I SAY – YOU SAY – USDA

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By Cris Blackstone

When you hear “USDA” do you immediately think of the Plant Hardiness Zone Finder, which is divided in ten-degree F zones, based on average annual minimum winter temperature? You have probably used the GIS interactive version by now, and appreciate this as the standard to work with. Or does your mind go to Daniel Stone’s book on David Fairchild (The Food Explorer) and think of Fairchild’s work at the USDA Office of Foreign See and Plant Production? Fairchild introduced American agriculture business to mangoes, kale, avocados, soybeans, and nectarines, to name a few foods you are familiar with in our diets. Or somewhere in between?

The United States Department of Agriculture website (www.usda.gov) offers historical as well as the most up-to-date information you can use for your research and garden communication work. Check the tab “Natural Resources Conservation Services” and from that drop down menu, see the specific sustainability and resiliency topics, such as Soils, Water, Air, Plants and Animals, Climate Change and Organic information. Within each of these, there is more to explore, to fit your specific questions and entice your curiosity. Other areas of the website include the “Plant of the Week,” “Pollinator References,” ”Endangered Plants in the US,” and even an area for each state, listing a comprehensive inventory of the plants identified growing state-by-state.

Within the USDA website and services, you can find the National Agricultural Library, www.nal.usda.gov. (This is one of our five national libraries; with the other four being the National Library of Medicine, the Library of Congress, the National Library of Education and the National Transportation Library.) It is user-friendly, and contains information divided into main categories which could be of particular GardenComm interest. Check out the Invasives area of the website; and from there, the more specific sources referenced and outlined as research and regulations state-by-state are listed. Organizations listed and cited in the material are a wide representation of higher education, research-based, and diverse interests in the field.

Fact sheets on many of the topics we share at presentations for Master Gardeners, Community Gardens, Garden Clubs and Library Groups, are available for you to download and print and share freely. Information you might use when collaborating on a project with a municipal group, reviewing a site plan, for example, include the USDA Wetland Indicators flow chart. The various posters and fact sheets are available straight from the website, or offered with a few strategic clicks as you review what’s available. You will be doing your audience a great service by sharing this type of material – no matter if you are working on a general overview or for an article specific to a region of the country.

So, now when you hear USDA, you know it can be your initial “go to” for your work investigating many important topics. Between the site, its drop down menus and the National Agriculture Library, you certainly have the most diverse and broad-spectrum of sources available, for your work including sustainability, resilience and problem-solving in our manmade as well as our natural landscapes. With natural resources conservation as one of the initial focus points Abraham Lincoln stated in starting the USDA, we continue to value those efforts. Through appreciating gardening, whether a container on your patio, or larger scale, such as the vast flower growing industries around the world, garden communicators share imperative goals for health and well-being as well as the health of everything shared on Earth, from microbes below soil surface to the tallest sequoias and the products of all plants entering the atmosphere.

Meet the Author

Cris Blackstone is the Education Coordinator for the New Hampshire Landscape Association, a Certified NH Landscaper, University of NH Natural Resources Steward, and Master Gardener. She co-hosts “The Environmental Hour,” once-monthly radio show in seacoast NH/Maine. She serves on municipal, county and statewide Conservation Commissions or Districts and is a frequent workshop presenter or facilitator on topics from herbs to indoor plant care. Her photography work includes juried events and accompanies many of her freelance articles.CB

Three Places You’ll Find Hundreds of Ideas and Writer Resources

By Cris Blackstone

With material that’s trending, valid, and vetted, your articles will gain more attention, and you’ll find them more rewarding to research and write in the first place. What helps most of all is knowing where to look. Valuable resources have searchable data bases of recent information.  When looking for the best places to research and make connections for substantial phone or e-mail interview time, there are three extremely valuable go-to sources a few keystrokes away.

First, GreenBiz– www.greenbiz.com, describes itself as “advancing the opportunities at the intersection of business, technology and sustainability.” Further, “GreenBiz promotes the potential to drive transformation and accelerate progress.” With an initial look at this website, check out “MORE+” with its drop down menu featuring tabs for Sustainability, Cities, Buildings and Water, among other choices. The “Sustainability” tab holds an array of articles on the business of sustainability; from recycling efforts around the world, to ways COVID 19 is giving green businesses a reason to rethink business practices. An article presenting reasons Earth Day should be an official company holiday and one on recycling efforts around the world show the spectrum of topics shared there. The “Cities” tab includes articles and extensive research reports about parks which are designed for storm water management, larger populations seeking refuge from densely crowded areas, and ways parks can help resolve heat sink issues in downtown areas. Under the “Buildings” tab, you find topics such as massive green walls requiring much more technology not only to manage the weight of the supportive structures, but manage watering and lighting, too. Read about green wall solutions from around the world, included monthly, if not more frequently, here.  And on the mind of  every gardener, landscape architect, city planner and horticulturalist – the topic is water. From desalinization, to providing effective irrigation for controlling plant pests and diseases, the “Water” tab will become your go-to for informative articles peer-to-peer, so as successful and respected Garden Communicators, you can be continually up-do-date.

Second, Hort Daily, www.hortidaily.com, is the comprehensive source for world-wide news and views on all topics related to vegetables and edible gardening in the horticulture industry. You can look at Hort Daily online in a web search or you can subscribe, free, to get this in your inbox daily. The topics are well-organized, and each issue includes an overview of what articles are included for the day. From autonomous greenhouse operation to technology to monitor humidity in microclimates in an extensive field for effective irrigation, hortdaily.com offers worldwide news and innovations as well as articles from US agriculture and green businesses. Garden Comm writers wanting research material on anything from hydroponics to introducing ethnic edible garden plants, should definitely use this daily newsletter’s easily searchable database.

A sister company to Horti Daily, Floral Daily, www.floraldaily.com, reports on every aspect of the flower industry you can think of. From seed and plant trials to innovations in greenhouse growers of all sizes and descriptions, this site has the information you may appreciate as background in your research about independent flower growers as well as international brands of global significance. Floral Daily is a place to find your material on processing, shipping practices, growing in sustainability, trends in colors and design styles. . .”alles en nog wat” (everything and then some, as they say in Dutch) when you are researching flowers. When you can’t get to Keukenhof for the tulip blooms in season, this is the place to learn how the tulip market is faring during COVID19, for instance.

I hope these three sites help you format some of your thinking as you research your articles, and offer further ideas on where to look for current, worldwide information.

“The heart and soul of good writing is research; you should not write what you know but what you can find out about.” – Robert J. Sawyer, Canadian Author

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Meet the Author

Cris Blackstone is the Education Coordinator for the New Hampshire Landscape Association, a Certified NH Landscaper, University of NH Natural Resources Steward, and Master Gardener. She co-hosts “The Environmental Hour,” once-monthly radio show in seacoast NH/Maine. She serves on municipal, county and statewide Conservation Commissions or Districts and is a frequent workshop presenter or facilitator on topics from herbs to indoor plant care. Her photography work includes juried events and accompanies many of her freelance articles.
CB

#HorticulturalHappyHour

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By C.L. Fornari 

I interviewed George Ball, Chairman of W. Atlee Burpee Company, on GardenLine the other day, and it was his opinion that the 2020 pandemic has jumpstarted a new era of gardening in North America. As millions become interested in growing their own food, and even more decide to improve flower gardens and outdoor living spaces, it seems likely that one of the positive effects of the coronavirus will be the cultivation of more gardeners. Although storm clouds might have silver linings, according to George the folks at Burpee like to call this one “the green lining” to COVID-19.

Those of us who speak, write and teach about plants and gardens agree and are leaping to cultivate this interest. We’re teaching and preaching through the channels we’ve always used—books, radio, articles, blogs, and podcasts—along with extra heavy use of social networking, online classes and virtual meetings. We’re looking for all ways possible to help people be successful with their plants and gardens. We’re also emphasizing the joy that comes with the process and end results.

dahlia happyhour

There are many approaches to leading this charge, but one I’d suggest is to start talking about a #HorticulturalHappyHour. It’s fine if your mind automatically jumps to the traditional evening time for cocktails—plants play a key role in most beverages, after all—yet there are so many ways to think of how brief periods spent with plants and gardens can make people feel better. A horticultural happy hour can occur at any time of day. Here are a just few ideas we’ll be running with on the GardenComm Twitter account. I can’t wait to see what grows when garden communicators and grab this hashtag and run with it.

Recipe for a #HorticulturalHappyHour: several empty containers, a large bag of potting soil, and pots of herbs. Mints, lemon verbena, basil, stevia, sage and parsley. Plant, water, arrange in a group, and enjoy all summer.

My #HorticulturalHappyHour is in the morning when I take a cup of coffee out to the garden and just watch what I’ve planted. I listen to birdsong, inhale fragrance from the flowers, and see the bees flying from bloom to bloom.

15 minutes for weeding, 15 minutes for planting, 15 minutes for picking flowers or vegetables, 15 minutes for taking photos & posting = one satisfying and productive #HorticulturalHappyHour

Watering houseplants, rearranging some pots, picking off random yellow or brown leaves, noticing which ones are (surprise!) coming into bloom. #houseplants #HorticulturalHappyHour

I love walking to the vegetable garden in the morning, using the hoe to chop off young weeds, and shaking a fist at the crows who are eyeing the ripening tomatoes. #HorticulturalHappyHour before showering and heading off to work.

Best plants for fun cocktail garnishes: cucamelons, sugar-snap peas, lemon verbena, calamondin citrus, lemon basil and mints. #HorticulturalHappyHour

Get home from work, put aside digital devices, walk into the #vegetable garden and ask “What’s for dinner?” Discover the best tasting food on earth. #HorticulturalHappyHour

Plant seeds, in pots or the garden, and take your coffee outside every morning to see what’s germinating. #HorticulturalHappyHour  #LifeAffirming

Heading out to run errands? Pick flowers first, make small bouquets, tie them with string or recycled ribbons and hand them to strangers. One to the supermarket cashier, one to person filling their tank at the next gas pump, one in the bank’s drive-thru window. Random acts of kindness.  #HorticulturalHappyHour

So, my fellow plant geeks, garden communicators and green industry professionals. What constitutes a #HorticulturalHappyHour for you, and how are you spreading the joy moving forward?

Meet the Author

C.L. Fornari is a writer, speaker, podcaster, and Treasurer of GardenComm International. She hangs out online at http://www.GardenLady.com
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GardenComm Members Give Advice: When a planter is both a garden and a privacy screen

By Keri Butler 

The historical referencelong view

As a prelude to my life’s encore, I took up condo living nearly two years ago. I’m done with hand-weeding a tiny lawn, thinning perennials, edging beds, and tumbling compost, but I still wanted a green space, just one a bit more time friendly to my post corporate and on-the-move life.

GardenComm members including Beth Botts have assisted me with the transition after I asked for their suggestions in their group, GardenComm, on Facebook.

Browsing gardening centers, I found myself drawn to planters, pots, and options for softening the new deck life. I discovered that balcony green spaces are an open pallet for creative expression and that I need privacy. Layering these desires with the condo association rules and requisite approvals and I’m challenged to bring on my green.

To soften my building’s trendy industrial look, I started with corner planters: a white pine with heather and pansies; another with hops, hellebores and asters; a smattering of seasonally inside-out plants including an inherited rubber tree, oxalis, gardenia, and Dracaena trifasciata. Note to Bill Dawson: I’m still working on the association’s rules for the common beds.

Now the third growing season approaches and I have firm must-have criteria: more plantings!
the challenge

The challenge

My newly retired neighbor’s French door has a great view through my dining room double window, creating the need for screening. With a narrow four-foot wide deck, finding a long, slim and visually appealing planter with a small footprint was a scavenger hunt. I finally settled on a two-foot-high by 12-inch-wide by 40-inch-long all-weather trough.

Next, I searched for tall perennials, shrubs, or grasses that would not topple the chosen vessel nor demand excessive watering, yet would thrive in morning east as well as afternoon north sun. My wish list targeted regional native plants, unusual options, and visually appealing color pallets to complement my outdoor décor.

Bamboo, flowering and berried shrubs, and grasses made the short list. Serviceberry, witch hazel, feather reed grass, fountain fire Japanese pieris and Indian grass narrowed the field. I was ready to forage and support my favorite local garden center.

planter visualThe spoils

I’m always intrigued by what a good browse does to my wish list: lost in endless possibilities, I altered my plan and landed on the finalists. My default color theme of greens and purples merged plants offering alternative whimsical styles. Maria Zampini:  Perhaps you have thoughts since you’ve experienced the gardens at my previous home? For me gardening is a tapestry of what was planted in the past, where décor needs to be enhanced, and plants can be adjusted seasonally. The final planting will be seen from my living area.

I loaded my car with dwarf Alberta spruce, Gracillimus Maiden grass, Matrix Blue Blotch pansies, Colorata Euonymus, and Pasque flower. The spruce made the cut when I was distracted by a video on pruning topiaries. Given the current edict for staying in place, I decided it would be a distraction and a challenge when I was bored.

The planter is soothing, filtering, and a visual site resting spot when I glance out. I envision its growth filling in, up, and out. The perfect close to a spring weekend: mini gardening on a balcony.

Keri Butler consulted several GardenComm members looking for advice about her new plantings.

*Corner planters by Algreen, Trench by Veradeck

Meet the Author

KeriButler

Keri Butler now is an urban gardener. She moved from a century house to a condo and learning to garden in pots and planters.  Keri volunteers while recovering from 20 years in corporate America. Her first gardening experience was deadheading in her grandfather’s garden. Grandpa George who preferred growing produce, was known for his rose and iris beds.

COVID-19 Resources

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Business Resources

Some GardenComm members may be eligible for forgivable loans from the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. They will be of most help to members who own small businesses, covering payroll costs, and insurance premiums, along with rent, and utilities. They may also be of use to the self-employed, particularly those that rent outside offices. We are checking for more details on how independent contractors might be able to use these loans and will be updating. But for the most part, self-employed would likely derive the greater benefit from collecting unemployment now that it’s an option.

The loans require no collateral or personal guarantee and can be repaid over 10 years. Most significantly, the portion covering payroll, mortgage, rent, or utility expenses from Feb. 15 to June 30, can be forgiven. Find a quick overview, look here. Visit SBA.gov for more info. Click here for more information on The Paycheck Protection Program.

Freelance Resources

For US citizens:

Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law on March 27, freelancers and independent contractors are for the first time eligible to collect unemployment. Members must apply through their state’s employment office, and since this is a new program, it’s expected to take at least a few days if not weeks for state offices to work out details.

These payments can be quite substantial. Applicants can receive $600 per week for up to four months, along with payments from their state for a maximum of 39 weeks. Since independent contractors and freelancers don’t get a regular paycheck, previous tax returns will be used to confirm your typical income. If you expect your income in 2019 will be lower than it was in 2018, it may make sense to delay filing your 2019 return. (The filing deadline has been moved to July 15.)

For Canadian citizens:

Applications will open on April 6. To be eligible to receive the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) from Service Canada, the following must apply:

  • You must reside in Canada
  • You are 15 years of age or older at the time of application
  • You have stopped or will stop working for reasons related to COVID-19, or because you are unable to work due to illness, or because you lost your employment for other reasons beyond your control; and
  • If you are submitting for your first benefit period, that you have stopped or will stop working for at least 14 consecutive days within the 4 week benefit period; or
  • If you are filing for a subsequent benefit period, you did not receive any employment or self-employment income for the period for which you previously claimed the benefit and do not expect to receive any employment or self-employment income in the 4 week benefit period
  • You have not quit your job voluntarily
  • You are not receiving nor have you applied for the CERB from the Canada Revenue Agency nor are you receiving Employment Insurance benefits for the same benefit period
  • You have earned a minimum of $5,000 in income within the last 12 months or in the 2019 calendar year from one or more of the following sources:
    • Employment income
    • Self-employment income

Important! If you are not normally eligible for Employment Insurance, please register for your CRA My Account and direct deposit in advance of the application launch.

For more information, please go to the federal government website.

Apply for Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) with CRA – Canada.ca

GardenComm Support
For Members & Guests: Webinars & Blogs Coming Soon

What’s On with GardenComm!

Hop into spring with GardenComm by submitting for the exciting opportunities we have to offer!


2020 GardenComm Director Nominations
Deadline Monday, March 30

The GardenComm Nominations Committee is soliciting nominations from members to be considered as candidates for director positions for GardenComm Leadership.

Serving as a GardenComm leader is both an honor and a commitment. To work with other distinguished members of our industry in leading and shaping this organization is a productive and immensely enjoyable experience. Please submit a self-nomination or recommend people whom you know will demonstrate the energy and innovative spirit we need to build on our momentum!

For more information, click here.

Deadline Tuesday, March 31
Click here to submit your entry today!


honors

2020 GardenComm Honors Nominations
Deadline Monday, June 1

Each year, GardenComm recognizes industry excellence and service to the association with its Honors program in seven distinct honoree categories listed below. As the chairs of the Honors program, we encourage you to submit a nomination, which can be made by or on behalf of any qualified nominee. Self-nominations are also welcome.

For more information, click here.

 

Planting Opportunity

Your yoga classes, meetings and concerts are canceled. The kids are out of school and you’re being encouraged to stay home. In this time of #Covid-19, GardenComm members are thinking about how people can use this period to cultivate something good. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Take this time to groom or repot houseplants. Remove dead leaves, refresh the soil, take cuttings of favorites so that later you can share the wealth with friends.
  • Start some seeds. Nothing is more life-affirming than checking each morning to see if something spouted.
  • Plan a vegetable garden. Grow the veggies you love the most. Read about which varieties to plant from seeds and which ones are better if you purchase plants. Consult garden blogs and books.
  • Plan to grow flowers that make you happy. Suggestions: sunflowers, nasturtiums, zinnias or marigolds. These are #EasyFromSeeds and you can grow many plants for less money.
  • Create a new indoor display of plants. Make a row of small pots in bloom on your kitchen counter or the windowsill above your sink. Move an unused side table in front of a window or slider, creating a new place for plants.
  • Redesign the plantings in the front of your house. Research plants that grow well in your area, and make a plan for spring renewal.
  • Take an online class about plants or gardens, or watch some YouTube instruction videos. Learn about seed starting, taking cuttings, or how to grow vegetables.
  • Plan an herb garden. What herbs do you like to cook with? Which herbs make the best cocktails or tea? If you don’t have in-ground space, grow herbs in pots. #foodies #aromatherapy
  • Pull out the garden or plant books you bought in the past and read them…maybe for the first time! Revisit those copies with lovely garden photos and be newly inspired.
  • Take a walk in a nearby natural area: woods, field, desert, beach or park. Look closely at leaves, bark, mosses and flowers. Notice the number of plants that grow in a community. Look up, look down.
  • Go to on-line seed and plant companies and learn about varieties you’re not familiar with. Join plant or garden groups on social media. Search for posts about the flowers and plants you see listed.
  • Order a new book about plants or gardens. Once it arrives, hold a #GardenRetreat hour or afternoon. Sip your favorite beverage, read and make a list of garden inspirations.
  • What plants remind you of family members or friends? Write those memories down. Consider turning those recollections, along with photos of the plants and people, into a small book that can be passed to others in your family.
  • Decide to plant a tree. Research which varieties grow well in your area. Look to see where you have the right amount of space and sunlight.
  • Get a head start on the growing season by removing plants that died last season or over the winter. Prepare those spaces for planting, and research to find the perfect varieties for these spaces.
  • Plan a new group of containers for your deck, porch or patio. Flowers, herbs and vegetables await your creativity…go for color, fragrance and flavor.
  • Help to get a young person out into the natural world. Plan a garden for your kids or grandchildren. Donate supplies to a local children’s garden or school garden.
  • Plan a garden vacation. Decide on an area of the country, and research public gardens, national parks, and plant destinations that are in the region. (If you’re a garden communicator, come to GardenComm2020 in Williamsburg!)

View found time as a #PlantingOpportunity, keep it  #GardenStrong and #LifeAffirming.