A scanned red tomato, along with leaves and fl...

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For those of us who grow tomatoes, and that is just about everyone who has a vegetable garden, many have probably noticed that there are often little nodes toward the bottom of the main stem of the plant. ‘What are these?, we may have asked ourselves at some point.

They are the root primordia. The root primordia is the earliest stage of root development. If that primordia had been underground it most likely would have developed into a root. This is why, when I transplant my tomatoes I plant them 3-5 inches below where they were in the container. I know it is a little sad to watch your tomato plant shrink in size as soon as you put it in the ground, but, in the long run you will have a stronger healthier plant.

Occasionally the nodes can signal an overall health problem with the plant so keep an eye on it. But the primordia are almost always harmless when above ground and beneficial when below ground.

Those of us who only have a small space to garden in, especially if we want pretty flowers and food, are always looking for ways to maximize the space in our gardens.

Beet Seedlings

Beet Seedlings (Photo credit: TarynMarie)

One thing you can do is plant beet seeds twice as close as recommended on the package, then thin out every other plant when the greens are about 3-4 inches high. That leaves enough room for the rest of the beets to grow and leaves you with delicious beet greens.

The greens are good tossed in a salad but you can also cook them. On the latest 222 Million Tons post titled Save Something From Landfill Day there is a recipe for Linguine with Beet Greens that sounds delicious. If you like to cook and don’t like to waste make sure you click over to 222’s home page and look at the other recipes posted as well.

While I was living in New York I had the honor of serving on the board of the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust; a consortium of 37 community gardens bought by the Trust for Public Land when the current mayor threatened to sell the gardens to developers.

Recently, The Trust for Public Land released control of 32 of the 37 gardens to the Land Trust making Brooklyn Queens Land Trust the largest urban land trust in the country.

Please visit BQLT’s web site. It is still a work in progress but in the future they will have many resources for urban community gardens, as well as more information about what they are up to.

Having been a part of the organization myself I can tell you this is a great accomplishment that was made possible by the hard work of many dedicated people.

Redefine Your Idea Of Lawn

February 24, 2012

When I was working in Brooklyn a lot of my clients had young kids and many would say the same thing to me, ‘I want something low maintenance. I’d love to have a lawn for my kids and some roses.’ Let me explain why these things are mutually exclusive.

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The Congress for New Urbanism

February 19, 2012

At Resolution Gardens, which is located here in Austin, I read about The Congress for New Urbanism which had a post about the Partnership for Sustainable Communities which I posted about yesterday. Got all that?

CNU touts itself as “the leading organization promoting walkable, mixed-use neighborhood development, sustainable communities and healthier living conditions.” Co-founders include Peter Calthorpe, Elizabeth Moule, Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Stephanos Polyzoides and Dan Solomon all people with a wealth of experience developing sustainable communities. This organization has some real potential to do good.

Also read about this good news at the CNU website Obama Administration Releases 2013 Budget, Protects Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

How To Eat Green

February 17, 2012

English: Tomatoes at a market.

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This has become such a complicated issue sometimes when I’m in the grocery store I feel like I need a PhD in sustainable eating just to shop. So I did some research and found a few articles that will help us all navigate the aisles the next time we’re in the store buying groceries.

First of all I want to explain what I mean by “green.” I mean food, or other goods, that were grown or produced with the least impact on the environment. So, not just organically but also locally and using fair labor.

In this New York Times article by Elisabeth Rosenthal she explains that much of the produce in the supermarket labeled organic comes from over a thousand miles away and is grown with intensive irrigation – not so green. There is also an excellent short slide show by Marcus Yam that sums up the situation

At GoGreen Kim S. offers up information about how “green” your food is that will help making choices at the grocery store easier. Kim also recommends Local HarvestEat Well Guide, and FoodRoutes as places where you can find locally and sustainably produced food in your area.

At TreeHugger Jess Root writes about how eating green is not just good for the planet but also good for your body and your waistline. Read Seven Ways to Eat Green. (There is a photo with the article taken by Marina Avila of a hamster eating a grape. It just cracks me up every time I look at it!)

There is also a link on Jess’s page for a recipe for grilled avocados. I usually eat avocados mixed with fig balsamic vinegar and a bit of sea salt but this sounded so good I am definitely going to try it.

Victory garden poster, World War II

In an interview on Garden Rant, Michelle Owens talks to David Wolfe, a plant scientist and  expert on climate change at Cornell University.

Wolfe brings up a point which I thought was very interesting; Victory Gardens as a litmus test for climate change.

During World Wars I and II people planted vegetable gardens to supplement their food supply and help ensure troops would have enough to eat. The smallest spaces were used to grow food. People grew lettuce on their windowsills. The gardens were truly a country wide effort.

You can read the entire Garden Rant interview here but the part I found really interesting was this:

Q:  In The New American Landscape, you recommend “cautious exploration” with less hardy plants on the part of gardeners.  Why not wild experimentation? 

A: Actually, gardeners can lead the way here, figuring out how we can take advantage of the opportunities offered by a warming climate, because it’s not their entire livelihood at stake, as with farmers.  Maybe we need Victory Gardens in a new context, that of climate change.

I think this is a wonderful idea. A lot of people think you need a good size suburban backyard to have a vegetable garden that will give you anything substantial. To that I say three things. One, Pshaw. Two, Not true. You can grow more than you think in less space than you thought possible. And three even if you only get four tomatoes and two cucumbers that’s four tomatoes and two cucumbers more than you would have gotten if you hadn’t had a garden at all. And let me tell you you haven’t REALLY had a tomato until you have had a tomato straight from the garden.

One way to ease into a Victory Garden is to add some edibles into your ornamental garden. Here are two sweet potato vines planted in a small raised bed around a Honeysuckle shrub. Most of the Sweet potato vines with pretty foliage don’t produce potatoes but these do. And they are tasty.

Plus remember my post about Living Walls? You can do that with edibles as well as ornamental plants. At Woolypocket you can buy products to create a Living Wall of vegetables, herbs, ornamentals or any combination thereof.

Urban Gardens also has some very interesting and sophisticated Living Walls you can take a look at here. There is one with lettuce and strawberries.

As far as figuring out where to begin with your new Victory Garden there are a number of books dedicated to vegetable gardening in small spaces. Two of my favorites are Joy Larckom’s Creative Vegetable Gardening and Designing the New Kitchen Garden by Jennifer R. Bartley.

Joy Larckom is a Garden Writer and Horticulturalist. She is a master at creating interesting and unique looks for an edible garden. The way she combines different colors, textures, vegetables, herbs and edible ornamental flowers is just short of, dare I say, brilliant. This is a link to a wonderful article she wrote for The Guardian in the UK.

Jennifer Bartley is a Landscape Designer and garden writer. The underlying theme of her book is that it is rewarding to feed your body from your garden but twice as rewarding to feed your body and your soul; something you can do by creating a vegetable garden that is not only functional but is also en expression of your creativity and beautiful to look at day after day.

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