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?

Permaculture Guilds in a container

Even if you live in an apartment you can be growing food.  A guild is a combination of plants that provide pollination, nitrogen fixing, ground cover, and sharing of nutrients and shelter to each other.  The combinations in guilds provide the things needed for each plant and will enhance the growth of each.  Here is a cool link talking about plant relationships.  There is no reason anyone cannot plant a guild today.

Container Planting in Guilds

Here are some example guilds you can try:


Orchard guild:

Here is an example of an orchard guild, with the apple tree as the centerpiece of a complex series of interrelationships with the other plants.
1. Apple tree: shades the spinach; becomes trellis for runner beans; provides fruit.
2. Runner beans: fix nitrogen in the soil; shade the spinach; provide protein.
3. Strawberries: act as ground cover; provide fruit.
4. Spinach: retains moisture in the soil; provides leafy vegetable.

Three Sisters guild:

Here is a traditional guild called the Three Sisters.  Plant the traditional American Indian trio of corn, beans and squash, and added sunflowers, which attract pollinators and add beauty to the rooftop, balcony, or patio.
1. Sunflowers: attract pollinators; act as windbreak; become trellis for bush beans; create biomass for compost pile.
2. Blue corn: provides trellis for bush beans; provides vegetable.
3. Bush beans: fix nitrogen in the soil; provide protein.
4. Squash: leaves act as ground cover and suppress weeds; provides vegetable.

Welcome to Back to Eden Gardening

Welcome to Back to Eden Gardening.  I will be sharing my adventures in sustainable gardening, permaculture, living off the land, and homesteading(both urban and rural).  This blog is inspired in part by the Back to Eden film which is a documentary on a gardening method they called the Back to Eden method. 

I am a permaculture certified designer and will take you along with me as I show you the things that we have done here at our urban homestead to live more in harmony with our environment and as we move back to an Eden style of living.  We will wear more that fig leaves!  I promise! LOL

I hope you like and subscribe to our page and follow us.  We have a web domain that takes you to this blog called, and you can find us on Facebook at Back to Eden Gardening on Facebook.  We hope you will join us as we share what we are learning and doing in our garden and on our homestead. 

Take Care and God Bless,