My favorite gardening resources

resources_post_coverObviously, I use a lot of resources to learn the best approaches to gardening in different environments, but the three sources below occupy 99% of my garden reading/listening time. I hope you find them as useful as I do!

  • You Bet Your Garden. First things first: I am a huge fan of this WHYY show and podcast, self-described as  “an hour of chemical-free horticultural hijinks”. In addition to the show being extremely informative, the host, Mike McGrath, is quite entertaining. I can’t say that I agree with him on 100% issues (for example, he would not advise using hydrogen peroxide, because it’s a “chemical”, but at the same time, frequently recommends vinegar; I believe both are naturally occurring, fast-decomposing chemicals that are quite safe to use in the garden at at home), I do agree with his philosophy and gardening approaches. The “question of the week” segments of the show are also available in digital print here, and they cover pretty much everything there is to know about gardening.

    YBYG host Mike McGrath holds a Q&A session at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Photo credit:
  • The old farmer’s Almanac. Despite the name, the content of this site is very much up-to-date. There is a plethora of handy resources, such as a planting calendar (which is personalized to your location by zip code), garden tasks by month, growing guides for the most common garden plants, how-to videos, and many, many more. They also started producing gardening apps, and I plan to try out their garden planner (which, sadly, is not free after the first week), and a brand new garden journal app is supposed to come out any day now (better yet, this one will be free to use!).

    Photo credit: The Old Farmer’s Almanac
  • Grow a Living Wall by Shawna Coronado. Not surprisingly, I first heard about this book on You Bet Your Garden, and decided to give it a try, as vertical gardening is so new to me. The book offers great advise for building green walls (from the most basic DIY setups to commercially available ones) and, most importantly, caring for them. The gardens described in this book are extremely versatile and vary from flower to vegetable to herb, or any combination of those.

    Plants used for this living wall system include a combination of annuals and vegetables: asparagus fern, purple basil, ‘Bull’s Blood’ beets, cabaret deep blue calibrachoa, cabaret deep yellow calibrachoa, limelight licorice plant, sweet potato vine, Swiss chard, and empress violet charme verbena. Photo credit: Shawna Coronado / Grow a Living Wall
  • Gardens From Garbage. Although not local (Great Falls, Montana, would be quite a long hike from Philadelphia), this is a wonderful resource for everything you may want to know about compost. This is an educational program focused on food sustainability, working towards “a world of sustainable, fresh and local food communities”. I rely a lot on their information about Bokashi composting to work out my own bokashi-worm bin hybrid setup.

    Photo credit:
  • Grow for Flavor by James Wong. This is the most recent addition to my gardening library, and as soon as I opened it, it became an instant favorite. James Wong is a professional botanist passionate about communicating quality science to the public. In this book, he summarizes findings from over 2000 peer-reviewed publications addressing the impact of different growth conditions on the crops’ flavor. James provides very clear and easy to follow instructions for the flavor-boosting tips that he recommends, and none of those require synthetic fertilizers or fancy equipment.
    • To give you one example: it so happens that molasses (yes, the byproduct of sugar refining that is so frequently used in all things baking and brewing) is rich in sugar and minerals like… that are essential building blocks for phytochemicals that give the tomatoes their wonderful flavor. James recommends using diluted molasses as a fertilizer for tomatoes. I have actually tried this, and although more repetitions are necessary to prove this isn’t a coincidence, I can tell you that my self-seeding cherry tomatoes are bursting with flavor this year (last year they were sour and watery).
    • The book is a treasure chest of this kind of advice. James only talks about the plants that he has personally grown himself. To my disappointment, cucumbers are not on his list, but he does have experience growing tomatoes, salad greens, berries and fruits, sweet corn, peppers, carrots, and even mushrooms! In addition to growing tips, he lists the plant varieties that are known for their best flavor.
    • Thanks to James, I have a long list of gardening experiments planned out for the next decade or two! He is also very active on twitter, where he is known as @botanygeek and talks not only about botany and agriculture, but a variety of subjects, including nutrition and public health.

Happy gardening!



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