Garden 'siteseeing' in Australia, Alaska, Florida, and New York

What's "garden siteseeing"? It's stepping aboard the Web's magic carpet to wing our way around the world visiting interesting gardens and the gardeners who plan, plant, and care for them. It's been a regular feature of Diggin' It since the beginning, but lately, a visitor recently pointed out, we'd neglected our trips. So, starting today, they'll return as a weekly feature.

At, Darren Collins (who lives in in Kiama, on the New South Wales coast of Australia, just south of Wollongong, which is just south of Sydney) notes that the US president and his wife have planted a kitchen garden on the grounds of their residence and of the push to encourage the Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd, to do the same.

The Collins family is one of 120 chosen to take part in the Sustainable Illawarra Super Challenge, which encourages people to develop a more sustainable lifestyle. Darren and his wife, Megan, and their three daughters, will work to use less water and electricity and produce plenty of food from their organic garden (which includes fruit trees).

And speaking of gardening, read about their inexpensive do-it-yourself tumbling compost bin.

Leaving the wide-open spaces of Australia behind, we head to Brooklyn, N.Y., where Elaine grows veggies in containers on the roof of her apartment building, in Bucolic Bushwick. Her edible garden is home to tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and broccoli, all of which look happy in their big-city home.

Well, all but the cucumbers. Those seeds never germinated. And the eggplant developed some aphids, which were banished with a strong spray of water from the hose (and a little judicious finger squashing).

Elaine is  keeping a record of all her expenses. The total so far: $193.50, which sounds a bit daunting, but probably a large part can be amortized over the future, because containers, stakes, soil, and other necessities will already be on hand. (But for those worried about whether growing your own makes sense, here are some tips for saving money in the garden.)

Father south, Brian makes the most of a tiny Florida Backyard Garden by figuring out how to maximize not just space but time and money, too. Practically every gardener knows about trying to overcome those limitations.

Also about coping with unexpected weather. For Brian, that's meant five or six weeks of no rainfall, then 5-1/2 inches in one week!

Gardeners in other climates may be surprised that he didn't begin  planning his vegetable garden till late May. Let him explain:

"Florida is a little different in that most vegetable gardens are started in the fall months rather than the spring. It's just too hot in the spring and summer for most vegetables, although in some areas of the state, summer gardens are possible. "

In a rather chillier location, the Alaska Novice Gardener is also talking about raised beds. That seems to be a theme this year. Practically every blog -- including this one -- has related firsthand experience with building and growing in raised beds.

You can see that -- because the soil will thaw out and warm up sooner than the ground – raised beds make a lot of sense for an Alaskan gardener.  She and her husband built them mostly from notched spruce logs that were already on their property.

The hard part came when it was time to fill them with soil:

"Dimensions on my raised beds are roughly six feet long by three feet wide by one foot tall. They require about four wheelbarrel loads of topsoil apiece. Or about 80 shovelfuls of dirt piled into the back of my husband's truck to be filled to the gunwales.
"How do I know this little topsoil fact? By hard physical manual labor I know it. It is really hard work to fill raised beds. And I only have four. And a half."

I feel for them -- have been there myself several times -- but it's all forgotten when you pick your first produce. I promise.

Note: Enter your photos in the Monitor's monthly contest on Flickr and you could win a new garden book. Or just ogle all the lovely landscapes and plants at Gardening with the Monitor on Flickr.

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