Beware of Killer Plants

While it is always best, in my opinion, to plant organic in your food garden, not everyone in the U.S. has access to quality garden stores.  If you live in one of these Garden-Store Deserts (meaning there are no quality garden stores) and grow vegetables and herbs from conventional nursery plants I want to caution you on one thing: neonicotinoids.

I noticed at the big-box garden stores in my town that many of the fruit trees and herbs are treated with neonicotinoids and sport a little plastic label explaining “These pesticides are approved by the EPA”.


Well, that’s nice, but you should beward of them and find an alternative source for your fruit and herb plants that you are planning to eat from.

So what are neonicotinoids? These are a new type of pesticide that, according to every website on the internet that shows up when you search “neonicotinoids”, make their way into every cell of a plant to kill off pests. This pesticide gets to the nervous system of the insect to kill it.  Search further and you will find stories that tell of proof that neonicotinoids are harming bees, Monarch butterflies and more.

So, if every cell of a plant sprayed with this substance now contains this neurotoxin, what is it doing to humans that eat from the plant? And did I mention it’s approved by the EPA. So the EPA is approving my food?

I believe it is very irresponsible for any garden shop to sell products sprayed with this substance.  The best thing we humans can do is boycott the products and let the stores know that we won’t tolerate this pesticide.

If you live in a Garden-Store Desert and don’t have the quality plants to purchase, consider starting your garden from seed.  You need to start early and plant seeds indoors while it is still chilly out.  If you have passed that schedule of planting talk to your local garden shop about stocking organically grown plants.  There are also online garden shops that will ship plants to you. Below a list of a few.

I do not endorse one over another and if I’ve missed listing your favorite, please leave a comment for other readers to learn about it.  I am also not getting paid by any that I list.

The lesson here is: pay attention to what you purchase, read the tags in your plants and avoid pesticides on your edibles.

Just a few online Nurseries:

Garden Visitor

Golden Orb Spider (c) eileensaunders


I do hope this one stays away from the front door to my house. Its web is attached to the far corner of my rather large porch. Last year a spider like this one strung himself up between the crepe myrtles along my front sidewalk and the first post on my porch.  It was rather awkward and when I moved it, it came back.  Creepy but beneficial, I am hopeful that it will devour the bee that stalks my dog.

Gardening with Pool Noodles

The New Orleans French Quarter is a beautiful garden spot. You can usually find balconies lined with hanging plants or window boxes attached to the railings.

Morning walks along the streets can force you to either carry an umbrella or watch for water falling from newly watered planters above you.

There are gardeners that decorate their balconies with simple flowers or go to extremes with their hanging plants and window boxes.

Then, there are gardeners who are a little more creative, using plants and flowers that don’t need watering.(c) eileensaunders

I like both ideas.

Seaside Gardening Challenges and Solutions

Sometimes gardening just a block or two from the salty shoreline can create a challenge. The soil is sandy and salty and may need a lot more work and renourishment than the gardener has energy for.

Raised beds are a great idea in these conditions because you actually start with your own fresh soil mix of conventional planting soils and or organic soils. Raised bed gardeners can add their own composting materials all according to what they want to grow. Irrigation systems can also be placed in the raised bed at construction time.

For a part-time coastal resident the irrigation system is important, allowing the soil and the plants contained in the garden to get adequate moisture while the gardener is out of town. Gardens can be left to seed when the gardener lives in their other part-time home so upon returning to the coast, most of the reseeding is done for them. A little weed pulling and clean up, and the garden is ready to go.

At a close proximity to the shoreline, be careful what you plant. If sea spray is a daily issue, find vegetables, flowers and grasses that are salt tolerant. These can include: Kale, spinach and asparagus. These are also vegetables that look nice if your garden is viewable to the public beach goers. Flowers and grasses that tolerate salt include: Echinacea, Fireworks Sundrop, some Louisiana Irises, and of course palms. There is a great list on the web; click here for information.

Flower box gardening can be useful in coastal areas, too. For the homeowner who doesn’t have much time to garden or much money to pay someone to do it for them, adding containers and window boxes filled with a mix of flowers and herbs can bring colorful beauty to the home and serve as a kitchen helper as well. Many flowers are not only pretty but edible too. For a list and more information, click here.

Of course, there are those who want flowers but are not even interested in the hassle of planting flower boxes.  I found this solution to minimal gardening on Anna Maria Island in Florida.  Clever.

11 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.