grow it

The HubBub

What is all this hubbub about?  If you have problems with any aspect of your vegetable garden — whether it’s a scientific question, a planting dilemma, or a general research inquiry — check out the experts on-call, informational blogs, and websites to increase your knowledge.  Sometimes hitting the books the old-fashioned way yields the most immediate answer!

Questions, Problems, Pests and Diseases

Ask our local experts any question and they will try to solve your problem or head you in the right direction for an answer.  Various pests and diseases can affect your crop, and identifying them early is important to a successful recovery. There are also preventive strategies that will help avoid or minimize the problem. Remember that 95% of the insects are either helpful or harmless to your garden.  There are preventative strategies that can avoid problems.

Local Experts Available by Email or Twitter

Rick Apgar at Mill River Supply   [email]
Rick has been in the agricultural and horticultural sales field for over 50 years. He is an active member of the Board of the Cornell Cooperative Extension, having served as its treasurer and president.  Rick owns Mill River Supply in Bedford Hills where he can be found five days a week to answer questions and identify insects and diseases on plants and turf. Rick has embraced the natural/organic approach to lawn and garden management and recommends these products whenever possible.  He is a Master Gardener.

Nancy Ross   [email]
Nancy has been a volunteer with the master gardener program of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester since the group was started in 1985.  Her gardening experience consists of tending the same (50’X75′) vegetable patch on Croton Lake Road in Mt. Kisco for the past 36 years.  She’s very willing to share her experience, the pleasures and fun, and the successes and failures of growing almost every vegetable by the trial and (mostly) error method.

Mimi Edelman   [email]
Mimi is an Organic/Biodynamic Farmer.  She has been farming and involved in food-related issues for a long time and gained a great deal of practical experience and knowledge.  In addition, she is owner of “I & Me Farm” in Bedford, NY.  As a farm-based educator and horticulture therapist, Mimi has been active as a Hudson Valley Agriculture Organizer and played a role in the Slow Food Leadership.

Annie Farrell   [email]
Annie is currently at Millstone Farm in Wilton, CT, where she works with Betsy and Jesse Fink on their diversified 75-acre farm. She has a long history of farming experience in Westchester County.  In her ten years at  Cabbage Hill Farm, she helped created a model of Sustainable Agriculture on 225-acres in Mt Kisco, NY and also established a 5000-square-feet Aquaponic Greenhouse. She served as CEO of Stafford Enterprises, a USDA slaughter facility in Stafford Springs, Ct, whose design was based on Temple Grandin’s plans for humane animal treatment. Another of her efforts was starting NELA, the New England Livestock Alliance, sharing genetics for heirloom breeds of livestock that thrive without grain. In addition, she co-founded the Flying Pig CafĂ©. In 2001, she wrote a concept plan for David Rockefeller’s Stone Barns, after which she joined Lisa Schwartz to help build Rainbeau Ridge Farm. Among many other farm consulting projects, Annie developed the master plan for Westchester County’s Hanover Hilltop Farm. Annie has sat on several boards: Westchester County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board, Muscott Farm Friends Board, and Watershed Agricultural Council.

Douglass DeCandia   [email]
Doug is Farm Manager and Farm Training Coordinator with the Food Bank for Westchester.  A resident of Katonah and graduate of John Jay High School, Doug received a college degree in Sustainable Agriculture at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina. He returned home to practice agriculture, to share and learn.

Blogs, Informational Sites,
and Newsletters

Sometimes the best way to learn is to chat with other home and farm vegetable gardeners and read about the plights of other growers.  Experience has a lot to say in a pursuit that is subject to Mother Nature!  Patience, perseverance, creativity, and a sense of humor are indispensable in finding satisfaction and producing yield in a vegetable garden.

  • Michele Miller has a wonderful way of imparting her knowledge with “practical thoughts on growing gardens and growing up. Visit her blog and learn.
  • Margaret Roach truly knows how to inspire with her “horticultural how-to and woo-woo”! This site is not to be missed.
  • A fun, home-grown blog with pictures and commentary. (Note the pots containing veggies.)
  • One of the best sites for answering all your vegetable gardening questions —  inspired and user-friendly, with lots of photos.
  • Formerly Community Markets, this is the go-to site to find out about markets, vendors, and what’s in season.
Nutrition and Health

One of the great joys and side effects of growing and eating your own vegetables is that personal health improves. Sustainable living is a product of the efforts applied to growing food organically.  The list below features some of the medical professionals in Westchester.  Of course, you’ll need to do your own research to find out if these doctors fit your needs.

Geri Brewster, RD, MPH
Geri is a nutritionist who has been deeply involved with Slow Food and school food issues in the Mt. Kisco area.

Dr. Steve Cowan
Steve is a developmental and behavioral pediatrician in Mount Kisco.  He has a good Food IQ.

Susan Blum, MD
Susan is an Armonk resident who is well-versed in Functional Medicine (supplements, primarily) and has a million dollar state-of-the-art facility in Rye. The site offers advice on nutrition and offers healthy recipes.

Mary Gocke is currently practicing in Rye at Susan Blum’s integrative practice.  She specializes in diet and nutrition.

Michael Finkelstein, MD,  SunRaven
SunRaven was founded and developed by Dr. Finkelstein as a Center for Holistic and Skillful Living in 2005.  Michael and Robin Queen have programs and events at this farm, among them cooking classes and cleanses.

The Library

The very best way to learn about how to become a backyard vegetable gardener is to do your homework and then go get dirty in your garden.  Read as much as you can about garden design, preparation, and growing methods, then put it to practice, experiment, and don’t be afraid to try something new.  Look over our selected readings, books, and articles.

Edible Gardening

Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long. Eliot Coleman, Chelsea Green, 2012.
Coleman explores ways in which North American gardeners can obtain a Four-Season Harvest and strategies to successfully raise a variety of traditional winter vegetables in backyard cold-frames and plastic-covered tunnel greenhouses without supplementary heat.

The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year-Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses. Eliot Coleman, Chelsea Green, 2011.
Coleman offers clear, concise details on greenhouse construction and maintenance, planting schedules, crop management, harvesting practices, and even marketing methods, in this meticulous, illustrated guide.

The New Organic Grower: A Master’s Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener (A Gardener’s Supply Book). Eliot Coleman, Chelsea Green, 2011.
With more than 80,000 copies sold since 1988, this book has become a modern classic. In this revised and expanded edition, master grower Eliot Coleman continues to present the simplest and most sustainable ways of growing top-quality organic vegetables.

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live. Nikki Jabbour,  Storey Publishing,  2011.
Nova Scotia-based gardener and writer Niki Jabbour shares her secrets for growing food during every month of the year.

Mini Farming. Brett Markham, Skyhorse Publishing, 2010.
Mini Farming describes a holistic approach to small-area farming that will show you how to produce 85 percent of an average family’s food on just a quarter acre—and earn $10,000 in cash annually while spending less than half the time that an ordinary job would require.

Maximizing Your Mini Farm. Brett Markham, Skyhorse Publishing, 2012.
Markham gives tips, tricks, and planning advice on how to make the most of your mini farm. Keep your costs down and production high with this complete guide to maximizing your mini farm—whether it’s a rooftop urban garden, a suburban backyard, or a more substantial plot of land.

Landscaping With Fruit: Strawberry Ground Covers, Blueberry Hedges, Grape Arbors, and 39 Other Luscious Fruits to Make Your Yard an Edible Paradise (A Homeowners Guide). Lee Reich, Storey Publishing, 2012.
Fruit trees, shrubs, and vines are true two-for-one plants. Many varieties are beautiful — well suited to double duty as sources of delicious food and ornamental additions to the home landscape.

Weedless Gardening. Lee Reich, Workman Publishing Group, 2001.
This book identifies four basic tenets that form the system’s backbone-minimize soil disruption; protect soil surface; avoid soil compaction; use drip irrigation-and the way to get there is simple. For a new bed or established garden, layering is key, and the perfect material to use is also among the most common–newspaper.  Using these tips and techniques allows the gardener to work quite a bit less.

Talking Dirt: The Dirt Diva’s Down-to-Earth Guide to Organic Gardening. Annie Spiegelman, Perigee Trade, 2010.
In this lively and practical guide to organic gardening from a renowned garden expert. Annie Spiegelman’s down-to-earth wit and wisdom create the perfect primer for anyone with a passion for home-grown veggies or fresh-cut flowers, no matter what their skill level, location, or resources.

Botany for Gardeners: Third Edition. Eric Capon, Timber Press, 2010.
A bestseller since its debut in 1990, this handy reference has been expanded and updated to include an appendix on plant taxonomy and a comprehensive index.

All New Square Foot Gardening. Mel Bartholomew, Cool Springs Press, 2006.
There are ten new features in this all-new, updated book about maximizing your garden space.

Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening. Louise Riotte, Storey Publishing, 2011.
A complete guide to using companion planting to grow a better garden, this classic has taught generations of gardeners how to use the natural benefits of plants to protect and support each other.

Vertical Gardening: Grow Up, Not Out, for More Vegetables and Flowers in Much Less Space. Derek Fell, Rodale Books, 2011.
Vertical gardening guarantees a better outcome from the day the trowel hits the soil—by shrinking the amount of “floor” space needed and focusing on climbing plants that are less prone to insects, diseases, and animal pests.

The Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook: Make the Most of Your Growing Season. Jennifer Kujawski, Storey Publishing, 2011.
Authors Ron and Jennifer Kujawski take the guesswork out of gardening with weekly to-do lists that break gardening down into easily manageable tasks. Suitable for all gardening zones, the book offers easy instructions for setting up a personalized schedule based on your last frost date.

The Garden Primer: Second Edition. Barbara Damrosch, Workman Publishing Company, 2008.
One of the most comprehensive, down-to-earth one-volume gardening references, the new edition has gone 100% organic and reflects the latest research on plants, soils, tools, and techniques, including updated and expanded information on planning a garden, recommended plants, and best tools.

Edible Landscaping. Rosalind Creasy, Sierra Club Books, 2010.
Creasy’s expertise on edibles and how to incorporate them in beautifully designed outdoor environments has been hailed by gardeners as a groundbreaking book. This new edition presents the latest design and how-to information in a full-color format, with more than 300  photographs.

How to Grow More Vegetables and Fruits (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine. John Jeavons, Ten Speed Press, 2006.
Updated with the latest bio-intensive tips and techniques, this is an essential reference for gardeners of all skill levels seeking to grow some or all of their own food.

Greenhouse Gardener’s Companion, Revised: Growing Food and Flowers in Your Greenhouse or Sunspace. Shane Smith, Fulcrum Publishing, 2000.
In this comprehensive book on greenhouse gardening, Smith draws on more than 20 years’ experience to cover everything you need to know to establish a charming and productive greenhouse.

Backyard Market Gardening: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Selling What You Grow. Andrew Lee, Good Earth Publications, 1992.
Discover how easy and profitable it is to grow and sell vegetables, fruits, flowers, herbs, and small livestock from your own backyard market garden.


The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. Michael Pollan, Penguin, 2007.
This revolutionary book, packed with profound surprises, is changing the way Americans think about the politics, perils, and pleasures of eating.

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. Michael Pollan, Penguin, 2009.
Written with clarity, concision, and wit, this easy-to-use guide draws from a variety of traditions. Whether at the supermarket or an all-you-can-eat buffet, this is the perfect guide for anyone who ever wondered, “What should I eat?”

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. Michael Pollan, Penguin, 2009.
Pollan shows us how we can start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich our lives, enlarge our sense of what it means to be healthy, and bring pleasure back to eating.

What to Eat. Marion Nestle, North Point Press, 2007.
Taking us through each supermarket section — produce, dairy, meat, fish–Nestle explains the issues, cutting through foodie jargon and complicated nutrition labels, and shows how to make sensible, nutritional food choices.

Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, Revised and Expanded Edition. Marion Nestle, University of California Press, 2007.
An accessible and balanced account, this book laid the groundwork for today’s food revolution and changed the way we respond to food industry marketing practices.

Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System. Raj Patel, Melville House, 2012.
Patel explains the steps toward trying to regain control of the global food economy, stop the exploitation of both farmers and consumers, and rebalance global sustenance.

Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit. Barry Estabrook, Arews McMeel Publishing, 2012.
Based on his James Beard Award-winning article, “The Price of Tomatoes,” investigative food journalist Barry Estabrook reveals the huge human and environmental cost of the $5 billion fresh tomato industry.

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