Category Archives: Garden

Weeding and Writing Your Plant

Avid gardeners have always known that growing a garden is not only fun for children, but also teaches them skills such as patience, caring for something other than themselves, and the value of regular work, among other things.

The virtues of gardening have been expanded and taken into school classrooms around the country through a joint program by the National Science Foundation, the National Gardening Association, and the National Garden Bureau. Children in grades kindergarten through 8 learn not only simple growing methods, but also use their indoor gardens to study history, business, sociology, math, science, environmental concepts, and gain personal enhancements such as greater self-confidence and self-esteem. Who would have thought that a small garden could open a whole world of social and educational growth?


The program centers around an indoor growth chamber called a GrowLab®, a commercially produced indoor lighted garden. Through funding from its members, the National Garden Bureau donates GrowLabs to schools and organizes for materials such as growing media, seeds and other supplies to be donated as well. The National Garden Bureau also arranges for a nearby horticultural professional to “adopt” the class and work with the classroom teacher to set up the indoor garden correctly, answer questions from the students and teachers, and periodically visit the classroom. “These kids ask good, intelligent questions,” commented Nona Koivula, Executive Director of the National Garden Bureau, and one of the professionals who has adopted a class. “They want to know how cross-breeding and hybridization is done. And they want detailed answers, not simple explanations. The kids love it!”

The National Science Foundation is involved in funding this program because it wanted to get kids interested in science projects, and hopefully nurture future scientists. By being a student-centered project where the students learn by actually seeing and doing rather than just reading about concepts, students get a better grasp on what they are doing, and gain a lifelong understanding of the concepts they explore.

According to Eve Pranis, Associate Director of Education at The National Gardening Association, the GrowLab® program initially began with outdoor gardens in Cleveland, Ohio in the inner city. The positive aspects of using a garden to teach a variety of subjects was well recognized, but it was also recognized that an indoor program would overcome concerns such as safety, so the indoor gardening program was launched.

The National Gardening Association also annually awards $500 worth of outdoor gardening supplies to each of 300 schools through its Youth Garden Grants Program.

Weeding and Writing

So how does a garden teach more than botany? “It’s really quite easy to tie the garden in with other subjects,” said Eve. “Take potatoes. Kids plant potatoes and watch them grow, and then they study the history of the potato, learn its importance as a commercial crop, and also learn how it affected history such as the great potato famine in Ireland. They can study the effects of acid rain on crops in classroom science projects using the garden, and that opens many other doors about our environment.”

In Rochester, New York, Monroe Middle School teacher Jose Veras has his students using the garden to learn about business. They grow herbs that they sell to local restaurants. Students therefore learn about planning ahead (crop scheduling), selling, accounting and marketing, as well as learning about the herbs and how to grow them.

Eve pointed out that there are a variety of teaching materials available, and teachers can fashion an indoor growing program in an infinite number of ways. “They can pick and choose what they want to do,” she said, “but of course they have to have a garden.”

Equipping The Classroom

The GrowLab® units National Garden Bureau donates are 52 inches wide by 23 inches deep and 39 inches tall, and fit on a table top. The metal frame of the unit holds two 4-foot light fixtures with four special grow lights, and also has plastic trays to hold plants, a 24-hour timer for the lights, and a climate control tent to help control humidity. Up to 72, 3 1/2-inch pots can be grown on the plastic trays.

The indoor garden also comes with a guidebook produced by the National Gardening Association to help teachers set up the unit in the classroom, along with practical advice on choosing plants and supplies, and basic growing information.

And going beyond the basics is another National Gardening Association guide with a variety of classroom-tested activities and extensive teacher background information. The activities range from 2-week projects to year-long studies, so they are adaptable to virtually any classroom situation.

The activities follow a step-by-step inquiry-based cycle that promotes teamwork among the students and encourages children to think for themselves along the way. A distinctive aspect of the program is the way it is designed to teach a variety of subjects that spring from the garden. Subjects as widely ranging as language arts and drama are woven into the plant-based explorations.

There are also video tapes available that show teachers additional ways to use the indoor garden to capture students’ minds and help them to grow in knowledge.

To further support teaching efforts, there is a three-times-a-year newsletter that includes tips and advice from other educators, along with additional growing information and a variety of fresh ideas. There is also an extensive database of “partners” such as garden clubs, gardening professionals, educators and consultants that teachers can use as a resource for solving problems and getting advice.

Getting Straight A’s

What do teachers think of the program? Comments received by the National Gardening Association are highly enthusiastic. One high school teacher wrote: “I can’t say enough about how good the GrowLab®curriculum is. I’m using it with environmental units. The activity ‘PlantAcid’ was a great motivator. It spurred my class to further investigate problems from acid rain and other pollutants.”

Another teacher wrote of the program’s social benefits: “GrowLab® has provided a means to get to otherwise unreachable troublemakers. Their academic grades have improved as a result of the garden. We use it not only to teach communication skills, science and gardening, but also as a therapeutic model.”

Are the benefits of the program truly measurable? Yes, said Eve, mentioning a past evaluation study that showed that students who were involved in indoor gardening projects were scoring higher than before on understanding science and environmental concepts, and had greater confidence in their abilities to tackle difficult subjects. “After a while,” said Eve, “they say to themselves, ‘Gee, I can do this.'”

Parents or others who would like to support the program can purchase a series of informative plant posters from the National Gardening Association that can be donated to a class (see address below).

Educators wishing to learn more about the GrowLab® program and other educational programs should write to: National Gardening Association, 180 Flynn Avenue, Burlington, VT 05401. Phone 1-800-LETSGRO.

There has always been a lot of wisdom to be found in a garden, and The National Garden Bureau’s participation in this indoor gardening program is helping to bring even more wisdom and learning to young people around the country.

National Garden Bureau is a not-for-profit organization funded by 48 seed companies. Part of its mission is to encourage gardening among children. National Garden Bureau is proud of its participation in the GrowLab® program, and plans to place six additional GrowLabs in schools in 1996.

Fresh and Flavorful Vegetables Fruits

It won’t be all that long before those vegetable transplants are setting fruit and getting ready to be harvested. Nothing compares to the stand-alone taste of fresh picked vegetables eaten for their own sake, and many gardeners grow vegetables just to have raw, fresh, tasty vegetables to enjoy at harvest time. But, of course, no vegetable is truly a meal entirely unto itself. When vegetables are combined with other companions from the garden for a planned purpose, the resulting combination often has as much or greater appeal than the individual fruits that went into the recipe. While fresh vegetables enjoyed right from the garden and eaten au naturel are a worthy goal and accomplishment, preparing or using vegetables in recipes that bring out their best and combine them with other garden produce are also noteworthy. Here are a few favorites and suggestions from the National Garden Bureau.

Saucy Salsa

The growing popularity of Southwestern and Mexican cuisine has brought salsa to more tables than ever before. Americans now consume more salsa annually than they do ketchup, and since 1988 the Mexican sauce market (primarily picante and salsa) has grown at an annual rate of 13 percent. While you can purchase prepared salsa at almost any grocery store, there is always something special about salsa you grow and prepare yourself. One big advantage to homemade salsa is that you can include ingredients in the proportions that distinctively suit your taste.

What’s in a Salsa?

What goes into a salsa? While individual recipes vary, the vegetable basics include ripe tomatoes, onions, cilantro, parsley, basil and a “secret” ingredient that really makes a salsa appealing – tomatillos. Tomatillos are small members of the tomato family. They are as easy as tomatoes to grow, and their special tart flavor and texture really “make” a salsa. Toma Verde is an excellent tomatillo variety to grow for salsa. The small, ping pong ball size fruits are formed inside a paper husk that splits when the fruit is ripe. Fully ripened tomatillos are yellow in color, but for salsa, however, you’ll want to harvest tomatillos while they are still green and before the paper husk splits. Be sure to remove and discard the husk before chopping.

Cilantro, another important ingredient in salsa, is also easily grown in the home garden. There is no substitute for the tangy flavor of cilantro, and like parsley it grows quickly to a usable stage. Grow some in a garden bed or in pots in a sunny location. If you aren’t familiar with cilantro, use it sparingly in salsa or other recipes until you are comfortable with the taste it imparts. If you really like cilantro, sow successive crops a few weeks apart so that you will always have some available.

Parsley, another easy plant to grow, has a much milder flavor than cilantro. Both cilantro and parsley add color as well as flavor to a dish.

For additional color in a salsa, grow both green and purple varieties of basil. Pick mature leaves, you’ll only need a few, and leave the rest for other dishes.

Salsa Basics

To create your own salsa, remove skins from several tomatoes (scalding them in boiling water makes it easier to peel them), and chop them finely. Put them in a colander to drain. Finely chop all the other ingredients except the herbs, and add them to the tomatoes. Sprinkle with a little salt, and let everything drain in the colander for an hour or so. Depending on your personal taste, assorted hot peppers can be chopped and added to the recipe, as well as several cloves of garlic.

After draining, put all the ingredients in a large pot, add some olive oil, vinegar, the herbs that have been finely chopped, and cook over medium heat until the whole pot bubbles. If you plan to use it immediately on steaks or seafood, ladle the warm salsa directly onto the food. If you plan to use the salsa later, remove the pot from the heat and let everything cool off. Serve salsa with taco chips or other chips that can scoop up the medley. Salsa can also be canned and kept for later use or as a special holiday gift.

In addition to use as a dip, salsa also makes a great topping on potatoes, grilled steaks, and seafood.


Just as the popularity of Mexican cuisine has grown, so has the popularity of Southern Mediterranean dishes, most notably Italian. One all-time Italian favorite is Eggplant Parmesan, a popular choice with many diners because it is a tasty, meatless entree.

In addition to more elaborate preparation, eggplant is also delicious when it is simply sliced, brushed with a little olive oil, and then broiled or roasted until tender (this takes only a few minutes, so you may want to watch the slices closely so that they don’t burn).

Another excellent way to prepare eggplant is to dip slices in a beaten egg, and then coat the slices with seasoned bread crumbs. Fry these in a pan with a little olive oil and serve as a hot, tasty side dish.

Broiled or roasted eggplant slices are also excellent in sandwiches. Try some with or instead of a slice of cheese. Eggplant is also an interesting topping on pizza (try it, you’ll like it!).

Some gardeners like to peel eggplants before cooking, but this is generally unnecessary and the color of the peel adds, well, appeal.

Eggplants like a hot, sunny location for growing. To get the maximum fruit production from eggplants, feed them with a well-balanced fertilizer about once a month, and mulch around the base of the plants so that the roots stay cool and moist. Eggplants shouldn’t be transplanted to the garden until the soil has warmed and air temperatures are consistently warm both night and day. An important harvesting tip is to cut off the fruits rather than trying to pull them off when ripened. Ripened fruits will be glossy and firm. Over-ripened fruits start to soften and turn dull.

Your Own Accent

The National Garden Bureau encourages gardeners to explore different ethnic cuisines, and also suggests that gardeners be creative and add their own accent to vegetable dishes. All recipes started as experiments, and you never know what great dish might be created in your own kitchen (how about eggplant with salsa?).

Since Mother Nature frequently provides more than enough produce in a home garden, home-grown vegetables are an encouragement to try new recipes and new cuisines. And don’t forget — because they come to you straight from the garden, home-grown vegetables often have a higher nutrient content than store-bought ones.

Versatile Containers For You

One of the most versatile and easy ways to grow bushels of colorful annual flowers is in containers. The fast-growing popularity of “color bowls” is proof positive that Americans like container growing, whether they do it themselves or have someone else prepare it for them.

If It Will Hold Soil, It is a Container

While many people think primarily of terra cotta, plastic pots, glazed pots, or half-barrels as likely containers for plants, just about any “container” is a possible prospect. Car tires, old shoes, coffee pots, raw bags of growing mix, and just about anything imaginable can be used to grow plants. If whimsical is your style, don’t be afraid to try it. The basics remain the same.

The Benefits

Container growing offers many benefits, not the least of which is that you can put a “garden” just about anywhere. Cement balconies on a highrise building can become urban gardens, or splashes of color can be put on a backyard deck or patio. And, providing the containers are not too heavy, potted plants can be moved and rearranged whenever the need or mood arises.

Without a doubt, container gardens will require less weeding than in-ground counterparts, making them ideal for busy people who love gardening but have limited time. However, watering has to be watched more closely. Containers in hot sun can dry out quickly, and even a gentle summer breeze will wick moisture from plants. Be prepared to water daily or even twice daily during long, hot, dry spells.

Start with a Plan

Where would you like to put your containers and what would you like to grow? If an area receives full sun most of the day, you can choose from a wide selection of sun-loving flowers. If the area receives limited sun, choose plants that tolerate less light, and shady areas, of course, call for shade-loving plants. With containers, one of the advantages is that you can move them to keep them in the sun, if you have the time.

Once you know where you want to grow, choosing WHAT to grow is the next big step. No matter what you grow, plan out each container or grouping of containers, making notes of what you would like where. For appealing groupings, include plants of different heights, colors and textures, keeping in mind that plants taller than one and one-half times the height of the container may look unbalanced.

For maximum interest and to create depth, plan groupings of three to five different sized containers – for example, one or two large pots with plants reaching about 2 or 3 feet tall, one with 18-inch plants, and two with 12-inch or smaller plants. When grouped, these plants will give a three-dimensional look to your mini-garden.

One common mistake made with container gardens is choosing the wrong combination of plants. Don’t mix shade-loving plants with sun-loving plants in the same container or in the same grouping. Shade-plants will not perform as well in full sun, and full-sun plants will not perform their best in limited light. Even if mixed and put in partial sun and partial shade, neither type will give its best show. Stick to one type in a container and in a grouping.

You can also create a garden that you can vary quickly by planting masses of one color and variety in separate containers, and then grouping and re-grouping them as you like; one pot of a trailing flower, or one of a mass flower such as marigolds, as illustrated.

Container Basics

Choose a container deep enough for the root systems of the plants you will be growing, and one that will hold ample soil for both support and water retention. A good container will have a drainage hole at the bottom. Before adding soil, put some gravel or pieces of broken pots over the hole to prevent the soil from washing out with each watering. Good drainage can prevent soggy soil that limits a plant’s uptake of needed oxygen. Overwatering is more of a problem with plants grown in the shade than with plants grown in full sun. If you want to use a decorative container that doesn’t have a drainage hole, consider placing a pot in a pot. Put a few inches of gravel in the bottom of the decorative pot to hold the flowering pot off the bottom.

Use a good, sterile, porous potting medium for filling your containers. Mixing a time-release fertilizer into the medium can help feed the plants as they grow.

There are three ways to grow plants for your containers. You can sow seed directly into the container to start them. If you do this, follow the germinating instructions on the seed packet, and be prepared to thin out the plants when they are young. You can also start from seed using a starter kit, and then transplant the seedlings to the containers when they are ready. Or, you can purchase started bedding plants at your local garden center or nursery and plant those in the containers.

How many plants per container? If you provide enough soil and water you can space plants closer together than usual recommendations. In a larger pot, you could plant nine to 12 transplants of flowers, depending on how spreading they are. Be careful not to overplant, or when the plants mature they will overpower and overshadow one another and look too crowded.

Designing a Container Garden

Color, texture and flower form are the basic elements in designing a container garden. With color today, anything goes. Gone are the days when pink and scarlet clashed – today you can combine any colors you want in a pot or in a grouping.

Texture is often best brought out by including foliage plants such as leather-leaved ferns, or asparagus sprengeri with its long lacy fronds. Let trailing plants spill over the edges of the containers to soften and de-formalize plantings. Some perennial ground covers offer interesting textures, and can be dug up and replanted in the garden in fall when the annuals have died back.

Flower forms can be grouped into three basic shapes. Line forms like salvia spendens or snapdragons are tall and spiky. Mass forms such as daisies, petunias or marigolds have many small or large flowers. Focus forms such as African marigolds, or a spectacular geranium plant, are characterized by large or distinctive flowers.

One example of combining these forms would be a large container of red salvia (upright form and tall), pale blue petunias (round, masses of flowers, medium height), and white alyssum (small, lacy flowers, low and trailing). Or use tall blue lavender for height, and white petunias and red creeping phlox for color.

Plant individual pots of one type (all salvia, for example, or combine one or two types in a larger pot (salvia and sprengeri), depending on the look you want for your grouping. The idea is to combine color, texture and varying heights in a grouping of containers.

Container Garden Care

Keep your containers well watered, and watch for any wilting when the wind blows. If no fertilizer was incorporated with the growing mix, be sure to fertilize plants so that they keep growing smartly. Weed as necessary.

Container growing isn’t that much different than growing plants in a garden plot, but can offer more versatility and a lot less weeding work.

This Flowering Vines

There’s something irresistibly romantic about a split-rail fence softened with intense clove-scented sweetpeas. Flowering vines of all sorts add an extravagant air to outdoor living areas. Whether a living curtain of morning glories softly shading a west kitchen window or a white picket fence embellished with a tumble of bright, sunny black-eyed Susan vines, flowering vines can add privacy, disguise harsh landscape elements, and give an aura of beauty.

Many annual vines grow fast enough to cover a trellis in only a few weeks. By mid-season, you can have an entire trellis softly covered with foliage to block the winds, offer some shade and add privacy.

The options for using annual vines are endless. Plant them in the ground in front of a window pane trellis or a tree wrapped with a flexible trellis. Use them in a planter box with a redwood fan, a pot with a topiary frame, or in a hanging basket or window box.

A particularly attractive option if you have limited room is to construct a trellis in a planter box on a deck or balcony. Annual vines covering the trellis will add beauty without sacrificing room.

Most annual vines attach themselves to a supporting structure with twining stems or twining tendrils. This allows them to attach easily to chain link, wire or thin strips of wood. Although it takes considerably more work to train one of these vines to a trellis made of wide boards, it can be done. They will not cling to a brick or wooden wall, though.

It may take some assistance from you to get them started onto a trellis, but once they’ve taken hold, your job is finished except to sit back and enjoy. A good way to “help” plants onto trellises is with vinyl-covered fencing. This is heavier than chicken wire, has holes about 1 x 2 inches and lasts several seasons because of the vinyl coating. The vines and tendrils twine readily around the thin wires. This fencing is fairly inexpensive and since the vinyl coating is green, it literally disappears from view when it’s in place.

Now for the vines! Sweetpeas (Lathyrus odorata), old-fashioned favorites, come in all sizes, from two feet and bushy to eight foot climbers. Their pea blossoms range from splendid scarlet to soft pink to white to purple with all combinations of bi-colors. Although their beauty can be overwhelming, perhaps their best trait is the intoxicating perfume. Sweetpeas bloom best in full sun in the cooler weather of spring and summer. They need rich soil that retains moisture, and can be planted directly outside after frost or started indoors about six weeks before the last frost.

Morning glories (Ipomoea purpurea), with their familiar clear blue, pink, scarlet or magenta trumpets, are some of the fastest growing annual vines with the added benefit of glorious flower displays. Whorled buds unfurl gracefully each morning and fade by early evening, only to be replaced by new buds for the next morning.

Morning glories are a logical choice for containers with trellises since the plants can get somewhat rampant in the garden. They will grow in almost any soil, in full sun or partial shade, and are easily started directly in the garden after frost is passed. Morning glory seed has a hard seed coat, be sure to soak the seed overnight or nick the coat with a file before sowing seed in prepared garden soil.

A close companion to the Morning glory is Moonflower or Moon Vine (Ipomoea alba). Its crystal white flowers resemble morning glory blossoms, but unlike Morning glories which peak in the morning, its blossoms open as dusk approaches and remain open through the night. As the flowers open, a sensual perfume begins to waft through the evening. Moonflowers on a trellis next to a bedroom window is the stuff dreams are made of. They require the same growing conditions as Morning glory, but do not have quite the rampant habit.

For a dense screen coupled with unique flowers, consider the Balloon Vine or Love-in-a-Puff (Cardiospermum halicacabum) or Cup-and-Saucer vine (Cobaea scandens). Both vines will cover a trellis or pergola quickly to give you shade or a solid screen. Balloon vines, which grow to ten feet, have tiny white orchid-like flowers followed by whimsical greenish balloon fruits. Plant balloon vines in full sun and average garden soil after danger of frost has passed. Cup-and-Saucer vines have peculiar reddish-purple cup-shaped flowers, nestled in light green saucers. Start seeds indoors about six weeks before the last frost or seed directly into the garden after danger of frost has passed. These prolific vines can stretch to twenty feet in one season.

Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus), another old-fashioned flower, deserves its place alongside other annual vines. Although it grows only to about six feet, it is a beautiful companion to other vines that grow higher. Its bright yellow, orange, red and white spurred flowers appear like jewels amid round matte-finish dusty green leaves. The blossoms have an extraordinarily sweet scent that will fill a room when cut and brought indoors. A close relative, Canary flower or Canary Bird Vine, (Tropaeolum peregrinum) will envelop a trellis with small feathery yellow flowers and delicate palmate leaves. All Nasturtiums grow and bloom best in poor soil. Rich soil will produce abundant foliage and few flowers. Seed Nasturtiums and Canary flowers directly into the garden after the soil has warmed somewhat.

Black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata) is a delicate vine that grows only to about six feet. Although it can be trained onto a trellis, its best use is in a hanging basket or window box where its thin stems can dangle in the wind. The blue-green foliage is decorated with bright orange, gold, yellow or white flowers with dark brown eyes. The aging flowers turn varying shades of cream to yellow, so the plant is covered with many variations of color at one time. Start seeds indoors six weeks before the last frost, and provide well-drained soil and full sun.

Hyacinth Bean (Dolichos lablab) produces attractive blue-green leaves to complement its striking dark purple pea-like flowers and lovely purple bean pods. Hyacinth beans can grow to 15 feet or more in a summer if given average garden soil and plenty of water. Sow seeds directly in the garden after danger of frost has passed.

When planning to use annual vines, keep in mind that combinations can be absolutely charming. Combine old-fashioned Sweetpeas with Morning glories to cover the upper and lower parts of a trellis. Canary vine combined with climbing Nasturtium or Hyacinth bean makes a truly beautiful display.

You Can Homegrown In The City

Cucumbers are cool and peppers are hot as many people are showing renewed interest in growing their own vegetables. Today’s vegetable gardens come in a variety of sizes, shapes and styles, and can be found in a backyard, on a patio, even on a rooftop.

A national survey from the Garden Writers Association Foundation found that vegetable or fruit plants are second on the list of plants gardeners plan to purchase this spring – up from fourth place just a year ago. Thirty-nine percent (39%) of consumers plan on buying vegetable or fruit plants, behind lawn and grass (54%) but ahead of both annual (35%) and perennial flowers (31%), as well as trees and shrubs (35%).

There may be several reasons for this increased interest in vegetable gardening. Skyrocketing gas prices and increasing food costs at the grocery store are pinching our wallets. Food-borne illnesses and safety issues make us unsure about the food we buy and where it comes from. Concern about the environment is forcing us to look at how best to use our natural resources.

Vicki Nowicki of Downers Grove, Illinois, a gardener for more than 25 years, loves to grow her own vegetables because “I can just walk outside my door and pick my vegetables.” Vicki says she doesn’t have to use gasoline or pollute the air driving to the store and the vegetables are ready to eat at their peak of freshness. Better variety and flavor are other reasons. “I can grow what I want to grow and not be limited to the few “tastes” you find in a grocery store.” She finds homegrown food to be fresher, healthier, higher in nutrition, and feels it simply tastes better than store-bought produce.

While many of her vegetables are planted in the ground, others including herbs, lettuce and peppers are growing in containers to keep rabbits from eating the plants. Gardening in containers gives Vicki greater flexibility too. Vicki moves the containers to take advantage of the changing sunlight throughout the seasons and finds they are great for filling in the empty garden spaces after a crop has been harvested. Flowers are planted among the vegetables for the color they add to the landscape and the beneficial insects they attract for a healthier garden.

In addition to tending her own garden, Vicki supports a national movement to create Liberty Gardens as a way to grow delicious, organic food that nourishes both the family and the land. This may be one of the answers to today’s economic uncertainty, just as the World War II Victory Gardens were 65 years ago when fuel rationing made it difficult to harvest fruits and vegetables and transport them from the farms to the city. Back during that time almost 20 million people, many of whom had no idea how to plant seeds or use a hoe, grew a Victory Garden. It is estimated these gardens produced an amazing 8 million tons of food representing 40 percent of all the vegetables that were consumed.

Gayla Trail of Toronto, Canada is an adventurous city gardener with three different urban gardens. The rooftop of her apartment building has containers of all shapes and sizes filled with a bountiful selection of herbs, vegetables, fruit plants, and edible flowers. Heirloom tomatoes, lettuce and other greens, hot peppers, and a variety of basils along with raspberries, strawberries, violas and nasturtiums provide a harvest of delicious food from spring through fall.

In a nearby vacant lot, Gayla’s “guerilla garden” has sprung from the dead, contaminated soil of the inner city. It is filled with drought tolerant perennials that can withstand the lack of water and threats of growing in an urban area. While many of her neighbors have come to appreciate the beauty of the garden, there are others who take the flowers and damage the plants. Despite setbacks, Gayla continues to care for and replenish the garden as her personal contribution to creating green space in any area where there isn’t much to look at.

Gayla’s third garden is in a community garden, which gives her the opportunity to grow vegetables in the ground and to enjoy the interaction with other gardeners. Any extra produce that she cannot use is often traded with another gardener or given away to friends and neighbors.

Gardening has changed many of Gayla’s perceptions about the environment, making her more aware of the changes that come with each season. Like many others who enjoy nature, Gayla finds gardening is good for her spirit. Where there is not a lot of greenery, her garden has created a green space where “I have the opportunity every day to step out on my roof and enjoy nature.”

Urban Gardens
A new and often extreme approach to vegetable gardening is occurring in cities across the U.S. and Canada. Urbanites are replacing lawns, even entire front yards, with vegetable gardens. Supporters of these “mini-farms” feel growing food is a better use of land and water resources than cultivating an expanse of grass. In addition to growing vegetables for personal consumption, many of these urban farmers are generating income by selling their produce at farmers markets or to restaurants. However, these front yard gardens are not without controversy as neighbors and homeowner’s associations may oppose them saying the vegetable gardens detract from the general appearance of the neighborhood.

Community Gardens
Community gardens offer many city dwellers access to land where they can grow their own productive garden. As food costs rise, families, especially those with a low or limited income, find that fresh vegetables and fruits become unaffordable. Community gardens not only provide fresh, nutritious produce for nearby residents, they offer a place for the neighborhood to come together and interact, and bring a sense of pride and ownership to the community. Some community gardens are specifically for children to help them understand the importance of where their food comes from, ecology and to make a connection with nature; while others use the garden as a way for kids to earn money by selling the fresh vegetables they have grown.

Benefits of Gardening in the City
Whether it’s a small backyard garden, containers on a rooftop or a large community garden, urban gardens contribute to the community in many ways. The green space adds to the quality of life in the city and can contribute to increased property values. It is estimated that green vegetation reflects as much as 25% of the sun’s radiation, reducing the heat island effect found in cities. Gardens also provide areas for rain runoff, minimizing soil erosion as well as recycling water back into the environment. The open space, food and water found in a garden provide important areas for wildlife inhabiting urban areas.

Help Feed the Hungry
We hope all successful gardeners will consider donating excess garden fruits and vegetables to Plant a Row for the Hungry (PAR), an excellent program based on the simple concept of people helping people. If every gardener plants one extra row of vegetables and donates their surplus to local food banks and soup kitchens, a significant impact can be made on reducing hunger. Food agencies will have access to fresh produce and the hungry of America will have more and better food than is presently available.

PAR’s role is to provide focus, direction, and support to volunteer committees. They coordinate the local food collection system and monitor the volume of donations being conveyed to the soup kitchens and food banks. PAR is proving that every individual can make a difference in his/her community. For more information please or call toll-free 877.492.2727 or email PAR is sponsored by the GWA Foundation.

For More Information
Seed companies, garden centers, books, magazines, and gardening websites provide a wealth of information about garden designs, variety selection, gardening techniques, harvesting and even recipes. The National Garden Bureau’s website ( has a gardening section filled with fact sheets containing detailed information about growing a variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers. Your local county extension office has extensive resources about gardening specific to your area of the country. To locate an extension office near you, go Or if you are interested in community gardens including locations in your area, visit the American Community Gardening Association at

Urban areas offer as many ways to garden as there are people who live there. Start small, have fun and enjoy all the benefits of growing your own, healthy and flavorful fresh vegetables.

Herbs At The Name Game

Etymology (the history of a word; tracing its development and transmission from one language to another) is fascinating. And nowhere more so than in the names of herbs—culinary, medicinal, dye, and other useful plants. Many herb names (botanic and/or common) have their roots in Latin or Greek. This often reflects its original purpose, which may be quite different from the modern application.

The common name of a plant can vary from region to region and country to country while the botanic name is the same throughout the world—only the accent varies. Of course, what can be tricky is that the derivation of the moniker, such as bloom time, may hold true in the region where it was named, but varies in other climates and latitudes. For clarity, the best-known common name as well as the botanic name are included here so that we are all focused on the same plant.

Carl von Linné, the Swedish botanist (1707-1778), who introduced botanical nomenclature (all those Latin words which can seem like Greek to many of us), even gave himself a Latin name—Carolus Linnaeus. One of his projects was a planted floral clock. He included chicory (Cichorium intybus) because its blue flowers reliably open and close their petals at the same time every day. Four o’clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) owe their appellation to him, as in Sweden they open at four o’clock in the afternoon. However, most American gardeners cannot synchronize their watches to these fragrant, evening bloomers, as they open much later in the day—generally at dusk. Four o’clocks are not herbs—although the loose definition of an herb is a useful plant. However, the four o’clocks in my garden that are getting ready to bloom begged to be included; would you dare to jinx a plant?

Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is derived from the Latin calensmeaning “the first day of each month,” since it can bloom every month of the year in mild regions. Another common name, pot marigold, came from the fact that calendulas were often grown in containers, andmarygold—the name early Christians gave it as it bloomed at the time of all the festivals that celebrate the Virgin Mary. Calendula’s culinary roots date back to ancient Rome when the use of saffron (the powdered stigmas of the exotic saffron crocus, Crocus sativus) was a sign of wealth and power. The common people couldn’t afford to buy “pure gold,” but they discovered that powdered calendula petals were an excellent culinary substitute. Hence, another common name—poor man’s saffron—as chopped calendula petals (fresh or dried) infuse food with the same golden color and slightly acrid flavor as the expensive saffron.

Sage is derived from the Latin salvare, meaning “to save.” For centuries, sage was reputed to have great curative and healing properties. The old Latin proverb, “Cur moriatur homo, ciu calvia crescit in horto?” (“Why should a man die while sage grows in his garden?”), pays homage to the high esteem in which the herb was held.

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) gets its common name from the Latinnasus for “nose” and torquere, which translates “to twist.”Nasturtiums certainly are nose twisters, although whether this refers to the fragrance of the plant or the peppery quality of the leaves and edible flowers that can twitch the nose is uncertain.

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) and its Allium relatives have been honored herbs for millennia. The botanic species name is derived from the Greek schoinos, meaning “rush,” and prason for “leek.” Indeed, the hollow narrow stems do resemble a stand of rushes and have the same oniony scent and flavor as their cousin, the leek.

Borage is likely a derivation from the Latin burra meaning “a shaggy garment,” referring to the rough foliage of this lovely herb once believed to have great powers. According to Pliny the Elder (noted Roman scientist, 23–79 A.D.), it brought happiness and joy wherever it grew. In Gerard’s Herball, published in 1597, Gerard quotes the belief carried down from the Greeks and Romans, “I, Borage, bring always Courage.”

Pliny named the pungent herb Rosmarinus, a Latin derivation of ros maris meaning “sea dew,” for its native habitat—the rocky coasts of the Mediterranean. Purportedly, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis—the wordofficinalis is a nod to a plant’s medicinal use) can restore memory. Its role has varied over the millennia—to bring good luck, fend off witches, and disinfect the air.

The botanic name—Origanum vulgaris—and the common name—oregano (also known as wild marjoram)—have the same Greek roots.Oros is “mountain” and ganos means “joy.” The purplish-red tufts of flowers are indeed a joy to behold—spectacular on their native Mediterranean hillsides. Such a sight must evoke a smile; historically, oregano has been a symbol of happiness. In both ancient Greece and Rome, the bride and groom wore wreaths of oregano to symbolize the joy of their union.

Dill derives its name from the Old Norse word dilla, meaning “to lull.” The oil derived from the seed has long been used to soothe colicky babies and settle adult digestive upsets. Ancient Romans wove the yellow flowers into wreaths that served a double duty in their banquet halls. The pretty decorations had a unique aroma, which was at the same time fresh and spicy. Perhaps we would be better off using dill flowers than electric “plug-in” air fresheners for our homes.

Technically speaking, dill seeds are not an herb; they are a spice. Generally an herb comes from the leaves of a temperate-climate, herbaceous (non-woody) plant, while a spice comes from the bark or seeds of a tropical tree. So it follows that dillweed (leaves) is an herb, while the seed is a spice. Dill is not the only herb to have a dual personality. Mustard does too—the greens are a culinary herb, while the seeds are the spice that is ground into the pungent paste most commonly slathered on hot dogs. In the case of cilantro/coriander(Coriander sativum), the same plant has two different names, depending on what you harvest. Cilantro leaves are a popular herb used in Mexican and Asian cuisines, while coriander seeds—the spice—are most popular in Middle Eastern and Indian cookery.

Herbs continue to increase in popularity. Novice and expert gardeners realize there is a vast amount to learn about herbs, spices and the difference between the two.

This Vegetables The Fresher The Better

Even in the dead of winter, you can recall the juiciness and delightful sweetness that burst forth in your mouth, as you tasted the first sun-warmed cherry tomato picked straight from your garden. The first bite is most memorable, yet the superb flavor is there in every tomato you harvest through the season. In fact, the quintessence of any homegrown vegetable or fruit is superior to comparable store-bought veggies, or even those purchased at a farm stand. The fresher, the better—taste, texture, and especially nutrients.

While small vegetable plants are available at garden centers, nurseries, or stores, often these plants have been stressed or outgrown their pots. It is less expensive to buy a pack of seeds, which may contain dozens of seeds, than a tomato plant. Growing from seed is so much more rewarding; sowing the seeds, keeping the soil lightly moist, waiting for the first signs of life emerging from the soil, nurturing the plant as it grows, feeding, weeding, pruning, and finally harvesting the fruits of your labor. For some people, the idea of growing vegetables from seed is daunting. Yet it shouldn’t be. It’s easy when you sow the seeds outdoors at the proper time, rather than starting them inside. A few veggies may be challenging to grow, needing special soil preparation, or may not be suitable for your environment, so focus on the easy ones like beans, tomatoes or squash. Most seed packets have all the information you’ll need to grow the plants: a United States map showing ideal planting time, planting directions, how long it has to grow before harvesting, and more. Taking the time to read the information on the packet, in the catalog or on the net before buying will help you choose the right variety for your garden.

Many gardeners prefer seed. The choice of varieties seems limitless, whereas the selection of small plants or starts is limited. For example, there may be as many as ten different tomato plant varieties (often less) at the garden center, while you can find a greater variety of tomato seeds on the revolving racks and shelves inside the store. For an even greater selection, check out seed catalogs; or you can find most of the seed companies on the Internet. Between the luscious color photos and the lively description online or in print, you can practically conjure up the flavor of the tomato and the tangy scent of the stems and leaves. There are even two mail-order companies that specialize in tomatoes—offering more than 400 varieties. From raisin-size currant tomatoes to two-pound beefsteaks, tomatoes come in a range of sizes, shapes, and colors and hues—yellow, red, orange, green, and purple—solid color, striped, or bicolor. The choices are many and varied—but only if you choose to grow them from seed. Seeds planted directly in the garden will usually catch up quickly with transplants purchased or started indoors. An easy way to add early color to the garden is painting the tomato stakes or tomato cages bright colors—yellow, blue, orange, purple, even gold or silver.

Exciting and unusual forms and colors exist in many vegetables: yellow or purple carrots, red celery, purple-podded beans, purple Brussels sprouts, red and white (like a peppermint stick) beets, yellow lemon-shaped cucumbers, white eggplant, and others are only available from seed. There are so many colors and flavors in these diverse varieties that you would miss out on some remarkable veggies if you didn’t grow from seed.

It’s surprising how few people—adults and children alike—really know where vegetables come from: Mother Earth. In this day and age, when inch-and-a-half peeled carrots come in lunch-size plastic bags, anyone would be hard-pressed to conceive that carrots are a root vegetable grown in the soil. Children are the gardeners of the future; encourage them to take part in the total vegetable gardening experience. Too many children have been relegated to weeding, and grow up without an appreciation of gardening. Yet, when kids plant seeds, nurture them, and finally get to harvest the vegetables, they are in awe. Watch a child’s eyes pop as a carrot emerges from the soil when he pulls on the greens.

Interestingly, children who grow vegetables they normally spurn on the dinner table—even broccoli and spinach—will eat their own homegrown veggies. Kids will munch them in the garden; keep a source of water nearby for rinsing before eating.

It’s easy to share the “secrets” of gardening casually with friends and neighbors—learning by imitation. Integrate vegetables into a front or backyard garden for edible pizzazz. Use your imagination. For instance, line your walkway with mixed salad greens. Toss an assortment of seeds: non-heading lettuces, spinach, dill, corn salad, red mustard, cilantro, mizuna, and curly endive all together in a bowl, and then sprinkle the seeds on bare soil. Within a few weeks, the seedlings need thinning. Cut off the roots and they’re perfect for a salad. You’ll find neighbors who are curious about the plantings. Let them have a taste. Encourage them to stop by in the late afternoons to help themselves to some fresh greens for dinner. The only rule is to only take as many leaves or stems as you need for immediate use, harvesting one or two outer leaves from any plant. It’s fun for them, as well as educational.

Growing vegetables brings out the best in all of us. Our nourishing instinct, patience, sharing, serenity, and a connection to the Earth and soil, and, of course, all the exercise involved, provide the best reward—food. Vegetable gardening from seed has a positive effect on all our senses. Sight – watching the seed grow from planting to harvest. Smell – the sweet perfume of a ripe melon. Taste – the superior flavor of fresh-picked veggies. Touch – the feel of the prickly skin of a pickling cucumber. Sound – if you sit quietly in the late afternoon, you really can hear the corn grow.

Nurturing Seed

The tragic events of the 11th of September 2001 changed the world, the way we view it, and how we relate to it. In the aftermath, more and more people are seeking solace and tranquility-their own quiet personal space. Many have turned to gardening for solace. Any time spent in the garden is beneficial-to the gardener, humanity in general, and to the Earth.

With all of the various aspects to gardening, it affords universal appeal-to young and old, males and females, beginners and experienced gardeners. Gardening affects people in a variety of positive ways. It can be calming, soothing to the soul, clearing the mind at the end of a day (explore the Zen of weeding and pruning).

As far as I’m concerned, anyone who gets his hands in the soil is a gardener. The very contact of skin with the soil helps to ground us (literally and figuratively) to the Earth. Getting down and dirty working in a garden-from planting seeds to watering them, from feeding plants to managing pests and diseases, and even cutting flowers to enjoy indoors-is one of the healthiest pastimes to engage in. Gardening incorporates good exercise with relaxation. Time in the sun supplies natural vitamin D.

Growing flowers has some distinct advantages. The colors show off an area, inviting us outdoors to admire them. Blossoms encourage us to slow down, admire, and smell the flowers. Flowers can set the mood. Bright hot colors-red, orange, yellow-add pizzazz, while cool colors-white, blue, purple-tone it down, which can be refreshing in the heat of summer.

It is “a good thing,” whether purchasing seedlings, small plants, or starting them yourself from seed. Yet it somehow feels more rewarding when growing the flowers from seed. The process brings out many of our good personality traits that are often concealed under the outward visage of today’s harried, stressed life.

Planting a seed brings out nurturing instincts. As the seed germinates and grows, it’s impossible not to become attached to the plant-if you want it to survive and thrive. With each passing day, your emotional investment in the plant grows, as does the plant. And then, the first flower bud appears and opens its petals. It’s so exciting! That first blossom is the ultimate reward for your diligence-a wonderful sense of accomplishment boosting your self-esteem. The enjoyment and feeling of fulfillment continues as the days and weeks pass and flowering keeps going.

If this is fun for adults, imagine how exciting it can be for a child to witness the wonders of nature firsthand. However, too many adults don’t have fond childhood memories of themselves in the garden; their parents gave them chores such as weeding or watering. To a child, chores are not fun; they are to be avoided if at all possible.

Give a child a sunflower seed and tell him or her that before long, the seed will turn into a plant that will grow so tall as to tower over him or her. Unbelievable but true! Sunflowers are the best flowers for children to grow. Their fast growth habit is impressive and will keep the child’s interest. Adults, who fondly remember time in the garden as children, often recall starting out with a sunflower seed. The gardening experience was so significant that it is permanently etched in their minds.

Adults can get as much pleasure from growing sunflowers as a child does. The dinner-plate flowers are extraordinary in varied hues of yellow-some marked with green, brown, or red. Yet all sunflowers are not mammoth giants. Their height can range from two to twelve feet or more, depending on the variety. Excellent and long lasting as cut flowers-striking in a vase-whether solo or as a bouquet. Sunflowers are unique for their delicious seeds.

A planting that includes the five following flowers-all members of the daisy family-is guaranteed to enliven any garden from late spring to frost. Old-fashioned flowers (and newer cultivars), they all grow relatively tall-three to four feet (with some lower-growing varieties), and are good as cut flowers. In fact, cutting flowering stems actually encourages more blooms. Best of all, each is easy to grow from seed planted directly in the garden. Although the seeds can be sown indoors and then transplanted into the garden after spring thaw, it is easier and more reliable to start them outside. In addition, they all have the tendency to self-sow; it is often only necessary to plant seeds the first year as they may come back. Take photos of the seedlings as they emerge from the soil to provide a reference for the following spring, preventing accidentally weeding out “good” plants.

Zinnias, Zinnia elegans, (pronounced zeen-yuz in the Midwest and South, and zin-ee-uhs in the East and West) are also exceptional cut flowers. Old-fashioned varieties can reach two and one-half to three feet-right at a child’s eye level. Even a small planting of zinnias creates a riot of color in deep reds, oranges, magentas, pinks, and even some bicolors-all summer long. Although often included in a cutting garden, if space is limited, a small planting provides enough flowers to enjoy indoors while painting a pretty picture in the garden.

Traditional bachelor’s-buttons, Centaurea cyanus, are sky blue, resembling chicory that grows wild along roadways in late spring and summer. The one-inch-wide flowers have a somewhat shaggy look with their roughly overlapping petals. Newer cultivar colors are white, pink, and maroon.

Mexican sunflowers, Tithonia rotundifolia, (also called Mexican hats) are not sunflowers, yet their vivid orange, two- to four-inch, daisylike blooms rival the impact of sunflowers. There are short or tall varieties available. In rich soil with ample space, a single tall plant can be mistaken for a shrub at 6 feet. Cultivars come in varying shades of orange, and, more recently, yellow.

Cosmos bipinnatus (Mexican asters) have a lovely light, airy look with their dainty, fernlike foliage and daisylike flowers. Traditionally, the flower colors are pink, white, or magenta, all with yellow centers. Cosmos add a cool touch to the garden. Orange blooms are now part of the color palette.

Lastly, remember to include Gloriosa daisies, Rudbeckia hirta. Resembling Black-Eyed Susans, they harmonize well with Mexican sunflowers, orange cosmos, and sunflowers-each with a similar form, distinguished by flower size and hue.

All of these easy-to-grow flowers can be found in mail order catalogs or seed packet racks in retail stores. Go to the Member Directory in to locate retail seed sources.

Here The Healing Garden

In the best of times flowers help us celebrate the joyous occasions in our lives—the birth of a child, a wedding, career or personal success. In more difficult times plants give us hope and inspiration to meet the challenges of life.

The role of the plants and gardens in healing is ancient. As early as 3000 B.C. the Chinese were using medicinal herbs. The Greeks built a temple for Aesclepius, their god of healing, set among mineral springs, bathing pools, and healing gardens. Green was a sacred color in ancient Egypt and represented the hope of spring that brought new vegetation and life.

In colonial America, the Quakers felt a deep attachment to nature and believed gardens were a place of creativity for the mind and body. Growing plants was a way to relax and restore the soul. One of the first programs to use plants in a therapeutic setting was established in 1879 at Philadelphia’s Friends Hospital after a physician noticed that psychiatric patients working in the hospital’s fields and flower gardens were calmer and that the gardens had a “curative” effect on them.

In more recent times, advances in technology and new drugs have been the focus of treatment at medical institutions. However, within the past few decades, the medical community around the world is rediscovering the healing power of gardens. Many hospitals and health care facilities are incorporating green spaces, flowerbeds and views of gardens into their surroundings and horticultural therapy programs are often an important part of a patient’s course of treatment.

Healing gardens can be found in a variety of institutions including substance abuse treatment centers, outpatient clinics, long-term care facilities, hospices and retirement homes, as well as in botanic gardens and arboreta around the world. In Cleveland, Ohio the Men’s Garden Club worked with homeless women in temporary housing to create The Serenity Garden, a therapeutic green space that replaced the bleak asphalt paving that had filled the back yard of the facility. The Center for Victims of Torture in Minneapolis, Minnesota developed their Garden of Healing to aid in the healing process of people who have suffered psychological and physical abuse. Oregon’s Portland Memory Garden provides a safe and enjoyable setting that addresses the restorative power of gardens for patients with Alzheimer’s.

Doctors at the Jupiter Medical Center in Florida found that cardiology patients in rehab who had a view of that facility’s Jacqueline Fiske Healing Garden from their room took less pain medication and had shorter hospital stays than those patients who could not see the garden.

For an individual recovering from a serious illness such as cancer or stroke, gardens can be an important part of healing by providing hope and inspiration. Hope in Bloom is a non-profit organization in Massachusetts that installs gardens at no cost at the homes of women (and men) undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Each garden is developed specifically to the home and lifestyle of each recipient in order to give them a tranquil place to escape from the world of doctors, hospitals and sickness.

Clare Cooper Marcus, Professor Emerita in the College of Environmental Design at the University of California at Berkeley, found her garden had a strong impact on her coping and healing during several bouts with cancer. A gardener since childhood, she has always found the garden to be a comforting retreat—a place where her anxieties dissipate into the ground.

Throughout her illness and treatment Cooper Marcus wrote in a journal and discovered that working in the garden had symbolic parallels to her illness. When Cooper Marcus decided to clear a corner of her garden cluttered and overgrown with brambles, she realized it was similar to the chemo drugs eliminating the cancer cells from her body and making her healthy again. Cooper Marcus now focuses on the therapeutic aspects of gardens and their design through her consulting business, Healing Landscapes.

Whether tending to a houseplant, growing some flowers or turning an outdoor garden into a relaxing retreat, plants have the power to heal our body and our soul. Research has shown that working in the garden can benefit everyone. The physical efforts of gardening—digging, planting, bending and walking—are great forms of exercise to keep the body healthy. Strenuous yard work such as digging or weeding not only burns calories, it is similar to weight training in building bones and preventing osteoporosis. Gardens and gardening activity can also improve mental outlook and our emotional mood by reducing stress, anxiety and depression. Studies have found that gardening can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, which reduces the risk of heart disease. Researchers at the Cleveland Botanical Garden found that the blood pressure of many visitors dropped the longer they stayed in the gardens.

A healing garden can take many forms but always provides interaction with nature. Visually plants provide inspirational colors or peaceful tones. We can hear the relaxing sound of water or the stimulating activity of visiting wildlife. The rich aroma of fresh earth and the delightful scent of perfumed herbs fill the air we breathe, while the fresh flavor of a crispy pea pod or sweet berry tempts our taste buds. We can touch the velvety smoothness of a flower petal or be touched by the movement of leaves in the wind.

Begin to create your own garden of healing today simply by planting a container filled with colorful flowers, a nutritious vegetable, or an herb such as lavender, sage, basil or thyme. In addition to being attractive and aromatic, these and many other herbs have been used medicinally for centuries. Watching and nurturing any plant as it grows provides power and energy to enhance your well-being.

In an outdoor setting, incorporating a few simple design elements turns any garden into a place of healing and inspiration.

  • Grow plants that you find pleasing. Are you energized by bright colors? Then include annuals such as zinnias, petunias, sunflowers or cosmos. If you enjoy cooking, incorporate herbs, vegetables and edible flowers into your garden. Plants such as sage or lavender can be harvested and used for aromatherapy.
  • Include a place to sit and observe the beauty of nature or a path for walking through the garden. Enclose it with shrubs or fencing to create a secluded retreat.
  • Add a focal point for meditation and reflection such as a piece of sculpture, a special plant, interesting rocks, wind chimes or a water fountain.
  • Encourage butterflies, birds, insects and other wildlife to the garden for their healing energy. Birdfeeders and birdhouses quickly and easily begin attracting garden visitors. Choose plants that supply nectar and food including coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), butterfly flower (Aesclepias tuberosa) salvias (Salvia spp.), dill, parsley and sunflowers.

The design and development of a healing garden, just like the process of healing and recovery, takes place over time. It is that journey and the time spent with nature that heals our body and soul.

For additional resources about therapeutic gardens, visit the Therapeutic Landscapes Database (, which lists healing gardens throughout the United States and Canada, as well as links to other informational websites and organizations.

This Bountiful Harvest from Your Patio

At National Garden Bureau, we like to encourage even the brown thumbs out there to attempt gardening, even if on a small scale. And what better way to start than with produce grown on your own patio?

Container growing offers many benefits, not the least of which is that you can put a “garden” just about anywhere. Cement balconies on a highrise building can become urban gardens, and a backyard deck or patio becomes a produce garden at your fingertips. Some of the top vegetable breeders are encouraging this trend by breeding smaller more compact varieties that still are prolific producers.

Without a doubt, container gardens will require less weeding than their in-ground counterparts. This makes them ideal for busy people who love gardening but have limited time. However, watering has to be monitored more closely. Containers in hot sun can dry out quickly, and even a gentle summer breeze will wick moisture from plants. Be prepared to water daily or even twice daily during long, hot, dry spells.

As for supplies, the shopping list is small:

* Appropriately sized container (bigger is usually better)
* Good quality growing medium
* Young plants or seeds
* Stakes or cages if growing vining edibles

After that, with a little sun, a little water and a little patience, you’ll soon have fresh delicious vegetables and herbs at your back door (or front door!). We always feel a little “Martha Stewartish” when we can step out the back door, snip a few herbs, grab a handful of tomatoes and a pepper or two then go back inside to continue with our meal preparation.

Helpful tips from NGB and our members:

Tips on selecting the right container can be found herefrom National Garden Bureau.

A list of varieties appropriate for container growing are detailed by Renee’s Garden.

Johnny’s Seeds has a blog post about mixing vegetables herbs and flowers all in the same container for a very trendy look. (It’s the January 26, 2010 blog post in this link.)

Thompson & Morgan offers several books and we like this one, “Fresh Food from Small Spaces.”

A large selection of suitable containers can be found herefrom Gardener’s Supply as well as a helpful article about self-watering containers for vegetables. And more: ideas and advice on which herbs and vegetables grow well together.

Botanical Interests offers some fun tips for crazy containers and combinations you can try.

For more on growing container edibles, click here for the “Veggies in Containers” article from NGB.

Happy Gardening, Cooking, and Eating!