most of our trees are more than 60-feet tall. Hurricane Sandy seemed to hover over us for hours and the sounds of the trees creaking, crackling, and collapsing was horrible. Anything more than a light breeze still puts me on high alert.

Best in Show
The Undergardener has put his demons behind him, though. A wood artist, he exacted the ultimate revenge by using pieces of those shattered trees to create a work of art that is also a birdhouse. He calls it “Hurricane Sandy – Brought to Justice.” What made that revenge extra-sweet was that the birdhouse was awarded Best in Show at the Skylands Juried Art Exhibit in May.

Since then, Sandy has been making her way around Sussex County. She was on display at the county administration building during June and will show up at the Sussex-Wantage branch of the Sussex County Library in September, where Dan will be giving a talk on woodworking for families and kids on September 27th at 1:00pm.

The Inspiration
In the spirit and philosophy of the Arts and Crafts Movement, from which he takes inspiration, Dan says, “Nature has an equal power of renewal, which was the seed of my intention to transform that torn root ball into something to help heal the pain,” The central piece is actually a birdhouse constructed of cherry, walnut, and maple. Sandy’s wild and wooly hair is made from the roots of a 100-year-old ash tree that had been the focal point of the back yard and a black cherry that was also blown down. Sandy’s head is mounted like a trophy. A placard reminiscent of a mug shot, showing her arrival date as the ID number hangs from her neck.


“Think Bride of Frankenstein. I wanted to depict all of Sandy’s horror and ugliness, yet show respect for her power,” he said. “I pretty much worked out all of my hostilities about the hurricane through that piece. It restored balance to my life and I hope that, in a small way, it can do the same for others.”

An artist and self-taught woodworker, Dan developed his skills over a lifetime of experimenting. His interest in wood as a primary medium was kindled by a boyhood friend who became a professional cabinet maker. “The simple aesthetic pleasures of touching a finely finished piece of custom furniture always had a special appeal to me,” he said.

Dan began his explorations of sculpting wood in the early 1990s making custom walking sticks, which he sold at the Peter’s Valley Craft Show for several years. Since then, his focus has shifted to furniture and garden projects here at home.

Help us put the Sandy birdhouse on tour.
He’d love to have “Hurricane Sandy -- Brought to Justice” tour all of New Jersey’s 21 counties. If you can help us find a location for her in your town at a public venue, such as a museum, library, administration building, arts council, etc., send me an email at loisj7(at)gmail(dot)com.

The Eagles Have Landed

The Duke Farms eagles, that is. By 7:17 this morning when the screenshot was taken, one chick had hatched and another was pipping. The third chick is not due until Sunday but, since the first two were late in arriving, it's likely the third one will be, as well. You can watch live at:  

The eagles' tree was downed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. They built a new nest in a nearby tree and researchers were able to locate the camera so that it has a perfect view of the nest. Enjoy!