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microgreens to baby-leaf to full-size heads: mastering lettuce, with tom stearns


I DON’T WANT my salad delivered in a plastic box or to pay a ransom price per pound either, meaning I want to produce homegrown as many months of the year as I can. Today’s topic is how to plant for the best salad year ever with organic seedsman Tom Stearns to guide us, as I kick off my annual Seed Series on the radio program and podcast.

Tom Stearns is founder of High Mowing Organic Seeds in Vermont, with more than 20 years specializing in breeding, selecting and marketing of organic varieties. From microgreens indoors to baby-leaf to mini-heads and up to full-sized heads in the garden, we talked about timing, spacing and making lettuce happy—even which types hold up best in the heat (and ways to help all lettuce do better when summer arrives).

Read along as you listen to the Jan. 14, 2019 edition of my public-radio show and podcast using the player below. You can subscribe to all future editions on iTunes or Stitcher (and browse my archive of podcasts here).

success with lettuce, with tom stearns

 

 

Q. Over the years on the show you and I have talked about tomato hygiene, as you taught me to think of it, and spinach growing, and cucurbits and all kind of things—things that have proven to be really popular how-to’s that people are using again and again each year and searching, people finding them by search on the web. So I’m excited to get your advice on this most important topic of filling a salad bowl.

A. Yes, sure.

Q. I’ve been gardening, I don’t know, 100 years or so. [Laughter.] Well, 30-something … I don’t know, how long have I been gardening? For 35 years; something like that. And I feel like things have changed. You know, I used to get a couple of varieties of lettuce, ‘Black-Seeded Simpson’ and one of the oakleaf types, a couple of things, and I’d sow a block every week or two. I used to do blocks in the old days, and do cut and come again. But now, it’s like, wow. There are so many strategies and so many possibilities to really do a better job. So much choice. And I wondered if you could just characterize what’s going on, because you’ve been there at the pulse of it.

A. Well, I think a lot of it has to do with the versatility of this crop. When you think about it in as far as the kitchen is concerned, everybody knows what to do with lettuce. You don’t do much with it; you mix it into a bowl, you put some dressing on it and maybe put some cucumbers or cherry tomatoes or whatever on it. It’s totally un-intimidating, and it’s something that people eat as a regular part of a meal as opposed to, say, something like a fancy variety of winter squash or something like that.

Salad is ubiquitous and versatile, and so everybody who’s involved in the marketing of produce has known that and has stretched the use of salad, and what counts as salad, into a lot of different ways, and then that’s translated onto the farm and growers. And I think the big advantage for both gardeners and farmers in growing lettuce and other types of greens is that they are really quick.

All you need to do is to make a leaf. You don’t need to make a stalk, flower, fruit, none of that stuff. So, it’s really versatile in that way, too, and of course there are really interesting trends and things like you spoke about, about the diversity out there. It’s really different than it was even 10 years ago and certainly 20 or 30 years ago.

Q. Well, and if I were writing a story about lettuce as a garden writer in the newspaper years ago, or whatever, in a magazine, I would say: There are four basic types of lettuce. There’s the loose leafs, and there’s the crispheads and there’s the butterheads and there’s the cos or romaine. And now we have the celtuce or whatever, the stem lettuce. But anyway, now it’s like, in the [lettuce] category in a catalog like High Mowing, there’s a lot of different categories that didn’t even exist, having to do with the utility and what you get.

So, everyone loves baby-sized leaves, and Margaret’s old-style way again was that sort of cut and come again: sow it, broadcast it in a thickish way and cut the baby leaves a few times and then sow again, sow another block. But now, it’s different, so what about that, that sort of baby-leaf passion that people have?

A. Well, this is something that I don’t honestly know where it started and how much of this is coming from any European influence or not. But I’m assuming there were some early growers who 20-plus years ago on the West Coast started selling very thickly, and basically mowing their crop of single leaves and not “wasting time” growing a full plant. Just using this crop to grow as a baby leaf, and maybe they’d get a second or third cut or maybe they wouldn’t.

But California discovered this, and now it’s so much more common to see a plastic box or clamshell of baby leaf, whether it’s lettuce or spinach or chard or kale more recently. And to see those fields in California, most of the lettuce for the country has been grown in California for a long time, and so the baby leaf has replaced a lot of the full head, full-size head lettuce. And then more recently, you’ve got these individual heads are coming back but they’re miniature heads.

Q. Yes, that’s a crazy thing. And I saw the original … Initially I saw Salanova was one breeding line and I think you have Eazyleaf with a Z in the middle. I’m sure there are other ones; I don’t know all of them. What is that? How does that work?

A. Well, even prior to the one cut Salanova and Eazyleaf types were these miniature romaines [above], like these ones that basically it’s like, you split it in half and it’s got a … you’ve two servings there ready to go. So these mini-heads, ‘Little Gem’ and mini-romaines and all the variations known.

Like you said, it’s so much more than the four types of lettuce. They’re crossing them with each other and coming up with different combinations and there’s colors and leaf types, like the edges being ruffled or folded or blistered, or all of that stuff. So yes, these miniature heads are something that we’ve really seen take off a lot. So, there’s that and then we can talk about the Eazyleaf, too, but these mini heads offer a crop of a full-sized head. Not a baby leaf but a full head within about two-thirds of the time that it would take to grow a regular full-sized head, and in half the space or less than half the space.

So, from a gardener or a farmer’s perspective you can pack a lot in and get it quicker and from an eater’s perspective, sometimes it seems maybe there’s even a little, not a backlash exactly, but the idea in the spring of having a head of lettuce to bite into or to work with as opposed to a bunch of tiny little baby leaves, seems to evoke a little bit of substantiality to it that people are interested in. Even if it’s these mini heads, it’s still a head.

Q. Yes, I think you’re right, it has a sense of finished, of completion, you know? It’s a product. [Laughter.] It’s done. It’s shaped up, right? And plus, there’s that sort of thinking that some people have. Don Tipping, an onion person out of Siskiyou in the West said to me once something about how he spaces onions more in groups as opposed to each plant, each little seedling spaced 6 or 8 inches apart or whatever. [Above, ‘Spretnak’ mini-heads.]

He sort of puts them in clusters, the reason being, who needs a 2-pound onion? When you go to eat an onion, who needs a 2-pound onion and what you were saying, you and your partner, whatever, having supper, how big a head of lettuce do you need? So, it is enough also. There’s a sense of “enoughness,” I think, with these beautiful things. I’ve seen the smaller cabbages you have some of those, in fact I think on your Instagram—you kook—you decorated one as a Christmas tree, didn’t you? [Laughter.]

A. Yes, I think it was one of our customers shared that with us and we re-shared it. That was great.

You’re right. If you think a long time ago, vegetables were a lot bigger. There’s been a trend across all different types of vegetables of downsizing. And that means because families are smaller and again, this is thinking of it in the U.S., families tend to be smaller, maybe people are eating out more, or the idea of having a huge cabbage that takes up literally half a shelf in your fridge, that what are you going to do? Hack away at it every day for 10 days?

Nobody eats like that any more, and so these miniature versions of these familiar things … Again, we’ve got all these mini winter squash, mini Butternuts, and they are concentrated and packed with flavor. There’s zero sacrifice, in fact an emphasis on flavor in all the breeding work that we’re a part of in a mini package.

Q. So, let’s talk about strategy … Before we do the Salanova, Eazyleaf, the ones where it’s a head that when you cut it every leaf is the small size even though it’s the full head, that’s a different thing. So, before we get there, let’s just talk about O.K., I’m in a different part of the country, some listeners are, or it’s a different season, it’s hot, it’s cool, whatever. Generally speaking, what are sort of some of the guidelines for selecting the right variety to grow when, whether in those old-fashioned four groups of lettuces or … How do you say to people, start in the cooler season with this, and finish in the cooler season again with this, and in the middle do this?

A. Yes, I mean, certainly there are some lettuce varieties that are a little bit more tolerant of the heat, and that might mean that they’re bolt-tolerant or they conserve moisture better. Some of the Batavian types of lettuce, which are a little bit glossier, do better in hotter climates. But in general, lettuce really likes, let’s say, 55 to 75 degrees. That is just the sweet spot. And again, Coastal California, that’s what you got. It almost never gets to 80 degrees in many, many places in many places in Coastal California, and it also rarely gets down in to the 40s in a lot of these places, so, it’s been a perfect spot for a lot of lettuce production. [Above, ‘Magenta’ summer crisp lettuce.]

So, they do need moisture, they like a lot of water, and cooler temperatures. But you can start lettuce indoors. Let’s say you’re planting a lettuce in your garden in the fall, but it’s August, it’s too hot. Lettuce seed has a hard time germinating when the soil is too warm and the plants have a hard time; they just need it cooler to start. So, starting them indoors, it’s pretty easy to grow lettuce at least a third of its life in a tray, and then put it out. It’s more convenient for a lot of other reasons, too—weeding or deer eating it or whatever.

Q. And similarly getting a headstart not now, but in the pre-spring period in cooler zones doing the same thing. It doesn’t want to be covered very deep though. Doesn’t it like light to germinate? Is lettuce one of those things?

A. Yes, it does need light to germinate but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cover it, just like a little bit.

Q. Don’t bury it deep.

A. No, with most seeds I find that the rule of thumb of … At least if you’re talking about a garden environment where you have some control over to moisture because you’re watering, you shouldn’t really bury the seeds much deeper than two times their longest dimension, their largest dimensions. So in the case of a lettuce you’re talking about maybe an eighth of an inch, a quarter-inch deep.

Q. O.K., so certain things have this heat resistance like the Batavian [also called summer crisp] types you were saying, for instance. What stuff is for extra-cold? And of course, we need to read the variety descriptions and we need as we’re shopping for seeds to choose a palette that takes us through our seasons, right? That’s the strategy?

A. Yes, I mean, again, it depends on how extreme your particular season is. Now, where I am in Vermont, it never gets too hot for lettuce, so from April through October, we’re golden. We’re pushing it a little bit on each end. Then of course, we have winter. Most lettuce varieties even up here will survive in an unheated hoop house during the winter with two layers of row cover. So, we don’t think about lettuce as being super, super hardy but it’s remarkably hardy.

Now, some varieties will grow more quickly in the spring when things finally do start warming up, whereas others will just sort of sit there stuck and then maybe three weeks later they’ll start growing. So you see varietal difference in the growth rate in the spring. But in terms of winter survival, we’ve done a lot of trials and yes, certainly, there are some differences but remarkably, many varieties survive just fine. So if you’re in a place where it’s too cold, consider that row cover can really help with that.

The tricky thing is being in a place where it’s too hot, because again, this is what lettuce doesn’t like. So, the varietal differences: Batavian types are really helpful, starting them indoors, making sure that the seed gets a cool place to germinate, those things all really help. Heat stress is countered a little bit by moisture, so if there’s water, that can help keep the roots cool.

And you can plant it in a shadier part. Let’s say you’re in a really warm place or it’s the time of year, August or July, you can plant it in a little bit of a shadier spot. That just keeps the soil from getting blasted all day and heated up so much. You can also plant it in the shade of other crops in your garden. Taller things.

Q. That’s what I’ve always done, that was a sort of low-tech, old-fashioned thing, you planted on a shady side of the bean teepees or the tomato row or whatever. Yes.

So, these crazy ones now that I see more and more like your Eazyleaf that you feature or Salanova or again there’s probably more types, strains of these. Are these for professional growers or are you finding that home growers are using these, too? Describe them, I guess, first, generally.

A. Yes, so, you described them well earlier. It makes a head. It’s a miniature-sized head but the leaves all emerge from the same point, from the same growth point equally. So, imagine harvesting this and cutting off the stem of it, the rootball of it and you have 50 leaves that are exactly 3 or 4 inches long, and they’re all the same.

And so, there’s a convenience factor there for a home gardener. And for a grower, what you can do instead of pulling the plant up is you just mow them in a similar way that you were mowing baby leaf when you plant it really densely as individual plants. Here you’re mowing the 30 to 50 leaves off the top of this thing, and then you have an established plant root system that can resprout. [Above, ‘Stanford’ Eazyleaf lettuce.]

Q. Oh, so these are cut and come again-ish things, too. I see.

A. Totally can, totally can.

Q. And is the spacing … From the biggest lettuce spacing for like a big head lettuce to the baby leaf, how does our spacing shift and where do these fit in?

A. Yes, they’re somewhere in the middle. So, if you’re doing baby leaf, you’re usually planting 20-plus, 20 to 30 seeds per foot. So, one every half-inch kind of a thing and your rows are, like, 2 inches apart. It’s just like a salad carpet. That’s for baby leaf. Then for these cut and come again Eazyleafs or Salanovas or even the miniature romaines or the mini heads, those are more like on 6-inch centers. Some of them maybe 8 inches. And then you get to your full-size lettuce where they can be 12 inches or even 18 inches apart if you’re growing really big ones.

Q. Right. A lot of readers have been telling me, and I was sort of surprised that home gardeners are doing it more and more, that they’re growing microgreens even in the off seasons, speaking of the smallest thing of all, the youngest thing of all. [Laughter.] So, are people growing those outdoors or just as this sort of in a tray, indoors. What’s that from your experience with customers?

A. Yes. Microgreens are huge. I mean it is a great way, just like sprouts, when you don’t have a lot of room or if you’re in an apartment and you have no access to a garden, or it’s in the middle of winter, you can get some greens for yourself inexpensively and it’ll be delicious and fresh and quick. Like, we’re talking a week or less for both microgreens and sprouts in a lot of cases. Mostly it’s indoors because these are fragile little seedlings.

Q. That’s what I thought.

A. You can sow them in trays and be very space efficient. But generally it’s indoors, and there are so many flavors and shapes and colors.

Q. It’s mind-boggling. You have a greatblog post on seven easy steps for growing micro greens that I think Katie Spring maybe wrote, someone who worked for you I think, and she’s a farmer. People can learn how to do it if they want to do it.

In the Stearns household where you have access to everything, I imagine you living in paradise where you can just go outside and get anything and everything. So, what makes it into your salad bowl, or do you have some favorite varieties or ones new or old that you want to tell us about, and also both the greens, lettuces and add-ins as well. [7 steps for growing microgreens from the High Mowing blog.]

A. Yes, well, you’ll like this: I don’t really like lettuce that much.

Q. Now, Tom, you promised not to say that. [Laughter.]

A. No, I like growing it.

Q. I know. I’m teasing you, I’m teasing you.

A. I like growing the seeds especially. But spinach, I’m all about spinach. I mean, you and I have talked about spinach.

Q. And we have a great how to about lime, and how it is one of the unusual vegetables that prefers a little bit of lime, and you gave me lots of good tips and I’ll share those with people again, yes.

A. Yes, so, spinach, kale, some of the more substantial greens that you can really get your teeth around for me are more my favorites. So that’s what makes it into my salad bowl. The arugula also.

Q. I love arugula. And there’s so many different ones, too. It’s not just the plain old one. I mean, there’s different leaf shapes and hotness—I guess that would be word, pepperiness, yes?

A. Yes, Yes. So, but when it comes to lettuce, I do like romaines, I like a crunch, I like something with substantial crunch. And the other kind that I like is in fact sort of the opposite of romaines is the butterheads that are like velvet.

Q. Oh, yes.

A. I mean, these leaves are melt-in-your-mouth buttery and soft and just really quite incredible so those are my two sort of favorite types of lettuce.

Q. And do you guys add into your non-lettuce salads a lot of herbs or are there other things that you always have in the so-called salad garden area that you would recommend us to have a look at?

A. Yes, so I think herbs and salads are great, for sure. I definitely have tomatoes in the salads as often as I can. Things that you wouldn’t grow in the garden too: nuts, cheese, cranberries, dried cranberries, I’m all about those kinds of things in salads. I do really like grated carrots or grated beets in a salad.

Q. Oh, that’s a good idea, that’s a good idea.

A. It’s substantial. Both carrots and beets are super-sweet. So, it adds a lot of that, it adds a lot of moisture so you don’t even necessarily need dressing. I’m not a really big fan of dressing in salads, I use it sometimes. But if you have moisture in there from some of these other things, again shredded beets and shredded carrots are really, really good. So, Yes, those are more my go-to.

Q. So, before we finish, I would ask something I forgot to ask is just about this sort of succession schedule. If I’m going to have lettuce coming and coming and coming through the season, I always used to sort of every 10 days through a short row or a block, I’m a one-person family or I’ve been a two-person family … but how often should we have a succession coming along do you think?

A. That’s not a bad approach. I mean, you might need more for guests coming over. You could get really crazy with planning to make sure you have a lot coming in for the 4th of July party you’re having or whatever. But if you just plant a little bit every week or two and it’s O.K. if it goes by, you know? You can just give it to a neighbor or just till it in and not worry about it so much. Pull it out if it bolts and make room for the next succession. But lettuce can take a month and a half to two and a half months to reach a full size, but baby leaves be 21 days, so if you do get behind it won’t be for long.

Q. All right, so, we’ll do the math. Tom Stearns from High Mowing Organic Seeds. Thank you so much and happy growing and don’t forget to eat some lettuce, Tom. [Laughter.]

A. O.K., I’ll eat some for you, Margaret.

other popular talks with tom stearns

prefer the podcast version of the show?

MY WEEKLY public-radio show, rated a “top-5 garden podcast” by “The Guardian” newspaper in the UK, began its ninth year in March 2018. In 2016, the show won three silver medals for excellence from the Garden Writers Association. It’s produced at Robin Hood Radio, the smallest NPR station in the nation. Listen locally in the Hudson Valley (NY)-Berkshires (MA)-Litchfield Hills (CT) Mondays at 8:30 AM Eastern, rerun at 8:30 Saturdays. Or play Jan. 14, 2019 show using the player near the top of this transcript. You can subscribe to all future editions on iTunes or Stitcher (and browse my archive of podcasts here).





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margaret's garden in april 'martha stewart living'
margaret’s garden in april ‘martha stewart living’

IT’S LIKE A HOMECOMING of sorts, the experience of seeing my garden in...

Cram More Into Your City Vegetable Garden!
Cram More Into Your City Vegetable Garden!

Photo by Getty Images/funky-data Make the most of your space by choosing quick growers...

what weed is it? putting names to pesky plants
what weed is it? putting names to pesky plants

I KNOW A LOT OF PLANTS BY THEIR PROPER NAMES, but when it...

showoff shrubs, new and old, with tim wood of spring meadow nursery
showoff shrubs, new and old, with tim wood of spring meadow nursery

SO MANY SHRUBS, so little time. I’m kidding, sort of, but I think...

Wildflowers and Succulents: A Texas-English garden, part 2
Wildflowers and Succulents: A Texas-English garden, part 2

April 11, 2019 Doorways in chunky stucco walls frame vista after flowery vista in...

margaret in ‘the washington post’
margaret in ‘the washington post’

IT’S ALWAYS a treat to hear “The Washington Post” garden columnist Adrian Higgins’s...

battling mice and voles (but never with mothballs)
battling mice and voles (but never with mothballs)

THE SNOW MELTS, revealing the horror: Mice and voles have had at it...

10 Uses For Eggshells In The Garden
10 Uses For Eggshells In The Garden

Whenever I cook or use up the eggs that are in my refrigerator,...

Foxgloves and cacti: A Texas-English garden, part 1
Foxgloves and cacti: A Texas-English garden, part 1

April 09, 2019 Ah, let us return to the always-stunning garden of Jenny Stocker,...

Creative display gardens at The Natural Gardener
Creative display gardens at The Natural Gardener

April 07, 2019 The Natural Gardener beckoned as a fun first stop on my...

getting to know sparrows, with rick wright
getting to know sparrows, with rick wright

I’VE WATCHED BIRDS for decades, but in one matter, the matter of sparrows,...

Hill Country bluebonnet drive - Digging
Hill Country bluebonnet drive – Digging

April 05, 2019 Bluebonnets peak a little later in the Hill Country than in...

soil preparation: 7 ways to make a garden bed
soil preparation: 7 ways to make a garden bed

HOW DO YOU GET your garden soil ready for growing things each spring?...

The Texas Wildflower interviews me about Garden Spark design talks
The Texas Wildflower interviews me about Garden Spark design talks

April 04, 2019 Are you into garden design or keen on learning more about...

Feeling the blues - happy blues - in Lori Daul's garden
Feeling the blues – happy blues – in Lori Daul’s garden

April 02, 2019 Visiting the garden of Lori Daul, aka The Gardener of Good...

Backyard biodiversity: A few tips for gardening for wildlife
Backyard biodiversity: A few tips for gardening for wildlife

Plants are big business in Florida. According to the University of Florida Institute...

the march garden chores - A Way To Garden
the april garden chores – A Way To Garden

I’M STICKING to what I say each year at this time: We are...

growing mushrooms (and how fungi grow themselves), with john michelotti
growing mushrooms (and how fungi grow themselves), with john michelotti

HAVE YOU EVER grown mushrooms? Or perhaps they’ve just grown themselves in different...

Digging
Spring evening at home – Digging

March 28, 2019This has been the most beautiful week of spring, with soft,...

making succulent pots and wreaths, with katherine tracey of avant gardens
making succulent pots and wreaths, with katherine tracey of avant gardens

I’M ALREADY DREAMING about summertime containers each year, even before the first flat...

How the humble marigold outsmarts a devastating tomato pest
How the humble marigold outsmarts a devastating tomato pest

Scientists have revealed for the first time the natural weapon used by marigolds...

Digging
Prickly pear growing in live oak

March 27, 2019Yesterday I showed you a pool-swimming tarantula. Today it’s a tree-climbing...

dear old: sorry my 'new' book made you cry!
dear old: sorry my ‘new’ book made you cry!

(FOR CONTEXT: Read my friend Katrina Kenison’s letter to me first, if you...

Digging
Tarantula going for a swim

March 26, 2019Walking past the pool yesterday, I caught sight of an unexpected...

Digging
Wildflower superbloom south of San Antonio

March 23, 2019Is Texas experiencing a superbloom of wildflowers this spring? It’s certainly...

Digging
Wildflowers for the dead at Sutherland Springs Cemetery

March 24, 2019How did I forget the name Sutherland Springs? While passing through...

plant a cutting garden, with jenny elliott of tiny hearts farm
plant a cutting garden, with jenny elliott of tiny hearts farm

READY TO PLANT a cutting garden? The expression “cutting garden” sounds dreamy, laden...

How To Make Your Own Organic Hummus
How To Make Your Own Organic Hummus

Step 1:  Order Your Organic Garbanzo Seeds ORDER SEEDS NOW > Keep these measurements...

Digging
Wildflowers revving up at Wildflower Center

March 19, 2019 Although its name is a bit of a misnomer —...

Best apps for gardening and yard work for spring 2019
Best apps for gardening and yard work for spring 2019

“Not everyone has a green thumb or an eye for landscaping. Some people...

tips for planting under trees; using 'pea brush' and more: q&a with ken druse
tips for planting under trees; using ‘pea brush’ and more: q&a with ken druse

THANKS TO YOUR BOUNTIFUL supply of Urgent Garden Questions, my friend Ken Druse...

pre-order the new 'a way to garden' book, get a free lecture or webinar ticket!
pre-order the new ‘a way to garden’ book, get a free lecture or webinar ticket!

DRUMROLL, PLEASE: “A Way to Garden,” the all-new version of my oldest book,...

Succulent Native opens new shop on N Lamar
Succulent Native opens new shop on N Lamar

March 15, 2019Are you a plant parent, or proud owner of plant pets...

bluebird boxes: be a good landlord
bluebird boxes: be a good landlord

THE NEIGHBOR WHO HANGS BAGS of giant homegrown shallots on my gate also...

Digging
De-light-ful spring break art day

March 13, 2019Home for spring break, my daughter and I made an art...

Urban gardens: Healthy or harmful?
Urban gardens: Healthy or harmful?

Home-grown vegetables are only as good as their soil and environment. For urban...

Digging
Hamilton Pool swimming hole, a Hill Country blue lagoon

March 11, 2019One of the most beautiful spots in the Hill Country west...

growing epimediums in the shade garden, with karen perkins
growing epimediums in the shade garden, with karen perkins

I WILL CONFESS right off, I love epimediums, but apparently not as much...

Digging
On podcast Cultivating Place, talking about Garden Bloggers Fling and finding community

March 08, 2019Garden bloggers have been meeting up and touring gardens with Garden...

how to start seeds: 18 confidence-building tips
how to start seeds: 18 confidence-building tips

WONDER HOW TO start seed indoors, or which seed to sow directly in...

why vegetable seedlings stretch and get spindly
why vegetable seedlings stretch and get spindly

MAYBE YOU’RE WONDERING this about now: Why do vegetable seedlings stretch and grow...

Digging
Planting vintage toy trucks: My article in Country Gardens

March 05, 2019Let’s all ignore winter and keep on truckin’ with spring gardening...

Digging
Last day of spring – Digging

March 03, 2019Spring has been unfurling new glories every day, like this beautiful...

the march garden chores - A Way To Garden
the march garden chores – A Way To Garden

I’M LIKE THE KID in the backseat on the way to the amusement...

an eye for just the right plant, with wave hill's louis bauer
an eye for just the right plant, with wave hill’s louis bauer

IN MY QUEST for a wider plant palette and for ideas on how...

Growth In Gardening: Companion Gardening
Growth In Gardening: Companion Gardening

I am jumping on the companion gardening bandwagon with both feet this year....

may 11 open day, classes & workshops plus plant sale
may 11 open day, classes & workshops plus plant sale

I’VE JOINED FORCES with my most talented, beloved neighbors to make the 2019...

Digging
How to prune a crape myrtle

February 27, 2019Guest post by Allen Owings, senior horticulturist at Bracy’s Nursery, a...

Digging
Cedar waxwings chirpily convene – Digging

February 26, 2019For months piercing cries have come from the skies. Lifting my...

a plant i'd order: hakonechloa 'all gold'
a plant i’d order: hakonechloa ‘all gold’

IT GROWS IN SHADE, READS AS SOLID GOLD, and looks good from early...

This Garden Planner makes urban gardening easy
This Garden Planner makes urban gardening easy

Gardening can seem like a daunting task. When do you plant? What should...

my podcast is now on spotify (and still on itunes and stitcher...)
my podcast is now on spotify (and still on itunes and stitcher…)

IN CASE you hadn’t noticed, I want to be your gardening companion—whispering over...

annual flowers and foliage to add seasonal color, with untermyer gardens
annual flowers and foliage to add seasonal color, with untermyer gardens

MAYBE YOU’RE LOOKING for fun new annual flowers for this year’s garden, fresh...

Digging
Bigger than life jackalope on N. Lamar

February 23, 2019A bigger-than-life bounder crouches on North Lamar Boulevard. “Bigger than life”...

Digging
Go figure, gopher plant blooming already

February 22, 2019With bluebonnets already blooming around Austin at least a month earlier...

Digging
Read This: Wildflowers of Texas

February 20, 2019An advance guard of bluebonnets scattered across the grassy shoulder of...

Digging
Agave drama – Digging

February 19, 2019Stopping by Christine Ten Eyck‘s house to return something after her...

The battle against bugs: it’s time to end chemical warfare
The battle against bugs: it’s time to end chemical warfare

Insects are important wildlife often overlooked in urban habitats. What we do notice...

Digging
Time to cut back the winter garden

February 18, 2019Mid-February, right around Valentine’s Day, marks cut-back time for Texas gardeners....

10 top tips for growing root vegetables
10 top tips for growing root vegetables

GROWING CARROTS, BEETS, RADISHES or other root vegetables can be more challenging than,...

how to grow root crops, with daniel yoder of johnny's seeds
how to grow root crops, with daniel yoder of johnny’s seeds

DO YOU KNOW what it takes to grow a perfect root vegetable? When...

the february garden chores - A Way To Garden
the february garden chores – A Way To Garden

RESTLESS, ANYONE? The houseplants are noticing, and so am I: the days are...

After Years of Planning Santa Clara’s Urban Farm ‘Agrihood’ is Set to Break Ground by 2020
After Years of Planning Santa Clara’s Urban Farm ‘Agrihood’ is Set to Break Ground by 2020

One of Santa Clara’s biggest and most unique affordable housing projects in the...

Digging
Family Garden and berry-bright possumhaws at Wildflower Center

February 11, 2019Continuing with my recent visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower...

3/23/19: my 9th annual seedy saturday event, at turtle tree seed
3/23/19: my 9th annual seedy saturday event, at turtle tree seed

THE 9TH ANNUAL Seedy Saturday will be welcomed back to Turtle Tree Seed in...

Digging
Winter meadows and fiery possumhaws at Wildflower Center

February 09, 2019Mexican plum and redbud may be blooming at the Lady Bird...

direct sow or not, perennials from seed & more: q&a with ken druse
direct sow or not, perennials from seed & more: q&a with ken druse

HOW’S THAT seed shopping going? On the radio show and podcast, Ken Druse...

Digging
Don’t smother your tree trunk. Let it flare!

February 05, 2019How many times have you seen a tree trunk that looks...

Digging
Losing shade trees and replanting

February 04, 2019For 10 years I’ve gardened under dozens of live oaks on...

pollinator plants to make room for, with uprising seeds' brian campbell
pollinator plants to make room for, with uprising seeds’ brian campbell

NATIVE PLANTINGS are a giant part of the equation in supporting pollinators, but...

spring will come (and so will my new old book, 'a way to garden')
spring will come (and so will my new old book, ‘a way to garden’)

TWENTY-ONE YEARS ago almost to the day, my first garden book, “A Way...

Digging
Gardens and botanicals – and wallpaper! – on Tribeza Interiors Tour

February 01, 2019Years of attending interior design and architecture tours have taught me...

Why Raleigh needs a stronger commitment to urban agriculture
Why Raleigh needs a stronger commitment to urban agriculture

The City of Raleigh supports urban agriculture rhetorically in its Strategic Plan. The...

Digging
Screech owl at sunset – Digging

January 29, 2019The sky went pink last evening as a cold front blew...

it's edemental! gorgeous, delicious grains for the garden, with sarah kleeger
it’s edemental! gorgeous, delicious grains for the garden, with sarah kleeger

I’M CURRENTLY captivated by thoughts of gorgeous grains and grain-like annuals adding drama...

Join my class and tour my garden on May 4
Join my class and tour my garden on May 4

January 23, 2019Did you ever wish you could tour a designer’s garden with...

7 Trends That Will Define Gardening in 2019
7 Trends That Will Define Gardening in 2019

Americans are gardening in record numbers but what are they most interested in...

Digging
Winter hike at Pedernales Falls

January 21, 2019A cloudless blue sky overhead, white rock and clear pools of...

seed-starting basics, a q&a with ken druse
seed-starting basics, a q&a with ken druse

FOR THOSE PONDERING starting seed indoors, ever wonder what growing medium and other...

Bloggers, let's tour mile-high gardens at Denver Garden Bloggers Fling
Bloggers, let’s tour mile-high gardens at Denver Garden Bloggers Fling

January 18, 2019Garden Bloggers Fling, the annual meetup and 3-1/2-day garden tour for...

Digging
Unusual black deer in my neighborhood

January 16, 2019Have you ever seen a black deer? Here in my Northwest...

Edible Landscapes Are Un-Lawning America
Edible Landscapes Are Un-Lawning America

Lawns are ubiquitous in the United States and according to a 2015 NASA...

Urban Gardening 101: How to Deal with Contaminated Soil
Urban Gardening 101: How to Deal with Contaminated Soil

Urban soils are particularly prone to contamination. 50 years ago, your yard could...

Digging
My article on urban farm gardeners appears in Country Gardens

January 14, 2019It’s a treat to open the mailbox in the middle of...

Digging
Streetside gardens, colorful murals on Austin’s South Congress Ave

January 12, 2019South Congress Avenue, SoCo, a street of eclectic shops and restaurants...

Digging
Paperwhites and palmettos at Lady Bird Lake

Jan 09,2019A post-holiday hoof around Lady Bird Lake reveals some beautiful surprises, like...

Digging
Winter bees and flowers – Digging

Jan 08,2019Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean bees disappear. Warm winter days draw...

the january garden chores - A Way To Garden
the january garden chores – A Way To Garden

THE ANSWER IS NO: No, you probably shouldn’t start all your vegetable seed...

reducing weeds: a 101 on soil solarization, with sonja birthisel
reducing weeds: a 101 on soil solarization, with sonja birthisel

AN ARTICLE about soil solarization for weed control, the practice of covering beds...

Digging
Saw art I saw in Salado

Have you ever seen such a spectacular arrangement of saws? Driving through Salado,...

Digging
Announcing 2019 Garden Spark speaker lineup

February 7, 2019 – Christine Ten Eyck: “Harsh Beauty: Designing Landscapes for...

Happy New Year wishes and gratuitous Cosmo pics
Happy New Year wishes and gratuitous Cosmo pics

As you ring in the new year this evening, I am wishing you...

your input, please: what do you want to know about growing from seed?
your input, please: what do you want to know about growing from seed?

SEED-SHOPPING SEASON is upon us, and before too long seed-starting season—with those first...

what i learned about pollinators and other beneficial insects in 2018
what i learned about pollinators and other beneficial insects in 2018

WHAT ARE INSECTS THINKING–or if that sounds like I’m anthropomorphizing, what at least...

Joy to the Weird: Austin's 37th and 35th Street Christmas lights
Joy to the Weird: Austin’s 37th and 35th Street Christmas lights

Merry Christmas, Joy to the Weird, and festive holiday greetings to you from...

top 10: most popular posts published in 2018
top 10: most popular posts published in 2018

THANKS TO SEARCH ENGINES, my list of most popular stories each year is...

Agriculture Ruined Our Relationship with the Earth, Forest Gardening Can Fix It
Agriculture Ruined Our Relationship with the Earth, Forest Gardening Can Fix It

Visualize a forest. Close your eyes and look around. What do you see? Of...

best garden design advice of 2018: signature style, making tapestries and more
best garden design advice of 2018: signature style, making tapestries and more

THE GARDEN MIGHT be mostly sleeping where I live, but it’s not out...

Digging
Dog playtime at Red Bud Isle

Playing among cypress knees and gnarled roots at Red Bud Isle? Yep, it’s...

repotting houseplants (plus blooming favorites), propagating coleus, and more: q&a with ken druse
repotting houseplants (plus blooming favorites), propagating coleus, and more: q&a with ken druse

WHAT REALLY PERPLEXED or downright frustrated gardeners in 2018? I asked that recently...

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix from The New Camp Cookbook (Plus a Giveaway!)
Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix from The New Camp Cookbook (Plus a Giveaway!)

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that my favorite gifts tend to be...

Digging
Moonstruck and aglow at Wildflower Center’s Luminations

Under a fingernail sliver of moon, we strolled quiet garden paths illuminated...

gifts for gardeners and other humans, 2018 version
gifts for gardeners and other humans, 2018 version

I’M UP TO MY NECK in “stuff,” which means my filter for any...

indoor growing under lights, with leslie halleck
indoor growing under lights, with leslie halleck

MY HOUSEPLANTS are sulking, whispering among themselves, “Why doesn’t that woman get us...

Digging
Gardening book roundup for holiday gift ideas

Wondering what to get your garden-loving friend or family member (or yourself) for...

Waterwise beauty and metal animal safari in Linda Peterson's San Antonio garden
Waterwise beauty and metal animal safari in Linda Peterson’s San Antonio garden

An invitation to Linda Peterson’s garden in San Antonio proved too tempting a...

12 days of cookbooks (ho, ho, ho): 2018 favorites, with alexandra stafford
12 days of cookbooks (ho, ho, ho): 2018 favorites, with alexandra stafford

COOKBOOK AUTHOR and food blogger Alexandra Stafford of alexandracooks dot com and I...

An arts-focused urban farm initiative is coming to Baltimore
An arts-focused urban farm initiative is coming to Baltimore

A new state initiative will bring an urban farm to a vacant lot...

Avocado Green Mattress Review: My Thoughts 1 Year Later
Avocado Green Mattress Review: My Thoughts 1 Year Later

I’m obsessed with home renovation and home buying shows on HGTV. But every episode...

I Stayed in an Earthship: Eco Living in the High Desert
I Stayed in an Earthship: Eco Living in the High Desert

I’ve been intrigued with alternative building methods ever since seeing the first container...

Digging
Anole drops by to say hi

Hang in there, my friends – it’s Friday!I welcome your comments; please scroll...

Digging
Japanese maple turns red 3 weeks early

The species Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) at the front corner of our house...

Digging
Golden ginkgo glory in Lucinda Hutson’s garden

My phone buzzed on Saturday as my daughter, home from college for Thanksgiving,...

Pennybacker Bridge overlook above Lake Austin
Pennybacker Bridge overlook above Lake Austin

I’ve lived in Austin for 24 years and yet somehow, until recently, had...

books for those ever-curious readers on your list
books for those ever-curious readers on your list

MY READING LIST in recent years is pretty narrow–and then again, it’s anything...

taking stock of our native flora and newcomers, with nybg's robert naczi
taking stock of our native flora and newcomers, with nybg’s robert naczi

WHEN YOU’RE TALKING plants and not people, how do you figure out who...

Digging
Deer, egrets, and aloes and a happy Thanksgiving to you

The buck stops here. And here and here and, well, everywhere in my...

Read my article about native-plant hellstrips in Wildflower magazine
Read my article about native-plant hellstrips in Wildflower magazine

Are you a member of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center? If so,...

Digging
Fall flowers before an early freeze

Well, fall perennial color was pretty while it lasted. Austin’s first freeze arrived...

Eerie and occult Wilde Collection in Houston
Eerie and occult Wilde Collection in Houston

On this spookiest of days, when ghosts and evil spirits walk among the...

Sculptural light installations glow along Austin's Waller Creek during 5th annual Creek Show
Sculptural light installations glow along Austin’s Waller Creek during 5th annual Creek Show

Last Saturday, on the final day of Creek Show 2018, hundreds of tents...

Forgiveness sculpture and Austin trees
Forgiveness sculpture and Austin trees

While at ZACH Theater recently to see a show, I noticed a curious...

Book Review: Dry Gardens: High Style for Low Water Gardens
Book Review: Dry Gardens: High Style for Low Water Gardens

Not so long ago, a book about dry gardens in the U.S. would...

'waste not,' a full-use cookbook from james beard foundation, with tiffany derry
‘waste not,’ a full-use cookbook from james beard foundation, with tiffany derry

HAVING BEEN RAISED in the presence of a Depression-era grandmother who even went...

Dia de los Muertos in Lucinda Hutson's festive home and garden
Dia de los Muertos in Lucinda Hutson’s festive home and garden

As a native of border city El Paso and a veteran traveler throughout...

Food for people and butterflies in San Antonio Botanical Garden's culinary and entry gardens
Food for people and butterflies in San Antonio Botanical Garden’s culinary and entry gardens

San Antonio was calling my name last week, so I hopped in the...

Play outdoors in magical Family Adventure Garden at San Antonio Botanical Garden
Play outdoors in magical Family Adventure Garden at San Antonio Botanical Garden

I’ve visited a lot of play gardens, and I play in ALL of...

More butterflies and Halloween scarecrows at San Antonio Botanical Garden
More butterflies and Halloween scarecrows at San Antonio Botanical Garden

I’ve shown you the fabulous new gardens at San Antonio Botanical Garden that...

Read my article about native-plant hellstrips in Wildflower magazine
Read my article about native-plant hellstrips in Wildflower magazine

Are you a member of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center? If so,...

Eerie and occult Wilde Collection in Houston
Eerie and occult Wilde Collection in Houston

On this spookiest of days, when ghosts and evil spirits walk among the...

Book Review: Dry Gardens: High Style for Low Water Gardens
Book Review: Dry Gardens: High Style for Low Water Gardens

Not so long ago, a book about dry gardens in the U.S. would...

More butterflies and Halloween scarecrows at San Antonio Botanical Garden
More butterflies and Halloween scarecrows at San Antonio Botanical Garden

I’ve shown you the fabulous new gardens at San Antonio Botanical Garden that...

Growing Belgian Endive - SeedMoney
Growing Belgian Endive – SeedMoney

People who like Belgian endive like it so much they grow it...

More butterflies and Halloween scarecrows at San Antonio Botanical Garden
More butterflies and Halloween scarecrows at San Antonio Botanical Garden

I’ve shown you the fabulous new gardens at San Antonio Botanical Garden that...

Planting Asparagus from Crowns - SeedMoney
Planting Asparagus from Crowns – SeedMoney

Planting an asparagus bed may well be the smartest thing you do...

'innumerable insects,' with dr. michael engel
‘innumerable insects,’ with dr. michael engel

BEFORE I SAW it myself, a reader alerted me that she’d come upon...

Garden Spark 2018 season concludes; 2019 season TBA soon!
Garden Spark 2018 season concludes; 2019 season TBA soon!

Hey, garden friends! My 2018 season of Garden Spark talks concluded last Thursday...

Play outdoors in magical Family Adventure Garden at San Antonio Botanical Garden
Play outdoors in magical Family Adventure Garden at San Antonio Botanical Garden

I’ve visited a lot of play gardens, and I play in ALL of...

San Diego Carnivorous Plant Society Show and Sale
Fly Life: Carnivorous Plants Come Out for #SharkWeek

It’s Shark Week, everybody! We’re honoring this hallowed summer tradition by spotlighting our...

From Sand to Soil: The Roots of the Obodo Ahiara Community Garden
From Sand to Soil: The Roots of the Obodo Ahiara Community Garden

By ways of innovative solutions and a commitment to women’s empowerment, the...

Rainy day visit to Jenny Stocker's garden
Rainy day visit to Jenny Stocker’s garden

A visit to Jenny Stocker‘s gorgeous walled garden is always a treat, even...

Explore Fortlandia at the Wildflower Center
Explore Fortlandia at the Wildflower Center

Your secret hideout awaits! That’s the tagline for Fortlandia, an exhibit of play...

Making Fast Friends at the Slow Flowers Summit
Making Fast Friends at the Slow Flowers Summit

Earlier this summer, I (Chantal, hi) spent a weekend in Seattle. I was...

August 2018 Newsletter - SeedMoney
August 2018 Newsletter – SeedMoney

Dear Friends, When I first learned about a mysterious herd of goats on...

Read my article about native-plant hellstrips in Wildflower magazine
Read my article about native-plant hellstrips in Wildflower magazine

Are you a member of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center? If so,...

Eerie and occult Wilde Collection in Houston
Eerie and occult Wilde Collection in Houston

On this spookiest of days, when ghosts and evil spirits walk among the...

Buds, Sweat and Tears:Order Our Book Now!
Buds, Sweat and Tears:Order Our Book Now!

That sound you hear? That’s our very loud sigh of relief as we...

homemade hot sauce recipe
Homemade Hot Sauce – SeedMoney

Tabasco sauce is the brand name for a hot pepper sauce produced...

clivia, staking, viburnum leaf beetle, chestnuts & more: q&a with ken druse
clivia, staking, viburnum leaf beetle, chestnuts & more: q&a with ken druse

YES, IT’S US AGAIN, me and Ken Druse, here to answer your latest...

Reinventing Food One Shipping Container at a Time
Reinventing Food One Shipping Container at a Time

“The low-slung building on Evans Avenue with the greenhouse roof blends into the...

A New Book Is Cookin'
A New Book Is Cookin’

It’s been quiet on the blog this summer. Though I wish it was...

Food for people and butterflies in San Antonio Botanical Garden's culinary and entry gardens
Food for people and butterflies in San Antonio Botanical Garden’s culinary and entry gardens

San Antonio was calling my name last week, so I hopped in the...

Dia de los Muertos in Lucinda Hutson's festive home and garden
Dia de los Muertos in Lucinda Hutson’s festive home and garden

As a native of border city El Paso and a veteran traveler throughout...

BHG Takes Brooklyn: Our Recap of Stylemaker 2017!
BHG Takes Brooklyn: Our Recap of Stylemaker 2017!

Hosted every fall in New York by Better Homes & Gardens, the Stylemaker...

Leslie Lindgren: Kennebunk Community Garden
Leslie Lindgren: Kennebunk Community Garden

Leslie Lindgren (left) with members of the Kennebunk Community Garden board   When did...

Brassica greens under row cover
Brassica salad greens under row cover

Floating row cover, weighed down and made semi-transparent by water, is all that...

Unusual Plants for the Autumn Garden
Unusual Plants for the Autumn Garden

Who doesn’t love a bargain? You can save a lot of money acquiring...

creative vegetable and mushroom soup ideas, with alexandra stafford
creative vegetable and mushroom soup ideas, with alexandra stafford

STRANGE BUT TRUE: Though I’ve been following a vegetarian diet for decades already...

Urban farming is alive and well in La Jolla
Urban farming is alive and well in La Jolla

“Regulations allow two miniature goats, two beehives and up to 25 hens (not...

My 10 Most-Asked Questions After 1 Year of Living in Central Oregon
My 10 Most-Asked Questions After 1 Year of Living in Central Oregon

I can hardly believe it myself, but as of this month, I’ve been...

Forgiveness sculpture and Austin trees
Forgiveness sculpture and Austin trees

While at ZACH Theater recently to see a show, I noticed a curious...

Book Review: Dry Gardens: High Style for Low Water Gardens
Book Review: Dry Gardens: High Style for Low Water Gardens

Not so long ago, a book about dry gardens in the U.S. would...

Sky-High Planting in NY! Notes From BH&G Stylemaker 2018...
Sky-High Planting in NY! Notes From BH&G Stylemaker 2018…

Ah, autumn in New York—there’s a reason Billie sang about it. Especially those...

What Word do you Associate with Gardens?
What Word do you Associate with Gardens?

There are so many words that come to mind for me: love,...

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We are a Non-Profit Organization dedicated to increasing Property Ownership and Enterpreneurialism in Black and Underserved Communities.
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