This garden can kill you

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The delightful grounds of Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, England contain such alluring settings as the Poison Garden, home to more than 100 species of plants that are deadly to humans. Please meet the head gardener, Trevor Jones, who must wear protective gear when he's digging in the dirt.

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Hurray for hose bib extenders

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We have a potted lemon tree in out backyard. I water it by filling a watering can from the garden hose. The spigot for the garden hose is against the house, behind a scratchy bush. I didn't want to get scratched by the bush any longer, so I bought this Hose Bib Extender on Amazon for $30, along with a 6 foot hose to attach it to the existing spigot. Now I have an easy-to-access spigot and look how green the lemon tree looks!

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Meet your robot gardener

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The FarmBot Genesis is an open-source robot gardener for home food production. You design your mini-farm with their app and then the Raspberry Pi-powered robot handles the rest, from planting to watering, weeding to harvesting. The FarmBot Genesis sounds like the evolutionary descendant of Ken Goldberg and Joseph Santarromana's groundbreaking 1994 telerobotic artwork, the TeleGarden:

FarmBot Genesis:

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73 Plans That Will Change the Way You Grow Your Garden

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Groundbreaking Food Gardens: 73 Plans That Will Change the Way You Grow Your Garden by Niki Jabbour, illustrations by Anne Smith, Elayne Sears and Mary Ellen Carsley Storey Publishing 2014, 272 pages, 8 x 10 x 0.8 inches (softcover) $15 Buy a copy on Amazon

Fittingly, the layout of Groundbreaking Food Gardens is similar to a community garden. Within the landscape of this one book, readers find 73 distinct plots, each neatly contained, each with its own character in the beds of text and image. In it, edible gardening expert Niki Jabbour curates 73 thematically diverse illustrated plans contributed by master food growers and writers with unendingly fresh perspectives. Each mini-chapter opens with three or four cornerstones of the design therein, and these points become headers for each section, like garden markers for the reader.

Even the most bibliophilic gardener has to admit, it’s hard to find a good gardening book that says or does something new. But within the first 24 hours of bringing home Groundbreaking Food Gardens, I had filled it with every bit of scrap paper in our bookmark pile. Though more of a design lookbook than a how-to, it still offers plenty of information. Woven throughout the plans, there are both practical tips and historical gardening factoids to appeal to new and seasoned gardeners alike. You wouldn’t use a bean pole to support a squash, and so the scaffolding of each design chapter changes slightly to reflect the 73 unique concepts. Read the rest

Grow plants to support your country in this wartime gardening game

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Gardening games tend to be soothing cycles of repetition: You plant, you water, you harvest, and then you do it again. You play them to relax, which is probably why so few of those games are set during wars.

But that's exactly where A Good Gardener begins, by asking you to tend a small garden in the midst of a terrible conflict. You're a captured deserter in this unspecified war, assigned to grow crops for the troops in a small, open air compound that looks like it once had a roof. Perhaps it was blown up? All you can see beyond it is sky, and the top of a deserted building in the distance, its windows broken.

The experience of the game is simple: every day you collect a box of seeds, plant them, and water them. (Don't forget to refill your watering can at the spout on the days when it rains.) As the days pass, you'll see different crops take different shapes until they reach their final form, and then your mustachioed supervisor will come to collect them. On the days when he arrives to gather the fruits of your labor, he'll often make offhand, ominous statements about what's happening in the world outside, or even your own mysterious past.

Who are you really, and what exactly are you enabling with your green thumb? That's the question that lingers over your peaceful daily routine of weeding and watering, and if you're a good enough gardener, perhaps you'll learn the truth. Read the rest

Plant a garden with a cute little ghost

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Pol Clarissou's Lil Ghost Garden, made for the virtual pet-themed PetJam, is a pleasant desktop companion. I love the design of his ghost character, a sympathetic looming moonface whose shadow body trundles dutifully around what begins as a sparse garden. Read the rest

Greens grown in space are now on Space Station astronaut menu

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Crew members on Expedition 44, including NASA's one-year astronaut Scott Kelly, harvested some "Outredgeous" red romaine lettuce Monday, Aug. 10, from the Veggie plant growth system on the nation’s orbiting laboratory.

DIY: 20 easy ways to hack and improve your garden

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Use a punctured water bottle to hydrate plants more efficiently. Turn a kids toy truck into a succulent planter. Spray paint chicken wire and then mold it into striking backyard decorations. With summer just weeks away, here are 20 visual ideas that will get you outdoors this weekend while creating a more efficient and beautiful garden. Read the rest

Space Buckets: DIY indoor gardening units

A "space bucket" enthusiast named Agustin let me know about a DIY community that grows chives, basil, dill, peppers, cherry tomatoes, and cannabis in stacked 5 gallon plastic buckets equipped with lighting and ventilation systems. The photo gallery of builds is impressive. Read the rest

Meet Sedgewick the Monarch Caterpillar—and find out what you can do to save his species

Sedgewick the monarch caterpillar on the tip of a milkweed leaf.
Danaus plexippus is in trouble. David Mizejewski raised one to demonstrate its life cycle, and explains what you can do to help them thrive

Air plants look and act like they belong on another planet

A few weeks ago while strolling through a farmer’s market in Los Angeles, I came across a vendor cart selling exotic plants that looked like they belonged on another planet. Masses of long green tentacles, feathery white shoots, and spheres of soft silver green spikes that looked like holiday sparklers drew me to the beautiful cart. The vendor told me she was selling air plants (tillandsias). Not very lucky with houseplants, I was hesitant to buy one, until the vendor explained how simple they were to take care of: give them some squirts from a spray bottle a few times a week. I bought two. Coincidentally, a few days later, Timber Press sent me a copy of Air Plants for a possible Wink review. Perfect timing!

Because air plants don’t live in soil or substrate and only need to be misted (or dunked a few times a week, as the book explains), caring for them can be as simple or artistic as you want. Strategically attach them to a screen, create modern art by perching them on wire cubes, craft a year-long wreath, use air plants as living hair ornaments, create a futuristic terrarium… A truly handy and fun read, with clear pretty photos and step-by-step how to projects, this book is not only a guide on choosing and caring for air plants, but also gives us amazingly creative ideas on air plant crafting and design.

Air Plants: The Curious World of Tillandsias

by Zenaida Sengo (author) and Caitlin Atkinson (photographer)

Timber Press

2014, 224 pages, 7.8 x 9.5 x 0.6 inches (paperback)

Take a look at other beautiful paper books at Wink. Read the rest

World's Strangest Flowers

Sierra magazine selected "7 of the World's Strangest Flowers." Here is a video of the Touch-Me-Not.

"Garden apartment" redefined in new green apartment building

Architect/developer Sebastian Mariscal designed and is expecting to build a 44-unit apartment building in densely-populated Boston where most of the space you'd expect to be used for parking spots is instead given over to a variety of gardens. There's a 7,000 public garden on the ground level and a roof that's 70 percent dedicated to community gardening. Meanwhile, each living unit includes a 144 square foot "outdoor room… full of vegetation."

"The Apartment Complex of Tomorrow—0 Parking Spots, 46 Personal Garden Spaces" (TakePart)

While Mariscal's original design only had six parking spaces, meant for rentals, and he only planned to rent to tenants who didn't own cars, the community was concerned that tenants would own cars anyway and park them on the street. So the architect added 35 spots to his plans and has apparently received preliminary approval to build from the Boston Redevelopment Authority. (Universal Hub, thanks Lis Riba!) Read the rest

Garden planter turns out to be Roman antique

Auction appraiser Guy Schwinge was visiting a Dorset, England home when he noticed an unusual planter in the garden. It turned out to be a Roman sarcophagus from the 2nd century. According to the Antiques Trade Gazette, research revealed that the family had purchased it a century ago from auction house Hy. Duke & Son. Now, Duke & Son have just sold it again, for £80,000. Read the rest

Front yard gardener wins over officials with petition

Mark recently wrote about a fantastic front yard veggie garden in Drummondville, Quebec, which local officials wanted destroyed. Alejandro De La Cruz writes to say that they've backed down: not only will the garden stay, but the town publicly announced that it will implement new guidelines which explicitly permit it.

Drummondville town officials announced the decision [Ed note: Link is in French] this week during a special session of the Municipal Council to discuss the case. The decision could create a ripple effect in other cities worldwide as zoning laws are a constant debate in urban environments. Roger told us, “The Drummondville case was one of the highest profile examples of a local municipality challenging the right to grow food in one’s own yard. While it took place in Canada, it quickly attracted international media attention because of the garden’s beauty and productivity. The win is significant because it helps establish a precedent that other urban and suburban gardeners can refer to when similar challenges arise in other parts of the world.”
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Thank goodness the authorities have busted these hardened front-yard garden criminals

High-tech kitchen garden evangelist Roger Doiron says: "If this garden is deemed illegal, we're in deep you-know-what."

Earlier this year, Josée Landry and Michel Beauchamp of Drummondville, Quebec planted the front yard of the future: a gorgeous and meticulously-maintained edible landscape full of healthy fruits and vegetables. Now they're being ordered by town officials to remove most of their gardens (town code states that a vegetable garden can't occupy more than 30% of the area of a front yard) in the next two weeks to make their yard conform with newly harmonized town code. Front yard kitchen gardens are not the problem; they're part of the solution to healthier and more sustainable communities.

PETITION: Stop the War on Front Yard Vegetable Gardens Read the rest

Gardening on the Moon

Frycook posted this fascinating video from the Apollo era on the BoingBoing Submitterator. The basic gist: Back in the day, NASA scientists tried exposing various crops—corn, lettuce, tobacco ... you know, the essentials—to moon dust. The plants weren't grown in the dust, exactly. Instead, it was scattered in their pots or rubbed on some of their leaves. In this study, the plants that were exposed seemed to grow faster than unexposed plants.

That's pretty interesting, so I dug around a little to find out more about these studies. Turns out, growing plants in lunar soil isn't quite as promising as the video makes it sound, but it's not a ridonculous idea, either. In 2010, scientists at the University of Florida published a review of all the Apollo-era research on this subject, which amounted to exactly three published studies. From that data, we can say that the plants weren't obviously affected in any seriously negative ways by their exposure to lunar soils—which is good—but we can't really say the plants grew better their terrestrial-only cousins, either.

In the end, and as recorded in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, there were only three published primary studies of seeds, seedlings, and plants grown in contact with lunar materials. In those three cases, small amounts of lunar material were used, and the plants were relatively large. In general, the dusting of plants or the mixing of lunar fines with other support media makes plant interaction with the lunar material a small part of the plant experience.

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