How Does Your Garden Grow? With rising food costs and a salmonella outbreak sickening over 1,000 people this summer, more Americans seem to be turning to their own backyards for produce.
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How Does Your Garden Grow?

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

How Does Your Garden Grow?

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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It's summer time. It's a skyrocketing food-price time. Salmonella outbreaks that have sickened over 1,000 people this summer. Maybe you've had enough. You've decided, hey, I could grow these veggies myself. At least I know where they come from when I grow them. The seed is a lot cheaper than the stuff trucked in from across the country. So, you've started your own energy garden. You started an E-garden, let's call it. Well, you're not alone. We heard earlier from George Ball, the president of Burpee Seed Company, that growth in veggie and herb sales at Burpee has doubled. It's doubled this year.

So, a lot of folks are thinking like you are. But do your E-garden eggplant leaves look like Swiss cheese by this time of the year? Your tomatoes, are they covered with blight? Are these squirrels and rabbits treating your garden like it's their own salad bar? Well, what can you do? My next guests are here to talk tips on how to troubleshoot your summer - how to troubleshoot your summer plot, as we are well into the growing season, and maybe there are things not working out so well in our garden, and you'd like some advice.

Let me introduce my guest. Barbara Ellis is a garden writer and she's the author of too many books to name, but her latest is "The Veggie Gardener's Answer Book: Solutions to Every Problem You'll Ever Face." I think I feel like I'm Johnny Carson. Answers to every question you'll ever ask. Welcome to Science Friday.

Ms. BARBARA ELLIS (Author, "The Veggie Gardener's Answer Book: Solutions to Every Problem You'll Ever Face, Answers to Every Question You'll Ever Ask"): Thank you, Ira. It's good to be here.

FLATOW: I'm sure our listeners are going to come up with a problem that's going to be hard to solve because...

Ms. ELLIS: Well, everybody has unique problems in their own gardens, but there are certain problems that almost everybody has. So, it...

FLATOW: We'll get to them, believe me.

Ms. ELLIS: Yeah.

FLATOW: Let me also introduce Rosalind Creasy. She is a landscape designer who is credited with starting the edible-landscaping revolution. She is the - also the author of many gardening books, including "The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping," and most recently "Rosalind Creasy's Recipes From the Garden." Welcome to Science Friday.

Ms. ROSALIND CREASY (Author, "The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping: Home Landscaping with Food-Bearing Plants and Resource-Saving Techniques"): Thank you, Ira. Ira, Ira, Ira, you're all making it problems. So much of a time, it's not a problem.

FLATOW: Well, we'll talk about it. I'm a great gardener - I like to think of myself as a gardener, and I have had some garden problems myself this year. Our number is 1-800-989-8255, 1-800-989-TALK, if you need some garden advice. And let me ask, start up while we have folks lining up - queuing up on the phone lines. My biggest - you know what biggest problem is in my garden? Keeping the rodents out. The squirrels and the rabbits.

Ms. ELLIS: Yes.

Ms. CREASY: Yes.

FLATOW: You know...

Ms. CREASY: You want to take it, Barbara? And by the way, hi, Barbara. I haven't talked to you in years.

Ms. ELLIS: Hi, Roz. Your best defense for all those - all the creatures that want to share your bounty is a fence. And for things like rabbits and smaller rodents that get in, one is where you dig up - you dig a trench all the way around your garden and you have chicken wire lining the inside of the trench so that they can't dig under.

FLATOW: Right. I built a patio tomato this year, and I built this cage around it. And you know, nothing has gotten in, but the tomato is now outgrowing the cage.

Ms. ELLIS: Well, that's the problem with tomatoes. They require a much bigger cage than you ever think they will in the spring.

FLATOW: I'm sure they do. I guess that's a testimony to my green thumb, but it's not helping me, you know, having to restructure this cage.

Ms. ELLIS: Absolutely.

Ms. CREASY: May I make a...

Ms. ELLIS: Go ahead.

FLATOW: Please.

Ms, CREASY: Yeah, make a suggestion, and that is the next - for next year, put in a raised box that's about 18 inches, maybe two feet high, and underneath it, put in your wire, even stronger than chicken wire. You can use the little reinforcing wire that's about a quarter inch. And then put the rabbit wire up around it. They sell it by the yard, and you can just surround that and then you let your tomatoes grow over the top. It's too flimsy for them to climb up, and gophers and any of the moles and so forth can't get in the bottom. So, that's it. That solves some of them. But that's only some of the rodents, of course. Then we have squirrels.

FLATOW: Squirrels, boy...

Ms. ELLIS: Yes, I actually have owned dogs that like tomatoes, too, you know.

FLATOW: Yeah, we're going have to - we'll have to take a break and we'll get back and talk more about the plant problems themselves. Some of these animal problems are hard to deal with. Talking with Barbara Ellis, who is the author of "The Veggie Gardener's Answer Book," and Rosalind Creasy, who is also author of "The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping," and "Rosalind Creasy's Recipes from the Garden." So, stay with us. We'll be right back with your questions and suggestions after the short break. I'm Ira Flatow. This is Talk of the Nation: Science Friday from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

FLATOW: You're listening to Talk of the Nation: Science Friday. I'm Ira Flatow. We're talking gardening this hour with Barbara Ellis, garden writer and author of "The Veggie Gardener's Answer Book: Solutions to Every Problem You've Ever Faced, Answers to Every Question You'll Ever Ask," and Rosalind Creasy, also the author of many gardening books, including "The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping," and most recently, "Rosalind Creasy's Recipes from the Garden." 1-800-989-8255. Rosalind, tell us about edible landscaping. What did - it must be taking off now like it never did.

Ms. CREASY: It's taking off like a rocket.

FLATOW: What is...

Ms. CREASY: It's wonderful.

FLATOW: What's the concept and why is it taking off now?

Ms. CREASY: I think we have reached a critical mass, the perfect storm. The price of food has certainly fired that off. But I think that the environmental issues are now becoming so - people are becoming so aware of their impact and they want to do something. You know, you were talking about the coral reefs. Well, you can do something, and one of the things you can do is to grow your own tomatoes, and to put your blueberries in, and so they don't have to ship them to you and refrigerate them.

So, I think that's part of what's fueling it, but at this point, you take a yard and you start substituting edible plants that happen to function the same way. So, if you want some shrubs, I talked about blueberries and you can have upright raspberries, everybody loves those. If you want trees, of course, there are all the fruit trees. And if you want groundcovers, of course, strawberries and all your wonderful herbs. And you know, it really saves a lot of money as well as great pleasure, and it's fabulous to share with children.

FLATOW: I'm sure. 1-800-989-8255. Donna in Warren - is it Michigan, Donna?

DONNA (Caller): Yeah, it's Michigan.

FLATOW: Hi. Go ahead. Welcome.

DONNA: Oh, welcome. I have got a garden full of heirloom tomatoes, and I've also got a garden full of black walnut trees that the squirrels have planted. It seems like the tomatoes that are closest to like the tree roots are just really dead. My husband thinks it's the walnut trees, and he wants to pull them and I really hate to pull them.

Ms. CREASY: He's absolutely correct.

DONNA: That's what I thought.

FLATOW: That's good news and bad news.

Ms. CREASY: Yes, here's the science. Walnuts give out Gallic acid from their roots and also from the leaves. And that inhibits the growth of many plants, including tomatoes. It's a choice, walnuts or tomatoes.

FLATOW: Can you plant tomatoes in the same place every year?

Ms. ELLIS: It's actually best not to, because diseases that attack tomatoes stay in the soil, and it's best to rotate them to another spot if you can. If you can't, there are many people who grow their tomatoes in the same place every year simply because they don't have a choice. And in that case, you want to add plenty of compost and organic matter to make sure that your plants are as healthy as possible.

DONNA: Excuse me, is there any safe distance that I could plant these plants?

Ms. ELLIS: If you stay out of the drip line of the trees. I've had gardens for many years under walnuts, and there's actually a lot of shade-loving plants that will grow fine under walnuts. Most shade-loving groundcovers, like Hellebores and Hostas and all that, will grow fine under walnuts. It's tomatoes and some other crops that won't. And if you stay out of the drip line of the plant, away from where the roots extend and where the leaves fall, then you're fine.

FLATOW: Good luck, Donna.

DONNA: Thank you so much.

FLATOW: 1-800-989-8255. Let's go to Joanne in Jackson. Hi, Joanne.

JOANNE (Caller): Hi.

FLATOW: Hi there.

JOANNE: OK, this is the story but I need a real solution here. I'm on a serious budget. I didn't even plant the garden this year because of what happened last year. I thought I was going to save a lot of money. I grew squash, tomatoes, blah, blah, blah. Ended up that my water bill tripled. I could have bought that produce at any farmer's market cheaper, even at like Myer's and Kroger cheaper with how much money I had to spend paying for water bills.

FLATOW: Ow. That's - wow...

Ms. CREASY: Did you use drip irrigation, Joanne?


Ms. CREASY: Well, that's the key.

JOANNE: Budget?

Ms. CREASY: And they come on better - well, I know, dear, but you know, you invest the money upfront.

FLATOW: Could you get a hose and put holes in it and make it cheap for irrigating?

JOANNE: I actually tried that the year before last.

Ms. ELLIS: Soaker hoses are another option, and then you keep it under mulch and that retains water in the soil. So, that...

Ms. CREASY: And you can also take rainwater off of the roof and put it in collectors.

FLATOW: Now, that's a big trend now, isn't it? Creating cisterns underground.

Ms. CREASY: Correct.

Ms. ELLIS: Cisterns or just rain barrels. You can connect several rain barrels together so that one gutter feeds them and keeps them full.

JOANNE: OK. Well, thanks.

FLATOW: Good luck, Joanne.


FLATOW: 1-800-989-8255. I have lots of people, lots of questions. Bill in Rochester, New York.

BILL (Caller): Certainly, I was hung up on before.

FLATOW: Well, we've got you. Go ahead.

BILL: Yeah, that's all right. Now, different types of fertilizers, how can we get the correct type there, you know, biodegradable, less toxic to our systems and more friendly to our economical and atmospheric concerns?

Ms. ELLIS: The most important thing that I think any gardener can do, and this is a principle that organic gardeners have used for many, many, many years, is feed soil and let the soil feed your plant. You feed the soil with compost and with organic matter from any sources you can find. And as the materials and the compost break down, they release nutrients that the plants can take up.

It's way less expensive than buying organic fertilizers, and it's certainly better for the environment and for all the soil - the microorganisms and the organisms in the soil than using chemical fertilizers, which are mined, or they are petroleum-based, and they're also transported. So, homemade compost is the best thing that you can do to feed your soil, and that should take care of the plants.

FLATOW: There are some people who compost with worms.

Ms. ELLIS: Yes.

Ms. CREASY: Uh-huh. Worm bins are very easy to keep up, and I also have chickens. That's a wonderful way of recycling. You get the eggs, and then you can work the chicken manure into the soil, and boy, does it work well.

FLATOW: Wow, that's interesting. Let's go to Reno, Ruth in Reno. Hi, Ruth.

RUTH (Caller): Hi, thank you for taking my call. I am a 40-year plus gardener, my husband and I. And we have raised beds that have been amended and organic matter and their - the soil is wonderful. Everything is ripe but pumpkins. And the pumpkins, for the last six or eight years, come up, they're huge and beautiful, long vines, and then one day, I'll go out and they're just completely wilted, and within days, they're dead. And I don't know what the problem is.

Ms. CREASY: Squash vine borer, do think, Barbara?

Ms. ELLIS: Yeah, that's what I was going to say. Have you looked at the base of the vines? Have you ever sliced open one of the dead vines and looked inside it to see if there's either - you may find the borer in there. You may just find it's all tunneled out.

RUTH: You know, I haven't done that, but I do almost always have those little gray squash beetles.

Ms. Ellis: That's different.

RUTH: Maybe that's the borer.

Ms. ELLIS: Squash vine borers actually look kind of like a wasp, don't they, Roz?

Ms. CREASY: Yes, yes.

Ms. ELLIS: And the best way to control, the best, easiest way to keep those at bay is to cover the plants with floating row covers until they're large enough and then until you have flowers, because if you keep them covered, the bees will never get in and cross pollinate and you'll never get any pumpkins. But keep them covered until they're strong, and that should help prevent them. Sounds like you might have a really good population of squash vine borers.

Ms. CREASY: Amy Goldman, who's written books on squash, recommends that you take some aluminum foil and you put it around the base of the big stem and let it expand a little bit as the plant grows and to protect it for the first couple of months, too. So, that's another option.

FLATOW: Good luck, Ruth.

RUTH: Why, thanks very much.

FLATOW: You ladies took the words right out of my mouth. That's exactly - I haven't got the slightest idea. Is it too late to start a garden now?

Ms. CREASY: Absolutely not.

Ms. ELLIS: Oh, it's not. Never too late, especially if you're in the southern - warmer climates. You can always do quick crops. There're lots of quick crops that you could grow, radishes, lettuce, snap peas, beans, and all, you can plant and grow and harvest pretty quickly. In the South, I mean, Roz, do have a frost date where you are?

Ms. CREASY: Yes. I'm in California.

Ms. ELLIS: So, you can plant now and grow an entire garden from now until your frost date.

Ms. CREASY: Yes, that's correct, zone nine.

Ms. ELLIS: Right. Oh, see, I'm zone seven and I can grow one now and we'll have a frost in November. And actually, a lot of gardeners in the South sort of declared their garden, their spring garden, over about now. They wait a month and then they start again and grow into the fall. So, there's always time to add more crops in or start a whole new garden for the...

FLATOW: Right, you folks in Southern California are in a class by yourself.

Ms. CREASY: I'm not in Southern California.

FLATOW: Oh, really, you're not? Where are you?

Ms. CREASY: I'm in Northern California. I'm an hour south of San Francisco.

FLATOW: There you go, but - and we have a picture of your garden on our website.

Ms. CREASY: Yes, you do.

FLATOW: Is it possible to have your garden anywhere else?

Ms. CREASY: I want to say - Yes. I would like to say one thing first, though, and that is that Anne Raver of the New York Times wrote an article yesterday on all the things you can still plant, and you can visit that story online and she lists all the vegetables.

FLATOW: Hm. Because people, you know, just - it's just the beginning of the summer.

Ms. ELLIS: Right.

Ms. CREASY: That's right.

FLATOW: What is a good plant for a beginner? Someone who is listening and saying, you know, I'm tired of going to the veggie market. I want to grow something myself. I'll say a tomato. Is a tomato too difficult for the beginner?


Ms ELLIS: I think it's even easier than that, or summer squash, zucchini, leaf lettuce...

Ms. CREASY: Bush beans.

FLATOW: Nothing easier than a radish, is there?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CREASY: A good radish.

Ms ELLIS: Not too - not really. Not too much easier. The main thing with radishes is you want to grow them very steadily and quickly. They need to have even moisture and even temperatures. If they get really dry and then get really wet, and then really dry and then really wet, you're not going to have nice, tasty radishes.

FLATOW: I could never grow carrots because they all have legs on them.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CREASY: You have stones in your soil.

FLATOW: Is that what that is from? You know, I never got that beautiful, you know, Hollywood stalk on it that you see Bugs Bunny always eating.

Ms. ELLIS: Those are good candidates for a raised bed, where all the soil in the raised bed is prepared and it has no stones and it's really friable and easy for the roots to penetrate.

FLATOW: So, the raised bed is actually a terrific way to go. You put out some boards about a foot tall. Is that how deep it should be?

Ms. CREASY: One, two feet high. You can have them higher, and it's better for people who can't lean over. It's wonderful for children. It's just at eye level. So, it can be two feet high or one foot high.

Ms. ELLIS: And it doesn't necessarily, at the beginning, need to even have a frame around it. You can rake it up, but then you have to keep raking it up. I really do prefer the having sides on them, but they're not actually essential for raised beds.

FLATOW: Terrific advice, Jeff in Genesee Valley, CA. Hi, welcome.

JEFF (Caller): Hello.

FLATOW: Hi there.

JEFF: Thanks for taking my call. I've got some really incredibly healthy tomatoes that have grown out of control. They've got incredible amount of flowers that - they set fruit in early June, late May, they started to set fruit. And they're just getting bigger and bigger. And now, they've stopped growing in size, but they won't turn red. It's been almost six weeks.

Ms. CREASY: That's correct but you're waiting - you see, the sun has really only been over 12 hours a day for any length of time, and it all depends on your varieties. I am surprised if you have cherry tomatoes and you haven't gotten any.

JEFF: I did. I have pear - Yellow Pear Cherries, Brandywine, Red Siberian, Purple Cherokee, they all set at the same time. But none of them have turned ripe.

Ms. CREASY: Well, they will.

Ms. ELLIS: Even down here where I am, in zone seven, it's really early to have really local tomatoes.

Ms. CREASY: Frost, too.

Ms. ELLIS: So, I don't think you're off schedule.

Ms. CREASY: Yes.

FLATOW: You have to be more patient, Jeff.

JEFF: OK. And we've also got huge amounts of fire, of smoke, in the air up here, and I was wondering if the CO2 in the air might have something to do with it.

Ms. CREASY: I don't think so. Would you, Barbara?

Ms. ELLIS: No, I wouldn't think so.

JEFF: It makes everything really green and nice.

Ms. ELLIS: It sounds like you'll have a bumper harvest when they're all going to ripen suddenly and you'll have to give them away.

JEFF: And be patient is clearly what you are saying.

Ms. CREASY: Yes.

Ms. ELLIS: Yes.

FLATOW: It's a virtue. All right. Thanks for calling, Jeff, and good luck on your garden.

JEFF: Yes, all right. Thanks a lot.

FLATOW: 1-800-989-8255 is the number. We're talking about gardening this hour in Talk of the Nation: Science Friday from NPR News. Talking with Barbara Ellis and Rosalind Creasy. Let's talk about where - how do you find - every time I go to the gardening center - I did this with my tomatoes this year. How do I find a really good tasty one? How do I, you know? I want that special one that I'm never going to find in the supermarket. How do I know which one that is?

Ms. CREASY: I would like to suggest you go to your university extension service, your master garden service that you have locally in your county, and often they've done tomato tastings. There are wonderful magazines that have done stories on some of the best varieties. I know, because I've written them.

FLATOW: Well, give us some advice. Give us a break. Give us some varieties that you would recommend.

Ms. CREASY: Well, I can give you a few varieties that win taste tests all over the country. And one of them is Sun Gold, which is a cherry tomato. Another one is Early Girl, good old Early Girl. She wins time after time.

FLATOW: Is that a cherry also?

Ms. CREASY: No, that's a medium-sized early tomato. And Better Boy wins a lot of these taste tests, and so does Brandywine. But I have to say, most people who've tried to grow Brandywine, which is the gold standard, are in a climate that isn't really very good for Brandywine. Brandywine wants it to be wonderfully humid and warm, and it comes from the Brandywine Valley of Delaware. And what happens when you take them to the mountains of Montana or you put it down in San Diego, you'd have dry air and you don't have it warm at night. It loves to be warm and cozy at night. You know those evenings you love to sit out?


Ms. CREASY: And so, to pollinate properly and to produce within, I think, it's 120 days, and to have them not crack and to be just divine, you really have to play with the climate. But when you want taste tests, those three help. And then there - you know, Black Cherokee wins a lot, Cherokee Black. And there are others. Barbara, I bet you have some for your coast.

Ms. ELLIS: A lot of those actually are the same here. One of my all-time favorites that I grow every year though is yellow pear. It's an heirloom. It's a little cherry, a little yellow cherry. Another thought - thing I'd suggest to people is that they go to their farmers' market and try some of the heirloom tomatoes that are for sale there and make some notes. In our farmers' market, at least in the spring, the same people that sell tomatoes in the summer in the fall are selling plants.

FLATOW: If it's a true heirloom tomato, can I just plant the seeds from that plant, that tomato that I buy at the farmers' market?


Ms. ELLIS: No, because it hasn't necessarily been grown in isolation, so you're not sure that it will come true.

FLATOW: That's a mistake a lot of people make, isn't it? They think that they can just plant the tomato seeds and that they're going to grow.

Ms. ELLIS: Yes.

Ms. CREASY: I would not say that too many people think that, only because most people are intimidated to start seeds, vegetables from seeds. There seems to be a mystique nowadays. And I have a good friend in the nursery business, Rosemarie Magee (ph), and she said, you know, our ancestors all grew things from seeds and we wouldn't be here if it weren't, really, a fairly easy thing to do. So, I think people should start them from seed, but they would do better to start from the seed companies.

FLATOW: Well, that takes planning, doesn't it?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. ELLIS: It does a little bit. It does a little bit.

FLATOW: And we know how that happens. We're going to take a short break.

Ms. CREASY: Yes.

FLATOW: Yes. We're going to take a short break and come back and talk lots more about vegetable gardening. So, stay with us. The number, 1-800-989-8255, with Barbara Ellis and Rosalind Creasy and your questions. We'll be right back after the short break.

(Soundbite of music)

FLATOW: You're listening to Talk of the Nation: Science Friday. I'm Ira Flatow. We're talking this hour about energy gardening, e-gardening, for those of us who are just tired of spending all that energy on buying the veggies and want to do something in our own garden, with my guests, Barbara Ellis, author of "The Veggie Gardener's Answer Book," and Rosalind Creasy, author of "Rosalind Creasy's Recipes from the Garden" and "The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping." Our number, 1-800-989-8255. Now, Barbara, I understand that you are a garden coach.

Ms. ELLIS: Yes, I am.

FLATOW: Is that like a football coach? You egg on the eggplant? Oh, well, I'm sorry.

Ms. ELLIS: No, I'm coaching gardeners. It's kind of a new trend, I guess. I think in the past, we all learned gardening from our mothers, and our aunts, and our fathers, and our neighbors. But now, with our society as mobile as it is, a lot of us are gardening in a place that we have no experience or there are new gardeners who don't know where to turn for information.

And so, what I do is with a client I set up whatever they want to learn. I've taught people how to prune plants on their yard, what they need to do to renew a plant or identified - helped somebody with a new yard and identified the plants in the yard, helped with design, consultations, whatever they want to do. I've actually gone shopping with people and helped them pick out plants for a garden, steer them away from the things that will not do well on their yard.

FLATOW: Do you teach them gardening color combinations, things like that?

Ms. ELLIS: Yes, although color combinations are pretty much - you know, if you love a combination, whatever you love is fine with me, but if - there are ways you can pick things that are all going to go together.

FLATOW: I always depend on those things in the catalogs that show you, you know, you can buy this whole set of plants together.

Ms. ELLIS: Well, I know myself. I'm kind of a plant in one hand, trowel in the other, wandering around the garden planter. So, I have to plant everything that's going to kind of go together because things are going to go into the garden wherever they go into the garden. And I kind of want to have everything go with everything else. So...

FLATOW: Yes. Well, I'm more of the impulsive type. I say, I like that. I just stick it in the ground.

Ms. ELLIS: Yep.

FLATOW: If I see it, the people with me are in trouble. Oh, Dad's out there, picking that plant up again. 1-800-989-8255. David in San Francisco, hi, welcome to Science Friday.

DAVID (Caller): Hi, thanks. You know, I just want to make a comment about just a well-balanced garden and then about pesticides and herbicides. You know, I have a pretty robust garden. And you know, my first artichoke comes up and it is covered with aphids. And rather than treating it, all of the beneficial insects come and say, look, it's a party. There are aphids. And they start feasting on the aphids and it just ends up being a well-balanced system.

And then secondly, sort of the proliferation of these kill-products, like Roundup, for example. I see people squirting that stuff everywhere, and then I see an article in the New York Times that might say, cell phones might be killing the bees. And I just think there's a real business between the proliferation of that kind of product in our society and I think it's the DDT of tomorrow.

FLATOW: We don't know that cell phones are killing the bees. That is just a speculation.

DAVID: No, I know that, but it's, like, they kind of overshoot the fact that people are using the ground - Roundup or ground-kill-type products. And they start to do an article on, maybe it's cell phones. I'm like, wait a minute. What about the millions of gallons of pesticides and herbicides that people are - I watched my neighbor walking around in his yard, around his apricot tree, with a respirator on squirting weed killer on the same apricot he's going to eat in a month or two.

FLATOW: Rosalind, Barbara, any comment?

Ms. CREASY: Well, I have a lot of comments...

Ms. ELLIS: Well, I know a lot of gardeners are among the worst abusers of pesticides. I haven't used them for years and years because I'm organic. I assume Roz is, too.

Ms. CREASY: Oh, absolutely.

Ms. ELLIS: And for no other reason, I mean, spraying plants is just a nasty, horrible business. It's just not a fun activity, and I would really prefer to plant a garden that can withstand pests and not spray things just because it's more pleasant for me, but...

FLATOW: Mm hmm. Roz, you want to chime in?

Ms. CREASY: Yes, I would love to, because I think that weed killers are probably the worst offenders with most homeowners. And they treat it like it's just water and it's very disturbing. And what they don't understand - I go - I can't keep my mouth shut sometimes when I'm in the nursery or, you know, some of these other stores. And someone will pick up a great big can of this stuff and it's 50 dollars. And I said, have you tried mulching? Or have you tried other of these products? And particularly when they do it in California in the wintertime, when it doesn't even work, there's no directions on it that says it won't work unless the ground temperature is over 50 degrees.

FLATOW: Right.

Ms. CREASY: So, it's just being wasted, and it's overkill. There are lots of things you can do to - that you don't have to use this very expensive chemicals.

Ms. ELLIS: One of the easiest way to clear an area of weeds is to get eight to ten sheets of newspaper, a layer of eight to ten sheets thick topped with mulch, and there's not too many things that will come up. If you have woody plants like poison ivy or that sort of thing, you can cut it to the ground and use cardboard under mulch.

FLATOW: What about aphids?

Ms. ELLIS: A really strong blast from the hose will do any aphids.

FLATOW: I pulled off so many from my rose bush that was like liquid in my hands after awhile.

Ms. ELLIS: Yeah, you can just blast them off, and actually, if you just wait a little bit, the lady bugs will come, the lady beetles will come in and eat them.

FLATOW: Yeah, well...

Ms. CREASY: I think David had the right idea. I leave it on a few sacrificial plants. I leave the aphids. And I know those are my sacrificial plants and they - as you said, they'll all party, the good guys will come. But if you kill off all the aphids, they come and they go, oh, nothing being here, and they fly away, and now you've got the problem for the rest of the summer.

FLATOW: Well, I wanted to - we've run out of time, but you've given us some incredibly great advice. I want to thank you both for taking time to be with us, and good luck on your gardens.

Ms. ELLIS: Well, thank you for having us.

Ms. CREASY: Thank you.

FLATOW: You're welcome. Barbara Ellis is the author of "The Veggie Gardener's Answer Book," among lots of other books, and Rosalind Creasy is a landscape designer and author of "The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping," and most recently, "Rosalind Creasy's Recipes from the Garden."

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