Paul Tukey Awarded GWA Green Medal for Sustainable Gardening Leadership

Recently, I was privileged to present GWA: The Association for Garden Communicators’ Green Medal to Paul Tukey, whose life, vision, and work embodies the highest ideals in promoting earth-wise gardening. He paid a high price for his early entry into the “better living through chemistry” side of the lawn care profession, but ultimately became one of the anti-pesticide movement’s most ardent proponents. By documenting his up-close and personal experience with lawn chemicals, and the story of dermatologist Dr. June Irwin’s fight to have pesticides banned from her small town of Hudson, Ontario, Canada, Tukey shined a spotlight into the darker corners of the industry. He made some mistakes along the way, but he talks about them with unflinching honesty.

Today, Tukey is the Chief Sustainability Officer at Glenstone, a museum that melds art, architecture, and the environment in a 220-acre, organically-managed setting. The new Glenstone Environmental Center is planned to open in 2018, and will…

Be The Mosquito

One of my favorite quotes is the Dalai Lama’s, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” I don’t think the Dalai Lama meant that we have to be annoying. After all, the mosquito is just going about its normal everyday activities. But whether or not the mosquito is in the room makes all the difference to us.

Similarly, what each of us does on our little patch of the Earth, collectively makes all the difference to our planet’s health. We don’t necessarily need to make sudden wholesale changes in our lifestyles, be less comfortable in our own castles, or add more work to our already-busy schedules.

Facing complex choices
This came home to me recently at the supermarket. The market chain had recently introduced an organic house brand. I was eager to try it out and I needed six cans of beans. The organic house brand cost 30% more than the regular house brand. I briefly wondered why the organic lemons could sell for the same price as regular lemons,…

Musings on the Relativity of Time and The Arithmetic of Overpopulation

I celebrated my birthday recently. Beyond a certain age, birthdays become a double-edged sword. You’re glad you made it to the next one, but realize that there are far fewer years ahead of you than behind you. The list of absent friends grows ever longer. Colleagues grow grey; everyone else looks like they just graduated from middle school.

I used to console myself by calculating that I still had at least 25 more years to go, which made the end point seem very far off. But, now that would mean I’d live to an unrealistically old age, a concept supported by neither family history nor actuarial tables. I’m reminded of Einstein’s summary of his Theory of Relativity:
"When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour."

I guess I’ve been having too much fun. But that can’t go on forever. My immortality would not be good for the planet. It’s not sustainable. At the same time that medical advances have been add…

Please Farm Responsibly. Because What Grows On The Farm Doesn’t Stay On The Farm

Recently, I was able to stream the GreenBiz’17 Conference in Phoenix without leaving the comfort of my office. I was surprised and delighted to hear the same refrain repeated again and again by heavy hitters from the multi-national companies whose sustainability officers comprised both presenters and audience:
“It’s too late to turn back now.”
Sustainability Tipping Point Reached
As one speaker pointed out early on, a direct consequence of doing business on a global scale is that corporations must abide by the international agreements on sustainable development if they want to do business in any of the signatory countries. That includes selling farm products, sourcing raw materials, as well as manufacturing; regardless of whether or not the U.S. government ever signs any of those conventions or treaties. This should be big news, but it’s yet to make big headlines.

In addition, so many American consumers and investors are demanding that corporations pay more attention to their impact on t…

Please Garden Responsibly. Because What You Spray in Your Garden Doesn’t Stay in Your Garden

Scores of their silky tents covered the licorice plant in the container on my porch. Inside the tents, something was gobbling up the leaves faster than I could pick them off. The plant must have been infested when I bought it.

As I reached for my organic insecticide, I thought, “Wait, you don’t know what kind of caterpillars these are!” I recalled an article on pest management by a friend who cautioned:
“Sometimes, the best treatment is no treatment at all.”
It took the better part of the afternoon for me to identify the miniature mowing machines. In the meantime, half of them had started dropping from their perches and wriggling off into the underbrush. I hoped I had made the right decision.

The licorice plant was devastated. But then I noticed that the caterpillars had not eaten the leaves all the way down to the stem. Possibly, secondary buds could sprout and still provide a silvery foil beneath my ‘Calypso’ geranium for the rest of the season.

It was an ugly few weeks, but eventually I…

How to Start a Sustainable Garden Without a Lot of Back-breaking Work

Facing the four fundamentals

When Alice asks the Cheshire Cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
He replies, 
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
In a similar vein, in thinking about how to create a more sustainable garden, you need to first determine where you want to go.
1. Set a clear objective. Where are you along the road to a more sustainable garden? Do you want to completely revamp how your garden functions? Or tackle just a few small changes that can be done quickly? Perhaps you’ve scoped out a single project that would make a big difference, but it needs to be done in stages. Make sure your choice(s) align with your deepest convictions and abilities; you want this to be a labor of love so that it feels rewarding and fulfilling at the end.
Set a realistic budget based on real-world, written price quotes if contractors are involved; establish milestones to keep everything on schedule; prepare for the…

Can A Garden Ever Really Be Sustainable?

Well, that depends on our definition of sustainable gardening, doesn’t it?

The short answers are no, and no. Why? When we say a system is “sustainable,” we imply that it will stay the same without additional inputs of whatever keeps that system running. Look out the window. If you took a two-month vacation in high summer, how would your garden look when you came home? Without someone to take care of it while you’re away…..

If it would be a disaster, with brown grass, shrubs dropping their leaves, and perennials fried to a crisp, plants defoliated by insect pests, or decimated by disease, then your garden is not very sustainable. If, instead, it would look pretty much the same as when you left, except that it would be less tidy and everything would seem to have grown six inches, then it’s more sustainable.
Despite what you may have heard, there’s no such thing as a sustainable garden, only one that is more sustainable or less sustainable. Here’s why:Gardens are artificial environments