Everyday gardener // A hodgepodge of stuff about gardening

I realize that it may sound like I’m being lazy putting out a column that I’m calling a “hodgepodge” (I love that word) of stuff about gardening. But I promise you I’m not.

The truth is, I couldn’t decide what to write about this month because I’ve come across so many interesting garden-related things lately. So I’m going to write a bit about several of them and I’ll start with a quick story about a Social Media Breakfast I went to last month where I must admit, I finally accepted that Twitter and Facebook have some merit and aren’t completely stupid timewasters as I have long believed.

The purpose of the event was to talk about the ways in which urban and organic gardeners and farmers are putting social media to good use. It was hosted by the Social Media Breakfast group, an offshoot of the original SMB group, which was founded in Boston in 2007. These folks host breakfasts that connect all kinds of topics with social media. (You can find out more here if you’re interested: smbmsp.ning.com.)

There were several speakers on the panel that day and they all had interesting stories to tell about how they’ve used Twitter, Facebook and blogging to help establish and promote their businesses and share information with the public, like-minded gardeners and farmers. The speaker who really got my attention was Lee Zukor, founder of the website “Simple Good and Tasty,” which began as a blog and has really grown into a site where people routinely discuss ways of growing and enjoying sustainable, organic food. Zukor devotes a lot of time to connecting farmers and gardeners with consumers. I’ve become a devoted fan already and I think some of you might enjoy the site, too: simplegoodandtasty.com.

Susan Berkson, social media manager at the Minneapolis Farmers Market and host of the “Fresh and Local” radio show broadcast every Saturday morning at 8 a.m. from the Farmers Market, was also a speaker. Berkson is a longtime advocate of local food and now that I know about her show, I’ve been tuning in on AM950 every weekend. You can find out more about the show and who will be on it here: mplsfarmersmarket.com.

The folks who founded a new site: yardstogardens.org (they can also be followed on Facebook and Twitter — I know) weren’t speaking at the event. But they did have a booth and their efforts are definitely worth spreading the word about. Billing themselves as a sort of “Craigslist for gardeners,” Yards to Gardens not only helps gardeners share tools, plants, seeds, mulch and other gardening essentials. They’re also on a mission to connect would-be gardeners with the space they need to get planting. People who have extra space in their yards can post their whereabouts on the site and gardeners looking for land can contact them to work out the details. It’s a really cool idea and I wish these guys all the best.

On to the worms

OK. Now I want to talk about earthworms. I just finished reading Amy Stewart’s book “The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms,” and I thought it was fascinating. You know how you always hear that soil is healthy and in good shape when you dig into it and find a lot of earthworms?

Well, that’s true! They may be deaf, blind and spineless, Stewart writes, but earthworms have a tremendous impact on the soil. As they move about consuming soil and decomposing matter like bits of leaves and pooping it back out as “castings,” earthworms literally change the composition of dirt so it can do things like absorb nutrients and hold water better. Research has shown that the most beneficial fungi that boost plant growth often increases dramatically when earthworms are around.

It isn’t hard to encourage earthworms to hang around in your garden. Feed your soil by occasionally adding compost, grass clippings, shredded leaves and mulch. Worms thrive in their presence. Keep soil moist. Worms, for obvious reasons, don’t really like drying out. And for heavens sake, don’t till. Instead, experienced gardeners are recommending more and more that we disturb the soil as little as possible so rather than turning over entire beds, just dig holes for plants and plop them in with a little compost. Then, cover the whole bed with more compost and the worms will take care of pulling the compost down into the soil where it needs to be. (This is all news to me, too.)

Meleah Maynard is a Master Gardener and freelance writer. If you’ve got a gardening question you’d like her to address in her column, you can email it to [email protected]