You Can Grow That!

An appreciation for natural landscapes – You Can Grow That!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe bees you see buzzing from phlox to phlox, the ladybugs you want feeding on aphids, and the praying mantis staring back at you in late summer all have more in common than just being bugs. They share something with toads stalking your garden’s ground level insects, birds picking beetles from your beans, and fox keeping small rodents in check. All need wild spaces, open spaces, woods, meadows, wetlands … swaths of land and water left mostly unaltered by human development. Therefore, as a gardener you serve your plantings, and beyond these, your neighborhood, your town, your region, your state, your country, and your planet by seeking out and working with your local land trust or land conservation organization to preserve and develop an appreciation for natural landscapes.

Why include a call to preserve natural landscapes as a You Can Grow That! post? The theme for this month is how each gardener has the power to beautify their neighborhood and town. Working to create community, school, and public space gardens are obvious, valuable and important ways to do so, but so is the preservation of undeveloped open spaces where native flora and fauna can continue to interact as they have for centuries.

Preserved open spaces allow us to witness how forests, meadows, wetlands and waterways, grasslands and other undeveloped areas act without the often heavy hand of humans; to see wildflowers, grasses, shrubs, mosses and trees for more than their ornamental value, but as homes and restaurants for wildlife. Preserved open spaces help us understand ecosystem balance.

To borrow from Doug Tallamy in Bringing Nature Home,

“Nearly every creature on this planet owes its existence to plants, the only organisms capable of capturing the sun’s energy and, through photosynthesis, turning that energy into food for the rest of us.”

And what, Tallamy explains, do plants depend upon for pollination? Insects. And what do insects need to survive? The plants they use for food and have evolved with in local, natural, balanced landscapes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Preserving such local landscapes helps insure local plants and insects have what they need, which helps insure local birds and larger wildlife will continue to exist and thrive, which helps maintain ecosystem balance.

Just think, a single oak tree can support more than 500 species of butterflies and moths. Bluestem grasses growing in an unmowed meadow host skipper butterflies. Violets thriving in a chemical-free lawn host fritillary butterflies. (Source: Bringing Nature Home)

I think that understanding this makes one a better gardener … one who gets the value of using and planting native flowers, shrubs and trees to help balance the impact human presence has on the land; one who realizes that surrounding their vegetable garden with native flowering plants will attract beneficial pollinators that, in turn, will insure better yields and help keep non-beneficial insects in check; one that sees leaf litter as a goldmine of nutrients that will help replenish their cultivated soils; one who values insects as wildlife food, and wildlife as a means of keeping other wildlife, including insects, in check.

When you think of the You Can Grow That! slogan consider more than just the cultivated gardens we so cherish. Reach beyond your garden fence to offer time and/or support to land and waterway conservation that insures the features that make your region unique are preserved for now and into the future.


On the 4th of each month,  C.L. Fornari at Whole Life Gardening urges garden bloggers to champion the virtues of gardening.


All of this month’s, as well as previous posts from gardeners in multiple zones, can be found at the You Can Grow That! website.

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A Gardening Library – You Can Grow That!

Knowledge is power and, when it comes to gardening one of the best ways to increase one’s gardening knowledge is by cozying up to a good gardening book and absorbing its information from cover to cover.  A gardening library, You Can Grow That!


You Can Grow That! is a blog meme started by C.L. Fornari at Whole Life Gardening. On the 4th of each month garden bloggers champion the virtues of gardening.  All of this month’s, as well as previous posts from gardeners in multiple zones, can be found at the You Can Grow That! website.

Outside of the shear pleasure of curling up with a good book on a cold, snowy winter’s day, using your gardening off-season or a period of unfriendly gardening weather to improve your gardening aptitude is a great way to avoid pitfalls.

Libraries and bookstores are filled with gardening books of all shapes, sizes and levels of expertise. Over time, I’ve collected many gardening books. Some of these have become go-to reference books … the books I reach for when I need a plant or design idea, more information about a gardening technique, or want to bone-up on a specific topic.


Two of Michael Dirr’s books serve as wonderful tree and shrub references – Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs and the Manual of Woody Landscape Plants – as do The American Woodland Garden by Rick Darke and Herbaceous Perennial Plants by Allan M. Armitage.

Want to know how to propagate just about any plant? Reach for Making More Plants, by Ken Druse. Perplexed by pruning? Peruse The American Horticulture Society’s Pruning and Training, by Christopher Bricknell and David Joyce.

I often flip through the pages of The Perennial Gardener’s Design Primer when looking for design inspiration for a specific setting. Stephanie Cohen and Nancy Ondra offer tried and true ideas.

New Englanders can read Ellen Sousa’s The Green Garden for advice on establishing habitat gardens. In Bringing Nature Home Douglas Tallamy helps all understand why it’s important to value native plantings for native insect and wildlife populations and to find out how to incorporate energy efficiency into your landscape read Sue Reed’s Energy-Wise Landscape Design.

In Teaming with Microbes, Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis explain the down and dirty of the soil food web and how vital healthy soil is to gardening and farming.

Nikki Jabbour’s The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener reveals how she grows edibles, all year, in her Nova Scotia gardens … she’s an inspiration to all who seek to grow some, or more of their own food.

What’s Wrong With My Plant (And How Do I Fix It?) is a step-by-step guide for what ails plants. In it David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth offer organic solutions for treating plant problems and honest advice on when it’s time to replace diseased greenery.

When Aunt Edna or a social media friend suggest a tried-and-true garden remedy, or you question the science behind the latest, greatest gardening tip, it’s likely that Jeff Gillman has an explanation in The Truth About Gardening Remedies. I likewise recommend reading Gillman’s The Truth About Organic Gardening. Though, as an Accredited Organic Land Care Professional (AOLCP) I don’t encourage or suggest non-organic gardening practices, I do encourage gardeners to ingest balanced information regarding organic and non-organic gardening techniques. Balanced, well-researched information is Gillman’s forte.

This short stack of books does not create a comprehensive gardening reference library but this list forms a good foundation. Gardening aptitude – You Can Grow That! Learning does not need to take a temporary vacation when hands-on gardening is impractical. We can all, seasoned and new gardeners alike, learn about gardening any time, in any climate, just by having a good reference book on hand.

After four decades of collecting and reading gardening books, my bookcase still has room for more … perhaps you have a suggestion or two that you find indispensible?

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Joene Hendry