Saturday, January 31, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Design Workshop: Plant Labels

2009_0131image0035 All month long I've been waiting for the snow to melt so that I could take actual pictures of actual plant labels for this month's Garden Blogger's Design Workshop: Plant Labels. Truth be told, early in the month I had an opportunity but my laziness got the best of me and since then, the ground has been blanketed by a foot or so of snow. Now, here it is the last day of the month and I'm forced to just tell you about my plant labels, with almost no no visual aid. So, get your imaginations out. You're gonna need them!

Manufacturer labels

Maybe I'm a dork but I really like the labels that come on the store-bought plants. They come with a picture of what the plant is supposed to look like, how big they'll get and the light and water requirements right there in plain view.

For my backyard garden plants, I typically cut these tags off and stuff them right in the dirt in front of said plant. I haven't been gardening long enough to recognize plants not in bloom and God knows my memory is so bad I can't ever recall what I've planted where, so this works for me.

For my plants in the front garden, I usually just leave the tags right on the plant. It always reminds me of Minnie Pearl wearing tags on her hats but that's not why I do it. The truth is that my neighbors are gardeners, too, and they're usually just about as excited when I plant new crap as I am. They like to know what the new stuff is so I leave the tags on the plants and tell them they're free to roam through the beds checking out the goods anytime they want.

Mini-blind labels

I've made many plant labels from mini-blinds. If you buy the cheap mini-blinds from Target, KMart et al like I do, you probably have the same issue of the blinds being way too long. You can disassemble the bottom of the blinds, remove the extra ones and reassemble them. Then, just cut the blinds into 3 inch (or whatever size you like) pieces making the end pointed like an arrow so that they are easy to stick in the dirt. I used these for many of the annuals that I grew from seed this year. They work well because they're plastic and won't decompose outside. And, you're also recycling by using materials you already have on-hand instead of buying new stuff.

Fancy labels

I have one pack of fancy metal labels (pictured above) that GB bought for me soon after I became obsessed with gardening. The trouble is that I can't decide which are the 10 most important plants that deserve this level of fanciness, so they've sat, unused, for nearly 2 years.

Writing right on the container labels

Last year I went bananas with winter sowing and even though I'd read that I ought to be careful writing on my plastic milk jugs I'd planted seeds in, I didn't really listen. So, in the springtime, the writing had faded and I found myself with a dozen or so containers of unknown seedlings. Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to try to figure out where to transplant seedlings when you've no idea if what's growing will be 12 inches, or 6 feet? If you wintersow, be sure to place a label inside the container.

As you can see, I've got a motley crew of plant labels. The truth is that I'm still not convinced that I even like plant labels. On the garden walk, I loved the gardens with nice labels so I'd know what I was looking at, and be able to make notes of the things I liked a lot. But, I also really really love magazine gardens where the unnamed plants are just there looking beautiful. If I had my druthers, I'd be a plant expert who could name every plant in my garden (and yours) regardless of the season and not even need no stinkin plant labels.

So, what do you think? Thumbs up or thumbs down on plant labels?

Be sure to head over to Gardening Gone Wild where those rock stars host a new Garden Bloggers' Design Workshop every month.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pesticide Freak-out

I have a friend with a pesticide allergy. If she eats conventionally grown apples (or any other fresh produce), she gets all red and swollen and itchy. At times it's so bad that she needs to seek medical attention.

"Buy organic fruit" I told her. Her eyes got really wide and she looked insulted. "Organic food is too expensive! Why would I pay $5.00 for 3 apples when I can get a whole bag for less?" she questioned. I just stared at her in amazement. "Well, how much does taking care of this reaction cost you?" She could easily buy organic produce if she'd just cut back on the beautification dollars. It's not just her, we're all like that. We don't consider what we put in our bodies to be as big a priority as make-up, hair products and clothes, because make-up makes us look pretty and all that crap.

The more I think about my friend the more I see the other not-so-obvious ways this pesky little pesticide allergy effects her. She's been trying to lose weight ever since I've known her, but I only see her eating bad food, yet she says she loves fresh fruit (she brags about loving it because I don't). I just realized that she can't eat fresh fruit or vegetables because of her allergy to pesticide and her unwillingness to by organic. I recommended that she try Trader Joe's and farmer's markets and Community Supported Agriculture shares for less expensive organic produce and I also turned her on to fruit and vegetable wash, which I've decided to start using myself after all this.

We have slowly been increasing the percentage of our food that we buy organic but by no means is all our produce organic. She's right - it is more expensive and hard to justify financially. But my friend's red swollen face has got me wondering more about how these pesticides effect me and my family. Even if these washes do successfully remove the obvious pesticide residue, what does the pesticide that permeates the membrane of the produce do to the food itself, and then our bodies after we eat it? I don't believe for one second that those chemicals remain on the outside skin (remember about permeable cell membranes and all that crap from basic science?) And I also don't believe that, even though I don't get all red and swollen from conventionally grown fruit, nothing's going on inside my body as a result of these pesticides.

I talked to my guy during my pesticide freak-out and his first response when I told him about my friend's big red swollen face was "well does she not wash her apples off before she eats them?" I don't know this for sure but, as a gardener who has battled pests myself, I'd bet that most of the pesticides used on large farms are water-proof. I say this because I know that my organic pest control concoctions need to be reapplied after it rains and that's a real pain - I'm sure that the chemical companies make sure that their stuff won't wash off so easily. That's probably why running your apple under the water from the sink probably isn't that helpful.

From now on, I'll be using the fruit and vegetable wash and I hope to graduate to exclusively buying organic someday. Of course, growing some of my own produce helps. I suggested this to my friend, too. "Gardening is so not me" she snarked.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Keeping Up With The Gardening Joneses: 10 Year Gardening Journal

2009_0106image0007 I try not to be a big fat copycat but when it comes to gardening, it's harder for me.

Most gardening stuff I see comes from the Internet via my favorite gardening blogs, or my favorite gardeners on Twitter or Plurk. It's not like a pretty pair of shoes that walk by me and keep on walking. People write beautiful prose about their gardening crap and the way they describe it and the pictures they show me make it virtually impossible for me to pass it up. Plus, they post all the links showing me exactly where I can find the stuff, making buying effortless. It's almost like I develop a crush on their gardening crap. I just can't resist it.

The cool thing about copying off gardeners is that, in my case at least, gardening is not all that mainstream and not that many of my friends are avid gardeners, so I can copy off my Internet peeps and then take credit for the original idea when all my friends are admiring the goods. Dear Gardening Bloggers, sometimes I buy stuff you write about and never even tell you. It's your own fault for seducing me!

2009_0106image0005 My most recent purchase is the Lee Valley 10 Year Gardening Journal. In my defense, I've wanted this for over a year so it wasn't exactly an impulse buy. And, I did use money given to me as a Christmas gift by my mother to purchase it - I'm pretty sure she approves. Still, it's basically all Katie's fault. She went on and on about it on Plurk a while back and I tried to ignore it but when she later said that the company was offering free shipping, that was it. I made the purchase that same day.

I'd read about this gardener's journal before on a few blogs and one of the reasons I did not purchase it back then was that I got the feeling that it's for serious gardeners. (after my second year of gardening, I still have trouble seeing myself as an avid gardener) Also, I was concerned about my dedication to writing in it for the next 10 years. 10 years! I mean I have this blog where I am technically committed to writing about my garden and what do I need with yet another commitment, right? But I specialize in overcommitization!

I'm pretty excited about my new gardener's journal. This thing is huge! I mean, it reminds me of one of those huge ass encyclopedias at my parents house. I was kind of surprised to see that it's got way more than just space to write daily gardening stuff. Check back in a few days for my full review of the Lee Valley 10 Year Gardener's Journal.