Tag Archives: organic

New Favorites for 2013

6 Jan
Echinacea 'Cheyenne Spirit'photo courtesy AAS

Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’
photo courtesy AAS

Not only do I love getting the new garden catalogs for the year, I love to learn about the new varieties that are available.  Even though I have my favorites that I will forever plant year after year at My Urban Farmscape, I can’t wait for the season to begin so I can try something new.  I have already started my seed sowing calendar and have realized that it’s almost time to start the majority of my veggie, herb and flower seeds.  It’s this time of year when my family learns to deal with my obsession and continuous conversations with them (and sometimes, well mostly, with myself) about what gardening or plant related thoughts are in my head.

Really, just this morning I blurted out, “I need to get those seeds planted in the next few weeks if they are going to bloom this year.”

My husband’s eyes glazed over as he asked, “What are you talking about?”

“This Echinacea ‘Cheyene Spirit’  is absolutely beautiful, and I need to find a place grow a big patch of it, just a few feet, maybe five along the fence, and it should bloom the first year when planted from seed, but I have to get it sowed by the middle of this month.  Oh my!  Look at all the colors, red, pink, yellow, orange, purple and white which will grow really good in that hot sunny spot next to the house.  Oh!  The bees and butterflies will LOVE them, I can see that late summer cut flower bouquet now..…..”  I realized he wasn’t listening, but continued to talk out loud to myself.  “It’s also one of the 2013 All-American Selection winners!”

Tomato 'Jasper'photo courtesy AAS

Tomato ‘Jasper’
photo courtesy AAS

My excitement continued with another 2013 AAS winner that was bred by Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  A bright red cherry tomato ‘Jasper’, an F1 hybrid which is also certified organic.  Nice!  An intermediate growing cherry tomato needing to be staked which should produce fruit 90 days from sowing seeds.  Johnny’s and AAS described the flavor having a “sweet, rich taste”.  I think that I need to try this one.  I’m sure I can fit it in somewhere.

Now thinking about tomatoes reminded me about the grafted tomato plants available from Burpee.  I called out to my husband, “Can you believe they are grafting tomatoes like they graft fruit trees?!”  No response.  I have found this to be very interesting, reading about it for the past few years and decided this is the year to buy a few plants.  Simply put, an heirloom variety is the plant on the top, so you get the delicious heirloom flavor, but the roots are from a hybrid that will provide increased disease resistance.  Wow!  The original pink Brandywine will be my first choice.  You can purchase these directly from Burpee.com or possibly your local garden retailer.

Burpee's 'Bumper Crop' grafted tomatophoto courtesy Burpee

Burpee’s ‘Bumper Crop’ grafted tomato
photo courtesy Burpee

I came across a new heirloom pickling cucumber ‘Miniature White’ from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  Not only is the flesh a creamy white, but the skin is also a creamy white.  That should look nice against the green foliage.  I thought that this may make an interesting addition to the garden as they say it is a high producer and grows good in a container.  I was even more excited when I read about it seldom growing more than 3 feet!  A true bonus for any Urban Farmscape.  I became distracted wondering what color container I should plant it in and decided to go outside and rummage around the garage.  I could always paint it if I didn’t have the right color.  Orange?  Maybe purple.  That would really stand out.  Not too many purple things in the garden.  I don’t know.  I decided to go in and ask my husband what color he thought would look good.  I don’t know if he’ll respond, but I know that at least he’ll smile.

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

Talkin Dirty

15 Apr

I thought you would like to hear my dirty talk. You know what I mean. This was the perfect weekend for gettin dirty in the garden. Using a shovel, I prepped My Urban Farmscape easily by lifting and turning the soil. For a slightly larger garden, I use a broadfork. I got mine at Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Once you get the hang of it, you can get a pretty large space aerated and turned ready to plant in no time. A small tiller, like this Mantis 7225-00-02 2-Cycle Gas-Powered Tiller/Cultivator (CARB Compliant) works really well too. But then you have to make sure you have gas, and at about four bucks per gallon I’ll use my shovel. I still use my Mantis initially when starting a garden, but then proceed to follow no til methods. Iwill also use it for minor weed control or edging. Double digging is another method where you start on one side of your garden, dig a trench, then start another trench next to the first one, filling the first trench with the soil from the second trench, then soil from third trench fills the second and so on. The soil you dug from the first trench fills the last trench. Got it?

Using a broadfork to loosen and prepare soil in a VERY small garden.

I believe that the soil is the most important part of my garden. It serves as the place where nutrients and microorganisms hang out waiting to be used up by the plant. So, as far as fertilizing goes, I start first with feeding the soil, which then feeds the plant. I add most of my soil amendments in the autumn, such as greensand, rock phosphate, or bone meal. These are slow release type fertilizers approved for organic growing which provide the primary nutrients plants need to grow, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. You will recognize the numbers on fertilizer like 10-10-10, which means the amount of Nitrogen-N, Phosphorus-P, and Potassium-P in that order. NPK. This year I am adding Azomite Azomite Fertilizer – 12oz to my garden which is an organic approved fertilizer providing some of the trace minerals needed for healthy plant growth. And always use compost. I will also make a compost tea using worm castings. This has been my garden secret after brewing this up at my organic farm ten years ago. I’ll talk more about this in a future post.

Confused about what you can use for organic gardening? Visit the website for the Organic Material Review Institute, https://www.omri.org/ for details. This is the organization that has worked to develop the list of what can and cannot be used for organic production of both plants and animals. Beware. A label on a package that says “OMRI Approved” does not mean all the ingredients are approved. If it is a single ingredient product, such as sphagnum peat for example, it is OMRI approved, so odds are, the company that packaged the sphagnum peat did not pay for the USDA Organic labeling for some reason. Look for the “USDA Organic” label and you will know for sure. Also pay attention to marketing claims, like “safe around pets and children” or the words “natural”. This may be somewhat complicated, but the more you read and learn, the more familiar you will become, thus, being able to make more informed decisions when it comes to purchasing organic products.

Before I add anything to my soil, I will send a sample to the Michigan State University Extension to be analyzed and to learn about the existing soil type and nutrient levels that are already in the soil. After receiving the results, I amend the soil with whatever it may be lacking. It makes no sense to add something if there is already enough or excess in the soil. So, with all that said, here are ten things you need to do to your soil prior to planting anything.

  1. Remove sod if it exists
  2. Shake off all excess dirt. You need all you can get. Don’t buy dirt if you don’t have too!
  3. Loosen and aerate the remaining dirt using a shovel, broadfork or tiller.
  4. Using your hands, break up clumps of dirt, and pick out any remaining leaves. I love to feel the dirt crumbling between my fingers. This is fun for kids too.
  5. Collect soil as directed by your local extension to be tested for fertility. If there is an option for organic recommendations, then by all means, get those! It takes some work translating and changing chemical recommendations to organic. But it’s possible.
  6. You can use solarization to help weeds “grow to death”. Black plastic works best, but any plastic will be fine. I used the painter’s plastic that I took off of a low tunnel cold frame. Lay it over the soil for a minimum of a week, two is better, remove, pull baked weeds, and then prep as mentioned above.
  7. You can add compost AFTER you take your soil sample. I have never received the results from any soil test from any of my gardens that didn’t tell you to add compost. So go ahead and do that.
  8. Continue to pull weeds that may appear.
  9. Once you receive results from soil sample, amend as directed.
  10. Plant your garden after danger of frost has passed. See previous posts on what to plant when.

It takes three years of organic practices and the improvement of the soil fertility before an organic farm can be certified USDA Organic. It is a honorable commitment by those that follow the organic rules and only use OMRI listed and approved materials. Support your organic farmers, and as far as your Urban Farmscape, get busy working to make your soil sustainable!

A Garden Revolution Resolution

1 Jan

With the holidays behind me, I will eat sleep and breathe the garden.  For as long as I remember, I have admired the beauty and felt the mysteries of the plant world.  As a child I would examine the “weeds” in the lawn, tasting their bitterness on my tongue as I chewed them between my front teeth, as a teenager walking down a tree lined country road through dappled sunlight noticing wildflowers blooming sporadically along the forest floor, and as an adult growing tasty vegetables, aromatic herbs and brightly colored flowers at my organic farm. I can’t help but hear the conversations that quietly occur among the creatures in this leafy world. 

Growing plants became more serious for me when I returned to college to study Horticulture at Michigan State University.  Initially I wanted to design landscapes, but the more I learned about food production around the world, the more it became clear to me that I wanted to become involved with the local organic food movement.  My farm was located in Southeast Michigan and it became USDA certified organic in 2004.  I grew vegetables, herbs, flowers and Michigan native plants.  As the economy began to collapse, we were forced to sell the farm and ride things out for the next few years, finding work, moving, finally settling in Mid-Michigan.  For me and my family, our lives were changed by forces beyond our control, like many others in the world. For some this may sound like a sad story, but that is not what I am trying to convey.  With these changes I have adapted and learned so much more about people and my relationship with plants and nature.  A couple things I have learned are how to grow more plants in less space along with the many benefits of participating in a community gardening.

So, for 2012, my resolution is to actively participate in a so called “garden revolution” by sharing my knowledge and experiences with organically growing vegetables, herbs and flowers in small garden spaces and community gardens.  You should find something interesting whether you are new to gardening, or a master.  You can expect weekly posts on a variety of gardening topics.  Most of all, if you follow from the start we will work together on planning, planting, growing, harvesting, and preserving My Urban Farmscape .  As the season unfolds, and as time allows, you will find more frequent posts via this blog, Facebook or Twitter.  I also look forward to hearing from you about your urban farmscape experiences.  You are probably thinking, “It’s only January, it’s a long way from gardening in Michigan.”  NOT!  I’ve already started and you need to start too!  Even if you live in a warmer climate, you will find helpful information on organic gardening in small spaces.  Stay tuned to see how.  So…What’s your 2012 Garden Revolution Resolution?

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