Joe Gardener, Niki Jabbour and GreenTown Highland Park

October 7, 2012

Oh, my goodness…

I am surrounded by smart, good lookin’ women today! It starts with Cook County Master Gardener Coordinator Sarah Batka, who returns after taking a week off to escort her nephew to the zoo. (I’ll talk to her about that some other day.)

Also joining me in studio is Lisa Albrecht from Solar Service, Inc and formerly with the Illinois Solar Energy Association. You’ve heard her on Mighty House and on my show in the past. She’s going to offer commentary on green energy problems and solutions.

Then, in the second hour, I’m doing a simulcast with Niki Jabbour, who has her own radio show in Halifax, Nova Scotia called The Weekend Gardener. More on that below.

I’m going to be scrambling just to hold my own.

Joe Gardener talks tools

Well, his name is actually Joe Lamp’l, but Joe Gardener® is a lot easier to remember, even with the trademark symbol. Perhaps I should have gone with something like Mike Mulch…or Mike Manure…or Mike Mildew…or Mike Microclimate…or…Mike Mitosis. Heck, I like all of them!

Anyway, Joe is kind of a horticultural industry unto himself. Right now, his main claim to fame is as creator, host and executive producer of the award-winning national public television series, Growing a Greener World ®, which focuses on the stories of people, places and organizations that are doing good things for the planet, with an emphasis on gardening.

He’s also the author of The Green Gardener’s Guide, writes his own syndicated column, has been host of Fresh from the Garden on DIY Network and GardenSMART on PBS.

In 2011, Joe received The American Horticultural Society’s B.Y. Morrison Communication Award , which recognizes effective and inspirational communication—through print, radio, television, and/or online media—that advances public interest and participation in horticulture.

Today, he’s here to talk tools with me–with a special emphasis on the Fiskars company. I didn’t realize that they are the World’s number one pruning brand–even though almost all of my pruning tools in the garage and in the basement and in the trunk of my car and in the wheelbarrow and even lost in my backyard shrubbery are Fiskars tools. I’m especially enamored of their PowerGear® tools, which feature a patented gearing mechanism that makes snipping a lot easier than it used to be.

So it’s not surprising that many of Fiskars PowerGear® garden tools carry the Arthritis Foundation® Ease-of-Use Commendation. In fact, they are the only pruners and loppers in the U.S. to be recognized in this way. And for those of you who want to grow your lawns in the greenest possible way, you might want to give up on that pollution-spewing relic you’ve owned forever and try one of Fiskars’ StaySharp™ Reel Mowers. You’ll be doing the planet a favor.

The battle (not really) of the radio shows!

Who knew that there were other radio shows running at the same time as mine?

I’m not exactly sure how I discovered this amazing (and somewhat disturbing) fact, but I subsequently learned that a woman named Niki Jabbour hosts a program called The Weekend Gardener on in Halifax, Nova Scotia from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Atlantic Time. In case you don’t have all of the world’s time zones memorized, that happens to be at exactly the same time as my radio show. The nerve of some people!

I figured I would punish her by invading her show with mine. Or is it the other way around? Whichever, Niki and I will be sharing the radio airwaves for about half an hour on Sunday morning, shortly after 10am Central Time (which is 12 noon Atlantic Time, in case you’ve already forgotten). In anticipation of the event, just as I’m blogging about her show, she’s blogging about mine.

I’m doing this just in time, because it’s Niki’s final show of the year. Never fear, however, she manages to keep pretty busy even when she’s not doing radio. She’s found time to write The Year Round Vegetable Gardener, which won the 2012 American Horticultural Society Book Award. Niki also contributes regularly to magazines like Garden Making, Canadian Gardening, Gardens East and Fine Gardening.

Here’s how she describes The Weekend Gardener:

This is season 6 of the show We do call-in’s, but it is mainly a fun show that talks about all aspects of gardening with experts and gardeners from around the world.  I’m always looking for innovative and unique ideas and perspectives We have a Facebook page – The Weekend Gardener With Niki Jabbour

I live near Halifax, Nova Scotia on the east coast of Canada. We are almost completely surrounded by the ocean here in NS and it’s zone 5. We have had pesticide by-laws since 2004 and can’t even spread weed and feed on our lawns. Initially there was a bit of a stink, but it’s totally accepted. We also have been recycling glass, paper, etc for decades and have been composting food/garden waste municipally for about a decade. No food is allowed in the garbage. It’s quite an extensive program, but remarkably easy to do for homeowners.

I have a 2000 square foot veggie garden where I grow a huge range of edibles – year round without heat. I rely on cold frames, etc.. there are plenty of photos if you scroll back on my blog (just click on blog at the top)

Of course, one of the best things about living in Canada (aside from their superior health care system) is that most of the country has banned so-called “cosmetic” pesticides. Niki says that there were laws passed in Nova Scotia in 2000 and 2003 that forbade lawn pesticides and herbicides. In other words: No Weed N’ Feed!

Here’s what happened, according to Niki:

First the reaction was public concern over a takeover of weeds/bad insects.

9 years later that has not come to pass.. we have gotten smarter and I think most gardeners realize that keeping their plants healthy is key.

People either compost or they use the municipal compost produced from our kitchen scraps/garden waste that is collected in our green carts and composted on a large scale by the cities/towns.

The biggest issue is lawn weeds, but there are some natural solutions – corn gluten meal for example, but we also have a new way of thinking – weed tolerance is better. Plus, many are seeding plants like white dutch clover as an alternative lawn cover.

Oh, Canada!

Green Town Comes to Highland Park

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a conference called Green Town Valparaiso. It was just one of three events scheduled for this fall in the Midwest, all of them designed to help create sustainabile communities.

In fact, they are all under the umbrella of GreenTown: The Future of Community, featuring gatherings this fall in Valparaiso, Indiana, Highland Park, Illinois and Toledo, Ohio. Believe it or not, these Green Towns have been going on since 2007 in an effort to bring together mayors and other elected officials, city managers, public works directors, park district directors, planners, developers, builders, architects, landscape architects and engineers, school leaders and many other disciplines. The over-arching goal? To engage these various people in conversations about how municipalities can plan more sustainable development.

The project is the brainchild of a5, a Chicago-based marketing and communications firm, and Seven Generations Ahead, a non-profit organization whose mission is to build ecologically sustainable communities. SGA’s Fresh from the Farm program was recently lauded by Mother Nature Network as one of the 10 most impressive farm-to-school programs in the country.

Not surprisingly, GreenTown is a zero waste, carbon neutral event.

The second stop in the Green Town tour for 2012 is Green Town Highland Park, October 18-19 at The Art Center in Downtown Highland Park, Illinois

Thursday kicks things off with the intriguing topic: Waste Not: Advancing Commercial Food Scrap Collection in the Chicago Area. It will address the question of how to increase commercial food scrap collection in the Chicago area?

Then, on Friday, there is a full day of speakers, including Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering and Gary Cuneen from Seven Generations Ahead, both of whom join me on the program this morning. The day will also feature a talk from Debra Shore, Commissioner from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, Mark Fenton, Host of “America’s Walking” on PBS, and more.

I am pleased to welcome Mayor Rotering and Mr. Cuneen, who will talk with me about the importance of green communities for the health of our planet and its occupants.