In my lectures, I try to meld together my enthusiasm for gardening along with my academic and practical experiences to give my audience information that they can, and will want to, take home and apply to their own "back forty." Typically, my presentations involve slide photographs and last for about one hour, but I can accommodate other formats or time periods. My lectures have been well received, with attendees commenting especially favorably on the clear organization of my material, the abundance and sometimes novelty of the information, and my humor.
Below is a list of some lectures that I offer. Feel free to use these descriptions, as well as the short biographical blurb on the "Bio" page, for press releases. My lectures are by no means limited to the below topics, although my special interests and expertises in gardening involve fruit gardening, vegetable gardening, pruning, and anything concerning soil and compost.
FRUIT GROWING SIMPLIFIED: Want to grow delicious, healthy fruit without chemical sprays, "organic" sprays, and other intensive management strategies? We'll examine the pest triangle, showing what brings on pest problems and strategies for avoiding or controlling them. Simplified fruit growing emphasizes a number of straightforward practices, including, depending on the plant, pruning, soil, site selection, and natural pest management. Plant selection is important, and the key ingredients to successful growing of pear, pawpaw, raspberry, and other easy-to-grow fruits will be highlighted. The result: Abundant fruit without having to resort to extreme efforts.
POMONA'S SECRETS: COLD-HARDY, DELECTABLE, PEST-FREE FRUITS: Meet some fruits, such as pawpaw, medlar, Nanking cherry, and persimmon, that are not well-known, but have delectable flavors and are easy to grow. These "secret" fruits of Pomona (she's the Roman Goddess of Fruits) are cold-hardy, laugh off pests, and require little, in some cases no, pruning. And if that's not enough: some of these fruits—hardy kiwi, juneberry, and cornelian cherry, for example—are borne on ornamental plants, perfect for "luscious landscaping." The potential for organic commercial production can be discussed.
FEARLESS PRUNING: A slide lecture to take the mystery out of pruning, so that lilacs, roses—all trees and shrubs, in fact—can be pruned to look their best and be in vibrant health. After going over the many benefits of pruning, we'll take a look at the tools for the job and then—most important—discuss how plants respond to various types of pruning cuts. After that, we enter the "real world" with the how, why, and when of pruning various groups of plants.
MY WEEDLESS GARDEN: This slide lecture will introduce a novel way for caring for the soil, one that results in fewer weeds. My "weedless gardening" system is an integrated system that maintains soil integrity by nurturing the ground from the top down, avoiding soil compaction, maintaining a soil cover, and pinpointing watering. "Weedless gardening" takes care of the soil beneath trees and shrubs as well as in flower and vegetable gardens, and I'll show how I apply it to my new plantings as well as to maintain existing plantings. By emulating rather than fighting Mother nature, plants become healthier and weed problems are minimized. The principles and practices are rooted in the latest agricultural research and also could be beneficially applied to sustainable, small farm systems.
LUSCIOUS LANDSCAPING–WITH FRUITING TREES, SHRUBS, AND VINES!: What could be more pleasant than picking luscious fruits from a plant that you also admire for its beauty? Meet some of the best trees, shrubs, and vines for this purpose, plants that require little maintenance yet provide stunning flowers in spring, color in autumn, and neat form in winter. For landscaping, the ideal is a plant that also is low maintenance, being pest-resistant and requiring little or no pruning. Learn how to grow shadbush, gumi, actinidia, medlar, and other ornamental, fruiting plants, and how to use them to beautify your yard.
SUSTAINABLE GARDENING: "Sustainable" has become a buzzword that needs to be, and can be, taken more literally in gardening. When so applied, the result is a kind of gardening unlimited by natural resources such as fossil fuels or worn out soil. Any kind of gardening effects some change in the environment and, while we can't improve on Mother Nature, the net effect of sustainable gardening on the environment is not adverse. And finally, truly sustainable gardening sustains the interest and physical capabilities of gardeners, even with age. This presentation will discuss these topics and techniques for walking the talk of sustainability.
NATIVE FRUITS: Most people, when they decide to grow fruits, plant apples or peaches, pears, cherries, and other familiar market fruits that reflect our traditionally European heritage. Why not consider native American fruits? Being native, they often are better adapted to withstand our pests and climate. Native fruit plants look naturally at home in our landscapes—luscious landscapes if these fruits are borne on trees, shrubs, and vines that are also ornamental! Great interest was aroused in native American fruits a hundred and fifty years ago; it's time to revive that enthusiasm. In this slide lecture, with in-season fruit samples, we'll explore the beauty, the flavor, and the cultivation of American persimmon, pawpaw, beach plum, lingonberry, and a host of other native delectables, as well as blueberry—one native fruit we have been eating for the last hundred years.
BLUEBERRIES: RELIABLE & EASY TO GROW, HEALTHFUL, & DELICIOUS: This lecture starts at the beginning, with the kinds and varieties of blueberries to order, and where to order them. We'll then move on to all-important soil preparation and ongoing soil care, planting, pruning, and harvest. A foray into bird issues ensures that you get to reap your harvest. The end result may be an overabundance, so we'll conclude with ways in which this problem is easily and happily contended with. You'll leave this lecture with everything you need to know to be picking an abundance of blueberries within just a few years.
SPECIAL PRUNING TECHNIQUES: A slide lecture about pleaching, pollarding, and creating standards and espaliers. These four pruning techniques make a bold statement in the landscape and have a practical side as well. We will cover the ornamental and practical uses of these techniques, the steps involved in creating them, and the plants appropriate for such techniques.
BACKYARD COMPOSTING: The how and the why of backyard composting, everything from designing an enclosure to what to add (and what not to add) to what can go wrong (and how to right it). Don't bother stuffing old tomato stalks, grass clippings, and leaves into plastic bags; just compost them! Also learn what free materials are available for composting. Whether your interest is to produce a material that will make your garden soil fertile and fluffy or to use an environmentally sound way to deal with waste, this course will teach you all you need to know to make good compost.
FRUITS FOR SMALL GARDENS: Gardens are smaller these days, but—as Europeans have known for centuries—a small garden is no impediment to fruit growing. Lowbush blueberries, currants, gooseberries, and super dwarf apples are among the fruits that visually and proportionally fit well into small gardens. This lecture will present the fruits and growing techniques needed to reap delectable rewards from spaces as small as a balcony to as "large" as a small suburban yard.
ESPALIER FRUIT PLANTS: An espalier makes a decorative and edible covering for a fence or a wall. Apples and pears are the plants that first come to mind, and numerous European pruning systems have been devised for clothing the decoratively arranged branches of these plants tightly with fruit. In this country, apple and pear often do not respond as expected, and I suggest red currant and offer directions for using as an alternative. Besides being extremely easy and reliable to espalier, the jewel-like fruits themselves are very ornamental and dangle decoratively for weeks—unless you eat them.
PRUNING BERRY PLANTS: Most berry plants need pruning to bear good crops of luscious berries year after year. Pruning these plants is easy, more recipe than art. This presentation will go step-by-step in describing how to prune various berry plants, including strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and more.
MULTI-DIMENSIONAL VEGETABLE GARDENING: Today's gardens are smaller than those of years' passed. With planning, though, today's gardens can give get us a lot more bang for the buck in terms of space used and energy expended. Using 5 dimensions lets you grow a lot of vegetables in a small space. We'll explore each of those dimensions and look at examples of how to make them work.