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The MasterGardening.com Blog


The transition of fall into winter marks a time of year when several communities begin preparations and celebrations for a number of different year’s end feasts and festivals.  Many of these special seasonal observances share very similar features, such as a period of reflection over the events of the ending year, and the optimistic acknowledgment of rebirth or regeneration going into the New Year.  While this regeneration may be celebrated in a religious or secular context, that these observances happen when they do is no surprise—many of these holidays wrap up just as the spring officially arrives, heralding a time of renewal and bounty.  The upcoming months are a time for many people, in the midst of the hardships that may come with winter, to think on the plenty of the spring and summer with appreciation, and reassure themselves that good times are just around the bend.

At the end of this month, many of us in the United States will observe Thanksgiving, a holiday celebrated both in the US and Canada (though, Canada celebrates in October).  Both celebrations are about showing appreciation for the harvest, and acknowledging the harvest as a symbol for all of the rewards reaped during the year.  At the same time, while we take a moment to recognize all of the blessings and privileges we enjoy, we also remember that there are many people going without what we consider necessities.

Hunger and poverty have increased since 2000, with around 15% of Americans at or falling below the poverty threshold.  For the millions of people struggling to stay fed, Thanksgiving can be a painful time.

So, what does this have to do with gardening?

Well.  Everything, actually.

Although the growing and gardening season is over, you can still plan ahead to use next year’s garden to not only stock your pantry, but also your local food pantry.  You may not realize it, but a food pantry in your area is probably interested in your bumper crop of cucumbers and asparagus.

AmpleHarvest.org is a USDA-backed non-profit organization that connects gardeners with food pantries, making it easy for the home gardener to make good use of excess harvests, and making good quality local produce accessible for those in need (sadly, fresh nutritious produce is not often available at food pantries).  The site gives exposure to small and largely unpublicized pantries so that they can be located much easier by those looking to make a donation, and allows gardeners to simply enter their zip code to find the closest participating pantry.  Pantries can also use the site to specify when they are accepting fresh produce donations, so gardeners know exactly where and when to go.

Registration and participation in this program is absolutely free for food pantries and gardeners.  AmpleHarvest.org acts as a network that makes it convenient for donators and pantries to locate and work with each other.  If you are interested in this program (and we hope you are!), AmpleHarvest.org has tons of information about how to register your pantry, how to locate a participating pantry in your area, and how to prepare and deliver your produce.

There is no good reason that any edible piece of produce should end up rotting in the garden soil, so after you’ve given away or canned as much as you’re able, a food pantry will happily accept the rest.  This is a win all around: good food gets to those who need it, gardeners can contribute to the community without spending extra money, and nothing usable is wasted.  So, as we enter the holiday season, a time we reflect on what we have and try our best to provide for those who don’t, remember that providing for others needs to happen year-round, and this giving can be a natural part of our favorite hobbies and daily life.

For more information about the program, visit www.ampleharvest.org!

Moss and Lichens

Moss and lichens have a long list of garden sins attributed to them.  Moss has been sprayed and ripped up from the ground for appearing to thin and dispatch grass struggling in shady areas, and lichen is associated with rot and sick trees.  It is also popularly believed that the presence of mosses and lichens in the garden, on [...]

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Plants: Still Incredibly Weird

Bleeding Tooth Fungus This might make us queasier if it didn’t look so much like a prop from a sci-fi movie, but we assure you, it’s real, and it’s a plant.Actually, it’s a fungus called Hydnellum peckii, or lovingly, bleeding tooth fungus.We probably don’t need to tell you where that title came from.The young caps are pale pink [...]

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Overwintering Birds

If you’re not a fan of ice skating, snowboarding, skiing, sledding, or being late to work every day for three months because the cold makes you go about your morning routine with the agility of a three toed sloth (a three toed sloth that completely forgot to warm up the car and scrape the windshield first), winter is a [...]

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You'll Regret It: Ivy

Just about every single nursery and garden center has at least one variety of ivy available for purchase.  It is inexpensive, hardy, and very forgiving with neglectful owners.  When planted in hanging baskets or containers in windows or on tall plant stands, ivy will quickly send long and elegant vines cascading down to the floor [...]

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You'll Regret It: Bamboo

Running Bamboo: Destroying Relationships Between Neighbors Since…well, since the first person figured out that the height, thickness, and quick-spreading nature of bamboo made it a great privacy fence.  Unfortunately, without taking precautions and regular maintenance measures, along a fence line, property edge, or deck isn’t where it is likely to stay.  If planted along a [...]

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Why Garden Gnomes?

At some point, you have probably seen a little ceramic garden gnome in a neighbor’s front yard or flowerbed.  At the very least, the words “garden gnome” conjure up a very specific image in your mind: a little man, one to two feet high, with a red cone hat and a long white beard.  People [...]

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Raised Bed Gardening

“The yard didn’t really have any plants in it except for an unknown and overgrown tree, so I thought, I’ll prune it back and dig up a small flower bed underneath for some summer bulbs.  I wanted to make a nice little spot for hanging out when the weather was nicer.  So, I handled the [...]

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Plant and Gardening Myths and Misconceptions

Deer-Proof” PlantsDeer-proof?  Don’t we wish.  There is no such thing as a completely deer-proof plant.  Deer-resistant plants, on the other hand, do seem to exist, but even still, a plant that is deer-resistant in one area may not be resistant in another.  Deer, like us, have a taste for some things, and not others, and [...]

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Plant a Literary Garden

For the bookworms among us, one of the best things about a garden on a quiet day is having a calm and relaxing place to sit and read.  But, here’s an idea: take the story out of the pages and put it in your landscape.  The Secret Garden, beloved novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, tells the [...]

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