8 Garden Podcasts to Grow Your Knowledge

By Katie Dubow, Creative Director at Garden Media

I’m a big fan of talk radio especially NPR. So when podcasts exploded in popularity I was thrilled. For those unfamiliar with podcasts, they are audio programs (usually music or talk) in digital format for automatic download over the Internet. Kind of like themed talk radio you can download and play when convenient.

Intrigued?  Here are eight of my favorite gardening podcasts in 2018. Download to your mobile device, insert earbuds and go play in the soil.

Still Growing Garden Podcast 6ftmamaStill Growing … Master Gardner Jennifer Ebeling — aka 6ftmama — hosts the “Still Growing” podcast. She brings attention to the “joys of digging in the dirt” and helps people succeed in the garden. She interviewed me recently about 2018 Garden Trends.http://6ftmama.com/still-growing/

A Way to Garden … Famous for her long career as a garden writer (she was the first garden editor at Martha Stewart magazine), Margaret Roach knows her stuff. Her podcast, A Way to Garden, attracts some of her ‘friends’ from her 25-year career. https://awaytogarden.com/category/etcetera/radio-podcasts/

Plantrama … Garden writers C.L. Fornari and Ellen Zachos team up for this fun and conversational podcast, Plantrama. Their tagline —“science, art, and dinner, it’s all in your own backyard”—covers the approach taken by the hosts. Listening to the podcast makes is like a neighborly chat with the two informative women. https://www.plantrama.com/

podcastYou Bet Your Garden …Mike McGrath hosts the popular radio show “You Bet Your Garden.” Past episodes are available via podcast. He takes phone calls from the public about everything from selective bird feeding to clearing weeds from your walkway. https://www.npr.org/podcasts/381443696/you-bet-your-garden

 Slow Flowers … Debra Prinzing is the host and creator of” Slow Flowers,” based on a movement she started in 2008 to bring attention to responsible U.S. flower farmers. She soon found herself on a journey to educate people about the U.S. flower market and to share stories of the incredible, hard-working flower farmers doing it right. Her passion shines through in her voice. Listen to Garden Media talk with Debra about 2018 Garden Trends. http://www.debraprinzing.com/category/slow-flowers-podcast

podcast 2In Defense of Plants…Plant geeks unite! “In Defense of Plants” and its plant-obsessed host Matt Candeias are on a mission to cure plant blindness. Candeias interviews people from the Royal Botanic Gardens to botanists from around the world to shine a light on work promoting plant conservation. New gardeners beware, if you can get past the Latin, it’s worth the listen. www.indefenseofplants.com

On the Ledge… Instagram aficionado and garden writer — she was garden editor at the Guardian in London — Jane Perrone drops her knowledge in “On the Ledge.” Focused on indoor gardening, Jane covers everything from the trendiest plants to how to water. She answers questions and takes to Instagram to give advice and tips on houseplants. http://www.janeperrone.com/

Hothouse…This new gardening podcast from Leah Churner is just starting to root. The relatively new podcast is about design, ecology, and the way we garden now. It intends to broadcast monthly.  www.hothousepodcast.com/

What are your favorite podcasts? What are your favorite episodes? 

Katie McCoy Dubow is creative director at Garden Media Group, a public relations firm that specializes in the lawn and garden industry. At work you can find her enhancing brands’ reputations, building killer campaigns and launching new products. Her goal is to convince people that brown thumbs can, in fact, be turned green. In her spare time she practices Bikram yoga and watches the sunset with her husband, daughters, dogs and chickens in their garden.

And the Winner is …

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

cbpI enjoyed reading about favorite herbs so much that I wanted to give everyone a prize for responding to Win a Free Gardening Book . To be fair, though, I put each entry on a small slip of paper and drew to see who would receive Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening : A Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Healthy Garden, by Deborah L.  Martin.

Congratuations  Cindy Pasqualini of Rhode Island. She submitted the following …

VIOLET is my favorite herb. It is the state flower of Rhode Island! It is chock full of Vitamin C. It looks gorgeous in salads and sugared on desserts! And it has the sweetest heart-shaped leaves!

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A master gardener for many years Cindy is retired from gardening at home. She now lives in an apartment where she gardens in containers on her deck. She began gardening more than 30 years ago to study plants for painting. She currently sells her artwork on Etsy at etsy.com/shop/coloristcreations

Other contest respondents said …

  1. DILL. I love the smell and the taste. It reminds me of canning pickles, summertime, beet borscht that my Mom and Gramma always made. And, it’s so pretty. You don’t have to do anything to it in the garden, just sprinkle it around and it pops up everywhere.
  2. BASIL and all its cultivars! So many choices, great for digestion, easy to grow in pots, and a great bee plant.
  3. So many herbs are wonderful, but just smelling LEMON VERBENA puts the world right! It’s so relaxing, so summery, with that lightly sweet lemony scent!
  4. CHIVES.  It’s a beautiful plant and will add a freshness and great onion taste, plus it adds a fresh look to any dish.
  5. Chives Herbs - 16 -Niagara Parks Botanical Garden (14)It is very hard to pick one favorite, herbs are just such wonderful plants! WILD OREGANO from the mountains of Greece. From the wonderful smell when you walk by them to the delicious taste in my grandmother’s and mother’s cooking, oregano is an herb that I cannot live without. I plant it everywhere I move!
  6. LEMON VERBENA. It smells wonderful and looks so dainty, even though it is often a large shrub. It is easy to propagate and usually seems to survive our Northern California winters.
  7. It was hard to pick one since I am a fan of almost every herb. I love all kinds of MINT.
  8. CHAMOMILE. It is one of the first herbs I learned about and grow it every year.
  9. 20160708_141521LAVENDER. Looking back as I was child, I always gravitated to it, both in smell and how it looked. As an adult and an aspiring herbalist, it is my go-to for a wide array of needs…skin care (a few drops in almond oil), slumber (my rice and lavender eye mask), and cooking (my delicious lemon & lavender shortbread cookies). And let me not forget…health and first aid! My family knows to reach for my bug bite salve with lavender EO. I love to grow it and run my fingers through it and inhale the delightful smell.
  10. MARJORAM! If I have toast with cottage cheese, tomato, and marjoram for breakfast, I walk the rest of the day like I’m in a shiny Disney movie.
  11. SPEARMINT. My neighborhood cat agrees with me: the hint of spearmint is so inviting. It makes refreshing mixed drinks, and delights the mouth when a sprig is chewed. Frozen or fresh it adds pleasure toothpaste in any dish. Dries up nicely and stores even better. The taste is pure adventure. I would like to see it growing in the mountains of Morocco.
  12. CHIVES. It’s good with just about anything…grows like crazy. And, when I’m out gardening just touching it and releasing that mild oniony smell…YUM.
  13. LAVENDER – in particular ‘Hidcote’ because it has vivid lavender blue flowers spikes and is compact. Lavender is such a versatile plant. Use it as an ornamental for edging in the garden, The silver-gray leaves give a wonderful accent and texture to the flower bed and the deer don’t like it. The flowers and the leaves release an intoxicating heavenly scent that reportedly soothes the nerves. The flowers make a delightful wreath and potpourri. They can be added to cookies to give a subtle herby taste and infused in lemonade give a whole new meaning to that summer thirst quencher.
  14. THYME. Not only does it manage to survive harsh winters here, but from the first warming spring sunshine it lends a delicious fragrance to my tiny kitchen garden. And it is so prolific, there is always plenty to season any dish I’m making. A little bit of heaven, this one.
  15. Cardinal basil (3)BASIL because it is easy to start and grow, smells wonderful – all varieties, not only makes salads and other recipes complete, but inspires my tomato plants to make more flowers (makes them feel sexy when the basil oil is released in the sunshine!) resulting in more tomatoes. And everyone knows tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella drizzled with a little balsamic dressing is fabulous.
  16. BASIL. What is better than pesto made by hand with fresh basil? Useful in the kitchen, the garden landscape, as an ornamental in arrangements, a pollinator for the bees and it loves our Texas summer heat.
  17. PARSLEY. It has health benefits. It is a great landscape plant, making a nice green border at the front of my perennial garden. It makes things I cook look better. And it is a host plant for swallowtail butterflies.
  18. ROSEMARY is probably my favorite. Its flavor is delightful in pasta, salads, and especially breads and rolls. I also like it in a rub for meats.


Coltsfoot, Spring’s First Gold

By Kathleen Hale, Member, The Herb Society of America

ColtsfootYou know that people say that in dreams, we cannot read?  We see the letters, but they don’t make sense.  I think I only noticed that after I was told it was true.  Your results may vary.

At one time very few people could read. So they turned to signs when they needed medicinal help.  Pictures, really, of plants well known to address what ailed you.   The “Apothecary Rose” is a lovely and famous example.  Another, attributed to medieval France, was the coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara).  A colorful rendering of that cheerful yellow flower – a bit like dandelion — would indicate that relief was at hand.

Coltsfoot could be applied externally to sooth the skin, used in cooking and used to make wine.  Its highest esteem came from what it could reportedly do for the common cold, bronchitis, laryngitis and asthma.  Coltsfoot’s Latin name means, pretty much, “good for coughs.” Prepared as a tea, a syrup or in lozenges, coltsfoot was the first remedy for coughs.   Its smoke might also be inhaled to reduce phlegm and shortness of breath.

Like so many plants with legendary medicinal use, dangers are associated with using coltsfoot. It contains levels of tumorigenic pyrrolizidine alkaloids which can be fatal.  The therapeutic use of coltsfoot, once common in Germany, was suspended after the death of an infant whose mother had drunk a coltsfoot preparation during pregnancy. Since then, a clone of coltsfoot was developed without harmful levels of those alkaloids. You will NOT find this variety by the side of the road.

Coltsfoot is not commonly a garden plant.  It was brought to North America for its useful qualities, escaped into the wild, and is now a plant of wasteland and disturbed roadsides. In some places it is considered invasive.  Still, it’s hard to resent coltsfoot, because it reminds us that spring is close; in fact, it blooms even before the snows are gone.

Strangely, the flowers appear before the leaves, which led some to call it “Son before the Father.”  Like tiny dandelion flowers, they appear overnight in neglected places. It is the leaf, which appears later, after the flowers have withered and dropped, that is said to resemble the shape of an impression of a colt’s foot.

In the language of flowers (though I really wouldn’t want to try to pick and preserve those delicate flowers long enough to make a statement), coltsfoot means, “Justice will be done.”  It’s only justice to respect a plant that brings star-like beauty in neglected places, and reminds us that spring is coming.

Be certain that you have correctly identified wild plants. And, remember to consult your health care provider before eating wild foods or herbs which may have powerful effects and be contraindicative with medicines or supplements.

It is the policy of The Herb Society of America not to advise or recommend herbs for medicinal or health use. This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a recommendation or an endorsement of any particular medical or health treatment.

Use Chalk Paint in the Herb Garden

Use Chalk Paint in the Herb Garden

20180510_065033.jpgBy Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

When I was having a personal crisis nine years ago I spent weekend nights spray painting thrift store furniture. I masked off the garage and painted everything one color – black.  Black dresser, black bookshelves, black desk, black jewelry armoire, black stools. Instead of beat-up and second-hand, my new-to-me pieces had an on-trend, unified look worthy of Pinterest.

Today, I’m still addicted to black spray paint. With a twist. I just love chalkboard paint.

When my garden pots need a little freshening this year, I sprayed them with chalkboard paint. When a cheap tin bucket needed repurposing, I sprayed it black and used white chalk to print an herb name. When labeling my herbs, I sprayed markers black and used a white Sharpie to mimic chalk.

Here’s what happens when you play with chalkboard paint and herb gardening.

Tansy Grabs Pop Culture Spotlight

Tansy Grabs Pop Culture Spotlight

By Kathleen Hale, Member, The Herb Society of America

IMG_0434.jpgTansy, Tanacetum vulgare, has traveled widely with humans.  This relative of asters and ragweed started in Europe and Asia. It was used medicinally by the Greeks, was included in Charlemagne’s famous collection of herbs, and is now having a modern, if imaginary, moment in TV phenomenon Game of Thrones.

What has this tenacious, fernlike plant offered people that they should make it a perennial companion?

It involves love and death.

Tansy is pretty much considered toxic, since it is a source of thujone, a convulsant and neurotoxin, in greatly varying concentrations.  Still, to the extent that tansy is having a moment in the spotlight, it is because of the lore associating it with the intentional ending of a pregnancy.  Perhaps by association, it has been considered an aid to avoiding pregnancy.

In Game of Thrones, “tansy tea” — a concoction of tansy with pennyroyal and honey — is consumed by several fictional characters, with plot driven consequences.  Drinking it is a bad idea.  Quite possibly, lethally bad.  Consider the reason it was used as a strewing herb in the Middle Ages. It killed things, like insects. It was used to repel flies.  Something that repels flies isn’t something anyone wants to ingest.

tansySt. Hildegard of Bingen, considered the founder of scientific natural history in Germany, has many medicinal uses for tansy … everything from coughs to indigestion and kidney stones.  She recommended an elaborate procedure to aid a woman suffering from “obstructed menses.” This involved heating stones to create a sauna bath with a concoction of tansy, feverfew and mullein.  During the sauna, a patient is advised to sit on the now-stewed herbs.  She should then drink a quantity of the best wine. (It might be best to have a sauna, drink wine and forget about the rest.)

Still, this pretty plant, with common names like “Buttons,” “Golden Buttons,” and, well, “Stinking Willie,” has another association dealing with death:  It is a preservative.  Coffins were often filled with it, to slow decomposition.  Because this became such a feature of funerals, many folks developed an aversion to the scent of tansy.

It is best described as smelling like camphor.  The Greek name, “tansy” means “immortality.” In Greek myth, Zeus’ favorite, Ganymede, was made immortal by drinking tansy juice.  Of course, he probably died first.

These days, it is best grown as a pleasant addition to floral arrangements, like Tussy Mussies. While lovely, its floral message – a declaration of war – may be undesirable. Tansy is also useful in a dye garden, producing a lovely shade of orangey yellow.

Perhaps the modern usage is more complimentary to the tansy.  The Urban Dictionary defines the attributes of a person who is a “tansy:” a woman or girl who is unassuming, but uplifts all who meet her. And that may be better than an immortality serving wine to Zeus.

3 Tips for Shopping Garden Centers

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

St. Lynn's Press - Budget-Wise CoverIn The Budget-Wise Gardener (St. Lynn’s Press), author Kerry Ann Mendez offers a number of ways to build your gardens without emptying your wallet.  Her publisher has given us permission to excerpt a small portion of the book here.  This is from a section called “6 Tips for Shopping Garden Centers.” You’ll want to get the book to learn the rest of the tips and to peruse Mendez’s tips for shopping mail order as well.

  • Sign up for gardening newsletters and customer rewards programs. Benefits include early notices about sales and events as well as weekly specials. Rewards programs vary, but all extend some financial incentive for shopping at their business.
  • Ask! Don’t be shy about asking for a discount on less-than-ideal looking plants. But don’t ask for free plants! This rubs most staff the wrong way. Garden centers are a business, not a charity. Instead, ask if they would consider a percentage off the price or perhaps sell two for the price of one.
  • ‘’Rescue me.” With the new emphasis on greener living and protecting the environment, you can become a “Plant Rescuer.” This certainly sounds better than “dumpster diver.” You might politely ask a manager if you could “save” plants that were going to be thrown away because they were not up to the garden center’s standard. The time and staff effort required to nurse these plans back to retail-ready shape doesn’t make financial sense. You could offer a flat fee to save these plants – or a tray of fresh-baked cookies.

I’ve been known to go to the back of a garden center where the sale plants live. Some are marked down because they’re done blooming, but a good perennial will return next year. – PW

How are you Budget-Wise in your garden?