Saturday, October 27, 2018

Secrets of good gardening

 One of the biggest secrets of good gardening does not need to be
a secret at all. It involves imitating nature. The web work of soil involves a network of plants that feed and protect the soil. This microcosm or micro environment  goes down a few inches below
the soil. There is a vast diversity of species small and microscopic that occupy this area along roots and capillary structures. It breathes and releases gases and oxygen valuable to plant growth.
There are also many life forms that exist a few inches above the soil. This is where two worlds meet. It is very dynamic and fragile.
If plants are the cover and sometimes the scar tissue of the earth than this is one of the most intense living environments on the earth. If allowed to flourish it resembles a jungle like environment. To enhance this is the best way to enrich the land. There is a multitude of species that only exist in this intense microcosm. When the earth interacts with the atmosphere life thrives in abundance. Fertility is the marriage of the confluent interaction of these life forces. This dynamic exchange of moisture and oxygen enhances this interaction and protects it. A lush garden starts at the surface of the soil.  Cover crop helps create this and so does intensive planting techniques. leaving plants to grow on bare land does not encourage this rich environment.. Cover crops offer an opportunity to give back to the soil. It is an investment toward future crops. If planted in the fall as summer and fall crops are on their way out, it protects the soil while providing this rich web work of life. I use a combination of vetch, rye and clover. Other combinations work well in other zones. Giving back and encouraging soil biology is what regenerative practices are all about. This is covered more extensively in my book,  Radical Regenerative Gardening and Farming.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Insects (an integrated approach)

 Insects are all over your garden, what to do. First off, enjoy nature. Insects are a link between plants and the world around them. Insects do little damage in a healthy ecosystem. Insect problems are an indication of an imbalance. Around 97% of all insects are beneficial. Most of them feed on other insects, like the argiope spider on the right.  So when you spray insecticides you are killing more beneficial insects then those that do damage. Insecticides do not work long term. They simply breed resistance. For instance, if you spray a poison on insects you may kill say 85% of all of them. There are members that have superior genes that make them resistant to the spray. The next time you spray you only kill 70%, then 50%. Eventually all you have left are the ones that are resistant to the poison. You have bred a resistant strain. Now you must go to a stronger poison and start the process all over. In the end you have accomplished very little and may end up with organ cancer. I choose to encourage habitats that attract beneficial insects. I also use Organic IPM practices. Integrated Pest Management involves understanding the insect cycles and working with them to curb their growth by emulating what nature does. I grow around 30 varieties of cut flowers. I integrate them into the beds next to the ones with food. Some of the flowers attract beneficial insects that feed on the harmful ones. One example is that I grow Borage around tomato plants. The Borage is a host plant for Braconid wasp. This wasp pictured below will sting the tomato horn worm planting eggs inside. The immature wasp will feed on the inside of the caterpillar. What you see in the picture are pupae ready to hatch out of the almost dead horn worm . Do not disturb them. Some birds are useful for eating lots of insects as well. Monitoring your garden or farm for insect populations is a useful tool for evaluating who is around.
Take a piece of plastic and paint it yellow.
Apply tanglefoot on one side and hang it.
This can be done during each season to
 see who is there. Using a net is another
 device to collect insects. To identify the
insects go to;  Cohabitating with your environment teaches you how to become a better steward of the land. More information can be found in my book: Radical Regenerative Gardening and Farming, published by Rowman and Littlefield., available on Amazon books.
The video below shows Golden Rod (solidago altissima). This is a wonderful plant to attract a wide range of beneficial insects. It also provides necessary bee food for the fall. The diversity of plants helps create a balanced ecosystem. The healthy garden is manifested by practicing good stewardship practices.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Fruit Tree Care (fron Radical Regenerative Gardening and Farming)

Fruit trees require regular care, not as often as bedded plants  but there is work to do at every stage of development.Choosing varieties that are disease resistant does not always work. Choose varieties that other growers in your area growing and learn from their  mistakes.               Pruning is used to create balance and to open up the inside to allow air and sunlight into the middle of the tree. Take out suckers and cut out damage. The tree on the left has spreaders to train the branches to grow out. The tub next to it collects rain water to attract bees during flowering.     Soil, remove weeds once in the early part of the year and top dress with good quality compost and a layer of mulch. As weeds return pick the ones that are beneficial or better yet put in plants that benefit the plant. Some examples are ; tansy will discourage ants, chives will discourage apple scab. I grow mints under the trees where they will not invade other plants. There are plants that do well at attracting beneficial insects. Yarrow attracts lacewings and lacewings are good at eating aphids and other small insects. These are the most threatening because they are disease vectors. Hyssop is another good plant for attracting beneficial . Borage attracts braconid wasps. This wasp will parasitize catepillars. Golden rod attracts ground beetles. If you live out west, Rivaled sagebrush attracts many preditors. Dill, fennel and echinacea are also good for attracting beneficials . Wormwood ( artimesia)  or artimesia trdentata distracts many insects that treaten your trees. If you have Japanese Beetles you can set up a sex lure, but not in your trees set it up across the field or give it to your neighbor. For codling moth you might be able to scrape the bark to find them. Treating them with bacillus thuringiensis (BT) is effective. The pear on the left  has mint planted around the base. It will help discourage ants. Pesticide sprays are non specific and so kill more beneficial insects than harmful ones. A healthy approach is to design for diversity. I do not plant orchards. I try to integrate fruits into the garden in strategic locations where they will do best. The pear below needs thinning. Left alone they might break the branch they are on.
If you are having problems with bark splitting or insects. Tree pastes can be made to protect the tree. Here are tow recipes. Equal parts diatomaceous earth, clay and compost made into a slurry and painted on the tree. Another is rock phosphate, compost and silica. This is for repairing damaged trees.  Since trees are a more permanent addition I prefer to build a compost pile on the space where the plant will go the next year. My pile are about 6 ft. x 6 ft. I also like to plant a $25 tree in a $50 hole. In other words do it right the first time. Raspberries and strawberries are planted in beds that are shared with perennial flowers or herbs that provide good companionship. Pine mulch helps keep weeds down and creates an acid soil when they finally breakdown.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Garden Trellis.

     This blog offers information taken from my book. Radical Regenerative Gardening and Farming.
 Summer gardens involve plants that need to be trellised. French intensive methods use deep cultivation This means deeper roots. With deep roots below the ground, you will have taller plants above the ground that need staking. There are many ways to stake or trellis your plants. Different varieties of vegetables do well with different  trellis ideas. Consider what is easy, what helps the plants grow, what discourages insects and diseases and what makes easy access for picking. That means there may be compromises in order to take all those things into consideration. I like to recycle or utilize available resources that are readily available. Bamboo is an excellent material. People with bamboo on their land often welcome someone who wants to harvest it. It takes a few weeks or months for it to dry out if harvesting green bamboo. So harvest a combination of dry and green to work with. I have been able to score wire of different sizes. Branches sometimes work as well. Another idea is to use existing plants as a trellis. Examples: Sunflowers can be inter planted with cucumbers. The cucumbers climb onto the sunflower stalks. The sunflowers provide shade and attract lady bugs that gleam the cukes of small insects. Okra or corn can be used for pole beans. If the okra does very well it may create too much shade for beans. These are examples of poly culture. Poly culture involves planting under or around plants to both utilize space and as useful companions. Example: herbs such as parsley or chives will do well under tomatoes,.peppers and eggplant. Trellises can be creative as well as practical. Consider using the shade they create for plants that want afternoon shade.

Pole beans before and after. This method allows sun down in the middle and easier access to picking.

Cucumbers are grown under a horizontal wire of 5" squares.It is staked about 2 ft. off the ground. As they grow they are pulled through the wire and grow across the top. I crawl down the path and pick cucumbers as they hang down. I can get 4 to 5 bushels from a 25 ft. bed. With this kind of cover there is no room for weeds. I do put a few dill along the edge to attract beneficial insects.
Large tomatoes get their own box. As they grow up though it another tier is added. Once they grow over 51/2 feet they topple over. Since I do not want to climb on a ladder to pick them. Small tomato varieties are grown in a hoop that is 5 feet tall. With many types of tomatoes there are many types of staking methods. One of the keys to growing tomatoes is to let air to circulate in and around the plant to avoid an environment conducive to disease.

Snow peas and sugar snaps are grown in hoops. The entire inside and around the perimeter are planted. the plants support each other. The hoops are 5 ft. tall. They grow to 7 ft. The hoops are placed down the middle of the bed. Around the edge is planted with carrots, parsley, arugula, cilantro or other herbs.

When peas are burned up from the summer sun. Late tomatoes can be planted in their place. This makes for a good rotation.

Peppers and eggplant are planted in a 2- 1 formation. So the trellis is created into diamonds. Each plant grows through the triangle or diamond and lays over the horizontal bamboo pieces.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Making Potting Soil.

   Making your own potting soil is simple and easy. It is also a much better quality product than what you can buy. Plus it is sustainable. You can make a wheel barrow of potting soil in less time than it takes to drive to the store and buy the mix. The ingredients in your jiffy mix are not really organic or sustainable. Peat moss does not make a good planting medium. It is mined from Nova Scotia where there is miles of land that has been destroyed for your product. The three ingredients consist of compost, shifted through a 1/4" mesh screen. Course sand. This can be found in streams or creeks. Sometimes it is sold as river sand. I have found this to be less course than I like. Do not use play box sand or masonry sand. It is too fine and cakes. The third ingredient is leaf mold. Make a pile of leaves. I find leaves in town from people I know who do not spray their yards. I take the bags home. It takes about a year for them to breakdown. If run through a lawn mower with a bagger, it breaks down more quickly. Caution, leaf mold will contain weeds. So it helps to know what your seedlings look like. Worm castings can be used in place of compost. I have done experiments with both and they are equal in the results.
  It takes time to put together these resources like finding sand, making compost and leaf piles, but this is part of making your garden or farm complete. When these aspects of your garden are in place, you will also will be more complete as a gardener with the work you are doing. making potting soil puts you more in control, more informed about your work and a better facilitator of the land you are working. Remember that the garden and gardener grow together. There is more detailed information in my book, Radical Regenerative Gardening and Farming.

  Place the ingredients onto a flat surface like a piece of plywood. It is
best to mix with a flat shovel. Get someone to spray a five mist of water while you are mixing. This allows air and water to go into the mix at the same time. You only want to moisten the mix, not saturate it, so it holds together well. If you can squeeze out a drop or two of water that is ideal. The mix I use is about 1 to 2 parts compost to one part sand and one part leaf mold. The standard recipe is equal parts compost, sand and leaf mold. This mix  is best for propagating. Once the mix is made keep it damp so it stays rich and alive. This mix holds water well yet drains well. This means it is a balance of both properties.                                                                 The photos below show the planters I use for small seedlings like spinach and broccoli. The box is made form old recycled crates. I place hardwood leaves in the bottom to provide air and so the roots don't stick to the wood. The picture on the right is the flat ready to plant. Tamp is down the whole box and scrape the soil level. Spay it lightly for small seeds.            

Sunday, April 1, 2018

bifucated carrots blog.

  Since I have started this blog, I have discovered and interacted with other garden blog site. I would like to add a link to a wonderful garden blog;   They were nice enough to promote my blog and my book, Radical Regenerative Gardening and Farming (Biodynamic Principles and Perspectives). Please check them out. 
  Spring has finally arrived in the piedmont. I think Feb. was March and March was Feb. But as always we are here now. I will be working on more informative blogs in the coming weeks.So stay tuned. happy Easter and happy Passover and happy spring. Be well. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Mostly Tomato Mania: New Blog Started

Mostly Tomato Mania: New Blog Started Your blog is very informative. I also have started a blog,  Not quite know what I am doing. I am using it to promote my book, Radical Regenerative Gardening and Farming. It is based on the work I have done since the 1970's through my non profit REAP. My bio,  I would like to net work with other bloggers.