Finding a good, supportive writing group can be one of the more valuable steps a writer can take in their creative and professional development. The right group can help to keep you inspired and productive, hone your editing and critiquing skills, and stretch your creative habits and goals.
But in time even a good writing group can cease to be helpful. Sometimes changes in the group membership can shift its focus or tone. Sometimes you’re the one that changes and the group is no longer a good fit for your writing purposes. …
I am the last person who should be giving financial advice.
The list of financial blunders I’ve made in my life is long. I’m a responsible person and I clean up my messes but along the way I’ve made stupid investments, accrued bad debts at outrageous interest, and made career moves that were never financially smart (although I don’t regret any of them).
At times when my income has been steady, I’ve been a consistent and substantial saver, enough that I was able to buy my second new car (a 2000 Volkswagen New Beetle) with cash.
But I’ve spent more than half of my post-college working life as a freelancer and, as any freelancer will tell you, that is not the path to a steady income. …
Warm-season crops like tomatoes, peppers, and squash pump out lots of produce all summer long for you, but all that fruit-bearing takes a toll on your soil. Even if you’ve regularly fertilized or added compost, your soil at the end of the season may be deficient in multiple macro- and micro-nutrients, but especially low in nitrogen. Nitrogen is the nutrient that really drives the greening of your garden; when your soil is nitrogen-deficient, nothing will truly thrive.
A soil test will tell you definitively what nutrients your soil needs, but even without a soil test, you can safely assume that your soil could use a boost. …
Fire safety should always be a consideration for gardeners and never more so than in October, often the driest month of the year. Wildfire awareness tends to be a fact of life in rural areas, but the massive Oakland Hills Fire of October 1991 still serves as a lesson to all that landscaping for fire safety is necessary even in urban areas.
Don’t assume that just because your garden is lovely and well-tended that it’s also fire-safe.
Fire-safe landscaping requires the removal of excess “fuel,” that is, grasses, brush, dense shrubs, woodpiles, or any flammable debris around your property. Check with your local and state agencies to the required or recommended standards for your area. For example, California state law requires that you keep a 100-foot “defensible space buffer” around your house that not only will minimize fire risk but will also create a safer space for firefighters to defend your home in case fire does break out. …
Whether you’ve had a summer of bumper crops or less than stellar results, it’s time to switch gears and shift from a warm-season edible garden to cool-season growing.
In some ways, cool-season crops are easier to manage. For one thing, you are likely to have less trouble with insect pests and diseases than you did with summer crops. The major challenge is the weather, but if you plan appropriately for your climate, your cool-season garden can be just as productive as your warm-season garden.
To start, remove all the dead and dying plants from the area where you’ll be growing edibles. That includes raking up fallen leaves and flowers. While there are benefits to leaving fallen leaves on the ground around your ornamental plants, sanitation in the edible garden is especially important. Plant debris left on the ground can provide cover for insect pests to over-winter and disease pathogens to infect the soil. So clear everything from the planting area and be sure to toss any diseased plant material in the trash, not the compost. …
I’m excited to introduce my Medium publication, Garden to Table.
In the last 14 years that I’ve been a garden writer, I’ve found so many people who are enthusiastic about growing their own food. In the past six months, however, as the pandemic has led so many of us to spend more time at home and to rethink how we want to spend our time and take care of our families, there has been an explosion of interest in food gardening.
But not everyone knows how to get started or, if they have some experience growing edibles, they may not know how to do it better, how to solve problems, or how to take it to the next level. …
Photos were released today of the newly renovated White House rose garden that First Lady Melania Trump requested. And, because it’s 2020 and this is what we do now, people are flipping out and suggesting that there’s a nefarious message in what is actually a ridiculously standard garden design element.
The new design includes a diamond-shaped border planted in clipped boxwood shrubs. In garden design, this is about as basic as you get. You see it in all kinds of classic gardens in Europe as well as here in America.
But viewed from above, some are claiming that the boxwoods spell out “KKK,” a reference to the infamous racist terrorist group, the Ku Klux Klan. …
It’s hard to talk about gardening without dealing with the climatic elephant in the room — microclimates.
The term microclimate refers to the climate in a small, specific area that is different from the climate of the surrounding area. Sounds simple.
The thing is that some regions have a lot of microclimates, and even though microclimates are relatively small things, they can have a big impact, even for home gardeners. Your garden may have a different microclimate from your neighbor’s down the block. Even in your own garden, you may have more than one microclimate.
To identify specifically the different microclimates in your garden, you need to set one thermometer in a permanent location and then move a second thermometer to different locations in the garden each day, recording the different temperature readings at the same time of day. You will probably find a difference of several degrees in various locations and you can take advantage of that difference in deciding where to plant certain things. …
Call it shit, crap, poop, or dung.
Whatever you call it, manure is one of the most nutrient-rich, sustainable amendments you can add to your garden.
Many types of animal manure are rich in the nutrients all plants need — nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium — plus microbes that are great for healthy soil. There are, however, some disadvantages and concerns involved with using manure in home gardens.
First, it’s important to understand the stages that manure goes through. Fresh manure is high in nitrogen compounds and ammonia that can burn plants and initially inhibit seed germination. Aged manure has been stored for at least six months, allowing some of that nitrogen and ammonia to break down. It’s still nutrient-rich but can also still burn plants. …
If you’ve recently received a packet of unidentified seeds in the mail, you might have thought that you’d won some strange contest you’d forgotten you’d entered or that maybe it was some kind of promo gift.
You might have investigated a little further and discovered the package came from China.
Wow! How cool! you might have thought. China is sending me little gifts!
But don’t forget the old saying, beware of strangers bearing gifts!
The USDA has issued an official warning to people who might have received unidentified, unsolicited seeds in the mail. And the warning is basically this:
Don’t plant those seeds! …