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Showing posts from March, 2009

With Our Own Hands

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Sometimes, we need to take matters into our own hands; in the garden, in life, and in politics. After eight years of banging my head against the brick wall of indifference and hostility towards conservation and environmental issues at the Environmental Commission and Land Use Board level, I’m raising the bar.

I’ve thrown my hat in the ring for elected office --- our Township Committee. With luck and hard work, I’m hoping that our town will never be the same again. Andover Township, located in northwestern New Jersey has a uniquely sensitive environment. So sensitive that The Nature Conservancy has purchased several parcels, some of which are home to species found in only four other places on the planet.

The town lies in two distinct physiographic provinces --- the Highlands and Valley and Ridge. The latter includes the Great Limestone Valley, home to plants and animals unique to limestone fens and a major aquifer. Since most of the private and “public” water in our town comes from wells…

Gardening from Scratch

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Happy Spring everybody! Let the gardening season begin. This year I decided to grow more plants from seed and I’m having a blast. I know I started too early, the first weekend in February, but cabin fever was at such a pitch that it overcame my better judgment.

My seed-starter kit has a water-reservoir in the bottom that keeps the soiless mix moist. It sits on my desk in front of an east-facing window, so I can check frequently to see what’s growing. The Mesculun mix, cherry and Cherokee tomatoes, and Galeux d’Eysines pumpkin have all moved on into their transplant pots. What remains are the miniature fans of Candy Lily (Pardancanda), seedlings of Columbine (Aquilegia), and a couple of stray tomatoes that came up after I disturbed the starter mix.

Last year, I bought an inexpensive greenhouse on wheels at Lowe’s for $35 in order to buy garden center plants early and hold them over until they could go into the ground. This year, I put it indoors, without its plastic cover, in front of th…

Wildlife in the Garden

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As the daffodil leaves push up and buds start puffing out on trees and shrubs, ground hogs and chipmunks are waking from their winter sleep and making sporadic appearances. In two more months, our perennial herd of deer will be birthing fawns, cottontails will multiply, and the flying squirrels will have moved out of our shed and into the telephone cable connector cover. The latter will be unceremoniously dumped out in what has become an annual ritual, when my phone service dies completely.

Last year, three Red Tail Hawk chicks sat in their tree-top nest a mile away for what seemed like months; then spent every summer day soaring above our house, calling out incessantly to one another, enraptured by the joy of flight. A Northern Harrier has moved in and favors a roosting tree opposite my home office window. Sometimes he’s hunting, sometimes just snoozing.

Over the winter I heard, for the first time, one of my neighbor’s many foxes “bark,” as it hunted in our wetland. After all these yea…

Balancing the Gardening Budget

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Those of us whose parents lived through The Great Depression and/or the Dust Bowl know that they survived, went on to marry, raise families, and lead normal lives. Despite the dismal economic forecasts, we will too.

But what should we do in the meantime? How do we decide what is necessary and what is frivolous in the garden? That depends on why we garden.

Here’s an example. Last year, as an experiment, I bought six tomato ladders (http://www.gardeners.com/Tomato-Ladders/VegetableGardening_Supports,37-793RS,default,cp.html) and raised two types of indeterminate tomatoes. When they outgrew the ladders, the tomato plants flopped over, pinching the stems at the top and putting the fruit within easy reach of rabbits and groundhogs.

This winter, I needed to decide whether to buy extensions for the original ladders, as well as add a few more (they’re good for cucumbers, too). Not an inexpensive proposition. But the results of my experiment were great-tasting, plentiful tomatoes, grown in a smal…