Ear to the Ground: The Insider Dirt to Gardening in Upstate NY

From the Publisher: Directory 2021

by cathym on February 15, 2021

Welcome to 2021! Since we all had so much more time than usual last year to think about  gardening, plan our gardens, and actually garden, all of our landscapes are picture perfect, right? Well, maybe not quite. But my tool shed is more organized than it ever has been (see picture—shelves!).

Lots of people, many of them in their 20s and 30s, took up gardening for the first time in 2020, and when I read some of the questions in online gardening groups I can’t help but cringe. Yes, December is too early to start tomato seeds. Yes, yellowing leaves from the bottom up are a bad sign. No, houseplants aren’t likely to kill your cat (fight me on it!).

Seriously, though—we have an opportunity now to engage a whole new generation of gardeners. Give your new-to-gardening friends seeds, cuttings, and divisions of passalong plants (but not snow-on-the-mountain, please). Applaud their efforts. And do answer their questions, if you can. But most of all, if you’re lucky enough to have new mentees, let them know that gardening is all about trial and error, not giving up when you’ve killed something, and growing what makes you happy.

You might even buy them a subscription to the UGJ!

Thanks, as always, for reading.


Jane Milliman, Publisher


2021 Winter Photo Contest has begun!

by cathym on December 21, 2020

Enter today!


Mug suet feeder

by cathym on November 3, 2020

by Cathy Monrad

1½ cups cornmeal
¼ cup flour
2 cups bird food mix
½ cup lard 
½ cup chunky peanut butter
2-3 mugs
2-3 sturdy sticks 8 inches long
Twine (optional)

Large bowl 
Wooden spoon
Nonstick saucepan


  1. In large bowl, mix cornmeal, flour, and birdseed together. 
  2. Melt lard and peanut butter in saucepan.
  3. Pour melted lard and peanut butter over birdseed mixture. Stir until mixed thoroughly. 
  4. Spoon suet mixture into mugs and press down to remove air pockets. 
  5. Push sticks into suet mixture all the way to bottom of mug. Press mixture around sticks.
  6. Refrigerate overnight until hardened.
  7. Hang mug from tree branch or shepard’s hook, or use a piece of twine to tie handle to branch. 

Project Notes
–  Great way to reuse chipped mugs—just make sure there are no cracks.
–  Refrigerate until ready to use and place feeder out of direct sunlight to avoid spoilage; homemade suet is recommended for use when oudoor temperature is below 40 degrees F. 

Cathy Monrad is the graphic designer and garden crafter for Upstate Gardeners’ Journal.