Saturday, October 24, 2009

Botanical Interests iPhone App Review

When I bought my first iPhone a few months ago, one thing I did right away was look for cool garden related iPhone apps. I was disappointed with the options, so I was excited to learn that Botanical Interests, one of my favorite seed companies, had released an app a couple of weeks ago.

The short version is I love it. It's totally worth $5.99 and you should go out and get it real soon.

When you launch the app you are presented with options to:
  1. Browse seeds by Vegetable/Her Categories
  2. Search for seeds based on sun requirements. You can even limit to Heirloom or Organic seeds, warm versus cool season, perennials etc...
  3. See your lists of Favorite seeds
  4. Get Tips and Information about growing particular vegetables, attracting bees and seed starting. I learned the history of tomatoes from this app!
Each seed variety you find in the app has all the information you'd find on the Botanical Interests website including the image on the actual seed packet, time to maturity, growing needs and how and when to start the seeds. I really love that this company is committed to educating gardeners. As one of the owners pointed out on a YouTube video tour of their facility, not all of us were taught to garden by our grandmothers and mothers.

Stuff I loved about the app
  • Very user friendly.
  • Very informative - this thing could be your one resource for seed starting, I think.
  • Because I can essentially seed shop from my phone, I'm much more likely to buy from Botanical Interests. I love seed catalogs as much as the next person, but they are bulky which can be limiting.
  • I'm thrilled that this company recognizes that many gardeners are young and hip. We want to garden like it's 2009 and making seed shopping available on our fun gadgets helps us do that.
  • The direct email and phone links to Botanical Interests are cool too.

Stuff I like to see them add to the app
  • I want to be able to order directly from my phone.
  • Flowers! The app is limited vegetables and herbs so far. I hope they expand this to include their entire seed collection.
  • Seed tracking. I'd love to be able to find my seeds on this app, buy them from the app, then load in the date that I planted them and get some sort of progress report along the way of what my seeds ought to be doing according to my zone. I believe that this sort of addition would make people buy this app, even if they never bought a single seed from Botanical Interests.
Botanical Interests iPhone app is super educational and user friendly. And if you like seed starting, I'd bet you have thought the same thoughts that I have before. If I wouldn't look like a crazy person, I'd carry all my seed packets around with me at all times. This iPhone app sort of makes that possible.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Gardeners Against Climate Change

first vegetable garden

That's not the name of a real organization, that I could find anyway. But if you're a gardener, you are helping with climate change whether you intend to or not. Come to think of it, somebody ought to start that organization. If you do, please send me an invite!

Preface: this blog post assumes that you already "believe in" climate change and that it's not still up for debate in your head. We've come too far to still need to convince people of this. I won't spend my time on it.

I know I'm biased but I would challenge anybody to tell me an easier way that a regular ole person can take action against climate change than to start a vegetable garden in the backyard. I don't have a bunch of impressive statistics stored in my head that I can throw out to convince you about the negative impact of those store-bought green beans on the planet (they are so easy to grow!), but, I'm sure there are hundreds of other bloggers who are participating in Blog Action Day today that wrote about how many "food miles"one person (or family) racks up each year. I just know that emissions from trucks used to transport produce from God knows where to our kitchens pollutes the air. And that pollution destroys the ozone and so forth. And anything I grow in my own vegetable garden doesn't do that. It's that simple.

There are lots of folks way richer than me that are doing a lot of fancy stuff to fight climate change like buying expensive hybrid cars or solar panels for their house or installing elaborate rain collection systems on their property. The list goes on. And while a I applaud these folks (and covet their fancy anti-climate change ammunition), it's simply not within my means at this time. (someday!) But what is within my means is growing a few of my own fruits and vegetables out back. And in turn reducing the amount of produce I need to purchase from the grocery store therefore reducing my family's pollution impact and yada yada yada.

Don't have a yard for a garden? Find a community garden in your area and rent a plot. They're cheap! And great!

Allergic to gardening? Try these...
  • Find a farmer's market and start shopping there (local food!)
  • Find a community supported Agriculture farm and buy a share (local food!)

I know that my little vegetable garden isn't going to solve the world's climate change problems, but it's what I can do to help. It's what suits me. If you know me very well, you know that I have a real problem with inaction. I need to be doing something towards a goal or a cause or a problem or whatever. It frustrates me to see people encounter a problem and just sit around thinking about how to solve it all while the problem grows out of control, rather than getting to the business of solving it. Or at least working in that direction! So, let's stop debating and take some small steps as individuals to make a difference. Gardening is what I'm doing to fight climate change. What are you doing?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Where I Spill My Guts

I have a good friend who says she can always tell how I'm doing by my garden blog. "If you're blogging, everything's good!" She's right. The amount of blog posts you read here is directly proportional to how good things are in my life, or how bad.

This gardening season (well really all of 2009) has been filled with extreme ups and downs and honestly there have been chunks of time where I've struggled with regular ole day-to-day things.

Last October my now late father-in-law was diagnosed with lung cancer. We entered 2009 in a heightened state of anxiety about his health and impending death. No matter how much we tried, it was impossible to feel normal. It was a dark shadow that followed us every step.

Early in the year I helped plan and coordinate a get-together here in Chicago for a bunch of garden bloggers. It was hard work and there were a lot of bumps along the way but the worst thing about it was that, when it was over, I was simply glad it was in the past. It really changed the way I view garden blogging and if I had a time machine, I'd have stayed in my cave where everything/everybody is happy. Don't get me wrong, I met some fantastic people that I'd likely never have met, but still...

In April I married my favorite person in the world. We never thought we'd do it but somewhere along the way things started to change. I started thinking I didn't want them calling my mother to ask her what to do if I was on my death bed. His father was dying and we suddenly realized that we only had a little more time if we wanted him to be there. And we did. So we did. Surrounded by amazing flowers and the people who love us the most.

My father-in-law died in July just three short months after our wedding. He suffered terribly. So much so that when he finally passed, we were relieved because he wouldn't have to suffer anymore. That we didn't have to watch him suffer anymore. That lasted for about two hours. Since then it's mostly been hours stringing into days of sadness. Watching my husband be this heart broken is the worst thing I've ever seen. We miss him so much. We miss his laugh. He was one hilarious dude and I'm thankful that my husband has his sense of humor. The most important thing in the world to him was his family. And that has made me see family in a different way. It's so stupid that it takes the death of somebody so wonderful to see the simplest things.

I planted a garden in his memory. In it are a Japanese maple (because they are unforgettable and so was he), a sundial that I bought with money he gave me and a couple of coneflowers (a Tennessee and a Coconut Lime) because they are still my favorite, and they remind me of a good day I had this summer with friends.

The other great thing that happened this year was that J and I got our community garden going. We built and rented a dozen or so raised beds and we've gotten started on our 501c3. It really is a dream realized but I can't help but think it would feel real different were it not being filtered through 2009 crap. I've had a hard time staying motivated about it and it has shown in my dedication (lack of) this summer. I can't wait for next year. I know it will feel better.

OH - and there was that trip to Las Vegas for my tasty tomato. I still can't believe it. We're holding that trip in our back pockets until it seems possible to actually have fun again.

Just to make things a little more interesting, I also changed jobs. I'm still with the same organization. Now, I'm an "IT guy". It's a change that really needed to happen for me to be able to spend more time with my family, and my gardens (personal and community.)

These things are just a snapshot. There are more extremes but they are far too personal to write about here. I feel more guarded than I used to about what I write on this blog. A side effect of the events of 2009.

This year gardening has not provided me the peace and solitude that it usually does. It has basically dragged me along kicking and screaming. I've walked over tomatoes that fell in my path from lack of support. I hear them crunching beneath my feet and my mind waffles between the dread of the million volunteers I'm liable to have next year and wishing that I even gave a shit. It hasn't been fun. And the other morning when I looked out the window to see the first frost on my weedy backyard grass, I thought about the ripe eggplants and tomatoes still on the vine but all I could think was, thank God it's over.

It may seem like it, but I'm not sitting over here having a pity party. Outwardly I'm totally holding it together. I just don't have much inspiration to write, or grow these days. And it shows in my blogging. I'm ready to put this season, and all its extreme highs and lows to bed.