No Till Gardening: Homesteading Basics (VIDEO)

Click here to view the original post.

Should You Till Your Garden?

In this episode of our ongoing video series Homesteading Basics, Marjory goes into some detail on the basics of no till gardening. Cultivating the earth, working the land, putting your hand to the plow … it’s a time-honored tradition, alright. But is it always the best thing to do?

If you’re a no-till evangelist, please don’t freak out when you see Marjory standing in front of this big John Deere tractor. Give her a chance to explain, because, as she puts it, “I’m a pretty low-tech wheelbarrow and shovels type of gal.”

The One Straw Revolution Viewpoint

If you’ve never read The One Straw Revolution, you might consider checking that out. Masanobu Fukuoka was a Japanese gentleman who passed away back in 2008. He studied plant pathology at university, and then worked for the Japanese customs office as a produce inspector for several years.

While he was studying and practicing in state-of-the-art facilities, he was also developing an understanding that nature is a force so large and powerful that all of man’s efforts to control and subdue her are futile. He decided to prove his theories by taking over his father’s citrus farm in the countryside.

What happened next is very telling. When he initially discontinued the pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers that had been used on the farm … well, it fizzled. The trees grew crowded, they fruited little, and then they died. They had been dependent on synthetic inputs—and when Fukuoka cut those synthetic inputs off, the weak plants couldn’t survive.

He took steps to begin healing the soil and started another orchard from scratch. In his fields, he had found that if he rotated his crops with care, he could use each season’s chaff to mulch and fertilize the field for the next season. He used excess mulch from his fields and nitrogen-fixing weeds like white clover, and his new orchard thrived without synthetic inputs. Fukuoka believed that never tilling the soil was a key factor in his success.

Read More: Microbes 2.0 – A Tiny Manifesto

No Till Gardening

Since The One Straw Revolution was published in 1978, we’ve gained a lot of knowledge about why tilling the soil is sometimes a very bad idea. The microscopic life in the soil is concentrated in the top few inches of soil. When we till, we destroy the sensitive soil microbiome in those top few inches.

Elaine Ingham provides a great guide to understanding the complexity of soil life in her Soil Biology Primer. I also really enjoyed Jeff Lowenfels’ Teaming With Microbes. As Marjory mentioned, John Jeavons’ Grow Biointensive® method is one popular vegetable gardening philosophy that has really embraced the importance of a strong soil microbiome.

Modern gardeners have taken the hint pretty well. While seasonal tilling is still commonplace in industrial growing operations, more and more gardeners are leaving the tiller in the shed each spring, and relying on natural tools like microbes, worms, and roots to keep their soil from compacting.

As Marjory mentions, sometimes you really can’t get around tilling if you want to grow vegetables in raw ground that has never been worked. But after your garden has been established, there’s really no need for tilling in a backyard setting. Give no till gardening a try and your soil microbiome will thank you!

(This article was originally published on July 13, 2016. We had a couple of questions on no-till gardening in heavy clay soils during last week’s Ask Me Anything! podcast, so we thought it was a good time to bring this oldie but goodie out of the archives!) 

 

Simple and Effective Watering Systems for Small Livestock

 

The post No Till Gardening: Homesteading Basics (VIDEO) appeared first on The Grow Network.

Growing Microgreens and Sprouts Indoors All Winter Long (Video)

Click here to view the original post.

fresh-arugula-micro-greensAs the temperatures drop and the days get shorter, I’ve heard from several gardeners up north that they are packing it up for the year and winterizing their gardens.

But even up north, there’s one easy way to keep some fresh greens coming all winter long–with just a few containers and a little bit of your open counter space.

Microgreens are a great option for keeping your vitamin intake up over the winter. In addition to being tasty and trendy, they pack a big nutritional punch. A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry looked at 25 common varieties of microgreens and found that they generally have higher concentrations of healthful vitamins and carotenoids than their mature counterparts. Red cabbage microgreens had the highest concentration of vitamin C, and green daikon radish microgreens had the most vitamin E.

Check out this video about growing microgreens and sprouts indoors:

If you want to give this a try and you’re looking for a cheap and easy way to get started, read this article from our writing contest: Easy and Fresh Micro Greens and Herbs All Year Round. You’ll find one example of a no-frills way to get this done–without needing to buy anything but seeds.

(This post was originally published November 17, 2015.)

The post Growing Microgreens and Sprouts Indoors All Winter Long (Video) appeared first on The Grow Network.

Growing Microgreens and Sprouts Indoors All Winter Long (Video)

fresh-arugula-micro-greensAs the temperatures drop and the days get shorter, I’ve heard from several gardeners up north that they are packing it up for the year and winterizing their gardens.

But even up north, there’s one easy way to keep some fresh greens coming all winter long–with just a few containers and a little bit of your open counter space.

Microgreens are a great option for keeping your vitamin intake up over the winter. In addition to being tasty and trendy, they pack a big nutritional punch. A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry looked at 25 common varieties of microgreens and found that they generally have higher concentrations of healthful vitamins and carotenoids than their mature counterparts. Red cabbage microgreens had the highest concentration of vitamin C, and green daikon radish microgreens had the most vitamin E.

Check out this video about growing microgreens and sprouts indoors:

If you want to give this a try and you’re looking for a cheap and easy way to get started, read this article from our writing contest: Easy and Fresh Micro Greens and Herbs All Year Round. You’ll find one example of a no-frills way to get this done–without needing to buy anything but seeds.

(This post was originally published November 17, 2015.)

The post Growing Microgreens and Sprouts Indoors All Winter Long (Video) appeared first on The Grow Network.

An Insect Hotel Will Keep Your Pollinators Warm this Winter

Click here to view the original post.
insect-hotel

“InsectHouseMonaco” by Gareth E Kegg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Looking for a cool gardening project to occupy your idle time this winter? Look no further.

Insect hotels are a great winter project, and they pay big dividends by increasing the likelihood that your garden will be graced by lots of pollinators and beneficial insects next season and for years to come.

They also have lots of fringe benefits…

You get to provide a nice, safe, and cozy home for solitary bees and their insect buddies. We hear a lot about honey bees, but there are over 4,000 species of wild, native bees in North America alone. A well-designed hotel is a safe haven for some of your local bees, and it can help them to thrive in your area. In addition to bees, you can build rooms for ladybugs, millipedes, wasps, beetles, spiders… the more the merrier.

With a hotel in or near your garden, you can increase the biodiversity of your garden; and we all know by now that diversity is a key component of healthy soil and healthy ecosystems.

Perhaps the nicest feature of insect hotels is that they provide a great outlet for upcycling materials that would otherwise end up in the landfill. Got an old wooden pallet laying around? Some surplus bricks? A pile of rocks that you’ve gathered from the lawn and garden? Some old fence posts? This is a great way to tidy up your spare bits and pieces, and put them to good use.

Insect Hotel Tips and Pointers

  • Put your hotel in a sunny spot. It’s good if you can face it to the south for full exposure—warmth is important for overwintering bugs, and it’s essential for developing larvae. Nobody likes a freezing room—so err on the side of caution and arrange your hotel in the sunniest spot available.
  • Bugs need water, just like you do. Incorporate a water source into your hotel, or keep one nearby. A plant saucer, a small cache pot, or anything else that will hold a little water should work just fine.
  • Be mindful not to expose your guests to toxic chemicals. Use untreated, natural materials as much as possible. Untreated wood will warp, twist, and break down faster. But if you want to provide a safe home, it’s better to avoid chemicals and just accept that you’ll need to replace some pieces or rebuild altogether every few years or so.
  • Be creative! Bamboo and drilled wood are the standards, but there are probably a hundred different materials right outside your door that would work great. In addition to scrap building materials, look for natural elements like pine cones and needles, fallen limbs and twigs, tree bark, straw, etc. If you have trees with thick, waxy leaves that don’t break down well in the compost—like magnolias, live oaks, ligustrums, or hollies—those might make good stuffing for any empty spaces.

I compiled a few videos that show different design ideas. As you’ll see, you can feel free to let your imagination roam, and the sky’s the limit.

Insect Hotel Videos

A Good Overview, with Instructions for 2 Simple Hotels

This video shows a whole slew of different design ideas, and that’s the part I really liked. The second half of the video walks you through step-by-step instructions to build two small hanging hotels that look something like bird houses. Nice and neat…

Posh Style for Your Discerning Bugs

These hotels are the highest in modern insect style. For those of you who keep an immaculate landscape, these are something you can do without messing up your view. This style of hotel probably won’t draw any unwanted attention from your H.O.A. or nosy neighbors.

Back when I did lots of landscape design, one of the most common requests I got was for creative screens to block the view of utility boxes, air conditioners, pool pumps, and exposed pipes. I think that a clean looking insect hotel like this one could make a great screen. If you situated this right in front of your utility box, and planted the area with a small, tidy pollinator garden—you could turn that ugly box into a win-win for you and your neighborhood insects.

The Insect Economy Inn

If you’re less concerned with style, but more interested in practical economy—this is for you. Reused materials and quick assembly make this bug hotel all about functionality. I think this style of design would actually draw more insects than some of the fancier designs I’ve seen. I’m not too sure about the planting on top . . . I might have done that a little differently.

A Rustic Bug Cabin

I really like this one. Reclaimed materials and solid construction, for a natural rustic look. I love how these folks were so creative and used many different materials to make homes for lots of different insects. And other than screws and cinder blocks, they probably didn’t need to spend a dime.

Start looking around at the materials you have available—you might find that you already have everything you need to build a nice insect hotel. Hopefully, this will give you a way to do a productive garden project or two while you wait out the winter.

(This is an updated version of a post originally published on November 12, 2017.)

The post An Insect Hotel Will Keep Your Pollinators Warm this Winter appeared first on The Grow Network.

Fertilizing Container Gardens: A Beginner’s Guide

Click here to view the original post.

When you’re new to growing vegetables and herbs in pots, figuring out the how, when, and what of fertilizing container gardens can feel overwhelming. This article is the second in a three-part series that offers a beginner-friendly guide to feeding your potted edibles.

In part 1 of the series, I talk about fertilizing basics, including the special challenges plants face when growing in containers and why feeding them is essential to their health.

This article, part 2 of the series, provides my four-part recommendation for fertilizing and offers three sample schedules you can follow depending on the plants you’re growing and your gardening goals.

Part 3 of the series is designed to give you in-depth information about the four types of fertilizers and supplements: liquid fertilizers, liquid supplements, granular fertilizers, and granular supplements.

A 4-Part Recommendation for Fertilizing Container-Grown Vegetables and Herbs

All of the following recommendations can easily be classified into one of four main categories:

  1. Liquid fertilization
  2. Liquid supplements
  3. Granular fertilization
  4. Granular supplements

For a basic beginner’s approach, you can get by doing only the first one, liquid fertilization. I think this is the bare minimum if you want to grow healthy food in a pot.

If you’re overwhelmed by this information, or if you’re just too busy to fuss with it, simply pick up a bottle of liquid organic fertilizer and start there.

That alone will probably take care of most of your problems, and greatly improve the quantity and quality of the food you grow.

An ideal fertilization regimen for container plants would include all four of these categories. If you have a special baby in a container, do all four. Your plant will thank you for it.

I do all four of these for some edibles that I grow in pots—especially fruit-intensive plants like tomatoes.

There are a few key exceptions that I’ll talk about below.

As you learn more, you’ll figure out which bits and pieces are most important for different plants, for different problems, and for different uses.

  • When I first noticed the visual difference in my aloe plants after they got a handful of mineral sand, something clicked, and I haven’t planted aloes without trace minerals since.
  • When I saw how much resin accumulated on a calendula plant that grew in a tomato pot with regular high-potassium fertilizer, something clicked, and now I always use high-potassium fertilizer on calendula.
  • When I first saw the visual difference in my strawberries after they were treated with liquid seaweed, something clicked again. I don’t grow strawberries anymore, but if I see someone else’s strawberries suffering, I know that a little liquid seaweed will probably fix them right up.

This is the learning curve, and with each new experiment, you’ll add another piece to the puzzle.

Schedules for Container Plant Fertilization

As I said above, I think the best basic, beginner’s plan for fertilizing container plants is to use a simple, well-balanced, organic liquid fertilizer. There is more information on specific fertilizers below.

The Basic Schedule

Regarding the schedule for using fertilizers, I generally would recommend one application every two weeks.

So, a basic schedule would look like this:

  • Week 1: Liquid fertilizer
  • Week 2: Skip
  • Week 3: Liquid fertilizer
  • Week 4: Skip
  • Repeat indefinitely

An Intermediate Schedule for Certain Situations

If I notice that the soil smells off in a certain pot, I will often apply aerobic compost tea to restore healthy microbial life to the container. I apply this on the off weeks when I am not giving liquid fertilizer.

If I am growing a crop that specifically appreciates some liquid seaweed, like strawberries, or leafy spring greens that have survived into the heat of summer, I will also apply the seaweed on the off weeks.

So, an intermediate schedule might look like this:

  • Week 1: Liquid fertilizer
  • Week 2: Liquid supplement
  • Week 3: Liquid fertilizer
  • Week 4: Liquid supplement
  • Repeat indefinitely

An Advanced Schedule for Special Plants

If I am growing tomatoes in a pot, I go all out. I use all four categories, and I give the plants everything in my arsenal to ensure a healthy life and a good yield.

An advanced schedule for special plants would look something like this:

  • At planting: Granular fertilizer and granular supplements
  • Week 1 after planting: Skip
  • Week 2 after planting: Liquid supplements
  • Week 3 after planting: Liquid fertilizer
  • Continue to alternate a week of liquid supplements and a week of liquid fertilizer until fruit set, then:
  • At fruit set: Granular fertilizer and granular supplements
  • Week 1 after fruit set: Skip
  • Week 2 after fruit set: Liquid supplements
  • Week 3 after fruit set: Liquid fertilizer and liquid supplements
  • Continue applying liquid fertilizer and liquid supplements each week until the end of the growing season.

Any time I’m applying a lot of fertilizer and supplements, as in the example above, I cut back on the dilution strength of the liquids and the volume of the granular. The general idea is to give less, more often.

A Few Key Exceptions

I distinguish between leafy annuals and woody perennials in my fertilization schedules.

Some woody perennial plants don’t appreciate the extra nutrients, and you can cause more harm than good by overdoing it with regular fertilization.

Woody herbs like rosemary and lavender are especially sensitive to this. I fertilize rosemary about half as often as I fertilize other plants, and I fertilize lavender rarely if ever.

Blueberries benefit from special treatment in a container. They love seaweed, iron, and acidity. Watering with vinegar is beneficial here. Give your potted blueberries some extra love and they will pay you back with plenty of tasty berries.

When I’m growing tomatoes in a pot, as I said above, I go all out. I use everything in my arsenal to get the plant as productive as possible. I normally don’t worry about burning plants with too much fertilizer, because I only use mild organic fertilizers and I dilute them well. In this case, however, I always keep a close eye on the leaf margins to make sure that I am not overdoing it with the tomatoes.

 

TGN Bi-Weekly Newsletter

(This is an updated version of a post that was originally published in October 2015.)

The post Fertilizing Container Gardens: A Beginner’s Guide appeared first on The Grow Network.

Fertilizing Container Gardens: A Beginner’s Guide

urban-container-garden-with-potted-tomatoesGrowing food without a garden is a labor of love. My own life as a vegetable gardener started out on a series of tiny balconies and in small window boxes.

While I have since been blessed with much larger areas for gardening, I still hold a special place in my heart for potted herbs and greens.

Among people like me with a love for growing vegetables and herbs in pots, one of the more common questions is about the best way to fertilize container-grown edibles. The answer is a bit complicated, and really varies based on your level of gardening expertise.

If you regularly fertilizer your container plants already, but you’re interested in finding organic substitutes for store-bought fertilizers, read Joe Urbach’s article, “15 Simple and Inexpensive Homemade Fertilizers.” If you want to find organic substitutes for granular fertilizers, this resource is helpful: “How to Measure Your Favorite Organic Fertilizers.”

But if you are just trying to get started—if, for example, you purchased a basil plant and put it in a pot on your kitchen windowsill, and now you’re wondering what to do next—this article is especially for you.

Why You Should Fertilize Your Container-Grown Edible Plants

Plants grown in boxes and pots are a little bit like a baby in a bubble. They’re cut off from the natural world around them by a container.

Several feet away, in the ground, there is a flurry of organic activity taking place in the soil. But in an isolated container, there is much less organic microbial activity, and the plants in that container aren’t getting all of the beneficial nutrients, minerals, and enzymes that they would get if they were in the ground.

Fertilizing is about supplementing the soil in your pot, to make it more like the soil in the ground.

In the ground, there is always some presence of the key macro nutrients that are required for plant growth and fertility. Most likely, your potting soil has some concentration of these nutrients—but in theory, you could create a container environment that is completely devoid of key plant nutrients. Fertilization is how you can manage the levels of these nutrients in your potting soil.

Finally, when a plant in the ground uses available nutrients to grow and fruit, those nutrients are slowly replaced by natural processes in the soil around it.

A plant in a container doesn’t always have that advantage, and it is much more prone to “using up” its available nutrients, creating a situation where one or more nutrients are not available in the amount required by the plant to keep growing and fruiting.

When I worked at The Natural Gardener, I would demonstrate this to people by using my hands to estimate the size of a good slicing tomato. I would say, “Your plant is going to make tomatoes this big using only water, sunlight, and the nutrients in the soil. How many tomatoes this size do you think it can make before it runs out of nutrients in its little pot?” I think that’s an effective illustration. In a container, the nutrients get used up relatively quickly, and so it becomes important to keep adding fresh nutrients to the soil.

Compost in Potting Soil

Perhaps the best way to prevent the “baby in a bubble” situation described above is to use fresh, finished compost in your potting soil.

Growing vegetables is a different game than growing houseplants, and in this case you’ll have better success with a healthy, living soil.

  • If you can get some fresh, finished compost from a friend or neighbor’s bin, this would be an awesome addition to your potting soil. If not, get some from a nearby nursery.
  • If you can get some fresh, finished worm castings from anywhere, definitely add those.
  • If you can get some aerobic compost tea, absolutely use that. (More on that below.)
  • After you incorporate compost, castings, and compost tea, add a little molasses to feed the microbes and get them growing strong.

Click Here to See How to Make Your Own Worm Castings at Home

Now, a caveat: You can somewhat recreate a healthy, living soil by adding all the right stuff. If you do this, you’ll need fewer supplements. You can somewhat “fake” a healthy soil by continually adding artificial nutrients, but the plants grown in that way won’t be as good nutritionally as plants grown in a healthy, living soil.

There’s just no substitute for the real thing.

Don’t, however, just dump your garden soil in a pot. Do use a potting mix, any potting mix—homemade is good.

 

Ready to learn more about fertilizing container gardens? Be sure to check out part 2 of this series, where I give my four-part recommendation for fertilizing container-grown vegetable and herbs, including three sample schedules for different circumstances.

Then, in part 3, I discuss the four types of fertilizer in depth, including specifics on the products I like to use.

 

TGN Bi-Weekly Newsletter

 

(This is an updated version of a post that was originally published in October 2015.)

The post Fertilizing Container Gardens: A Beginner’s Guide appeared first on The Grow Network.

Ferment Your Feed for Healthier and Happier Chickens

Click here to view the original post.

Sprouting fodder for your chickens to eat is a great way to diversify their diet, and it is also a great way to increase the overall health and immune strength of your flock.  Leslie Parsons provided a long list of seeds that are good for sprouting in various conditions in her article “Growing Your Own Chicken Feed the Easy Way.” I’d like to draw some attention to another method for improving your flock’s diet: fermenting.

Fermented food has picked up a lot of traction in popular media these days, with the success of Sandor Ellix Katz’s books The Art of Fermentation and Wild Fermentation. People have become more and more aware of the benefits of ingesting healthy living cultures of microflora. “Probiotics” has become a household word, and you can pick up a bottle of fresh kombucha at the corner convenience store.

Active cultures are helping people maintain good digestive health, enhance their immune systems, and even lose weight. But did you know that fermented food is good for your chickens too?

Raising Meat Chickens_336x280

Fermented Chicken Feed Can Improve the Health of Your Flock

Fermented chicken feed has been shown to increase weight gain in growing chicks. Chickens whose diets include fermented foods develop healthier intestinal tracts than those that eat a strictly dry diet. Moist fermented feed helps defend against dehydration, and it even promotes a healthy genetic profile for mother hens.

Fermenting chicken feed can significantly improve the nutrients that are available to your flock.

In an Aarhus University study about Fermented feed for laying hens, fermenting layer rations reduced the concentration of dietary sugar by more than three-quarters, from 32.1 to 7.3 grams per kilogram. Fermented food also has high concentrations of lactic acid bacteria, and small amounts of beneficial yeasts and fungi; so you’re basically creating some homemade probiotics for your flock. If you’ve got a chicken with IBS, maybe some fermented food could help her get regular.

Moist fermented food is easily digestible and its nutrients are more easily absorbed by the chicken than dry feed. Chickens will get more B vitamins, more vitamin K2, and more of several beneficial enzymes from fermented food.

Fermented foods help with immune function in chickens. Chickens with a fermented diet develop a highly acidic barrier in their upper digestive tract that blocks several acid-sensitive bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella. One study, published by the African Journal of Biotechnology, considered using fermented foods as a replacement for antibiotic growth promoters in commercial poultry production.

There are also benefits for egg production and egg quality in laying hens.

Incorporating fermented food can help improve the number and size of eggs you’ll get. Yolk size frequently increases when a hen is fed a diet that includes fermented food. A diet that incorporates fermentation can help with problem egg shells too, improving shell quality, weight, and stiffness.

Why You Should Start Feeding Fermented Food

In addition to the health considerations outlined above, there are some benefits for you, the human, as well.

The biggest thing is that fermenting allows you to buy less feed. Chickens eat a little less dry feed when the feed has been fermented. The chickens are able to get more nourishment out of the same volume of feed. So, this is one way to make those expensive bags of organic layer rations last a little longer.

The chickens will also waste less of their food. As soon as a bowl is filled with dry feed, the first thing many chickens do is jump right in and start scratching. They throw the larger grains all over, leaving only the inedible fine dust at the bottom of the bowl. They don’t do that with a moist fermented food. They might still get in the bowl, but they won’t be able to disperse the food like they normally do with dry feed.

Finally, fermentation is an easy way for anyone to diversify their flock’s diet.

Chickens have an adventurous pallet at the table. They like to eat all kinds of things. Many of us don’t have the room to keep our chickens at pasture where they can get a good mixed diet of bugs and greenery.

Growing fresh chicken fodder is a great way to diversify your flock’s diet, but some people don’t have enough confidence in their green thumbs to begin starting seed for their birds. Fermentation is one way that any chicken keeper can mix things up for their chickens to begin improving health and immunity.

How Can I Start Fermenting My Chicken Feed?

fermenting-chicken-feed-in-a-bucketThe type of fermentation you’re going to do is called lactic acid fermentation. I’m not wearing a lab coat, but I think this means that good bacteria digest the available sugars and leave lactic acid as a by-product. You might recognize the sweet/sour smell of the lactic acid from yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi.

  1. Use any non-metallic container to create the ferment. I have been using a food grade plastic five-gallon bucket from the big box store and it works well enough.
  2. Start with a small amount of dry feed, about two days worth.
  3. Cover the feed with non-chlorinated water. Lactic acid fermentation is an anaerobic process, and it is important that you keep the food completely covered with water, so that it is not exposed to the open air. When the feed soaks up so much water that the feed is exposed to air, cover it back up with more water.
  4. Stir the mixture regularly, several times a day, and add more water as needed. Well water, distilled water, or rain water are fine, but fresh city water contains chemicals that are specifically designed to kill bacteria—so don’t use fresh city water. If all you have is city water, treat it to remove the chlorine or chloramines. [A Guide for Using Tap Water in Your Garden]
  5. IMG_5885Keep the fermenting container in a warm place; keeping it above 65 degrees F will get the best results. Warm temperatures speed up the process and increase the odds that the right bacteria will flourish when fermentation begins.
  6. You can add a starter culture if you want to, to make sure you get the right bugs. Allow at least 24 hours to begin producing a culture of lactic acid bacteria, but allow several days to significantly drop the pH.
  7. The end product should have a sour smell like sauerkraut. If your feed smells rancid or rotten, don’t use it. You might not have kept the mash covered with enough water, allowing air in to the mix. If this happens, throw it out to resolve in the compost, and start again.
  8. Dip a scoop or ladle down to the bottom of the container to get the moist feed. Try to include a little of the water in each scoop, but always make sure that the feed in the bucket remains covered in water. You can add more dry feed to replace the fermented feed you take out, if you want to keep the process going for a while. If you prefer to use up the first batch before starting the second, just rinse and repeat when the fermented feed is used up.
  9. IMG_5898If all of this sounds like too much work for you, consider trading with a friend for something they are fermenting. A neighbor of mine makes beer at home. We worked out a barter agreement where he receives fresh eggs and in exchange I get his fermented grains. My chickens love these grains and fight over them every time I put them out. Just make sure that the grains aren’t being fermented in a toxic metal container that could harm your chickens or you.

Common Problems with Fermented Chicken Feed

The biggest problem with fermented chicken feed is that chickens don’t really love to eat it.

In the Aarhus study I referenced above, the authors attribute irritability in the flock to a distaste for the fermented food. My chickens don’t seem to mind it that much, but I think they do prefer their normal dry rations. I know that they definitely prefer fresh bugs and green plant growth when those are available.

In nature, chickens will eat just about anything that’s small enough to eat. That includes a lot of bugs, a lot of plants, some invertebrates, and lots of odds and ends.

A very diverse diet is the best diet you could possibly feed your chickens.

If you’re someone who feeds only layer rations and nothing else, adding in some of that same feed after fermenting is an easy way to begin mixing up your flock’s diet and working your way toward the diverse diet they crave.

There is also a chance that you could accidentally grow the wrong bacteria, or grow yeast instead of bacteria. Always smell the food before you give it to the chickens. If it smells off, just throw it out.

Raising Meat Chickens_1000x525_2

(This post is an updated version of an article originally published on February 17, 2015.)

The post Ferment Your Feed for Healthier and Happier Chickens appeared first on The Grow Network.

Did You Know That 9 out of 10 Adults Have Gum Disease?

Click here to view the original post.

“If you’re over 30 years old, chances are better than 90% that you have some form of gum disease.”
– David Kennedy, DDS – Past President of International Association of Oral Medicine and Toxicology

This is a pretty unsettling little fact, but it is a fact. Ninety percent of adults over 30 have active gum disease. That’s sad when you know that you can prevent gum disease. Signs range from swollen gums to bad breath and bleeding or receding gums to loose teeth. These symptoms are so common that most of us don’t even equate them with gum disease. We just think of it as business as usual in OUR mouth, and go about our daily brushing routines.  But if commercial toothpastes were really effective in preventing gum disease, would 90% of us be walking around with gum disease every day?  I don’t think so.

active-gum-disease

What is gum disease?

The bacteria in your mouth creates a sticky film called plaque that forms around your teeth and gums. If it isn’t removed daily, it will harden and become tartar. Plaque, tartar, and accumulating bacteria irritate and inflame the gums. This is known as gingivitis. When the plaque and tartar begin to form below the gumline your problem has progressed to periodontal disease. The bacterial infection spreads and destroys the gum, teeth, and bone structure. It could result in tooth loss.

Here is the path to prevent gum disease …

Your diet has a lot to do with your mouth health. If you eat acidic, junk, or sugary foods, your teeth and gums are going to have problems. When you eliminate processed foods and increase your oral health, your gums will begin to heal.

Some foods that cause acidity in the body:

  • grains (unsprouted or unfermented)
  • hydrogenated oils
  • sugar
  • some dairy products (low-fat yogurt, cheeses)
  • processed foods
  • Some fish (canned tuna, trout)
  • processed and fatty meats, salami, hot dogs, and corned beef
  • sodas, sweetened beverages, and fruit juices

Foods that help prevent gum disease:

  • Wild-caught fish (salmon, mackerel, and sardines, fish that is high in omega-3s)
  • Fresh veggie juice (helps reduce the inflammation in your body)
  • Chewing gum with Xylitol (xylitol helps prevent the build-up of bacteria)
  • Raw Vegetables and Apples (naturally clean your teeth)
  • Foods high in fat soluble vitamins (raw milk, coconut, beef liver, bone broth, grass-fed animal meat)

Other lifestyle choices to help prevent gum disease:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Chew on garlic (put it in your salads
  • Check your gut.
  • Oil pulling
  • Flossing
  • Make your own Toothpaste or Powder

Simple and Natural Tooth Powder

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons Bentonite Clay
  • 1 tablespoon Baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon Powdered cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon Xylitol powder
  • 2 tablespoon calcium and magnesium powder
  • 10 drops of thieves essential oil
  • 20 drops of peppermint essential oil

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients in a non-metallic bowl.
  2. Put your powder in a pint-size glass jar for storage. Use one jar per family member if you’re going to dip your toothbrush into it.

To use: Wet your toothbrush in hot water and dip it into your homemade powder. And BRUSH! Rinse with cool water. The powder can be used daily and is good for kids and adults.

If you’d rather have toothpaste, here is a Simple and Natural toothpaste Recipe.

 

What is your oral health regime? Do you use natural products, homemade, or commercial tooth care? We’d love to hear your story in the comments below.

 

Resources:

Gum Disease Natural Treatments & Causes. Dr. Axe.
Heal Gum Disease In A Week or Less. Natural News.

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

The post Did You Know That 9 out of 10 Adults Have Gum Disease? appeared first on The Grow Network.

Position Available: Executive Assistant Who Loves Homesteading & Permaculture

Click here to view the original post.

About TGN – The Grow Network Inc. 

The Grow Network is the online home of a global network of people who
are producing their own food and medicine. “Home Grown Food On Every
Table” is our catalyzing statement. The purpose of the organization is
to stop the destruction of the Earth. We offer information via our
online blog, information products (physical and digital), and a
membership area.  http://TheGrowNetwork.com

We are looking for a dynamic A+ player to join our crew as we create the most useful, simple, and fun resource on the web for producing, preparing, and preserving your own food and medicine.

TGN is currently composed of about 150,000 members and we are scaling up our systems to handle 2 million.

Our company culture is of a team of rugged adventurers out to make a difference in the world. We are a distributed company but several of us are in Central Texas.  Those with a life-attitude of being on an expedition in the back-country will like working in this environment. This is a full-time work from home position where you determine your own hours and have your own equipment.  The ideal candidate for this position lives within 45 miles of Red Rock, TX because our one founder lives there and you’ll occasionally need to drive or run errands.

You are a person that knows you can work anywhere, but choose to work with us.

You are a detail-oriented and tireless perfectionist with meaningful professional experience supporting C-Suite level executives. You enjoy your role as the founders’ right hand and go to person. You thrive in a dynamic work environment which presents you with exciting challenges and opportunities to learn. You appreciate the routine of day-to-day, but are excited to tackle various projects for the founders of our company. You’re willing to roll up your sleeves to do whatever it takes to get the job done. There’s no task too small and too large! You’re equally happy to represent our founders in board meetings, liaise and work directly with partners, pick-up dry cleaning or schedule the kids for summer classes. You are flexible and resourceful enough to adapt to changing circumstances and able to hold a diverse group of stakeholders accountable. You’re highly organized, technologically savvy, and creative in your approach. Most importantly, you’re ready for a huge and exciting challenge and you can make an already strong team even better.

About the role

Work closely with our top executives in performing a variety of duties and responsibilities including, but not limited to:

  • Effectively and accurately manage calendars including scheduling and coordinating meetings, appointments and travel arrangements including planning family vacations
  • Manage correspondence including reading, printing, prioritizing, copying, annotating, distributing and developing appropriate responses with minimal supervision in an extremely efficient manner
  • Prepare concise meeting agenda and take accurate minutes, understanding important takeaways and action items
  • Strategically filter information and quickly assess (often changing) priorities
  • Effectively and professionally represent the executive to internal and external channels through appropriate and timely responses
  • Handle personal items for the founders, including bill pay, monitoring and reconciling finances, tax preparation, coordinating household service team, etc.
  • Planning networking events for the founders and team builders for the management team as needed
  • Assist in identifying and implementing methods to best utilize time and resources

Minimum requirements

  • A passion for homegrown food and good health (you have a garden, and/or chickens, or you are growing some of your own food in some way).
  • 5 years of experience in an administration/executive assistant/personal assistant role in a highly pressurized and results-driven environment
  • Ability to effectively work with senior management and a variety of personalities
  • Exceptional writing, editing, organizational, multi-tasking and prioritization skills
  • Knowledge of and experience with Office365, Outlook email and calendaring, HighRise, BaseCamp, WordPress, Quickbooks, PayPal, and other web technology,


Compensation and Benefits

 

Starting at $4,000/month ~ for contract (1099)

This a full-time, work-from-home (or anywhere), contract (w-9) position where you determine your own hours, and complete work using your own equipment.  Note there are no health benefits with this position (althouhg we are considering adding it in the future).

Though we utilize a “contract” form of engagement (rather than W-2 employment), please note that we are looking for a full-time, long-term committed teammate and friend who wants to be part of our innovative and growing organization for many years to come.

Compensation includes a steady monthly base pay (of $4,000/mo) plus bonuses for achieving personal and team objectives. We also are working toward annual company profit sharing and long-term service rewards.

As a team of independent contractors, The Grow Network currently does not offer health insurance, though we are looking for ways to do this in the future.

Other benefits of working at The Grow Network include the following:

·         Being surrounded on a daily basis by like-minded super-cool teammates who are passionate and creative about solving the world’s environmental and health crises by growing our own food, and teaching others how to do the same.

·         Access to cutting edge information about sustainable food production via our published information and our partnerships with thought-leaders in sustainable small-scale food production.

·         One-hour per day of working in your personal garden is considered legitimate company work.

·         You’ll have access to free testing of great gardening, homesteading and health management tools and products, as part of our team review of products we sell.

·         You’ll travel a few times per year (possibly more) to fun locations for team meetings, parties and training workshops for personal and professional development.
To apply, send us your resume in word docx format attached to an email to hr@thegrownetwork.com.  In your email use the subject line of “EA Application – {your name inserted here}”.  The Grow Network is accepting resumes until mid to late April.  There will be a series of phone interviews and then in-person interviews and you’ll be starting mid-May or June 2017.

The post Position Available: Executive Assistant Who Loves Homesteading & Permaculture appeared first on The Grow Network.

How to Save Carrot Seed

Click here to view the original post.

Save Carrot Seed Like a Pro

Here’s a great video from Seed Savers Exchange that will answer all of your questions about how to save carrot seed.  Dr. John Navazio is a veteran organic seed saver, with a PhD in plant breeding from the University of Wisconsin.

Here he shows you the different stages of seed maturity in carrot flowers (or umbels).  The videography is great and you really get a good visual example to know when the seed is ready to take.

As you’ll see, the only tools you’ll need for this task are two hands and a cookie sheet.  John has some really nice screens for separating the seed from the burrs and dust, but you can manage just fine without those.

Cleaning Your Carrot Seed

When you save carrot seed, the hardest part is usually separating the seeds from the rest of the drying plant.  You don’t want to store all of the dust and debris from the dead flower.  And if you’ve ever handled carrot seed, you know that we’re talking about some really tiny bits and pieces.

In this video, John uses screens to separate the seeds from the dust and dead plant matter.  That’s a great approach, but many of us don’t have a set of screens for this purpose.

One alternative is to keep rubbing and blowing the seeds, as shown in this video – indefinitely, until the seeds are separated enough for storage.  Using an electric fan to blow away the dust is another popular technique.  With tiny seeds like these, you won’t want to put your work directly in front of the fan, but arrange it somewhat to the side of the fan, so that you only get a gentle breeze to blow away the dust and crumbling leaf bits.

Storing Saved Carrot Seeds

All of the carrot seeds in the world won’t help you if you can’t find them next season at planting time.  Check out this helpful video Marjory made to show you how she stores her saved seeds: Organizing Your Seed Collection with Marjory Wildcraft.

organic-seed-alliance-seed-saving-guide


Thanks to John Navazio and the Seed Savers Exchange Heritage Farm for producing and sharing this helpful video.

The post How to Save Carrot Seed appeared first on The Grow Network.

What the Hell is a Yam?

Click here to view the original post.

Getting to the Root of the Question

First off, let me explain how I arrived at the question, “What the hell is a yam?”  I’ve been on a little quest – to find the fabled yam.  I started this quest last week, knowing exactly what a yam was… or so I thought.

We’ve had several questions over the past few weeks about the confusion that exists around yams and sweet potatoes.  Seems that people are finding contradictory information on the internet, and several people asked us to help them sort things out.

So I thought it would be helpful to put together a simple article with some pictures, to show people how they can tell the difference between a sweet potato and a yam.  That couldn’t be too hard, right?  They’re two different plants.  To be honest, I thought this would be as easy as making two short bulleted lists – voila, problem solved.

That was last week.

I gathered up the facts about sweet potatoes first.  That was pretty easy, just like I expected.  So I quickly moved on to start gathering up the same facts about yams…

And here I sit, days later – my mind tied into a knot by knotty roots.  I set out in search of a few simple facts, and that search led me on a whirlwind tour of world history with more sidebars and tangents than you can imagine.

And so, as I sit here today, I can only ask, “What the hell is a yam?”

Read more: How to Plant Sweet Potatoes

The Mysterious Origins of The Word “Yam”

It’s widely agreed that African Americans started calling sweet potatoes “yams” when soft, orange varieties of sweet potatoes were introduced in the southern United States.  Prior to this time, a firm variety of sweet potato had been popular.  Supposedly, the new softer sweet potatoes reminded African Americans of the yams they knew from Africa, and so they started calling orange sweet potatoes yams – to differentiate between the old firm sweet potatoes and the new soft sweet potatoes.

That’s a convenient explanation, but on closer inspection it doesn’t make sense, since yams weren’t called yams in most West African languages.  They were called isu, ji, viazi vikuu, and other names from African languages.

Some argue that the name “yam” was adapted from Portuguese or Spanish words, and it is possible that the name did travel across the Atlantic on a slave ship – in the mouths of the traders, and not the slaves.

If you check out Webster’s Dictionary, you’ll find that there’s probably some degree of truth to both explanations.  They claim the origin of the word “yam” is nyami, which means “to eat” in the Fulani language, which was spoken in West Africa during the slave trade (and today) by people who ate (and still eat) yams.  The word nyami was adapted to inhame in Portuguese and ñame in Spanish, and then later to igname in French and eventually to yam in American English.  So, while yams have been cultivated around the world for ten thousand years, the word “yam” has only been around for the last few hundred years.

However it came into existence, the word “yam” today can mean many things.  In a global food market in 2016, saying the word “yam” is about as descriptive as saying the word “root.”  There might be 20 different things for sale in that market that are called by the name “yam.”  What you get will depend entirely upon whom you ask.

Make Potato Pasta: 8 Ways to Enjoy Wholesome Noodles

What the Hell is a Yam?  It Depends…

Ask an American for a yam, and you’ll probably get a sweet potato.  Ask a New Zealander, and you’ll probably get a root from the wood sorrel known as oca.  Ask an African, and you’ll probably get an actual yam.

If you make the mistake of asking a Japanese person, you might get any one of several different plants – a sweet potato, an actual yam, an Okinawan purple yam (which is actually a sweet potato), or a third plant that’s also known as the konjac.  As I said before, the word “yam” doesn’t really mean much.

If you ask a Mexican person for a yam, there’s a chance you’ll get jicama, which is also known as yam bean.  This plant has another, even more confusing, common name – it is also known as the Chinese potato, even though it is native to America and probably didn’t find its way to China until after the Spanish conquest of Central America.  In addition to not being Chinese, jicama is also not a potato. Then again, a sweet potato isn’t really a potato either.

Ask a Pacific Islander for a yam, and you might get taro root.  Taro is also known as yam in Southern Spain, and in some Portuguese-speaking countries as well.  And the word “taro” could cause you some additional confusion in West Africa, the home of the yam, where taro is commonly known as coco yam.

Finding the Fabled Yam

Of course, there is in fact such a thing as a true yam.  But it’s definitely not as easy to pin down as the sweet potato is.  All sweet potatoes belong to one species.  So while there are hundreds of varieties of sweet potatoes, they are all the same plant – Ipomea batatas.

Not so with the yam.  There are at least 8 species of yam that are cultivated for culinary use in the world today.  They all belong to the same genus, Dioscorea.

So, right off the bat, you can’t really do a clean comparison of yams versus sweet potatoes.  The sweet potato is one plant, and the yam is a big family of related plants.

Meet the Yam Family

And the yam family doesn’t stop with those 8 culinary species – not by a long shot.  Those are just the tip of the iceberg.

Yams grow wild all around the world.  There are over 600 accepted species in the genus Dioscorea.  They predate humans by about 75 million years, and they have a representative on every continent except Antarctica.

There are some native, edible yams that grow wild right here in North America.  Fourleaf yam (Dioscorea quaternata), and the wild yam (Dioscorea villosa) are native across the Eastern United States and were used as food sources by the Native Americans there.

Mansplaining Yams and Sweet Potatoes

If you look for information about yams vs sweet potatoes on the internet, you’ll find a million comparisons that say things like “sweet potatoes have smooth skin and yams have rough skin,” and “sweet potatoes are more moist than yams.”  Of course, if you’re only holding one or the other, you don’t have anything to compare it against, and this isn’t very much help.

And much of the information that’s out there is targeted at the average American grocery store consumer.  So, the overall message you’ll find is something like this, “People in America call sweet potatoes ‘yams.’  Yams are from Africa, and we don’t have yams in America; we only have sweet potatoes.”

That’s sort of right, but it’s sort of wrong too.  It assumes that you are someone who would never shop in an ethnic market or a specialty food store; someone who would never forage for wild food; and someone who would never take a random root from the farmers market and plop it in the dirt just to see what happens – and I think I know you better than that.

What the hell is a yam?  Not this - this is a sweet potato.

What the hell is a yam? Not this – this is a sweet potato.

We’re an American Yam!

We do have yams in America.  Actual, true Dioscorea yams.  In the age of the internet and the sustainable farming revolution – you better believe that there are yams in America.  You want a yam?  I can get you a yam by Tuesday…

In addition to the wild yams that are native to America, culinary yams have been grown here, and continue to be grown here – in small volumes by independent growers.

All the way back in 1896, Robert Henderson Price referred to sweet yam (Dioscorea sativa) being grown in Georgia and Florida.  He also referred to Chinese yam (Dioscorea polystachya) being imported from France to the US around 1850.  That yam had been acquired by the French Consul in Shanghai, while France was trying to find alternative crops to respond to the potato blight in 1848.

In 2009, the USDA reported on 5 species of yams that are considered foreign invasive species in the US – some of which were brought here as food crops.

And in addition to actual yams, there are many other things that might be sold as “yams” that are not truly yams.

More about the potato blight of 1848: Monocultures

Eating Versus Growing

If you are the “average American grocery store consumer,” then the confusion about yams shouldn’t be a problem for you.  You buy your sweet potatoes at the grocery store, cook them, and eat them.  Who cares if they’re labeled as yams?

But it’s a little more complicated for the home grower.

In most of North America, making the mistake of planting Dioscorea yams instead of sweet potatoes could cost you your whole harvest.  Most of the culinary yams have a growing season that is too long for our climate, and they will freeze before they yield.

Many people enjoy eating their sweet potatoes raw.  But most true yams shouldn’t be eaten raw.  Some contain toxins, and most contain bitter compounds, so yams are typically soaked or boiled before consumption.

Sweet potatoes also offer more nutrition than yams – so even if you’re in a tropical region where you could grow yams, it probably makes more sense for you to use your precious garden space for sweet potatoes.

So do a little due diligence before you plant, and make sure that you know what you’re putting in the ground.  How will you know?  The best approach is probably to get your planting material from a source that uses the Latin botanical names for their plants.

In fact, the only person who ever gets a clear answer to the question “What the hell is a yam?” is the botanist.

Read more: Which Spud is Superior? White Potato vs Sweet Potato

Latin, the Universal Language

In the hypothetical global food market we talked about above, there was potentially a lot of confusion about what a yam is.  The word “yam” can mean one thing in New Zealand, a different thing in Japan, and yet another thing in Polynesia.  It’s confusing all around the world.

But the botanist has no problem.  She can ask a Chinese vendor for Dioscorea sativa, and she’ll know that the root she receives is the same plant she gets when she asks a Mexican vendor for Dioscorea sativa.  Problem solved.  

And it will work just as well for sweet potatoes.  Request Ipomea batatas anywhere in the world, and what you get will be a sweet potato.

marjory-wildcraft-how-much-land-do-you-need


Sources:

1: The origin and evolution of sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas Lam.) and its wild relatives through the cytogenetic approaches. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download;jsessionid=016E4C6C53AD973BF8DA3ADC090A514C?doi=10.1.1.617.4992&rep=rep1&type=pdf
2: Library of Congress, What is the difference between sweet potatoes and yams? http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/sweetpotato.html3: USDA SNAP-Ed Connection, Sweet Potatoes and Yams. https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/nutrition-through-seasons/seasonal-produce/sweet-potatoes-and-yams
4: Wiener, Leo. Africa and the Discovery of America, Volume 1. Innes & Sons 1920. Philadelphia.
5: Price, R. H. Sweet Potato Culture for Profit. Texas Farm and Ranch Publishing Company 1896. Dallas.
6: USDA Plant Profile: Dioscorea. http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=DIOSC
7: U.S. Forest Service: Discorea spp. http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/vine/diospp/all.html
8: The Congo Cookbook: Yam. http://www.congocookbook.com/staple_dish_recipes/yam.html
9: Wikipedia: Sweet Potato. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_potato
10: Wikipedia: Yam (vegetable). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yam_(vegetable)
11: Wikipedia: Taro. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taro

The post What the Hell is a Yam? appeared first on The Grow Network.

Antibiotic Resistance on the Move

Click here to view the original post.

New Development in Antibiotic Resistance

A new study came out on Tuesday that investigates the way antibiotic resistance spreads on pig farms, and beyond.  What did they find?  Well, let’s just say that what happens on the pig farm doesn’t necessarily stay on the pig farm.

The study was led by Michigan State University’s Center for Microbial Ecology, with help from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the USDA National Animal Disease Center.

The Abridged Version

Working with pigs from a lab in the US, and pig farms in China, the researchers identified and sequenced 44 genes that are related to antibiotic resistance, and its distribution on pig farms.

What they found is a little alarming, but it shouldn’t be too surprising if you’ve been following along.  They found that there is a direct correlation between bacteria that can resist antibiotics, and the ability of those bacteria to spread their resistant traits to other bacteria.

In other words, the bacteria haven’t only learned to resist antibiotics – they have also learned to spread that resistance to their neighbors.

New Insights into Multidrug Resistance

On a pig farm, there is a rich and dense population of pig bacteria.  That’s not a bad thing in and of itself.  The same could be said for a large, centralized population of any other living thing – including humans.

When any particular antibiotic is used, bacteria can develop resistance to it.  So it stands to reason that bacteria may be resistant to antibiotics they have seen before, but they should be susceptible to antibiotics they have not seen before.

This study shows that it’s not that simple.  When one antibiotic is used, resistance to many antibiotics can increase.  The study identified single genes that lend resistance to 6 classes of antibiotics.

Learn More About Your Biome: Microbes 2.0 – A Tiny Manifesto

Resistant Bacterial gone “Viral”

When multidrug resistance does develop, it can be passed between unrelated bacteria using a process known as horizontal gene transfer.

While science has been aware of the problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and the concept of horizontal gene transfer, before now – this new research shows a direct link between the two.

As a result, when one bacterium develops resistance to one drug, you can end up with a community of unrelated bacteria that possess resistance to many drugs.

The study’s authors go so far as to say that “multidrug-resistant bacteria are likely the norm rather than the exception in these communities.”

There Goes the Neighborhood

Now for the really interesting part!

They also looked at soil from Chinese vegetable farms that use manure-based fertilizer.  In the fertilized soil, they found completely different bacteria than they found on the pig farm – as you would expect.

But the completely different bacteria in the soil did possess the same multidrug-resistant genes that they found on the pig farm.  Yikes!

According to Yongguan Zhu, co-author from the Chinese Academy of Science, “This indicates that on the Chinese farms, the potential for resistance gene transfer among environmental bacteria is likely.”  So, what happens on the pig farm does not stay on the pig farm.

Read more about antimicrobial resistance: Antimicrobial Resistance in the News

The Bottom Line for the Biome

Slowly but surely, the scientific community is arriving at the realization that antibiotics in the food supply, and antibiotic misuse in general, are a direct threat to human welfare.

As soon as the problem of antibiotic resistance began popping up in hospitals around the world, there was a call to separate the antibiotics that are used for animals from the antibiotics that are used in human medicine.  Some people believed that if we reserved certain antibiotics for human use only, we could keep antibiotic-resistance confined to the farm.

No such luck.  The use of one antibiotic in either location – the farm or the hospital – can result in bacteria that are resistant to multiple drugs, and that resistance can probably be passed from one bacteria to another unrelated bacteria, in real time, across environmental barriers.

So what’s next?  The authors of this study suggest that we need to monitor and manage known genetic pools of antibiotic resistance.  And we need to begin reducing the presence of resistant genes on farms – which means cutting out the antibiotics.

paul-wheaton-6-ways-to-keep-chickens


 

Sources:

1: Antibiotic resistance genes increasing – http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2016/antibiotic-resistance-genes-increasing/
2: Clusters of Antibiotic Resistance Genes Enriched Together Stay Together in Swine Agriculture – http://mbio.asm.org/content/7/2/e02214-15

The post Antibiotic Resistance on the Move appeared first on The Grow Network.

Natural Fire Ant Control

Click here to view the original post.

Taking Back Your Garden

We got an urgent plea the other day from Suzette M. about some new raised beds she built recently.  As soon as the beds were finished, fire ants moved in and took over the area.

If you don’t have fire ants in your area, count your blessings.  The red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) is a worthy adversary.  They really suck.  OK, they don’t actually suck.  But they do bite and sting – and that sucks.

While they usually seem like more of a nuisance than a real problem, they can actually do some real damage.  They’re a health hazard for babies and people with limited mobility.  And they’re a major pain in the ass for drunk people all across the southern United States.  All kidding aside, these ants are a foreign invasive pest that’s causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages each year.

We shared Suzette’s plea with the Grow Network last week, and we got a whole flurry of good ideas, from all across the map.

Invasion of the Ants

Even if you haven’t had fire ants in your area in the past, there’s a chance that they’ll be setting up shop in your garden bed before too long – depending on where you live.  Red imported fire ants have been in the US for almost a century – and their range has always topped out around the 35th parallel north or so.

But there’s been speculation for the past several years that the range of fire ants will increase as temperatures rise.  They put together this map that shows potential areas for new infestation.  Heads up Missouri, Kansas, Kentucky and Virginia – you might be next!

USDA map of potential fire ant invasion

This USDA map predicts areas in the United States that are susceptible to invasion by the red imported fire ant.

map legend

 

But lucky for you all, the range of these ants doesn’t depend entirely on the temperature.  There are a whole slew of factors in play, including rainfall, and the prevalence of established colonies of other ants.

Natural Fire Ant Control

There are a lot of “home remedies” for fire ants floating around on the internet.  And we got a few of these suggestions in from readers who swear they’ve worked.  However, we decided to err on the side of caution, and not recommend grits, club soda, or baking soda.  There’s actually a fair amount of research going on in this area right now (because of the financial impact of the ants), and these home remedies have been tested recently by scientists – they just don’t seem to work.

Burning the mound, or dousing it with gas, is a bad idea.  It probably won’t work, it’s toxic to the soil and the water supply, and it’s illegal in many areas for one reason or another.

Orange Oil and Soap

Cindy V. says she drenches the mounds with orange oil.  A recent study from the Extension at Texas A&M confirms that this is a good solution.  They used 1.5 fl oz Medina® Orange Oil and 3 fl oz Dawn® soap, diluted in one gallon of water; and they dumped one gallon of dilution on each mound.  They found this soil drench to be more effective on fire ants than a leading organic insecticide product.

Jim R. said he endorses Malcolm Beck’s Anti Feugo® product, sold through Garden-Ville.  And orange oil is listed as the second ingredient on the label.

Diatomaceous Earth

Michael R. and Phyllis P. wrote in to say that they’ve had success using diatomaceous earth to control fire ants.

Diatomaceous earth is too small to cut our skin, but it’s the perfect size to cut through little insect bodies.  For an ant, walking across DE is like walking across a field of broken glass – they bleed out and die of dehydration.  This has been proven to work on fire ants, but it’s hard to reach the queen with DE.  And you need to kill the queen to kill the mound.

Ed B. says he has used DE to kill the entire mound by first opening up the mound with a shovel, stirring up the interior of the mound, and then applying the DE to the stirred mound.

Read more: How to Use Diatomaceous Earth Safely in the Home, Garden, and More

Spinosad Bait

Several folks – including Willie P. in Houston and Levi L. in Alabama – said they have had great success using commercial baits containing the poison Spinosad™.  Spinosad is a poison that kills bugs.  It’s an organic product, derived through bacterial fermentation.  It’s listed with OMRI, and it’s considered safe to use in vegetable gardens within one day of harvest.

It is, of course, still a poison.  Spinosad ant baits should only be used sparingly, when necessary, in the immediate area around the mound.  Spinosad breaks down quickly in sunlight, but in the shade it can last a long time.  It’s also toxic to other insects (especially bees), birds, fish, and lots of other things – so please use it with care.

Two-Step Approach

The most popular organic solution offered by the research community is called the two-step approach.  Step 1 is to use a bait.  Step 2 is to use a drench.

More Information

If you have a question that isn’t covered here, I would recommend checking out Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s Texas Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Project.  It looks like they have a full team working around the clock on this – they’ve already built up a library of more than 50 information sheets.  Identification, treating animals, flooding, vegetable gardens, electrical equipment, and more.  If you have a question about fire ants, you can probably find some helpful information here.

Keep in mind – as with many extension publications – you’re going to see some synthetic chemical insecticides mentioned in the discussion.  Please don’t use any of those.  And if you do, be careful not to allow any of them near your vegetable gardens, orchards, etc.  If you keep reading, you’ll find that the extension also provide some organic solutions and even some natural solutions.  And, as you know, the best solution is often the mildest solution.

marjory-wildcraft-how-much-land-do-you-need


 

Sources:

1: Ants and Electrical Equipment – http://articles.extension.org/pages/30057/ants-and-electrical-equipment
2: Potential United States Range Expansion of the Invasive Fire Ant – http://www.ars.usda.gov/Main/docs.htm?docid=9165
3: Evaluation of organic individual mound drench treatments for red imported fire ants – http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/organic/files/2011/03/Kim-Schofield-fire-ant-control.pdf
4: Material Fact Sheet: Spinosad – http://www.cefs.ncsu.edu/newsevents/events/2010/sosa2010/20101013tomato/product13-spinosad.pdf
5: Managing Fire Ants in Vegetable Gardens – http://fireant.tamu.edu/files/2014/03/ENTO_015.pdf
6: Are there any home remedies that will kill fire ants? – https://articles.extension.org/pages/34814/are-there-any-home-remedies-that-will-kill-fire-ants
7: Natural, Organic, and Alternative Methods for Imported Fire Ant Management – http://fireant.tamu.edu/files/2014/03/ENTO_009.pdf

The post Natural Fire Ant Control appeared first on The Grow Network.

Hand Washing and the Fear of the Faucet

Click here to view the original post.

Don’t Fear the Faucet, Sir

In public bathrooms around the world today, men and boys everywhere will finish up their business, zip up, and stroll right back out into the world – without even glancing at the sink on their way out.  Gross.

You might say, “Not my man – he knows better.”  And I hope you’re right.

But, as a man in the world, I see this all the time.  I haven’t exactly kept count, but if I had to make an educated guess based on my own personal experience, I would guess that 50% of the men in public restrooms don’t wash their hands on the way out.

I’ve seen this in the workplace, in restaurants and stores, in airports and stadiums… you name it.

And They Admit It

So I did some quick research and I found that, unfortunately, my hunch was correct – roughly half of the people on earth can’t be bothered to wash their hands after using the bathroom.

Initial Hygiene, a UK company, published a survey in February 2015 of 100,000 Europeans, and they found that 62% of men, and 40% of women, regularly don’t wash their hands after using a public bathroom.  So I guess it’s not only men who are doing this.

An American company, the Bradley Corporation, published a similar survey in October 2015, without drawing a line between genders.  They found that 92% of respondents believe it’s important to wash their hands after using a public restroom, but that only 66% say they always do it.  And a full 70% admitted that they regularly don’t use soap.

It gets even worse.  In 2013, a team from Michigan State University published a report in the Journal of Environmental Health, in which they studied 3,749 people in public restrooms.  They found that only 5% of the people in their sample washed their hands long enough to destroy infectious germs with soap – 15 to 20 seconds.

Make your own simple non-toxic cleaners: Easy and Natural Home Cleaning

Why Not Wash?

Why wouldn’t you wash your hands?

Are people really too busy to stop and wash?  I don’t think so.  If you have time to pee, you have time to wash and rinse, right?  It takes less than 30 seconds.

Is there some stigma about washing your hands that I don’t know about?  Does stopping to wash your hands mean that you’re admitting to having dirty hands?  I don’t get it.

I think the real answer is that the average guy generally doesn’t think about the consequences.  He looks at his hands and they don’t look dirty, so he blows it off – “it’ll be fine.”

Hand Washing and Disease

But in reality, at the moment this man is looking at his hands, there are literally trillions of bacteria right there in front of his eyes.  Some of these are the normal, healthy organisms that have been on his skin all along.

But some are random, strange, bathroom bacteria that this person has never come in contact with before.  And now they’re on the skin of his hands – the most likely spot to touch his eyes, mouth, nose, ears, and… well, all of his other openings too.  The skin of his hand is also where germs are most likely to be passed to other people – whether family or stranger.

And it’s not just about bacteria.  This is a great way for a virus to spread too.  A microbiologist named Charles Gerba published a study in 2014 where he used a harmless “tracer” virus to demonstrate that a virus placed on a strategically located door handle can spread throughout a typical office space within 2 to 4 hours.

If there were ever a time to wash your hands, this is it!

Read more about the organisms that live inside and on your body: Microbes 2.0 – A Tiny Manifesto

Scaring People Straight

Research has found that posting signs about the importance of hand washing does actually make a difference in how frequently people stop to wash their hands after using the bathroom.

That company I mentioned above, Initial Hygiene, offers a product that uses sensors to count the number of people who use the bathroom against the number of people who wash their hands.  It keeps a running tab, and displays the results publicly on the bathroom wall.  So on the way out, you see the percentage of people that have washed their hands after using the bathroom.  They claim that this increases hand washing by 50%.

One simple change that I think would help is scarier signs.  Instead of a cute sketch of two hands under a faucet…  How about a nasty microscopic image of a virus, alongside a picture of a sick person?  I think that might stop the average guy in the example above, so instead of saying, “it’ll be fine,” he says, “well, better safe than sorry.”

hand-washing-sign

Don’t Go Overboard – Soap is Sufficient

Please don’t get all freaked out and start spraying antibacterial products everywhere.

Soap is a great tool for this job.  Just wash your hands with soap.  While it can kill some bacteria and viruses, what it’s really good at is removing them from your skin.

If you need to use a hand sanitizer, there are some that have water as their base and use herbal compounds as their active ingredients – those seem like the mildest solution.

Avoid products that contain synthetic antimicrobial compounds like Triclosan.  Even though these may make you feel better today, you are helping to create stronger and stronger germs for tomorrow – each time you use an antimicrobial like this.  The problem of antimicrobial resistance used to be science fiction, but today it has become a very real problem in the world.  Yes, today.  But that’s another topic for another post.

Clean your hands without synthetic chemicals: How to Make a Natural Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer

A Closing Plea

A plea to building designers and automation engineers…

There are some of us who try, every time, to leave the bathroom with as few germs as possible in tow on our skin and clothing.  We are the people who use the paper “toilet seat condoms.”  We try not to touch dirty surfaces, and we wash our hands every time.

We’ve watched with wonder over the past few decades as you all have automated urinals, toilets, water faucets, paper towel dispensers, and even soap dispensers!  Bravo!  We hardly have to touch anything anymore, if we don’t want to.

But still, at the end of every public bathroom experience is the single worst part… the doorknob.

No matter how well you wash, and no matter how futuristic the whole bathroom is, the last thing we do on our way out is grab the dirtiest object in the place – the same thing that the other 70% of people who didn’t even wash their hands grabbed on their way out.

It’s the doorknob you should automate!  Automate the bathroom door!

organic-seed-alliance-seed-saving-guide


Sources:

1: Do YOU always wash your hands after going to the loo? http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2971931/Do-wash-hands-going-loo-62-men-40-women-admit-don-t-bother.html
2: Global Handwashing Day Focuses on Need for Universal Hand Hygiene. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/global-handwashing-day-focuses-on-need-for-universal-hand-hygiene-300159521.html
3: Only 5% Wash Their Hands Properly After Going To The Toilet. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/261875.php
4: How quickly viruses can contaminate buildings and how to stop them. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-09/asfm-hqv090214.php
5: Hygiene Connect. http://www.initial.co.uk/hygiene-connect/
6: Hand Hygiene: Why, How & When? http://www.who.int/gpsc/5may/Hand_Hygiene_Why_How_and_When_Brochure.pdf

The post Hand Washing and the Fear of the Faucet appeared first on The Grow Network.

The Non-Toxic Weed Killer in Your Pantry

Click here to view the original post.

A Simple Non-Toxic Weed Killer

Looking for an easy and sustainable way to control weeds?  Try vinegar.

Vinegar kills weeds by drying the leaves out.  So it works great for plants that are mostly leaf.  Annual grasses, soft leafy annual weeds like chickweed and henbit, etc.  If you apply it correctly, vinegar can kill these weeds dead.

Where it doesn’t do so well is with perennial weeds that have woody stems and roots, or strong rhizomes – like Johnson grass (Sorghum halepense), quack grass (Elymus repens), some clovers, and tree seedlings.  Vinegar will kill the leaves of these plants, but it won’t kill the actual plants, and they will probably just grow new leaves.

Don’t Kill Weeds If It’s Not Necessary

Before anyone gets upset because we’re talking about herbicides here – let me make it clear that I definitely encourage people to allow weeds to grow in their yards (and gardens).

At my house, we cultivate an entire lawn full of “weeds.”  We’re in a suburban environment, surrounded by lawns, and our yard blends right in for most of the year because we pick & choose our weeds carefully.  Most of them are either pretty, edible, medicinal, or useful – and we try to let them go to seed when we can.  We actively cultivate a few of them.

The area I sprayed in this example is a rock-mulched xeric butterfly garden in the very front of the yard along the street.  That’s the only area I sprayed this spring.

Read More: Eat Your Weeds Don’t Mow Them!

How to Use Vinegar as a Weed Killer

There are 4 key instructions to make this work:

  1. Use a Pump Sprayer – Using a sprayer is critical for this task.  It can be any type of pump sprayer (don’t use a sprayer that connects to your garden hose).  What’s important is that you apply a fine mist to thoroughly coat the leaves with vinegar.  Spray to runoff.
  2. Spray During Peak Sunlight – You’ll have more success if you can apply the vinegar in direct sunlight.
  3. Do a Few Applications – You’ll have more success if you do 2 or 3 repeat applications.  The bed in the picture above was sprayed twice, on back-to-back days.
  4. Spray After Weeds have Emerged – If you jump the gun and spray before all of the annual weeds have emerged, you’ll need to do another round later after new weeds emerge.  If you time it just right, and you have some luck, you can get away with one application per season.

vinegar-weed-killer-and-pump-sprayers

More Resources and Information

If you do a quick search, there’s plenty of information out there about using vinegar as an herbicide.  There are many recipes that add in various ingredients like soap, citrus juice, cayenne, etc.

One helpful reference I found is a study from the Cornell Cooperative Extension.  I thought this was interesting because it shows how plain-old vinegar performs up against some commercial vinegar-based weed killer products.

If you decide to go with anything other than 5% acetic acid (grocery store vinegar), please handle those chemicals very carefully.  Grocery store vinegar has worked fine for me.

You can view or download that study here: Using Acetic Acid (Vinegar) As A Broad-Spectrum Herbicide

I also found a blog post where someone gathered up all the different “special recipes” they could find on the internet.  Some added soap, salt, water, orange oil, etc.  They did some non-scientific testing, and got similar results with the various ingredients added.

I think it’s best to just use vinegar.  The plain old 5% vinegar from the grocery store.  It’s about a dollar per gallon, and it’s the simplest way I’ve found to kill weeds with chemicals.

Before you spray, read this: Weeds – What They Tell Us and Why You Should Care


Thanks to David Chinery, Cooperative Extension Educator, Cornell Cooperative Extension (Fact sheet 7.011)

The post The Non-Toxic Weed Killer in Your Pantry appeared first on The Grow Network.

Simple Seed Germination Test at Home

Click here to view the original post.

Germination Test for Saved Seeds

Sometimes we save seeds with the best intentions, and then we fall short on the follow through – by not planting those seeds when the next season rolls around.  A simple germination test can tell you whether or not those seeds are still worth planting.

I know there are plenty of orphaned seeds like this in the seed collection at our house.  Sometimes they’re seeds that we just forgot to start.  Sometimes they’re the remnants of a project from a previous season.  Sometimes they’re seeds that we just forgot to label, so we don’t really know what variety they are or what year they were grown.

However you ended up with questionable seeds, there’s an easy method you can use at home to find out just how viable those seeds are.

Want to start saving your seeds?  The [Grow] Network offers an online training course with everything you need to know.  Learn more here: Seed Saving Training Expedition

Testing Your Old Seeds

The testing method is simple.  You wrap up a random sampling of the questionable seeds in a wet paper towel, place the paper towel inside a plastic container, keep it out of direct light, and wait. The test should last as long as it usually takes good, new seed to germinate.  So, if you normally expect tomato seeds to germinate in 5-10 days – your test for old tomato seeds should be 10 days long.

As the seeds begin to germinate, you check the seeds daily and keep a running scorecard.  Record the number of seeds that germinate successfully, and the number of seeds that fail or mold.  Each time a seed germinates or molds, remove it from the test (take it off of the paper towel).  At the end of the test, determine the percentage of seeds that germinated successfully, and extrapolate that percentage to the total number of seeds you have.

Here is a guide, with pictures, from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange: How to Test Germination

And here is a more detailed approach from the Seed Savers Exchange: Home Germination Testing

For starting seeds in trays – this test should help inform your decisions about how many seeds you need to start.  For direct-seeding – this test should help you determine how densely to seed your garden bed.

You should do your test in the same conditions you plan to have when you start the seed.  So if you’ll be starting lettuce seeds in cool conditions – run your test in those same conditions.  If you’re testing peppers that will be started in warmer conditions – make your test conditions warmer too.

Keep in mind that you need to do this test before it’s time to start the seeds in question.  For some seeds, the time it takes them to germinate in the test is the same amount of time that it will take them to germinate in trays, seed starting cells, or directly in the soil.  So if you usually expect 7 days for seed emergence for tomatoes, you should do your germination test at least 7 days ahead of the date when you plan to actually start the seeds.

How Long Can You Store Saved Seeds?

That’s a tricky question.  Typical seed life varies according to plant variety.  And in my experience, I’d say there’s a lot of fluctuation based on how the seeds are stored and environmental conditions.

A few crops, like sweet corn and spinach, typically have very short shelf life and you should probably plant them the very next season after they were saved.  Most seeds have longer lifespans, and typically stay viable for 2 – 5 years.

Here is a helpful list from Iowa State University’s ag extension: Life Expectancy of Vegetable Seeds

If you have some old seeds that have been stored well, don’t give up hope!  Check out this [Grow] Network writing contest entry from 2014: Too Many Tomato Seedlings – From 30 Year Old Seeds!

Interested in ways to use up your old seeds?  Here’s one great idea: How To Create Chicken Fodder Using Your Old Seeds


Thanks to Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and Seed Savers Exchange for sharing the helpful info!

And thanks to James Romer, Department of Horticulture, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

The post Simple Seed Germination Test at Home appeared first on The Grow Network.

We’re Turning Over a New Leaf

Click here to view the original post.

A New Look for the Grow Network

As I’m sure you noticed, we’ve made some big changes to the Grow Network website. What do you think?

The biggest reason for all of these changes was to speed our site up. We were getting some feedback that the site was loading too slowly. Well… you spoke and we listened!

The Grow Network is Growing

It turns out that our biggest problem was… growth! We’ve added so many new articles, new series, new videos, and new photographs, that we simply outgrew our old site.

And the real [Grow] Network is growing too – you, me, and all of the people who make up our community. We are a big group! And there are new members signing up all the time, from all over the world.

I guess it takes a lot of megabytes for so many people to help each other grow their own food and medicine.

More Information, Fewer Distractions

And while we were working on the speed, we went ahead and made some other changes, too.

Less Clutter – We straightened things up a bit, and really tried to focus the new site on what matters most – the information!
No Advertisements – Again, we really tried to take away all of the distractions so that you can focus on the information in each article and video without being bothered.
Friendly Navigation – You should be able to get where you’re going fast, with the sleek new menus on the left-hand side.
Bigger Pages – Bigger pages help to keep the new design simple and clean. And bigger pages also mean we can use a bigger font for easy reading.
Bigger Pictures – Now that we have Anthony on our team, we have more great photographs and videos to share, and now we can share them in full size.

We hope you like the new look, and we’d love to hear what you think about it. Leave us a note in the comments below and give us your 2 cents.

 

Pre-Summit Live Chat with Marjory Wildcraft and David the Good

Click here to view the original post.

Marjory Wildcraft and David The Good will be live on Facebook this weekend to answer any questions you have about growing food, making your own medicine, or simply living off grid.

Or just come by to say “hi”.

david-the-good-facebook-guru

This afternoon, Saturday March 5th, from 5:30 to 7:30 PM CST, David the Good, author and founder of the TheSurvivalGardener.com, will be hosting an “Ask a Guru” session on the Facebook Homesteading/Survivalism Page.

And on Sunday March 6th, from 10:00 to 11:00 AM CST, Marjory Wildcraft, founder of the Grow Network, will be hosting a session on the Facebook Homesteading/Survivalism Page.

SHARE this with your friends so they can participate too!

To participate, follow these instructions:

  1. Today, head over to Facebook.com/Homesteading any time from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.
  2. Tomorrow, on March 6th, head over to Facebook.com/Homesteading any time from 10:00 to 11:00 am.
  3. Find the post at the top of the page where we will be hosting the session.
  4. Ask any homesteading, survival, or gardening question you may have – or just send a ‘high five’.
  5. David or Marjory will then reply to your comment and take it from there.

Brought to you by: Homesteading / Survivalism, The Homestead Guru, and the 2016 Homegrown Food Summit starting March 7th.

 

A Good Solution for Pastured Poultry Predators

Click here to view the original post.

Stop Dogs, Raccoons, Coyotes, and More

So, the verdict is in, and pastured poultry is the preferred method for raising healthy chickens… and eggs. So if you can pasture your chickens, you should! Your chickens (and your pasture) will probably thank you for it.

One thing that stops many people from unlocking the coop or run is the threat of predators. It can be intimidating to release your chickens from their little fortress if you’ve never let them roam before.

Dogs, raccoons, coyotes – there are chicken predators everywhere! I’ve heard many people say, “just get dogs.” Livestock guardian dogs are a great choice for some – but they’re not an option for many people.

This electric poultry netting is Marjory’s favorite fix for a flock without guardians. It only takes one person to move it around, and you can run it on solar power – simple and effective. In this video, Marjory chats with Joe Putnam from Premier 1 about how the netting works and some of the options:

Win a Free Roll of Electric Poultry Netting

There’s obviously a big demand for chicken protection, based on the discussion we had about raccoons last summer here at the [Grow] Network. If you recall, people from all over the U.S. (and all over the world) chimed in with their favorite solutions for raccoons. If you missed it, you can find an overview of the whole thing here: A Whole Litter of Raccoon Solutions.

Electrifying the perimeter was a popular solution that people talked about. Premier 1 lets you do it at an affordable cost. You can electrify a small perimeter and move it around within a bigger field or pasture. So it’s a nice option for people who don’t want to protect the entire property.

Premier 1 is a sponsor for our upcoming Home Grown Food Summit. And one lucky customer is going to get a complimentary roll of Premier 1 poultry netting to try out in their own yard or pasture.

Read More: Is this really the best way to raise a small flock of chickens?


You can learn more about Premier 1’s product line here: Premier 1 Electric Fencing

 

The 2016 Home Grown Food Summit is Right Around the Corner!

Click here to view the original post.

30+ Free Presentations On Growing Your Own Food & Medicine Sustainably In Your Back Yard

The 2016 Home Grown Food Summit is right around the corner!

In case you missed last year’s summit, let me give you a little background info… This is an online event featuring more than 30 expert speakers on important topics about growing your own food and medicine.

home-grown-food-summit

We only do this once a year.

Expert Speakers on Important Homesteading and Gardening Topics

And this year’s lineup features some great experts that you won’t want to miss:

Ira Wallace – Author of Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast, and member of the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Ira will teach you all of her tricks for growing great garlic and onions.
Sam Coffman – The herbal medicine expert who taught survival skills to U.S. Special Forces for 10+ years. Sam will teach you how to increase the potency of your backyard herbs.
David the Good – Author of Survival Gardening Secrets and Compost Everything. David will teach you about “extreme composting” techniques for gardens and food forests.
Geoff Lawton – The Director of the Permaculture Research Institute in Australia. Geoff will walk you through a checklist of important things to consider before you buy a new property.
John Dromgoole – Host of Gardening Naturally, America’s longest running organic gardening radio show. John will teach you the best practices for organic gardening and share lots of the tricks he uses in his own gardens.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg – there are more than 30 experts whose names aren’t listed here. It’s the Home Grown Food Summit, and it’s going to be a full week of educational awesomeness.

Free Presentations for One Week

Because you’re a member of the [Grow] Network, we already saved a spot for you at this year’s summit. You can watch each presentation for free for one whole day, beginning on March 7th. Just keep an eye on your inbox, and the invitations will be sent straight to you.

If you want to purchase a copy of the entire summit, now’s the time. We’re running a special pre-sale offer for members of the [Grow] Network.

Right now, for the next 8 days, you can buy it at a 20% discount.

There’s going to be a lot of information to absorb in one short week. Especially if you have other obligations like a job or a family. Here’s what you get when you purchase:

• All 30+ video presentations, to watch anytime
• Printable PDF transcripts for all presentations
• Audio-only recordings for all presentations
• USB Flash drive is available for offline viewing
• 2 free bonus eBooks

Special Pre-Sale Discount Offer

As soon as the summit starts, this special pre-sale offer ends. So you only have until 10 a.m. PST March 7th to take advantage of the 20% discount we’re offering.

When you purchase the Home Grown Food Summit, we’ll also enter you in a drawing with 9 chances to win over $4,078.00 in amazing prizes. We’re giving away a Garden Tower 2 vertical gardening tower, an All-American pressure canner, and lots more. The grand prize is the complete signature heirloom seed collection from Jere Gettle at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, worth over $1,295.00!

Right now you can get the summit for only $59 (online access), or $79 (USB flash drive). This offer is intended for members of the [Grow] Network and our affiliates, and the cost of the summit will go up as soon as the summit starts on March 7th.

Click Here to Purchase the 2016 Home Grown Food Summit at the 20% Pre-Sale Discount

We’re really proud of this year’s summit, and we know you’re going to love it.

If you don’t already receive our newsletters, you can sign up for the summit, for free, by registering here: 2016 Home Grown Food Summit

 

Why Go Barefoot?

Click here to view the original post.

The Best Minimalist Shoes are Homemade

Marjory loves to go barefoot. And she’s not alone. In this video, she talks to master herbalist Doug Simons about some of the reasons why they both prefer to go without shoes most of the time.

They also show some of the “running shoes” used by the Tarahumara in their long-distance ball game, rarajipari. Called huaraches de tres puntos, they look more like sandals than running shoes to me. I can’t imagine running through a canyon in those… but Doug explains why the thin soles are actually better for your feet…

Learn More at the 2016 Home Grown Food Summit

Marjory and Doug both agree that they wouldn’t want to go barefoot in public places like gas stations and public bathrooms. And Doug says he puts on shoes any time he goes into town.

Marjory’s definitely not afraid to do a little work without her shoes on, as you might have noticed in this post 4 Uses of a Lawn Mower, or this one How to Use Squash Pits for Bigger Garden Yields.

If you want to learn how to make a pair of your own sandals, be sure to tune in to the 2016 Home Grown Food Summit. Doug will be giving a full demonstration during the summit, and you can watch it for free by registering here: Register for the Home Grown Food Summit.

Note: If you already receive our newsletters, then you’re already signed up!

 

DIY Awesomeness – The World’s Best Ultra-Athletes Grow Their Own Energy Drinks

Click here to view the original post.

Pinole – The Preferred Drink of the Tarahumara

If you’ve been following along with Marjory’s adventure to visit the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico, you’ve probably already heard about pinole. This is an ancient drink made of ground corn that originated with the Aztecs and spread throughout Central and South America.

The Tarahumara use this drink as an energy drink – it fuels their epic long runs across the jagged terrain of the Copper Canyon. The drink also makes you feel full, even if you haven’t eaten, which is convenient when you’re running for 12 hours straight without stopping to eat.

Marjory brought this video back from her trip to Mexico, and you can see a 71 year old man demonstrating rarájipari, the traditional Tarahumara game of kicking a rock ball down a trail. One week before this was filmed, this man completed a 72 kilometer race, overnight. Check it out:

Traveling to Meet the Tarahumara

Marjory kept a journal of her entire trip to Mexico and she’s sharing the story here. You can see lots of beautiful photographs, and read all about the Tarahumara way of life, including how they grow their own food and medicine, in her story Extreme Agri-Tourism: Off the Grid with the Tarahumara Indians.

There will be more information about pinole during this year’s Home Grown Food Summit. The summit will be hosted online next month from March 7th to March 13th. If you receive the [Grow] Network’s free email newsletter, then you’re already registered for this free event! If you still need to register, you can sign up here: 2016 Home Grown Food Summit.

 

DIY Awesomeness – The World’s Best Ultra-Athletes Grow Their Own Energy Drinks

Click here to view the original post.

Pinole – The Preferred Drink of the Tarahumara

If you’ve been following along with Marjory’s adventure to visit the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico, you’ve probably already heard about pinole. This is an ancient drink made of ground corn that originated with the Aztecs and spread throughout Central and South America.

The Tarahumara use this drink as an energy drink – it fuels their epic long runs across the jagged terrain of the Copper Canyon. The drink also makes you feel full, even if you haven’t eaten, which is convenient when you’re running for 12 hours straight without stopping to eat.

Marjory brought this video back from her trip to Mexico, and you can see a 71 year old man demonstrating rarájipari, the traditional Tarahumara game of kicking a rock ball down a trail. One week before this was filmed, this man completed a 72 kilometer race, overnight. Check it out:

Traveling to Meet the Tarahumara

Marjory kept a journal of her entire trip to Mexico and she’s sharing the story here. You can see lots of beautiful photographs, and read all about the Tarahumara way of life, including how they grow their own food and medicine, in her story Extreme Agri-Tourism: Off the Grid with the Tarahumara Indians.

There will be more information about pinole during this year’s Home Grown Food Summit. The summit will be hosted online next month from March 7th to March 13th. If you receive the [Grow] Network’s free email newsletter, then you’re already registered for this free event! If you still need to register, you can sign up here: 2016 Home Grown Food Summit.

 

Mother Earth News Fair Recap

Click here to view the original post.

Big Crowds in Belton

The first ever Mother Earth News Fair in Texas was a big success this past weekend. The whole [Grow] Network team came out to Belton, TX for the fair, and we all had a great time. The people were amazing – it’s so exciting to see a diverse crowd of thousands of people, all gathered together to learn about sustainability and self-reliance. And I know all of us, especially Marjory, really enjoyed getting to meet so many new people.

There were too many great booths and exhibitions to list. The place was buzzing with alternative energy vehicles, traditional folk arts and crafts, heritage and landrace livestock, homestead-scale saw mills, and so much more.

marjory-with-ira-wallace-from-southern-exposure-seed-exchange

Marjory with Ira Wallace from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Expert Speakers

The speaker lineup was awesome, and I’m sure everyone who attended will agree that there wasn’t enough time to take in all of the information that was flying around. There were great talks on sustainability, herbal medicine, vegetable gardening, raising and processing livestock, alternative energy… you name it. Out of the few talks that I really had time to watch, there were a couple of standouts:

Ira Wallace: Ira gave a nice talk called Year-Round Bounty for the Home Garden. I missed her presentation on growing garlic, but I know I’ll get a second chance to see it at the 2016 Home Grown Food Summit.

Tradd Cotter: Tradd’s talk on medicinal mushrooms was great. He’s doing some really cool research about the antibiotic and antiviral properties of different mushrooms. I missed his talk on mycoremediation of contaminated soils, but I am definitely going to pick up his book to learn what he has to say on that topic.

Pat Foreman: Pat did a few presentations, and one of them was on home poultry processing. I wasn’t able to watch this one, but I heard that it was pretty impressive. Pat’s going to do a presentation on eggs at this year’s Home Grown Food Summit – follow our free newsletter for more information – sign up here.

Cody from Wranglerstar: Cody’s talk on old hand tools was really good. He shared some helpful tips about how to buy old hand tools for cheap, and how to restore them to ‘like new’ condition.

Marjory Wildcraft: Without a doubt, the biggest and most energetic crowd of the weekend was Marjory’s crowd for her talk about how to grow half of your own food in less than an hour a day, in your own backyard. It was so cool to see so many people from the [Grow] Network coming together in the same place – rather than online. You all are awesome.

marjory-speaking-to-a-packed-house-at-the-mother-earth-news-fair

Marjory speaking to a packed house at the Mother Earth News Fair

How to Grow Half Your Own Food

Marjory rocked her presentation! It was a quick talk where she did some basic math about how many calories you need, and then walked through several different crops and livestock that anyone can grow/raise in a small space – like a backyard. The crowd was really great, and I know that Marjory loved the opportunity to speak to so many people in person – she was super excited for the rest of the day!

marjory-wildcraft-during-her-talk-how-to-grow-half-your-own-food

Marjory Wildcraft during her talk “How to Grow Half Your Own Food”

We don’t want to leave out everyone who couldn’t make it to Texas for the weekend. So, if you missed Marjory’s live talk, but you want to hear what she had to say, you can watch a recorded version of her presentation by entering your name and email address here: Watch Marjory’s “How to Grow Half of Your Own Food” Presentation Online.

Don’t Despair if You Missed the Fair

Our video man Anthony was on hand for the weekend, and he got lots of great pictures and video to capture the event and share it with you. Keep an eye out over the next couple of weeks – we’re going to share some videos and short interviews as soon as they’re ready.

marjory-talking-to-some-people-after-her-presentation

Marjory answers questions from the audience after her presentation

And, based on the turnout, I expect that Mother Earth News will hold another fair in Texas next year. Stay tuned to our free newsletter, and we’ll let you know about it when they announce the dates.

If you couldn’t make it to Texas, but you want to check out another Mother Earth News Fair in a different state, you’re in luck. There are five more fairs happening in 2016, and you can see the full schedule for the year here: Mother Earth News Fair.


Many thanks to Mother Earth News Fair for all of the hard work that went into this event. And thanks to all of the fair’s sponsors who made the whole thing possible. Please support these sponsors. You can see a full list here: Mother Earth News Fair.

 

How Much Food Can You Grow on 1/4 Acre?

Click here to view the original post.

An Organic Mini-Farm on a Small Suburban Lot

How much food can you grow on a 1/4 acre lot? Not much, right… Maybe a small garden in the back yard… Think again!

A group of roommates in Austin decided to stretch their small suburban lot as far as they could. And you won’t believe how much food they’re producing…

In addition to replacing the lawn with garden beds, they worked in a couple of greenhouses with aquaponic systems, and a huge composting operation. They didn’t neglect the visual appeal of the yard, either. They worked in some evergreens and perennial landscaping to keep the yard looking nice for the neighbors. As you’ll see, they actually won their neighborhood association’s Yard of the Month award in 2014.

My favorite part of the video is when Michael says, “Our way of dealing with the squash vine borer… is to just replant.” That’s great! We hear so much about this particular pest and I’ve seen some pretty intricate attempts to control it. Some people insist on bringing in fresh soil. Others build physical barriers to keep the moths out. Still others inject Bt insecticide into their squash stems using hypodermic needles. Or, you could “just replant.” I love it when there’s a simple, natural solution for a complicated problem.

Micro-Farming as a Side Income

It looks like these folks are eating very well, and they’re generating a big surplus. They’re selling some of the produce they grow in a mini-CSA arrangement. And they sell their aquaponic herbs and greens directly to local restaurants.

This group had to be pretty resourceful to come up with the funds to bring this whole plan together. Between crowd-funding, grants, and partnerships with other local organizations, they were able to find all of the money they needed.

No doubt, some neighborhoods would not be as supportive as this one has been. In some places, you might attract some unwanted attention by building a farm in your front yard. But even if you have to keep your garden in the back yard, these guys might lend you a little inspiration about just how much food you can grow on a small plot of land.

You can learn more about Ten Acre Organics and co-founders Lloyd Minick and Michael Hanan here: Ten Acre Organics.

 

How to Use Squash Pits for Bigger Garden Yields

Click here to view the original post.

What is a Squash Pit?

If you’ve already read David the Good’s book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting, then you might already be familiar with his ideas about “melon pit composting.” In this video, Marjory adapts his idea to create a rich planting bed for squash this spring.

You can learn more about this simple method for increasing your veggie production, and lots of other cool, innovative ideas from David the Good, during the upcoming Home Grown Food Summit. During the summit, David is presenting his new “feature film” Extreme Composting – The Movie.

If you’re already a member of the [Grow] Network, then you’re already signed up for the event! So keep an eye on our newsletter each Tuesday and Friday for upcoming announcements. If you don’t receive our newsletters, you can sign up for the Home Grown Food Summit here: Register Now

 

Sustainable Apple Trees – Self-watering and Self-fertilizing

Click here to view the original post.

The Tarahumara Apple Tree Growing System

Do you hate dragging hoses around the yard? Are you tired of lugging compost around in bags, buckets, and wheelbarrows? Check out this super simple system that is used by the Tarahumara Indians to grow wonderful and delicious apples with almost no work!

The Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s Copper Canyon are known around the world for their exceptional health and their outstanding running abilities. The region where the Tarahumara live has been labeled as a “cold spot” because of the very low occurrence of modern chronic diseases, including diabetes. In talking with the Tarahumara, Marjory found that they largely attribute their health and athleticism to the fact that they grow almost all of their own food.

Marjory kept a journal of her entire trip to Mexico and she’s sharing the story here. You can see lots of beautiful photographs, and read all about the Tarahumara way of life, including how they grow their own food and medicine, in her story Extreme Agri-Tourism: Off the Grid with the Tarahumara Indians.

 

3 Types of Tarahumara Indian Corn and How They Are Used

Click here to view the original post.

3 Indian Corns with 3 Different Uses

Marjory brought this video back from Mexico. Look at these 3 different corns – they’re beautiful! These are grown by the Tarahumara, off-grid, with goat manure fertilizer. Corn is super important to the Tarahumara – it’s one of their key staples.

The Tarahumara are known as exceptional runners, and they enjoy exceptional health. The area where the Tarahumara live has been called a “cold spot” because of unusually low rates of modern chronic diseases (including diabetes). A big part of the reason for their good health is because they grow almost all of their own food.

Marjory chronicled her entire trip to Mexico and she’s sharing the story here. You can read all about the way the Tarahumara tribe lives, including how they grow their own food and medicine, in her story Extreme Agri-Tourism: Off the Grid with the Tarahumara Indians

 

A Perennial Food Guild for the Arid American Southwest

Click here to view the original post.

Edible Permaculture Plants You Can Grow in Arid Regions

If you live in an arid region, at some point you have probably felt envy when looking at pictures of food forests from other climates. You see countless varieties of plump fruits as far as the eye can see, with beautiful flowers, herbs, and annual vegetables growing from every nook and cranny.

It doesn’t seem fair. The idea that you could just go out and plant apples, blueberries, and strawberries in the middle of your yard is laughable. You might pull it off, but it will be a full-time job and your water bill will go through the roof. Many of us just shrug and say, “Well, you can’t do that here.” And that’s partially true – you can’t easily grow blueberries in your yard in Texas, New Mexico, or Arizona. But if you are willing to open your mind to wolfberries and other lesser-known plants, you can grow an edible guild just as useful, and beautiful, as those you see in wetter climates. There are some great perennial edibles that are well suited to the high temperatures and dry conditions of the southwest. They may not be as glamorous or as well-known as the fruits that you see in pictures from Florida or Oregon, but there are some good candidates that deserve a place in a perennial desert food guild.

In the list that follows, I have omitted many more desirable edibles – like citrus, stone fruits, and blackberries – that might fare well on your property, depending on the amount of water and shade that you have available. For the moment, we’re going to focus on native and well-adapted edibles that can survive harsh summer conditions with little supplemental water, and that also enable function stacking in tough spots.

The Maligned Mesquite Tree

Frequently regarded as a “trash tree,” the mesquite is perhaps the most important plant in this list. Infamously long thorns make it unwelcome in many yards and gardens, but it provides several valuable services to the soil and its neighbors, and it has many practical uses for the permaculturist.

spring-mesquite-blooms

Spring mesquite blooms

Mesquite is renowned for its status as a pioneer plant. In dry, poor soil, mesquite is often the first sizable plant to repopulate clear cut or overgrazed dry land. And its presence is sorely needed. As a legume, mesquite is a nitrogen fixer. There is an old saying in Texas, known to be true by ranchers and cattle alike, that during times of prolonged drought, the last green grass will be found underneath the mesquite trees. The free nitrogen around mesquites is only part of the reason why this grass is still green. Thousands of tiny deciduous leaves make the shade cast by mesquite trees much like that of a commercial shade cloth. It casts a light, evenly distributed shade that protects the ground underneath from intense sunlight, while allowing enough light through to sustain most sun-loving plants. Each autumn, the tree sheds its tiny leaves, allowing winter sun through and blanketing the surrounding ground with a speedy layer of natural compost. These factors make mesquite an ideal nursery tree for establishing edible perennials in arid environments.

With a little work to collect and process its beans, mesquite can also be a valuable source of food. By some accounts, mesquite beans were the single most important food for the Native Americans of the Sonora Desert; more important than any grain, including corn. These beans are a great source of plant-based protein. Gruel made from ground mesquite beans sustained desert tribes through the winter, in between harvests of cultivated crops. In addition to gruel, mesquite flour was used in broth, gravy, pudding, bread, and even a slightly alcoholic punch (1). Today, adventurous home brewers and distillers are rediscovering the potential of the sugar-laden mesquite bean for fermentation in wine, beer, and liquor.

Mesquite can also provide a nice supplemental income stream for those with enough land to grow it as a production crop. Mesquite wood fetches a high price for its use in cooking meats. It can also be sold as a raw material for furniture, flooring, and various crafted and carved wood products. Any wood that cannot be sold is useful at home as firewood, fence posts, tool handles, and mulch. Beans that are not used make great fodder for cattle and other livestock.

If the pesky thorns are a deal breaker for you, one good alternative to mesquite is the leucaena (lew-SEE-nuh; Leucaena leucocephala). This tropical import fixes more nitrogen than mesquite, but its seeds must be cooked before being eaten, and are poisonous to some animals. There is a wealth of information available on mesquite, leucaena and other desert legumes from The University of Arizona’s Desert Legume Program (2).

Using Wolfberry in the Perennial Food Garden

Wolfberry is a native shrub that grows naturally throughout the United States. There are many edible varieties of wolfberry, a few of which do well in the arid southwest. Our native wolfberries are close relatives of the Asian goji berry, which is famed as a “superfood” for its nutritional density and high concentration of antioxidants.

wolfberries-closeup

Wolfberries closeup (By Paul144. Own work. Public Domain, via Wikipedia Commons)

Torrey’s wolfberry (Lycium torreyi) is a native species that grows naturally among mesquite trees in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. It grows in dense thickets, regularly reaching 6 feet in height, occasionally growing up to 12 feet. It grows well in poor, dry soils, and benefits from the presence of the mesquite. In addition to providing a nutritional boost in your diet, the berries are favored by birds and the bush provides habitat for birds and small creatures.

Agarita for the Arid Food Guild

Filling in underneath the mesquite in our desert food guild is the agarita (Mahonia trifoliata). This wonderful shrub is native to Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. It regularly grows to 6 feet, and can reach 8 feet in good conditions. Agarita is evergreen, and its holly-like leaves are tipped with sharp spines. Agarita is a true survivor, able to withstand punishing summer heat with minimal water. It grows wild in full sun to partial shade, and it thrives along edges, often flourishing naturally under the canopy of mesquite trees.

agarita-leaves-closeup

Agarita leaves closeup (By Stan Shebs, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikipedia Commons)

The sweet and tart berries of the agarita are edible for humans and wildlife. These berries earned it another common name, the wild currant. The berries can be eaten raw, but they are most commonly used to make jelly and pies (3). In a crunch, the berry’s seeds can be roasted and ground to be used as a coffee substitute.

Agarita is especially effective for drawing wildlife in to the guild. Birds and mammals relish the sweet berries. Bees are drawn to its fragrant yellow flowers, and many beekeepers use agarita as an early season honey plant.

Rounding out its usefulness in this guild, the roots of harvested agarita can be used to make a yellow dye which was popular with Native Americans and early settlers. Agarita also has many medicinal qualities. The berries are useful for making a tea to treat mouth sores and sore throats. The flowers can be used to prevent infection in fresh wounds. The root is used as a laxative, a fever reducer, and an eye wash (4).

Prickly Pears as a Perennial Food Source

Prickly pears are cacti in the genus Opuntia, easily identifiable by their flat, oval-shaped pads (cladodes). The USDA classifies at least 71 species in the US, and many more exist in Central and South America. Prickly pears are known to hybridize in nature, making identification notoriously difficult. The pads and fruit of all opuntia are edible. The most common culinary variety is the Opuntia ficus-indica – the Indian fig. Like most prickly pears, the growing requirements for the Indian fig are simple. It makes due with very little water, in any well-drained soil. This plant spreads so readily in dry conditions that it is has naturalized around the world and is considered invasive in parts of the Mediterranean, Africa, and Australia. It needs plenty of sunlight, but fares just fine in along the outer edges of a mesquite canopy.

The pads and the fruit are edible, though care must be taken to ensure that none of the spines are eaten. Spineless varieties are available to make preparation easier. These varieties are “spineless” in the same sense that seedless watermelons are “seedless.” The spines are fewer and smaller, but the plant must be prepared carefully to ensure that no spines are ingested. In Mexican cuisine, the pads – or nopales – are often diced or cut into long slices, and prepared fresh as a salad called nopalitos. The dietary fiber of opuntia pads is reputed to be especially beneficial, and is widely marketed as a health supplement. After the cactus flowers, sweet fruits are left behind, called tunas. The tunas turn red as they ripen, and when ripe are a sweet treat that can be eaten fresh, used as a garnish, or used in any number of deserts, candies, and drinks. There are countless recipes and variations for the pads and the fruits – too many to list here.

ripe-prickly-pear-fruits

Ripe prickly pear fruits

Prickly pears are increasingly grown as a fodder crop for cattle and other livestock. They require much less water per kilogram of dry fodder than most other fodder plants. Luther Burbank selected nutritious, spineless opuntias for this purpose – and descendants of his selections are used widely today as drought-resistant fodder sources in South Africa and Namibia (5).

Ripe opuntia tunas can be juiced to make a red dye or fermented to make a tan color. Opuntia also boast many medicinal uses. The flowers of Indian fig are used as an astringent, a diuretic, and to treat irritable bowel syndrome. The pads are used as an anti-inflammatory and as an anti-infective agent (6).

The Edible Common Mallow

Everything you need to know about the growing conditions for this perennial food source is revealed by its botanical name, Malva neglecta. Common mallow grows naturally throughout the US without supplemental water or care, including in the arid southwest.

Common mallow doesn’t taste like much, but its leaves are rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals. The young leaves, flowers, green fruits (called peas), and ripened seeds are edible. Tender leaves can be eaten raw in salads or cooked, and mallow is often dried and added to smoothies for its nutritional value.

malva-neglecta-edible-weed

“Malva-neglecta-20070428” by Luis Fernández García – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 es via Wikimedia Commons

The mucilage from its peas is used as a thickening agent for soups, stews, gumbo, and confections including whipped cream, meringue, and marshmallows (7). Mallow is also good fodder for your livestock. As a medicinal, mallow is useful as an antibacterial, an anti-inflammatory, an astringent, a diuretic, an expectorant, and a laxative (8).

Purslane as an Edible Groundcover in the Desert Food Forest

As a groundcover, no edible is better suited to the intense heat of southwestern summers than purslane (Portulaca oleracea). This small succulent grows throughout the US as an annual, but some species can overwinter in warmer climates.

purslane-an-edible-ground-cover

Purslane, an edible ground cover

Purslane packs high levels of vitamin C, enzymes, and omega-3 fatty acids, and it can be stored for months after harvesting by fermentation. One cup of purslane can contain 400 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids, more than fish and far safer to eat. A study at the University of Texas at San Antonio found purslane to contain 10 to 20 times more of the antioxidant melatonin than any other fruit or vegetable their lab tested (8). Add to this the fact that purslane will grow on its own in dry climates in full sun to part shade, with no special care, and you have the perfect edible groundcover. In addition to providing a zesty addition in your fresh salads, purslane makes great fodder for chickens and larger livestock.

Choose Your Own Adventure

These plants are a framework for a perennial food guild in the arid southwest. Be creative, and look around your area for other useful and edible plants that can thrive in hot, dry conditions. You might consider using mullein, yuccas, and grapevines to diversify the guild and to add beauty to its appearance.

Even these tough native and well-adapted plants require a little care to get through the punishing summer season, especially during extended periods of drought. You can keep additional watering to a minimum by harvesting as much rainwater as possible, using effective earthworks like berms and swales, mulching well, and making use of household greywater. Methods like hugelkultur and sunken beds can also help you to stretch your water budget.

Just keep an eye on your plants, especially when they’re young, and give them a little extra water if they’re suffering. Depending on your conditions, you might be able to work in some thirstier plants that require more water than those listed above. And, as you build your soil, more and more plants will be likely to thrive underneath the mesquite tree that you used to anchor this desert guild. With some time, you just might build a desert food forest to rival any that you’ve seen in Florida or Oregon.


Reprinted with permission from Permaculture Design Magazine, Volume #99, Spring 2016


Resources

1. Niethammer, Carolyn. American Indian Cooking: Recipes from the Southwest. Lincoln: Bison Books, 1999. Print.
2. http://cals.arizona.edu/desertlegumeprogram/index.html
3. Harelik, Tiffany. The Big Bend Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of West Texas. Charleston: American Palate, 2014. Print.
4. Heatherley, Ana Nez. Healing Plants: A Medicinal Guide to Native North American Plants and Herbs. Guilford: The Lyons Press, 1998. Print.
5. Mondragón-Jacobo, Candelario and Pérez-González, Salvador. Cactus (Opuntia spp.) as Forage. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2001. Print.
6. Khare, C.P. Indian Medicinal Plants: An Illustrated Dictionary. New York: Springer Science + Business Media, LLC, 2007. Print.
7. Kallas, John. Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate. Layton: Gibbs Smith, 2010. Print.
8. Blair, Katrina. The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival. White River Junction: Chelsea Green, 2014. Print.

 

Banning the Bag

Click here to view the original post.

What are the Impacts of Single Use Plastic Shopping Bags?

Single use plastic shopping bags are everywhere. They’re in every store you go into, right up front by the cash register, stacked by the thousands. They’re in every household, wadded up and stuffed into a container or another plastic bag – hidden under the sink or in a cupboard. They’re blowing around on the roadside – discarded by careless walkers and drivers. And if you look carefully, you’ll see that they’re even up in the tree tops, carried there by the wind.

discarded-plastic-bags-along-a-roadside

Discarded plastic bags along a roadside

And more and more, they’re in the ocean. According to a study published in 2015 in the journal Science, we’re currently depositing between 4.8 and 12.7 million metric tons of plastic waste in to the ocean each year.

You might think, “Well, I live in Kansas. My trash isn’t going into the ocean.” But you’d probably be wrong. Single use plastic bags don’t stay intact on their trips to the ocean, so you can’t really see them with your naked eye. Sunlight, wind, and water break the bags into tiny pieces that blow into waterways and make their way to the sea. A study of two rivers in California showed anywhere from 125 to 819 pieces of plastic waste in each square meter of water… and they only counted pieces larger than 4.75mm. Los Angeles and Baltimore have both created trash containment measures on their rivers, to catch as much of this tiny plastic as they can.

Banning the Bag

More and more cities around the U.S. are taking action, to ban plastic bags and limit their communities’ contributions to the bigger issue of plastic in the ocean. The trend is most popular along the coasts, where people routinely see the reality of plastic in the water. California has 67 local ordinances banning single use bags, covering 88 different municipalities. The entire state of Hawaii has adopted bag bans.

And several inland cities are doing their part as well. As an example, 5 different cities in Colorado have adopted ordinances to charge a fee for any disposable shopping bags – and 3 of those cities also banned single use plastic bags.

You can see a full list of local plastic bag ordinances at this link from the Surfrider Foundation: Plastic Bag Bans and Fees

Austin banned all disposable shopping bags back in 2013 – and it was cool to watch the change play out. The bags were gone from stores overnight, and for a short while it was common to see people shuffling out of the grocery store with arms full of loose groceries. The city launched a public service campaign called Bring it Austin to remind people to bring their own reusable bags when they go shopping. It didn’t take long before everyone got the hang of it, and now it’s perfectly commonplace to see families walking into grocery stores and big box stores with their own bags already in hand.

It’s a simple change, with a huge impact.

The Great Plastic Bag Debate

Of course, not everyone’s in agreement on this one. Who would be opposed to cutting down the amount of plastic that goes into our waterways? You guessed it – the plastic industry. They don’t like this change one bit.

They have plenty of information out there about why single use plastic bags are more environmentally responsible than reusable bags. And I’ve heard some information trying to discourage people from using reusable bags because they can contain bacteria.

Personally, I feel like it’s a no-brainer. The single use plastic bags are made from natural gas – a fossil fuel. Many reusable bags are made from cotton – a renewable resource. Of course it’s not quite that simple. A broader discussion would lead us through the ins and outs of GMO cotton, the different chemical compositions of different types of plastics, and the relative toxicity of them all.

But it really is that simple for me. It boils down to this: I’ve never seen a reusable cotton bag suspended up in a tree along the side of the highway, whereas I’ve seen literally hundreds of single use plastic bags in just that place.

What Can You Do to Get Involved?

What can you do to get involved? For starters, grow your own groceries! Food from the grocery store leaves a long trail of fossil fuel exhaust – from international shipping vessels, airplanes, 18-wheelers, and local distribution trucks. The natural gas that goes into the single use plastic bags is just the icing on the cake.

Grow as much of your own food as you can, and you’ll be doing a lot to cut down on the systemic waste.

Purchase some reusable shopping bags, and be a trend-setter. It’s simple to do and it’s an easy adjustment to make in your daily routine. Each time you arrive at a store with reusable bags in hand, someone else might take notice and put some thought into their own “bag habits.” We keep a few bags inside our car so that there is always a spare bag available if we decide to make an impromptu stop for groceries or home goods.

Ten Ways To Rise Above Plastics

This list is borrowed from the Surfrider Foundation’s Plastic Pollution campaign. Here are 10 easy ways to do your part:

#1: Choose to reuse when it comes to shopping bags and bottled water. Cloth bags and metal or glass reusable bottles are available locally at great prices.
#2: Refuse single-serving packaging, excess packaging, straws and other ‘disposable’ plastics. Carry reusable utensils in your purse, backpack or car to use at bbq’s, potlucks or take-out restaurants.
#3: Reduce everyday plastics such as sandwich bags and juice cartons by replacing them with a reusable lunch bag/box that includes a thermos.
#4: Bring your to-go mug with you to the coffee shop, smoothie shop or restaurants that let you use them. A great way to reduce lids, plastic cups and/or plastic-lined cups.
#5: Go digital! No need for plastic cds, dvds and jewel cases when you can buy your music and videos online.
#6: Seek out alternatives to the plastic items that you rely on.
#7: Recycle. If you must use plastic, try to choose #1 (PETE) or #2 (HDPE), which are the most commonly recycled plastics. Avoid plastic bags and polystyrene foam as both typically have very low recycling rates.
#8: Volunteer at a beach cleanup. Surfrider Foundation Chapters often hold cleanups monthly or more frequently.
#9: Support plastic bag bans, polystyrene foam bans and bottle recycling bills.
#10: Spread the word. Talk to your family and friends about why it is important to Rise Above Plastics!


Sources:

Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean, Jenna R. Jambeck, et al, Science (http://science.sciencemag.org/content/347/6223/768)
How Does Your Plastic Bag Get Into the Ocean?, Patrick J. Kiger, Discovery News (http://news.discovery.com/earth/oceans/how-does-your-plastic-bag-get-into-the-ocean-151102.htm)
Plastic Bags Bans and Fees, Surfrider Foundation (http://www.surfrider.org/pages/plastic-bag-bans-fees)
The Truth About Plastic Bags, Novolex™ (http://www.bagtheban.com/multimedia/item/the-truth-about-plastic-bags)

 

Strike Black Gold with the Worm Inn

Click here to view the original post.

Worm Castings as Organic Fertilizer

Worm castings are one of the finest organic fertilizers you could hope for. They’re great for adding to planting holes and potting soil. They’re great for starting seeds. They’re great for making compost tea. And if you keep your own worms – you know right where your vermicompost comes from. The only things that goes into your worm castings are your own kitchen scraps, and the bedding of your choice (I use shredded paper and corrugated cardboard).

It’s so simple… Put worms, bedding, and scraps in the worm bin – wait a few months – and voila! You and your worms have created a fresh, organic, homemade fertilizer – as good as any you could buy in a store. And you’ve kept a big heap of kitchen scraps, shipping boxes, and junk mail out of the landfill; creating something useful in the process.

This is why worm bins are so popular among gardeners.

Common Problems with Homemade Worm Bins

The most common problem with homemade worm bins is a lack of ventilation. Without air flow, worm bins get wet quickly, and potentially become anaerobic (you don’t want this). When a worm bin becomes anaerobic, it stinks – literally. The worms die off, and you probably have to start over from scratch. I’ve seen many attempts at solving this ventilation problem. Most involve drilling many holes in the bin itself, or installing a custom screen or louver in the wall of the bin. Sometimes these “quick fixes” work, but sometimes they don’t.

Jerry Gach is the guy who solved this problem once and for all. Jerry is better known as “The Worm Dude,” and he designed a new worm bin called the Worm Inn.

the-worm-inn

The Worm Inn

The Worm Inn is designed specifically to maximize the amount of air that is available inside the worm bin. It is made of breathable material, suspended up off the ground, and the “lid” is made of a screen material. The result is the most breathable, well-ventilated worm bin ever.

The Worm Inn is also designed as a “continuous flow” system, meaning you put your scraps in the top, and you harvest castings from the bottom. This design partially eliminates the time consuming task of separating worms from castings when you harvest your vermicompost.

These features make the Worm Inn more functional, and easier to use, than any other worm bin I’ve tested. And this is why the Worm Inn has quickly become the vessel of choice for worm composters – online and around the world.

[Click Here to Download the Worm Inn Product Brochure]

Order Your Worm Inn From the [Grow] Network

We got in touch with Jerry and worked out a deal to offer the Worm Inn to members of the [Grow] Network at a discount. You can pick one up today for $64.99 + shipping. If you shop around, you’ll find these advertised on Amazon and other sites for $90 or more.

There is an optional stand kit, which consists of 8 PVC fittings, and 8 large zip ties. You will need to supply 3 lengths of 3/4″ PVC pipe (8 foot length) to build the stand kit. If you prefer to build your own stand from wood, PVC, or some other material – just don’t add the optional stand kit when you order.

Click Here to Order the Worm Inn

International shipping costs will depend on the destination. Select international shipping when you check out, and we will contact you to confirm shipping rates before your order is processed. A percentage of any sales made through this promotion will go to the [Grow] Network.

 

Everything That’s Right with the World Today

Click here to view the original post.

Bad news is everywhere you look. On your television, on your radio, and on your computer screen. Frankly, it can be overwhelming sometimes.

But nobody told that to the folks over at Rodale. They just announced the honorees of the first ever Rodale 100. These are 100 inspiring people, projects, and organizations that created positive change in 2015 with unique accomplishments and innovative ideas.

If you read one of these stories each day, you’ll have a positive pick-me-up that lasts 100 days!

The Rodale 100 – Inspiring Good News from Around the World

So take a break from the negative news and read about these people who are doing something positive to improve their local, national, and global communities. There are many inspiring stories here…

The honorees are divided into 5 categories:

Social Outreach
Fitness
Health
Food
Environment

You can see all 100 of the honorees here: The Rodale 100.

Selecting the Honorees for the Rodale 100

To build this list, Rodale put together a panel of journalists, activists, and experts. Each honoree has been vetted by an expert panel, with an emphasis on these 3 factors:

• groundbreaking innovations that revolutionize how we see the world while driving others in the industry to embrace creativity;
• a positive impact that affects changes on a local, national and/or global scale;
• a displayed commitment to the welfare of human beings, animals, and the environment.

Who Made the List

There are many familiar names on the list, including some Hollywood actors and actresses who have taken on meaningful pet projects, like Matt Damon’s water.org. And there are some big companies who are sponsoring various projects, like Subaru, who in 2015 became the first car manufacturer in U.S. history to achieve zero landfill status. And there are some really great looking nonprofit projects on this list that I hadn’t seen before.

There’s even a U.S. Politician. No kidding. Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio is a foodie, and he made the list because of his book, The Real Food Revolution: Healthy Eating, Green Groceries and the Return of the American Family Farm.

I was especially happy to see that Perry Alagappan made the list in the Health category. If you missed the story about Perry’s new water filter, see this article – One Young Man Tackles a Huge Global Problem. Go, Perry!

And there’s another notable youth on the list, as well – Olivia Hallisey is a 17 year old from Connecticut who invented a new way to test for ebola virus. You can see a short video with Olivia below. These kids are making me feel like a serious slacker!

I hope you enjoy looking over all the different projects on this uplifting list, and I hope it helps distract you from the negative news for a short while.

 

Growing Cole Crops – Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, and More

Click here to view the original post.

Everything You Need to Know About Growing Cole Crops (or Brassicas)

We’ve had good luck with Brassicas this year, for the most part. At this time of year they’re one of the few things we can harvest. This is especially true in my garden this year. We’re just getting back into the swing of things after taking a few months off. So, every little thing we can harvest is much appreciated right now.

We haven’t put much effort into any of the Brassicas. We sprayed Bt once (a couple of ounces in a handheld spray bottle), applied a little fertilizer, and applied seaweed twice when the temperature got very low.

And we covered/uncovered the plants a few times. The recommended time window for transplanting Brassicas in our region just opened, but we got an early start. Which meant we had to cover the plants with floating row cover a few times on very cold nights. No big deal.

We’re glad we started early because broccoli, cauliflower, and kale have been finding their way to the table – and a few cabbages are close behind. We stagger the planting dates for Brassicas for a slow but steady harvest, so we’ve started a few rounds already, and we’ll do one or two more plantings before it gets too hot and the harlequin bugs arrive to wipe them out.

Strong Seedlings – Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Cabbage

We had taken a few months off from actively gardening, while we focused on a more important project. During the downtime, I made some changes to the beds and pathways, and revitalized the soil with compost tea and some other goodies.

Then, as soon as we finished planting in the fall, our little garden got hit with a torrential downpour and most of the direct-seeded seedlings were drowned. I was out of town but my wife described it to me over the phone like this, “There’s a waterfall in the garden! Oh no, there are many waterfalls in the garden!”

Calendula, lettuce, spinach, and beets all disappeared. But the Brassicas hung in there and they ended up doing just fine. Plants really win me over when they overcome adversity and/or neglect and then go on to flourish – especially when they feed my family. I love tough plants!

fresh-broccoli-growing-in-the-garden

Fresh Broccoli Growing in the Garden

Easy Gardening with Cole Crops

While I was reading through some information about Brassicas, I came across this helpful PDF from the Texas AgriLife Extension Service at Texas A&M:

Read and/or Download the Original PDF File here: Easy Gardening – Cole Crops

This document contains some good information about all the basics you need to know for growing Brassicas. And it’s oriented toward the home grower. Some of you may be thinking, “It’s crazy to be talking about cabbage right now – there’s snow on the ground.”

Of course, the varieties mentioned, the planting dates recommended, and some of the pests mentioned are all very region-specific. You should seek out planting dates and recommended varieties from your local extension service.

A Fresh Market Grower’s Guide to Growing Cole Crops

This guide is from the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension. This document is oriented to the market grower, rather than the small-scale home gardener.

Read and/or Download the Original PDF File here: Growing Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, and Other Cole Crops in Wisconsin – A Guide for Fresh-Market Growers

Now, here we’re on the other end of the spectrum in terms of planting dates. Just as it would be crazy to transplant broccoli in Wisconsin on February 1st, it would also be crazy to transplant broccoli in Texas on June 1st. Talk to your local extension service about planting dates – or use historical average temperatures for your area to make an educated guess.

This publication is definitely oriented towards a larger growing operation – it’s meant for farms instead of gardens. But there’s some great information here about growing conditions, and some in-depth information about pests and diseases. And there’s an extensive “Additional Reading” list at the end.

Controlling Pest and Disease in Brassicas (or Cole Crops)

When it comes to dealing with pests and diseases, you have to “pick your poison,” so to speak. According to the Texas A&M publication, for example, you can deal with aphids by using pyrethrins – or garlic juice. In the Wisconsin publication you can deal with black rot by using calcium hypochlorite – or hot water.

Generally, try to choose the mildest solution you can find, unless your situation calls for something more drastic. In a small garden, you can probably control an aphid infestation with nothing more than a pressurized stream of water. Do some searching and you’ll likely find good solutions that are natural and sustainable.

And finally, when you’ve got pests or disease, your best course of action is usually to contact your local extension office. The specific pests and diseases you’re likely to have are much different depending on where you live. And the solutions that worked for someone in another area might not work well in your area. Your local extension service should be able to point you in the right direction – and then if you don’t like their recommendations, you can research more natural options on your own.

There is one thing that every source I checked agrees on – definitely use crop rotation when growing Brassicas. Brassicas are heavy feeders, and many of their pests and diseases are soil-borne. So rotate your Brassicas around the garden, and try not to use the same planting space again for several years.


Many thanks to Joseph Masabni, Assistant Professor and Extension Horticulturist; and Patrick Lillard, Extension Assistant, The Texas A&M System of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

Many thanks to K.A. Delahaut, Horticulture Outreach Specialist for the Integrated Pest Management Program and A.C. Newenhouse, Horticulture Outreach Specialist for the Wisconsin Healthy Farmers, Healthy Profits Project of the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension.

 

Raise Chickens Easily and Naturally with These Free Videos

Click here to view the original post.

Justin Rhodes is a permaculture homesteader in North Carolina who focuses his work on finding the best, most sustainable, most natural way to raise chickens. He studied under Geoff Lawton and Pat Foreman, and he soaked up every bit of chicken knowledge he could find.

Last year he launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a movie about keeping chickens on a permaculture homestead – and it was a huge success. His project was fully funded, and it was picked as a “Staff Favorite” by the employees at Kickstarter. Justin’s full-length feature movie Permaculture Chickens made its public debut in December.

Now he’s offering a series of four educational videos for free, along with some great free bonus resources. You can watch these informative videos for free – they tell Justin’s personal story, and they’re full of good information about how to keep a flock of chickens using natural, sustainable practices that are consistent with the ideas of permaculture.

justin-rhodes-permaculture-chickens-bootstrapping-chickens

Here’s an overview of what’s included in the free videos:

• Putting Chickens to Work for You (hint, hint… they can give you much more than eggs and meat)
• How to Get Started Quickly and Easily (in just one weekend)
• DIY Mobile Chicken Coops
• How to Cut Your Feed Costs (by 100%)
• How to Learn Everything You Need to Know About Raising Chickens in One Evening

And here’s an overview of the free Bonus Resources that are included when you sign up for the free videos:

• Why Chickens – a micro-documentary featuring Joel Salatin, Pat Foreman, and Lisa Steele
• DIY mobile chicken coop plans for Justin’s “Chickshaw” and Chicken Tractor
• Access to the “Getting Started” chapter of the movie Permaculture Chickens
• PDF action plan for cutting feed costs 100%

You can sign up to get free access to Justin’s four free videos below. When you sign up, you will receive an email with a link to watch the first video. Then you’ll get links to the other videos over the next few days. Enjoy the free videos!

Click Here to Sign Up for Four Free Videos (and Bonus Resources)

After you watch the four free videos, you’ll have the opportunity to buy the entire Permaculture Chickens video. As Justin’s affiliate, the Grow Network will receive a percentage of any sales made as a result of this promotion.

 

Create an Inexpensive Orchard with Bare Root Fruit Trees

Click here to view the original post.

Bare root trees are young trees that are removed from the soil during their winter dormancy, so that the trees’ roots are exposed. This is done to make packaging and shipping easier and cheaper, and it’s a popular way to market fruit trees like apples, pears, peaches, plums, cherries, figs, pomegranates, and various nuts and berries.

peach-blossoms

When you buy bare root trees, you can often get fruit trees for about 50% of the cost of the same size trees if they were shipped in a pot. Half-off fruit trees, anyone? Now’s the time!

Bare root fruit trees are typically only available for a few months in the middle of winter. The trees need to have their roots placed back in the soil before they come out of dormancy and begin to bud out for the spring.

You can often fit a dwarf or semi-dwarf fruit tree into a pretty small space, and you can keep the tree even smaller with careful pruning. So, take a stroll around your property and see if there’s room to squeeze in a new fruit tree. You might be able to add a significant food source to your yard for less than $50…

If you’re lucky, you might find bare root fruit trees at a local nursery, garden center, or farm supply store. They should only have trees available that are appropriate for your area, so the hardest part of shopping is already done for you. If you can’t find them locally, you can always buy online – although the shipping costs can take a bite out of the overall savings.

Things to Consider

Chill Hours
Chill hours are the number of hours that elapse while the temperature is between 32 F and 45 F. Some trees won’t flower until an approximate number of chill hours have elapsed. The best trees for your area are the trees whose chill hour requirements match the average chill hours for your area.

• If you have a tree that requires 400 chill hours in a winter that only provides 200 chill hours, the tree probably won’t flower that year.
• If you have a tree that requires 400 chill hours in a winter that provides 800 chill hours, the tree will likely flower prematurely, and the blooms will freeze and fall off.

chill-hours-map

Pollination Requirements
Make sure that your fruit tree’s pollination requirements are met. Many fruit trees won’t bear good fruit without another tree nearby as a pollen source. Some trees will produce bigger and better fruit when pollinated by another specific variety of tree. If you only have room for one tree, make sure the tree you select is self-fertile. Also find out if your tree requires a 3rd party pollinator, like bees, or if it’s just pollinated by the wind.

Start Small and Scale
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Fruit trees require a little more maintenance than your average landscape tree. At a minimum you’ll probably need to spray once a year, prune once a year, and fertilize twice a year. Depending on the pests and diseases that are prevalent in your area, more spraying might be necessary. Start with a tree or two and get a feel for it before you commit to more maintenance work than you really want.

[Prune Your Fruit Trees Now for a Great Harvest Later]

If you’re not sure how to plant a bare root tree – don’t worry about it – it’s super simple. Here’s a video where you can see a bare root tree planted by Theresa Knutson, a horticulturalist at Raintree Nursery in Morton, WA:


Thanks to Raintree Nursery for the nifty video.

 

Your Gut is the Cornerstone of True Health

Click here to view the original post.

HYG_EmailHeader

Gut dysfunction can be linked to virtually every disease and can cause conditions like fatigue, depression, food sensitivities, chronic pain, allergies and many more. These conditions are by and large preventable, but have reached epidemic proportions as the Western lifestyle has infiltrated the entire globe with poor diet choices, stress, toxic overload and bacterial imbalance.

This is why Dr. Josh Axe, Donna Gates, and Dr. Eric Zielinski have gathered together more than 30 gut health experts from around the world to share evidence-based information about the tools you need to regain control of your health. It’s called the Heal Your Gut Summit, and it’s happening this week.

Tens of thousands of people will learn the important wisdom of digestive health from the world’s leading experts. Will you be there?

These are just a few things you’ll learn at the Heal Your Gut Summit:

• Healing the gut to boost immunity and fight cancer
• Losing weight by improving digestive health
• Solutions to recover from irritable bowel syndrome
• Balancing hormones and increasing libido
• Reversing allergies and autoimmunity with foods and herbal remedies

If you’re just hearing about it, there’s still time to gain access to all 35 expert talks. The summit is free to watch, this week only. Several of the presentations will be available for free each day, for the next 7 days, starting tomorrow – Monday, January 18th.

Additionally, you have the option to purchase all 35 talks. If you purchase the summit, you can listen to the audios on your computer or mobile device, read the complete transcripts and share this important information with family and friends. The online access package for all 35 expert talks is on sale for $59 until tomorrow morning (Monday, January 18th) at 10 a.m. U.S. eastern. After 10 a.m. Monday, it increases to $79.

1. Register immediately to see this week’s free talks:
https://ju127.isrefer.com/go/healyourgutreg/backyardfood/

2. Purchase all 35 expert talks (price GOES UP when the event STARTS):
https://ju127.isrefer.com/go/healyourgutorder/backyardfood/

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to take control of your health and wellness by healing your gut. If you learn even one fact from one expert that changes your life, it will be worth it!

If you decide to purchase the summit, you will also get access to over $800 worth of eCourses, guides, eBooks and other advice from the expert speakers, at no additional charge. As an affiliate of the Heal Your Gut Summit, the [Grow] Network will receive a percentage of any revenue generated through this promotion.

Click Here to Register for Free for the Heal Your Gut Summit

 

Catch Marjory Wildcraft on TV this Weekend!

Click here to view the original post.

Marjory Wildcraft will be featured on this week’s episode of the public television show Central Texas Gardener. Marjory went into the studio and had a nice chat with the show’s host, Tom Spencer, about how to grow half your groceries in less than an hour per day – no matter how big your yard is.

marjory-wildcraft-with-tom-spencer-on-central-texas-gardener

Central Texas Gardener is a long-running local gardening show in Austin. The show regularly includes local experts from the world of gardening. This summary is from the show’s Facebook page:

We’re all about organic gardening, outstanding waterwise plants, design inspiration, wildlife, homegrown food, and creative fun in the garden!

The show airs in several other cities – so check the list below to see if there’s any chance you can catch Marjory on TV this week…

Even if Central Texas Gardener doesn’t air in your city, you can still watch Marjory’s interview on the show’s website, here: Watch This Week’s Episode of Central Texas Gardener

Channel Day Date Time
KLRU (Austin, TX) Saturday
Sunday
Monday/>
Jan. 16
Jan. 17
Jan. 18
Noon & 4:00 p.m.
9:00 a.m.
5:30 a.m.
KLRU Q (Austin, TX) Tuesday
Wednesday
Friday/>
Jan. 19
Jan. 20
Jan. 22
6:30 p.m.
7:00 a.m.
9:30 a.m.
KLRN (San Antonio, TX) Saturday Jan. 16 11:00 a.m.
KNCT (Killeen, TX & Waco, TX) Saturday Jan. 16 1:30 p.m.
KAMU (College Station, TX) Saturday Jan. 16 5:00 p.m.
KPBT (Midland, TX) Monday Jan. 18 12:30 p.m.
Panhandle PBS (Amarillo, TX) Saturday Jan. 16 11:30 a.m.
KRSC (Claremore, OK) Saturday
Tuesday
Jan. 16
Jan. 19
5:00 p.m.
Arizona Public Media ReadyTV (Tucson, AZ) Thursday Jan. 21 1:30 p.m.
KBDI (Denver, CO) Sunday
Tuesday
Jan. 17
Jan. 19
2:00 p.m.
2:30 p.m.
KTWU (Topeka, KS) Multiple Days & Times
Also on UNCMX (Raleigh-Durham, NC) and
K32EO (Colorado Springs, CO)

 
I can’t wait to see it!


Many thanks to Central Texas Gardener for inviting Marjory to the show! You can learn more about the show here: Central Texas Gardener

 

(Video) Everything You Need to Know about Saving Bean Seeds

Click here to view the original post.

bean-plants-and-flowersThis video contains an abbreviated version of Seed Savers Exchange’s webinar on saving bean seeds. The video touches on lots of good information about growing, harvesting, and saving beans to replant the following season. The advice here is good for any legume, including common beans, peas, lima beans, cowpeas, fava beans, runner beans, and soybeans.

If you’ve ever had questions about when to take your beans, how to separate the beans from the pods, or how to store saved seeds – there’s some good information here to help you along.

I loved the example of a trellis shown in this clip, which is just a group of sticks tied together with twine. I’ve seen a million different attempts at trellises, but I often feel like the simplest trellises are the best looking and the most functional. This trellis is a great example.


Thanks to Seed Savers Exchange for the great video. You can learn more here: Seed Savers Exchange.

 

(Video) Seed Saving Advice for Beginners

Click here to view the original post.

ayocote-de-camote-seeds-close-upHere’s a nice video from Seed Savers Exchange about things you should consider when you’re interested to begin saving seeds. The video includes short interviews with many key players from SSE and their Heritage Farm, including co-founder Diane Ott Whealy.

There is lots of sound advice here, including to choose seeds that you are passionate about, i.e. something you love to eat!

My favorite piece of advice comes from Shanyn Siegel. She says, simply, “start small.” Don’t overwhelm yourself by biting off more than you can chew. Pick one thing that you like to eat, learn to save those seeds well, and then move on from there.


Thanks to Seed Savers Exchange for the great video. You can learn more here: The Seed Garden.

 

Eggsposing Some Basic Facts About Eggs

Click here to view the original post.

fresh-eggs-in-a-basketEggs have gotten some bad press over the last few decades, but today they’re more popular around the world than ever. The infographic below shows some interesting statistics. The numbers on global egg production came from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. As you can see, egg production worldwide has more than quadrupled in the past 50 years.

And we all know why eggs are so popular. They’re healthy and nutritious, and they’re one of the most versatile ingredients you could wish for. If you have fresh eggs on hand, you have a good start on a healthy home-cooked meal – whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Fried, scrambled, or used in a quiche, omelet, souffle, or frittata – eggs are always useful.

Take a look and see if there’s anything here you didn’t know…

eggsposing-eggs-infographic

Hopefully most of us have access to fresh, local, organically grown eggs through our own flocks, our neighbors’ flocks, or through a relationship with a local farmer. But if not, the explanation about labeling above may be of some help. While the labels “Cage Free, Free Range, and Free Roaming” are enticing – they probably don’t mean what you think they mean. If you do have access to fresh local eggs, check out this article from Joe Urbach about several different methods to put up fresh eggs: 5 Easy Ways to Preserve Your Fresh Eggs.

And the nutrition information in this graphic might be useful for general planning purposes. If you want more detailed information about egg nutrition, or if you’re concerned about cholesterol, read this article: The Perfect Hard Boiled Egg; and Why You Should Eat Them.


Thanks to Fix.com for the infographic. You can see the original posting here: Eggsposing Eggs.

 

The [Grow] Network is a Global Organization

Click here to view the original post.

czech-republic-on-map-of-europeWe received a very nice note last week from a member of the [Grow] Network named Vera D. Vera is 72 years old, and she lives on a small pension in the post-communist Czech Republic. She subscribes to our newsletter, and she follows our blog and our Facebook page.

Vera wrote in to apologize that she can’t afford to buy our products or contribute to our crowd-funding projects. She regrets not being able to support us financially, but she wanted to let us know that she appreciates all of the work we are doing to encourage others to grow their own food and medicine at home.

We get similar notes from people all around the world, who support our cause – but for one reason or another can’t afford to support us financially. A few recent notes and comments that come to mind came from Gia in Japan, Elena in Germany, and Harriet from Finland. The [Grow] Network has truly become a global organization.

By sharing strategies and tricks from all areas of the world, we can all learn about new methods and solutions that are being worked out by people far away. And sometimes the growing conditions in two places can be very similar, despite the two places being on opposite sides of the Earth. For instance, there are many similarities between the climate in Central Texas and the climate in parts of the Mediterranean. Temperature fluctuation is a bit more extreme in Central Texas, with higher highs and lower lows. And drought is a bit more extreme in the Mediterranean – they might get 20 inches in a year when Central Texas gets 30 inches. But we can definitely learn from each other – varieties that withstand heat and dryness in one area are likely to work well in the other area as well. And strategies for water collection, building, and earthworks developed in one place are usually just as effective in other parts of the world.

So, for everyone around the world who supports the [Grow] Network but can’t afford to contribute financially – we send out a big, heart-felt “Thank You!” to you all. Your participation and contributions are always very much appreciated by us.

If you can’t contribute money, but you want to help, there are many ways for you to get involved with our purpose. Here are a few ways you can help:

Participate on Our Blog: Use the star rating system to rate blog posts. Your rating votes help others to find the best and most relevant content on our blog. Votes are also taken into consideration in picking the winners in our ongoing Writing Contest. When you have something to add to a post, use the comments section below the article and share your thoughts with the community. There’s no telling who might find your input to be helpful – you might help someone else who is half a world away…

Use the Social Buttons: At the bottom of every post, there are buttons you can use to share the article with your network on Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, or by email. The last button on the right is “More Options” and you can use it to select from a huge number of other social networking tools like Digg, StumbleUpon, and more. Use these buttons to help spread the word.

Follow Us on Facebook: Follow Marjory’s Facebook page, like our posts, and share them with your Facebook friends and family.

Pin Us: We recently started a few Pinterest boards for The [Grow] Network. Pin your favorite posts and pictures to help get the word out.

Subscribe to Our YouTube Channel: Marjory’s YouTube Channel has about 10,000 subscribers. The more, the merrier! Having more subscribers means that our videos will get recommended more often and reach a wider audience. If you haven’t already, subscribe to the YouTube Channel and help us reach more people.

Take Part in the Writing Contest: We host an ongoing Writing Contest where gardeners and homesteaders from around the world write in to share their knowledge and experience with the community. We think this is one of the most effective tools we have because it allows people to learn from each other’s successes and failures first-hand. And, if you win, we get to send you a bunch of awesome prizes. We just gave away over $2,574 in prizes last month, and the next Writing Contest will kick off early in 2016.

GROW!: The biggest thing anyone can do to support us is to start growing your own food and medicine at home. After all, this is what we’re all about. We want everyone to produce as much of their own food and medicine as possible. So whether it’s a multi-acre homestead, a square foot garden in your back yard, or a few containers on your balcony – get growing!

 

The Banana-pocalypse… It’s Coming

Click here to view the original post.

banana-plantation-monocultureMonoculture is defined as “the cultivation or growth of a single crop or organism, especially on agricultural or forest land.” The first time I remember hearing about monoculture was when I read Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire back around 2001. Monoculture is a big deal in agriculture, and it just may become a household word for Americans of all persuasions in the near future…

If you’ve ever driven through Iowa and looked out the window to see clean, identical rows of corn extending all the way to the horizon… that’s what monoculture looks like. Likewise, if you’ve driven through Kansas and seen amber waves of grain, waving uniformly as far as the eye can see… that was monoculture as well.

The Dangers of Monoculture

Monoculture is widely viewed as a bad idea because it means that we invest heavily in one variety of crop, putting all of our proverbial eggs into one basket. If a pest or disease comes along and attacks that chosen variety, we’re simply out of luck, as all of our resources were sunk into that single variety, and now it has a big problem.

History has demonstrated the danger of monocultures several times, most famously in Ireland during the Great Famine of the 1840s.

Ireland invested heavily in the potato during the 18th and 19th centuries. Ireland’s rural poor were especially dependent on the potato as their primary staple. In the mid 1840s, a fungus called Potato Blight (Phytophthora infestans) made its way from South America, to North America, and on to Europe. Within only a few years, potato blight had spread worldwide. Crops were lost on many continents, but the effects were most devastating in Ireland, where potatoes had been commonly grown in monoculture. The disease wiped out a significant portion of the potato harvest for several consecutive years, and hundreds of thousands of Ireland’s poor starved to death.

And this was in the 1840s, before steam-powered railroads and ships were widely adopted – long before commercial flight. But even back then, it took an aggressive fungus about 2 years to travel from South America, north to the U.S., and across the Atlantic to Europe – with horse-drawn wagons and wind-powered clipper ships as its only helpers.

Similar scenarios have played out over time – and some of them have happened very close to home. 100 years after the Great Famine in Ireland, Victoria oat blight swept through oat monocultures in the United States. And then in the 1970s, southern corn leaf blight spread through the U.S. These are examples of monocultures being targeted by a single, well-adapted pathogen, right here in America.

In the 1950s, monocultures of Gros Michel bananas were famously obliterated by Panama disease on banana plantations around the world from South America, to Africa and Australia.

Despite history’s repeated lessons on this subject, in today’s industrial agriculture environment monoculture is perfectly commonplace. Genetic modification of crops lends itself to monoculture, as endless fields of beans and grain can be modified to resist one specific pesticide or herbicide, enabling cost-effective weeding and pest treatment from crop-dusting planes overhead. The result is exactly the scenario about which history has repeatedly warned us. While the modified crops are resistant to a controlled substance manufactured in a lab, they are abnormally susceptible to naturally occurring pathogens. Any one pathogen that adapts to prey on the monocultured crop can run rampant, free from the natural checks and balances present in a diverse ecosystem.

History Repeats Itself

And according to the journal PLOS Pathogens from the Public Library of Science, we may be on the verge of another global monoculture backfire today. On November 19th, they published a study detailing the legacy of the Panama disease disaster, one generation later. The Gros Michel banana variety, which had been reproduced around the world by tissue cloning, slowly gave in to Panama disease around the world in the middle of the 20th century. To beat the Panama disease pathogen, banana growers identified a different variety that was resistant to the disease, and they began to produce that alternate variety, the Cavendish, in place of the failing Gros Michel. No significant changes were made in the method of production – only the variety of banana was changed.

Who would have guessed it? The pathogen behind Panama disease (since identified as Fusarium oxysporum) has naturally adapted to target the new Cavendish variety of bananas. First identified in the 1990s, the new strain of Panama disease (Tropical Race 4) has wiped out banana plantations in Taiwan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, the Philippines, Jordan, Pakistan, and Lebanon. The Cavendish currently represents 99 percent of the global banana market. And, it seems that its time is limited. With no known controls, it’s only a matter of time before the banana plantations of Latin America are infected with the new strain of Panama disease.

As the study’s authors note, “Any disease management eventually fails in a highly susceptible monoculture.”

Banana producers will likely, and predictably, find another variety of banana that is resistant to Tropical Race 4, and substitute that variety where the Gros Michel and now the Cavendish have failed. And we’ll enjoy bananas again, until the disease adapts to prey on the new variety. But the larger lesson to be learned here is that monoculture itself is inherently unsustainable.

One can’t help but wonder… what if an environment existed where many different banana plants of diverse genetic origins were grown alongside other plants with different genetic and microbial profiles? Would Panama disease fade to the background? What happens when you introduce Tropical Race 4 into an environment of thriving biological diversity, instead of a massive monoculture of its pre-selected prey?

Perhaps one day we’ll find out.

In the meantime, what can we do about the impending banana-pocalypse?

Dealing with the Banana-pocalypse

One thing that we can all do is to plant our gardens full of organic heirlooms of many varieties, and then talk to anyone who will listen about the importance of biodiversity. If we can demonstrate that diversity works on a small scale, and infect that idea into the minds of everyone around us, we might one day reach a tipping point where everyone recognizes both the danger of monoculture and the benefit of biodiversity. With each heirloom variety you preserve, and with each landrace variety you select, you pave the way towards a cultural shift of understanding biodiversity.

Personally, in my household, the first thing we’ll do is try to find a good substitute for frozen banana pieces in our smoothies. Dang! Frozen bananas are awesome smoothie fodder… I wonder if anyone can recommend a good substitute? Maybe frozen sunchoke tubers? If you have any ideas to help us out, use the comments section below to let me know about them…


Sources:

• National Center for Biotechnology Information: An Andean origin of Phytophthora infestans inferred from mitochondrial and nuclear gene genealogies
• PLOS Pathogens: Worse Comes to Worst: Bananas and Panama Disease—When Plant and Pathogen Clones Meet
• The Washington Post: Bye, bye, bananas

 

One Young Man Tackles a Huge Global Problem

Click here to view the original post.
perry-alagappan-stockholm-junior-water-prize

Image Credit: Jonas Borg

An 18 year old student from the Houston area won international acclaim earlier this year when he unveiled a science project he developed on his own, in his spare time. It’s a water filter that can remove heavy metals from electronic waste from drinking water.

The problem of e-waste has been well documented. As we adopt more and more personal electronics, we generate more and more e-waste. It might be hard to believe, but we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg right now. Smartphones are everywhere in some countries already, but new coverage subscriptions are projected to more than double over the next 5 years, with most of those new subscriptions coming from Asia Pacific, the Middle East, and Africa. Ericsson Mobility recently projected that by the year 2020, 70% of the world’s population will be using smartphones.

The issue is compounded by the ideas of planned obsolescence, and Moore’s law, which keep us buying new devices as the software and hardware in our existing devices become obsolete every few years. As a result, we’re throwing away millions of tons of electronics each year.

And these devices are, unfortunately, pretty toxic to the environment. Some of the materials can be recycled, but the majority end up in landfills or massive waste piles. A report earlier this year found that 70% of the heavy metals in US landfills come from electronics, even though only 2% of the trash is electronic waste. It’s nasty stuff.

Countries in Africa and Asia are importing much of this waste, accepting the toxicity in exchange for the money they can make by taking it off the hands of western countries.

18 year old Perry Alagappan, from Houston, took the problem head on.

He developed a new filter, using graphene nanotubes, that can filter 99% of the heavy metals from water. The filter he made can be reproduced for about $20, making his solution 5 times less expensive than the reverse osmosis technology that has been widely used in the past. The filter is renewable, unlike reverse osmosis filters that are discarded and replaced. After each use, you rinse the filter with vinegar, and it’s ready to go again. And the filtered metals can be used or sold for profit.

Perhaps the best part of this story is that Perry has decided to make his project open source, so that other researchers around the world can pick up his work and make further improvements without worrying about infringing on his patents.

This young man started working on this project out of a personal desire to help his family. He explains, “I became interested in water purification when I visited my grandparents in India, and saw with my own eyes how electronic waste severely contaminated the environment.”

Perry Alagappan was awarded the Stockholm Junior Water Prize at World Water Week for this invention. He also won an AXA Achievement Scholarship. He was accepted to study at Stanford, and began working on his undergraduate Pre-engineering degree there this fall.

Here he is to tell you about it himself…


Sources:

Texas teenager creates $20 water purifier to tackle toxic e-waste pollution
American student wins 2015 Stockholm Junior Water Prize for revolutionizing method to remove electronic waste from water
Ericsson Mobility Report: 70 percent of world’s population using smartphones by 2020
Global E-Waste Management Market, Material (Metals, Plastic, & Glass), Sources (Household Appliances, Entertainment & Consumer Electronics, IT & Telecommunication), industry size, share, growth, trends and forecast 2015-2021

 

And the Winners are…

Click here to view the original post.

first-second-and-third-place-ribbonsWell, it’s that time again – the latest round of our writing contest is over, and now it’s time for my favorite part…

Giving away lots of free stuff!

There were many good entries in this contest – and I wish we had enough prizes to give out to everyone. Once again, we got lots of useful information about gardening, homesteading, and home medicine. I love getting in all of the great stories and ideas that you all share. There is so much knowledge and creativity in this community, and it’s always exciting to see what people will send our way.

And I especially want to thank all of our generous sponsors, who make the whole contest possible. This is the biggest pot of prizes we’ve ever had, and it’s worth over $2,574! So, please show your support and appreciation by clicking on the links below to visit our sponsors. Here are the prizes:

First Place (7 prizes valued at $898):

• A 21.5 quart pressure canner from All American, a $382 value
• A free 1 year membership in the [Grow] Network Lab, a $239 value
• A large heirloom seed collection from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, a $103 value
• A free copy of the complete Home Grown Food Summit, a $67 value
• A free copy of the Grow Your Own Groceries DVD video set, a $43 value
• A free copy of the Alternatives To Dentists DVD video, a $33 value
• A free copy of the Greenhouse of the Future DVD and eBook, a $31 value

Second Place (7 prizes valued at $624):

• A Survival Still emergency water purification still, a $288 value
• A large heirloom seed collection from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, a $103 value
• A free copy of the complete Home Grown Food Summit, a $67 value
• A free 3 month membership in the [Grow] Network Lab, a $59 value
• A free copy of the Grow Your Own Groceries DVD video set, a $43 value
• A free copy of the Alternatives To Dentists DVD video, a $33 value
• A free copy of the Greenhouse of the Future DVD and eBook, a $31 value

Third Place (6 prizes valued at $340):

• A Worm Factory 360 vermicomposting system from Nature’s Footprint, a $128 value
• A free 3 month membership in the [Grow] Network Lab, a $59 value
• A Bug Out Seed Kit from the Sustainable Seed Company, a $46 value
• A free copy of the Grow Your Own Groceries DVD video set, a $43 value
• A free copy of the Alternatives To Dentists DVD video, a $33 value
• A free copy of the Greenhouse of the Future DVD and eBook, a $31 value

Fourth Place (5 prizes valued at $235):

• A Metro-Grower Elite sub-irrigation growing container from Nature’s Footprint, a $69 value
• A free 3 month membership in the [Grow] Network Lab, a $59 value
• A free copy of the Grow Your Own Groceries DVD video set, a $43 value
• A free copy of the Alternatives To Dentists DVD video, a $33 value
• A free copy of the Greenhouse of the Future DVD and eBook, a $31 value

That’s $2,097 in great prizes, just for sharing what you know about growing your own food and medicine with the rest of the group. And, we threw in two honorable mentions to bring the total pot up to $2,574.

And now, without further ado, here are the winners…

Honorable Mention
Claire Cox’s article about her custom fodder system and Steve Curtin’s article about self-sufficiency both got a lot of votes, and they just missed making the top 4. As an Honorable Mention prize, Claire and Steve will both receive one year of free membership in the [Grow] Network Lab. If you missed either of these articles, you can read them here:

Growing My Groceries’ Groceries
http://growyourowngroceries.org/growing-my-groceries-groceries/

Why I Chose the Self-Sufficient Life
http://growyourowngroceries.org/why-i-chose-the-self-sufficient-life/

Fourth Place Winner
Our fourth place prizes go to Alice J Haslam, for her article about using water beads to maintain soil moisture during a drought. If you missed it the first time around, you can see it at this link:

Using Water Beads to Maintain Moisture in Your Garden Soil
http://growyourowngroceries.org/using-water-beads-to-maintain-moisture-in-your-garden-soil/

Third Place Winner
Susannah Sammons is our third place winner, for her article about her family’s learning experiences on their small farm in Tennessee. They learned that you can only put so much stock into what “they say.” You can read Susannah’s article here:

What We Learned about What “They Say”
http://growyourowngroceries.org/what-we-learned-about-what-they-say/

Second Place Winner
Second place goes to Karlynn Holland for her article about how to make a simple, natural hand sanitizer. We love practical and useful solutions – and many of our readers loved this article too. If you didn’t catch it the first time – check it out here:

How to Make a Natural Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer
http://growyourowngroceries.org/how-to-make-a-natural-antibacterial-hand-sanitizer/

And, drum roll please…

First Place Winner
First place goes to Dave for his article about what you can learn from the weeds in your landscape. Congratulations, Dave! I know you and your family will enjoy your new pressure canner from All American. In case you missed it, this is a great article about viewing weeds from a permaculture perspective. Here’s the link:

Weeds: What They Tell Us and Why You Should Care
http://growyourowngroceries.org/weeds-what-they-tell-us-and-why-you-should-care/

Congratulations to all of the winners! Thanks again to our many great sponsors. And thanks to everyone who sent in their articles and took part in this contest.

We’re going to take a short break from the writing contest, but stay tuned… We’re planning to host another round early next year. We’re going to have loads of great prizes to give away, as always. And we’ll let you know about the dates ahead of time, so you have plenty of time to get your entries ready.

 

The Healthiest People in the World… and How they Got that Way

Click here to view the original post.

Marjory just got back from a big adventure. She went to the Copper Canyon in Mexico to meet the Tarahumara Native American people. They’re world-renowned for their long distance running capabilities.

And they claim that their running abilities peak at age 64!

So… Marjory went down there to interview them and find out what they’re eating.

In the spirit of Marjory’s adventures to learn more about traditional cultures and their diets, I thought this infographic would fit in nicely. It takes a look at 5 of the healthiest nations in the world, defined by their long life expectancy and low infant mortality rates. I couldn’t help but notice the little factoid about New Zealand… Check it out:

the-healthiest-people-in-the-world

To read more about the Tarahumara people of Mexico, check out this article Marjory wrote last summer: At What Age Does The Human Body Peak In Athletic Performance?.

 

A Cheap and Easy Way to Extend Your Growing Season

Click here to view the original post.

Want to eat fresh home grown greens all winter long? This video shows a cheap and easy method for extending your growing season into the winter months.

This simple structure is a low tunnel. Low tunnels are called by different names in different regions. I’ve heard them referred to as a hoop houses, cloches, and cold frames. Those terms get the point across, but each each of them technically refers to something else. So for the sake of clarity, we’ll call this a low tunnel.

Components of a Low Tunnel

The structure is a simple series of hoops. I’ve seen people use PVC pipe, PVC electrical conduit, steel rebar, cattle panel, and flexible fiberglass rods (like tent poles). In my opinion, the best option is PVC – unless you have one of the other materials on hand already. A 10 foot length of 1/2 inch schedule 40 PVC pipe typically sells for under $1.50 – so it’s affordable. PVC electrical conduit is about the same cost, and it should last longer out in the elements.

My favorite method for securing the posts is driving a piece of rebar into the ground and fitting the PVC over the rebar, as is demonstrated in this video. (It’s comical to think that you could drive rebar 2 feet into the ground in my area – solid rock down there – we use pieces that are about 1 foot long, and we can usually get them about 8 inches deep.) I have also seen many people use pipe straps, screwed into the sides of their raised beds. I think the rebar method is better – especially if your beds are a few years old and the wood has started to break down. And, the rebar method can be done on any bed or row, even if there is no frame.

The final element is the cover, and this is where I’ve heard a lot of debate about which material is best…

Plastic versus Cloth as a Low Tunnel Cover

There are two common options: plastic or cloth.

Plastic sheeting allows light in to the plants, but it doesn’t allow for any air circulation or water penetration. Water may not be an issue if you’re protecting a bed that has drip irrigation installed. But because there is no air circulation – plastic is prone to overheating the tunnel on sunny winter days. If you use plastic, you need to remove or ventilate the tunnel appropriately to avoid smothering your plants with hot, humid air.

Cloth is a better option for air circulation, and water penetration. Floating row cover is a cloth material made of woven synthetic fibers that allows hot air out and allows water in – while providing insulation and light penetration similar to that of plastic film. In my relatively warm and dry climate, cloth row covers work very well for low tunnels. Be careful about using old sheets and blankets in wet weather – those can absorb water and they can actually cool the air as that water evaporates.

A couple of tips and pointers:

Climate: Take your climate into consideration when choosing the material you use to cover the tunnel. Where I live, I need to take advantage of every drop of rain that I get – so I use cloth instead of plastic. If you have abundant winter rains and you need to regulate the soil moisture – plastic might be a better option for you.
Integrity: If your low tunnel is very long, or if your garden gets a lot of wind in the winter – consider using an additional length of pipe across the top, length-wise, for structural integrity. Fix it to the hoops using twine or zip-ties – not pipe fittings.
Staples: In the video above, they staple the plastic to the raised bed frame. I would skip that step, and use rocks or bricks to weigh the plastic down instead. You’ll extend the life of the cover and make it easier to ventilate on warm days by avoiding the staples.
Lights: You can use a string of Christmas lights inside the tunnel for added warmth. If you do this, you will want to use the old school incandescent lights. The newer LEDs are more efficient, but they don’t offer much warmth. In this case, you want less efficient bulbs that use more energy, and generate more heat.
Survival Blankets: You can add a survival blanket on top of your cover for extra insulation on very cold nights. Face the shiny, aluminized side down – and remove the blanket to let the sun warm the soil again on the following day.

Check out this PDF from the Colorado Master Gardener Program and the Colorado State University Extension. They tested a low tunnel with 4-mil plastic sheeting, a survival blanket, and a 25 light string of C-7 Christmas lights. With all three of these measures in place, they consistently raised the temperature inside the tunnel between 18 to 30 degrees. You can read or download the PDF here: Frost Protection and Extending the Growing Season.

To see some more creative ways to add heat inside a structure during the winter, read these two great articles from our writing contest. This one is technical: Mad Scientist Works For Greenhouse Heating Independence Down To -25F, and this one is practical: Saving Heat in a Small Winter Hoop House.

If you want to eat fresh home grown greens this winter, but you don’t want to build a structure… Here’s a much smaller scale solution that you can put into place right on your kitchen counter: Grow Sprouts and Microgreens Indoors All Winter Long.


Thanks to Natalie Donnelly, John Garlisch, and Nissa Patterson of the New Mexico State University – Bernalillo County Extension Service, for the nice video.

Thanks to David Whiting, Carol O’Meara, and Carl Wilson of the Colorado State University Extension for the PDF Frost Protection and Extending the Growing Season. Their original post can be viewed here: CMG GardenNotes.

 

(Video) Grow Sprouts and Microgreens Indoors All Winter Long

Click here to view the original post.

fresh-arugula-micro-greensAs the temperatures drop and the days get shorter – I’ve heard from several gardeners up north that they are packing it up for the year and winterizing their gardens.

But even up north, there’s one easy way to keep some fresh greens coming all winter long – with just a few containers and a little bit of your open counter space.

Microgreens are a great option for keeping your vitamin intake up over the winter. In addition to being tasty and trendy, they pack a big nutritional punch. A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry looked at 25 common varieties of microgreens and found that they generally have higher concentrations of healthful vitamins and carotenoids than their mature counterparts. Red cabbage microgreens had the highest concentration of vitamin C, and green daikon radish microgreens had the most vitamin E.

Check out this video about growing microgreens and sprouts indoors:

If you want to give this a try and you’re looking for a cheap and easy way to get started, read this article from our writing contest – Easy and Fresh Micro Greens and Herbs All Year Round. You’ll find one example of a no-frills way to get this done – without needing to buy anything but seeds.

 

Antimicrobial Resistance in the News

Click here to view the original post.

antibiotics-for-humans-and-food-animalsAs many of you know, we are currently working on a project to create an educational film that will empower individuals and families to safely treat infections at home, without the use of antibiotics. Members of the [Grow] Network are coming together to fund the Indiegogo campaign we created to produce this film. This is a classic example of strength in numbers, and it shows the potential a community like ours has for creating change. You can see the campaign here: Treating Infections Without Antibiotics – Indiegogo.

As we have been working on this project, we have received a huge outpouring of support. We have received messages of encouragement from concerned citizens around the globe – including scientists, medical doctors, and people who have fought off antibiotic-resistant infections in their own bodies.

I went to bed last night feeling very positive about the support that we have received. A huge outpouring of support and encouragement, and a successful campaign to empower people to take an active stance against this problem in their own homes… What could be better? Right?

Haha, that was last night – when I went to bed.

Eight hours later, I woke to some of the biggest headlines I can remember about the antibiotic-resistant threat. I was drinking my coffee and glancing through the headlines…

Here’s the first thing I noticed:

Misunderstanding of antibiotics fuels superbug threat, WHO says
This article from Reuters begins with this quote: “The rise of antibiotic resistance is a global health crisis,” from WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. She was speaking with reporters about a report the WHO just released that exposes a lack of understanding and awareness about antibiotics and antibiotic resistance around the globe. She went on to say that the problem is “reaching dangerously high levels” in all parts of the world and could lead to “the end of modern medicine as we know it.”

Talk about a timely news story… We’ve pointed to WHO claims about antibiotic resistance before, like in this post – 23,000 People Will Die This Year… And Never See Their Killer Coming.

But there’s more.

The next headline I noticed was this one:

Health Experts Are Explaining Drug-Resistant Bacteria Poorly
This article from The Atlantic leads in with the quote: “health experts invoke an ‘apocalyptic’ threat that’s bigger than terrorism or climate change.” They go on to detail an entirely different study, funded by London’s The Wellcome Trust, that focuses on the lack of understanding and awareness about antibiotics in the U.K. The author asserts that “the fault, arguably, is on us – science journalists, scientists, doctors, communicators, and everyone who’s beating the drum about this impending threat.”

Well then – that’s two big headlines about antimicrobial resistance. A good day for awareness about the problem, to be sure…. But still no real action taken as a result.

Wait, there’s more… Next, I saw this headline:

Pediatricians want farmers to use fewer antibiotics
This one is on CNN. In an open letter from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the lead author Dr. Jerome Paulson says, “We know our side is not perfect, physicians do bear some responsibility for this and there has not always been a prudent use in our practice, we are doing something on our side to help fix this.”

The article goes on to point out that in 2012, 80% (or 32.2 million pounds) of antibiotics used in the US were used on animals. And of those, 60% were the same drugs that are used to fight infections in humans. Dr. Paulson says, “We also want to make sure the government agencies and agribusiness will look at this serious issue as well and get these unnecessary antimicrobials out of the production stream.” Dr. Paulson encourages parents to buy meat with a “no antibiotics added” label, noting that he sees antibiotic-free meat much more available in the marketplace.

So, still no real action – but that’s at least a call for some action.

And those articles are just the tip of the iceberg – the internet is bustling with activity and information today about the antimicrobial-resistant threat to people all over, as the World Health Organization kicks off its first ever World Antibiotic Awareness Week. I see that similar stories are running on Fox News, Time, and many industry-specific publications in the medical and agricultural communities.

If you’ve been following along here on our growyourowngroceries.org, this problem probably isn’t news to you. We’ve had an ongoing dialog about microbial resistance for a while now, and it’s obvious that when the WHO and The Wellcome Trust did their surveys – they didn’t call up many members of the [Grow] Network. Remember this article – Microbes 2.0 – A Tiny Manifesto?

While the national news media does appear to be getting on board to help raise awareness, I’m not sure that we can count on them to create real change.

I hope I’m wrong about that.

But, I suspect the initial response will be more like finger-pointing and name-calling, as the doctors blame the farmers, the farmers blame the pharmaceuticals, and everyone blames the government.

There’s just too much money on the table to expect wholesale change to take place without some strong outside influences.

So, as always, the responsibility for creating real change will likely fall on us – you and I. What can we do?

In a nutshell – we can take the money away. Here’s how:

Vote with Your Dollars
When you buy meat, spend that extra few dollars to buy meat that has not been treated with antibiotics. Let the massive food industries know that you are aware of the problem, and you expect them to take action if they want your money.

See this report card about how several national fast food chains stack up regarding their policies on the use of antibiotics in their meat supply – (Infographic) Is Your Lunch Full of Antibiotics? A Fast Food Report Card. If a company is not transparent and responsible about their antibiotic policies – simply don’t give them any of your hard-earned money.

When possible, buy your meat from a local farmer who will stand in front of you and answer your questions about how antibiotics were used in raising that meat. There’s more information available about this in the book Holy Cows and Hog Heaven by Joel Salatin, and in this article – 4 Uncommon-Sense Guidelines for Food Safety and Nutrition.

Opt Out
Doctor and PatientWhen you go to your doctor’s office, push back when they prescribe antibiotics for minor infections that could be treated without the drugs. Every time they suggest an antibiotic, ask them what alternatives you have, and what are the likely outcomes if you don’t take the prescription. Do rely on your healthcare providers for their expert guidance, but don’t just fall in line with the course of treatment that maximizes their income stream. Insist that they give you thorough information and that they keep themselves well-informed.

If you’re considering any elective surgical procedures – get information from the hospital about antimicrobial-resistant infections other patients have experienced at that facility and for the procedure in question. If resistant infections are common at the facility, or for the specific procedure – opt out.

Learn about Your Alternatives
Learn about how to protect yourself and your family. For some infections, there are perfectly good alternatives to the industrially produced chemical antibiotics. We are not as dependent on these drugs as we are led to believe. Learn about your alternatives.

We are producing an educational video about herbal treatments – and as I write this there are 8 days left to claim a discounted copy of that video by taking part in our Indiegogo fund-raising campaign here – Indiegogo – Treating Infections Without Antibiotics.

Colloidal silver is another alternative. We’ve published some information about colloidal silver, mostly regarding its use in the yard and garden (Colloidal Silver Kills Plant Fungus, Produces Larger and Healthier Crops and A Recipe for Serious Sunburn Relief – And It’s Great for Bug Bites Too). But there’s a lot of good information available about colloidal silver and its use as an antimicrobial treatment for infections in humans too.

Lead by Example
If you are raising food animals, do it without optional antibiotics. This might go without saying for this audience. Most [Grow] Network members who are far enough along on their journeys to be raising food animals already know about the problem, and many of you are activists for change when it comes to antibiotics in the food supply. But if your veterinarian isn’t proactive about this – ask them to read about the issue and become informed. Avoid antibiotics when you can.

Fan the Flames
Help spread the word about this issue. When you see good information about the problem, forward that information to your friends and family – and through your social networks. There is strength in numbers. If one of us tells our doctor and grocer that we don’t want optional antibiotics, we are a nuisance. If 1 million of us tell our doctors and grocers that we don’t want optional antibiotics, we are a small concern. If 100 million of us do this, we are an immediate threat to the system. Spread the word and help us reach critical mass.


Sources:

• Reuters – Misunderstanding of antibiotics fuels superbug threat, WHO says
The AtlanticHealth Experts Are Explaining Drug-Resistant Bacteria Poorly
• CNN – Pediatricians want farmers to use fewer antibiotics

 

Keep Your Pollinators Warm this Winter with an Insect Hotel

Click here to view the original post.
insect-hotel

“InsectHouseMonaco” by Gareth E Kegg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Looking for a cool gardening project to occupy your idle time this winter? Look no further.

Insect hotels are a great winter project, and they pay big dividends by increasing the likelihood that your garden will be graced by lots of pollinators and beneficial insects next season and for years to come. They also have lots of fringe benefits…

You get to provide a nice, safe, and cozy home for solitary bees and their insect buddies. We hear a lot about honey bees, but there are over 4,000 species of wild, native bees in North America alone. A well-designed hotel is a safe haven for some of your local bees, and it can help them to thrive in your area. In addition to bees, you can build rooms for ladybugs, millipedes, wasps, beetles, spiders… the more the merrier.

With a hotel in or near your garden, you can increase the biodiversity of your garden; and we all know by now that diversity is a key component of healthy soil and healthy ecosystems.

Perhaps the nicest feature of insect hotels is that they provide a great outlet for upcycling materials that would otherwise end up in the landfill. Got an old wooden pallet laying around? Some surplus bricks? A pile of rocks that you’ve gathered from the lawn and garden? Some old fence posts? This is a great way to tidy up your spare bits and pieces, and put them to good use.

Insect Hotel Tips and Pointers

• Put your hotel in a sunny spot. It’s good if you can face it to the south for full exposure – warmth is important for overwintering bugs, and it’s essential for developing larvae. Nobody likes a freezing room – so err on the side of caution and arrange your hotel in the sunniest spot available.

• Bugs need water, just like you do. Incorporate a water source into your hotel, or keep one nearby. A plant saucer, a small cache pot, or anything else that will hold a little water should work just fine.

• Be mindful not to expose your guests to toxic chemicals. Use untreated, natural materials as much as possible. Untreated wood will warp, twist, and break down faster. But if you want to provide a safe home, it’s better to avoid chemicals and just accept that you’ll need to replace some pieces or rebuild altogether every few years or so.

• Be creative! Bamboo and drilled wood are the standards, but there are probably a hundred different materials right outside your door that would work great. In addition to scrap building materials, look for natural elements like pine cones and needles, fallen limbs and twigs, tree bark, straw, etc. If you have trees with thick, waxy leaves that don’t break down well in the compost – like magnolias, live oaks, ligustrums, or hollies – those might make good stuffing for any empty spaces.

I compiled a few videos that show different design ideas. As you’ll see, you can feel free to let your imagination roam, and the sky’s the limit. I think it would be fun to regroup in the spring and see all the different designs everyone has dreamed up. Maybe we can come up with a prize for the best design…

Insect Hotel Videos

A Good Overview, with Instructions for 2 Simple Hotels

This video shows a whole slew of different design ideas, and that’s the part I really liked. The second half of the video walks you through step-by-step instructions to build a two small hanging hotels that look something like bird houses. Nice and neat…

Posh Style for Your Discerning Bugs

These hotels are the highest in modern insect style. For those of you who keep an immaculate landscape, these are something you can do without messing up your view. This style of hotel probably won’t draw any unwanted attention from your H.O.A. or nosy neighbors.

Back when I did lots of landscape design, one of the most common requests I got was for creative screens to block the view of utility boxes, air conditioners, pool pumps, and exposed pipes. I think that a clean looking insect hotel like this one could make a great screen. If you situated this right in front of your utility box, and planted the area with a small, tidy pollinator garden – you could turn that ugly box into a win-win for you and your neighborhood insects.

The Insect Economy Inn

If you’re less concerned with style, but more interested in practical economy – this is for you. Reused materials and quick assembly make this bug hotel all about functionality. I think this style of design would actually draw more insects than some of the fancier designs I’ve seen. I’m not too sure about the planting on top… I might have done that a little differently.

A Rustic Bug Cabin

I really like this one. Reclaimed materials and solid construction, for a natural rustic look. I love how these folks were so creative and used many different materials to make homes for lots of different insects. And other than screws and cinder blocks, they probably didn’t need to spend a dime.

Start looking around at the materials you have available – you might find that you already have everything you need to build a nice insect hotel. Hopefully, this will give you a way to do a productive garden project or two while you wait out the winter.

If we have a lot of interest, we might organize a [Grow] Network Insect Hotel Contest and arrange some prizes for the best designs. Let us know if you’re interested using the comments below!

 

(Infographic) Are We Headed for a Food Shortage?

Click here to view the original post.

old-farmer-in-oat-fieldThe other day I was watching videos on YouTube, and I heard Joel Salatin say that the average age of American farmers is approaching 60 years old. He mentioned that when a Wall Street analyst values a company, one of the things they take into consideration is the average age of the company’s employees. And if the average age of a company’s employees is over 35, then the company is devalued because it is considered to be “in decline.”

Now, I don’t want to take anything away from older farmers and gardeners. I learned long ago that when a “mature” grower is talking, you better listen up! Nobody has more experience and knowledge than someone who has been practicing for decades – through droughts, hard winters, and a million trends that have come and gone. So, when a 60 year old farmer talks… I listen like they were E.F. Hutton.

But the point here is that aging farmers aren’t passing on their wisdom. Their land is often their retirement fund. So, rather than passing on their knowledge and land to the next generation, they cash out – selling the land to be subdivided and developed. Too often, this is their only option.

I was searching around for more information when I came across this infographic. Turns out, we’re losing family farms and farmers quicker than you might think. And when you add in population growth – it paints a scary picture. Check it out…

are-we-headed-for-a-food-shortage

Also check out Tasha Greer’s article Are You Prepared for Peak Chicken? – Tasha talks about the problem of food security, but more importantly, she proposes 3 practical changes we can make to become part of the solution rather than part of the problem.


Thanks to Free Legacy Food for the infographic. You can see the original post here: Food Shortage.

 

(Infographic) The Nutrition of Mental Health

Click here to view the original post.

brain-foodLast year, my wife and I read The Happiness Diet by Tyler Graham and Drew Ramsey. The book was pretty good, and since reading it we have been much more conscious about eating the right foods to feed our brains. All of the changes we’ve made as a result have been simple, and most of them have been delicious! We eat a lot of smoothies, and a few simple additions to our regular recipes have been keeping our brains pretty happy.

Honestly, if you’re already on-board with eating an organic whole foods diet – there probably isn’t anything here that’s going to shock you. The gist of the book is to avoid processed foods, mind your minerals, avoid refined sugars, eat really good meat, and so on. But there is a wealth of information about various vitamins and minerals, and exactly why they’re needed by your body and brain.

I came across this infographic that has similar information, neatly condensed for a quick read, and I thought I’d pass it along. Take a look, and see if there’s an easy change you can make in your own diet that might help you get your brain in better shape.

This just might help you get through next Monday with a smile on your face…

the-nutrition-of-mental-health


Many thanks to www.bestmastersincounseling.com for sharing this free resource. You can see the original posting here.

 

Getting to Know Your New Permaculture Site

Click here to view the original post.

“Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time”

– Georgia O’Keefe

the-edge-of-a-forestTo truly see one flower takes as much time as it takes to make a new friend. We can assume, then, that to truly see an entire landscape might take a lifetime. Yet, seeing a landscape truly and in its entirety is a critical task that every permaculture designer must learn to do. We need to know the entire landscape like an old friend. We need to know its history and its aspirations, its preferences and desires, its quirky habits – good and bad. We need to know how it behaves in the light of day, when strangers are present – and how it behaves in the dark of night, when it is all alone and no one is looking.

Too often, when we approach a new permaculture site, haste and excitement take over. We quickly develop grand visions in our mind of the completed design, with key elements springing to the forefront of our mental pictures and our rough sketches on paper. But at this early stage in the design process, haste must be avoided at any cost. Patient observation, instead, is required now. And patience at this pivotal point is the cornerstone upon which successful permaculture projects are built.

Indeed, observation is the very foundation of permaculture, and this is why observation is the first principle we learn. Thorough observation allows us to design effectively and with confidence; knowing that we are working with, rather than against, the natural patterns and processes of the site we are developing. Without observation, a design is likely to conflict with the natural elements of a site. And so observation is the sine qua non of permaculture – that without which no project can be successful.

How to Approach a New Site

Approach a new permaculture site much like you would approach a new friend. Taking this approach, you will first focus on a pleasant introduction. Be mindful not to come on too strong; after all, you’ve only just met. No cheesy pickup lines, and no overzealous attempts to impress. A warm smile and a humble handshake will do just fine. After you have made your best first impression, continue to put your best foot forward and schedule a few casual meetings to get to know your site better. Engage in thoughtful conversation, go for a leisurely stroll, sit down in the shade and share some laughs together – just be yourself and you can’t go wrong. And when you’ve established a good rapport, if all goes well you’ll be ready to begin getting to know your site more intimately. Please allow at least 3 meetings, and don’t rush your site if it is not ready!

As you get more intimate with your new site, your bonds will grow ever stronger. You will learn about its past, its potential, and its most closely guarded secrets. With patience, you will soon find yourself in a lasting and faithful relationship. Congratulations, you will have made a new old friend. And it is from the perspective of this meaningful friendship that a permaculture designer can truly excel, painting a masterpiece on the most complex canvas available – life.

The Introduction – Putting Your Best Foot Forward

When you meet your new site, don’t worry about taking detailed notes. There will be plenty of time later to focus on specific details. Instead, turn your early attention to the energy you feel as you walk the ground. Use all of your senses to survey the site, noting the energy and experiences you encounter at the highest level. What are the smells, sights, sounds, and feelings that grab your attention? Bring with you as little of your own energy as possible – you are here to observe an established ecosystem as an outsider. The energy you project should be passive and non-threatening. Conduct your initial observation under the assumption that you will make minimal changes to the existing landscape.

As you move about, note any energy you experience that beckons to you and draws you in. And note any energy you experience that repels you and drives you away. Note the locations where you experience these differing energies – which areas of your site are warm and inviting; with soft soil, tender leaves, and sweet smells. And notice which areas are more coarse and guarded; protected by prickly spines or rocky terrain.

Notice the general contour of the land – the predominant slopes, planes, ditches, and hills. At this stage you are focusing only on becoming aware of the features present. You will have time to plot elevations and draw individual features in detail after you have finished making your initial introductions.

Who are the obvious stakeholders that instantly make themselves known to you? Are there mighty trees, social birds, aggressive insects, or curious critters? These friendly neighbors are only the tip of the iceberg, and you should know that for every stakeholder you meet today, there are perhaps ten more that you will meet in the future as you become more intimate with the site.

As you begin to absorb the site’s energy and become familiar with its inhabitants and features, give thanks. Give thanks for every observation you are able to make. Recognize the splendor and abundance that is already present here. Your goal is to build upon the resources that nature has already planted here, and to maximize the abundance that already exists.

The First Few Meetings – Getting to Know Your Site

Now that you are familiar with the top-level terrain features, stakeholders, and natural patterns, you are ready to begin delving deeper. Subsequent visits to the site should be as varied as possible, in an attempt to observe as many as possible of the natural phenomena that exist on your site. Visit in the early morning hours to watch the sun rise on the land. Visit in the heat of the afternoon when the sun’s rays are at the peak of their intensity. Visit in the evening as the sun sets and the land cools, and stay to observe the area after night has fallen.

Spend some time looking further into the energies you felt during your initial introduction to the site. Try to begin defining the zones of energy and begin to sketch the borders of the different zones you find. Approach each area slowly and with reverence, because as you approach and enter you will change the energy and activity taking place there. Allow yourself time to sit or lay down in each area, and wait patiently as the land slowly returns back to its routine and comes back to life with you and your energy now blended in to the whole. Remain silent and passive until your presence is accepted by all, and then continue to be quiet and respectful – you are the newcomer here.

Begin to take more detailed notes. Expand the list of stakeholders that you met during your first visits. Take note of every living thing that lives in, makes use of, or simply passes through your site. There is no way for you to build a conclusive list of stakeholders – some of them are hidden from your view within the soil or in the canopy overhead, some of them are too small for you to see, and some of them are only present for a short season each year. But build your list as best you can, knowing that the decisions you make will be better informed with each new stakeholder you can identify. During the early morning and again at dusk, watch the wooded areas and any water sources for larger animals who may pass through regularly. Listen carefully for rustling leaves and identify the source of every sound you hear. Watch for rabbits on the ground, squirrels in the trees, beavers, chipmunks, porcupines, raccoons and skunks. Examine the ground for burrows and determine who did the burrowing. Look for amphibians and reptiles by gently lifting stones and fallen limbs. Look carefully in every nook and cranny. For each animal you identify, ask yourself – what do they eat? Where do they live? And, what eats them?

Locate the spaces on your site that are used by birds. There may be understory thickets where mixed flocks congregate. There may be open meadows where birds scavenge for seeds and insects. There may be seasonal birds that use your site as a mating ground each year, or only as a short haven during long seasonal migrations.

Note the insects that you observe flying and walking in each zone. What do they eat? Where do they live? What eats them?

forest-floor-with-mossWhile the animals and insects that have a stake in your site will be numerous, they are probably dwarfed in numbers by the plant stakeholders. Even if your site is relatively homogenous, a close inspection will likely reveal a staggering diversity of plant life, and each of these plants is a stakeholder in your design. If your site has a diversity of terrain – open meadows, dense forests, rocky hillsides, wet marshland, etc. – the job of identifying plant stakeholders will compound exponentially with each different terrain. If horticulture is not your strong suit, don’t get hung up here by trying to identify each and every species you find. It’s fine to classify things in groups like “leafy annual weeds” or “shrubby understory trees.” But if you can identify each and every species, go for it. Your design will be stronger with each stakeholder you understand. I recommend starting with the largest plants and working your way down. Identify the trees that make up the canopy. Next, identify the understory trees and shrubs, woody perennials, grasses, leafy annuals, and groundcovers. Take the time to hunt for miniature plants, too – mosses, liverworts, and algae. You might find large stands of moss on east-facing slopes and the north side of large tree trunks, and you’re likely to find liverworts growing from the nooks in dead branches.

After a rain, watch for flowering fungi to reveal themselves above the ground. Fungi can tell you a lot about the soil properties of an area, and they should typically be welcomed and left undisturbed whenever possible.

And finally, look for the lowly lichens. Even in the most inhospitable spots on your site, you are likely to find some lichen clinging onto rocks in the full southern sun – a symbiotic teaming of algae and fungus that can establish a foothold for larger life forms in the harshest environments. Lichens expose the potential for life where none seems possible.

When you have sufficiently identified your stakeholders, you are ready to examine the elements. Here you will need to understand sunshine, water, wind, and soil – and how each interacts with your site.

Depending on the size and complexity of your site, a rough sketch may be all you need to understand the sun and shade. Sometimes the structure of shade is simple – a heavily wooded area is mostly shaded, and a wide open area is mostly sunny. Buildings, large trees, and forest edges can greatly complicate shade structure on a site. There are some tools available online that can help you to accurately draw shadows for simple shade structure by inputting your latitude and choosing the desired season. For very complex shade structure, a simpler approach is to sketch the shade as you observe it on a simple top-down drawing or map of the site. On your drawing, use colored pencils to lightly shade the areas that are shaded from the sun at regular intervals over the course of a day. As an example, you might draw the shade lightly in gray at 9 am, in green at noon, in red at 3 pm, and in blue at 6pm. The darkest areas are the shadiest, and the different colors reveal which areas get morning sunlight with afternoon shade, etc. In most regions it is advisable to chart your shade in different seasons throughout the year to account for differences in the angle of the sun. While it is important to draw the shade on paper for planning and reference, these drawings are only a guide. When the time comes to select plants and locate plantings, your personal knowledge of the site should be the final consideration.

Water is a powerful force in nature, and it would be hard to overstate the importance of understanding how water interacts with your site. You can get a good general idea about how water will flow across the land by plotting the elevation and contour of the property. Your county or state may have already done this work for you, and a call to your regional geographic survey service could save you hours of hard work and headache here. If no topographic maps exist for your site, you can use a laser level to accurately show contour and transfer the laser lines by drawing them onto your plan. Or you can find the contour manually by walking the site with a bunyip water level and marking the contour with flags or markers as you go. However you get elevation and contour lines onto your plan, these again are only a guide to inform your decision-making as you progress your design. There is simply no substitute for standing on the property during a heavy rain and watching the water move over the land with your own eyes. Note any spots where the contour of the land causes drainage or run-off. Note any channels with high volumes of water flow. Compare what you see to your contour maps, and note any differences between what you expected to see and what you actually saw.

The effects of wind on a permaculture site can be very subtle and hard to observe. Wind’s effect on an area plays out invisibly – both in the short term as changes in air temperature, and in the long term as erosion and accretion. Learn the prevailing wind directions for your region in different seasons, and then walk your site while envisioning the prevailing winds in both winter and summer. Can you identify existing pockets of protection where a wind screen is already established? Remember that a living wind screen is only effective in winter if the plants that make up the screen are evergreen. And, the smaller the leaf (or needle), the more effective the wind screen – large leaves block the sun well, but the wind blows right through them. Are there large areas that are void of any protection, completely exposed to harsh winter winds? Those same areas will likely enjoy a gentle breeze in spring and summer. Try to identify areas where winter winds may be a concern, and where summer winds may be an asset.

Intimacy – Establishing a Deeper Connection with Your New Site

Now that you’ve spent some time getting to know your new permaculture site through patient observation, you’re ready to take things to the next level. Here you will delve deeper – into your site’s energy and into its soil – to establish a stronger connection with the land.

hands-full-of-soilMuch of what you can learn about the soil, you will already know through careful observation of the plant life throughout the site. Plants can expose much information about soil depth and fertility, without requiring you to even pick up a spade. Now you will make a more focused effort to understand the soil. Walk your site again, this time with a spade, and pay special attention to the soil. Identify areas where the soil feels especially soft and fluffy, or especially hard and rocky. In each area you identify, randomly select a few spots and sink your spade. Pop up a small sampling of the topsoil and take notes on what you find. Is the soil dry, light in color, and full of rocky substrate – or is it dark, heavy, and full of organic material? What life do you find in the soil? Are there worms, grubs, or beetles? Are there thin white strands of mycorrhizae – the fungal filaments that help plants feed? Smell the soil – crumble it in your hand and inhale its essence through your nose – healthy soil has a distinct smell and with practice your nose is a valuable tool to identify problems in the soil. Note any off-putting smells and plot them on your plan to investigate later. Notice the composition of the soil – is there a large concentration of sand, clay, or silt? Does the soil crumble with light pressure – indicating a coarse texture, or is it solid like a rock – indicating a fine clayey texture? You can do a simple test yourself by filling a mason jar one third of the way full with topsoil and then adding water to fill the jar, leaving an inch at the top for air. Seal the jar and shake it vigorously for fifteen or twenty minutes. When the particles settle, they will settle with the largest sand particles at the bottom, and the finest clay particles at the top. In this way you can see a simple visual representation of the composition of your soil. Depending on your plans for each area, you may wish to send a soil sample in to your local university agricultural extension, or a privately owned lab. Be sure to read their instructions thoroughly to get the most accurate information from the test.

Return to each of the energy zones you identified in your initial introduction, and do a closer inspection now that you are more familiar with the site, this time on a micro level. Become intimate with the different energies of your site. Stop to meditate in each area at length, alternating between keeping your eyes open and allowing them to close. Notice any subtle changes in the way that you feel in the different areas. Take your shoes off and slowly fox walk the entire site – notice where the energy changes, and examine the edges that separate the different areas of your site.

Look for microclimates within the terrain. Find areas where a change in contour or elevation creates a small pocket of exceptional conditions – a depression in the ground can create a wet spot, and a sudden drop in elevation can create a pocket of protection from the wind and sun. Note each microclimate that you find and plot it on your plan.

Survey your site to begin understanding its history. Can you identify areas where water and wind have created pockets of deep soil through accretion? Are there other areas where water and wind have eroded the soil over time? Which areas have sustained old growth with a developed canopy, which have been managed and mowed, and which are recovering from having been clear cut in the recent past? Look for telltale pioneer plants that are reestablishing dense growth in an area where the old growth has been removed. Examine the surface rocks that you find throughout your site, both small rocks that have been pushed up through the soil and larger outcroppings where the bedrock shows through – are these rocks all made of the same materials; if so what are they? An exposed cliff can give you a glimpse into the ancient history of your site, showing the gradual development of the land over recent centuries and millennia. For a fresh perspective, try to find a nearby highpoint where you can view your site from afar, in light of the surrounding terrain.

And finally, do a little comparative analysis. Visit several nearby sites and do a quick survey of the plants, animals, and soil conditions that you find there. Are there any notable differences between your site and similar sites in the region? If so, try to understand what causes these differences and try to understand whether the relative differences on your site are desirable or not.

Moving Forward in a Faithful Relationship

When you have truly attempted to understand your site, its energies, its stakeholders, and its history, then you will be ready to begin planning changes. Edit carefully and thoughtfully – always showing respect, faith, and gratitude for your new friend. Apply the principles of permaculture to identify solutions and maximize abundance. Because you have observed the site thoroughly, you will have confidence that the changes you create will work with, and not against, the processes and phenomena that define the nature of your site. Most of all, celebrate the satisfaction that this new relationship will bring to you and your site – good friends are truly hard to come by.


Reprinted with permission from Permaculture Design Magazine, Volume #98, Fall 2015

 

Storage Guidelines for Fruits & Vegetables

Click here to view the original post.

crate-of-peppers-for-storageIt’s harvest time for many [Grow] Network members – and hopefully there is more food coming in than you know what to do with!

Marjory sent me this handy guide from Cornell, and I thought that it would be useful to share it with everybody – to help make decisions about how you’re going to put up your harvest.

This is a PDF from the extension service at Cornell University, with a ton of information about how to properly harvest and store a variety of crops. It’s got recommendations for about 50 fruits and veggies, along with some good information about storage options – different places around the homestead where it’s safe to store a surplus, and some creative ideas for packing materials and containers you can use.

One especially helpful little tidbit that’s in here is to always store your fruits and vegetables separately – fruits release ethylene which can cause your vegetables to ripen more quickly. And stored fruits can take on the taste of nearby vegetables… Who knew?

You can read or download the original PDF here: Storage Guidelines for Fruits & Vegetables


Many thanks to Eric de Long and S. Reiners of the Cornell Cooperative Extension, Chemung County

 

(Infographic) Save Our Seeds

Click here to view the original post.

If you haven’t started saving seeds from your garden yet, there’s no better time to get started than right now. This handy infographic from the Illinois Stewardship Alliance shows why this is an important part of sustainable growing, and why we should all be doing our part.

The main graphic about the dwindling number of vegetable varieties comes from a National Geographic report about the National Seed Storage Library/National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation. The “80 Years Later” numbers reflect the contents of that national library only – not all varieties that are currently available commercially or through public or private libraries. Nevertheless, the illustration is effective in showing just why we should all take part in protecting the genetic diversity of our food and preserving the heirloom varieties that grow well in our regions.

save-our-seeds-infographic

If you want to get actively involved with a public seed library in your region, check out this interactive map from seedlibrarian.com: Seed Library Locator Map. Hopefully there’s an active library in your area. If you know of a library that’s not listed, get in touch and ask them to add it.


Many thanks to National Geographic for the report on the dwindling number of vegetable varieties in the national library. The original graphic is available here: Our Dwindling Food Variety.

Many thanks to the Illinois Stewardship Alliance for developing this great infographic. The original post is online here: You Should Be Saving Seeds, Yes You.

Infographic Credits:

Content
http://www.exploratorium.edu/gardening/control/seeds/two.html
http://www.fedcoseeds.com/seeds/why_save_seeds.htm
http://www.howtosaveseeds.com/whysave.php
http://blog.seedsavers.org/blog/open-pollinated-heirloom-and-hybrid-seeds

Photos
Infographic: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/07/food-ark/food-variety-graphic
Hands with bean seads photo: http://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/top-tips-seed-saving
Heirloom tomato photo: https://galerieco.wordpress.com/2014/05/06/heirloom-tomatoes/
Heirloom carrots photo: https://theplantfarm.wordpress.com/tag/tuber/
Seed in hand photo: http://sites.radiantwebtools.com/?i=15934

 

Don’t Miss Marjory’s Appearance in this New Documentary Series

Click here to view the original post.

Marjory was recently interviewed to be part of an empowering new documentary series called The Search for Sustainability. The series is premiering online between November 1st – 12th. And we’d like to invite you to watch it for free.

49 sustainability experts took part in this new series – permaculture designers, organic farmers, herbal medics, energy and building enthusiasts, systems analysts, green politicians, and health educators. Together they share potentially world-changing news, information, and practical methods that have never before been presented in the same place at the same time.

The list of participants includes Marjory Wildcraft, Paul Wheaton, Toby Hemenway, Mike Adams, Jill Winger, John Kohler, Doug Simons, Mike Koch, Kate Armstrong, and many more.

If you are interested in learning to live more sustainably, then you should definitely tune in to watch this new series. You will learn about how we can have more food, water, and shelter security. You will learn about how to be more connected with the land and its spirit, healing and thriving in health and community. You will learn about being prepared and confident in a changing world, whether collapse comes during your lifetime or not.

As you can tell, we’re very excited about this, and we know that you will benefit from this free and empowering information. Here is a brief sampling of the information that will be covered:

• Taking back control of our food, health, water, and energy supplies
• Implementing simple and no-cost methods for living harmoniously with our surrounding environment
• Learning to grow your own food in a sustainable and regenerative way in any climate
• Collecting and properly using water to restore our water table
• Utilizing herbal medicines and ancient healing methods
• Creating and participating in sustainable networks in our local communities
• Opening and supporting sustainable, values-based schools
• Learning to thrive in abundance in urban, suburban, and rural settings

Click the link below to watch a free preview. You can sign up to watch the series by entering your first name and email address below the preview video. If you think that this free series would be helpful for others in your family and community, please feel free to forward this email or share the link on your social networks.

Click Here to Watch the Free Series The Search for Sustainabilty

 

Get Paid to Help Grow Fresh Local Produce

Click here to view the original post.

agriscaping-logoHow would you like to help lead the way to a greener, more sustainable future? Do you like growing food, gardening, designing, landscaping, and teaching? If this sounds like you, we have a career opportunity that we wanted to pass along…

You might remember a Kickstarter campaign that we supported back in June for Justin Rohner and his company, Agriscaping. Well, that Kickstarter campaign was a success, to say the least. And Justin just got back in touch with us to ask us for help with a problem his company is having. Their problem? They’re getting too much business!

Agriscaping is getting a huge volume of new customers from all over the country, and their team isn’t big enough to handle all of the new customers. So, they are opening up their training programs to give a select number of people the chance to get involved and become Agriscaping Certified consultants. They’re looking for qualified people to become certified for each of the following positions:

Educators – For those with a passion for teaching and solid gardening knowledge. Apply Below.
Maintenance – For those who love caring for plants and have solid gardening knowledge. Apply Below.
Harvesters – For those with a passion for fresh, local food and solid gardening knowledge. Apply Below.
Designers – Best fit for those with landscape design experience. Apply Below.
Contractors – Available for bonded and insured landscaping contractors. Apply Below.

Each of these positions can be a full time job, or a part time job for supplemental income. You make your own schedule and work at your own pace. You spend your entire day walking around gardens and meeting like minded people who are excited to have your help. Sound good?

When you’re certified, Agriscaping will send you clients in your area who are looking for help with the gardens at their homes, schools, and churches. And you’re free to build your own client list as well – you can use your Agriscaping skills on any project you find on your own.

The process to become certified is simple and straight forward. You start by sending in an application to Agriscaping. After your application is accepted, you will complete an online course – with homework. The courses are taught each week and they last between 8 to 12 weeks, depending on the position. The certification fees are $800 for Educators, Maintenance, and Harvesters; $1,250 for Designers; and $3500 for Contractors. As an affiliate of Agriscaping, the [Grow] Network will receive a small percentage of any revenue generated by this promotion.

This is a great opportunity for landscapers who want to expand their businesses, gardeners who want to become more involved in their local food communities, and anyone with gardening experience who wants to move into a gardening-related career. If you know a landscaper who may be interested in helping to grow food, please pass this along to them.

Applications

The links below go to the application forms for each position. Your application will be reviewed by Agriscaping, and they will contact you directly. There is no charge for applying.

EducatorsClick here to apply for Agriscaping Educator Certification

MaintenanceClick here to apply for Agriscaping Maintenance Certification

HarvestersClick here to apply for Agriscaping Harvester Certification

DesignersClick here to apply for Agriscaping Designer Certification

ContractorsClick here to apply for Agriscaping Contractor Certification

typical-agriscaping-lot

 

How to Fertilize Your Container Gardens

Click here to view the original post.

urban-container-garden-with-potted-tomatoesGrowing food without a garden is a labor of love. My own life as a vegetable gardener started out on a series of tiny balconies and in small window boxes. While I have since been blessed with much larger areas for gardening, I still hold a special place in my heart for potted herbs and greens.

At the [Grow] Network, we get a lot of questions from people who are growing vegetables and herbs in containers, about the best way to fertilize container-grown edibles. The answer is a bit complicated, so I thought it would be a good idea to write up a recommendation so that we have a resource people can easily find and use. So, here goes nothing…

This recommendation is really intended for people who are just getting started. We publish a lot of information about fertilizers that you can make at home, some of which are probably already in your pantry or shed. We always encourage people to be adventurous, experiment, and make do with as few store-bought products as possible. But we often get questions from people who are just trying to get started. If you purchased a tomato plant and put it in a pot, and now you’re wondering what to do next, this article is especially for you.

If you regularly fertilizer your container plants already, but you’re interested in finding organic substitutes for store-bought fertilizers, read Joe Urbach’s article, “15 Simple and Inexpensive Homemade Fertilizers.” If you want to find organic substitutes for granular fertilizers, this resource is helpful – “How to Measure Your Favorite Organic Fertilizers.”

Why You Should Fertilize Your Container-Grown Edible Plants

Plants grown in boxes and pots are a little bit like a baby in a bubble. They’re cut off from the natural world around them by a container. Several feet away, in the ground, there is a flurry of organic activity taking place in the soil. But in an isolated container, there is much less organic microbial activity, and the plants in that container aren’t getting all of the beneficial nutrients, minerals, and enzymes that they would get if they were in the ground. Fertilizing is about supplementing the soil in your pot, to make it more like the soil in the ground.

In the ground, there is always some presence of the key macronutrients that are required for plant growth and fertility. Most likely, your potting soil has some concentration of these nutrients – but in theory, you could create a container environment that is completely devoid of key plant nutrients. Fertilization is how you can manage the levels of these nutrients in your potting soil.

Finally, when a plant in the ground uses available nutrients to grow and fruit, those nutrients are slowly replaced by natural processes in the soil around it. A plant in a container doesn’t always have that advantage, and it is much more prone to “using up” it’s available nutrients, creating a situation where one or more nutrients are not available in the amount required by the plant to keep growing and keep fruiting. When I worked at The Natural Gardener, I would demonstrate this to people by using my hands to estimate the size of a good slicing tomato. I would say, “Your plant is going to make tomatoes this big using only water, sunlight, and the nutrients in the soil. How many tomatoes this size do you think it can make before it runs out of nutrients in its little pot?” I think that’s an effective illustration. In a container, the nutrients get used up relatively quickly, and so it becomes important to keep adding fresh nutrients to the soil.

Compost in Potting Soil

Perhaps the best way to prevent the “baby in a bubble” situation described above is to use fresh, finished compost in your potting soil. Growing vegetables is a different game than growing houseplants, and in this case you’ll have better success with a healthy, living soil. If you can get some fresh, finished compost from a friend or neighbor’s bin, this would be an awesome addition to your potting soil. If not, get some from a nearby nursery. If you can get some fresh, finished worm castings from anywhere – definitely add those. If you can get some aerobic compost tea, definitely use that – more on that below. After you incorporate compost, castings, and compost tea – add a little molasses to feed the microbes and get them growing strong.

Click Here to See How to Make Your Own Worm Castings at Home

You can somewhat recreate a healthy, living soil by adding all the right stuff. If you do this, you’ll need fewer and less supplements. You can somewhat “fake” a healthy soil by continually adding artificial nutrients, but the plants grown in that way won’t be as good nutritionally as plants grown in a healthy, living soil. There’s just no substitute for the real thing. Don’t, however, just dump your garden soil in a pot. Do use a potting mix, any potting mix – homemade is good.

A Four-Part Recommendation for Fertilizing Container-Grown Vegetables and Herbs

All of the following recommendations can easily be classified into one of four main categories:

1) Liquid fertilization
2) Liquid supplements
3) Granular fertilization
4) Granular supplements

For a basic beginner’s approach, you can get by doing only #1 – liquid fertilization. I think this is the bare minimum if you want to grow healthy food in a pot. If you’re overwhelmed by this information, or if you’re just too busy to fuss with it – simply pick up a bottle of liquid organic fertilizer and start there. That alone will probably take care of most of your problems, and greatly improve the quantity and quality of the food you grow.

An ideal fertilization regimen for container plants would include all 4 of these categories. If you have a special baby in a container, do all four. Your plant will thank you for it. I do all four of these for some edibles that I grow in pots – especially fruit-intensive plants like tomatoes. There are a few key exceptions that I’ll talk about below.

As you learn more, you’ll figure out which bits and pieces are most important for different plants, for different problems, and for different uses. When I first noticed the visual difference in my aloe plants after they got a handful of mineral sand, something clicked, and I haven’t planted aloes without trace minerals since. When I saw how much resin accumulated on a calendula plant that grew in a tomato pot with regular high-potassium fertilizer, something clicked, and now I always use high-potassium fertilizer on calendula. When I first saw the visual difference in my strawberries after they were treated with liquid seaweed, something clicked again. I don’t grow strawberries anymore, but if I see someone else’s strawberries suffering, I know that a little liquid seaweed will probably fix them right up. This is the learning curve, and with each new experiment you’ll add another piece to the puzzle.

A Simple Schedule for Container Plant Fertilization

As I said above, I think the best basic, beginner’s plan for fertilizing container plants is to use a simple, well-balanced, organic liquid fertilizer. There is more information on specific fertilizers below. Regarding the schedule for using fertilizers, the most basic schedule I would recommend is one application every two weeks. So, a basic schedule would look like this:

Week 1 – Liquid Fertilizer
Week 2 – Skip
Week 3 – Liquid Fertilizer
Week 4 – Skip
Repeat indefinitely

If I notice that the soil smells off in a certain pot, I will often apply aerobic compost tea to restore healthy microbial life to the container. I apply this on the off weeks when I am not giving liquid fertilizer. If I am growing a crop that specifically appreciates some liquid seaweed, like strawberries, or leafy spring greens that have survived into the heat of summer, I will also apply the seaweed on the off weeks. So, an intermediate schedule might look like this:

Week 1 – Liquid Fertilizer
Week 2 – Liquid Supplement
Week 3 – Liquid Fertilizer
Week 4 – Liquid Supplement
Repeat indefinitely

If I am growing tomatoes in a pot, I go all out. I use all four categories, and I give the plants everything in my arsenal to ensure a healthy life and a good yield. An advanced schedule for special plants would look something like this:

At Planting – Granular Fertilizer and Granular Supplements
Week 1 – Skip
Week 2 – Liquid Supplements
Week 3 – Liquid Fertilizer
Week 4 – Liquid Supplements
Week 5 – Liquid Fertilizer
Repeat 2-5 until fruit-set, then:
At Fruit-Set – Granular Fertilizer and Granular Supplements
Week 1 – Skip
Week 2 – Liquid Supplements
Week 3 – Liquid Fertilizer and Liquid Supplements
Week 4 – Liquid Fertilizer and Liquid Supplements
Repeat until the bitter end

Anytime I’m applying a lot of fertilizer and supplements, as in the example above, I cut back on the dilution strength of the liquids and the volume of the granular. The general idea is to give less, more often.

Liquid Fertilizers

When you’re looking for a liquid fertilizer, I think that you will get the best results and the safest experience by selecting a simple, well-balanced, organic product. Fish emulsion is the best option I have found, no question. It comes labeled with many different names like “Liquid Fish,” “Organic Fish Concentrate,” and just plain old “Fish.” As I understand it, fish emulsion is basically just a by-product of commercial fish processing – it’s the rest of the fish, liquefied in a blender. Fish emulsion typically analyses at 5-1-1, N-P-K. So, it’s great for growing your plants large, and great for leafy green growth (lots of nitrogen). But, you’ll want to add a phosphorous source for vigorous root growth, budding, and fruiting. Or a potassium source for plants with general health and growth issues.

There are many blends available on the market that use fish emulsion as a base and incorporate other ingredients for a more well-balanced effect. A good way to choose is to make a trip to a local organic garden center and ask them what they have available. Specify that you want single digit N-P-K concentrations, and specify organic. They should be able to help you make a good choice. If you don’t have a good organic garden center nearby, Amazon may be your best bet. A simple search of “organic liquid fertilizer” yields many good results.

My favorite solution for a liquid organic fertilizer is a locally made blend that includes fish emulsion, liquid seaweed, humic acid, molasses, fermentation extracts, magnesium chloride, iron sulfate, zinc chloride, and water. This product is labeled as 3 – 1.5 – 2, N-P-K. I have used this solution on a huge variety of plants, with good success and no burning, never.

Any product that you buy should have instructions for diluting. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to dilute the concentrated fertilizer – never apply directly without diluting. A common dilution rate is 1 oz (2 Tablespoons) per gallon. If my label has worn off, or someone gave me a sample with no instructions, that is the dilution rate I normally use. I tended bar when I was in college, so sometimes when I’m in a rush I trust my steady hand to pour an even 1 oz without measuring. It’s better to keep some measuring spoons and a conversion chart on hand in the area where you will be mixing fertilizers. You can get cheap plastic measuring spoons from the dollar store – when you smell the fish fertilizer you’ll understand that you probably don’t want to use your regular kitchen measures for this task… Shake the liquid concentrate well before measuring out the desired amount – ingredients like molasses have a strong tendency to separate and settle on the bottom of the container. You want to make sure you remix the concentration each time you use it. I add a little water to a watering can first, pour the measured concentrate into the watering can second, and then fill the watering can third. You should always stir the dilution well, so that each plant gets an equal dose of the fertilizer. I use a bamboo stick to reach into the watering can, past the handle. I stir counter-clockwise before reversing the direction and stirring again, this time clockwise – until a vortex occurs (a little water whirlwind).

The correct amount to apply per plant should be given by the manufacturer, either on the product’s label, or on the manufacturer’s website. If they do not supply this information, a rule of thumb I use is to apply one ounce of diluted fertilizer solution per gallon of soil in the container. So, a one gallon pot gets one ounce from the watering can. A five gallon pot gets five ounces, so on. For very small containers, I just give a quick splash. If I get liquid fertilizer on the plant’s leaves, I shake the leaf or rinse it off to get rid of standing drops of fertilizer. You can also apply liquid fertilizers as a foliar spray, and your plants will probably love you for it. It does well when applied as a mist, but can hurt if it’s collected in puddles on the leaves. Apply it lightly, with a mister/sprayer, when the wind is low.

You should always apply liquid fertilizers to soil that has been moistened, but not saturated, with water; so that the fertilizer solution will distribute itself throughout the soil. If you apply liquid fertilizer to dry soil, it can absorb into one small area. If you apply liquid fertilizer to saturated soil, it can drain out through the bottom of the container. When I remember to, I water containers late in the day, on the day before they will get fertilized.

I’ve been told that the best time of day to apply fertilizer is very early in the morning, when a plant is beginning it’s rhythmic growth cycle for the day. However, if you’re a late riser, any time is better than never.

Liquid Supplements

What defines a liquid fertilizer is that it has a significant concentration of 3 key macronutrients required for plant growth and fertility – nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). These 3 macronutrients are key to growing healthy plants, but there are several other things you can do to help your plants grow big and strong. These supplemental products include other macronutrients, lesser-known micronutrients, beneficial trace minerals, beneficial fungi, natural enzymes, living microbes, and a whole slew of other goodies.

Seaweed
Seaweed is like magic for some plants. It doesn’t have high concentrations of the three key macronutrients – Maxicrop’s popular seaweed product analyzes at 0-0-1. But seaweed is great for heat resistance, drought resistance, and it helps with many common problems. If your plants are suffering from chlorosis, with yellow leaves and poor growth, seaweed can get them back to green and growing quickly (although you may be over-watering – so be sure to address the root problem). Strawberries and spinach love seaweed.

pH Control
Some plants require a more acidic soil in order to thrive and fruit. You can use liquid supplements to manage the pH level of soil in a container. Seaweed with added iron is a great supplement for acid-loving plants. You can also acidify your regular water by adding a little vinegar to the watering can – you can safely use up to one cup of vinegar per gallon of water.

Aerobic Compost Tea
As I’ve said before, using aerobic compost tea is a little bit like cheating. You take water that contains thriving colonies of microscopic life, and pour it onto your garden soil. This is an especially effective tactic for containers, where the normal soil biology likely doesn’t exist yet. You can inoculate the soil with many desirable microorganisms by applying aerobic compost tea. You can brew this miracle tonic yourself at home, or you might find an organic garden center nearby that offers it for sale by the gallon. If there is an active garden club in your area, ask around and find out if anyone else is sharing their brew – or can show you how to make it yourself. If you’re confused about what exactly compost tea is, read this – “Leachate, Worm Tea, and Aerobic Compost Tea – A Clarification.”

Any time you’re using a supplement or additive that has a living component, it’s important to pay attention to the water you’re using to dilute the additive. Tap water has chemicals in it that are specifically chosen to kill microbial life, so it’s easy to torpedo your efforts by diluting aerobic compost tea with tap water. You will still likely get trace concentrations of seaweed, molasses, humate, and the other good ingredients that went into the tea while it was brewing, but you won’t get the beneficial microorganisms, and those are what you’re really looking for with this particular supplement. For more information on this see Leslie Parson’s article, A Guide for Using Tap Water in Your Garden.

Enzyme and Vitamin Solutions
There are some good products on the market that contain natural enzymes and vitamins that are organically manufactured by biological processes. I think this basically means that the products are bottled microbe poo. I have used a few of these, and I feel like they do improve the size and vigor of treated plants. I would consider using these on stressed plants, or on plants that need to have an especially beautiful appearance, like flowers or edibles in a visible place. Some examples are Vitazyme, Agri-Gro, and SuperThrive.

Granular Fertilizers

Granular fertilizers are generally stronger, and longer-lasting than liquid fertilizers. As always, a good rule of thumb is to stick with products that have single digit concentrations of the three key macronutrients nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. You’re still looking for something like 4-4-4, not 20-20-20 (N-P-K). You will find granular fertilizers made from an assortment of different ingredients – mostly animal poop. I have used packaged fertilizer products that were made from chicken poop, cow poop, turkey poop, rabbit poop; the list goes on. As with liquid fertilizers, a good course of action for a first-timer is to walk in to a brick and mortar garden center and talk with the staff there about what is available and what meets your needs. If you don’t have a good organic garden center within driving distance, check on Amazon. Shipping costs will be a factor – the smallest bags I’ve seen available are in the 5-6 lb range.

If you are a vegan, your options will be a little more limited. There are some good fertilizers available made from cottonseed meal, alfalfa meal, and some others. Search online or consult with your local experts and you should be able to find a solution that works for you.

My favorite granular fertilizer is a local product that analyzes at 8-2-4 N-P-K. It is made from feather meal, turkey compost, sulfate of potash, and molasses. Most plants use the basic macronutrients at the ratio of 4:1:2, so it’s handy to have a good all purpose fertilizer like this that can be used on everything from the lawn to the flowers to the vegetable garden.

Applying granular fertilizers is easy. Because these fertilizers are stronger and last longer, you will probably only need to apply these once or twice over the course of a growing season. For the first application, at planting, I mix the recommended amount into the potting soil that I will use to fill my container. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for how much to use. If no recommendation is given on the product packaging, I use one large handful for a 5-gallon container, and adjust proportionately for smaller or larger containers. In the bottom of the planting hole, I sprinkle another teaspoon or so of fertilizer, for immediate availability to the plant’s roots.

Be sure to mix the fertilizer well into the potting soil, so that it is evenly distributed throughout. I usually get two buckets (or trugs) side by side, and pass the soil/fertilizer mix back and forth between the two buckets, completely dumping the contents each time. After dumping the mixture back into the empty bucket 10 or 12 times, I can visually see when the fertilizer has been thoroughly mixed.

Sometimes I will come back with a second helping of granular fertilizer, either at fruit-set, or when I notice that a plant’s growth has slowed down significantly. For the second application, I don’t dig down into the soil – I don’t want to damage the existing root system. I evenly scatter the granular fertilizer over the top of the soil in the container. Then I “scratch” the fertilizer down into the top 1 or 2 inches of the soil. Sometimes I use a hand rake to scratch the fertilizer in, but I usually just use my fingertips. After the fertilizer is scratched in, give the container a thorough watering to activate the fertilizer. If the container is in an area where pests are a problem, cover the top of the soil with some sort of mulch after adding the second helping of granular fertilizer. Cats and dogs are very interested in organic fertilizers, and they will dig up your plant just as it is starting to fruit. If your pot is in a sitting area, flies and fruit flies are less likely to gather in the area if a thin layer of mulch separates the soil from the open air. My favorite mulch to use is organic compost, from the backyard pile. If I need the pot to look especially presentable – I will use a small pea-sized stone instead. Expanded shale makes a great mulch and has a clean neutral appearance.

Granular Supplements

In addition to the three key macronutrients, there are lots of beneficial soil amendments that you can mix in to your potting mix at planting time.

Mycorrhizal Fungi
Mycorrhizae are fungi that have a symbiotic relationship with plant roots. The fungus forms a web in the soil, tying in with the plant roots through a physical connection. As the fungus collects nutrients from the soil, it passes water and minerals up to the plant’s roots, and in return the plant passes sugars down to the fungus. Mycorrhizae exist naturally in healthy soil in the ground everywhere, but not necessarily in potting soil. You can use a product to inject these fungi into your potting soil. There are several products available from garden centers and online. You can also get soluble mycorrhizae that can be watered in to the soil.

Trace Minerals
While N, P, and K are the three big nutrients required for plant growth, there are many other nutrients that contribute to a plant’s overall health. A good way of looking at this is to compare a plant’s diet to a human’s diet – if a person ate nothing but eggs, kale, and carrots everyday, 3 meals a day – they would eventually develop a nutrient deficiency. Those three ingredients are healthy, but alone they do not constitute a well-balanced diet. To round out your plants’ diets, you can add mineral sand to the potting mix at planting time. I use a mineral sand product that includes decomposed granite sand, lava sand, granite sand, basalt, soft rock phosphate with colloidal clay, humate, greensand, and montmorillonite.

A Few Key Exceptions

I distinguish between leafy annuals and woody perennials in my fertilization schedules. Some woody perennial plants don’t appreciate the extra nutrients, and you can cause more harm than good by overdoing it with regular fertilization. Woody herbs like rosemary and lavender are especially sensitive to this. I fertilize rosemary about half as often as I fertilize other plants, and I fertilize lavender rarely if ever.

Blueberries benefit from special treatment in a container. They love seaweed, iron, and acidity. Watering with vinegar is beneficial here. Give your potted blueberries some extra love and they will pay you back with plenty of tasty berries.

When I’m growing tomatoes in a pot, as I said above, I go all out. I use everything in my arsenal to get the plant as productive as possible. I normally don’t worry about burning plants with too much fertilizer, because I only use mild organic fertilizers and I dilute them well, as I mentioned above. In this case, however, I always keep a close eye on the leaf margins to make sure that I am not over-doing it with the tomatoes.

Well, that was a mouthful. I hope that this information is more helpful than it is confusing. If you have specific questions that you want to ask – feel free to use the comments section below. There’s a whole community of people here who can help! Good luck with your container garden – if you grow a champion container garden, take some pictures and tell us your story – it would make a great entry in our ongoing Writing Contest.

 

This Man Traveled the World to Find a Cure for Cancer

Click here to view the original post.

The Truth about Cancer - A Global QuestCancer is a topic that touches us all sooner or later. It’s a concern for each of us ourselves, our immediate and extended families, and our close friends and loves ones in the community at large. Because of its wide reach, cancer can invade any aspect of our lives. Cancer is both an intensely personal issue and a broader community issue at the same time.

For Ty Bollinger, it’s been both. On the personal front, he lost his father and 7 other family members to cancer. But his experiences led him directly to the community, and there in the cancer community is where he is making a big impact. Ty has put together a strong network of scientists, researchers, doctors, specialists, and survivors. They are, together, expressing concern about the way we treat cancer.

Their message isn’t very popular in some circles, but then again, no message is popular when it threatens a booming $100 billion dollar industry*. But, their message is important. And, it’s free to listen to them.

Ty traveled all over the globe to collect their message. He spoke to 131 people at the cutting edge of cancer – doctors, researchers, and experts from around the world. He sat down and interviewed them face to face on camera, to document their beliefs, their feelings, and their cold hard research. Ty and his team documented the entire process on film, and they put it together as an online documentary series called The Truth About Cancer – A Global Quest. The series premiers this week, and you can watch for free.

The series starts this Tuesday night the 13th at 9:00PM Eastern, and continues for 9 days. You can watch it now for free, but you do have to register with the site. Just put in your first name and email address, and you’ll get an invitation in your email. If you want to purchase the whole series, you can watch it online or order a hard copy. As an affiliate, the [Grow] Network will receive a percentage of any sales made through this promotion.

You can watch a free preview at the link below:

Watch The Preview – The Truth About Cancer: A Global Quest

If you decide that you want to watch the series, be sure to register by putting in your first name and email address. You’ll get updates sent directly to your inbox.


*Cancer Drug Market info from Forbes (http://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewherper/2015/05/05/cancer-drug-sales-approach-100-billion-and-could-increase-50-by-2018/)