Showing posts from November, 2008

Propane Tank in the Garden, Revisited

My karate teacher was fond of saying, “When you think you know, you don’t know.” Add in the old saws about not believing everything you hear and looks being deceiving, and you’ll understand why we changed our minds about moving our propane tank. (See original post at ). It turned out not to be all that expensive: $50 for a permit; $40 for two trenching tools; and $106 for the propane company to send two installers and a boom truck to swap out the old tank for a new one. And we lucked out with the ledge --- we were able to dig down nearly a foot to create a new landing pad for the tank without hitting rock, even though the ledge juts out on either side of this spot. We dug and refilled the trench for the line to the house ourselves. There was one moment of trepidation when the installers told me that the boom wouldn’t reach the new site unless I let them drive their monstrous truck into my lavender garden. I hesi

Edible Plants in the Landscape

This month’s Garden Design Workshop is on edible plants . I doubt that there are many of us who don’t at least have a potted patio tomato every summer, if only in self-defense against those red tennis balls they sell in the supermarkets. This year, I added some type of super-100 hybrid cherry tomato that I grew from seed, and seedlings of Cherokee Purple, one of the best-tasting beefsteak-style tomatoes ever. If you’re a perfectionist, Cherokee Purple is not for you. The fruits grow into strange shapes, have a peculiar color that is neither green, nor purple, nor red, crack, and do not reveal when they’re ripe. Mine were clinging to their vines with an unbelievable tenacity way past the time they should have been picked, until I figured them out. Their thick skin doesn’t soften, either. I learned to bounce them around in my hand and try to “weigh” whether they were “done.” They were worth every bit of effort. The cherry tomatoe

CowPots™: Molded Manure

If you haven’t yet heard of them, CowPots™ are made from 100% Cow-Poo that is molded into plant pots for seedlings. They are about as organic as one can get and, unlike peat pots, completely renewable. (Insert feed into front of cow, raw material for pots exits at rear end.) When I spoke to inventor/dairy farmer Matt Freund at the Garden Writers symposium, I was beside myself with excitement as I listened to his story, because our little corner of New Jersey has lost nearly all of its dairy farms to housing developments. My passion for this product is on three levels. The first is that I love cows and Matt and his brother Ben have found a way to generate another income stream that can keep their small farm profitable. I still mourn the loss of the farm next door to me to a housing development in the 1980s. I had lived on that farm for a while as a child and, even after mom bought her own lot and built a small house with the help of Grandpa and my uncles, I still went down to help

Integrating Stormwater Management One House at a Time

One of the most exciting gardens we visited on the GWA after-tour to Eugene, Oregon was Debbie Olsen’s Stormwater Management Demonstration Home. Tucked away in a development of otherwise ordinary houses, Debbie’s home and garden is a fully-integrated stormwater management system consisting of a 1,000-square foot vegetated roof garden filled with succulents, a 600-gallon cistern that captures and regulates the runoff, a vegetated flow path that carries the cistern’s overflow to a storm pond, and a series of swales that directs the water through the garden and into to a drywell, where it seeps back into the soil. The entire, self-contained system is compatible with its natural surroundings and the rest of the neighborhood. This is a great example of a co-operative public/private partnership that includes watershed groups, water and stream monitoring groups, engineering, design and construction firms, landscape material suppliers and, of course, the homeowner who paid for all of it.