Zilker Neighborhood Gardens

Commentary by a National Wildlife Steward who helps Zilker neighbors establish native plant gardens

Monthly Archives: May 2011

Free Webinar: Creating a Wildlife Habitat in your Backyard

As part of May as Wildlife Gardening Month, Eliza Russell, Director of Education Programs, will be hosting a ‘creating a wildlife habitat in your backyard’ webinar on Thursday, May 19th at 8:00 pm EST.

Ready to learn how to green your garden and help wildlife?

Join National Wildlife Federation’s Director of Education, Eliza Russell, and homeowners to learn how you can take the steps to create a more wildlife-friendly garden at your home, in a park, at your church, or at your place of business.

Creating a wildlife-friendly backyard webinar will discuss:

  • Creating a site inventory and analysis: What do you already have to work with?
  • How to add more wildlife friendly features
  • Adding native plants to support wildlife
  • Providing the 4 essentials elements for wildlife – food, water, cover, and places to raise young
  • Using sustainable gardening practices to help your garden grow

Click here to register: http://online.nwf.org/site/Calendar?id=105201&view=Detail

This webinar could help you on your way to redoing your own yard and earning National Wildlife Federation Habitat status! 

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Purple Martin Sanctuary: A National Wildlife Habitat in Zilker

You can visit a wonderful national wildlife habitat certified sanctuary for songbirds, purple martins, right here in our Zilker neighborhood. It’s located at 1606 Virginia Avenue.

A local news-station did a recent story on the sanctuary:  http://austin.ynn.com/content/278141/local-wonders–songbirds-flock-to-south-austin. There’s a wonderful story and video profile. My husband and I walk by this nearly everyday with our dog. We call it our “birdhouse route” walk.

It’s important to note that this sanctuary is National Wildlife Habitat certified. That means it offers four components: shelter, food, water, & a place to raise young. It’s a great example. It’s open to the public – drop by, sit in a chair or on a bench, and enjoy the natural music (and check out the Austin skyline while you there.)

Book Review: Tender by Nigel Slater

My sister sent me a gift for my birthday – a hard-bound first US edition of Tender: A cook and his vegetable patch by Nigel Slater. While spending time with my sister over spring break, I talked excessively about Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma that I had just read. We talked a lot about corn, which if you’ve read Omnivore’s Dilemma, you’ll understand. We discussed organic farming, community gardens, community supported agriculture (CSA), and our own attempts at growing vegetables.

Which leads to my birthday gift: Tender.

In the first 26 pages of the book, Slater (who is a journalist, specifically a British food writer) tells of his move into a London house on December 31, 1999 where he “toasted the echoey old house and its long, thin, and abandoned garden” (p. 7). I enjoyed reading and seeing pictures of how he transformed an overgrown grassy yard where he could have kicked a ball around into a three-sectioned area including a stone terrace on which stands his outdoor dining table, a small vegetable patch, and a gated section of shrubs, along with lots of pots. His vegetable garden is separated into 6 sections, each outlined with hedges. He regrets his use of hedges, but you’ll have to read to find out why. One set of pictures I really loved was the rooftop view of his garden in each season: spring, summer, fall and winter.

The next 600 pages provide commentary, profile, and recipes for vegetables including:

  • asparagus
  • beets
  • broccoli and sprouting greens
  • brussels sprouts
  • cabbage
  • carrots
  • cauliflower
  • celery
  • celery root
  • chard
  • The Chinese greens
  • eggplants
  • fava beans
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • kale and cavolo nero
  • leeks
  • onions
  • parsnips
  • peas
  • peppers
  • pole beans
  • potatoes
  • pumpkin and other winter squashes
  • rutabaga
  • salad leaves
  • spinach
  • tomatoes
  • zucchini and other summer squashes
  • a few other good things

While Slater has not necessarily grown all these vegetables, such as asparagus, he smartly describes the requirements of doing so if the reader were so inclined. A random turn to a page brings me to the Jerusalem artichoke. He includes recipes for “A salad of raw artichokes,” “A warm salad of artichokes and bacon,” “Roast Artichokes,” “A panfry with duck fat and bay,” “A new artichoke soup,” “A casserole of artichokes and pork for deepest winter” etc. along with some amazingly hunger-inducing pictures throughout.

Slater’s book is not a vegetarian cookbook. He states:

While still enjoying my crackling pork roasts and grilled lamb, my baked mackerel and crab salad, I have become more interested than ever in the effect of a diet higher in “greens” than it is in meat – both in terms of my own well-being and, more recently, those implications that go beyond me and those for whom I cook….I would simply say that I feel much better for a diet that is predominantly vegetable based. (p. 4)

I think I will love this book, as my husband and I just started getting ‘local boxes’ of produce from Greenling.com, and I’m sure many of you may have shares in local CSAs. But the quandary comes when you receive, say, rutabaga or Jerusalem artichoke or some other vege that you’ve never prepared or perhaps even heard of before! We look forward to consulting the recipes in this book as we eat through our vegetable delights each week. And it just might inspire us to expand our petite vegetable garden or to get some creative vegetable seeds.

One last note is that since this is the US version, the measurements in recipes are US-friendly with ounces, pounds, tablespoons listed in addition to grams and liters.

Happy reading! But more important, happy gardening, cooking, and eating!

Free Mobile App to Identify Plants: Leafsnap

Leafsnap: An Electronic Field Guide is a mobile application for your mobile technology (iPhone app; ipad and Android apps coming soon) that supports field-based identification of trees.

If you like this app, you can thank researchers at Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institute for developing this application. Right now, the app only has trees in the Northeast but will soon have all trees in the continental US (sorry Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico).

Leafsnap contains beautiful high-resolution images of leaves, flowers, fruit, petiole, seeds, and bark. Leafsnap currently includes the trees of New York City and Washington, D.C., and will soon grow to include the trees of the entire continental United States.

Their applications capitalize on visual recognition software for photographic identification of leaves. Seem easy? Well, there are a huge number of researchers and collaborators working on this project – and they are all listed here: http://leafsnap.com/about/

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