Gardening with Melinda: Grow a bigger garden in a smaller space

Gardener’s Supply Company Planter boxes with built-in trellises like this Apex trellis planter enable gardeners to maximize their garden space for growing vegetables and flowers.

Gardener’s Supply Company
Planter boxes with built-in trellises like this Apex trellis planter enable gardeners to maximize their garden space for growing vegetables and flowers.

By Melinda Myers

Whether in the ground or on a balcony or deck, there’s always room to grow your own garden-fresh produce and beautiful flowers.  Space saving gardening techniques and products can help you increase productivity in any available space.

Consider elevated gardens and planter carts that not only save space, but make gardens more accessible. Movable carts like the Demeter Mobile Planter Cart allow you to grow flowers and produce in narrow spaces, store garden accessories and move the garden into the sunlight or out of the way of guests as needed.

Save more space by going vertical.  Look for containers and raised garden beds with built-in trellises and plant supports.  Just plant your pole beans, peas, cucumbers or tomatoes and attach them to the supports as they grow.  Support the large fruit of squash and melons with cloth or macramé slings. Just cradle the fruit in the sling and secure it to the trellis. You’ll not only save space, but reduce disease problems and make harvesting a breeze.

Double your planting space by growing shade tolerant greens under cucumbers, growing on a cucumber or A-frame trellis.  Set the trellis in place and plant the greens in early spring as soon as the soil is workable.  Plant your cucumbers next to the trellis as soon as the soil warms.  As your cucumbers grow they shade the greens below keeping them a bit cooler and extending the harvest season. Just make sure you can reach the greens beneath the supports for planting, weeding and harvesting.

Extend the growing season with a Year Round Kitchen Garden.  Grow greens and herbs under lights attached to a raised bed on wheels. When the outdoor planting season arrives, remove the lights and roll your garden onto the patio or deck.  Continue planting and harvesting outdoors until it is time to roll it back inside to start your indoor garden.

Or top your raised bed and containers with frost protective coverings. Many have built-in frames to support greenhouse covers, allowing you to plant earlier and harvest later in the season. And once the weather warms switch out the cover for an insect-protective fabric or mesh. These fabric coverings prevent insects like cabbage worms from damaging cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts and keep root maggots off radishes.

Select planters that complement your landscape design and gardening style. Wood, metal and colorful raised beds and containers add beauty, durability and growing space. Galvanized planters, cedar raised beds, and those in eye-catching colors found at Gardener’s Supply make your raised bed a beautiful focal point in the garden. Or fill your planters with tall grasses, cannas, elephant ears and other plants to create an attractive screen.

Look for multi-purpose furnishings and accessories to maximize your space and enjoyment.  Fire pits that become a table or bench can double as a cooler, making relaxing and entertaining in small gardens a real possibility. Or how about planters with built-in hidden storage like the Green Box Elevated Planter Box. You’ll enjoy the convenience of having your garden tools handy, yet out of sight. 

Use these space saving ideas to help increase the beauty, productivity and enjoyment your garden can provide.  With the right combination of growing techniques and garden accessories you, your family and guests will create beautiful memories throughout the gardening season.


Melinda Myers is the author of more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD set and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Gardener’s Supply for her expertise to write this article. Myers’ web site is www.melindamyers.com.

The difference between Hairy Woodpecker and Downy Woodpecker, snow style

I’ve done similar posts before comparing the larger Hairy Woodpecker with the smaller Downy Woodpecker. But I’ll repeat the lesson as I captured them both on a homemade birdfeeder during Thursday’s snowstorm.

The hairy is larger overall, but without a reference it’s tough to tell strictly by size. To really determine the species, check out the bill. The hairy has a much more substantial bill. Females of each species are shown.

Photo by Chris Bosak A hairy woodpecker eats bark butter out of a homemade feeder in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 9, 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A hairy woodpecker eats bark butter out of a homemade feeder in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 9, 2017.


Photo by Chris Bosak A downy woodpecker eats bark butter out of a homemade feeder in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 9, 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A downy woodpecker eats bark butter out of a homemade feeder in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 9, 2017.

Happy Super Bowl Sunday, bird style

Well, the Falcon part is easy. The Patriot part is a bit more difficult. But I guess you have to go with the bald eagle if you are going to try to represent both Super Bowl teams with a bird.

So tonight we have:

 

Photo by Chris Bosak A young Peregrine Falcon flies overhead in Norwalk, CT, Dec. 2013.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A young Peregrine Falcon flies overhead in Norwalk, CT, Dec. 2013.

Falcons 

vs. 

Patriots

Photo by Chris Bosak A Bald Eaglea fies over Little Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., Sept. 2016.

 

 

Have fun tonight.

The fox and the mouse (guess who wins)

Photo by Chris Bosak A Red Fox finds a mouse on a driveway in Brookfield, Conn., winter 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Red Fox finds a mouse on a driveway in Brookfield, Conn., winter 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Red Fox eats a mouse on a driveway in Brookfield, Conn., winter 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Red Fox eats a mouse on a driveway in Brookfield, Conn., winter 2016.

I was driving around this morning looking for a photo to take for work. When I found the perfect subject – just a sign in a yard to illustrate a story I’m working on – a Red Fox scampered through the scene and crossed right in front of the sign I was photographing anyway.

As the fox continued across the property it paused on the driveway to eat a mouse. I’m not sure if the fox caught the mouse right then and there, or if the mouse was already dead on the driveway and therefore an easy meal. My guess is that the mouse was already dead, perhaps getting run over by the property owner earlier that morning.

At any rate, the fox paused just long enough to pick up the mouse with its jaws, take three or four bites to position the mouse just right and gulped it down.

That is usually the type of thing I see when I don’t have my camera handy. I was lucky this time.

Don’t worry, I’ll have a more pleasant post for Christmas!

Living in the woods


It’s been about a year and a half since I bought a house in the woods. It’s not exactly isolated like Thoreau’s cabin on Walden Pond, but it is in the woods nonetheless. Every once in a while a scene catches my eye and I need to grab a photo of it, even with my iPhone.

If it doesn’t include a bird in the photo, I typically do not post it to this site. With this photo I will start posting them more often. Otherwise the photos never see the light of day. The woods are just too cool not to share.

Below is the color version. Which one do you like better?

ax-snow

 

Bird Book Look: Birding at the Bridge

Here is another bird book that came out this year for your consideration during this holiday season.This one came out in early summer, and is titled “Birding at the Bridge: In Search of Every Bird on the Brooklyn Waterfront,” by Heather Wolf, published by The Experiment. 

It is largely a picture book, but does include interesting text on each of the species featured in the book. Cities, especially a borough of New York City, may not be regarded as birding hotspots, but the author and photographer prove that that is not necessarily the case.

Below is more information on the book, taken from a press release from the publisher.

Be sure to visit the Bird Book Look page on this site for other book gift ideas.


Bright lights, big city, and . . . birds? The Brooklyn Bridge once overshadowed a decaying industrial waterfront, but today it points the way to a new green oasis: Brooklyn Bridge Park. When avid birder Heather Wolf moved from tropical Florida to a nearby apartment, she wondered how many species she might see there, and soon came to a surprising realization: Not only is the park filled with an astonishing variety of birds, but the challenges that come with urban birding make them even more fun—and rewarding—to find.

 Camera in hand, Heather has captured scores of memorable scenes—a European starling pokes its head out of a hole in a snack shop, a marsh wren straddles two branches, common grackle nestlings clamor for food above the basketball courts—in more than 150 stunning photographs that will entrance birders and bird lovers, wherever their local patch may be. From the familiar-but-striking bufflehead duck to the elusive mourning warbler, every species comes to life on the page, foraging, nesting, and soaring in the slice of the city where they’ve made themselves at home. Discover the thrilling adventure of birding in the great outdoors—in the heart of Brooklyn. 

Latest For the Birds column: Is another extinction coming?

Photo by Chris Bosak Piping Plover at Coastal Center at Milford Point, April, 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Piping Plover at Coastal Center at Milford Point, April, 2014.

Here’s the latest For the Birds column, which runs weekly in The Hour (Norwalk, Conn.), The Keene (NH) Sentinel and several Connecticut weekly newspapers.

….

The 2016 version of the Connecticut State of the Birds report is perhaps the most disconcerting yet, especially with the mention of the “E” word

That word, of course, is extinction and it’s not a word bandied about lightly in the bird world. But there it is in black and white in “State of the Birds 2016: Gains, Losses and The Prospect of Extinction.” See? There it is right in the title of the report.

The word is used to describe the Saltmarsh Sparrow, which unless serious conservation efforts are taken (and are successful), “faces likely extinction within 50 years,” according to the report. Saving the Saltmarsh Sparrow is tricky because, as its name suggests, it is a bird of the salt marshes, one of the habitats most in peril.

The reports takes a look at bird population trends over the last 10 years. The Saltmarsh Sparrow may be the species most in danger, but unfortunately, the news is grim for other birds as well. Another denizen of salt marshes, the Clapper Rail, as well as shrubland birds Blue-winged Warbler and Brown Thrashers are also seeing steep declines in number. The Piping Plover, a coastal favorite among birders, is also continuing to lose ground, even though great efforts have been made to protect them.

The greatest threat to all these birds is the destruction of their habitat. They require a very specific habitat on which to nest and those habitats are becoming scarce throughout Connecticut and New England. It’s not like a Saltmarsh Sparrow can suddenly pack its bags and move to the woods to raise a family.

Milan G. Bull, Connecticut Audubon’s senior director of science and conservation, has been involved with all 11 State of the Birds reports. He said the dire warnings about the Saltmarsh Sparrow should be heeded.

“(The) most disturbing (trend), though, is the likely extinction of the Saltmarsh Sparrow because of sea level rise,” Bull said. “It would be the first avian extinction in the continental U.S. since the Heath Hen in 1931. There’s no way to characterize that as anything but a disaster.”

Chris Elphick of the University of Connecticut researched and wrote about tidal marsh birds. He made the eye-opening prediction about the Saltmarsh Sparrow.

“We now know these birds are in more trouble than was suspected, and that we need to act soon if we wish to protect them,” he wrote in the report.

So what can be done? The authors of the report don’t merely throw bad news out there. They offered several recommendations on what can be done to help these birds at risk.

Among the recommendations are: institute national policies to slow sea level rise and reduce global warming; land owners should look for ways to create, maintain or expand shrub-scrub habitat; meet state’s goal of protecting 21 percent of the state’s land by 2023; start planning and funding for a breeding bird atlas; and find “new and novel funding mechanisms for non-game conservation efforts.”

The news wasn’t all bad, however. Some bird species are faring better than expected. The Indigo Bunting and Prairie Warbler have seen gains in recent years.

It’s always nice to look at the bright side, but we shouldn’t be blinded by it. The dark side of bird population trends is much more illuminating and in need of consideration.

 

The PDF of the full version of the report may be found here.

Bird Book Look: “Wildlife Spectacles”


With the holiday season uponus, I figured I would rekindle the Bird Book Look feature of this blog. Remember, the posts are not necessarily reviews and recommendations, but merely me letting you all know about some of the new bird and wildlife books that are out there. Visit the Bird Book Look page, which you can see in the menu above, to see the previous posts. Most are available in bookstores, and I’m sure all of them can be found on Amazon.

This post’s featured book is: “Wildlife Spectacles: Mass Migrations, Mating Rituals, and Other Fascinating Animal Behaviors” by Vladimir Dinets. It is published Continue reading

The other New England squirrel

Photo by Chris Bosak A Red Squirrel stands its ground on a branch in Terrywile Park in Danbury, Conn., Sept. 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Red Squirrel stands its ground on a branch in Tarrywile Park in Danbury, Conn., Sept. 2016.

Here’s a nice shot of a Red Squirrel taken last week in Tarrywile Park in Danbury, Conn. The Gray Squirrel is the dominant squirrel in New England, especially the southern part of the region, but Red Squirrels are common in the area as well. I appreciate my Red Squirrel sightings because I don’t see them very often at my home in southern New England. When I visit northern New England, I see plenty of Red Squirrels and hardly see any Gray Squirrels.

Of course, New England is also home to Flying Squirrels (which don’t actually fly, but soar) but I rarely see them, unfortunately. They are a sight not to forget when you do see them.