The Organic Gardener’s Home Reference

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The Organic Gardener’s Home Reference

The Organic Gardener's Home ReferenceThe Organic Gardener’s Home Reference

This is truly a one-stop comprehensive guide to organic gardening: it is a big book filled with techniques, definitions, solutions to gardening problems, and a huge listing of organic gardening resources. It’s one of the most thorough guides I have seen for organic gardeners–it is well indexed and annotated and covers all climate zones and growing conditions. If this book doesn’t get your motor running about the garden, well, maybe you’ll want to try a different hobby. I think it should be a part of any true gardener’s library, covered with notes, muddy fingerprints, and with the well-worn pages.

Prince Charles Visits Berkeley’s Edible Schoolyard

It started with a seed — that type that you plant in the ground as well as the imagery associated with a new idea. The result is a growing program that helps children understand how the food they eat gets from the garden to their dinner table. It is known as The Edible Schoolyard. Founded at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, the operation received a visit from Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla on Monday, as part of the royal couple’s Bay Area tour.

The Edible Schoolyard engages 950 public school students in a one-acre organic garden and a kitchen classroom promoting eco-literacy. Bottom line: It isn’t the supermarket that sustains us, but the natural world. Program coordinator Chelsea Chapman was optimistic that the visit to the garden by Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla will heighten awareness about organic farming.

“If this inspires more people to start gardening at school, then it’s a great thing,” Chapman said. The idea of an organic garden on campus first took root more than a decade ago, with help from chef Alice Waters of Chez Panisse. With guidance from parents, teachers, and volunteers, students learned to grow everything from fennel to frijoles, from cauliflower to kale.

All of it is accomplished without the use of pesticides. As different venues scrambled in advance of a visit by Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla this past week, students at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School dealt with own preparations.

“People think that when they grow up they want to be a princess or a prince when you’re younger,” said one student. “Finally one of them comes to your school to look at what you did and that you’re making this garden.” The program has spawned a cooking class too, where students learn to prepare fresh meals, using healthy ingredients that also suit their tastes. “It’s a great way to teach children about seasonality,” Chapman said.

Whether it’s a coincidence or not, studies nevertheless suggest that Berkeley students have a lower rate of obesity than their counterparts.

When colors fall from trees, they can give the lawn a winter boost

What’s a homeowner to do with all those pesky leaves that keep fluttering into your yard? While some people are busy raking, others are mincing them into small pieces. Richard Zerfowski, 60, a master gardener, is one person who seems to have a great time mulching his leaves.

Zerfowski shreds enough leaves to fill up at least 600 bags during the year and uses the mulch in his garden and flower gardening beds. He has a fondness for the pile of leaves about 6 feet high and 15 feet in diameter that rests in his yard. He said he has been trying for 35 years to get people to use their leaves: “I think it’s silly to get rid of leaves. They are a gold mine.”

People are often misinformed about what to do with all of the colorful tree foliage cluttering their yards, said Cliff Maske, owner of Maske’s Organic Gardening Center. “People lack understanding of what’s in the soil – it is a living and breathing ecosystem, not just dirt,” Maske said. Before World War II, people didn’t worry about their lawns, Maske said, and after urbanization and the suburbs cropped up during the 1950s, lawn care turned into a billion-dollar industry.

“With the modernization of lawn mowers, people wanted to keep their natural carpets clean,” he said. “People started to find out it was a pain to bag leaves and grass instead of just returning it back to nature, which has a fantastic recycling system.” Maske also said there is the misconception that leaves will kill the grass.

“But if you just shred up the leaves with your mower to be composted,” Maske said, laughing, “Then you won’t hurt your back and have to go see a chiropractor or waste any Sundays raking leaves out in the yard with your family.”

However, if you don’t grind up the leaves, the pile of leaves will save over the winter and can be used for mulch around trees, flowers, and other plants to conserve moisture in the spring, said Jennifer Schultz, an educator of horticulture with the University of Illinois Extension office in Macon County.

She said the mulched leaves also help to keep plants protected during their dormant stage in the winter. On the other hand, herbicides and pesticides often take away from the healthy fitness of soil, compared to using decomposed leaves, Maske said. “Mother Nature has been doing it for thousands of years, so I don’t know why we thought we could improve,” he said.

But whether you bag or mulch your leaves, you have to do something with them. Steve Swanson, with the city of Decatur’s department of engineering and infrastructure, said it is illegal to rake or blow leaves onto city streets. Leaves swept into the streets clog catch basins and ball up in the sewers, and the resulting leaf jams can sometimes cause sewer backups.


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