For this show I interview the inimitable Linda Chalker-Scott, author, editor, blogger, podcaster, educator and sustainable gardener, on how to put the garden to bed in autumn. I may have kept her on the topic of mulching a bit overlong, but hey, it’s one of those things that people who’ve done it take for granted, and those who haven’t can find completely baffling: when? with what? how deep?
As I write this and prepare to announce that all those questions and many more are answered on the podcast, I realize with a sinking feeling that the last one (how deep?) may not have been addressed—incredible, given how much time we spent on the topic! So let me say it here: several inches, as much as six in cold areas, if you’re truly trying to keep the soil from freezing. But if you’re wondering how to mulch trees or what the two most important fall garden tasks are, or if you just want a good laugh, check out the podcast.
I had never gotten straight whether Linda worked at Washington University or at Washington State, and as we reviewed her positions before the podcast (I try to keep my error average below ten for the first minute of the show) I realized why: she holds multiple positions at both. Her home base, though, appears to be State, where she is (take a deep breath) Associate Professor in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture AND (separate position) Extension Urban Horticulturalist.
She’s also former science editor for the now defunct (weep, my fellow gardeners, weep) Master Gardener Magazine, for which she wrote the terrific Horticultural Myths column, which was at least the conceptual basis for two of her three books, The Informed Gardener (2008) and The Informed Gardener Blooms Again (2010). In between those two she wrote (or at least published) Sustainable Landscapes and Gardens (2009). Yes, my fellow aspiring authors: three books in three years.
Currently, aside from her several teaching and extension positions, she’s also part of the foursome who blog as The Garden Professors, the others being Jeff Gillman (University of Minnesota), Holly Scoggins (Virginia Tech), and Bert Craig (Michigan State). Check it out; it’s lively, informative, and it now hosts Linda’s very own podcast.
I think it was the Horticultural Myths column that first led me to call Linda several years ago when I was researching a still-in-process article on compost tea. That’s another story, and a long one, so let us save it for another day. Linda proved friendly, forthcoming, and incredibly well informed, which is why I turned to her for the podcast. She was all those things for the interview and funny to boot, especially on the topic of her well-known obsession with wood chips. If she ever goes quite round the bend, it will probably take the form of predicting that the world will be saved by wood chips.
And who knows; maybe she’d be right. They certainly have their place in roster of autumn garden tasks, as she made clear.
At the end of the show I did my first product spot: a short interview with Susann Elsass, who makes lovely seed packets that you can find at Share-Croppers.com. Each packet is decorated with a Victorian-style drawing of a particular vegetable, flower, or herb; a couple are more generic, one showing a basket of vegetables, another a whole variety of flowers. Susann sent me a sample, and they’re at least as nice up-close as online.
Susann is herself an artist ( the picture on the right is hers), but the seed-packet drawings are done by Christina Sands, best known for her wedding dresses. Perhaps the most interesting part of our short conversation was her description of her own, more fanciful nature drawings, and how she imagines them as part of a world we have lost because we did not take care of it.
Fall Garden Tasks with Linda Chalker-Scott and Susann Elsass aired on Monday, Oct. 17th.
Associate Professor, Horticulture and Landscape Architecture
Extension Urban Horticulturalist, Washington State University
Blog: The Garden Professors
Books: The Informed Gardener (2008)
Sustainable Landscapes and Gardens (2009)
The Informed Gardener Blooms Again (2010)