TGN Interviews Linda Borghi, Local Changemaker

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Nominee: Linda Borghi

Website: Farm-A-Yard.com

Follow On Social Media At: Yard Farming (Patreon Podcast), Farm-A-Yard (iTunes Podcast), Farm-A-Yard (Facebook)

Fast Fact: In 2009, Linda spoke at the United Nations at a conference entitled “Food, Famine, and the Future of Food Technology.”

Nominated By:
Marsha H. | Fayetteville, NC

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Did you coin the phrase Farm-A-Yard?

Yes, indeed, we sure did. We even have a jingle, because every movement needs a jingle!

Can you describe the first stirrings of this movement and what inspired you and your co-founders to create it?

I was an urban farmer in the Hudson Valley of New York for 11 years. Farm-A-Yard co-founder Criss Ittermann was my designer and “fairy godmother,” and always helped me with my business. In the latter part of those 11 years, I taught live-streamed classes to five African nations and Australia, and met my first co-founder Marsha Howe when I worked with Fayetteville State University in North Carolina. At the end of my 2015 season (when I grew 300 pounds of garlic), I had to make a decision to either farm full-time or teach full-time. I picked teaching to get exponential results from my efforts. I decided to travel the East Coast in what I called the “Grow Food, Earn Money Tour,” and it took me from Orlando to Boston and back. When Marsha and I launched Farm-A-Yard online classes, it made sense to bring Criss in too.

You’ve said that the mission of the Farm-A-Yard movement is to start a food revolution by “localizing our food one yard at a time.” Can you explain the main tenets of this process?

Every one of us depends on this thin layer of soil that feeds us. But modern agriculture is stripping nutrients out of soil and trying to replace them with lab-grown chemicals while it also forces plants to grow where there are no nutrients or life in the soil. So the food we’re eating, even organic food, is more and more depleted. All because we’ve stopped growing healthy soil. Soil is the foundation of all land-bound life as we know it—which means humans, too. Why are we getting so sick? Because we aren’t really being fed.

So our first goal is teaching people to grow healthy soil. Stop letting grass pull all the nutrients out of the little bit of land that you own before you throw all those clippings away in a big plastic baggie headed straight to a garbage dump! Most people are throwing away all the nutrients in 65 million acres of lawn and using drinking water to water something they can’t even eat!

Seeds will grow if they have sun, water, and soil. But we teach people how to choose the right seeds for what they want to grow, and make sure it’s growing in healthy, rich, soil. Once you start growing—once you taste that food that you know you raised yourself—you won’t stop. Everyone will get the farming bug! Try some pea shoots for starters—10 days from plot to plate! Who can resist that?

We believe that everyone needs to take responsibility and grow a portion of the food that we are eating. Even if it is simply green garlic in the windowsill of a Manhattan apartment on the 56th floor. We need this movement for its multitude of benefits—physical, financial, and economic. There’s magic in growing our own food, and that magic ingredient is love! Put love into growing things, and you get more out of it. Cooking with love tastes better, and growing food with love has more health benefits for you and the plant, too. (Name one person on the 56th floor of a Manhattan apartment building who couldn’t use more love!) But when your broccoli comes from 2,000 miles away, there’s no love left in it.

My Farm-A-Yard team and I are connecting people with the skills and information they need to succeed in putting this magic back into their lives. This way, they can successfully grow real, nourishing food, right from the get-go. You see, It would truly bother me if anyone failed, because I know their chances of trying again are nil to none. We can change the world one plot-to-plate at a time!

Why do you feel it is so important for us to know where our food comes from?

Unfortunately, we live in a time when food can make us really sick depending on how it is grown. Our bodies require clean, better-than-organically grown, nutrient-dense food in order to function like a well-oiled machine. If our food is devoid of nutritive value, we suffer … every cell in our body suffers, and that suffering is the beginning of disease.

The more removed we are from where our food comes from, the less sure we can be of how it was grown. You can produce “organic” food that is grown in depleted soil. The seeds will grow, but they won’t have the nutritional value we really need. Organic methods don’t require taking great care of the soil—only that you abstain from using certain products. And the list of allowable methods and products that can still pass as organic grows all the time—including questionable products and methods. So we really don’t know. Meanwhile, your organic berries can come from Peru. And you may even see organic Washington state apples in stores found in New York apple country! It’s crazy! When these foods travel that distance, they lose vitality all the way to your mouth—they just don’t have the same nutritional density.

Also, due to the hardiness needed for what I call “stupidmarket” foods (yes, I coined that term as well), the species and varieties of our fruits and vegetables are more and more limited. The food has to be able to be picked before it’s ready or keep for weeks in-transit as it gets on a boat or is driven across country in a truck. These foods are not selected because they’re delicious or nutritious. They’re picked because they’re stubborn.

How can home gardens contribute to overall wellness?

Wellness has everything to do with the kind of relationship we have with food and where it comes from. Gardens open a new awareness and consciousness about the value of whole foods. The garden gives us a place and activity through which to hone a new relationship with food that is alive, accessible, and fresh. This experience invokes a deep joy and appreciation.

The foundational act of eating and the kind of food we consume on a daily basis are either our medicine or our poison. Making a decision to grow some of your own food is powerful. It benefits the body and the soul. Gardens can be places that support emotional healing and so much more.  Food brings people together. It supports and nurtures healthy relationships with others, builds community connection, and can even provide new, local food entrepreneurial opportunities. Gardens are a place to learn valuable lessons from nature—for adults and especially for children—that can affect our wellness in every area of life.

Tell us about Abundant Life Farm—its start in 1988 and eventual reawakening in 2004—and your experiences with SPIN-Farming and bioenergetic practices.

Abundant Life Farm began on Old Mill Road, Block Island, Rhode Island, where I was the comptroller of the public utility Block Island Power. I farmed on a quarter of an acre, had 23 sheep, 50 chickens, a milking Jersey cow—and the only farm in the United States licensed to sell cheese to the public with a herd of only one. I invented a 5-gallon pasteurization machine to do this.

I was introduced to biodynamics in the late ‘90s when I was the first intern at The Pfeiffer Center garden in Chestnut Ridge, New York. This is the region where biodynamics came to the United States in the ‘50s. When Abundant Life Farm came back to life in Middletown, New York, in 2004, we embraced the SPIN (Small Plot INtensive)-Farming model using biodynamic practices.

When I began Farm-A-Yard, I came upon Evan Folds, the creator of bioenergetic agriculture, which uses biodynamic methods combined with other principles. Over the years, Evan and I have developed a strong relationship, and he is Farm-A-Yard’s official soil doctor. A soil test is the first step anyone who is really serious about growing nutrient-dense food would take. Visit Evan’s web page (be sure to tell him I said hi!) to get your soil amendment prescription and find out if you need a little of this or that—and don’t touch those chemicals! After all, all we need to do is grow the soil to grow healthy people, and Evan can show us how to grow healthy soil.

What are some tips for ensuring that our lawn soil is nutrient-rich and primed for crop production?

To take a page from Evan, who was studying marine biology before he studied soil—soil is a lot like an airy version of the ocean. A lot is going on under the surface when you look at it under a microscope and study it. We don’t know everything there is to know about soil. It is a miraculous and complicated system that, when healthy, delivers nutrition to plants. That may sound weird, but there are highways underground through which tiny microbes bring nutrients to plants. I kid you not! When you kill the soil, how do you replace this highways? You don’t! You fake it. You pretend. You make synthetic nutrients and give them to the plants so they grow, and the synthetics end up in the people and make them sick.

So how do you ensure your soil is primed for crop production? Compost your weeds, use worm poop, stir up some biodynamic preparations, and stay far, far away from those petrochemicals. We talk about this topic a lot on our podcast and have several hours of webinars that cover soil health. It’s difficult to put the whole process into words, which is why Evan is a guest on our podcast often!

How does the Farm-A-Yard movement encourage local food security?

NOTHING is more secure than food growing outside your kitchen door, and we need more of that. With just 100 square feet of growing space, you can shave about $700 off your stupidmarket bill a year.

And what you don’t grow may be grown by your neighbor. You can trade with friends or family. Or go to a farm market, look that farmer in the eye, and ask about the farm’s growing practices. See something you don’t recognize? Ask what it is and how to prepare it. They know!

With droughts threatening our food from California and storms threatening our food from Florida, we need to think more about local food and not be so dependent on just a few large areas of our country and imports. If everyone is growing something, canning something, and sharing something, then when the power is out, everyone can eat. When a storm comes through, people can send relief food—that’s not in a can—to their neighbors. It’s not rocket science to realize that if the food is in your yard, in your kitchen, or at your church down the street, then your food is more secure than if it has to go 2,000 miles by truck and make it from a warehouse to your market, and then you have to go to the market to pick it up.

How do your efforts stimulate entrepreneurial opportunity?

I teach how to grow food and earn money. For the home gardener, I STRONGLY suggest looking at the Seed Voyage web page. This is where the home gardener can easily turn to sell some extra produce. We want all communities to work with a venture like Seed Voyage and collaborate in the growing of food. We also have Wayne Roberts on board, teaching city planners some 30 benefits and billions of dollars of free public service by growing food everywhere. Yup … everywhere! This just makes more sense than allowing 40 million acres of turf grass—the largest cultivated crop in the nation—to use 40 percent of the drinking water on the East Coast!

In your wildest dreams, how do you see the Farm-A-Yard vision benefiting the world?

I see Farm-A-Yard being a major player in reversing the status quo of the lawn. This YouTube video says a lot. I dream of driving down residential streets called Lettuce Lane and Broccoli Boulevard. Yes, indeed.

Can you offer a specific piece of gardening, farming, or healthy living advice that would be of interest to our Grow Network community?

When we develop an intimate relationship with the soil beneath our feet, something happens. I can only describe it as joy. I would like nothing better than for everyone to feel this joy … then it will be Heaven on Earth.

 

The post TGN Interviews Linda Borghi, Local Changemaker appeared first on The Grow Network.

April Question of the Month

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TGN Community members, please let us know:

In addition to The Grow Network, what are your favorite resources for information on gardening, homesteading, and home medicine? (What magazines do you read, sites do you visit, and groups do you belong to?)

Please leave your reply in the Forums by clicking here: https://thegrownetwork.com/forums/topic/what-are-your-favorite-resources-for-gardening-homesteading-home-medicine-info/

Then, stay tuned—we’ll be compiling your answers into an article soon!

 

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Companion Planting Favorites (Your Answers to the Question of the Month!)

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What Are Your Favorite Combinations for Companion Planting?

Recently on the site, we’ve been talking about Three Sisters Gardens. Of course, this classic symbiosis is a great example of companion planting …

… which got us wondering …

… what do you do in YOUR garden?

You let us know in your replies to TGN’s March Question of the Month.

Answers encompassed a range of uses for companion planting—from keeping pests away to extending the season by providing shade.

Here’s how your fellow TGN Community members put companion planting to work for them:

  • Frances Graham has found that interplanting herb barbara (Barbarea vulgaris) with brassicas helps keep whiteflies under control.
  • Scott Sexton uses a number of planting combinations to his advantage: “I like strawberries with blueberries. I also like comfrey with my fruit trees. It helps shade out the grass. I’m planning on trying a muscadine cultivar growing up my fruit trees. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think it will work. They’d be growing up trees in nature. I’ve had some unintentional overlap between my passion flowers and sunchokes. The passion vines climb up the sunchoke stalks, and they both die back in the winter. So far, they both seem to be okay with the situation.”
  • Tasha Greer uses a clever trick to provide a microclimate for her arugula in warm weather: “Since I am a total arugula addict and really want to eat it year-round, I discovered a trick for germinating arugula outdoors, even in mid-summer. I interplant my arugula with buckwheat. The buckwheat comes up quickly, providing some shade and a bit of a microclimate for the arugula. I don’t know if this will work in extreme heat, but it has worked for me in 80-90ºFtemperatures as long as I keep my buckwheat/arugula patch well-watered.

Read More: “Growing Arugula: The Rocket in Your Salad Bowl and Garden (With Recipe)”

  • Marjory Wildcraft offers this tip for keeping lettuce from bolting so quickly when the weather warms up: “Lightly shading lettuce plants can provide enough of a temperature drop to keep them from bolting, sometimes up to 3-5 weeks. Shade can be from a shade cloth or a row cover on a low tunnel, or by companion planting tall, wide-leafed plants such as some types of pumpkin.”

Read More: “Growing Lettuce From Seed”

  • Riesah likes growing strawberries and asparagus in the same bed, and Kathy does the same with tomatoes, peppers, and lettuces.
  • Carolyn says she gets better crops of both basil and tomatoes when she plants them together. “Although,” she says, “marigolds with about anything is good, too.”
  • Willow likes marigolds, too, and says she places them in her bed borders or rows about every 3 feet. “They work for the broadest spectrum of insects in all stages.” She also interplants mint and chives among her crops, and says she’s found that “plants that taste good together, grow well together.” For example, squash grows well with dill and garlic.
  • Sdmherblady interplants marigolds with bush beans, and also grows carrots and onions together. “I had read they are great companions,” she says. “They repel each other’s biggest insect pests.  I had my doubts, as they are both root crops and I thought they would compete for specific nutrients. But planting them in an alternating grid pattern worked fantastic. Both crops produced very well, made large healthy roots, and there were NO pests to be seen throughout the entire bed.”

What about you? What crops do you plant together, and why? Let us know in the comments!

 

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7 Principles of Successful Businesses

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This might sound like an exaggeration, but it’s really true: If I hadn’t attended Rick Sapio’s Business Finishing School (BFS), The Grow Network wouldn’t exist. That’s why I’m so excited to be speaking at BFS in February 2018 — and why I hope you’ll join me there.

Our world desperately needs solutions to its sustainability problems, and one way you and I can help solve them is by running sustainable businesses. BFS helps business owners achieve their fullest potential by focusing on transformational business principles.

Click Here to Register Now  

… and be sure to use promo code MARJORY to save $200 off the registration fee.

And, if you’ll be attending, please do let me know by shooting me an e-mail at Happiness@TheGrowNetwork.com.

I really want to meet you, and I’ll take you out to lunch!

Warmly,

Marjory

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Some people tell me I’m insane to work toward “Home Grown Food On Every Table.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” they’ll say. “Look at all the grocery stores and fast food drive-throughs. Your ideal is crazy. You’re never gonna get people off the couch to do that!”

I’ll admit that I chuckle to myself when that happens.

Because, the truth is, throughout all of human history, all we’ve ever had was homegrown food on every table. It’s only been in the last 60 or 70 years that we’ve started relying on this large-scale centralized food system …

… Which is clearly not working. (Did you know that for every calorie of energy in the food you eat, it takes 10 calories of energy to get that food to you? That’s obviously an unsustainable model!)

Honestly, whether or not I work toward bringing back homegrown food, it’s going to happen.

Still, “Home Grown Food On Every Table” is what gets all of us at The Grow Network up each morning.

It’s the “catalyzing statement” for our organization—the specific, measurable goal we are working toward.

Every enduring business needs one.

That’s one of the essential principles of sustainable business … and there are six more I want to share with you today in my next video chapter of Grow: All True Wealth Comes From the Ground.

Because there are tons of business opportunities out there for folks who want to make a difference while making a living. And, once you’ve figured out which business you want to start, you need to know how to make it successful.

Watch it to learn:

  • 7 Principles Of Sustainable Businesses
  • How To Achieve Your Goals In 3 Easy Steps (The Anatomy of an Objective)
  • The MOST Important Business Relationship To Nurture (HINT: It’s Not With Your Customers!)

Then, I’d love to know your thoughts …

What other principles must a business follow to succeed?

Which of these principles do you think is most important?

I really appreciate your input!

 

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Improve Soil Fertility With Autumn’s Gift

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Mother Nature’s Approach

Imagine a deep, remote forest. Wildlife is abundant. Birds are singing. Mushrooms are growing on trees, and the forest floor is covered with fallen leaves of every color. You bend over and scoop up a handful of leaves to find incredible soil fertility in the form of dark, moist, healthy earth.

Mother Nature is truly amazing—when left alone, that is.

Plant life here has thrived for hundreds of thousands of years. Everything is recycled. There is no such thing as “waste” in nature. Fallen leaves get broken down and decomposed, which then creates the nutrient-rich and healthy soil that growing plants crave.

Now, enter humans. Look at how technologically advanced and stoic we are! Surely, we are smarter than primitive nature, right?

The Human Approach

Modern agriculture has made it possible for us to grow lots of beautiful-looking food in rows on farms. We have created machines that allow us to grow food more efficiently—so efficiently, in fact, that our grocery stores incorporate a 75 percent pricing upcharge to offset the huge amount of fruits and vegetables they will end up throwing out.

We have developed agricultural technology and run with it …

… Unfortunately, though, it appears that we didn’t first tie our shoes!

If you look at farm fields that have been worked for decades, you’ll see dry, cracked dirt. That hardly looks like the healthy, nutrient-dense soil we find in the forests that Mother Nature takes care of.

You may be saying to yourself: “And why is this a problem? You just told me that we have made food production efficient and bountiful. What gives?”

Well, you see, farmers have gotten themselves into quite the conundrum over the last couple of decades. It’s not their fault, really, as they are just following recent tradition.

The reason we are still able to grow food despite unhealthy soil is because the food has been grown artificially.

Farmers spray their crops with synthetic fertilizers that directly feed the plant, not the soil. And since the farmer fails to feed the soil, the ONLY way he can continue to grow crops is by spraying more and more synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides on the crops.

(Incidentally, the advent of genetically modified crops makes it easier for farmers to use pesticides and herbicides that kill everything but the prized crop, leaving it to flourish. On the surface, it sounds like a good thing. But while these GMO plants might be immune to the poisons that are sprayed on them, we certainly are not!)

At this point, many people often ask: “Does that mean Miracle-Gro in my garden is bad?”

Miracle-Gro is simply a supplemental fertilizer (not a pesticide or herbicide) that feeds plants synthetically but does nothing for soil fertility. Think of it like this: Miracle Grow is to plants what vitamins are to humans. They serve as a good supplement to our diet, but should never be the main source of nutrition.

The Soil is Alive!

Just as the ocean is teeming with life under the surface, so, too, is the soil!

Healthy soil comprises a complex network of symbiotic micro-organisms and insects that help break down decomposing plant material and turn it into bioavailable nutrients that growing plants can absorb.

As you might imagine, abundant soil fertility creates healthy, nutrient-dense plants.

So, when we think about growing vibrant plants, we really ought to think first about growing and regenerating the soil.

The Two Phases of Healthy Soil

Each year, soil goes through two distinct phases:

  • Energy Absorption: This occurs in the fall and winter seasons
  • Energy Release: This occurs in the spring and summer seasons

In fall and winter, properly fed soil replenishes its energy reserves for the next growing season. In the spring and summer, it releasing energy into plants so that they can grow.

Three Rules for Soil Fertility

Now that we understand why soil fertility is so important, let’s talk about how to restore and replenish it.

As I mentioned above, healthy soil is teeming with life. Comprising millions of beneficial bacteria, microbes, insects, and fungi, it is an underground ecosystem that thrives when we follow three simple rules:

  • Tilling Is Killing: When we think about modern agriculture, we often visualize the process of tilling the soil. However, farmers are known to severely over-till the soil, which disrupts the living network of underground organisms. It is the equivalent of taking a fleet of bulldozers through the forest. If you must till, a shallow till of two to three inches is actually optimum. Otherwise, consider a no-till garden.
  • No Bare Soil: Soil likes to be covered up. You can use hay, wood chips, or shredded dry leaves to blanket the top of the soil. This prevents it from drying out. Also, as the material breaks down, it provides food for the soil (such as occurs in our remote forest example).
  • Amend the Soil: Each growing season, plants absorb energy and nutrients from the soil. The best time to replenish the soil is in the fall after harvesting your crops. Simply add compost on top of the soil, and then blanket the top of the soil again. Luckily for us, we can accomplish this last step using a material that’s free, abundant, and right outside our back door!

Don’t Bag Those Leaves!

Fallen leaves are one of nature’s gracious gifts to us.

Over the winter, they help insulate your plant beds and provide shelter for invertebrates such as insects, worms, and roly poly bugs (which, incidentally, are crustaceans!).

Fallen leaves are the building blocks of soil. As they break down via the help of invertebrates and soil fungi, they help create incredibly rich soil fertility. This allows for a cascade of biological processes, including nutrient cycling.

Leaf litter also fosters an environment that encourages the development of mycorrhizal fungi. You won’t see the vast majority of these miracle workers, as they often are too small to be visible to the naked eye. But don’t take them for granted. Soil fungi form symbiotic relationships with virtually every plant on Earth by exchanging nutrients and making them more bioavailable. (That is a whole other amazing topic for discussion.)

It’s basically everything you saw in the movie Avatar. Plants can communicate and pass food to each other via a connected underground fungal network. This network connects plants of all shapes and sizes to one another so they can cooperate as enormous interconnected systems.

But without the decaying matter that leaves provide, none of these intricate processes can happen.

Thank goodness for fall and its multicolored bounty—and for neighbors who are graciously raking, bagging, and giving away this precious resource!

Take advantage of their kindness and use these leaves in your garden. In short order, your plants will be thriving in the same dark, moist, healthy soil that exists deep in the heart of the forest.

The post Improve Soil Fertility With Autumn’s Gift appeared first on The Grow Network.

30+ Cancer-Fighting Foods

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Last month, the idea that cancer is a victim’s disease and that people are powerless to prevent it received yet another blow.

A World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research (WCRF/AICR) analysis of 99 studies and nearly 30 million people with colorectal cancer gives clear evidence that deep nutrition is a major weapon in the human arsenal against cancer.

It’s just the latest in a long line of scientific studies that prove that people who want to reduce their cancer risk can do so by eating nutrient-dense foods.

Ready to pack your fridge, pantry, and garden with cancer-fighting foods?

The foods on this list are a great place to start:

  • Whole Grains: According to the WCRF/AICR report, whole grains contain a veritable cornucopia of anticancer properties—from dietary fiber that can, among other things, help prevent insulin resistance, to a variety of compounds such as selenium, lignans, and vitamin E that “have plausible anti-carcinogenic properties.”1http://www.wcrf.org/sites/default/files/CUP%20Colorectal%20Report_2017_Digital.pdf
  • Green Foods: Chlorophyll-rich foods like wheatgrass, spirulina, and arugula help purify the blood and detoxify the system. There is also evidence that chlorophyll may block the carcinogenic effects of certain cancer-causing chemicals.2http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/phytochemicals/chlorophylls/index.html#biological_ activity
  • Cruciferous Vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli contain glucosinolates, which the body breaks down into indoles and isothiocyanates, known cancer-fighting compounds.3https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cruciferous-vegetables-fact-sheet
  • Nuts and Seeds: Powerhouses of micronutrients, nuts and seeds also contain healthy fats that improve the bioavailability of cancer-fighting nutrients in other foods. In fact, if you pair them with green vegetables, you’ll absorb 10 times more anticarcinogens than you would if you ate your veggies alone.4https://tv.greenmedinfo.com/top-5-cancer-prevention-foods-dr-joel-fuhrman In addition, flaxseeds and sesame seeds contain cancer-fighting lignans, and black sesame seeds are filled with antioxidants.
  • Garlic: If you’ve read the TGN e-book Garlic: Your First Home Medicine, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that garlic is believed to have anticancer effects, especially on cancers that affect the digestive system.5https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/garlic-fact-sheet
  • Onions: According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, best-selling author of Eat to Live, consuming lots of onions can cut a person’s risk of getting major cancers—including breast, colon, prostate, and ovarian—by 50 to 70 percent.6https://tv.greenmedinfo.com/top-5-cancer-prevention-foods-dr-joel-fuhrman
  • Mushrooms: No need to spring for the fancy mushrooms to benefit from the anticancer properties of these fungi. Even the less expensive, more widely available white, cremini, and portobello mushrooms can reduce inflammation, slow the growth of cancer cells, reduce the risk of breast cancer by blocking the production of estrogen—and the list goes on and on!7http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joel-fuhrman-md/gombbs_b_996352.html
  • Berries: Blackberries and blueberries have powerful antioxidant properties. Among other life-giving benefits, they help prevent DNA damage and hinder blood supply to growing cancer cells.8http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joel-fuhrman-md/gombbs_b_996352.html
  • Tomatoes: These lycopene-rich fruits also contain the carotenoids alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and lutein, plus vitamin E, vitamin C, and potassium. Eat them with healthy fats to increase your body’s ability to absorb tomatoes’ cancer-fighting phytochemicals by two to 15 times.9https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/ohio-state-research-fat-in-avocado-helps-body-absorb-convert-vitamin-nutrients
  • Olives and Genuine Olive Oil: Olives contain an abundance of antioxidants, including squalene and terpenoids.10http://journals.lww.com/eurjcancerprev/Abstract/2004/08000/Olives_and_olive_oil_in_cancer_prevention.12.aspx Olive oil has similar cancer-fighting properties, but if it’s imported, make sure it’s genuine. Several studies within the last few years have shown that a large number of imported “olive oils” are fake or adulterated in some way.11https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/jan/04/olive-oil-real-thing
  • Seaweed: With its incredible mix of micronutrients, seaweed is full of the deep nutrition that keeps a body healthy and fuels its fight against cancer. In Chinese medicine, it has long been used to soften hardened tumors.12http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/preventing-and-reversing-cancer-naturally-anticancer-diet-shopping-list
  • Turmeric: Chemical compounds in turmeric, known as curcuminoids, are anti-inflammatory and neutralize the free radicals that can cause DNA damage.13https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/turmeric
  • Green Tea: Filled with antioxidants, green tea has powerful anticancer properties. It’s been shown to prevent several types of cancer in animal studies, as well as to considerably slow the growth of cancer cells.14http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/preventing-and-reversing-cancer-naturally-anticancer-diet-shopping-list
  • Black Pepper: Piperine, a compound found in black pepper, fights cancer at the cellular level and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as well. In addition to its standalone cancer-fighting properties, it also seems to improve the bioavailability of the anticancer compounds in substances like turmeric and green tea.15http://www.aicr.org/cancer-research-update/august_21_2013/CRU_spices_cancer_prevention.html
  • Mistletoe: Studies indicate that mistletoe extracts may trigger a cancer-fighting response in the immune system, in addition to improving symptoms and reducing side effects in cancer patients.16https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/mistletoe-european
  • Magnolia Bark Extract: Magnolia bark extract contains compounds that have demonstrated anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties in animal studies and in the lab. While it has not been evaluated through clinical trials, this herb is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine.17https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/magnolia-officinalis
  • Rosemary: This fragrant herb helps prevent DNA damage and keeps cancer cells from proliferating.18https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6344840_Anti-proliferative_and_antioxidant_properties_of_rosemary_Rosmarinus_officinalis
  • Chili Peppers: Capsaicin, the same compound that makes chili peppers hot, has been shown to significantly slow the growth of prostate cancer tumors in mice. In fact, it caused 4 out of 5 cancer cells to self-destruct in a process called apoptosis.19https://www.cedars-sinai.edu/About-Us/News/News-Releases-2006/Pepper-Component-Hot-Enough-To-Trigger-Suicide-In-Prostate-Cancer-Cells-.aspx
  • Pomegranate: Juice from pomegranate seed pulp has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Laboratory studies have shown it to prevent the growth of cancer cells, and results of a human study suggested it has both preventative and therapeutic effects against cancer.20https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16192356
  • Beans, Peas, and Lentils: These nutrient-dense carbohydrates offer a plethora of health benefits, from stabilizing blood sugar to lowering cholesterol. Filled with fiber and resistant starch, intestinal bacteria ferment them into cancer-fighting fatty acids.21http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joel-fuhrman-md/gombbs_b_996352.html

You’ve probably noticed that almost all of the foods on this list would be considered a normal part of a nutritious diet.

In fact, the best diet you can eat to reduce your risk of cancer is the one you’re probably already trying for: rich in vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats and proteins.

As you combine a deeply nutritious diet with other cancer fighters like exercise and low levels of stress and environmental toxicity, you’ll be taking your health into your own hands—and that’s exactly where it belongs.

Watch The 3-Day Live Broadcast, Starting October 5:   “The Truth About Cancer – LIVE!”

Want to learn more about preventing and/or treating cancer from the world’s foremost experts?

We want to mention that we’ve received word that our friend, Ty Bollinger, is hosting his critically acclaimed health summit:

“The Truth About Cancer – LIVE.”

… Starting October 5 at 8:30 a.m. EST.

And you’re invited to watch the live broadcast of this 3-day event for FREE.

Experts will be sharing their most advanced, front-line information about healing and preventing cancer and other chronic diseases…

Register early to make sure you get a spot.

Click Here To Register To Attend.

References   [ + ]

1. http://www.wcrf.org/sites/default/files/CUP%20Colorectal%20Report_2017_Digital.pdf
2. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/phytochemicals/chlorophylls/index.html#biological_ activity
3. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cruciferous-vegetables-fact-sheet
4, 6. https://tv.greenmedinfo.com/top-5-cancer-prevention-foods-dr-joel-fuhrman
5. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/garlic-fact-sheet
7, 8, 21. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joel-fuhrman-md/gombbs_b_996352.html
9. https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/ohio-state-research-fat-in-avocado-helps-body-absorb-convert-vitamin-nutrients
10. http://journals.lww.com/eurjcancerprev/Abstract/2004/08000/Olives_and_olive_oil_in_cancer_prevention.12.aspx
11. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/jan/04/olive-oil-real-thing
12, 14. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/preventing-and-reversing-cancer-naturally-anticancer-diet-shopping-list
13. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/turmeric
15. http://www.aicr.org/cancer-research-update/august_21_2013/CRU_spices_cancer_prevention.html
16. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/mistletoe-european
17. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/magnolia-officinalis
18. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6344840_Anti-proliferative_and_antioxidant_properties_of_rosemary_Rosmarinus_officinalis
19. https://www.cedars-sinai.edu/About-Us/News/News-Releases-2006/Pepper-Component-Hot-Enough-To-Trigger-Suicide-In-Prostate-Cancer-Cells-.aspx
20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16192356

The post 30+ Cancer-Fighting Foods appeared first on The Grow Network.

Top 25+ Cancer-Causing Foods

Click here to view the original post.

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding cancer and what causes it, but everyone seems to agree on at least one thing:

Treating cancer is expensive. Preventing it can be a lot cheaper.

Nearly 1.6 million Americans faced a cancer diagnosis in 2014 (the most recent year for which numbers are available),1https://nccd.cdc.gov/USCSDataViz/rdPage.aspx with a cost of care that, in some cases, ranged upwards of $115,000.2https://costprojections.cancer.gov/annual.costs.html

Yet, while study after study has shown that diet plays a major role in whether a person gets cancer, and that people tend to make healthier food choices when they’re eating at home,3https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2014/01/16/american-adults-are-choosing-healthier-foods-consuming-healthier Americans allocate less money toward food consumed at home than pretty much anyone else in the world. For example, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service,4https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-expenditures.aspx we spend 6.4 percent of our income on eating at home, while the Finnish spend twice that and the Venezuelans spend triple that percentage.

And it’s not just people in other countries who spend more of their income on food. Our grandparents did, too. Back in 1960, Americans spent about 17.5 percent of their income on all food—including what they ate at home and what they ate out. Now, we spend about 10 percent of our income on eating, regardless of where it takes place.5http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/03/02/389578089/your-grandparents-spent-more-of-their-money-on-food-than-you-do

These numbers represent a disturbing shift in our national mindset. We’ve moved from a time when soils were healthier and food was more nutritious and generally less processed—but more expensive—to the present day, when the soils used in commercial agriculture are more depleted, the produce grown in them is less nutritious, and widely available foods are more processed—but also more affordable.

Simply put, Americans are not used to paying what high-quality food costs anymore.

Even people with access to sustainably produced, locally grown food via a farmer’s market, natural grocery store, or CSA often struggle with the cost. These products are more expensive to grow or raise—and therefore more expensive to buy.

But even though processed, packaged foods are sometimes cheaper than their sustainably produced, whole-food alternatives, their true cost can be astronomical.

According to Dr. Raymond Francis, author of Never Fear Cancer Again, disease has only two possible causes: toxicity and malnutrition.

The foods that increase cancer risk often contribute to both.

The bottom line is that we can pay more now for healthier foods and the deeper nutrition and reduced toxicity that come with them—whether we’re paying financially or, if we’re backyard food producers, through an investment of time and energy—or we can pay more later to treat the diseases that can stem from malnutrition and toxicity. As one young TEDx speaker, Birke Baehr, put it back in 2011, “We can either pay the farmer, or we can pay the hospital.”6https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvVZwJbs54c

In the end, one of the best ways to reduce your risk of cancer is by eating the diet we all know we should—filled with high-quality vegetables, fruits, whole grains, proteins, and healthy fats.

If you’re not quite there yet, and you’re interested in reducing your risk of cancer by cleaning up your diet, the following list of carcinogenic (or potentially carcinogenic) foods is a good place to start. You can improve your health even further by replacing them with foods from our list of 30+ Cancer-Fighting Foods.

One final note: As you read this list, remember the old adage that “the dose makes the poison.” Even water, which everyone would agree is absolutely essential for life, can kill you if you drink too much at once.7https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/strange-but-true-drinking-too-much-water-can-kill While it’s best to avoid these foods on a consistent basis, most of them probably won’t hurt you if they’re consumed every once in a while. After all, what’s a BLT without the bacon?

  • Sugar: Cancer has a favorite food. It’s sugar. Without it, cancer cells can’t grow and spread—in fact, they need almost 50 times more sugar to function than regular cells, according to Dr. Nasha Winters, author of The Metabolic Approach to Cancer. In addition, up to 80 percent of cancers are fueled by glucose and insulin, in one way or another.8http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/recent-observations-indicate-cancer-cells-readily-utilize-fructose-support-proliferation-and It’s easy to see why too much sugar in the diet is a very bad thing. In fact, the less refined sugar, the better!
  • Alcoholic Beverages: Our bodies turn the ethanol in alcoholic drinks into acetaldehyde, a known carcinogen. In addition to damaging the body’s DNA and keeping cells from being able to perform repairs, alcohol also increases estrogen levels in the blood (a contributor to breast cancer), prevents the body from absorbing several nutrients, and may contain carcinogenic contaminants.9https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/alcohol/alcohol-fact-sheet#q3 It should be noted, however, that red wine contains resveratrol, a substance that has been shown to have anticancer properties.10https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28123566 While the substance itself has been widely studied, only a few studies have looked at whether drinking red wine reduces a person’s cancer risk.
  • Tobacco: This one’s no surprise. While tobacco is lovely when used for plant gratitude, and Native American cultures believe it offers its own gift of interpretation to help with disputes, it can wreak havoc on a person’s body when it’s smoked or chewed. Smoking tobacco, inhaling secondhand smoke, or using smokeless tobacco—whether chewing tobacco or snuff—all put loads of carcinogenic chemicals into your body.11https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/tobacco/cessation-fact-sheet
  • Processed Meats: Defined as any meat that’s been preserved through curing, being salted or smoked, or by other means, processed meats include bacon, hot dogs, sausage, and lunch meats including corned beef, salami, pepperoni, capocollo, bologna, mortadella, and ham. They are categorized by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as “carcinogenic to humans.”12https://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2015/pdfs/pr240_E.pdf Scientists suspect that the nitrite preservatives contained in processed meats are what causes the harm. The body can convert these nitrites into N-nitroso compounds (NOCs), which damage cells in the bowel lining. To heal the damage, cells replicate more often, which in turn provides more opportunities for DNA replication errors.
  • Red Meat: Beef, lamb, and pork contain heme iron, a naturally occurring red pigment that helps form carcinogenic compounds in the body and has toxic effects on cells and genes.13http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/4/2/177 It’s important to note that, in their research, scientists are lumping industrially produced red meat together with meat from animals raised on a natural, healthy diet. There’s no discussion in the scientific community on whether meat of healthier animals—such as cows fed and finished on grass—has the same negative effects.
  • Charred Meats: Grilling meat at high temperatures can produce heterocyclic amines and polycyclic amines, both of which can increase a person’s risk of developing cancer.14http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/diet-and-cancer/how-healthy-eating-prevents-cancer
  • Salt-Preserved Foods: In addition to the processed, salt-cured meats mentioned above, this category includes salted fish and some pickled vegetables. The IARC lists Chinese-style salted fish as carcinogenic, but hasn’t yet made a determination on whether other types of salted fish increase the risk of cancer in humans.
  • Coffee: Is it, or isn’t it? Thanks to a recent lawsuit, coffee’s been in the news lately. At issue is the fact that roasting coffee beans causes the formation of acrylamide, a naturally occurring substance that has the potential to interact with DNA.15http://www.newsweek.com/fear-coffee-causes-cancer-prompts-california-add-warning-labels-672831?yptr=yahoo Coffee isn’t the only culprit, though. Acrylamide develops in many foods when they are cooked at high temperatures for a long time (think baking, frying, and toasting, in addition to roasting). This year, the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency launched a “Go for Gold” campaign to encourage people to avoid overcooking foods—thus minimizing the creation of acrylamide—by aiming for a finished color of golden yellow or lighter.16https://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/news/2017/15890/reduce-acrylamide-consumption Despite the fact that coffee contains acrylamides, the popular beverage offers several other health benefits. So many, actually, that the American Institute for Cancer Research includes coffee on its list of Foods That Fight Cancer.
  • Areca nuts: About 10 percent of the world’s population still chews this addictive berry. It’s been shown to have several ill effects on the body, and is linked to numerous cancers.17https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4080659
  • Artificial Sweeteners: According to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, the link between artificial sweeteners and cancer is inconclusive—but possible. Since some studies have shown a correlation between the two in lab animals, the current recommendation is to avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharine altogether.18https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/may-2015/FOH-cancer-love-sugar.html[/note]
  • Toothpaste: Okay, so, technically toothpaste is not a food, but it made this list because it’s ingestible and some formulations may contain disperse blue 1, a dye that’s listed by the IARC as possibly carcinogenic to humans—and that’s also used as a hair and fabric dye.19https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/content/profiles/disperseblue1.pdf Worth keeping an eye on!
  • Very Hot Beverages: Studies in cultures where people typically drink their tea or mate at about 149°F (70°C) have found a correlation between very hot beverages and the risk of esophageal cancer. But, unless you keep a thermometer handy when you’re drinking your morning Joe, how are you supposed to know how hot is too hot? Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you have to sip it to be able to drink it, let it cool a bit first.

Watch The 3-Day Live Broadcast, Starting October 5: “The Truth About Cancer – LIVE!”

Want to learn more about preventing and/or treating cancer from the world’s foremost experts?

We want to mention that we’ve received word that our friend, Ty Bollinger, is hosting his critically acclaimed health summit:

“The Truth About Cancer – LIVE.”

… Starting October 5 at 8:30 a.m. EST.

And you’re invited to watch the live broadcast of this 3-day event for FREE.

Experts will be sharing their most advanced, front-line information about healing and preventing cancer and other chronic diseases…

Register early to make sure you get a spot.

Click Here To Register To Attend.

References   [ + ]

1. https://nccd.cdc.gov/USCSDataViz/rdPage.aspx
2. https://costprojections.cancer.gov/annual.costs.html
3. https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2014/01/16/american-adults-are-choosing-healthier-foods-consuming-healthier
4. https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-expenditures.aspx
5. http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/03/02/389578089/your-grandparents-spent-more-of-their-money-on-food-than-you-do
6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvVZwJbs54c
7. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/strange-but-true-drinking-too-much-water-can-kill
8. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/recent-observations-indicate-cancer-cells-readily-utilize-fructose-support-proliferation-and
9. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/alcohol/alcohol-fact-sheet#q3
10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28123566
11. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/tobacco/cessation-fact-sheet
12. https://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2015/pdfs/pr240_E.pdf
13. http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/4/2/177
14. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/diet-and-cancer/how-healthy-eating-prevents-cancer
15. http://www.newsweek.com/fear-coffee-causes-cancer-prompts-california-add-warning-labels-672831?yptr=yahoo
16. https://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/news/2017/15890/reduce-acrylamide-consumption
17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4080659
18. https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/may
19. https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/content/profiles/disperseblue1.pdf

The post Top 25+ Cancer-Causing Foods appeared first on The Grow Network.

Straw Bale Gardening: How to Succeed

It’s a lot easier to have soil problems than soil perfection. But whether you’re dealing with pH complications, drainage issues, rocky or cold soil, or perennial pest and disease concerns, Joel Karsten has a solution for you…Straw Bale Gardening!

As the culminating event of this year’s Home Grown Food Summit. Marjory interviewed Joel about the innovative straw bale gardening method he created more than 20 years ago.

If you have soil concerns, this method is worth considering. (Be aware, however, that there are some hidden dangers to keep in mind.)

The following article provides a summary of highlights from Marjory and Joel’s conversation.  

 

And If You Missed the Podcast, Click Here to Listen Now!

 

Straw Bale Gardening—What Is It and How Does It Work?

First, let’s talk about what straw bale gardening isn’t. You aren’t growing vegetables in straw. What you’re actually doing is growing them in very recently decomposed straw.

And it doesn’t have to be straw. It can be any tightly compressed organic matter. Use whatever you have available in your area: oat straw, wheat straw, barley straw, rice straw, hay, grass clippings, etc.    

Depending on how large and tightly compacted your bales are, you may be able to get a couple of growing seasons out of them.

But even when the bale has lost its shape and decomposed extensively, you can still take that same straw, put it in a large container, and compress it. If needed, add additional organic matter such as fresh grass clippings and leaves, and just make a new “bale” yourself.

The Soil-Making Process

Essentially, you are creating virgin soil within the interior of the bale—soil that is free from lingering disease or insect problems, and which provides the nutrient capacity the roots need to grow. To create this decomposition, you encourage the rapid reproduction of naturally occurring bacteria by “feeding” them nitrogen.

Now, depending on which kind of straw you’re using, you could be starting with as much as an 80:1 ratio of carbon to nitrogen. What you’re aiming for at the end of the conditioning process is a 20:1 ratio. So, you’ll need to add a significant amount of nitrogen. (This process is called “conditioning” the bale.)

You’ll spend several days conditioning the bale, although exactly how long it takes depends on what type of nitrogen you choose—traditional or organic.

Either way, you’ll want to start the conditioning process 20 days before your area’s average last frost date.

This will help ensure that the temperature outside isn’t so cold that it inhibits bacterial growth. (If, however, you get a cold snap during this time and the daytime temperature stays below 45°F one day, just pretend that day didn’t exist. Don’t treat your bales at all that day—no fertilizer, no water. Simply start the conditioning process up again the next day.)

Conditioning With Traditional Fertilizer

If you condition your bales using traditional fertilizer, such as lawn fertilizer, the process will take 12 days from start to finish. Choose a lawn fertilizer that has at least 20 percent nitrogen. (Nitrogen will be the first of the three numbers on the bag.) Make sure it’s not slow-release nitrogen.

Use 1/2 cup on days 1, 3, and 5 of this process. Simply spread it on top of the bale. (You’ll add water afterward, which will help push the fertilizer into the interior of the bale. More on this in a minute.)

Then, use 1/4 cup on days 7, 8, and 9. On the 10th day, add the phosphorous and potassium by applying one cup of 10/10/10 garden fertilizer to each bale.

By day 12, you’ll be ready to plant.

Conditioning With Organic Fertilizer

You’ll need 18 days to complete the conditioning process if you use organic fertilizers such as feather meal or bone meal, both of which have about 12 percent nitrogen. These fertilizers work because they are high in protein, and as it decomposes, protein becomes nitrogen.

(Some people even use urine, which has between 9 and 12 percent nitrogen, but keep in mind that you’ll need about 3-1/2 gallons of urine per bale per day!)

If you use an organic fertilizer, use 3 cups per bale on days 1, 3, and 5. Then, use 1 to 1-1/2 cups on days 7, 8, and 9.

On the 10th day, it’s time to add phosphorous and potassium. Do so by applying 1 cup of bone meal and 1 cup of wood ash to each bale.

You’ll be ready to plant in the bale by day 18.

Irrigating Your Bales

Whether you use organic or traditional fertilizers, you’ll need to water your bales every day—during both the conditioning process and the growing season.

Every day during the conditioning process, add one gallon of water to each bale. If you’re watering on a day when you also fertilize, add the fertilizer first, then top it with water to help push it into the bale.

It’s okay if the fertilizer doesn’t completely wash into the interior. The bacteria will actually come up to the surface of the bale to access the fertilizer when they need it.

Ideally, use water that has been warmed to air temperature so you’re not inhibiting the decomposers with frigid water straight from the spigot. Simply fill a bucket with water today, then use it tomorrow so the water has had a chance to warm up a bit.

Once the conditioning process is complete, you’ll still want to water your bales each day.

There are two options that Joel recommends:

  • The cheapest, easiest, and quickest method is to use a soaker hose. However, the UV light from the sun breaks them down fairly quickly, and you’ll end up having to replace the hoses eventually.
  • Once you know straw bale gardening is for you, he recommends upgrading to a drip system. It’s a little more expensive up front, but due to its adjustable nature, a drip irrigation system allows you to save money on water long-term since you are able to water each bale only as much as the plant needs. For example, your tomatoes are going to need more water than your potatoes. With a soaker hose, you have to water to your least common denominator—meaning your potatoes are going to get overwatered so that your tomatoes can get enough water. Drip irrigation solves that problem.  

straw bale gardening

The Benefits of Straw Bale Gardening

This unique gardening method offers many benefits:

  • The virgin soil within the bale has a very neutral pH, so depending on your water, your soil will be about a 6.8 to 7 on the pH scale. That’s an ideal range for most edibles.
  • Straw bales both drain and hold moisture exceptionally well. You can’t flood a straw bale garden. No matter how much you water it, it will only hold three to five gallons. The rest of the water will run right out the bottom of the bale.
  • Since you are creating virgin soil during the conditioning process, you don’t have to deal with perennial insect or disease problems.

What Grows in a Straw Bale Garden?

Most plants will thrive in a straw bale garden.

A few won’t.

Personally, Joel has had trouble growing onions and rosemary in his.

He also doesn’t recommend trying to grow sweet corn in straw bale gardens, because their height and big root structure make the process inefficient. (You’d only get about four good stalks of corn per bale!)

And perennials like asparagus and rhubarb aren’t ideal since the bale will break down before those plants really start to produce well.

How Many Plants Per Bale?

Space your plants in the bale as you would if you were planting them in the ground. You might even be able to space them a little bit tighter.

In a bale, though, what you’d usually plant in a row you’ll plant in a checkerboard pattern, instead.

You can also build a trellis above the bales to allow your larger or vining plants—such as green beans, tomatoes, sweet potato vines, cucumbers, and squash—to grow vertically instead of horizontally.

It’s a very productive method, and you end up with a lot less disease and a lot fewer insect problems.

Any Special Instructions for Planting Seeds?

If you’re going to plant tiny seeds, you’ll need to make a seed bed on top of the bale with some really clean compost or potting mix. Spread it into a half-inch layer and put your seeds in that. They’ll root right down into the bale.

If the seeds you’re using are big, such as peas and beans, you can use your finger to push them right into the bale.

What If My Bale Is Full of Mature Seeds When I Get It?

While you are conditioning a bale, its interior will reach approximately 140°F or 150°F. This heat is going to kill most of the seeds that may be present at first.

But it won’t reach the outside of the bale, so it’s still possible to end up with a “chia pet” growing out in your garden.

If you do, simply head outside with a sponge mop and a cake pan filled with vinegar and a squirt of liquid dish soap. Dunk your sponge mop in the liquid, and wipe down the outside of the bale.

When those sprouts first emerge, they have very limited energy reserves. The vinegar solution will knock them back. And, since they won’t have enough energy in the seed to regrow, you’ll only need to use the vinegar solution on them once.

What if There Are Latent Herbicides in the Bale?

It’s true that many fields are sprayed with broad-leaf herbicides, and that it can take some of these chemicals a pretty long time to break down naturally. It’s one of the reasons we are often cautioned against using straw or hay as mulch in our gardens. After all, most of our edibles are broad-leaf plants, too.

However, one of the great things about a straw bale garden is that it takes the guesswork out of whether or not your bales contain latent herbicide. The truth is that, if they do, your plants simply won’t grow.

If you’re concerned about it, though, Marjory recommends a simple test. (This test also works for manure.)

  • Grow a flat of legumes.
  • Mix the straw or hay with water in a five-gallon bucket and stir frequently for a day or two.
  • Then, use the water on the legumes.
  • Keep an eye on the legumes to see how they respond. If the second and third set of leaves look normal, the straw, hay, or manure is probably safe to use.

How Do I Keep Mice From Nesting in the Bales?

A properly conditioned straw bale really isn’t going to make an attractive home to rodents.

Since the straw itself has been harvested, it shouldn’t contain many oats or wheat seeds. That means it doesn’t provide much of a food source for rodents.

Also, during the conditioning process, the bale gets really hot inside and the interior starts to turn into a big, mushy pocket of soil. Neither of those conditions are attractive to mice or rats.

That said, there are a couple of things you can do to further discourage rodents from taking up residence in your straw bale garden:

  • First, make sure there aren’t any bird feeders nearby. Those really tend to attract rodents.
  • Second, make sure you’re watering your bale appropriately—on a daily basis, with the water fully saturating the bale.

 It’s always important to do your research when embarking on a new gardening adventure. But once you do, you may find that straw bale gardening is the solution you’ve been looking for—no matter where you live, what your soil is like … or whether you have soil at all!

Are you excited about Straw Bale Gardening, or have a burning question? Tell us in the comments below!

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The post Straw Bale Gardening: How to Succeed appeared first on The Grow Network.

Straw Bale Gardening: How to Succeed

Click here to view the original post.

It’s a lot easier to have soil problems than soil perfection. But whether you’re dealing with pH complications, drainage issues, rocky or cold soil, or perennial pest and disease concerns, Joel Karsten has a solution for you…Straw Bale Gardening!

As the culminating event of this year’s Home Grown Food Summit. Marjory interviewed Joel about the innovative straw bale gardening method he created more than 20 years ago.

If you have soil concerns, this method is worth considering. (Be aware, however, that there are some hidden dangers to keep in mind.)

The following article provides a summary of highlights from Marjory and Joel’s conversation.  

 

And If You Missed the Podcast, Click Here to Listen Now!

 

Straw Bale Gardening—What Is It and How Does It Work?

First, let’s talk about what straw bale gardening isn’t. You aren’t growing vegetables in straw. What you’re actually doing is growing them in very recently decomposed straw.

And it doesn’t have to be straw. It can be any tightly compressed organic matter. Use whatever you have available in your area: oat straw, wheat straw, barley straw, rice straw, hay, grass clippings, etc.    

Depending on how large and tightly compacted your bales are, you may be able to get a couple of growing seasons out of them.

But even when the bale has lost its shape and decomposed extensively, you can still take that same straw, put it in a large container, and compress it. If needed, add additional organic matter such as fresh grass clippings and leaves, and just make a new “bale” yourself.

The Soil-Making Process

Essentially, you are creating virgin soil within the interior of the bale—soil that is free from lingering disease or insect problems, and which provides the nutrient capacity the roots need to grow. To create this decomposition, you encourage the rapid reproduction of naturally occurring bacteria by “feeding” them nitrogen.

Now, depending on which kind of straw you’re using, you could be starting with as much as an 80:1 ratio of carbon to nitrogen. What you’re aiming for at the end of the conditioning process is a 20:1 ratio. So, you’ll need to add a significant amount of nitrogen. (This process is called “conditioning” the bale.)

You’ll spend several days conditioning the bale, although exactly how long it takes depends on what type of nitrogen you choose—traditional or organic.

Either way, you’ll want to start the conditioning process 20 days before your area’s average last frost date.

This will help ensure that the temperature outside isn’t so cold that it inhibits bacterial growth. (If, however, you get a cold snap during this time and the daytime temperature stays below 45°F one day, just pretend that day didn’t exist. Don’t treat your bales at all that day—no fertilizer, no water. Simply start the conditioning process up again the next day.)

Conditioning With Traditional Fertilizer

If you condition your bales using traditional fertilizer, such as lawn fertilizer, the process will take 12 days from start to finish. Choose a lawn fertilizer that has at least 20 percent nitrogen. (Nitrogen will be the first of the three numbers on the bag.) Make sure it’s not slow-release nitrogen.

Use 1/2 cup on days 1, 3, and 5 of this process. Simply spread it on top of the bale. (You’ll add water afterward, which will help push the fertilizer into the interior of the bale. More on this in a minute.)

Then, use 1/4 cup on days 7, 8, and 9. On the 10th day, add the phosphorous and potassium by applying one cup of 10/10/10 garden fertilizer to each bale.

By day 12, you’ll be ready to plant.

Conditioning With Organic Fertilizer

You’ll need 18 days to complete the conditioning process if you use organic fertilizers such as feather meal or bone meal, both of which have about 12 percent nitrogen. These fertilizers work because they are high in protein, and as it decomposes, protein becomes nitrogen.

(Some people even use urine, which has between 9 and 12 percent nitrogen, but keep in mind that you’ll need about 3-1/2 gallons of urine per bale per day!)

If you use an organic fertilizer, use 3 cups per bale on days 1, 3, and 5. Then, use 1 to 1-1/2 cups on days 7, 8, and 9.

On the 10th day, it’s time to add phosphorous and potassium. Do so by applying 1 cup of bone meal and 1 cup of wood ash to each bale.

You’ll be ready to plant in the bale by day 18.

Irrigating Your Bales

Whether you use organic or traditional fertilizers, you’ll need to water your bales every day—during both the conditioning process and the growing season.

Every day during the conditioning process, add one gallon of water to each bale. If you’re watering on a day when you also fertilize, add the fertilizer first, then top it with water to help push it into the bale.

It’s okay if the fertilizer doesn’t completely wash into the interior. The bacteria will actually come up to the surface of the bale to access the fertilizer when they need it.

Ideally, use water that has been warmed to air temperature so you’re not inhibiting the decomposers with frigid water straight from the spigot. Simply fill a bucket with water today, then use it tomorrow so the water has had a chance to warm up a bit.

Once the conditioning process is complete, you’ll still want to water your bales each day.

There are two options that Joel recommends:

  • The cheapest, easiest, and quickest method is to use a soaker hose. However, the UV light from the sun breaks them down fairly quickly, and you’ll end up having to replace the hoses eventually.
  • Once you know straw bale gardening is for you, he recommends upgrading to a drip system. It’s a little more expensive up front, but due to its adjustable nature, a drip irrigation system allows you to save money on water long-term since you are able to water each bale only as much as the plant needs. For example, your tomatoes are going to need more water than your potatoes. With a soaker hose, you have to water to your least common denominator—meaning your potatoes are going to get overwatered so that your tomatoes can get enough water. Drip irrigation solves that problem.  

straw bale gardening

The Benefits of Straw Bale Gardening

This unique gardening method offers many benefits:

  • The virgin soil within the bale has a very neutral pH, so depending on your water, your soil will be about a 6.8 to 7 on the pH scale. That’s an ideal range for most edibles.
  • Straw bales both drain and hold moisture exceptionally well. You can’t flood a straw bale garden. No matter how much you water it, it will only hold three to five gallons. The rest of the water will run right out the bottom of the bale.
  • Since you are creating virgin soil during the conditioning process, you don’t have to deal with perennial insect or disease problems.

What Grows in a Straw Bale Garden?

Most plants will thrive in a straw bale garden.

A few won’t.

Personally, Joel has had trouble growing onions and rosemary in his.

He also doesn’t recommend trying to grow sweet corn in straw bale gardens, because their height and big root structure make the process inefficient. (You’d only get about four good stalks of corn per bale!)

And perennials like asparagus and rhubarb aren’t ideal since the bale will break down before those plants really start to produce well.

How Many Plants Per Bale?

Space your plants in the bale as you would if you were planting them in the ground. You might even be able to space them a little bit tighter.

In a bale, though, what you’d usually plant in a row you’ll plant in a checkerboard pattern, instead.

You can also build a trellis above the bales to allow your larger or vining plants—such as green beans, tomatoes, sweet potato vines, cucumbers, and squash—to grow vertically instead of horizontally.

It’s a very productive method, and you end up with a lot less disease and a lot fewer insect problems.

Any Special Instructions for Planting Seeds?

If you’re going to plant tiny seeds, you’ll need to make a seed bed on top of the bale with some really clean compost or potting mix. Spread it into a half-inch layer and put your seeds in that. They’ll root right down into the bale.

If the seeds you’re using are big, such as peas and beans, you can use your finger to push them right into the bale.

What If My Bale Is Full of Mature Seeds When I Get It?

While you are conditioning a bale, its interior will reach approximately 140°F or 150°F. This heat is going to kill most of the seeds that may be present at first.

But it won’t reach the outside of the bale, so it’s still possible to end up with a “chia pet” growing out in your garden.

If you do, simply head outside with a sponge mop and a cake pan filled with vinegar and a squirt of liquid dish soap. Dunk your sponge mop in the liquid, and wipe down the outside of the bale.

When those sprouts first emerge, they have very limited energy reserves. The vinegar solution will knock them back. And, since they won’t have enough energy in the seed to regrow, you’ll only need to use the vinegar solution on them once.

What if There Are Latent Herbicides in the Bale?

It’s true that many fields are sprayed with broad-leaf herbicides, and that it can take some of these chemicals a pretty long time to break down naturally. It’s one of the reasons we are often cautioned against using straw or hay as mulch in our gardens. After all, most of our edibles are broad-leaf plants, too.

However, one of the great things about a straw bale garden is that it takes the guesswork out of whether or not your bales contain latent herbicide. The truth is that, if they do, your plants simply won’t grow.

If you’re concerned about it, though, Marjory recommends a simple test. (This test also works for manure.)

  • Grow a flat of legumes.
  • Mix the straw or hay with water in a five-gallon bucket and stir frequently for a day or two.
  • Then, use the water on the legumes.
  • Keep an eye on the legumes to see how they respond. If the second and third set of leaves look normal, the straw, hay, or manure is probably safe to use.

How Do I Keep Mice From Nesting in the Bales?

A properly conditioned straw bale really isn’t going to make an attractive home to rodents.

Since the straw itself has been harvested, it shouldn’t contain many oats or wheat seeds. That means it doesn’t provide much of a food source for rodents.

Also, during the conditioning process, the bale gets really hot inside and the interior starts to turn into a big, mushy pocket of soil. Neither of those conditions are attractive to mice or rats.

That said, there are a couple of things you can do to further discourage rodents from taking up residence in your straw bale garden:

  • First, make sure there aren’t any bird feeders nearby. Those really tend to attract rodents.
  • Second, make sure you’re watering your bale appropriately—on a daily basis, with the water fully saturating the bale.

 It’s always important to do your research when embarking on a new gardening adventure. But once you do, you may find that straw bale gardening is the solution you’ve been looking for—no matter where you live, what your soil is like … or whether you have soil at all!

Are you excited about Straw Bale Gardening, or have a burning question? Tell us in the comments below!

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