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,