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Library Goodies

February 3, 2012

We went to the library, and I couldn’t help but go searching for gardening books. We’re extremely fortunate to live in a city with a well-stocked library that has an excellent acquisitions department.

gardening books

“Are you going to read all of those?” my husband asked as I climbed into the car. My lap was full.

They’re more for inspiration, research, and…just because.

Here’s the full list of what I borrowed:

What are some of your favorite gardening books? What are some books that have stood the test of time?

Gorgeous Day

February 1, 2012

Record high temperature today! 61° F!

I took a stroll during lunch and stopped by a rain garden near my building.

A little bit of green was poking through!

green buds in a rain garden

Did you have amazing, unseasonable weather today?


January 31, 2012

Every morning the yard looks like a Disney movie. Birds and squirrels flit about, and I half expect a princess to come waltzing through and burst into song.

But really, it’s because we have bird feeders.

tufted titmouse at feeder

In the winter, the birds go crazy—like this tufted titmouse—for the black oil sunflower seeds I feed them. With the exception of one high-capacity feeder, I have to fill them daily, or every other day.

We enjoy watching the birds, and our four-year-old is learning to identify some of the regulars. Cardinals are pretty easy.

red cardinal

We have one feeder in the front of the house, and it doesn’t get much action.

This is a pretty accurate shot:

empty bird feeder on front porch

I’ve hung it on one of the plant hooks under the front eave of the porch, hoping that birds would flock to it and we could watch them from our living room. A few finches dart in from the dogwood at sunrise and that’s it. I was hoping they would take cover in the shrubbery below.

Perhaps the type of feeder is more appropriate for finches, yet they aren’t fans of black oil sunflower seeds? This feeder has seen better days. Also, apparently so has the metalwork on our porch.

If you have bird feeders and squirrels, you’ll appreciate this book. No kids necessary.

Those Darn Squirrels

Do you use bird feeders?

Taking Things Indoors

January 30, 2012

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you stop growing.


Amaryllis are easy, no nonsense plants that provide plenty of joy on the dullest of days.

I keep mine on a west-facing window sill. This demure pink one bloomed within a month of planting.

I have a second red one from last year that’s recently woken up from a long sleep in the basement. It’s on the south side now, but will join the others on the west window soon.

I’ve also tried growing basil, but have come to realize that no matter how sunny your sunroom is in the winter, it’s not enough. I’ve managed to clip a few leaves, but the plant would really benefit from living under a grow light.

What do you like to grow indoors in the winter?

New USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

January 27, 2012

This week the USDA released an updated and more precise plant hardiness zone map. This is the map’s first update since 1990, and the new version provides an incredible amount of interactivity and granular views.


U.S. Department of Agriculture

You can even drill down to your specific location. This is great if you’re on the edge of a zone and have desperately tried zooming into the old map to figure out where you fall.

USDA Zone Map street view

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Beware of lots of CAPTCHAS  when you interact with the map. They can get tedious.

No posters are available, but you can download and print all kids of sizes and resolutions for a variety of uses.

Goodbye, old map.

1990 US Zone Map

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Dreaming + Planning

January 24, 2012

sage in snow

Do you find yourself getting lost in garden dreams?

Despite the snow and the cold, the dreariness and the lack of daylight, this is when my imagination runs wild.

What will I plant? How can I design the garden? What will I finally do this year?

It’s a time of possibilities. If you find yourself getting lost in the possibilities, just go with it. Relish it. When it’s hot and you’re losing the battle against weeds, the fantasy will be over.

Here are some of my dreams:

  • Use a cold frame, which will be invaluable for hardening off seedlings while I’m away during the day and extending the growing period for certain crops.
  • Grow with an eye for winter. It’s important that I boost the number of things that can be dried, frozen, and canned.
  • More mulch! The best year I ever had was when I piled dried grass clippings on as mulch. My watering and weeding duties were greatly reduced. This year I’ll turn to hay and straw, newspaper, and whatever grass clippings I can gather.
  • Grow what we’ll eat. Over the years I’ve figured out what we like to eat, and what ends up in the compost as waste. As much as I feel like I should grow kale, the reality is it won’t get eaten. I’m OK with being real.
  • Go vertical! Even though I have a spacious garden, there are some squash and melon plants that I don’t want dominating the garden.

Here in zone 6 I plant my seeds indoors at the end of February. I have a month to finalize my list, go through my seed collection, order new seeds, and organize my garden layout.

Until then, dream on!

2011 in Review

January 4, 2012

Happy New Year to everyone! I hope you’re all busy with your winter gardening projects. (Who says gardeners get a break during the winter?)

One thing I love about WordPress is the annual review they give me of my blog every year. Feel free to poke through the stats and see what you all found most interesting. Click here to see the complete report.

New in 2012

This year I’m going to spend time thinking about the direction of The Suburban Farm and what it can become. This is an excellent opportunity to talk about what YOU would like this space to be. What kind of content would you like to see?

  • More photos?
  • More how-to’s?
  • Recipes?
  • More specifics about vegetable gardening in urban and suburban spaces?
  • What about a social community?

I started this as a space for those of us toiling away in yards and other residential spaces, for those who love the grit of hard work and probably also have to show off those gritty fingers in the office, too.

I would love to hear your thoughts on continuing down this path. Let’s put our heads together!

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