America Kick in the Plants! Lawn-gevity Tomatoes and veggies

Grow Green

As we head towards spring, decide to join the “crop” of yardeners who resolve to grow green this year. img_0429No, this is not another article to preach or “guilt” you into being green. It’s not hard, it’s fun and rewarding to feel like you’re making a difference in your own backyard. I took this picture  to illustrate rain water harvesting (see the barrel?) Also container gardening (right plant in the right place, you can put a container anywhere).img_0428 I took these pictures at the National Botanical garden in Washington DC. Notice in the picture to the right there is a compost bin and a tomato plant in the foreground. It’s “green” to mix vegetable and herb plants into an “edible landscape” (grow your own food).  Composting has moved from behind the garage to a visible spot in the landscape.img_0431 Be thoughtful and sustainable by not only planting the right plant in the right place, but also  embrace diversity. Monocultures breed problems, diverse groupings of plants hardy to your area are healthier (there is strength in numbers).  You’ll also see from the picture that some vertical gardening is a great way to provide the light, support and air movement some plants need to naturally resist disease. See the path? Clearly defined traffic areas help reduce soil compaction around the plant material (healthy soil = healthy plants).

Vegetable plants and small fruit are making a comeback in popularity. That said, for the typical American household, we love our lawns. Nothing wrong with that! Lawns trap runoff and dust, they provide cooling and oxygen for the environment. They are “nature’s carpet” minimizing erosion, water runoff and providing a natural weed control.img_0427 You can “grow green” by caring for your lawn properly in simple ways. Consider using some organic fertilizers like Turf Revolution (alfalfa based) or Lawn Restore or Nutri Plus (dried chicken manure).  Sharpen the blade on your mower and raise the deck, don’t put your lawn under stress by scalping the lawn. Don’t forget to aerate the lawn (healthy soil = healthy plants). img_0426There you have it, some simple ways to be a more thoughtful gardener and not feel guilty when someone tells you they’re “sustainable”. Healthy and clean fun that’s rewarding and it’s all right there under your feet……on your small piece of America……your backyard!

America Tomatoes and veggies

Gardening……always a winner

During all the campaigning leading up to the Obama administration, there was a lot of talk about “day one” of a new administration. The Better World Campaign held an “On Day One” contest collecting ideas and votes on how a new President elect could renew and inspire community. obamaThey finally decided that global leadership begins at home……on the White House lawn. That’s right, as in my previous post suggesting a hybrid vegetable be grow in the White House garden named “Barrack-oli” it appears the Better World campaign agrees that gardening is a winner. Their winning idea comes from a man from Scarborough Maine who proposed a small “Victory Garden” on the White House grounds. The idea recognizes the economic, energy and environmental benefits of local, organic food production. The hopes of Mr. Doiron, the contest winner, is that the White House is America’s house and their example of planting an organic and sustainable garden at the White House will inspire collective action. I hope the President’s team decides to act on Mr Doiron’s idea. It just goes to prove that no matter where you live or what your political positions, gardening is always a good idea and always a winner. Like Thomas Jefferson said, “The greatest service that can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to it’s culture”.  For more information regarding the On Day One contest, here is the link to their website:


The Tree of Liberty

Driving through downtown Grand Rapids on Thursday 9/11 2008, stopped by the Ford Museum to find the Boy Scouts saluting the flag continuously throughout the day. What a wonderful demonstration of how we need to be reminded and remember…….As I sat on the ground and took these pictures I thought of the quote from Thomas Jefferson: “The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” The Americans who died in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania 7 years ago were Patriots because their memory reminds us of the price that has been paid throughout history for our liberty and freedom. I’m reminded today of the freedom I enjoy and the price that has been paid to grow and maintain the “tree of liberty.”

America General

A Mind Employed

Thomas Jefferson said “a mind employed is always happy.” He must have been one happy guy because a visit to Monticello proves the wheels were always spinning in his mind. The same man who drafted the Declaration of Independence, made the deal of the century with the Louisiana purchase, was our third President and founded the University of Virginia was also a happy gardener. Click on the link at the top of my home page “Monticello and Jefferson Rules” to learn more. Enjoy some of the sights from my Monticello visit.


At the right is Jefferson’s beloved Monticello with Gomphrena or Globe Amaranth blooming in the foreground. Try some of these flowers in your landscape, they’re unique, tolerate the heat of summer and make a great cut flower.

July is a month for lilies in the landscape. Some of Jefferson’s favorite plants were “bulb-like” plants because of their reliable performance and easy transfer or shipping as bulbs……

 The bee balm or Monarda at Monticello were a favorite of the butterflies. This plant has a great history too, used as a substitute for tea after the Boston Tea Party.

 It is said that at Monticello, you could start weeding at one end of the vegetable garden and when at the end, you could start weeding the new weeds growing back at the beginning. Jefferson loved his vegetable garden! Talking to one of the current day gardeners at Monticello, I asked about the Castor bean plants. I grow them for decorative purposes. They’re in the garden for medicinal purposes, part of a digestive “spring cleaning.”

Further east in Washington DC, a couple pictures I thought you might find a “kick in the plants.” Check out this picture of the Capitol taken from the Grant monument.

 Here I am in front of the “big house”. Thanks to Congressman Ehlers, we were able to get a tour of the White House. After the tour was done I proceeded to do some grooming of the annuals and a little weeding, didn’t take long for some important looking people to give me a “kick in the plants” and ask me to move on.  Oh well, Washington is an impressive important place, but me and my friends…..we’ll always maintain our sense of “humus!” Here I am with a gentleman hoping to occupy the White House. I’m showing you this picture because the picture of me and Obama makes me look short.

Don’t forget to click on Jefferson rules and I hope I’ll see you at the big Monticello event at the Meijer Gardens on August 14!

America Memorial day

As long as grass grows…..


Memorial day, originally called Decoration day, has its roots in the 1800’s following the Civil War. Many different cities and towns lay claim to to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. Womens groups in the South were decorating graves with flowers before the end of the Civil War. General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic proclaimed May 30 as Memorial day in his General order No. 11. Most calendars today will still designate May 30 as Memorial day, but it’s celebrated on the last Monday of the month to create a long holiday weekend. Interestingly, the South refused to acknowledge the designated day in the General Order. They honored their dead on a different day until World War I changed the holiday from honoring Civil war dead to honoring Americans who died in any war. It was also World War I that reinforced the “decorating” with flowers idea. Inspired by the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ Moina Michaels penned her own remembrance: “We cherish too, the poppy red, that grows on fields where valor led. It seems to signal to the skies, that blood of heroes never dies.” Red poppies were purchased and worn on Memorial day to honor those who died.

The City of Grand Rapids Michigan has a beautiful Civil War Monument. It stands tall above the bustling traffic near the corner of Fulton and Division. It was the first Civil War monument to include a fountain which runs today. The original dedication was on September 17, 1885. At that dedication service the star of the show and guest of honor was the famed General Philip Sheridan. General Sheridan died a few years after that dedication service, but the words of speaker Major C.W. Watkins of the 10th Michigan Cavalry lives today……”As long as the grass grows and the water runs, the deeds of the soldiers will be kept fresh and green in the hearts of people.” I sat on the curb watching traffic speed by and wondered……the grass is green, the water is running, but are the sacrifices made by many “fresh and green” in our hearts this Memorial day weekend?

In an election year when we are at war, gas prices are soaring, recession is debated and jobs are lost, we hear all the time “how bad things are.” Really? Shouldn’t we be reminding ourselves and others of the amazing freedoms we enjoy due to the sacrifice of countless others who went before us? The grass is green on this side of the fence. Are there some weeds? Sure, but there have always been weeds. We are free to make a difference, to chart a course, to work, worship and live free in the greatest nation on earth. Civil War soldiers who fought well over a hundred years ago to preserve the Union fought for a noble cause, they matter still today. All men are created equal and fighting for the preservation of life, liberty and happiness is a noble cause. Are things really that bad? Or do we have to remember what was done for us and work to make a difference, a little CAVU. I learned CAVU from watching a documentary biography on George HW Bush who liked to use the phrase. CAVU is a naval aviator phrase for “Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited.” Let’s gratefully remember and accept the sacrifices of those before us and use the freedom we have to do the work before us, because in this country, the ceiling and visibility is unlimited, and the grass is green……