Things You Can Do In A Garden

I had the pleasure of recently reading a book by Philippa Lewis called, “Everything You Can Do In The Garden Without Gardening.”

Being a fan of gardening and enjoying a garden, the title alone piqued my interest. The book went into way too much detail of historical elements of garden useage for my impatient mind so I skimmed through and found some wonderful tidbits. If you have time to read it at length, and enjoy history, I recommend doing so. At my reading pace I was able to gather a terrific list of things that the garden is just plain useful for. These I’ll describe in the order Ms Lewis wrote them; it’s basically her table of contents with my editorial:

1. Escape: the garden is a place to leave people, technology, stress and more behind. Unless, of course, you invite someone to join you, then you both can use the garden for escape.

2. Inspiration: The garden has been a source of inspiration for painters, poets, and me.

3. Fresh air and exercise: There are some great (meaning “large”) gardens that were made for walking around in and can take a while to go through. I suppose you could run through a garden, too. Or do laps, although I think mostly children would get the most benefit from running around a garden, since they’re smaller than adults. Some gardens are made surrounding lawn bowling lanes, or you could set up a life-sized chess set in your garden. Bocce ball or croquet can be played in a garden as well.

4. Fire and water are elements that you can find in gardens. Ponds, pools, fountains are examples of water and a garden designed to sit in around a fire pit is the example of fire in a garden. So are tiki torches.

Water feature in a garden

Water feature in a garden

5. Sit and Relax: I think this speaks for itself. But you can also sit and relax and knit, read, draw, talk to who ever is joining you, work a puzzle, check your facebook page on your phone, talk on the phone, soak up the sun, plan a vacation, backyard birdwatch, darn your socks.

A place to sit and relax

A place to sit and relax

6. Eat, drink, smoke: these things are activities that you and your family and or guests could partake in without having to dig a hole in the dirt, unless you are digging a spot to put your exhausted cigarettes in. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, coffee, wine etc.

7. Love and flirt: Don’t a lot of movies place love scene’s in gardens?  I thought so.

8. Children: a child’s garden could be anything from a sandbox surrounded by plants, a place that they dug and planted or a lawn area specifically for play. Oh heck, every yard should be a child’s play garden.

9. Party and perform: while you are enjoying a dinner plein air, why not add a game of charades or a little guitar picking and sing-along?

10. Birds and wildlife: some gardeners set up their gardens specifically as backyard habitats for wild animals they would like to attract.  Bird feeders, deer feeders, flowers and other plants not only are enjoyable for the critters but fun to observe from a comfy garden chair nearby.

The book also explains the use of buildings in gardens. These could be sheds, cabanas, or any other covered and/or enclosed outside area.  If you are enjoying your garden and a sudden rain happens upon you, a building of some sort is usually safer than sitting under a table umbrella.

I’d like to add #11. I love a garden with art in it. Whether is a simple bird bath, ornate metal work or a series of colorful plates set in the ground to outline a flower bed, I think a garden is a place to display art.

A place for art

A place for art

Ms Lewis wrote extensively on these topics, combining a lot of historical information, examples and anecdotes.  It really is a fascinating book.  As I said, I skimmed it well, got to the point with what I wanted to learn from an interesting non-fiction book.  I highly recommend reading it.

I found mine at the public library but the book is available on Amazon.

Saving Seeds

I gave a presentation to some patrons of the Lafayette County/Oxford Public Library in Mississippi this week about saving seeds from their gardens.

Introducing the new Seed Lending Library, I taught those present about why and how to save seeds. We talked about the seed lending library and how to participate.

One library assistant put together a video about the seed lending library that you can watch here.

So, why should you save seeds from your garden?  In a nutshell:

  • Seeds extend your garden season
  • You don’t have to clear your garden immediately after harvest, let what is left “go to seed” letting the plant dry out and then harvest the seed
  • Save money on seeds the next year
  • Share your garden; makes it sustainable
  • Seed saving and processing is meditative and sensory; a good way to spend a rainy day

How do you save seeds from your garden?

  • First plant non-GMO, organic or heirloom seeds. Hybrid seeds will not produce germinating seeds.
  • You  can start a seed garden or one part of your garden you won’t harvest. Let the plants go, collecting their seeds after the season
  • Remove any undesirable plants from your garden; you don’t want their seeds
  • Collect seeds: if you grow and harvest fruits (seed bearing food) save the seeds inside these fruits. If you grow herbs etc., use what you want and at the end of the growing season let them flower, and then wait until the seed pods dry, pick before the winter rains start, keep pods/seeds in a paper bag to finish drying out. In the event of an early frost pull the plants out and hang them to dry for a week
  • Process your seeds: Dry processing*, wet processing** (see instructions below)
  • Store in a cool, dry place out of sunlight. Glass jars with gasket seals, paper coin envelopes, Tupperware-style containers. Do not use plastic bags. Add a packet of silica gel to desiccate moisture.
  • Keep good records of your seeds: species, variety, year harvested.
  • Save some for next year; share some with friends and neighbors

Dry processing involves letting the plant “bolt” or flower long after the plant produces usable leaves or vegetables.  Let the flowers pollinate and dry out.  Once the pod is brown and dry, carefully remove from the stems and remove seeds from inside.

Wet processing involved soaking seeds such as tomatoes in water for a few days to let the gel sac surrounding the seeds deteriorate so it can be washed off the seeds.  Dry and then store in a dry, dark place.

Happy gardening.

Drying peas

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Seed Lending in Mississippi

The Oxford Mississippi Public Library has opened its Seed Lending Library.

A library patron brought an article about a seed lending library in another town, to the Oxford Public Library Library Director, Laura Beth, and suggested she start something similar. I was standing nearby and had to chime in since I had one visited and written about such a library in Magnolia Springs, AL.  Laura Beth said she’d look into it, took my email address and blog information so she could read about Magnolia Springs, and said she’d contact me to help, if she felt it was a good idea.

It was.

So Laura Beth and I worked together contacting seed companies for donations. Success!  She was able to obtain some small card/file cabinets to store the seeds in and invited me to organize the drawers.  My boys came with me and we separated by type (vegetable, herb, flower/ornamental grass), alphabetized, made dividers and filed them away in the cabinets.  I think my guys actually had fun with this.

The seed lending library is open and Laura Beth tells me it is popular.  Please stop by and check it out. Hopefully you can find something you can use in your garden.

She was also able to obtain, through donation from Home Depot, additional raised beds for the library’s garden.  She’ll be doing some gardening for the community to enjoy.seed library photo garden

To educate the local patrons of the library and to promote the seed lending library, we will be holding a luncheon gardening workshop, on June 10.  I will be talking about the seed library, and will instruct the adults in attendance on how to save seeds to add back to the library.

On July 15, I will be teaching in the kid’s summer library program about gardening, how to save seeds and why.  I’ll also have an activity for the kiddos.

Both workshops require a reservation as space is limited.

Be sure to check the library’s schedule for these and other summer activities.

Laura Beth and I want to thank the library patron, mentioned above, for bringing this idea to the Oxford Public Library.

For more information, call the library at 662-234-5751.