In the Garden

From cask to composter

Wine barrels aren't cheap. Brand new, they can cost anywhere from $300 to $800 and up, so it seems a shame not to use them after they've finished holding all that wine. Although they've been reused in furniture making and as garden planters, I've never been impressed with the results. But there are a couple of novel ways they're being reused that I can get behind.

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A new kind of beer garden

For the last couple of weeks I've been enjoying fresh fruit from my June-bearing strawberry plants. Or at least trying to. Now, the strawberries I pick each morning may not be as large as those in the grocery stores, trucked in from who knows where, but they are much more flavorful and, if one can infer from the research regarding spinach, likely more nutritious as well. Maybe that's why looking over my carefully tended strawberry patch has made me especially despondent lately. I turn over one lipstick-red berry after another, only to discover large slugs tunneling their way through and eating most of what could have been my very best berries yet.

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Pollutants in your produce?

Last year some friends of mine took an old washtub, drilled several good drainage holes in its bottom, piled in rich, organic soil, and planted a couple kinds of lettuce. Looking back, I think it had been too close to the first average frost date to turn into a proper fall container garden, but, fast forward several months, and some of those fall-planted seeds have grown into lovely, organically grown lettuce just begging to be picked. Knowing salads are one of their favorite things, I wondered aloud why they weren't harvesting and eating the greens. They're expecting a child, and, because they've been using treated lumber to renovate the part of the house closest to the container garden, they've decided it would be best to leave this year's salad crop to the birds.

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Giving bumble bees a home

My Kentucky wanderers are situated next to the black raspberry brambles, and, while making sure the pole beans were, indeed, properly wandering their way up the teepee-like trellis I'd made for them, I was pleased to see a few bumble bees busying themselves with the raspberry blossoms. I'd like to think they were Yellow-banded Bumble Bees -- one of several bumble bees species with populations in swift decline -- but it can be awfully tricky identifying the large, fuzzy beings.

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'Green' gardening's gaining ground

"What you need is a little rototiller!" the lady next door called to me over the fence. I'd had my back to her, double-digging my tomato bed by hand, so it took me a bit to realize she was actually speaking to me. I explained that, indeed, I do own a rototiller. I simply prefer not to use it. Puzzled, she narrowed her eyes and cocked her head. "Don't it work?" she asked. "It works," I'd said, and, gesturing with my dirt-encrusted hands, I tried to explain that rototillers really compact the soil. "Digging with an ordinary shovel doesn't do the long-term damage to soil structure that using a rototiller can," I added. Before I could go on, she wandered away, and, frankly, I was grateful. See, trying to explain my gardening habits and methods to the folks who automatically reach for, yes, the rototiller or, say, those Dead-On-Contact! pesticides just wears me out.

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Issue 25

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