Summer is the season to celebrate sustainable farming. We talk a lot about farmer’s markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), urban gardens and hand-crafted food. Something that doesn’t get talked about all that much is the changing face of the American farmer. It turns out there are some pretty wonderful folks out there taking up the reins with skill and intelligence. Their enthusiasm is infectious. My new friends Gretel and Steve Adams are twentysomething organic flower farmers whose creativity and determination to earn a living from their land in Ohio is inspiring.
You can read about their Sunny Meadows Flower Farm and see how Gretel fashions her gorgeous flower arrangements next summer in Country Gardens! In the meantime, that’s the three of us admiring their hoop house filled with lovely lisianthus.
ARGHHH, they are back this year. Yes, I’ve read that collars around the stem are the best prevention. Yes, I figured they wouldn’t strike again this year. But they did. The squash vine borers are back and they are destroying the Jack Be Little pumpkin vines in my front yard.
And this year, I’m not fighting back.
Last year I declared war when the leaves of my summer squash and my zucchini started to droop and turn brown. Armed with an Exacto knife and a bucket of mud, I would search the stems and vines for the tiny holes and golden sawdust-like frass. Then, I would slice into the stem until I found the hungry little larva (hatched from eggs laid by the Melittia cucurbitae moth) that were killing my plants. I must admit there was a certain pleasure to extracting and crushing the caterpillars. Finally, I would pack the stem’s wound with mud and water it well. My squash and zucchini survived, but my kids and I had to perform multiple “surgeries” to destroy the squash vine borers.
This year, I’m not doing it. I give up. And early next summer I will try wrapping the stems of my young plants with aluminum foil collars to prevent the moth from laying her eggs. I am interested in learning about what methods have worked for anyone else so please let me know if you have a success story.
Fans of the late Dan Fogelberg may recognize the name Nederland (as in Colorado) as the inspiration for his 1977 album Nether Lands as well as the place where he made his home beginning in 1974. All I knew was that I was heading to meet photographer Bob Stefko and his assistant Shelby Kroeger at the garden of Kristin-Lee Baillie, a Country Gardens Awards winner who has spent the past eight years carving out a beautiful garden at some 9,000-feet elevation within the Roosevelt National Forest not far from Boulder. You can check out the results of our photo shoot in the Fall 2015 issue of Country Gardens. That’s Bob and me hanging out with Kristin-Lee’s undownable children, Jasper and Lili, who taught me how to run like a fox and is my new penpal.
A few years ago I tilled up the entire lawn in my front yard and planted herbs, veggies, fruits and edible flowers, but I had a dilemma. How should I handle the strip that runs between the sidewalk and street curb? I certainly didn’t want to eat anything that grew in street grit and car exhaust and was irrigated by passing dogs. Over time, that strip has turned into my test garden for perennials and a few annuals, such as this bunny tail grass (Lugurus ovatus). Bunny tail grass is like the adorable kitten of the botanical world. It makes me smile every time I see it bobbing playfully in the breeze. My 5, 8 and 10-year-old sons can’t pass bunny tails without giving the silky-soft seed heads a quick stroke.
I started the grass seeds in my pantry early last spring and transported them outside the first week of May. The grass is doing quite well in my fairly dry curb strip and has been very low maintenance. Right before the first major snowfall, I plan to clip a few bunny tails for dried flower arrangements. Until then, they can amuse my family and passers-by.
Art director Nick Crow just returned from producing a photo shoot on Country Gardens Award Winners Leo and Gloria McGee and their incredible hydrangea garden in Cookeville, Tennessee. Here they are taking a break from the shoot. Look for the story in the Fall 2015 issue of Country Gardens!