2019 in Review: Article Highlights from The Garden Shed

  • By Susan Martin
  • /
  • December 2019-Vol.5 No. 12
  • /

One of my resolutions at the end of the year is to either read those books stored in my “to read” pile, or donate them. But when the medium is an ebook, or in this case, an enewsletter, there is no physical prompt to action. Therefore, with end-of-year enthusiasm for making and keeping resolutions, we’ve put together a list of the articles from 2019. This will be an easy reminder of those articles you meant to read, or perhaps a whole issue that you intended to read, or perhaps a useful article that you’d like to reread. It’s also a way for newsletter writers and readers to identify trends. The 2019 trend was to develop more sustainable gardening practices by amending the soil organically, reducing the use of chemical additives, and becoming more knowledgeable about the interdependence of native plants and insects.


Good Seeds Bad Seeds

This article includes a vegetable chart on the average number of years seeds may be saved and discusses how to test for germination rates.

The Soil Food Web: Nature’s Way to Build Healthy Soil

A community of organisms combine with organic materials to form an interdependent system that builds and sustains healthy soils. Learn how to develop sustainable practices and reduce dependence on, or even eliminate the use of, a chemical-based approach.


Minimal Till Cultivation: What? Don’t Turn Over the Garden Soil?

By using different shallow tillage tools and techniques, natural amendments are added to the top few inches of soil by loosening the soil rather than by inverting it. A healthy community of organisms in the top layer carries organic nutrients to deeper layers, improving soil texture and structure.

Creating a Bird-Friendly Garden

Wikipedia Commons

Insect species eat plants with which they have a long evolutionary history. Therefore, if we want to provide birds with their main food source of insects, we need to provide the native plants that feed these insects.

Refer to the National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder website, based on the work of Doug Tallamy, that provides a listing, according to ZIP code, of native plants, grasses, trees, and shrubs and the number of insects supported by each.


The Truth About Compost Tea: Making It, Using It, and What to Expect From It

Actively Aerated Compost Tea (AACT) can be an effective means to strengthen the soil microbe population and assist in disease and insect resistance. This article presents a DIY approach that is practical for most home gardeners for making and applying AACT.

Managing the Tick Problem

Black legged tick looking for host Photo: CDC.gov

Although ticks have fast become the pest of greatest personal health concern to gardeners and outdoor people of all stripes, there are steps we can take to reduce risk: understand the enemy and its habits, know how to react when bitten, and minimize the tick population in our yards and gardens.



Blueberry Cultivation in the Home Garden

Successfully growing blueberries requires attention from beginning to end: start by picking the right varieties; manage the soil pH; provide good drainage to avoid root rot; prune to maintain productivity; and manage pests, particularly birds. This superfood requires a commitment but offers tasty, healthful rewards.


Another Pesticide Controversy: Neonicotinoids and Pollinator Decline

A class of pesticides called neonicotinoids (neuro-active systemic insecticides), are currently under scrutiny for harming pollinators, and the data is only strengthening. Reaching for a pesticide at the first sign of damage is quick and easy, but is there a better way? Learn about Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This approach requires more work and acceptance of a certain amount of pest damage, but is definitely more sustainable over the long term.

Gardening for Hummingbirds

Hummingbird at cardinal flower, Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo: Steven Severinghaus

To create a hummingbird habitat, a gardener needs to provide for their basic needs: food, water, shelter from predators, perches, and nesting sites. Also included is a list of nectar-rich, native plants that will attract and sustain these tiny dynamos. See a really fun video on hummingbirds enjoying a water spot!




Container Gardening, Part I

Part I discusses the basic guidelines for growing plants in containers outside, including types of available containers, appropriate potting mediums, and factors to consider when choosing a location.


Container Gardening II: What to Grow & How

Plant selections depend on your space, time, budget, and aspirations. Vegetable gardeners will appreciate a chart that shows the minimum container size and spacing needed for planting specific vegetables. Maintenance requirements such as watering, fertilizing, staking, grooming and pruning, and overwintering are also discussed.


Pollination: Flowering Plants, Pollinators, and the Wonder of It All

This article explores the basics of pollination and how it works, including plant structure, botanical terms, and different types of pollination (insect, animal, water, wind). Recognition of an evolutionary match between the pollinators that approach each flower, and the flower design that meets pollinator capabilities, makes us keenly aware of our responsibility not to jeopardize this interdependence.


The Bees in Your Backyard

Sweat Bee
Photo: Thom Quine

Native bees are considered a “keystone” species, meaning they are central to the food web of an ecosystem, and the survival of many other species depends upon them. This article describes the developmental stages of native bees, identification characteristics, types of native bees, specialist bees, bee decline, and tips for creating a bee-friendly environment.


Weeds, Glorious Weeds

“Know thy enemy” is a proverb appropriate to many gardening challenges. After reading this article on identifying specific weeds and recommended treatments, you will be that much closer to reducing the weed workload.

Responsible Lawn Management in the Era of Climate Change

This article reviews grass choices and practices for cultivating lawns in the Virginia Piedmont with best practice tips for minimizing the damage from turfgrass monocultures. Environmentally-friendlier alternatives are also discussed.


Plenty of Ways to Kill a Tree

Despite its heft, a tree is not impervious to harm. This article highlights the right way to care for trees, and the mistakes we should avoid.


Row Covers: A Gardening Season Extender With Benefits

Floating and hoop-supported row covers offers simple, inexpensive, and practical solutions that can extend both ends of the gardening season and provide other in-season benefits, such as insect protection. Learn how each type of cover suits particular objectives. Construction guidelines, with photos, are included.

Pesticide Storage and Disposal

At the end of the growing season, many of us are left with extra chemicals that must not be tossed into our trash barrels. This article defines different types of pesticides and points out the importance of reading the container labels on safe storage and disposal. We also learn what happens to those chemicals after they’re dropped off at a Household Hazardous Waste Day event.


Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

Blue in the Sun (Amsonia, Baptisia Australis, Caryopteris)

Amsonia tabernaemontana Photo: Gail and Hal Clark

The Sedge Alternative

Mystery Plant of the Prairie: Silphiums

Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa) and Doll’s Eyes (Actaea pachypoda):
Tall, Shade-loving and Native

Eggplants: Easy to Grow With Surprising Variety and Versatility


Viburnum – A Shrub for Many Settings

Aronias: Native Shrub for Fall Color

Aronia arbutifolia in a garden setting Photo: Oregon State University


DIY Red Wine Vinegar

Fried Zucchini Chili

Innovative Ways with Garden Greens

Fresh Tomato, Basil & Walnut Pasta

Eggplant and Tomatoes with Caper-Shallot Vinaigrette

Tea with Scones and Clotted Cream

Photo: Charmaine Zoe

Fig & Goat Cheese Appetizer

Aronia Berry Smoothie


Remember to check past issues of The Garden Shed for articles on task and tips for both the ornamental and the vegetable garden on a monthly basis.



Speaking of past issues, they contain a wealth of information, and they are searchable!  So when a gardening dilemma presents itself, try searching the past issues of The Garden Shed.  To browse prior issues or to search them, go to the right-hand menu on the main page of The Garden Shed, as shown in the photo below.




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