Happy Earth Day 2016!
For the last 17 years I’ve worked to create an eco-friendly naturescape in my suburban backyard. I’ve planted native flowers, added low-maintenance perennial plants, reduced water use, and completely eliminated synthetic chemicals.
My certified wildlife habitat includes food, water, shelter and places for all kinds of insects, birds and fuzzy critters to raise their young. But this year, I’m going to concentrate my wildlife-loving efforts to attract more hummingbirds, all season long.
These flighty birds typically show up at the end of summer to enjoy nectar from the Agastache plants. But if I start in April with a few sugar water feeders and then plant nectar-rich flowers, like bleeding hearts, they might start to show up sooner.
Spring-blooming honeysuckle flowers can also turn a hummingbird’s head. The long, tubular blossoms are the perfect shape for their needle-like bills. An arbor supports vines and provides a handy perch so birds can take a break between feedings.
If you’re ready to bring a competitive edge to your vegetable gardening — or just impress your family and friends with picture-perfect produce — here’s a special offer just for you:
Save $20 on my Craftsy class called Vegetable Gardening: Innovative Small Space Solutions.
The class includes everything a gardener needs to get started growing great vegetable gardens.
Use this special link to get your discount today!
The first review is in for my newest gardening book called Blue Ribbon Vegetable Gardening: The Secrets to Growing the Biggest and Best Prizewinning Produce.
Publisher’s Weekly wrote the review and I couldn’t be happier.
“Torpey writes giddily about vegetable gardening, going so far as to use the animated film Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit as a point of reference, and she will even entertain nongardeners with this delightful book. Dedicated gardeners will be impressed as she seriously coaches the sport of competitive vegetable growing.”
The book, published by Storey Publishing, isn’t out quite yet. The release date is set for December, but folks are already pre-ordering the book. I’ve seen the finished pages, but can’t wait to get my hands on an actual copy.
I’m glad Publisher’s Weekly mentioned how gardeners and nongardeners will like the book, because that was one of my goals when writing it.
But pre-ordering has already begun.
Just like a biennial plant, this gardening book has taken its time to put down roots and start to grow. Biennial plants typically take two years from seed to flower.
It’s like planting hollyhocks one year, seeing the rosette of green leaves the next season, and then having to wait another year to see the colors of the flowers in bloom.
The idea for Blue Ribbon Vegetable Gardening sprouted with me about four years ago. After doing the research, I found the most current books about growing perfect produce for exhibiting in vegetable contests were written about 100 years ago.
As the idea took shape, I decided I needed to grow and show some of my own garden-grown produce. That meant planting in spring and waiting to see what would be ready in late summer to take to the fair.
There will always be several jalapeno plants, but each year I enjoy adding new-to-me varieties. I’ve been known to pick a pepper plant just so I could grow enough chiles to prepare a single recipe. ‘Holy Mole’!
I’m drawn to peppers because they’re versatile in the kitchen and grow in so many different sizes, shapes and colors. There are baby bell peppers, slender green Thai chiles, long red paprika peppers and even black edible ornamentals.
Then, of course, there’s the thrill of the unknown when taking that first tantalizing bite.
Has a pepper ever made you cry or cause steam to vent from your ears? That painful burning sensation is nature’s way of letting you know you’ve had too much capsaicin. Capsaicin is the flavorless, tasteless alkaloid compound that stimulates the pain receptors in your mouth.
All of these tomatoes, from the smoky Black Krims to the small yellow pear tomatoes, grew in my small-space vegetable garden.
Some grew in the postage-stamp sized 6 x 8 vegetable bed, but most were harvested from my patio container garden.
After years of experimenting with growing vegetables in containers, I’ve learned what works best.
I’ve also learned that gardeners can grow just about any fruit, vegetable and herb in a small-space garden.
All of those tips and tricks for growing vegetables in small spaces are packed into my Craftsy online gardening class. In seven video sessions, I share all of my gardening secrets.
To celebrate summer, I’m offering my class at a special discount. Just follow this link to sign up now and you’ll save $20 on Vegetable Gardening: Innovative Small Space Solutions!
The comic book hero helped build spinach’s reputation as a power-house vegetable because of a chemist’s simple mistake.
Instead of recording spinach with 3.5 milligrams of iron per 100-gram serving, he wrote 35 milligrams. With that much iron, it’s no wonder Popeye sprouted instant biceps whenever he squeezed opened a can of spinach.
Even with the decimal in the right spot, spinach is still considered one of the healthiest superfoods around. These good-for-you greens are rich in vitamins A and C, as well as minerals like calcium, magnesium and, of course, iron.
Spinach is an easy-to-grow cool-season vegetable that belongs to the Goosefoot family with beets and chard.
One of the other great things about spinach is that it grows as well in fall as it does in spring. So get ready to plant your spinach in mid-July.
It’s peanut butter and jelly for lunch; cookies and milk for dessert.
When it comes to the garden, there’s tomatoes and basil; radishes and spinach.
These combinations of vegetables and herbs make perfect partners when grown together in the garden, especially if you’re gardening in a small space.
Basil makes the tomatoes tastier and radishes attract destructive leafminers away from the spinach. These botanical buddies are two examples of how plants team together to help each other.
Companion planting is the art and science of arranging combinations of two or more plants to benefit one another. Planting certain crops together saves garden space, controls pests and encourages healthy gardens.
Native Americans practiced companion planting for centuries by growing corn, beans and squash together. These vegetables are called the Three Sisters because they complement each other when planted in the same hill.
Please keep adding plants to your garden that attract bees with the nectar and pollen they need.
Stop using pesticides in your garden that can harm bees.
Register your pollinator garden with the Pollinator Partnership Network so we can reach 1 million gardens by 2016.
And while you’re at it, consider all the ways honeybees are special:
Bees evolved from wasps, but bees are chubbier and usually quite hairy.
All bees have some branched hairs on their bodies.
Cave paintings show that for thousands of years, people all over the world have risked physical harm in the pursuit of honey.
It’s safe to be around bees in the garden while they’re foraging for food.
Worker honey bees transform floral nectar into honey by adding enzymes and reducing the moisture.
It’s time to celebrate all that pollinators do for gardeners by doing all we can for pollinators.
Insect pollinators, like honey bees and butterflies, do much of the important work in our gardens. They fertilize plants by feeding on or walking through flowers, moving pollen from one part of the plant to another.
It’s estimated that 80 percent of plant fertilization depends on pollinators. Without their help we wouldn’t have much in the way of the fine fruits and vegetables we grow in our gardens.
Pollinators need our help to stay healthy and active. Are the bees buzzing, butterflies floating, and hummingbirds darting from flower to flower in your garden? Whether on a tiny balcony, small patio or large backyard garden, you need to encourage activity by planting flowers that provide nectar and pollen all season, from early spring to first frost.