Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Five Reasons to have a Pond in your Garden

Ponds are an incredible addition to any garden. They don’t just add beauty, but they add incredible life to your garden.


1. Attracts wildlife

Ponds attract a huge amound of wildlife that would otherwise not be in the garden. Birds, Frogs/Toads, Dragonflies, Raccoons, Possums, Deer (if they have access), Crawfish, and many others. The life that is in a pond will attract many others. Herons will see the water from miles away and come visit to appreciate (and eat) your fish.

2. Controls mosquitos

Yes, Ponds can reduce mosquitos in your garden. Any pond that you add to the garden should have fish. Some people just put in little “Mosquito Fish” which look like little Minnows. Other load up their ponds with beautiful Koi. One thing they all have in common is they love Mosquito larva. Your pond will actually reduce mosquitos!

3. Attracts birds

Birds are naturally attracted to water. When you add a pond to your garden, birds will seek out the water to drink and take a bath. Another great benefit is that the birds love to eat bugs.

 4. Pond Beauty

Ponds bring visual, auditory, and tactile experiences. A pond can add serenity to any garden landscape. You will want to spend more time in your garden just to enjoy the sound of moving water and to watch the fish glide effortlessly through the water.

5. A pond is a micro-climate

Ponds have many functions including to create an area where the climate can be quite different than elsewhere in your garden. You can plant different types of plants near the water which will enjoy additional sun due to the reflection from the water. The water acts also to stabilize temperature and, depending on the size of the pond, can help protect some of your plants from frost. The increase in humidity near a pond will also provide benefits to some of your plants close to the pond.

Ponds contribute what is called a stacking function. This means that a pond feature contributes more than one thing. This is also called an element with multiple functions. This means that a pond multiplies your benefits.

I have built many ponds and I would encourage you to start small and to build the beauty and variety in your garden!


Gardening in the News

There is lots of gardening news this week. Here are some of the more interesting stories:

Gardening in Church: Churches are introducing gardening all around the country and the world. In Virginia, this church started gardening for fellowship, teaching, and for learning life skils.

“I’d like to see churches all over the place do a little something with gardening,” said Anthony G. Hankins, an education support specialist at the cooperative extension’s Virginia State University office. “There’s great fellowship in gardening. There’s time to laugh and have fun and enjoy the food.”

I recently also saw pictures of a raised bed garden at a Dripping Springs church.

 – Heat Wave – Big parts of the USA are under a heat wave. Most people know about the cold zones across the US. Did you know there is a heat zone map as well. Days over 86 degrees are counted across different zone. Lesser known is the American Horticultural Society’s heat zone map, which delineates zones based on the annual number of “heat days,” those above 86 degrees.

 – Free class coming up in Austin on Rainwater Harvesting. I am crazy about rain water harvesting. Free water, fresh, natural, and ready for your thirsty garden. Come learn how!

Rainwater Harvesting in a Thirsty World
Saturday, August 11, 2012, 10am-12pm
Zilker Botanical Garden

Turn water scarcity into water abundance! New filtration and treatment technologies make rainwater harvesting relatively easy. Rainwater harvesting systems can be installed in existing buildings or incorporated into new construction. Master Gardener Ed Parken will discuss how to conceptualize, design, and implement sustainable water-harvesting systems for your home and landscape.

 – Healing in the garden – Trouble teens are finding rest and peace in a garden in Missouri!


Information as Food

I saw this video today, a TED talk, with a gentleman who urges us to consider that our bodies need information just the same as the need food. He urges us to consider that we need to feed information nourish us, and that different people need to prepare the information for consumption in different ways.

Go here to see his speech…

Information is cheap now. The availability of information has now exceeded human capability to use it. The internet is a revolution for mankind in that one of the great limitations for the expression of the mind has been removed. Other limitations such as time, nourishment, willpower, and the economic environment to express the capabilities will always be with us. I believe that we are truly at a dawn where the most able minds now have access to the intellectual food that can make the expression of their mental gifts possible. We have just only started seeing the ramifications of this upon the world.

Unleash yourself. Feed yourself fresh food from your garden and fresh information. Keep you body and mind alive.

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Look Who Showed Up

I noticed these little ones at the front door the other day.

Birds nesting on basket on the front door

They were very quite until their mom showed up to feed them. As soon as she left, they would get very quite.

They are in a basket hanging on the front door. Every time you open the door, they swing inside the house.

Momma bird isn’t too happy about it but the babies always seem to return.


Growing your Independence

Growing food is not only simple, it is a critical step towards your independence.

Most people live their lives completely dependant on systems of provision that are not well understand. In fact, the people who work as part of this system don’t understand the complexity and interdependence.

The just-in-time production systems means that grocery stores only keep 24-72 hours of food at any one time. The processing plants only keep a few days of raw materials on hand at any time since it is too expensive and inefficient to keep more. The intermidiaries that supply the processing plants rely on warehouses and storage facilities that are large to supply vast geographic areas. All of these count on the availability of electricity, labor, fuel, and trucking. Any blip in the systems of supply and guess what happens? No food at the store and no gas at the gas station.

Growing even a small percentage of your food will give you the knowledge in case you need to grow much of your own food. It seems so inconceivable that bad times could cause the conveniences of modern life to be unavailable, but it happens from time to time, even in our country. Have you ever been in a grocery store when there was no food left? I have, several times. If you learn how to grow and store your own food, you can protect yourself and your family.

If it is only an ice storm or a hurricane, or a power grid failure that lasts for a week, could you stretch your supplies to last? The average family has less than 3 days of supplies on hand at any time. Learning how to grow your own food and learning how to store it is just simple math. Can you make it for 3 days or 30 days?

The joy gardening will bring to your life cannot be compartmentalized in just the produce brought to your kitchen. The product of your garden will also grow in other parts of your life. The confidence you gain from learning “I can do this” can be contagious.  Building self-confidence and esteem is not a matter of others telling you how important you are or how precious or valuable you are. True value comes from making a difference in your life and the lives of others. You can really make a difference in the life of your family by showing them that they can grow your own food and by providing them a nutritious and delicious option.

Growing your own food puts you in control. There is really no need to convince you of the health value of growing your own food. You already know about the numerous threats to you health including pesticides, herbicides, hormones, genetically modifications, food additives, bacterial and viral contamination, food treatments for appearance, and just unhealthy food handling. If you control the garden, the plants, the handling, and the food preparation, you cut out all of these threats to yourself and those you love.

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Gardening Excuses Part 2

In my first post about gardening excuses, I wrote about the many excuses people make for not starting or keeping a garden. These included wishing without the effort, wishing for a garden without the time, and the ever present “Black Thumb” excuse.
There are more excuses not to garden with most of them being surmountable. Here are some more:

4. “It’s too hard to garden”

“It’s so easy, a caveman could do it”. Anthropologists generally agree that human groups learned to transition from hunter-gatherers to agrarian societies as knowledge was gained in the growing of crops. If prehistoric man (and women) could do this before alphabets were available, why can’t we? With usually 12+ years of some form of education; are we not more capable, and don’t we have the tools to figure this out? Between the internet, books, friends, grandparents, and neighbors, can we get this done?

 5. “Why garden when the grocery store sells everything I need anytime I want it?”

Great question. I eat a lot of food from the store, but not all of it. I grow a percentage of my food. I save money. Could you use a little extra money? Who couldn’t? The price of food keeps going up. Inflation does take it’s bite. If you have access to a small plot of land, you can end up saving money. My food is better than the grocery store food. It is rich in minerals, naturally grown without pesticides or herbicides, and I can do it again and again. I save my seed. I let some of my plants go to seed and collect it at the end of the season. What other kind of investment do you make that can replace itself year after year? Gardening is not free, but it can be cheaper than the store and it is certainly a cheap form of prevention of disease. There is truth in the statement that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”.

6. “Gardening is too expensive!”

Gardeners exist in all income levels and socio-economic strata. In fact, some of the most successful gardeners are the ones who don’t have much money. Why? They garden for food that they can’t afford any other way. During the depression, everybody gardened to sustain their families. During WWII, there were the victory gardens to grow your own food so that farmers could grow food for the war effort.

 7. I need help building a garden.  “I’ll get my ___________(fill in the blank…) to build one of these gardens for me”. 

We all need help from time to time. But when I hear this, I know that 99% of the time, they will not succeed. The will not get their husband to build it. It is not necessarily that they have lazy husbands, although some do. It is a question of ownership. You need to own your garden. If you and your spouse share a garden, it needs to be clear who takes care of what. This is true in relationships as well as professional organizations. When it is not clear who owns what, nothing gets done, the garden looks abandoned, and bitterness is the fruit of your labor.

I urge you to make a decision to garden successfully and stick with it. By reading this, you have taken a step toward gardening success. Now commit to this not as a project, but as a process of learning. This can bring you a lifetime of joy.

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Design Rules for a Square Foot Garden – Part 1

A Square Foot Garden is the simplest garden to build, easy to plant, the most productive, and the simplest to maintain.

First, we must define what it is we are talking about here.A SquareFootGarden is a raised bed gardening system with a specific soil mix and with markings to

Square Foot Garden Winter How To

You can have this Square Foot Garden

The rules of design of a Square Foot Garden:

  1. The beds cannot be any wider than four feet. Any more than this and it will not be within the comfortable reach of the human arm. If you can’t reach the soil you garden, you can’t take care of it.
  2. I recommend that you don’t make the beds any longer than sixteen feet or any shorter than four feet. A four foot by four foot bed is a great place to start, you can reach around all sides of the bed, and is the least expensive.  Exception: Apartment balconies should have smaller, lighter beds.
  3. The bed needs to have at least twelve inches of soil at an absolute minimum. I recommend at least 18 inches of soil to succeed. I differ with other authors on this point. I recommend more soil because I am writing this to encourage you to succeed. The less soil you have, the lower your odds of success. Same exception for apartment balconies.
  4. Make the dimensions of the bed in even one foot increments. The plants do not know how you mark the bed, you do. This is to simplify the garden for you.
  5. The sides of your raised bed must be strong enough to keep the soil from deforming the bed.

More to come on design of a square foot garden.

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Gardening in the News – April 19, 2012

Gardening in the News for April 19, 2012:

Look at what just popped up!

Somebody thinks it is a good idea to attract butterflies. I agree!

Memories in the Garden

Think your weather is bad for gardening, how about Alaska?

Why plant ornamental trees when you can plant food?

If you liked my post on container gardening, you might like these tips too.

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Garden Ideas – Attracting Birds

Do you want to control insects, naturally fertilize your garden, hear beautiful music, and to the life of your garden? Then you need some birds! If you are just now learning how to garden or if you are an expert just looking for some “gardening know how”, you needs birds.

Birds are your workers. If you don’t get birds in your garden, then you will have to do the bird’s work.

To strike a balance between insect control and the loss of your food crops, cover your veggies in bird netting. My square foot garden already has bird netting in the frame around it. This protects it from deer (yes, we have very hungry deer), birds, and other hungry animals.

Regarding insect control, it’s the birds, or it is poison. Since we don’t use poison, we need everything nature has to offer to balance out the bad insects. Birds can eat over 1000 insects in an afternoon. This beats the heck out of you doing all of that work. Some organic gardeners will pick the insects off of the plants one by one. This seems like a lot of work. Why not just get them to do it for you?

5 ways to attract birds to your garden:

1. Build them a place to live

Birdhouses in the Garden

There are thousands of bird house designs on the inter-tubes. Learn the types of birds you want to attract and build a house specifically for that type.  A Purple Martin needs a different house than a Finch.

2. Give ’em something to drink

There is a saying that you can only go 3 days without water. Birds need lots of water too. Give them a birdbath or a shallow pond, and they will find your place

3. Feed the birds

I feed birds to attract them. It takes money and time but the birds are a treasure to my garden

4. Give them something to help them build nests

I have cedar(Juniper actually) posts in my backyard and they strip the bark to build their nests. I have also seen the birds and squirrels use the Coconut fiber from hanging baskets. You don’t really need to do much, but anything helps.

5. Limit the garden time for the cats and dogs

My cat likes baby birds, exactly the way you think, as a meal. If you want the birds to hang around, make it a friendly neighborhood.


Birds are part of the natural gardening way. To work with God’s design, use what He put in the garden to help you with your garden.

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What didn’t work for me

As I think about the garden, I can spot the many failures I’ve had. In a previous post on experimentation, I shared that all gardeners should always be learning by trying new things.

As in life, our failures teach us through the pain and difficulties of loss. Victor Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning that true learning comes through suffering (a paraphrase). In the garden, true learning comes from our mistakes.

If I was to write about all of my garden failures, this post would be too long. Here are a few:

1. Container gardening with Garlic

Ugly Garlic

This bombed for me this year and I just may have messed up on putting too many in one container, not given it enough sun, or not enough water. I don’t know. I just know that I have ended up with Garlic rounds which are more like green onions than garlic.

2. Corn

Ugly Corn

I planted a few corn plants in my garden last year and didn’t realize that you need a stand of corn of at least 15-40 plants for them to cross polinate. Needless to say, I ended up nurturing a few corn plants to maturity to discover that all of the cobs had just a few kernels. Don’t do what I did. Plant a bunch of corn!

3. Lemons (Meyers)

What our Lemons would look like if they actually grew...

I have had a Meyers Lemon bush growing in my garden for 3 years and we haven’t seen a lemon yet. The first year, the deer ate all of new leaves and flowers off. The second year we had a bad freeze and the plant didn’t recover well. This year, we have tons of new growth, but no flowers and no little lemon buds. We will persevere.

4. Texas Yellow Watermelons

These things were terrible. I found a package of watermelon seeds at the beginning of the season with a picture of a beautiful ripe red watermelon on it. (seed companies and seed packages may exagerate reality a bit, you experience may vary). I ignored the variety and planted it all around my garden. First, a square foot garden is not the best place to grow a vine that goes everywhere. Plant this thing where it can wonder around on the ground. When you put it in the square foot garden like mine, the only good place for it to go is up.

Welcome to the Jungle

So this plant shaded the rest of my garden, grew good size watermelons that tasted really bad. Was I experimenting? Yes. Was I thoughtful on what I planted? No.

Accept failure with your successes. Welcome the lessons. You will be your worst critic. Ease up. It’s all good.  This is your garden, do with it what you will.

Learn how to do this before you need to count on your garden in hard times.