Earth Day 2012

Earth Day is Sunday, April 22, 2012. I thought this week I would share some cool ways to celebrate Earth Day and reconnecting with nature.

The centerpiece of Earth Day in the United States will be a rally at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. 

I like to plant new perennials and divide the established perennials for Earth Day. You would be surprised how over the years the garden has filled out. I divide my perennials and share them with garden club friends.

This year I am also going to volunteer with a local preschool and talk about recycling and reusing. The children will plant flowers in a repurposed container as a Mother’s Day gift for mommy.

The Earth Day Network has a campaign to register A Billion Acts of Green. To register your act of green go to http://act.earthday.org/events. As of the writing of this blog entry the counter is at 920,860,605.

I also found a fun link to calculate your carbon footprint. Go to www.climatepath.org.

There are some great green conservation tips at www.climatepath.org/conservation, www.greenlivingtips.com and of course at www.ANakedGardener.com/greenliving.

We would love to hear your Earth Day thoughts, photos and stories. Until next week… Happpy Gardening!

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The Universal Egg

In my culture, Ruthenian, any new inauguration begins with an egg. It is the source of life – from which all other things evolve. So for this, my first entry into the world of blogging and at this time of seasonal change, the Spring Equinox it is fitting to discuss the life giving forces that are all around us.

   Each culture in the world today has at least one myth associated with the Cosmic Egg. From the Jewish Seder meal & its roasted egg, to the Resurrection symbolism of the Christians, to the Pagans celebrating Athena’s Rabbit bringing eggs for prosperity & fertility and then the Islamic tradition of hanging a large ostrich egg above the doorway of a mosque to welcome sinners back into the community.  This allegory centered upon the belief that like the female ostrich who returned to her nest at the time of her eggs hatching –the sinners would also repent of their sins and return to Allah when their time was right. And so this symbol was hung in the doorway to welcome them home.

   Hanging eggs in the windows and doorways is also an ancient form of protection against evil entering the home. Any opening is a source of unguarded access to the love & power of the family within & so need special protections. Evil cannot enter unless invited. Eggs, especially decorated ones with colors & symbols are a safeguard against evil & bad luck entering the home.

The Eastern European traditional egg decorating method of protection from evil, (sometimes known as “pysanky” really means” to write”) can be dated back to prehistoric times. It is a pictorial language with colors, signs & symbols of goodness & hope, prosperity, fertility, love, wealth & health used as words to tell a story. The designs are not just pretty, they mean something & can be read by those who know the language. And like the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, folkart eggs do not have symbols or colors representing negative forces.

Before 1859, all dyes were manufactured from plant based materials to produce color on fabric, leather etc. So to create these eggs, various plant materials were used to enhance the protective powers of the symbols.

As a result certain floral designs and foods were developed to assist in the power of goodness for the family & community and have become part of our spring time related festivals. That is the true meaning of the Universal Egg, the Bringer of Life.

Let us rejoice & prosper in all forms of Life.

To that end I would like to invite you to share your stories with me, pictures of   your eggs and floral designs & special foods to celebrate this joyous life giving time of year.

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Is it spring yet?

I always eagerly anticipate the arrival of spring. Each flower and wildlife sighting tells me the air and soil temp is warming. The Earth is awakening. There is something in me that also stirs. There is a joy that is burgeoning in my heart and electricity that is coursing through my blood.

My children display their exuberance for spring openly. They want to be outside from morning to night. They even eat lunch on the deck in a coat and hat. When I ask them why they want to be outside They say “It smells so good” and “it is pretty too”.

I agree with them. The moist warm spring breezes are a welcome comfort from the bitter biting winter wind. But nothing gets my spring juices flowing like starting seeds. I dust off my tools, mix my seed starting recipe, sift the soil, sort the seed and begin to sow. It is an excitement for dirt, water and new life.

The act of sowing seeds is a ten thousand year old tradition. It predates written history. I can’t help but think of the people who have gone before me. Sowing seeds is a rite of passage. A connection with the thousands of generations before me. If they did it so can I. I, in turn will teach my children to do it too. I wonder what characteristics ancient cultivators looked for in their plants. How did they know when to plant? How did  they deal with unexpected frosts? I have read they valued plants they believed had magical properties as well as a good yield. But given ancient mans nomadic life they may have selected plants based upon days to harvest.

When I begin my modern seed sowing preparations it usually involves texting my friends to see what plants they need and what seeds they have. Things have changed in the 21st century, we have the luxury of selecting seed for flavor, flower or fragrance. I wish I could say something noble like I grow seeds for the practical purpose of feeding my family. I do grow fruits and veggies for my family to eat but mostly I grow stuff to give away. I think wouldn’t that plant be cool. I bet my mother, brother, aunt, uncle or cousin would like some of those plants. The fact that I can grow these plants for pennies just heightens the rush.

I have said in the past I never met a plant I did not like (except poison ivy, oak or sumac) Soon off I go into my own world appreciating and sowing every color of every variety of every species of plant. My husband thinks I am crazy. Maybe I am, but nothing gets me in the spring state of mind like sowing seeds.

Here are some of my tips & tricks for starting plants from seed.

Label everything with a waterproof permanent marker or a carpenters pencil.

If seeds are expensive share the cost and the seeds with friends. I just gets my goat when B***** charges over $4.75 for a pack of 25 seeds and they only guarantee a 75% germination rate.

Use a very fine seed starting mix that you sift through a screen to break up any lumps and remove chunks. Plant seed with similar germination times and temps in the same seed tray at the same time. I plant all 70 degree 7-10 day germinators in the same tray and 65 degree 14-21 day germinators in different tray.

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Ancient Ways in Modern times

I have to admit, February in the garden is one of my favorite months. After the long cold days of January, spring is now only a few weeks away. The month begins with Groundhog Day and live media coverage of Punxsutawney Phil. I like Groundhog Day because it gets everyone talking about spring and all the potential the season holds. My sister in law commented on her Facebook page, “Does anyone else have an issue with a poor little groundhog being pulled from his home in front of a group of idiots waiting for a weather prediction?”

The post got me thinking. It does seem odd that Americans celebrate this rodent holiday, when most of the year we are trying to keep groundhogs out of our garden. It appears Groundhog Day started as the Celtic or Germanic tradition of Candlemas Day dating back to the 18oo’s. At that time people did not observe groundhogs but did observe the weather. If it was a clear bright on February 2, winter would continue; if it was a cloudy or rainy day, spring was a few weeks away. During the bronze age, Pagans celebrated February 2nd as half way point between the winter and spring.

I believe the “Groundhog Day” weather prediction tradition has important roots in human history. Many primitive cultures including native Americans observe(d) wildlife behavior to determine when the growing season will begin. Animals are closely listening to the rhythms of nature and are more in tune with the environment. Animals are able to reveal subtle changes in the weather. If we would only watch and listen. The weather does not follow the modern day calendar. There are date variations for the weather from year to year. Weather predicting animals actually indicate to humans the air and/or soil temperatures are warming up. These indicator animals are a gardeners best friend.

For me, the month of February starts the ancient tradition of humans partnering with nature in a sharing of knowledge under an umbrella of respect. Nature has so many wondrous ways to communicate with us. Life of the 21st century often gets in the way of that communication. How many of us take the time to notice when the redwing black birds or red breasted robins arrive. Have you ever noticed when the Canadian Geese start their northern migration, indicating the tilt of the Earth is swinging towards the sun. I live near the water and always listen for the earliest frogs to peep as my indication that spring in on its way. I guess Groundhog Day is better than Peeping Frog Day.

Animals are not the only accurate weather predictors we see in the month of February. Plants also communicate to us. Snowdrops in bloom indicate the soil temperature is above freezing. A Hellebore’s (lenten rose) bloom indicates the days are getting longer. The blooming forsythia, cherry blossoms, quince and pear trees, all beckoning to us as humans to take notice of the arrival of spring.

Many humans tell nature, as I often tell my children “Wait one minute!”. And before you know it hours, days and weeks have passed. The opportunity to enjoy that minute has passed and February in the garden has slipped away.

So I ask you fellow gardeners, what does February look and sound like in your garden?

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What does it mean to be a Naked Gardener?

I consider myself a Naked (not nude) gardener. Like many gardeners, I love growing things, inside and out. Like you, my time is valuable. I have none to waste. I need to be efficient and effective in my gardening not perfect or prissy. I know every gardener enjoys growing plants but a naked gardener enjoys growing plants with less work, more success and spare time to enjoy their garden.

A few years ago I told a friend that I liked to garden. She asked if I went out into the yard wearing a wide brim straw hat and cotton gloves, carrying a basket and shovel. I was shocked and told her absolutely not. After all, that was how people gardened in the 19th century. This is the new millennium, for goodness sake. I use a sun screen, liquid gloves and my computer to garden.

At that moment, I realized there were stereotypes about gardening that needed to be cleared up. I decided it was about time to reveal the “Truth” of gardening, the “Naked Truth”, if you will.

Growing plants is an ancient primal need of every human being. We have just lost touch with it. Anyone can grow plants anywhere they want once they know how. It is my mission to share gardening knowledge with all home hobby gardeners who are interested with no hidden agenda.

Gardening connects us to the world in which we live. This website connects gardeners from all over the world. It offers advice, tools and video demonstrations to help you enjoy your plants.

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Hello from Elly

Ellylou is an author and lecturer who shares her 25 years of practical gardening experience. She is a self taught gardener who’s passion and enthusiasm for gardening, nature and the environment will inspire you. Eleanor is dedicated to uniting gardeners of all ages, abilities and back-rounds by revealing the secrets that help you master the ancient art of gardening, while utilizing the technology of the 21st century. Her no fuss, down to earth, nitty gritty or “Naked” perspective enables her to teach gardeners how to save time, space and money without sacrificing plant beauty and enhancing gardening enjoyment.

She is the author of The Naked Truth About Gardening, The Bare Essentials, founder of Down & Dirty Enterprises LLC, and creator of www.ANakedGardener.com. a virtual garden community where gardeners of the globe share stories, knowledge, humor, and a love of plants and flowers.

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