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In the beginning….there was an inspirational video.

9 Dec

Today it is snowing…snowing a lot, snowing so much that instead of gardening I will read about gardening…..fiction, non-fiction, poetry, holding a book, tablet, reading online, a paper magazine or catalog, it doesn’t matter.   Last year when it was snowing, I watched this video posted by Roger Doiron, Founder and Director of  Kitchen Gardeners International (KGI).  It inspired me so much that a couple weeks later, My Urban Farmscape was born, and I joined this revolution that Roger speaks of.    Have I done what I intended to do since my first post on January 1, 2012?  Maybe not as much as I would have liked to, but it’s a good start.  Thank you Roger for the inspiration.

To read my first post, click here http://wp.me/p1GoP9-I  

To start the video…you know what to do.  When you’re done, share it with your friends.

My Favorite Urban Farmscaper Gifts

25 Nov

Seriously, haven’t you heard enough about cyber Monday and all the deals that could be out there?  Well, I have…except for the deals I find for my gardening friends! The holiday season is upon us and  honestly, I won’t tolerate another gift that is marketed to gardeners that really has no useful purpose.  Like a Chia Pet for example.  I love plants, and love growing them, but have no desire to have a terra cotta bust of Homer Simpson with chia hair!    So, with that, here are some of my favorites with the links to these awesome gardening products on Amazon  as well as suggested gifts for gardeners.  When you click on a picture it will take you straight to the product.  Don’t forget to come back to My Urban Farmscape!

Happy shopping!  Remember, click on the pic to  send you to Amazon, or a link  like the one here for all of the Cyber Monday Deals.    Shop Amazon – Cyber Monday Deals Week

My Favorite Urban Farmscaper Gifts!

The Ultimate Urban Farmscaper’s Gift!  Why not have it all in this compact space.  A raised bed with an optional greenhouse to extend your gardening season.  A great idea for a senior or  Farmscaper who has everything…except this!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love  this Jewel Coldframe that I mentioned in an earlier post and use at My Urban Farmscape to extend the season.  When you aren’t using it in the garden, it can be broken down for easy storage.

This Earth Box below is great for those of you with little space and with little time tending to garden chores.  Maybe you didn’t find the time, or forgot to water last year?  A perfect gift for the busy Urban Farmscaper.

Some of my favorite pruners to use in the garden for harvesting as well as in the kitchen for cutting fresh herbs.

For indoor growing and seed starting, supplemental lights are a must have.  For quality and compact sizes, here are two of my favorites.

For the garden photographer the right kind of lens or camera can really help to capture the tiny life living in the garden.

Books for Urban Farmscapers that love to grow food in small spaces, and even for those growing in not so small spaces.

Books for preserving and cooking food you grow or buy at the farmers markets.  Great gifts for someone that is trying to eat local and seasonally.

Magazine subscriptions that are full of useful information about gardening, cooking and homesteading.  I keep every issue of mine for reference.

Garden fun and games for farmscapers of all ages and for the future farmscapers.

Indoor Urban Farmscaping  for someone who may have limited indoor growing space.

Make sure you click the pic to go to Amazon! 

Happy Holidays!

Patti and the My Urban Farmscapers Team

Sage Advice

18 Nov

Berggarten Sage

After a hard frost last week I noticed how beautiful the icy crystals looked on my sage plant.  As I continued to take pictures, I reminisced about its earthy flavor and how Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete if this herb wasn’t included in the stuffing.  I also use fresh sage leaves and incorporate into any Mediterranean dish.  I am surprised at how it tastes so different from the dry powder my mom would use when I was younger and now, how  it adds the right balance when prepared properly.  I also love to make a rub of sage, salt and pepper.  I use this on a pork roast. 

White Sage

Not only is sage, Salvia officinalis, used for culinary purposes, it also has some medicinal properties.  Although I am not a practicing herbalist, or have I ever prepared an infusion of sage leaves in water to make a tea, or created any sage tinctures, I have read that sage is known for its effect in the reduction of perspiration.  I have also read that extended or excessive use of sage can cause symptoms of poisoning!  I found this information in a book by John Lust titled, The Herb Book.  White sage, Salvia apiana, is a ceremonial herb used by Native Americans.  This is the preferred herb for making smudge sticks.  The leaves are smooth and the color is a lighter shade of grey.

seed

I love growing sage, and it is the perfect herb for an urban farmscape.  Why?  Because culinary sages can be harvested throughout the season, can be dried and kept for long periods of time, and you can make useful gifts from your garden.  They also look beautiful as there is nothing else that I can think of that has that grey color or texture.  A member of the mint family, sage is easier to manage and shouldn’t spread like some of its cousins.  For culinary use, I grow Salvia officinalis ‘Berggarten’ for its large rounded leaves, as well as Salvia officinalis ‘Extrakta’ which is higher in oils and a plant that I collect seeds from each year.

There is, however, a sage that I grew this summer that does not work well in an urban farmscape.  That would be Clary Sage, Salvia sclarea.  A biennial plant that will flower in its second year, growing small the first year, and exploding the following year both in size, flowers and seeds! 

Clary has beautiful leaves, big like rhubarb but light green, bumpy and fuzzy.  I loved it earlier in the season. 

huge leaves

The flower heads hung down as they started to form, and as the flowers opened, they stood straight up as if they were shouting to the bees, “Here I am!”  And boy oh boy, did the bees come!  It flowered for the whole month of August, and I was able to collect many seeds. 

flower bud

So, here was the problem.  I planted it next to the driveway, where every time my husband came home he would have to brush against it.  He really didn’t like the smell of it.  And if you touched it, the oils stayed on you and your clothes, thus allowing its fragrance to linger.  I love the smell of sage, but many people don’t.  I grew this sage to add to my collection.  I need to find a different place in the garden where it will get a lot of sun.  That will be tough.  Clary sage is a medicinal herb, used mostly for its oils.  I have no way of distilling oils from plants; I just really like the way it looks and the bees that it attracted to my garden.

Clary Sage flowering

So, here is my “sage advice”.  Keep the culinary varieties in your urban farmscape, add some spice to your life and your food, maybe grow a little ceremonial sage to burn and cleanse the air, and save the Clary Sage for a sunny spot for a beautiful, eye-catching, dynamic bee plant….a little distance, but not too far from your walking path.

Cover Crops

4 Nov

cover crop of clover and rye

Just because it’s November in Michigan, don’t think for a minute that there isn’t much gardening to write about at My Urban Farmscape.  Look at the above picture for example.  This is a cover crop of clover and rye that I planted which will be tilled into the soil in early spring .  If you garden on a slope, a cover crop will  help  prevent soil erosion.  You could  add a cover crop during the growing season to help to suppress weeds, or provide additional fertility to the soil which is what I am doing, only I chose mine specifically for planting in the fall.  These green manures help organic farmers  improve soil fertility from year to year in order to keep their organic certification.  Or, even if not certified organic, farmers have learned the value cover crops.  Many people forget about the commitment to the earth and the environment our farmers have.  I think that using a cover crop is one of the most important things you, as an urban farmer, can do to improve the soil.  Feed the soil, which in return, feeds the plant.   I talked about this in the post I wrote earlier in the season titled “Talkin Dirty”, here’s the link  http://wp.me/p1GoP9-60  I did mention in that post about adding greensand and rock phosphate at this time too. 

So, cover crop planted, soil amendments added, gardening season over?     Never.

My Urban Farmscape was Nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award!

28 Oct

one-lovely-blog-award

I was nominated by photographer and blogger,  I.am.kristen  http://xxiamkristinxx.wordpress.com/  

Thanks Kristen!

So, if you’re not familiar with this award, here are the details……

To accept this award:

1. Link back to the blogger who nominated you.

2. Paste the award image on your blog.

3. Tell 7 facts about yourself.

4. Nominate 15 other blogs that you would like to give the award to.

5. Contact the bloggers that you have chosen and let them know about the award.

Here are 7 facts about myself:

  1. Formost and above all, I am a wife, a mom and a grandma.  My family is my life.
  2. I have other interests besides gardening, really!  Writing, photography of course, and I love to sew, quilt and craft.
  3. I have two dogs that rule the house
  4. Besides writing about gardening, I work full time as a university greenhouse manager and am the curator of a botanical garden.
  5. I DO NOT like to eat anything in the brassicaceae family.  You might already know this.
  6. Cheesecake is my favorite dessert.
  7. Mary Oliver is my favorite poet.

Here are the 15 blogs that I am nominating in no particular order.  Check ’em out.

  1. Memoirs From Behind the Chair http://tonimarielee.wordpress.com
  2. Swier Family Farm   http://swierfamilyfarm.wordpress.com
  3. The Soulsby Farm   http://soulsbyfarm.org
  4. Diary of a Small Town Earth Muffin  http://muffindiaries.com
  5. Patterns of Nature  http://patternsofnature.wordpress.com
  6. Grow Where You’re Planted  http://grwhryrpltd.wordpress.com
  7. Soul Food Sister  http://soulfoodsister.wordpress.com
  8. Richert Images  http://richertmanjarres.wordpress.com
  9. Danny’s Kitchen  http://dannyskitchen.me
  10. Boozed & Infused  http://boozedandinfused.com
  11. May Dreams Gardens  http://www.maydreamsgardens.com
  12. Late Blooming Entrpreneurs  http://latebloomingentrepreneurs.wordpress.com
  13. Pleiades 513 http://pleiades513.wordpress.com
  14. Our French Garden  http://ourfrenchgarden.blogspot.com
  15. Jeremy Gradney  http://avgmansfashion.com

How to Propagate Succulents in 5 Easy Steps

14 Oct

 

With all the rage about creating frames or terrariums filled with  succulents, I am often asked where one would find affordable solutions to this plethora of plants.   Even though putting the garden to bed seems to be my primary task at hand, it is  a good time to take cuttings too.  These tips will also work for succulents purchased at a greenhouse or garden center, thus allowing for an endless supply of little succulents to use for indoor growing projects.

 

Succulents are probably one of the easiest plants to propagate.  Slow growing, these plants usually thrive in warm sunny locations and require very little care.  Unlike a cactus that barely needs to be watered, succulent plants should be watered anywhere from  ten to fourteen days depending on their growing location.  Keep in mind more sun = more water.   I have found a wide variety of sedum (stonecrop) and sempervivum (hen and chicks) that make great succulents for propagating and growing and using for plant crafts.  Look for a wide variety of colors and textures.  The groundcover sedum varieites in your garden also work great.

To propagate, follow these 5 easy steps:

1: Pinch off the tip portion of a stem only.  You don’t want to use another parts below this, as the newer growth at the tip of a stem will produce better roots.  You don’t need any more than one inch of stem, depending on the plant.  Cut between two nodes, which is the part where a leaf meets the stem.

2: Remove lower leaves, leaving only a few on the tip.  Set aside for at least a day to allow the stem to callous, or heal over.  This will allow better root formation.  You can also use the leaves to make new plants.

3: I like to stick the new cuttings in a flat when allowing for time to grow roots.  I use a traditional peat/perlite potting mix for houseplants.  I never use cactus mix as it is too sandy and have found that my succulents have grown better in the general potting mix anyway.  It looks pretty too.

4: Once they have developed roots, it’s time to plant them into your frame, container or terrarium. 

5: Once planted, little care is needed.  Keep in a low light area for about two weeks before moving them to receive sunlight.  Water when the soil dries out. 

Caring for your Succulents:  If your new plants become “leggy” pinch off the tips and start a new plant.  The original stem should develop smaller shoots. I like to keep my creations pinched back and have a continuous supply of baby succulents.  I never know when I need a little gift for something.  These little treasures make great gifts when planted in small terracotta pots. 

TIP:  Want to increase the variety of your collection of succulents?  Share this post with friends, and have each of you purchase a succulent plant, propagate, and hold a plant swap.  Soon you will end up with many different varieties!

Sedum Lime-Zinger PPAF
photo by Chris Hansen courtesy of http://www.PerennialResource.com

are we done gardening yet?

30 Sep

It is not in doing what you like,

but in liking what you do that is the secret to happiness.

Sir James M. Barrie

It is the last day of September and I have to admit, after gardening this past summer in the dust, I’m looking forward to a long cool autumn to re-energize my overheated body and sun-leathered skin. Some gardeners that I have talked to over the past few weeks said they gave up long ago on their gardens. “Too hot! Too dry! Maybe next year.” I detected slight sounds of guilt in their cracking, squeaking, high pitched voices. In the community garden I belong to, many people abandoned their garden over the summer. I’m so confused. How could anyone give up on gardening? I didn’t know that it ever ended. Could these just be the crazy thoughts of an obsessed gardener? There must be a devil and angel gardener on my shoulders. I’ll be the first to admit, I wanted to give up too, but something (or someone) kept me going. “Patti…you need to go out in the garden…you will know what to do when you get out there.” These were some of the whispers that would haunt my ears. Ok, alright! I would go out, and before I knew it, hours would pass. I lose track of time, and get lost in the many things that occur in this amazing world. For me, gardening is never done, and this is the best time of year to prep the garden for next year. Here are a few things to remember to do this autumn before you decide to hang up your shovel for the year.

  • Weed, weed, weed! Perennial weeds are growing like gangbusters and will spend the winter months sending their roots deeper into the soil. Make sure you remove all weeds! Annual weeds have flowered and set seed. You don’t want these to disperse in your garden. The key to eliminating weed problems is to clean, clean, clean!
  • Aerate the soil. This can be done with a spade or fork. Gently lifting the soil while weeding or adding amendments will be sufficient. You could also use a shovel, broadfork, or small tiller.
  • Amend the soil. Autumn is the best time to add bone meal, greensand, and rock phosphate which will improve soil fertility in a sustainable earth friendly way. Follow directions on the bag for amounts. You can find this in local garden centers and nurseries. Save composting for spring time.
  • If you experienced a drought this past growing season, it would help to water your garden. Hopefully we will get a good snow this year to help build the low soil water content.
  • Get your soil tested. Now is a good time to get your soil tested by your local county extension. This can also be done in the spring. Be consistent from year to year. If you have it done in the spring, then continue to do so.

So, to answer the question, “are we done gardening yet?”.

The answer from me is, “NEVER!”

Happy Autumn Gardening!

Garlic Anyone?

23 Sep

While shopping at your local farmers market, pick up few extra bulbs of garlic from your favorite organic farmer to plant at your urban farmscape.  Garlic is an easy plant to grow, and not only will you harvest your crop at the end of next summer; you will get a bonus crop of garlic scapes in the spring. 

Assorted Garlic and Scallions

Now is the time of year when I plant my garlic.  It grows best in nutrient poor, sandy-loamy soils.  I have grown it in full sun and this past year I grew it in part shade which did very well.  I harvested about late July, early August and after curing, saved what I thought to be the best to grow for next year. Basically, there are two types of garlic, hardneck varieties, and softneck.  The softneck varieties are used for making garlic braids.  Hardneck varieties will store longer.  You choose what you want to grow.  I grow mostly hardneck varieties.

I learned how to grow garlic when I grew over then varieties at my country farm after reading a book by Ron L. Engeland,  “Growing Great Garlic”.  You can get his book too, but for starters, here are some general steps to get your prepped for planting.

  1. Select firm, hard bulbs.  They should be free of damage or soft spots.  Bigger is not always better.
  2. “Pop” the cloves by holding the stem with one hand, turn while holding the bulb in the other.  If you are good,

    Single clove. Plant with the pointed part pointing upward to the sky.

    this should separate the cloves from the stem.

  3. Plant each clove about 2 inches below the top of the soil.  This year I planted the cloves about 4 inches apart.  The beds they were planted in were two feet by four feet, which was about nine clovers per square foot.  I planted four beds.  That was a little too much, but I do love garlic!
  4. Mulch with straw, about two inches thick. 
  5. Water through freezing temperatures.

In the spring you will begin to see garlic growing, and as soon as the weather warms up, it will grow many leaves.  Soon, a stem will rise from the center, and a pointed flower bud will form at the end of the stem.  This is called the “scape”.  When in curls, you know it is time to remove it.  These scapes are delicious when sautéed in some butter. With their mild garlic flavor, this is a real spring treat.  Allow the garlic to continue to grow until later in the summer.  You should then allow the soil to dry out, and as the leaves begin to turn yellow and dry, you know it will soon be time to harvest.  Ron says in his book to harvest the hardneck varieties when only 5 leaves remain.  The softneck varieties can dry a little more. 

Scapes…YUM!

Follow these general steps for harvesting and storage:

  1. Harvest after about half of the leaves dry out.  Brush off soil, do not wash.
  2. Tie together in bunches and hang in a dry, airy, shaded location, such as a garage or car port. 
  3. Allow to cure for at least two weeks.
  4. Clean garlic by removing dirt and the outer most paper.  Each papers are dry leaves.  If the papers are thin, or few, and the cloves have separated, use these for cooking first as they won’t store very well. 
  5. Cut stem and roots.
  6. Store in a cool dry location.  I have kept garlic in my kitchen cupboards where I keep other herbs and spices. 
  7. Save your best bulbs to plant in the fall.

Beautiful and probably tasty. I’ll save this one for planting.

It’s worth dedicating a little space in your urban farmscape for garlic, or even try other edible bulbs like scallions .  You will find that they are easy to grow, and that the most flavorful garlic will come from the unique varieties that you grow.  One of my favorites was given to me by a friend years ago, and I have been growing it ever since.  I don’t know anything other than it is a hardneck variety, similar to  Chesnok Red or Music.  Deliciososo!  A one-time small investment by you and then shared each year as a gift to friends will provide you with a lifetime of garlic and happy friends.  I am going to pickle some garlic this year for the first time.  Anyone have a good recipe they would be willing to share?

Garden Preservation

9 Sep

Labor Day has passed and the gardens are producing at their peak.  I’m sure that you have been enjoying cucumbers, peppers, beans, herbs, tomatoes and egg plants from your urban farmscape.  What a healthy time of year!  Food prices are at their lowest at the market.  It is so easy to buy bushels of fresh seasonal veggies and fruits.  I know that you aren’t thinking about winter, but if you want to enjoy some of these summer pleasures this winter, you should think about food preservation now.

 The three main ways to preserve food are by drying, freezing and canning.  Herbs are easiest in that you can just dry them in a dry shady location and then seal in a jar.  Freezing works best for some fruits and veggies, but canning may be the best method for longer preservation.  For high acid foods, like tomatoes and pickles, you would use a Boiling-Water Canner.  For low acid foods you would need to use a Steam-Pressure Canner. 

 I learned how to can tomatoes by watching my mom.  As the youngest in a family of three, and living in the country, I was usually a helper in the kitchen.  I remember my mom filling the stainless steel sink with fresh picked tomatoes and pouring boiling water over them.  The steam would rise above the bright red orbs and mom would carefully pluck them from the water and while using her paring knife she would remove the core and peel off the skin, quarter the tomato, then drop the pieces into a glass quart jar.  Once full, she would place the long handle of a wooden spoon into the jar of flesh and seeds, moving it around the edges to release the tiny bubbles locked in the bottom of the jar.  She would wipe the rim of the jar and then it was time for my job.  I would carefully measure salt into the worn metal measuring spoon and pour it on top of the tomatoes, watching the crystal substance disappear into the liquid.  Mom would remove the gold lids from a shallow pan of boiling water and after placing them on top of the jar she would  tighten them with a gold metal band.  After placing them into the metal rack lining the inside of the big blue pot, she would lower them into the boiling water and set the timer by pushing in and turning the small black knob that was next to the clock on the stove.  After processing, my mother would lift them out of the boiling pot and place them on a wooden cutting board.  We would begin to hear the lids “pop” as the suction forced them inward to seal.  Mom would say “there goes another one!”  When cooled, we would stock the jars in the cupboard in the basement.  The shelves would be filled with not only tomatoes, but pickles, applesauce, peaches and pears.

If you have never canned before, I would recommend starting with tomatoes.  It is really simple to do.  And in January when the snow is flying, the best meal to make is from your tomatoes.  Those along with using some fresh dried herbs will bring you back to this summer as you harvested and preserved the veggies from your garden, or maybe your visit to the farmers market.  It’s fun when you turn it into a family event, or invite some friends over.   Once you learn the process, you may be on the way to creating your own family secret recipes that you share at the holidays or sell at the market!

To learn more about canning, you just need a book.  I recommend any of these.  Click on them to go right to Amazon.

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest: 150 Recipes for Freezing, Canning, Drying and Pickling Fruits and Vegetables

Canning and Preserving For Dummies

Sunflower S-M-I-L-E

2 Sep

I have never met a sunflower I didn’t like.  Have you?  Honestly, don’t they make you S-M-I-L-E ?  They are so easy to grow.  And I’m sure if you feed birds, you have witnessed the sunflower that was randomly “planted” next to the bird feeder.  They are so easy to grow.  Even when I go to the farmers market I can still find some to buy.  The farmer I buy mine from each week sells sunflowers at 3 for $1.00.  So, for 33.333333333 cents each, I can afford to pass them out to friends and co-workers.  Then I get to watch them S-M-I-L-E .  Did you know that the heirloom sunflower “Mammoth” can grow ten to twelve feet tall?  And have heads that could possibly stretch up to twelve inches across?  This is the biggest sunflower out there.  And the best part is, if you grow one, you will never have to buy seed again.  WHAT?!!?!  I have been growing this sunflower for many, many years, and save one of the heads each year, and have hundreds of seeds.  I have so many seeds, that I am going to send some to you if you are one of the first 25 readers to like or share this post.  Really.  I want to share the Sunflower S-M-I-L-E and then you can grow some and share them with your friends too.  Don’t worry about the size, they are perfect for an urban farmscape.  I fell in love with them when I first grew them at my farm.  I planted a 10 x 10 space in a small culinary garden.  They are tall, and I didn’t have much room, but I decided to try them anyway.   Don’t be surprised if they are the center of attention in your garden. 

How to save seeds from your sunflower.

  • First, the outer petals will start to dry up.  You will be able to see the seeds when the flowers begin to fall off. 
  • If the birds start eating the seeds, you know for sure it’s time to harvest. 
  • After harvesting the flower, place in a warm dry location to dry completely.  Keep the heads whole if you like and use as bird feeders or for crafts. 
  • Sunflower seeds are really hard to remove.  If you want to remove them from the head, take two seed heads and rub them together.  Wear gloves as the stem may have small sliver type pieces that could irritate your skin. Once a few seeds begin to dislodge, it will get easier.
  • You will end up with some seeds mixed with some dried plant material.  Clean the remaining seeds from the plant debris and then store in a cool dry location in a paper bag or paper envelope. 
  • You can feed the birds, feed yourself, or even make crafts with sunflowers.  

 

 

Here’s what I made this weekend while camping from a sunflower head using florists wire and picks, and some dried flowers and items found in nature. 

Step 1:  First I used some floral picks to wrap wire around pine cones.  Set aside to use later.

 

Step 2:  Next, I arranged some dried flowers across the lower portion of a grapevine wreath.

 

Step 3:  Wire the dried flowers to the wreath using floral wire.  Trim stems.

 

Step 4:  I used floral wire to attach this sunflower head to the wreath, covering the stems of the dried flowers.

 

Step 5:  Here I inserted some fresh-cut hydrangeas as“filler”.  These will dry, and still look nice. 

 

For the finishing touches, I hung it up and then placed in the pinecones where I felt they were needed.  I like to look at it a bit.  Then while out on a walk, I picked some ferns and used them.  They will get curly and brown, and might not look as good as the others, but for now, I liked it! 

 

I’m sure that if you haven’t grown sunflowers before, you will want to grow them next year.  So if you want some free Sunflower “Mammoth” seeds, this is what you need to do, it’s easy, and it will make a lot of people S-M-I-L-E !

  1. “Like” or “Share” this post using any of the sharing buttons below to get a packet of 10 seeds.  Only the first 25 people to do so will get seeds.  So hurry!
  2. Next, send me an e-mail to request your seeds (I need the address to mail them too.  Don’t worry, I won’t keep, share, or use your address in any other way than to send you your seeds.  patti@myurbanfarmscape.com 
  3. I will pay for the postage!  Hooray! 
  4. You will receive your seeds with planting instructions, let’s say, within ten business days of requesting, at which time, you will experience a small smile 🙂

 

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