Category Archives: In the Garden

More Space Than You Thought – Podcast 29


Fern Richardson grows “tons of herbs,” “tons of succulents,” lots of vegetables, and at least six trees—on a balcony. I’m not quite sure of the tree count, because after I counted to six, I’m afraid my hearing did the auditory equivalent of glazing over—I just wasn’t entirely functional for a moment there.

When she was listing them—the kumquat, the apricot, the fig, the two apple trees—I squawked “TWO?” so loudly that I had to lower the volume of that one word in the recording, to preserve my listeners’ hearing. There are two, Fern quite reasonably replied, because apple trees cross-pollinate with a nearby tree of a different variety.

I know this, of course, but still—two apple trees on a balcony? And lest you envision some Hollywood terrace big enough for a swimming pool, let me give you the exact dimensions of Fern’s garden space: four feet by ten. (4’ x 10’)

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Podcast #26 Minding Your Manure

The Show

The manure problems—pollution and contamination—that I reviewed in my last post occupy the first part of this podcast, and if that were all we covered, you too might be inclined to crawl under your desk and stay there.

A quick recap: Rather to the surprise of many an organic gardener, even organic manures can cause problems: phosphorus can contaminate surface water, while nitrogen can leak into ground water and can also form nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas almost 300 times as powerful as carbon dioxide. Continue reading

Podcast #19 – The Way It Works: Compost Science

The show

I remember two things in particular about the first time a friend showed me a book on composting: first of all, I was dumbfounded that anyone could find enough to say on the topic to fill a book; and secondly, I had no temptation to read it.

How things change. I’ve now read several books and probably hundreds of articles on composting, and I find the topic endlessly engrossing. So much so that I’ve added my own book-length article to the stack. (Check out the green table of contents on the left at Composter Connection. Yeah, the one that kinda goes on and on.)

The thing is, once you do get interested in compost and actually try to learn about it in any detail, you realize how inadequate most web resources are. Continue reading

Podcast #7 – Permaculture: Everything Counts

Permaculture has to be one of the most interesting gardening movements I’ve discovered recently, and I have to thank Jerome Osentowski and Kareen Erbe hugely for letting me interview them about it. The idea of perennial food gardens delights me, and in permaculture that’s just part of the picture: it’s a whole philosophy of living sustainably, and of getting as much of what you need from your own plot of land as possible. I’m all for that, and as I mention part way through—well, both interviews , I think—it’s given me a name for something I’m already trying to do.

I’m honestly not sure what I was up to when I stumbled onto Jerome Osentowski’s Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute, which more or less blew my mind. Four greenhouses, and no power needed from off-site? Figs and passion fruit growing at over 7,000 feet? Hello? Continue reading

Podcast #4 – Fall Garden Tasks

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 Continue reading