Ideas for rewarding spring planting projects

Helpful book and other advice on what to plant and how

E-mail your home and garden tips to Christine

“Anywhere you live you can find room for a garden somewhere.”—garden writer Jamie Jobb

Do more with less
Small-Plot, High-Yield Gardening: Grow Like a Pro, Save Money, and Eat Well From Your Front (or Back or Side) Yard 100% Organic Produce Garden, by Sal Gilbertie and Larry Sheehan, has one heck of a long title, but the authors mean every word of it.

Their new book from Ten Speed Press (available at Lyon Books) is loaded with step-by-step advice on how to maximize the productivity of even the smallest piece of earth. Sheehan and Gilbertie (who owns the popular Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens in Connecticut) are ardent advocates of rabbit manure (“the most effective natural fertilizer for garden soils that is generally available”), raised beds, making your own compost (which they tell you how to do) and companion-planting for pest control. They even include a section called “Garden Plans,” with very specific details and blueprints for creating such things as an 8-by-4-foot elevated herb garden, a 14-by-20-foot “cutting garden” of flowers, a 20-by-20-foot “soup garden” and a number of 3-by-3-foot “supply gardens” of various vegetables. As the book’s cover says, “Anyone with a little soil can do it!” At $18, this book is a worthwhile investment.

My friend dianthus
The dianthus is currently my favorite gardening flower. This small-blossomed relative of the carnation produces pretty, abundant flowers, is long-blooming (“dead-head” it regularly), and comes in a variety of pinkish colors and variegations in the white-to-dark-fuschia range.

Additionally, the dianthus loves sun, and is very hardy (but don’t forget to water).

Also known as “pinks,” dianthus are technically biennials, but behave rather like perennials. The nonhybrid varieties are self-seeding and come back year after year. I recently planted a half-flat of dianthus seedlings in my front yard to add to what I already had from a previous year just because they are so darned nice to have around.

“Different varieties of old-fashioned, nonhybrid dianthus self-seed. Typically, when dianthus are hybridized, they end up being sterile,” offered Denise Kelly, owner of The Plant Barn. Kelly stocks nonhybridized dianthus at her Entler Avenue nursery.

Simply put, the dianthus aims to please. It is perfect for a first-time flower gardener who wants to have a feeling of success.

Help bring back the natives
On Saturday, May 22, from 10 a.m. to noon, the Big Chico Creek Watershed Alliance will hold its first “potting day” for its new Native Plant Project, open to anyone interested in participating.

“This is a project that brings together individuals interested in restoring [California native-plant] habitat,” said Nani Teves, BCCWA’s Watershed Coordinator.

“We will be potting native cuttings and seedlings…California plants native to the riparian area such as willow, deer grass, redbud and more,” offered Teves. “We know there are a lot of people with a green thumb who are interested in the health of the watershed, and the idea is that they would dedicate a bit of their garden time to growing potted native plants. The plants…will eventually be planted at restoration sites along Big Chico Creek” and at a new restoration site near Rose Avenue in west Chico.

“People just need to come ready to get their hands dirty,” said Teves, “then…take a few [plants] home to care for over the summer” for fall planting dates.

All materials will be supplied by BCCWA, she said.

For more info and directions to the potting site, send an e-mail to <script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">{ document.write(String.fromCharCode(60,97,32,104,114,101,102,61,34,109,97,105,108,116,111,58,99,111,111,114,100,105,110,97,116,111,114,64,98,105,103,99,104,105,99,111,99,114,101,101,107,46,111,114,103,34,62,99,111,111,114,100,105,110,97,116,111,114,64,98,105,103,99,104,105,99,111,99,114,101,101,107,46,111,114,103,60,47,97,62)) } </script> or call 892-2196.

What do you think?
Should Chico institute mandatory composting—with a separate household garbage bin for compostable food waste—to reduce what goes to the landfill, as the city of San Francisco has done?