Thursday, April 16, 2015

Snowing in Colorado... BTE helps delay trees blooming

Well this is another typical crazy Colorado spring.  It is snowing outside today... Cold...  I am very glad for the moisture as we haven't had much, but it is these swings from the 60-70's into the freezing temps that really does a number on our plants, and especially our flowering fruit and nut trees.  All the trees around me that flower are in full flow already and they are just getting hammered.  Thankfully I have been working very hard to delay the bloom on my apple trees.  I have on tree that buds out into leaves early every year and usually it is also already flowering and of course getting killed by the frost and snow.   This year is different... At least so far.  Why?  Because of Back to Eden Gardening...

How does BTE help with early blooming?  Well the deep wood chip mulch is an insulation layer.  It is insulating the ground from the early warm temperatures.  The air temps may be warm, but the ground temps under that deep mulch are still quite cool.  Normally one of my apple trees is already blooming and instead the leaves have just opened up.  So I would say that the deep mulches have bought me at least a week if not 2 weeks in delaying the bloom on those trees.  Now all I can do is wait and see if it is enough to help this early tree to produce fruit for me this year.  Now both of my existing apple trees are planted out in the full sun so no attempt to delay them further by using another trick which is to plant them in the shade on the north side of a building or tree or anything that can provide winter shade and still provide full sun during the spring and summer months.  My new plants I just planted I planted a peach, sweet cherry, and an apricot in shady locations this year to see if it is possible in Colorado to get these trees to produce fruit.  Many of the experts say it is unlikely.  So we will see how BTE and observation/location can make a difference.  It is going to be an exciting gardening year!

I was supposed to put out my cold weather plants last weekend, but I was busy planting the orchard and about a dozen other things.  So this weekend in between getting loads of spoiled hay, leaves, and coffee grounds I need to set out my cold weather plants and get my other seeds started like my melons and a few other things that I like to get started indoors.  My tomatoes and peppers are just doing "OK" this year.  I have them in grow trays under lights with a warming mat.  I am going to give them a shot of worm juice probably next week and think about transplanting them into bigger pots and see what happens.   I am hoping to get some robust growth from them indoors so that I get a better start than I did last year.  My indoor seeds seem to really not beef up/thicken up and get hearty.  So I am hoping that some compost tea from my worms and some worm juice will give them a shot.  We will have to see how that goes.  I will try to do that next week. 

Well sorry it has been a while since I posted.  I have been very busy with other things that are taking up all my time right at the moment... But sometimes you have to pay the bills! LOL  I will be tied up again next week so it is crazy busy around here right now.   I hope your plants are doing well if your here in the Colorado front range! 

Until the next time... Keep on growing!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Urban homestead - orchard planted

Sorry it has been a few days since I have had a chance to post on my blog.  I have been crazy busy planting.  So I opened up the packages from MO Department of Conservation and from Stark Bros.  To my dismay the MO DOC messed up my order and instead of sending me Paw Paw's they sent me Elderberry.  I need more Elderberry on our property in MO like I need another hole in my head... I have Elderberry all over the place in MO so I really didn't need or want them... I really wanted the Paw Paw's.  I may have to reach out and let them know they messed up.  The plus side is that Elderberry will grow in CO and I don't have any on my postage stamp lot here in our urban setting so I planted an Elderberry here.

So what have I been planting... Well I planted 15 trees this weekend.  2 Pear, 2 Plum, 1 Apple, 1 Apricot, 1 Peach, 1 Cherry, 2 Service Berry, 1 Elderberry, 2 Mulberry, 2 Black Locust.

Then yesterday I was out putting in posts for a wire trellis for raspberries and blackberries.  Then I planted those.  I have 6 blackberries, 3 golden raspberries, 3 purple raspberries, and 6 red raspberries that went into the ground yesterday, and we put in some more root stock strawberries to try and get my raised strawberry bed to fill in. 

Also I had a lot of trees from the MO DOC so I had to put them into pots to keep them alive until I can get out to MO this fall.  That is the plan anyway.  So we will see how many of these trees survive in posts until I can get them out to their final home. 

So now I need to start back filling the wood chip mulch as much as I can around the trees.  I did pile up a fair amount while I planted, but I need to finish filling them in.

Next projects this coming weekend are to get my cold weather plants and seeds out into beds.  I have a lead on some leaves and some wood chips that I will probably be doing a lot of hauling this weekend.  I promise to take some pictures of things soon and post here on the blog.

Now I need to go get a long drill bit so that I can drill holes in my cedar posts that I put up for the raspberries and blackberries so I can string a wire to act as a trellis to separate the new canes from the old canes as they have to be managed.  So now I wait eagerly to see these trees spring to life and what steps we have to take to prune and shape them. 

Also as a neat side note as I was out potting up trees I found some volunteer cilantro that had sprung up from seed that dropped last year that landed on the ground.  It is so funny to think we have to plant at certain times and certain plants when you see something like this just take off on it's own, surviving the cold nights and freezing temps with no care or intention of planting it there.... I think many times we over think this gardening thing and we should let nature do more and we do less... Just something to think about... :-)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Fedex bringeth good things... Stark Bros!

Well the plants all arrived in boxes from Stark Bros so now I have a BUNCH of trees and bushes to get planted this weekend.  It is good to see everything is here... Now for the fun part! 

I will get you some pictures of the plants how they arrived in the mail and of course I will try to get you some pictures of the BTE beds and locations where I am planting them.  It will be a busy weekend planting it looks like!  And of course a recap of what we are planting and how it looks.

I was out checking the apple trees we already have in the yard to see how they are doing.  They are starting to bud out with the little leaf cluster buds.  So the deep mulch does appear to help slow the trees response to try and leaf out and flower early.  So we will see how it goes this year.  This morning we had SNOW on the ground!  So 70+ degrees one day, and snow the next... This is why it is so hard to grow fruit trees in CO!  You end up loosing your blooms to the crazy frost and temp swings.  So far so good with the deep mulch around the trees in delaying the trees a little bit.  So all we can do now is wait and see how soon they start to bloom out.  This year was the first year I have pruned my apple trees since I planted them a couple of years ago so I am excited to see how they respond this year to the thinning and pruning.  So it is an exciting time to watch and learn! 

I hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend.  It is a wonderful time of planting and spiritual reflection.  :-)  God Bless!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Converting raised beds to a hybrid Back to Eden Beds

Just a quick note... I just started converting some of my raised garden beds to a hybrid type Back to Eden bed.  So here is what I did...

My raised garden beds are 11.5 - 12 inches tall.  I decided that I really want to go all BTE garden beds, but didn't want to rip out my existing raised beds... At least not yet! :-D  So I decided to try a hybrid this year.  I am digging out the top 4-5 inches of bed soil in the raised beds to make room for the wood chips.  This still leaves 6-7 inches of soil in the beds and of course the plants can dig down into the dirt below the beds....  I started with my first bed and it looks like it should work OK as an experiment with the raised beds this year.  We will see how it goes with plants like my Kale, Collards, Chard and other early plants. 

So if your already gardening and have raised beds and are toying with ripping out your raised beds give this at try... It cannot hurt and it allows you to save some work this year as your experiment with BTE gardening methods.  I don't know about you, but my free time is in short supply so anything that will allow me to leverage something I have instead of creating a lot more work is great.

In a side note, I spent some time ripping out and removing my hugleculture bed that I had placed in a poor location a few years ago.  That is finally all moved out and I have 2 nice looking BTE garden beds in the place where the one large bed was.  I think this will be a more productive use of the space right outside of the back door....  The hugleculture bed was a great success and it has been relocated to a further out zone away from the house and will be much larger.  That will be a fall and winter project at this rate... but we will see what happens.

So give a hybrid raised bed a try... Make sure you give yourself enough depth for the wood chips, and remember they will settle so you will want a little more than you think in the bed to allow for that settling.  We are looking for a finished depth of about 4 inches of chips.  Of course don't forget to put some nitrogen on the top on a regular interval so that the chips start to decompose and feed your beds! 

Trees trees trees... They are arriving... Now to plant!

Well it is crazy around here... it is that time of year.  We are planning, growing, and planting stuff... Well my orders of trees have started to show up and I am up at night when I should be sleeping trying to sort out where I want to put them, worried about getting these bare root trees in some dirt fast, and trying to keep them alive and happy as I figure out where things can go here in our urban homestead and how to keep the ones I cannot plant here alive so that I can get them out to our rural property in MO. 

So the first bunch of trees arrived from the Missouri Department of Conservation.  I had ordered these trees back in November.  The purpose of these trees was for my rural property.  Sadly my plans to go out to the rural property have been delayed due to other crisis and priorities so now I am left with the task of finding a way to plant these trees in pots to keep them alive until I can get them out to MO.  Possibly by the fall which is the best time to plant them anyway.  So I am juggling what to do with these trees.

They arrived with the mail and are bare root starter trees.  The price is right, now to see how many of these trees survive.  I will be planting a few of them here in the urban homestead but the space is at a premium here so not a lot can be planted here, but we will squeeze a few in.  I will plant a few June Berry(Service berry), a few Paw Paw, a couple of mulberry and a Black Locust or two depending on the space left. 

These trees come bare root, meaning no pot or anything.  They are dug up while dormant(ie no leaves and hibernating).  Your supposed to get them planted and in the ground as soon as you get them.  I got them this past week but have not been able to plant yet.  So I am now losing sleep over getting the time to get them in the ground! LOL

I just received confirmation from Stark Bros that my fruit tree and berry bush orders have shipped.  So I am going to be CRAZY busy around here for the next week between work schedule and trying to find time to get trees out and of course lets not forget the ever important time to set out our early cold hardy greens.  They should be set out to harden starting this weekend and will be planted some time next week... So BUSY really is a 4 letter word when it comes to making time to plant.

Some quick tree planting tips... When planting your trees don't go and put compost and rich soil in the hole with your tree.  You are effectively making an in ground pot for the tree which will not want to leave that spot you put the rich material.  Instead just dig the hole about twice the width of the root and twice as deep.  If you happen to have some fungi to give your root system help then great, if not don't worry... If your using BTE gardening the fungi needed will be there soon enough with your wood chips!  Put your tree in your hole and backfill with the dirt from your hole.  Don't pack it down and stomp it down.... You don't want to compact the soil.  Next layer some manure over the top of the soil.  Next put on a deep layer of wood chips and add plenty of water for the tree.  The first year or two is when your tree will be establishing its roots and are the most critical time for you to water and keep an eye on your trees. 

I will post some pics of the trees as I am pulling them out to put in pots and to plant so you can see what they look like.  Hopefully the Stark Bros trees will be here soon and I can do them all at one time over a couple of days.  Time is in pretty short supply right now so anything to allow me to break off a chuck of time at one shot would be great.  I will keep you posted and will post some pics of the trees and process.

I hope your having fun... this is a great time of year, exciting, challenging, and a great time for learning.  :-)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Dangerous time of the year in Colorado for fruit trees...

This is a dangerous time of year for those of us who garden and plant fruit and nut trees.  We get the most insane weather imaginable...  30 degrees one day, and it is 80 degrees the next... That is NO EXAGGERATION!  String together enough of those warm days and guess what happens?  Those wonderful trees start to wake up and they start to bud out... They try to go into early bloom... They think it is summer, after all it is 70 degrees out right?  And tonight it will drop down into the 20-30 degree range... Those poor trees, the blooms cannot handle the extreme cold and they will get frost killed... And we of course have another year with no fruit or nut set on the trees.  Sure the tree will survive, but it largely becomes an ornamental tree at that point with no productivity that we hope for as gardeners.

Now speaking for myself I am a fruitaholic....  Yes, I make words up! LOL  But I love fruit and it is very hard and expensive to get organic and healthy fruit anymore.  The stores don't have it and if they do they want an arm and a leg for it... EXPENSIVE!  So it is time to grow our own.  It takes some time for trees to get large and begin to produce... 3-5 years depending on the size of the tree you get and plant from the nursery.  So this is a long term project and it is quite heart breaking to watch the Colorado weather year after year freeze out our trees...  So here are some tips for you to keep your trees sleeping as long as possible so that they don't wake up too early.  Maybe, just maybe you will get to reap a harvest of those elusive fruits we all love here in a Colorado climate.

Here is some of the fruit they tell us we cannot grow... Peaches, sweet cherries, apricots, nectarines, and many others that I know are escaping me at the moment... Just some of my favorites is all!  LOL  Even apples, pears, and plums are challenged in the Colorado climate and have problems with the late frosts that kill the blooms.  So here are some tips that you might find helpful for new plants.

1. Select varieties that mention they bloom late.  The later it blooms the better it will be for us here in the mountains where the temp swings freeze the blooms
2. Plant these trees in the northern shade of buildings, trees, and other things that shield the location from the winter sun, but gets plenty of sun in the summer when the sun is higher in the sky.
3. DEEP MULCH!  Pile on the wood chips and other deep mulches to insulate the root system and ground around the trees.  This mulch will delay the ground warming up to the point that the tree will start to bud out early.

Now if you already have trees in the ground my tips for selection and plant location may not be much help.  But you can absolutely do the deep mulching.  Besides these trees feed from the top, the decaying wood chips will feed those trees as they break down, they hold in moisture so your trees will need less water, and they will help you to delay the tree from blooming and possibly get you through the crazy weather swings to where you too might be able to see fruit from plants they say we can't really grow reliably here.... 

I know other people in other parts of the country have similar issues with the weather killing the blooms on these trees.  So these tips should help you also. 

So it is a dangerous time for our trees, but it isn't too late to protect them from these crazy temp swings...  And possibly give you the opportunity to reap an wonderful harvest from your trees...

Take care and God Bless,

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Depending on where you live it is time to put out our first plants!

Well depending on which USDA Zone you live in it may be time to start thinking about putting out your first plants.  I live in zone 5 here on my urban homestead and it looks like next week we will start putting out our cold tolerant plants that were started from seed.  This includes kale, onions, collards, chard, cabbage.  And I will direct seed some miners lettuce, mache, and sorrel into a bed to become a perennial bed this year.  So it is an exciting time to think about getting plants out, making room to start more plants from seed in our seed trays.  We have tomatoes and peppers started that are spouting and will be inside for a while yet and we have a lot more seeds to start as soon as my cold weather tolerant seeds are outside.   So lots and lots of things happening here...

Also an update on finding free stuff for our gardens.  I mentioned that you should look for resources like coffee, spent brewery grains, and for juice pulp.  My arrangement for the juice pulp really didn't pan out.  The location for this business is downtown, they mix "biodegradable" plastics and other "earth friendly" garbage in with the pulp.  I attempted to make a collection run last week and and was not much fun.   Hard to get into the place, hard to find a place to park, and then to have to sift through the "garbage" to get some pulp just wasn't worth it.  So for now I am collecting my coffee grounds.  I get probably at least 100 pounds a week and have already filled one Geobin large compost pile heap and about to start a second one.  I am just layering wood chips, coffee, straw, coffee, hay, coffee in layers and then adding just a little water to get the process cooking.  It was a little slow at first to build up some heat, but it appears to be hot now and getting hotter as I watch over it.  So for now the coffee collection is working out great for me.   If your still looking for resources locally for your garden I highly recommend you check out local coffee shops and other places that serve the beverage and ask if you can collect their grounds.   All I do is provide some 5 gallon buckets and lids and rotate them out ever few days.  It amounts to about a 5 gallon bucket a day at one coffee shop and I pickup the Starbucks coffee next door while I am there which usually is at least one garbage bag that is about 20lbs of used coffee.  So it has been working out very well. 

One more note... I am anxiously awaiting the shipment of my trees and berries from Stark Brothers.  I saw there were trees and bushes over at Lowes the other day and I was like... Oh man!  So I am anxious for the plants to get here.  I pruned one of my grape vines the other day and I have one more to get puned very soon to start training it to the space I have for them.  I am hoping to get those trees and bushes in the ground as fast as possible.  I have been so busy that getting garden time is very tough, but we juggle as many balls as we can right? 

Anyway, exciting time of the year and LOTS of things to be doing.  I have a load of manure in my truck and a load of wood chips on my drive to get moved.  I also got a hugleculture bed moved in my back yard last weekennd and started 2 more Back to Eden on ground beds in that prime location where I had the hugleculture bed.  I am rebuilding a much bigger bed further away from the house and trying to make sure my regular visit beds are close by the back door, and the less visited spots are further away to prioritize where thing go by the amount of attention they need.  So the manure and chips will be going onto the new BTE bed by the back door and I have another small bed area up in the front yard I want to create to fill some unused space.  So lots of things happening... Just wish I had more time to work on it!  LOL

I will keep you posted!  Remember we are growing with Yahuah(God) and he is our master gardener who teaches us... Keep your ears open, and keep looking for the miracles of creation everywhere!

God Bless,

Monday, March 23, 2015

The hard to find resource... CARBON! Look in your mailbox?

It is really kind of funny that we spend so much time today talking about global warming or climate change and all that carbon in the atmosphere... Seriously, I think any sane or rational person would think about that long and hard and think about how plants and our environment works.  

As a gardener I am constantly looking at how I can make my garden sustainable.  This means equalizing my inputs required with my outputs and looking for ways to stack functions as much as possible.  It is an ever learning and growing process of our thinking and observation.  The hardest thing for me to come by for my garden is also one of the so called problems which is carbon.  I cannot find enough... Yes, for each part of nitrogen it takes far more carbon to create an environment that soil life can attach to and do something with.  So I am constantly scanning looking for ways to get my carbon resources to feed my compost, worms, garden beds and soil.

If you follow Back to Eden Gardening then you have heard about  wood chips.  They are a wonderful carbon resource.  The trees mine deep for minerals that we cannot easily get and bring thos up to the surface where we can cycle them through our soils.  However this isn't enough, and we need to be looking for things as well.  My wood chips are wonderful, but they do break down to slowly for my composting needs so I am looking for faster cycling of carbon through the system.  So I look for leaves, straw, hay, garden plant materials from the prior year etc.  One area that may be overlooked is your mailbox or your driveway!  Our mailboxes are full of junk mail and if you receive a news paper or look for the free classified ad newpapers at your local store pick a few up....  They make great carbon for your compost bins, and worms. 

How to use your junk mail?  Don't use anything shiny as far as ads and things.  I typically recycle envelopes and the mail itself.  I remove the plastic windows from the envelopes.  I run them through a shredder.  Same thing with the news paper or classified ad papers.  Just shred them and put them in a garbage bag for adding to my compost bins and worm bins.  Also if you buy eggs in cartons those cartons can be reused with a local person who may sell you eggs, or if you don't have access to someone who sells you eggs or better yet you have your own chickens so you have eggs then you can recycle those egg cartons as well.

There are many sources of nitrogen that we can use, but I find it far more difficult to find easy to obtain sources of carbon.  In our compost we call this our "browns".  Keeping your eyes open you can find additional sources of carbon to help with your gardening and adding more "flavor" to your Back to Eden Gardening... 

Funny, now I look forward to junk mail in my mailbox!  Strange how growing a garden can change perspectives?  LOL

Take Care, and God Bless you,

Saturday, March 14, 2015

How does your soil work? Watch this documentary and you will be blown away!

How does soil work?  What makes your plants grow?  What is a healthy soil?  How does nature do it?  How does modern agriculture do it?  Watch this video and I think you will get a college education on soil and start to really understand how this works.  And how you can do this and have incredible sustainable gardens, plants and life all around us....

When you finish watching this you will understand how the current food system went wrong, the damage that has happened and continues to happen.  You will learn how to change this.

Do yourself a favor and watch this video!

Friday, March 13, 2015

LA - you can use city land for free vegetable garden

I would love to see this happening everywhere.  I have a plot of city managed land just down the street from me that is vacant.  I have considered talking to the city about doing something just like this!

LA - Now you can use City Land for Free Vegetable Garden

Seed Starting tips - Tips on how to start your own plants for your garden

It is that time of year and depending on where you are and your climate it is time to start your seeds.  I am in zone 5b and so it is time to get things rolling.  One of the big draw back to gardening is the consumerism that surrounds it.  Someone telling you that you have to buy "stuff" or you won't have a good garden.  Well I am here to tell you that for the most part that just isn't true.  There are a few things you will want to invest in that will last for several seasons or much longer.  So this time of year we need to start seeds for plants that take a longer time to mature and produce.  If you live in an area like I do that gets early frosts just as your tomotoes and peppers are starting to produce you know exactly what I mean.  So there are some things that really benefit from getting seeds started and having good starter plants for the growing season.  Starter plants at the stores can get quite expensive so it is yet another reason to start your own.  So lets talk about some of the things that can be very helpful to getting your plants started.

Suggested seed starting tools:
1. A shelving unit or place to put your seeds as they are getting started.  Preferably a place where they can get a lot of sun or you have grow lights in place to provide the needed light.
2. Grow lights, you can buy some cheap shop lights, and get some natural light spectrum bulbs.  All this can be found at Walmart.
3. A grow mat, temperature controlled heated mat.  This will allow you to set a temperature that will keep the seed trays warm enough for the soil to germinate. 
4. Seed starting trays.  I found that the Jiffy trays over at Walmart with the plastic clear dome for the top work fine.

Some tips to the seed starting trays.
1. Use your seed sparingly, only put a few seeds per starting pot.  If you use too many your just wasting your seed.  You will get lots of sprouts that will have to be thinned out.
2. For plants that you know are going to be in the starter soil in trays for a longer time give them room in the roots to grow so start them in larger size starter pots.  I use the peat moss starter pots and for tomatoes and peppers, eggplant etc I start them in s larger size pot vs the things that are going out sooner like cold tolerant plants like collards, kale, spinach, chard and things like that.  They can be started in smaller pots because they are going out in beds much sooner. 
3. Don't be afraid to thin out the plants once they sprout.  You will probably have several cute little sprouts per pot, but don't be afraid to thin them out.  They are competing for the same resources in a limited resource environment.
4.  After a few weeks of growing you will want to either cook up a batch of organic fertilizer in liquid form to feed your plants.  Every week or two give them a dose in their water.
5.  Water from the bottom, not the top.  Let the water wick up from the bottom of the tray.
6.  If your plants appear to be getting root bound don't be afraid to put them in a larger pot.

Finally to find out when you should be starting seeds you can find an online seed starting guide to help.  You plug in your last frost date and it will spit out a time line for when to start your own seeds.  I use Johnny's Seeds online guide found here.

If you follow these tips you will be successful and will save yourself a lot of money year after year by starting your own seeds and having your own starter plants instead of buying them.  And of course save your seeds and plant heirloom seeds. 

Worm Composting bins tip - moisture control

One of the important things about feeding and caring for your worms is to keep the moisture content to the consistency of a wrung out sponge.  If your making regular additions of fresh food scraps to your bins then likely your moisture levels will remain with this consistency.  However if your only adding food say once a week then your bins could start to dry out some.  So we need to check on them.  If your using a Rubbermaid tote or some enclosed plastic container it may regulate the moisture better so you will need to check.  With an open system that breaths like the Worm Inn I am noticing that due to the very dry and arid climate that moisture levels need to be watched more closely.  One tip is to put a layer of newspaper or classified ads over the top of the material in the bin to help hold in some of the moisture and speed up the composting process for the materials on the top of your worm bin.

So if your new to worm bins watch your moisture levels. If your a Worm Inn bin user this is especially true since this system is open and is allowed to breath.  By putting a cover layer over the top like carbon materials like news paper, cardboard egg cartons, shredded junk mail(not the glossy type or any plastics), leaves etc you are mimicking a forest floor mulch that the worms can thrive in.  This mulch layer will help regulate your moisture levels.

Here is a video on worm bins that you might find helpful:

Take care, and happy worm farming! :-D

Thursday, March 12, 2015

For a limited time only - watch the full length Urban Permaculture documentary

For a limited time you can watch the full length Urban Permaculture documentary.  Learn how to convert our lawns, patios, and any free space into sustainable growing spaces.  Replace the work of maintaining our deserts called lawns into vital living spaces that promote life for everyone.  I hope you enjoy the video.  It is linked in Dr Mercola's posting here.

Urban Permaculture - Maximizes garden productivity

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Tree seedlings - planting in buckets - money saving tip

Last fall I ordered seedling trees from the state of Missouri Forestry department.  It is a great program to sell trees and other plants that can help return areas that were once forest back into forested areas or to help farmers understand agroforestry and how a blended/hybrid strategy of forest with crops and pastures and increase productivity, yields, and diversify sources of income over the long haul.

So I ordered some trees from them with the intention that I would be going out to our land, our future home site where we plan to build a permaculture Back to Eden mini farm and settle down there for retirement.  So trees and orchards are very much on the front line of that plan.  Trees take time so now is the time to plant trees so that in a few years they will start to become productive and capable of assisting us in our Back to Eden homestead. 

Well life happens, plans get interrupted.   But now I have a bunch of seedling trees that are about to be shipped to me that I will not be able to take a road trip out from CO to MO.  So I have to find a temporary home for these trees when they get here.  Trees need room to grow.  These are all one year old seedlings so they are going to be approximately 12" tall.   The upside and downside is that these trees are sold in groups of 10.  The downside that is the minimum order so that means if you want to get several tree types your going to get a lot of trees.  In our case we wanted a lot of trees for our MO property.  The downside again is that we cannot get back to MO so now I have to find a way to keep these trees alive until I can make it out to MO to plant them.  Now I started looking for pots to plant these trees in and I am finding that to buy them in bulk like this is going to be pretty expensive.   Even the cheapest 5 gallon nursery pot is running between $3-6 each.  I have approximately 50 trees I will have to find a home. 

Worse yet a 5 gallon nursery pot isn't really 5 gallons.  I is about 4 gallons and the space in those may not be enough for these trees to grow in this summer.  The plan is to try and scrape together the funds to make a trip this fall.  So there needs to be enough room in these pots that the trees will grow and be happy until we can get them into the ground.  So what to do?  I am finding lots of references online stating for a small tree I really need to be looking at a 7 gallon nursery pot.  Or better yet a smart pot which is just a fabric bag type pot to keep the root ball together, but provide air.  Again the cost is pretty high.  I looked at the dimensions of a 5 gallon nursery pot vs a 7 gallon nursery pot and still there really isn't a great deal of room and the cost is just crazy.  So I looked at some 5 gallon buckets I have around the house here.  The dimensions are more generous than those of the 5 gallon or the 7 gallon pots.  The cost to buy some new buckets at Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart etc is about $3 a piece.  That is for new buckets.  Now I don't need new buckets.  All I would be doing is drilling holes in the bottom of these buckets and using them for planting pots.  So I started looking locally for used buckets on Craigslist.  I found someone selling some that have been cleaned and ready for reuse for $2 each.  So I will be meeting him today to get what he has available and will keep my eyes open for more deals like this until I can get enough buckets to give my trees a new home.  I think these 5 gallon buckets will work to keep the trees happy through the growing season this year and provide a place for as long as I need it to keep them alive until I can get them out to our land.

Even then the challenge will be when we are ready to take them out to MO I don't think I am going to have room for 50 buckets in the back of my truck so I will have to cross that bridge when I get there.  I had hoped to get a little Harbor Freight trailer for hauling things and use the space in the trailer and the truck.  However until my funds situation changes that won't be possible.  Renting a Uhaul trailer wouldn't really work either since the cost for a one way rental is about 2/3rd the cost of buying a HF trailer.  So it makes little sense to spend that kind of money.  Also if you do a round trip with the Uhaul trailer the cost in fuel is a big factor also again running up the cost.  A small light weight HF trailer wouldn't be nearly as bad a drag on fuel economy or wear and tear.  A last option might be to see if I can find a friend or someone who would rent me a small trailer like that for the trip or loan me one.  I will have to explore that option more.

Now a few of these trees I will be able to put to use here on my urban homestead.  But not very many due to the space I have here.  I will be planting a few of the Paw Paw's, a few of the Mulberry, and a few of the Serviceberry(June berry) that are coming in this bunch from the MO Forestry department.  I may be able to plant one of the dogwood trees also.  But the rest will have to go out to MO or maybe even list them locally and sell them.  That might be a possibility also.  Some like the Pecan trees are not suited to the Zone 5 climate we live in here so I will probably have to protect those trees to keep them alive into the fall/winter months if I cannot get them out to MO.  

So your probably wondering what trees I bought?  Well here is what I ordered:

Trees Ordered:
Black Locust
Paw Paw

Now the way this program works is that they start the tree ordering on November 1st for spring shipping.  It is first come first serve and you have to order your trees fast if you want to get the trees you desire.   They will take orders through 15 April.  The cost for the trees is like $8 for 10 trees.  Even after shipping it is still very affordable.  The tree catalog has many varieties.  I was very happy to find this program.  If your looking for trees to plant on your property many states have these programs.  We are planting in MO so I was looking for trees grown in and adjusted to that climate.  So that is why I ordered from them.  here is the link on how to order trees if your interested. 

Missouri Department of Conservation:
 Seedling Order - How-To

Things are very busy this time of year for those of us who garden.  It is a time of starting seeds, planning garden spaces, building garden beds, ordering plants and trees.  So lots of hustle and bustle going on already.  It is a fun and exciting time of year.  You can feel the anticipation in the air.  It makes you want to HUSTLE and try to get everything you can done.    If you haven't started getting things going for your garden now is the time.  It isn't too late! :-) 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

How to Cover your garden area for a Back To Eden Garden

Here are the steps to get your own Back to Eden Garden going.  Note that if you don't have partially composted wood chips and they are still rather fresh you will either want to take the time to compost them some in the fall and let this garden plot really compost and cook over the winter.  If your like me and getting a late start and doing it now(late winter) or in the spring keep in mind that if the wood chips are not already partially composted you will want to add manures(nitrogen), green waste, coffee grounds etc to the top of your wood chips and keep feeding them nitrogen to accelerate the wood chip breakdown.  The following guidelines are the minimum.  Feel free to start with a deeper layer of compost and deeper layer of wood chips.  They will settle, and break down.  So if you go with a smaller layer now you will likely find you need to add more to the garden sooner.  So don't be stingy with these layers.

Notice there is NO TILLING.  NO DISTURBING the soil.  Once you get your Back to Eden garden bed up and running the maintenance is minimal, and no more battling weeds.  Give it a try!

  • For an ideal Back to Eden garden, apply 3-4 sheets of newspaper.
  • Then apply 3-4 inches of organic compost orcomposted manure.
  • Then an additional 2-4 inches of wood chips oralternative covering on top.
  • If you are implementing the methods in the Spring or Summer, additionally apply a dusting of composted manure for organic fertilizer.
WHEN TO COVER A BACK TO EDEN GARDEN: For an ideal Back to Eden garden, cover your garden in the Fall! If you look at creation, nature drops its needles and leaves in the Fall.
  • Note: *If you are using raw wood chips, allow time for them to break down (at least Fall - Winter). You will experience more work fertilizing with organic manure if you wait until the Spring or Summer to apply raw wood chips.
  • Note: *If you are using composted wood chips that have had time to decay, you may apply and plant in the compost immediately.
  • Note: *If you are using composted wood chips that have been screened, you may apply and plant in them immediately (Paul prefers this method for his home garden). 
Next installment we will talk about how to plant your seeds in the Back To Eden Garden.

For a sneak peak check out the Back To Eden Film instructions: How to Plant a Back To Eden Garden

Take Care, and God Bless you,


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Stop weeding your garden!

One of the many reasons I hear people say they can't grow a garden is the time it takes.  We are all busy in our lives and trying to keep up with a garden and all the growth that happens can be a challenge.  However you can change all of that.  The key is mulching... First of I would like to encourage everyone to stop tilling your soil.  Your just killing the fungi, worms, and bacteria that actually make your soil living and fertile.  Using the Back to Eden method of mulching will turn poor soil into great soil over time, and good soil to awesome soil.  One of the big advantages to this method is mulches.  Mulch can be wood chips, straw, grass clippings, hay, coffee grounds, leaves etc.  Using mulches in your garden will retain moisture, feed the soil organisms, create fertility and best yet... No weeds!

Yes, I know is sounds like a sales pitch... If you want to spend money, effort, and time then there is something someone will be glad to sell you.  However in this case it doesn't cost anything.  So I encourage you to stop weeding and start mulching.  You won't believe the results.  Here is a great video from Patrick Dolan explaining the process in his garden.  I know I have mulched in the past, but not nearly as much as I will be this year.  Using the Back to Eden mulches, compost, manure, and other free materials we hope to give our garden an amazing boost this year.

So stop weeding and start enjoying your garden more!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Music to my ears.... McDonalds and Monsanto in trouble?

This is a great story.  Apparently people are waking up to the fact that their food is poison and are not eating at McDonald's.  I read an article the other day stating that if you order McDonald's fries in the UK you are ACTUALLY getting potatoes... no science experiment... Here in the US the list of CRAP in your fries should make you raise an eyebrow.  The list of insane ingredients in our food is beyond baffling.

Here’s just a few of the ingredients you can find in many fast food meals:
- Dimethylpolysiloxane – A chemical known for its use in silicone breast implants, silly putty, and also… chicken nuggets
- Propylene glycol – A laxative chemical and electronic cigarette filler that even e-cigarette companies are beginning to phase out
- Azodicarbonamide – A chemical used in the creation of foamed plastic items like yoga mats

Here is an article explaining the trouble that McDonalds and Monsanto are now facing.  I hope it is true that the reason for these financial problems is due to the fact that people are waking up.  That they care about what they eat.  That they notice people all around them are sick and getting sicker... That cancer rates and heart disease are at crisis levels.  I really do hope this is why people are turning away from these companies and seeking out real food...

McDonalds and Monsanto Loosing money FAST! :-)

Additional sources of free organic matter for your compost and garden

Gardeners for as long as I can remember have loved adding coffee grounds to their gardens, compost, and worm bins.  My grandmother used to keep a worm bin on her enclosed little back porch that she fed coffee grounds to... We used to use those worms as kids to go fishing at the lake behind her house.  I have fond memories of those times, but was stumped why Grannie kept worms on her porch... 

Well fast forward to today and coffee is still a popular topic for gardeners.  It is a little funny since for the most part coffee isn't grown here in the US, but we import and consume so much of it that it is a common household thing and something that people spend a lot of money going out and having a hot cup of Joe at a local coffee shop. 

So the questions are ask a lot about acidity of coffee grounds, the effect of the coffee grounds, the availability of the nutrients in the grounds etc.  So I found quite a few people are actually running tests on the grounds and determining the effects of coffee for gardens.

It turns out that most of the acid in coffee is flushed into the coffee we drink.  So the grounds are pretty much neutral PH of 6.9.  They have nitrogen in them and should be considered a nitrogen in your compost.  There are traces of minerals in the coffee grounds, but generally not enough to be considered a soil supplement, but the fact they are there are beneficial for most soils with phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and copper.  The nitrogen levels are quite good, but not available to your plants until they are broken down by soil organisms like worms, fungi, and soil bacteria. 

Many households have coffee grounds that they toss out instead of adding to a worm bin or to a compost pile without realizing they are tossing out black gold for your garden.  Now the interesting part is this.  You can call around to local dining places, and coffee shops and ask them about getting their coffee grounds.  I have found that these places are happy to give them to you.  I have a nearby coffee shop just this week that I called and asked if I can get the grounds.  They were a little baffled by the request, but said come on over and they would give me some.  When they handed me a garbage bag with coffee grounds they asked if I wanted any more... I said "I will take all of them you have".  They went and gave me part of another garbage bag full.  I asked if I could come by each day and they said sure, just call and let us know you will be coming by and we will set the coffee grounds aside for you to pick up.  So I will be doing that starting this week.  So free coffee grounds!  And in a large enough volume that I should be able to keep adding the coffee to my compost, my worm bins, and even applied to my garden beds.

It is a win win for gardeners.  Over time the nitrogen will break down and feed your plants.  So it is a great soil amendment.  Now who knows how long coffee will be free and abundant for gardeners.  It really isn't a sustainable resource, but to take something that is going to end up in a landfill and to turn it into food just makes sense while we have it available to us.  So don't hesitate to start saving and using your coffee grounds.  Call around and get some and start to use them in your garden beds. 

Here is the web article on the Starbucks Coffee Test.  This gives you some details on the effects of coffee in your gardens.  It is largely a myth that coffee will make your soil acid for acid loving plants.  The same is also true about Pine needles and pine chips.  It is a myth, the process of composting those materials returns them back to a neutral PH and has no acid effect on soils.  So check out the article.  Also here is a video talking about this same topic.

So consider coffee as soil amendment, compost, and worm food.  It will greatly help your garden. 

Take care and God Bless,

Friday, February 20, 2015

Does Comfrey Really Improve Soil?

If you are familiar with Permaculture you will hear many many references to using Comfrey as a companion plant in your plant guilds.  This fast growing plant is impossible to get rid of once it is established so make sure you really really want it in that area your going to plant it.  This deep tap root plant mines for water and minerals.  It grows fast, gets tall, topples over and does it all over again.  You can also chop and drop it as a mulch to get more plant material down on your beds fast.  The plant will regrow.

Well like so many things you hear that your supposed to use something like this, but there is rarely any evidence to back it up.  Mostly rumors, wives tales, and stories and rarely do you get data.  Well someone agreed that there should be some data to back this story about comfrey up so someone tested it.... I think you will enjoy it.

If you want to know more about the uses of comfrey we will talk about tree guilds soon as we will be planting a lot of trees this year.  Comfrey will certainly be in the mix here!

Does Comfrey Really Improve Soil?

Return of old man winter this weekend... Reason to scramble! :-)

In Colorado we have had a surprisingly mild winter so far.  Little to now snow, or precipitation.  Which is bad actually as we have been in a drought for a very very long time here.  So when I saw the weather forcast for about 10 inches of snow this weekend I was like "WHOOOOO HOOOO!", then reality set in that I have been working on my garden beds and I have more beds to lay down manure, rock dust, and wood chips for.... So I ran out the door this morning and put the manure and rockdust down in one of my existing in ground beds.  I will be back out there during my lunch break to lay on the wood chips in a thick bed and then give it a nitrogen feed to get the composting action started in that bed with the wood chips and manure... Maybe give it a quick shot of water to make sure it has something to work with...

Think of Back to Eden garden beds sort of like making compost... If you have never made compost the formula is simple.  Carbon(wood chips, leaves, straw, hay), Nitrogen(coffee grounds, table scraps, manure, urine), water... You don't want it too wet, but you want to get it moist so that the bacteria as soon as it starts to warm up will start feasting on the fabulous meal you have prepared for them!  So in this case what we are after is to have the wood chips hold in that moisture, and to break down into that beautiful nutrient rich soil that plants, fungi, bacteria, worms just crave!    So layer it on your beds... Then keep adding the nitrogen rich materials to accelerate the process.  In the case of new beds we want to speed up the wood chips breakdown as much as we can as fast as we can to get our beds capable of sustaining our plants.

Of course over time we want to just keep layering on our materials and we don't need to rush as the process once it gets going and you have good growing beds you can take your time and it won't require as much materials to keep this going.  Over time the need to keep adding decreases to the point it is every few years you remulch your beds and you just keep adding your local garden waste and composts to the garden.  In other words less work and more gardening fun! 

So hopefully I will have one more bed done today and then have to sit tight this weekend and wait for the return of the mild weather we have had.

In the mean time I have some indoor plants to get started that are cold weather tolerant.  I plan to get the plastic up on the hoops over the raised beds and get some cold weather plants out in the next few weeks depending on when it looks like they are ready to move from the grow trays to the beds.  So lets see what I get planted this weekend and how long before I can get things growing outdoors...  :-)

Take Care, stay warm, God Bless you,

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Genetically modified Apples(FrankenApple) approved by the USDA

It is stories like this that drive home the point it has never been more important to grow a garden or to know your neighbor or farmer who grows your apples.  These apples that have been approved affect the Granny apples and Golden Delicious apples.   It will take a few years for these trees to start to produce and show up in your stores.  But how will you know?  The ONLY SAVING grace here is that produce does have labels.  Those little sticky things they put on produce with a number.  Now for the most part most of us don't know anything about the number codes or what they mean.  But they do in fact have meaning.

FrankenApple Approved

Here are the basics of what you should know:
  1. If there are only four numbers in the PLU, this means that the produce was grown conventionally or “traditionally” with the use of pesticides. The last four letters of the PLU code are simply what kind of vegetable or fruit. An example is that all bananas are labeled with the code of 4011.
  2. If there are five numbers in the PLU code, and the number starts with “8″, this tells you that the item is a genetically modified fruit or vegetable. Genetically modified fruits and vegetables trump being organic. So, it is impossible to eat organic produce that are grown from genetically modified seeds. A genetically engineered (GE or GMO) banana would be: 84011
  3. If there are five numbers in the PLU code, and the number starts with “9″, this tells you that the produce was grown organically and is not genetically modified. An organic banana would be: 94011

Now I need to point out that the Apple is one of the dirties fruits on the market place.  The chemicals used on Apples today grown conventionally are not safe to eat if you value your health.  Stick to organic apples only.

The approval of the GMO apple is very dangerous to the market place since most people don't know where their food comes from or what is in it.  The ASSUME that it must be safe or they wouldn't be allowed to sell it... Only thing it really means is that you typically won't drop dead while your eating it the first time... That is about all it means.

So unless we force this FrankenApple off of the market it is time to avoid the Granny and Golden Delicious varieties.   I expect the next trick will be to remove the sticker labels from the produce so they don't "scare" the consumer as they figure out anything with an 8 on it should NOT be ATE!

For a quick guide to the cleanest or dirtiest foods on the shelves use the Environmental Working Group's lists.  They have a phone app you can download and reference any time your shopping so that you know if you should buy that item or find an organic variety or just do without.  That is usually what I do.  The cost of organics can be quite high so pick and choose wisely.

Environmental Working Group - Lists of cleanest and dirtiest foods

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Great article on Back to Eden Gardening

I found this great article on Back to Eden type gardening.  If you thinking about a garden or are a gardener I encourage you to see what all the fuss is about. 

Touring a Back to Eden Garden

Monday, February 16, 2015

Why don't people grow a garden?

After spending most of my day yesterday loading, hauling, and dumping wood chips and manure for my garden yesterday one thing kept ringing in my head about why people don't garden... I don't mean to be critical or judgmental.  I look at myself and what I was doing even just a few years ago.  I at least kept trying to garden, but really just kept accepting the "conventional wisdom" spouted by most of the talking heads on TV, and stuff you will see online, or books.  And the results generally speaking were "OK" or frankly poor.  Of course the answer by the experts is yet something else you need to buy... There is more CRAP being sold to gardeners that you can shake a stick at and it is pathetic, expensive, and completely UN-nesessary.  So why don't people garden?

Here is my hypothesis on some of the reasons why people don't garden.  I will point out what I think are the MYTH's and what really is holding people back.

1. COST,  If all you did was ran out and bought all of the tools, fertilizers, pesticides, herbacides, gadgets, gizmos, and stuff it will drive you to the poor house in a hurry.
2. Confusing, complexity, scarey, overwhelming....  Yes, if you listen to those who only have some garbage to sell you then you will get buried in lots of the nonsense.
3. Terminology, there are some things you really do need to learn about the basics, but many of the things that are related to the garbage someone wants to sell you don't sweat it, forget it!
 4. Time, It can take some time to setup your garden initially.  I don't recommend tilling your soil, or destroying beneficial bugs, worms, fungi, and bacteria that may live where you want to garden.  But if you take your time and set up your garden you will not spend as much time as you think during the year and really the hard work is in the planning and initial setup.
5. Work, yes when your initially setting up your garden it is work.  Your going to find yourself hauling manure, dirt, wood chips, saw dust, coffee grounds, leaves, and any organic material you can get your hands on to setup your garden beds and your compost piles.  It is work, but your laying the foundation for years to come and you will find it won't be a lot of work in the long run if you keep it simple.

I find that my garden time is mostly front loaded each year.  Meaning most of my time consumed is actually before the first seed or plant goes into the ground.  Each year as I have gotten really serious about the garden my soil has gotten better, and the results have gotten better.  Even when I was running late and out of time to get things done things still went better than I would have expected and continues to improve each year.

Out of all of the list of reasons people don't garden I think it really boils down to find someone who gardens simply with nature, organically and ask them to help you.  It doesn't have to cost you an arm and leg, it doesn't have to be confusing or tough.  It boils down to deciding to make some time and do some work.

Now the question I have for you and for myself is this.  Can I buy the kind of vegetables, and fruits that I am growing in my garden?  On the surface the answer would appear to be yes, UNTIL you bite into a garden grown tomato, or cut a fresh salad and taste it, or a garden fresh green bean, or the old fashioned fermented pickles that we grew and stored... You see it might APPEAR you can buy these things, but you can't.  These things may look the same, but they are totally different.  The quality, freshness, taste, and nutrition cannot be compared.  So why would anyone NOT want to grow a garden?  I mean if you want to settle for bland, boring, tasteless, nutrient deficient food and have lots of money to spend on all of it then fantastic.  But if your like me and realize that what I am getting in return for a little bit of my time and some work is something that is priceless then I have to ask myself and YOU why on earth wouldn't you want to do that and grow a garden?

I hope you will join me this year and plant a garden.  Keep it simple if your new to gardening.  Please ask if you have a question or don't know where to begin.  It can be both simple, fun, and rewarding.

Take Care, and God Bless,

Friday, February 13, 2015

Garden Uses for Wood Ash

Wood chips and decaying wood are a fantastic asset for your garden.  However not everyone has access to a chipper/shredder for the wood they have on their property.  Or maybe you don't have the room for the wood you have, but you can still put this to use.  Wood ash is a very effective tool for your garden and in many other ways.   So the next time you don't have an immediate use for your wood try burning it and using the ashes.  Your still getting important minerals and other soil nutrition that you can put to work in your garden. 

Uses for Wood Ash:
Balance the acidity in the soil for plants like tomatoes and other alkaline-loving plants such as garlic, onion and asparagus by adding some ash in the planting hole or around the developed plant. Be careful however when using around trees, shrubs and plants like pine or azaleas that do love acidic soil. Do not mix wood ash into raw compost because this will create ammonia, which in turn will destroy nitrogen making your compost less effective as a fertilizer.
Mix some wood ash together with some fine soil or sand for use on chickens to repel mites and other pest that aggravate the birds. Chickens love a dust bath and they will get dusty to repel the pest so make the dust bath more effective by mixing in some ash. Place on the ground or make a special container for them to get into for their dust bath.
Sprinkle the ash around the garden patch to stop slugs and other soft-bodied pest from getting at your plants. The ash will actually destroy slugs and snails by soaking up the mucus that acts as a protective coating on the insect’s body.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

11 Powerful Netflix Documentaries That will Change how you think about food

If your a Netflix subscriber you might enjoy this article.  There are a few on this list I have not seen.   I will have to check them out! 

11 Powerful Netflix Documentaries that will Change How You Think About Food

Just when you think you have a handle on things... Your head explodes!

Well it has been quite an enlightening week so far.  In the process of ordering trees you stumble upon STUFF... You know what I mean... The kind of stuff that makes you go "HOLD ON THERE, I DIDN'T KNOW THAT!"  Then you start reading and watching YouTube videos... Then it happens... Your head EXPLODES!  ROFL  Yes, it has been one of those weeks... A few weeks back I had started digging into Apple tree pruning... There is a big controversy if you should prune these trees or not.  And once you start pruning the trees apparently you need to keep pruning them or the trees get very unhappy and can die...  Well if you live in a remote/rural location and you have space then you might just be inclined to not prune the trees and let nature do it's thing.  And I see lots of apple trees that are out in fields, in yards etc that get no care at all and they are still producing apples.  Now how healthy the tree is or how infested the apples are with bugs I have no idea.  My mother gets apples from the neighbors who do nothing to their trees and the apples are good... At least some years they are anyway.  So the whole set it and forget it has merit if you have the space to just let your trees go wild and you have enough diversity that there are other things there besides apples so that it isn't a monoculture crop. 

However I am presently stuck in suburbia, and my retirement property where I plan to live and garden is a long ways away in Missouri and I live in Colorado.  So I can't do a lot from here, but when I do start planting trees there in MO I may consider trying to let some trees go wild and do their thing.  However I live in a small place, on a small city lot.  I don't have a lot of room here so managing the size and behavior of the trees becomes fare more important when your trying to maximize your space and production.  So pruning will be essential here.  So I started watching lots of videos on how to prune apple trees.... Goodness sakes... You have to have a PHD in Prunology to figure all of this out!  That is when my head exploded.  Well I have had some time to chew on the apple pruning thing, and I now have the tools to get the job done.  So that will begin this weekend as I start butchering my poor little trees!

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water:
Well I started to think OK, maybe I have a decent idea sorta kinda how to prune that apple tree... But what about the poor grapes I have been trying to keep alive through renters who have lived at my house and have ignored what landscaping I had in place.  The grapes have somehow managed to survive and I don't know how... Or I should say 2 of the 3 grape plants have survived.  But now they are really not pruned or cared for.  So I started looking at grape pruning and propagation last night... I am sure you had to have heard another explosion... Yes, my head exploded again... Holy moly... Then I started looking at raspberries and blackberries... WOW, this pruning thing is really overwhelming.  But I am going to give it a shot.

The grapes will have to be cut back dramatically and I need to establish a cordon on the fencing I have it growing next to.  I will get into more of what it is and how it is supposed to work as I start hacking up my grape plants.  I will try to show you what I am doing and share some of the videos I have been watching.  I don't know about you, but anyone who is a master gardener and understands how all of this works really has their head FULL of information.  That is just the topic of pruning...  I have half a dozen of these projects waiting on me to get moving.  I will wait until my rooting hormone shows up to prune the grapes.  I am going to try and grow some from the cuttings.  I don't know if it is the right time of year to try this.  Everyone says to cut these in the fall just after they go dormant.  Here we are toward the tail end of winter.  So I don't know if this will work.  But I will give it a try.   I am not out anything if it doesn't work.  I did order another grape plant with my tree order to replace the one I lost.  Hopefully I can cut these back and establish a cordon and a managable trellis system for my grapes.  This year will be a restructure year for the grapes. 

So that is what I have been up to today.  Didn't get to break away and work in the yard.  But have my plate full with lots of new learning!  Here is just one of the videos on pruning grapes for you own amusement... DISCLAIMER:  I am not responsible for YOUR HEAD EXPLODING!  LOL

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Today in the Back to Eden Garden...

As we have mentioned we are currently building Back to Eden garden beds, and converting to Back to Eden style beds in our other existing garden beds.  This year I am converting almost all of the space in the front yard to garden beds.  We will be removing bushes and converting all the space we have into useful space. 

Now let me state that I started working on this project a few years ago and kept getting distracted, renting out our house and moving to other places.  Renters of our home really destroyed most of the work that I did and we spent this last year restoring as much as I could.  So to give you an idea we live on a hill.  The hill slopes from west to east.  It slopes down from the house out toward the street.

In Colorado where I live it is a very arid place.  We get 16-18 inches of precipitation a year on average.  We have been in a drought for many many years now so we have had very few years where we were average or greater than average.   So to address this you need to find ways conserve water on your property or landscape.  It is illegal in Colorado to capture rain water... YES, you read that right it is ILLEGAL to capture rain water in Colorado... There are some exceptions, but for the most part it is an insane law.  So when you want to "use" water on your property you simply have to get creative.  For example a few years ago when I started this I knew I needed new gutters on my house.  I also knew that this water should be put to use so the thing to do is to move the gutter down spouts from the "traditional" corners of the house to more central locations so that I could direct the water into useful places.  Next thing we did was looked a ways to hold and detain that water as long as possible and as high as possible on the landscape.  This involved digging ditches across the side of the hill to hold up the water as it came down the hill, but also to direct the gutters into as many of these "ditches" as I could so that we could retain that water and slowly release it through the landscape.  Well I had the gutters redone, and I dug the ditches.  I would call them swales, but they really aren't swales.  A swale would have a level bottom so that the water could evenly soak the entire ditch area.  In this case the water moves down toward the center of the ditch in the middle of the yard.  In those locations I put apple trees to ensure they got the water they needed without me having to water them.  Considering it has been a few years and the apple trees are still alive even with renter neglect it must be working.  Now these ditches were dug down about a foot on average.  I then put compost, peat moss, and manure in the bottom of these about 6 inches deep this past year and grew some squash, pumpkin, broccoli, and a few other things in these ditches in the front yard.  I should add that when I dug the ditches on the downhill side I mounded rocks over the top of the dirt mound that was made from digging the ditch.  The rocks act as a thermal mass to help regulate temperatures.  They also help retain moisture.  So they look like mini rock walls as I have 3 ditches like this across my front yard.... YES, you should have seen the look on the neighbors faces when I started "destroying" my yard?!  With a drought fully hitting us we had no front yard to save.  There are water restrictions so watering grass is not allowed.  Watering trees and gardens is allowed.  So now what better excuse than to convert the yard to garden? LOL 

Well this works OK, but now after seeing the Back to Eden documentary and realizing that Paul in the film does not water, yet he gets 16 inches of rain a year I realized there is a lot more that I can do to ensure that I am not watering but on occasions of extended no rain and to just get seeds started.  I have seen others report you still need to water.  So we will see this year how it goes as I attempt to dramatically cut the amount of water we use in our garden. 

So I have been taking a little time each day and hauling manure, rock dust, and wood chips into place in my front yard.  I am converting all the space in the front yard that was not part of the ditches into garden beds.  I am sure my neighbors are like "OH MY GOODNESS, WHAT IN THE WORLD IS HE DOING!".  Thankfully I don't live in a place with a home owners association or any restrictions other than watering is restricted... So we are working around those restrictions and maximizing the water that does fall on our postage stamp urban homestead. 

The beds I am working on right now are on the surface of the law.  I put down cardboard, about 6-8 inches of horse manure,  and about 6-8 inches or more of wood chips.  I sprinkled rock dust on top of the beds and then took a little water from a hose to wash it in and get the composting process started.  I then have been adding nitrogen fertilizer to the beds to kickstart the composting process and speed up the process.   Here are some picks which are really hard to make out what is going on, but hopefully it helps to see what I am talking about.  This is what I am working on each day that the weather permits.  I have two more areas in the front yard that I want to make beds in preparation for trees.  I will be a tree planting fool this year!  Then we move to the back yard to start working on beds and the last place will be a small side yard.  Time and weather permitting we will get over there and get that all mulched also and get a tree planted there as well... So lots of plans and lots of things in motion already.   We have to get seeds started here very soon under the lights here in the house.  I have some plastic to put up on the hoops on raised beds so I can start some cold weather plants.  So many projects and so little time to get them done! 

Here are some pics, I hope you enjoy.

This is next to the driveway on the top of the property side from the west facing the street.  These beds stand up above the surface by over a foot.
 Looking from the west to the east down the hill.  You can make out the 3 rock walls.  The above ground or on the surface beds closest are the result of today's work... I had the manure in place the day before, and today was wood chips and leaves.
This is looking from the sidewalk toward the house up the hill where you can see the on the surface beds I made.  The wood chips you see behind the rock wall are about 8 inches deep and anther foot below that is manure, compost, peat moss etc.  So it makes it look like it comes up about 6 inches above the ground but is quite deep.  It is starting to make the yard look like I have made tiers and stair stepping down the hill.
 From the front of the house looking down the hill from the driveway.
 From the front step looking down on the rock walls and ditches that have become Back to Eden deep mulch in ground beds.
 This is from the bottom of the property looking west up the hill near the stree.
 This is from the bottom of the property closer to the house looking up the hill.
 I know it is hard to tell, but I wanted you to see how deep this mulch is around these trees.  This is an apple tree.  It is about a foot deep.  I have a bunch of apple tree pruning to do very soon before these trees start to wake up. This tree is the one at the bottom of the hill.
 This tree is the one more toward the center of the front yard.  It is also an apple tree.
 This is back up toward the top of the lawn where I just built the on the surface beds.  I then laid a layer of spoiled hay mulch down to also retain moisture and control growth between the beds. 
Here is the shot from Google Earth showing when I was building the center and top ditches and rock walls this past year.  It was more of a restore job as I had already dug the ditches, but had not completed putting the rock down.  I had the rock in the driveway ready to be put down, but it didn't get done.  Even after paying people to do it since I was out of state it still didn't get done... Lessons learned don't pay someone to do something unless your there to babysit them.  :-(  Anyway this picture from Google isn't very accurate now, but you can at least see what I am talking about with my ditches, and rock walls. 

So there you have it.   That is what I have been working on.  I will try to get you guys some video so you can follow along.  I hope the pictures help make sense of what we are doing.  I will mark up the Google picture with locations of the new beds and tree plan and post that as we go. 

Have fun, take care, and God Bless,

Choosing Fruit Trees for extreme spring freezes

I live in Colorado on the Front Range which means to the east of the Rocky Mountains at the base or foothills of the mountains.  My USDA hardiness zone is 5B.  However we get a lot of extreme weather this time of year.  We have had a week or so of temps in the 50-60 degree range and the trees are already thinking it is spring.  I see the neighbors Maple tree getting buds already, and I see some signs of activity on my apple trees.  I have deep mulched them to insulate the root system/ground from the sun to try and delay the ground warming under those trees and hopefully delay any early blooming.  Last year we had snow on May 1st!  So this is really hard to do.  I had one apple tree that lost all the blooms, and a second one that managed to keep some blooms.  There is an apple tree across the street that I saw had apples last year so it also must have managed to keep it's blooms.  So if you live someplace where the early bouts of warm weather have your trees thinking it is time to come alive here are some tips.

Ways to improve your chances to get fruit:
1. At the planning stage when your buying trees look for varieties that bloom later naturally.  Trees most affected by these extremes are peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries.  So look for later blooming varieties.  Of course look to see if they are cold hardy for the zone you live in, and beyond that look for varieties that are noted to bloom later to improve your odds.
2. Insulate the root systems of the trees.  I use heavy mulches, wood chips to bury the root systems deep and provide some insulation to the ground and possibly delay the warming of the soil and setting the trees into motion.  This will mean slower ground warming in the spring, will keep the ground cooler in the summer, and preserve your moisture in the ground.  And will protect the root systems from extreme cold that could kill your trees.
3. For trees sensitive to the warming cycles that might cause them to bloom early look for northern locations where these trees will be sheltered from the sun during these late winter or early spring warm spells that might normally break your trees dormancy period long before the last of the freeze cycles.  By placing the trees in the shadows of a northern shade of other trees or buildings that location will stay cooler much longer, the ground will stay colder, and you will even see snow or ice still in those shaded areas long after you have seen warm temps for some time.  These colder temps in that northern shade should help keep your trees from blooming early.

If you follow these steps you can increase your chances of delaying your trees from blooming, possibly dodging a bullet with late frosts, and improving the reliability of trees that historically are spotty in their ability to produce in these extreme climate swings.

I am buying a lot of fruit trees this year and I just went through the process of trying to understand what trees will grow in my zone, and then went further and looked for info on what people say will grow in Colorado specifically.   Using this info and leveraging what we know from our planting site we can determine how much area we have where we might be able to shelter these trees from the winter sun and help us have a more reliable harvest.

I already have a couple of apple trees in my urban landscape.  This year I am buying a peach, plum, nectarine, apricot, 2 pear trees(due to cross pollination requirements), cherry, paw paw, mulberry, serviceberry.  So I will be transforming my little postage stamp yard into the beginnings of a food forest this year.

Why talk about trees now?
Nurseries are taking orders now, and shipping soon.  Spring time is not the best time to plant trees actually.  The best time is the fall, but we have to work with what we have.  So now is the time to do your homework.  Figure out what trees will work for you, will delay blooming if that is appropriate for your climate.  By ordering you can specifically select the trees you are looking for.  If you wait and buy whatever shows up at your local big box store your selection is much less.  And rarely do they order their trees based on the climate of your local area.  So your cannot be specific about the trees and how they will perform.  So the choice is yours.  There are some local nurseries around my area, but I find my choices there are many times as restricted as buying at the big box store.  Secondly the prices can be quite high.  If course if you have a local nursery please do check them out before you run off and order some trees.  You might get lucky and find exactly what your looking for.  However the time is starting to run short before we will want to start putting those trees into the ground.   We prefer to plant these trees before they start to come out of their dormant phase.  So for my area they recommend the second half of March for planting your trees. 

One last note, when choosing your trees we need to keep in mind cross pollination requirements for specific trees.  Some are self pollinating, some require a different variety of the same tree to cross pollinate.  So if you choose trees that need a second tree of a different variety make sure you know when they will be blooming so that both varieties will have blooms on at the same time.   If  the trees bloom at different times then your not going to get the cross pollination you need.  Unless you happen to have someone else in your area with another variety of the same tree that the bees can carry the pollen to you.  So keep that in mind.  Most of my trees I am ordering this year are self pollinating with the exception of the pears.  So I had to order two different varieties.    The nursery where I ordered from actually gave recommendations of the varieties that are recommended as pollinators for the variety your considering.  Which is very helpful.  I chose to order online from a nursery called Stark Brothers. 

Ok, So my tree order is in for my fruit trees.  I had already ordered a bunch of saplings for a property in MO that I was planning to go out and plant trees on this spring.  Sadly I cannot make it out there to the property so I have a bunch of small trees that will be showing up that I have to try and figure out how to keep alive until I can get out to our place.  In the mean time I will plant some of those trees here at our urban homestead in Colorado.  We will be planting some paw paw, mulberry, serviceberry, and possibly a dogwood.  I will have some dogwood, pecans, black locust to try and keep alive until I can road trip out to MO.  So this will be interesting!  Wish me luck!

This year will be a HUGE learning year as we plant trees, berries, bushes, and extensive garden beds using Back to Eden methods, permaculture methods, and planting lots of varieties of things I have never grown.  So it is going to be an exciting year.  I will be making some video and showing you what we are doing.  Right now I am still prepping garden beds with deep horse manure mulch and deep woodchip mulches.  We will show you what we are doing and how we do it.  Stay tuned!

Take Care, and God Bless,

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Are we Peeing away valuable fertilizer?

I find this article linked below is interesting and at the same time missing some valuable details.  Such as an analysis of the urine, test fields and comparisons.  Control studies and plant results.  There is so much that should be shown in an article like this talking about the value of urine as a fertilizer.   Human waste is every bit as valuable as the "waste" we get from cows, chickens, horses, rabbits, etc.  Our culture has this engrained idea that a flush toilet is "normal".  We are actually "flushing" away valuable resources that end up becoming a real waste and pollution problem when we treat it the way we do in fresh water flush systems.  The high cost of infrastructure, staff, chemicals, and processing is extreme and frankly more costly each day.  And we still end up with water pollution and issues of contamination. 

My challenge to everyone is to learn about how our "waste" is actually gold.  And that many of our public infrastructure problems could actually go away if we just changed the way we look at this product.  Here is a good article talking about replacing chemical fertilizers with urine.  Then look at our water bills, water treatment bills... Anyone notice the price of water and sewage treatment just keeps going up?  Maybe it is time for a new approach?

Can Human Urine Replace Chemical Fertilizers?