Category Archives: Mother Earth News

Give To Your Local Seed Library

A seed library allows you to “check out” seeds with your promise to return some of your saved seeds at season’s end.

Seeds I borrowed from the Seed Library of the Kent Free Library.
Seeds I borrowed from the Seed Library of the Kent Free Library.

Seed libraries are getting to the point where they are becoming commonplace, at least from my point of view. Just a few years ago, they seemed like they were an endangered species, with seed laws making their existence precarious at best. Now with updated state laws, the seed library is coming back with a vengeance.

Earlier this year, I wrote up a post for Mother Earth News about seed libraries. One point I made was that the only way a seed library will survive and thrive is for people to give back. Well, now’s the time for action.

Saved seeds can be beautiful.
Saved seeds can be beautiful.

My seed library experience

For example, my neighborhood seed library, the Seed Library of the Kent (Ohio) Free Library) just sent out a request for gardeners to bring in collected seeds.

Here’s a few of their reminders:

  • We collect vegetable, herb, or flower seeds.

  • If  you had a successful crop using seeds from the Seed Library, we’d like you to bring back at least twice as much seed as you “borrowed.”

  • Donated seeds don’t have to be from plants you grew from Seed Library seeds!  Anything you’d like to donate helps grow the collection.

  • Review seed saving guidelines to be sure that your seeds will be viable and “true”–for instance, double check whether plants needed to be grown a certain distance away from other varieties in the same family or whether seeds can be harvested from the plant the first year, or are biennial and need to overwinter.

  • Save and dry your seeds according to recommended practices.

  • Bring your seeds to the library in a clear plastic bag and be sure to completely fill out a donation form.

Unfortunately for me, my checked out seeds didn’t fair well. I borrowed 4 varieties of beans, yet none survived. Between our drought and hungry rabbits, no beans were produced. I do have other seeds though, including the pictured Jacobs Cattle beans. Turnips, tomatoes, and peppers will round out my donations.

The most important idea to remember about seeds is they are an abundant resource when saved. Our consumer society wants you to believe seeds must purchase them from giant organizations hundreds of miles away. Truth is, one tomato or turnip plant can produce literally thousands of seeds. As a seed saver, you will have so many you won’t know what to do with them all. Why not give some back to the community?

Weeds Can Be Your Friends

The Snarky Gardener knows how to turn weeds into allies. Or at least keep them from being a problem.

No-till, mulch and homemade weeds - what a combo!
No-till, mulch and homemade weeds – what a combo!

On the Mother Earth News blog, I wrote an article describing my techniques to bring your weeds down to a dull roar. There I listed 5 different ideas to mitigate garden weeds (including eating them). I personally think “weeds” are misunderstood. Unless an unwanted plant is literally shading out one that needs the sunlight, there is no reason to remove them. Most of my weeding is preventative, meaning I remove plants going to seed that I believe I have plenty of (grass and quickweed for example).

So here’s the list:

  1. Low till – tilling brings up weed seeds
  2. Mulch – to keep weeds from growing in the first place. I usually use fall leaves or straw, especially with my potatoes.
  3. Utilize them – many “weeds” are edible
  4. Cover crops – keeps the soil covered while enriching it
  5. Make Your Own – turn your seedier veggies (like lettuce and turnips) into edible weeds
  6. Plant closely (especially beans) – closely planted vegetables naturally shade out other plants

I left out number 6 from my Mother Earth News blog post mostly because including it didn’t occur to me until after it was released. It’s worked with green beans but I might try it with bush zucchini also. Just have to find the right sweet spot between crowding and too weedy.

Do You Have Mad Gardening Skills?

The Snarky Gardener lists 7 skills you need to take your gardening to the next level.

To be an avid gardener, you need to develop special abilities. Do you have what it takes? Are you willing to stretch outside your comfort zone? It will take hard work and dedication.

The Snarky Gardener patiently standing by his tree.
The Snarky Gardener patiently standing by his tree.

Here are my 7 mad gardening skills:

  1. Alertness
  2. Creativity
  3. Forgiveness
  4. Humility
  5. Patience
  6. Planning
  7. Sharing

Discover them in my latest Mother Earth News blog post “7 Mad Gardening Skills

Hugelkultur at Snarky Acres

The Snarky Gardener has several hugelkultur beds at Snarky Acres. Here’s his Mother Earth News article on them.

Newly added hugelkultur bed with leeks and onions planted on it.
Newly added hugelkultur bed with leeks and onions planted on it.

Hugelkultur beds are built using buried wood and other organic material. These ingredients break down over time, providing your plants with nutrients and moisture. Breaking down over the next 5 to 10 years, the wood will eventually transform into rich beautiful soil. I recently wrote about my hugelkultur beds at Snarky Acres for Mother Earth News, including what veggies I planted on them and how they are working out for me so far.

Gardening While Renting

The Snarky Gardener is now a Mother Earth News blogger! His first post is an adaptation of “Permaculture While Renting” with more gardening and less permaculture.I Blog For Mother Earth news

It’s not easy being a gardener who rents or a renter who gardens. In “Gardening While Renting“, I discuss the trials and tribulations of putting in permanent infrastructure (fences, raised beds, and improved soil) while knowing the stay could be quite temporary. Spoiler alert: it’s all about the relationship between renter and landlord.

This is the first of many blog posts on Mother Earth News. I’ll be writing under the “Organic Gardening” topic area with new posts coming out twice a month. I’m excited for this wonderful opportunity to expand my reach and bring other snarky gardeners into the fold. “What does this opportunity pay?” you ask. No cash per se, but it does give The Snarky Gardener unprecedented exposure that doesn’t involve an embarrassing “wardrobe malfunction”.

The Snarky Gardener posing by his favorite (and only) crab apple tree. "Does this tree make me look fat?"
The Snarky Gardener posing by his favorite (and only) crab apple tree. “Does this tree make me look fat?”

The Snarky Gardener (aka Don Abbott) is a gardener, blogger, author, educator, speaker, reluctant activist, and permaculture practitioner from Kent Ohio. Professionally he’s a software developer but spends his spare time producing food at Snarky Acres, his rented .91 acre urban farm. His blog – thesnarkygardener.com – assists others with growing food in Northeastern Ohio and beyond. He is also the founder of the Kent Ohio chapter of Food Not Lawns. In Spring 2015, he received his Permaculture Design Certification from Cleveland Ohio based Green Triangle. Please like him on Facebook as he likes to be liked. https://www.facebook.com/thesnarkygardener/

Please contact the Snarky Gardener at don@thesnarkygardener.com