Organic Gardening News

Run, Jam, Run!

Organic Gardening 2 - Wed, 2022-10-12 08:00

Canning, drying, and freezing are all excellent ways to preserve the harvest. I will use any one of these methods, depending upon the food. We infrequently can, but when we do, we do big batches to make it worth the while dragging out the canning equipment. Fruit season is when we do the most canned processing and it always makes me nervous. Invariably, something will go wrong.

Canning Produce

When I was a kid, both sets of grandparents would spend much of the summer canning. They canned everything, including meat. I guess their generation, which had experienced the Depression, preserved food for a rainy day by habit. I am not as much of a prepper, probably part of the modern availability of things, but I do hate waste.

So, I am not a huge canner, preferring dried processing for its simplicity. It’s not that canning is hard, but you do have to follow the rules, and you have to bring out the equipment. I guess, I’m just lazy and would rather chop up my fruit or other produce and put it on the dehydrators. But some items are really better canned, so when the strawberries started coming in droves this year, I decided to make some jam. It produced mixed results.

Old Pectin

Strawberry jam is really quite easy to make. I like to make it fairly chunky so you get a nearly whole berry in every bite of your toast. Many fruits will set up on their own due to natural pectin, but strawberries really need some of that gelling agent. What is pectin? It is a naturally occurring solidifying agent that, when combined with sugar and acid, creates a gel action. Apples have loads of natural pectin, as do citrus fruits, but berries do not have it, and they need it added to the recipe to give the jam the ability to thicken. Commercial pectin is mostly made from dried citrus peels and has a slightly tart flavor.

My first batch of strawberry jam tasted delicious. I added the recommended amount of pectin and cooked it for a bit. Then I took it off the heat and prepared my cans. Everything went as usual, and the jar lids sealed. But I took some to my Dad and he called the next day telling me the stuff hadn’t gelled. He ate it over ice cream and it was great, but it wasn’t sufficiently solid to stay on his toast. So, I brought out a jar and opened it. It was still fairly liquid. What did I do wrong?

Fresh Pectin

I did a little research and eventually narrowed it down. My pectin had been around for far too long. Pectin does outdate. That doesn’t mean it goes bad, but it does mean the gelling action will be slow to nonexistent.  Well, that was bad news, as there were more strawberries ready and I didn’t have any other pectin. So I researched pectin alternatives. I’m not a scientist so I didn’t have any agar hanging around. I also didn’t have chia seeds, tapioca, or gelatin of any kind. Apparently you can make your own pectin from slightly green apples that have been cooked or shredded, but I didn’t have any available. However, I did have cornstarch.

Next batch, I used cornstarch to thicken the jam. It worked great but the jam was opaque and cloudy, not the vibrant red it should have been. It tasted great so I set about canning the stuff. But I’ve learned an important lesson. Purchase fresh pectin if you want to be assured of successful gelling. I bought a new jar the very next time we went to town, so I am ready for the raspberries, plums, and apricots that are coming. The apples won’t need it when they are ripe, but I am ready for any other foods that don’t naturally contain pectin.

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Categories: Organic Gardening

Cooking With Herbs From The Garden

Organic Gardening 2 - Tue, 2022-10-11 08:00

Herbs are a staple in my garden, usually scattered amongst my ornamentals. I grow them for different reasons – some for their fragrance or ornamental appeal, some for medicinal use, and others I cook with.

My Favorite Herb Companions

There are a few herbs from the garden I cook with more than others; still, I love them all. But for me basil, parsley and rosemary get used most often in the kitchen. The first two make great garden companions with similar needs but they also pair well in many recipes. And while rosemary may enjoy drier conditions than basil or parsley, in the kitchen they all mesh together nicely.

  • Basil – While the sweet anise-like flavor of basil finds its way in Mediterranean dishes, pastas and salads, in all honesty, I’ll try this herb in just about anything when I feel like experimenting. I grow different varieties of basil in my garden. Of course, there’s sweet basil – Genovese and Amethyst (a purple variety) are two. I also have African blue basil, an attractive purplish-green type that doubles as both a culinary herb and ornamental in my garden, and for a more citrusy flavor and aroma like heaven, there’s lemon basil.
  • Parsley – I like the slightly peppery taste of parsley, specifically flat-leaf parsley, which I add to most recipes. I’m no chef and rarely use parsley for garnish. I don’t really care much for how decorative a meal is. I’d rather just eat it. I will use it fresh or dried, depending on how much I’m blessed with since the black swallowtail butterflies use the plant for their young, which feed on it. I try to plant extra for this very reason. I normally have some growing in a container somewhere near the kitchen though, and the herb grows here through winter, so I tend to have plenty regardless. But it’s also very easy to propagate should I find my supply getting low.
  • Rosemary – There’s just something special about rosemary. In the garden it makes an attractive shrub with great tolerance for dry conditions. It’s super simple to propagate too. In fact, I have a habit of harvesting more than I need so I just stick cuttings in a container and they will eventually root. It’s another herb plant I have plenty of. Flavor-wise, as with its scent, the plant is a bit pungent with almost a piney citrus-like taste (to me). I love to use sprigs of the herb sparingly in soups or with meat and fish.
Cooking with Herbs

You can’t go wrong with basil added to spaghetti sauce, as we all know how well it pairs with tomatoes, but I like to use parsley in mine and sometimes rosemary. Basil and parsley herbs combine favorably in spinach chicken balls, a healthier meatball alternative with a slather of tomato sauce. Yum! When I fix roasted potatoes (those usually come from the garden too), parsley is a must have along with rosemary. Chicken is divine when slowly sauteed in olive oil with rosemary, basil and minced garlic. Rosemary also takes center stage in flavoring my oven roasted or slow cooked turkey breast with stuffing. These are just a few examples of tasty meals I flavor with herbs from the garden.

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Categories: Organic Gardening

Unity Gardens – The Best Of Humankind

Organic Gardening 2 - Mon, 2022-10-10 15:00

“They call it all different things, like paradise, sanctuary. It’s a beautiful thing.

John, Unity Gardens

It’s a challenge to describe Sara Stewart. Perhaps a good start would be to mention that she is a “Best of Humankind” award recipient for her creation of Unity Gardens in South Bend, Indiana.

Sara observed a culture of multi-generational poverty; people not looking forward to the future who were stuck in crises and juggling just to survive. South Bend Indiana is home to Notre Dame College, but there are areas of abandoned factories, a high level of poverty and crime, with vacant and abandoned businesses and houses. But, there were 7 acres in a neighborhood of 100%-subsidized housing that were destined to become prolific. 

Acutely aware that consumption of fat-filled, unhealthy foods was leading to the very diseases she was treating every day in her work as a nurse, coupled with her master’s thesis on poverty, Sara was inspired to make a change. A big change. There in the heart of the country/s lush farm belt, she saw no reason for anyone to be undernourished or lacking fresh food. She had a true “aha” moment realizing it was possible to build a model to truly create wellness — physically, socially economically. Her goals in founding Unity Gardens were quite elevated and lofty, and would seem unreachable to most. However, her respect for humanity and for individual dignity made this grand project a reality:

Unity Gardens’ mission is to improve community health: Physically by increasing accessibility of fruits and vegetables as well as providing education on nutrition and food preparation. Socially by providing education, increased social capital, and opportunities for the disadvantaged. Economically by developing a sustainable local food system, recapturing food waste, creating new jobs, and increasing per-capita productivity.

Unity Gardens Comes to Life

Sara began emailing potential collaborators with her ideas for the model that was forming. Her email list went from 5 to 1200 by the end of that first year. By the following year there were 12 non-profit Unity Garden locations. Grants and donations go through the main organization that supports the other 44 neighborhood Unity Gardens. Food, seeds, plants and financial support are generously donated and dispersed.

Local media coverage has kept the project in the news since its inception. Sara notes that 2022 has been unique. In 2021 they were still in need of growing more food and fundraising. This year they’re completing the onsite infrastructure of a parking lot, a Welcome Center and a 4-Seasons Geo-dome. A building has been constructed and there are now handicap and inclusion gardens underway. On seven acres an entire ecosystem has been created and Unity Gardens is launching into the international spotlight.

The Program Blossoms

Over time, the project has grown to include many opportunities and activities. Funds are raised through produce sales at farmer’s market, as well as the creation and sale of some delicious by-products. 

Unity’s bees won in state and national levels for the best “Honey from the Hood.” Unity Gardens Market booths also sell other honey products, such as habanero-infused honey, honey soaps, beeswax candles, hot sauces and ketchup, to name just a few. 

Neighborhood gardens have sprung up throughout the county and beyond as this project continues to grow. Most work in the individual gardens is done by volunteers, although Unity provides guidance, seeds, plants and materials.

Unity Gardens holds a free two-week gardening day-camp offering lessons, free play, and lunches. The garden camp was attended by 215 kids before the pandemic. With a recent grant from “Lush Cosmetics” that supports the building infrastructure, there will be self-guided activity stations. Kids can cut out flowers, make bug nets, learn about natives, wildflowers and monarchs. They can roam a discovery garden looking for ladybugs and discover magical garden elements in small special areas designed for young garden explorers. The facility has a tasting station where chefs can demonstrate recipes. Again, the experiences, education and everything offered in the building is free.

Unity also employs full time garden guides. There is an entire paid staff here and, unless they are otherwise sponsored, the interns are also paid. The only charge at Unity Gardens is what the year-round Farm Market area produces, which is sold to support the free pick gardens and programs.

At Unity Gardens there is no requirement for visitors to be low income, unemployed or underserved. Any and all individual and diverse groups are welcome to come and pick fresh vegetables, visit with the chickens and goats and learn about gardening and nutrition at this 7 acre farm. There is enough food for everyone, and everything is free. 

Passing the Torch

Sara admits she has taken risks. She has expended tremendous energy over time creating and developing Unity Gardens. As she begins her retirement journey she’ll pass along her amazing legacy to two managers who were previous neighborhood garden leaders, and are people who feel that this value-oriented work is right for them. Sara Stewart has selflessly generated hope and sustenance in a region where a sense of community, simple nourishing food and healthy activity can make a huge difference in the lives of many. Sara has spread a light of hope and equanimity through sharing, patient energy and purity of intention. We are so grateful for the example she has set. If you would like to support Unity Gardens, click here for more information.

Learn More About Our School And Community Garden Sponsorship Program

Every year, Gardening Know How awards $1,000 to 20 different, hand-picked garden projects across the United States and Canada. If your community or school garden has a growing, unmet need for more soil, seeds, fertilizers, building materials, or even just help getting the word out about your program, we’re ready and willing to help you meet those needs. As community gardens and school gardening programs spring up all over, we’re happy to do our part to help.

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Categories: Organic Gardening

The Worthiest Weed

Organic Gardening 2 - Sun, 2022-10-09 08:00

Who says that dandelions are weeds? It’s not written in the dictionary or the Bible. Yet everyone is quick to mow them out of the lawn. To my mind, if they are weeds, they are the prettiest, most beneficial weeds around. Cheerful, edible, self-nurturing, dandelions have it all.

The Humble Dandelion

Many homeowners hate dandelions. They people turn their noses up at the clusters of yellow puffs that dot the lawn in early springtime. They are immediately termed “weeds,” meaning little more than plants that were not invited to the party.

A weed is nothing more than a plant that blooms in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is true that dandelions propagate without regard to the preferences of the homeowners, but they have so many great qualities, in addition to their happy yellow color, that it is well worth it to keep them around.

Dandelions Are Pretty

Okay, I’ll put it right out there – dandelions are, in my book, completely lovely. Their color is bright and charming, their shape pleasing. I love how they look like little yellow star fish scattered around the green sea of the lawn.

This isn’t my solo opinion either. For many years, in other countries, dandelions were renowned for their beauty. Popular garden flowers in Europe, they were the subject of poems and artwork. In the colonies in the New World, the cheerful face of the dandelion was a welcome reminder of home. In Asia, horticultural societies were formed to enjoy the beauty of dandelions and to develop exciting new varieties for gardeners.

I just don’t appreciate how fickle we humans can be. Before a green lawn became the sign of the American dream, people loved the dandelion both for their beauty and for their food and medicinal value. Gardeners stripped out grass to make room for dandelions. Then suddenly, they were labeled weeds and viewed as eyesores.

Dandelions Are Edible

Anyone who was a fan of the Hunger Games series knows that dandelions are edible. In fact, they saved the heroine and her family from starvation. Though this is fiction, it’s also fact: you can eat dandelions, from taproot to blossom.

As greens, dandelions have high amounts of vitamins including vitamin A, C, and K. They also have many medicinal qualities. Some studies suggest that dandelions help fight inflammation in the body, help control blood sugar, and regulate a person’s cholesterol and blood pressure. Dandelion tea is also recommended to help with an upset stomach or to treat constipation.

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Categories: Organic Gardening

Pumpkin Problems

Organic Gardening 2 - Sat, 2022-10-08 08:00

I recently had my sister in-law over for a visit from the other side of the state. As usual we talked gardening. She was enumerating the crops she was going to grow, among them pumpkins.

Growing Pumpkins

Now pumpkins are super fun to grow. They bring out the kid in even the oldest, stodgiest person but they are prone to problems. My sister in-law has been growing them for years — well the vines at least. Seems she always has healthy plants that bloom but never set fruit.

Even so, she wants to try one more time. So we went over all of the possible reasons that a pumpkin will flower but not set fruit.

Pollination Problem

Pumpkins have both male and female blooms with the male flowers appearing early, often a couple weeks before the female blooms. If the weather is overly hot and humid early in the season, the females may not appear until much later, which can be a problem.

In this case, my SIL lives near the coast so it never gets very hot or humid which, in itself, can be a problem. The weather at her house is mild but never really hot. Bees can be a bit lazy when temps hover around 60 F (15 C), so maybe the issue is pollination related.

Because she has healthy plants I suggested she try hand pollinating. It’s pretty easy to do with a delicate, small brush or even a cotton swab.

I’m hoping this solves her problem because I would really like to get my hands on some of those pumpkins on her next visit in the fall!

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Categories: Organic Gardening

Brian Minter: Anticipation is high for the return of UBC Apple Festival

Organic Gardening - Fri, 2022-10-07 12:00
Up to 20,000 people historically attend this two-day event that features many apple-related activities
Categories: Organic Gardening

The Home Front: Fall’s a glorious season to elevate your garden

Organic Gardening - Fri, 2022-10-07 10:45
Expert gardener and president of GardenWorks Leanne Johnson on how to make the most of the season
Categories: Organic Gardening

Ivy Never Met One I Like

Organic Gardening 2 - Fri, 2022-10-07 08:00

As gardeners we are often looking for an easy to grow, low maintenance plant to cover an unsightly area. English ivy is great in some locations because it needs very little from us and will spread its greenery over almost anything, covering up the old with the new. But, this plant is also the devil incarnate in my opinion. I have never planted it because I know its wily ways. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t had to deal with this weedy bit of flora.

Climbing Plants

You can’t beat ground covers when you need an area of soil covered. Creeping plants are also excellent for covering up old fences, unsightly sheds, or any other item in the yard that needs some prettying. There is Vinca, which scrambles appealingly over rockeries and hillsides with an ease of care nature and pretty flowers. Many plants offer this screening opportunity. But one I would suggest you avoid is English ivy.

English ivy is sold as an ornamental plant in many parts of the world. It is a carefree plant that just needs a little tending when it is initially installed. But don’t take your eyes off this plant!  In no time at all it will take over, and not in a good way. And if you get overwhelmed by the plant, good luck getting rid of this potential pest. Ivy will root readily with just a little piece in the soil. And it won’t just stay in the ground. This aggressive plant will hoist itself upward, ripping apart masonry, stone walls, and wood structures.

My first home came with an appealing fence. It was a wire form covered in English ivy. It provided necessary screening and looked rather nice in its natural form. But a couple of years later and the thing had to go. It had gotten so invasive I was pulling ivy from the lawn. The neighbor and I selected a battle plan for removing ivy to minimize our task. Killing ivy with herbicides was not the way either of us wanted to deal with the problem So we cut it way back and then started the very laborious process of pulling out all the left over roots. We dug way down and kept finding more of the stuff. I believe we worked at it for weeks. Then we built a wood fence. The noxious plant still would reoccur on occasion, but we both diligently pulled it out and discarded the ivy. The last time I drove by my old house, I saw that the fence was covered in the stuff and had been torn apart by the thick stems.

Ivy Gone Bad

In my hatred of ivy, there is rooted another story. I once took a job rehabilitating a garden for a new home owner. The back yard was a nightmare of English ivy. Since the homeowner did not have any problems with killing ivy through herbicide, this seemed the most expedient method. I found a product and applied it as recommended and waited a few weeks. When I next went back to the property, I thought I would be greeted by dead ivy plants. Nope. In the end, I had to manually remove the stuff and then solarize the soil with black plastic until the next season, at which point I could finally finish the landscaping. I certainly hope the ivy isn’t back, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

I love all plants except roses and ivy. We all have our stories of battles against nature, but ivy certainly serves as a cautionary tale. If I had any advice for a novice gardener, it would be, don’t plant English ivy. I don’t care if you want the charming look of ivy tumbling over a fence or clambering up a wall. Do Not Do It! Look for a more benign plant like Virginia creeper or Dutchman’s pipe,  and you will have less headaches with a better result.

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Categories: Organic Gardening

Supporting Native Butterflies

Organic Gardening 2 - Thu, 2022-10-06 08:00

Like many people my age and older, I remember a time when butterflies were much more abundant. I used to see monarchs throughout the summer and now rarely see them at all. As a gardener, I try to do my small part to support monarchs and other native butterfly species by avoiding pesticides, planting native species, and leaving natural areas.

Avoiding Overgardening

One of the natural gardening practices I have embraced is letting go of the perfect garden. I have a few corners of natural growth where I let the weeds and native species grow without my intervention.

These areas include overgrown shrubs and smaller plants and piles of sticks and leaf litter that I resist the urge to pick up. These natural areas are great for all kinds of local wildlife. They provide shelter and pools of water.

For butterflies, natural spaces provide the opportunity for native species to grow, even if I might normally consider them weeds. They also provide a more diverse landscape, so they can find shelter from wind, areas of sun, patches of shade, and water.

Native Plants

Perhaps the best thing anyone can do to support their local butterflies is to plant more native species. These include plants that butterflies need to feed on in both caterpillar and adult stages.

Butterfly species can be very particular. For instance, monarchs need milkweed, often considered a weed. It feeds their caterpillars, so I have put a few plants in my native corners to provide monarchs with this important resource.

Butterflies also need native flowers to feed on nectar during their adult stages. They can feed on many different flowers. I try to grow natives, but I also focus on having flowers that bloom at different times, so that there is always a food source during spring, summer and fall.

I find butterflies at my coneflowers, coreopsis, sedum, butterfly bush, and lilac, not to mention my lawn weeds violets and clovers. Although I still have non-natives, whenever I add a new perennial, I think of the native butterflies and the species they can use.

No Pesticides

Providing elements that attract butterflies to the garden is important, but it is also essential to avoid what harms them. I don’t use any pesticides in my garden and don’t have any major insect problems. Both caterpillars and butterflies are susceptible to many pesticides.

These are small measures limited to one yard in my neighborhood, but it is what I can control and do to promote butterfly species. I believe the reward is great. I get to see red admirals, cabbage whites, swallowtails, skippers, spring azures, and the occasional monarch butterflies in my summer garden.

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Categories: Organic Gardening

Love Me Some Lavender

Organic Gardening 2 - Wed, 2022-10-05 08:00

Aromatherapy is an old practice that has come back in favor in recent years. Scent seems to stimulate or calm areas of the brain. Oils from herbs are one of the keys to aromatherapy, as are those derived from flowers. For me, lavender is one of my favorite scents and I haven’t been without lavender plants for decades. I use their sweet fragrance and dried flowers in many ways, all of which I find beneficial.

Growing Lavender

I really love the scent of Freesia, but products that claim to boast that aroma fail to compare. I used to grow Freesia when I was in a milder climate, just to have the fragrance near, but have had to give it up in this extreme zone. One thing I haven’t had to give up is my lavender. I have several varieties of lavender and late summer finds me harvesting the flowers of lavender. I dry these and bag them up to freeze. That way, when I need an aromatherapy boost, I can get a fresh batch to calm my head.

Lavender contains compounds that reduce inflammation  and calm the nervous system. It is also a powerful scent that triggers a calm feeling in the brain. There are many uses for lavender from health, to cooking, and prominently in aromatherapy. I’m a firm believer in the power of scent and the practice is centuries old. The smells in my home have huge influence on my moods. The soothing perfume of lavender wards off cooking smells, scents my bath water, and puts me to sleep.

The varieties of lavender I grow are English, French, and Spanish. I love the chubbier flowers of the Spanish and the dense, compact little bush. I grow the French variety for its larger bushes and long flower spikes, but it’s the English plants that have the most perfume. Each one has the characteristic scent, but in varying degrees.

How to Harvest Lavender

When the flowers are at their peak, I cut the stems and arrange little posies in a Mason jar. The effect is charming and the scent leeches out as the flowers dry. I have even made a lavender wreath by tying bunches of the stems onto a wire frame. The scent will fade over time, but the dried flowers remain pretty for months. Dried flowers mixed with baking soda and sprinkled over the carpet fresh for days. I just let them sit there for a few hours and then vacuum them up. In the kitchen I use them in muffins or add the dried buds to my tea ball.

The biggest way I harness the lovely odor of this plant is in combating my insomnia. This is something that has plagued my older years. I used to sleep like a baby until I hit the half century mark. All that peaceful, dreamy rest is now a thing of the past. I lay and stare at the dark ceiling for hours, praying for sleep. Dried lavender blooms fill a little fabric sachet I made. I tuck this under my pillow and if I wake in the night and can’t get back to sleep, I pull out the bag and sniff deeply. The scent relaxes me and I can usually drift right off.

Lavender is easy to grow and trouble free in my garden. It is hardy and stoic, handling long periods of freezing if mulched well. So far, it reliably comes back every spring, with the first signs of those softly purple flowers arriving by early summer. The flowers last a long time, so I can enjoy them in the garden, but harvest them before they are too old to offer me relief. I will always grow lavender for its beauty and delicious smell.

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Categories: Organic Gardening

A Super School Garden Success

Organic Gardening 2 - Tue, 2022-10-04 10:00

Richey Elementary School in Wilmington, Delaware is a Title One school. Its former Building Principal, Stephanie Armstrong, wanted to find ways to improve the social and emotional aspects of the students’ lives. She recognized a real need to connect families with the school and, although she had never been a gardener, Stephanie intuitively knew that establishing a school garden might be a golden opportunity to build that connection.

The Beginning

A grant from Delaware’s Cares Act and a Gardening Know How sponsorship helped to get the garden started in an area next to the school. But to jump-start their interest, the first project was to provide every family in the building with a garden kit to take home. The kits included soil, seeds, instructions and a container. Families began to get excited, growing everything from lettuce to tomatoes, resulting in a major taco feed. The students were proud of what they were learning at school, and the excitement spread to their families, many of whom had lived in large cities and had never seen themselves as gardeners.

Success!

The school garden was planted as planned using those initial funds. It thrived, producing cucumbers, broccoli, carrots, lettuce and a variety of herbs. The students were excited to watch the entire life cycle as it developed, from planting to growth to harvest. The garden produced a large enough harvest to share produce with the neighborhood and faculty. Through the gardening activities with students and families, Stephanie has begun to see that true links have developed between the school and home lives of her students.

Activities and Expansion

Richey School students are becoming familiar with nature in many ways. For example, these lucky kids were each given a nature bag containing themes for learning about bugs, birds and specific aspects of nature for them to explore. The bags contain books about various bird species, bugs and animals in nature, a set of binoculars and bird callers. The school’s gardening effort is now expanding, with a new Peace Garden planned for the front of the school, which is “stage two.” During National Kindness Week, students are painting rocks with messages of kindness that will be placed in the new Peace Garden. Third graders planted bulbs this year and, along with Stephanie, were surprised to find out how tasty the local squirrels find them.

The garden has become a full-school initiative, with every student having the opportunity to be hands-on in the gardens, including remote learners. Horticulture Therapist, Kathy Andrewjeski will be conducting a nature summer camp. Stephanie’s hope is that cultivating an interest in gardening will take the place of some of the time these students spend looking at a screen, especially since the pandemic has often kept us at home and online. 

Richey School Gardens can provide an excellent model for other schools and communities. Stephanie Armstrong was not a gardener when she started, but has learned right along with the students. This project sets a great example for other schools that want to encourage kids and their families to learn about the cycles of nature, where food comes from and how to work together in the community. Our thanks go out to Stephanie Armstrong and Kathy Andrzejewski for their hard work and this great accomplishment.

Visit Richey School Gardens at their Facebook page and on Twitter

Learn More About Our School And Community Garden Sponsorship Program

Every year, Gardening Know How awards $1,000 to 20 different, hand-picked garden projects across the United States and Canada. If your community or school garden has a growing, unmet need for more soil, seeds, fertilizers, building materials, or even just help getting the word out about your program, we’re ready and willing to help you meet those needs. As community gardens and school gardening programs spring up all over, we’re happy to do our part to help.

The post A Super School Garden Success appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening

Front Steps Services

Organic Gardening 2 - Mon, 2022-10-03 15:00

In the inner city of Cleveland on the west side of town, south of Lake Erie, is a concrete jungle that can be officially referred to as a ‘grocery desert.’ The need for permanent supportive housing in this area is huge. Front Steps Services is a multi-service organization that offers support for those without homes, many of whom need assistance with behavioral issues, substance abuse issues, and education.

A Safe Refuge and Healing

Mr. Matthew Anderson is the Director of Development at the Front Steps Services agency. He tells us that this homeless facility was originally St. Joseph’s commons, founded by four nuns from the St. Joseph’s congregation who provided services on the west side of Cleveland. The Front Steps agency blossomed from that original program, and is now located in a revamped Econo Lodge motor inn. In its brand new building, the organization houses 70 people in 68 one-unit efficiency apartments. Residents are those who are without permanent homes due to numerous circumstances, such as disconnection from family and other barriers that have labeled them homeless. 

Within this one site, resident clients are supported with case managers and workshops for practical learning like workforce readiness and independent living skills. Although there are 85 onsite residents, the agency supports 40-45 other folks in shelter situations. The program is currently at capacity with its outreach program. 

Front Steps is supported by community donations, including help from people who do volunteer calling and manage the program’s social media. The agency accepts donations of vegetables and flowers from community partners, and they often exchange clothes or other necessities, offering services to tent cities, as well.

A Serenity Garden

Having moved into this new complex more than a year ago, the Front Steps garden is now in its second year. Mr. Anderson, who’s often in the garden all day, says they are currently growing tomatoes — beefsteak, roma and cherry– cucumbers, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, cabbage, collard greens, and a lot of herbs, like oregano and mints. It’s an environment where Matthew Anderson feels people can find spiritual healing.

Some of the garden’s produce is donated to a local food bank, but much is divided up or prepared for the residents, or served at their large group events or meetings. In addition to providing much needed food, the Serenity Garden serves as a workforce development component. The organization hires its resident clients to maintain, water, harvest and oversee the garden. Their payment comes in the form of stipends like gift cards, bus tickets, food cards, grocery and laundry funds.

The garden received its plants from the City of Cleveland sprout program. The program’s case managers invite local community college students to come to the garden to teach people gardening basics as well as culinary skills. Last year 22 to 26 people engaged with the gardening program, and held a successful potluck featuring fresh vegetables from the garden.

This is one of those non-profit organizations that does so much good in the community, it’s immeasurable. Their goals are to 

  • Reduce homelessness
  • Reduce recidivism rate in the legal system
  • Reduce emergency room visits and hospitalizations 
  • Increase self-sufficiency and independence of those served
  • Provide affordable housing to those in most need

If you are inspired to donate to this incredible organization, click here.

Learn More About Our School And Community Garden Sponsorship Program

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The post Front Steps Services appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening

Outdoor Comfort In France

Organic Gardening 2 - Fri, 2022-09-30 15:00

When I spend the warm season in France, I spend more time outside than inside. I work on the land during the day, swim in the town’s outdoor, open-air pools, and eat every meal outside as long as it’s not raining. While I don’t give sit-down dinners for 20 or anything near that, I do entertain outside.

Casual Living

France in the summer is casual. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not casual in the way this country is, where it’s okay to wear sweats out to dinner. But in summer, summer clothing – like cotton or linen tops and capris – is acceptable morning, noon, and night.

This may not be true in Paris, but I live far from the City of Lights. My little house is in a small, Basque town in the foothills of the Pyrenees where life is relaxed and living styles in summer are casual.

Dining Out

Dining out in the Basque Country in the summer means dining outside. All of the local restaurants have outdoor tables and umbrellas, and these are the preferred sitting areas. Only those who arrive late are assigned to indoor tables, and for these diners, the doors are left wide open. 

This is particularly true in my part of Basque Country since it is so close to Spain. I am in Spain when I hike up my mountain for 10 minutes. We all buy gas in Spain, where its cheaper, and the “ventas” in Spain are extremely popular for shopping with their low prices for cigarettes, alcohol, and meat as well as the long tables outdoors where you can have a drink or tapas (called pintxos). 

Entertaining in Basque Country

So I never get too fancy about entertaining outside. I have a large, wooden table with long benches on either side on my patio, as well as an outdoor firepit. I always light up the fire, even when I’m not cooking outside. Its flickering is all the décor necessary as the day turns to twilight.

I have solar lighting that comes on at dusk that supplements the candles on the table, stuck in empty wine bottles, that remind us of other meals of note. There is always French or Spanish wine, served in stemless glasses (in fact, water glasses), finger foods to start, and a help-yourself salad in a large bowl in the center of the table. Oh yes, and Basque music on the radio. 

The post Outdoor Comfort In France appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening

Brian Minter: Don’t be afraid to be more innovative in your garden

Organic Gardening - Fri, 2022-09-30 12:00
Opinion: Think about next year and how to be more creative by planting interesting combinations, incorporating berried varieties for example.
Categories: Organic Gardening

Outdoors Is Just Indoors Without Walls

Organic Gardening 2 - Thu, 2022-09-29 08:00

It is interesting to contemplate having two completely different decorating styles, one for indoors, one for outdoors. I would love to be the kind of person who could pull off ultra-modern indoor décor and pair it with a cottage garden. But I am not. For better or for worse, my decorating style remains consistent, a casual look with lots of wood and plants.

Plants, Plants and More Plants

If I had to select the one element most prominent in my decorating style, the answer would have to be plants. My house in San Francisco is packed with houseplants and the backyard garden as well. In fact, the plants move from inside to outside and vice versa with regularity.

As a plant rescuer, I end up with lots of container plants. People in San Francisco tend to dump plants readily, leaving them outside near their garbage cans and I tend to pick them up and bring them home. Repotted, trimmed, they usually thrive. Many are succulents that can go indoors or out, and I cycle them in and out, so virtually every surface in the house and in the backyard is laden with container plants.

Plants in France

The indoor and outdoor décor in France also focuses on plants, but there, things are wilder. The yard plants include a lot more trees and shrubs and a lot fewer container plants. 

How about indoors? The plants I keep inside the house in France tend to be overflowing hanging baskets that I move outside during the day, then back inside in the evening. I also have a lot of plant cuttings that I am rooting from outdoor bushes, like hortensias and honeysuckle

Natural Wood and Fiber

Obviously, I also have furniture in both San Francisco and France, but I cannot claim to use any trendy decorating style. In France the ceiling is oak, a peaked roof with big oak beams, and the floor is terra cotta tile. My furniture is oak too, a large dining table that seats 12, a Vermont castings wood burning stove, an oak bookshelf. 

In the San Francisco apartment, there is less oak but still a lot of wood and fiber. Lots of fun eclectic art, including French Basque Country posters, Durer prints, and photos of Yosemite. It’s a mishmash but it works. 

The post Outdoors Is Just Indoors Without Walls appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening

Outdoors Is Just Indoors Without Walls

Organic Gardening 2 - Thu, 2022-09-29 08:00

It is interesting to contemplate having two completely different decorating styles, one for indoors, one for outdoors. I would love to be the kind of person who could pull off ultra-modern indoor décor and pair it with a cottage garden. But I am not. For better or for worse, my decorating style remains consistent, a casual look with lots of wood and plants.

Plants, Plants and More Plants

If I had to select the one element most prominent in my decorating style, the answer would have to be plants. My house in San Francisco is packed with houseplants and the backyard garden as well. In fact, the plants move from inside to outside and vice versa with regularity.

As a plant rescuer, I end up with lots of container plants. People in San Francisco tend to dump plants readily, leaving them outside near their garbage cans and I tend to pick them up and bring them home. Repotted, trimmed, they usually thrive. Many are succulents that can go indoors or out, and I cycle them in and out, so virtually every surface in the house and in the backyard is laden with container plants.

Plants in France

The indoor and outdoor décor in France also focuses on plants, but there, things are wilder. The yard plants include a lot more trees and shrubs and a lot fewer container plants. 

How about indoors? The plants I keep inside the house in France tend to be overflowing hanging baskets that I move outside during the day, then back inside in the evening. I also have a lot of plant cuttings that I am rooting from outdoor bushes, like hortensias and honeysuckle

Natural Wood and Fiber

Obviously, I also have furniture in both San Francisco and France, but I cannot claim to use any trendy decorating style. In France the ceiling is oak, a peaked roof with big oak beams, and the floor is terra cotta tile. My furniture is oak too, a large dining table that seats 12, a Vermont castings wood burning stove, an oak bookshelf. 

In the San Francisco apartment, there is less oak but still a lot of wood and fiber. Lots of fun eclectic art, including French Basque Country posters, Durer prints, and photos of Yosemite. It’s a mishmash but it works. 

The post Outdoors Is Just Indoors Without Walls appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening

Decorating For The Lazy Gardener

Organic Gardening 2 - Wed, 2022-09-28 08:00

I’m not really a lazy gardener, but I am a lazy decorator. Whether it’s indoors or out, decorating is not my strong suit. For the garden, I mostly prefer that my plants do the heavy lifting. They are the stars of the show, but I have also found some simple decorating ideas over the years that make it easy to add a little extra interest to the outside space. 

Planters and Annuals

Most of my decorating energy goes into putting in annuals for the summer. A few pots with pretty and abundant tropical plants are the perfect décor for my backyard patio. I have accumulated containers for these and get more each year. I like my patio to be like my beds, overflowing with flowers and interesting foliage. 

I have experimented with different annuals for the patio over the years and landed on two favorites. Impatiens do best with a few hours of filtered light and plenty of shade during the hottest part of the day. They thrive on my sheltered patio. 

The other plant that enjoys similar conditions and provides stunning foliage is coleus. Together these two annuals provide all the color I need on my patio when I sit outside to enjoy my garden or entertain.

I decorate the little-used front door to my house with two large planters that get more sun. Here I get to enjoy petunias, one of my favorites that just doesn’t grow well in the dappled sunlight of the back patio. I choose a variety of colors for more visual interest, and they grow and overflow the pots throughout the season. 

Clearance Garden Animals

I do have one weakness when it comes to garden decorations. I adore animals and wildlife, so I have a habit of “rescuing” decorative animal figures from the clearance shelf of the garden center. 

I currently have a friendly black bear, an owl, a raccoon holding a fish, and a basket of wildlife that lights up after gathering solar power throughout the day. They gather under the annual containers and sometimes shift around the patio. 

Lighting

The only other real decoration I use outside is lighting. We have a string of Edison bulbs that lights up the patio to the perfect degree. It’s not too bright but just enough to create a soft glow for when we have friends over for wine or dessert. 

I might not excel at decorating, but that’s OK. My plants and garden beds take over and do the work for me. Plants will always be my decorating go-to.

The post Decorating For The Lazy Gardener appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening

Decorating For The Lazy Gardener

Organic Gardening 2 - Wed, 2022-09-28 08:00

I’m not really a lazy gardener, but I am a lazy decorator. Whether it’s indoors or out, decorating is not my strong suit. For the garden, I mostly prefer that my plants do the heavy lifting. They are the stars of the show, but I have also found some simple decorating ideas over the years that make it easy to add a little extra interest to the outside space. 

Planters and Annuals

Most of my decorating energy goes into putting in annuals for the summer. A few pots with pretty and abundant tropical plants are the perfect décor for my backyard patio. I have accumulated containers for these and get more each year. I like my patio to be like my beds, overflowing with flowers and interesting foliage. 

I have experimented with different annuals for the patio over the years and landed on two favorites. Impatiens do best with a few hours of filtered light and plenty of shade during the hottest part of the day. They thrive on my sheltered patio. 

The other plant that enjoys similar conditions and provides stunning foliage is coleus. Together these two annuals provide all the color I need on my patio when I sit outside to enjoy my garden or entertain.

I decorate the little-used front door to my house with two large planters that get more sun. Here I get to enjoy petunias, one of my favorites that just doesn’t grow well in the dappled sunlight of the back patio. I choose a variety of colors for more visual interest, and they grow and overflow the pots throughout the season. 

Clearance Garden Animals

I do have one weakness when it comes to garden decorations. I adore animals and wildlife, so I have a habit of “rescuing” decorative animal figures from the clearance shelf of the garden center. 

I currently have a friendly black bear, an owl, a raccoon holding a fish, and a basket of wildlife that lights up after gathering solar power throughout the day. They gather under the annual containers and sometimes shift around the patio. 

Lighting

The only other real decoration I use outside is lighting. We have a string of Edison bulbs that lights up the patio to the perfect degree. It’s not too bright but just enough to create a soft glow for when we have friends over for wine or dessert. 

I might not excel at decorating, but that’s OK. My plants and garden beds take over and do the work for me. Plants will always be my decorating go-to.

The post Decorating For The Lazy Gardener appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening

Decorating The Landscape

Organic Gardening 2 - Tue, 2022-09-27 08:00

We have lots of garden décor, and I do mean Lots! Most remains outdoors year-round, and of course more is added when Christmas comes around. Read on to learn about just some of the collection of yard gewgaws you’ll find here. 

Where It All Started

As if the plethora of colors and textures my plants provide our landscape isn’t enough, we also feel compelled to add some additional zing in the form of garden art

Now I wasn’t the one who started our collection of yard gewgaws. It all began with a collection of frogs I used to have… indoors. I love frogs, because really what isn’t there to love? I loved them so much I had some living ones as pets (along with day geckos, anoles, etc). 

Since I let it be known that I loved frogs, people started giving me frogs as gifts, at first indoor collectables and then when I graduated from apartment dweller to homeowner, frogs for the garden. At some point I called a screeching halt to the frog paraphernalia. I mean enough is enough! 

Garden Decoration

This did not, however, keep people from wanting to decorate my yard and as a result I have gnomes (of course!), two large, bright orange, ceramic globes, a hand blown glass spire rising up from the veggie bed, driftwood art, plant stakes shaped like every animal on the planet, a delicate glass hummingbird feeder, a huge squirrel proof wood bird feeder, and so much more”¦ including many frogs. 

My SIL alone has provided me with so many tchotchkes I can’t begin to name them all, but she has a problem with crafting so…

The point being, we have lots (and I do mean Lots) of garden décor. Most of it remains outdoors year-round with the exception of really breakable items. Once it goes into storage in the fall I don’t decorate extensively outside with the exception of Christmas, at which time I again am not responsible. 

It seems my beloved has a little issue with Christmas lights. It has been mentioned that our home can be seen from outer space! 

The post Decorating The Landscape appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening

Decorating The Landscape

Organic Gardening 2 - Tue, 2022-09-27 08:00

We have lots of garden décor, and I do mean Lots! Most remains outdoors year-round, and of course more is added when Christmas comes around. Read on to learn about just some of the collection of yard gewgaws you’ll find here. 

Where It All Started

As if the plethora of colors and textures my plants provide our landscape isn’t enough, we also feel compelled to add some additional zing in the form of garden art

Now I wasn’t the one who started our collection of yard gewgaws. It all began with a collection of frogs I used to have… indoors. I love frogs, because really what isn’t there to love? I loved them so much I had some living ones as pets (along with day geckos, anoles, etc). 

Since I let it be known that I loved frogs, people started giving me frogs as gifts, at first indoor collectables and then when I graduated from apartment dweller to homeowner, frogs for the garden. At some point I called a screeching halt to the frog paraphernalia. I mean enough is enough! 

Garden Decoration

This did not, however, keep people from wanting to decorate my yard and as a result I have gnomes (of course!), two large, bright orange, ceramic globes, a hand blown glass spire rising up from the veggie bed, driftwood art, plant stakes shaped like every animal on the planet, a delicate glass hummingbird feeder, a huge squirrel proof wood bird feeder, and so much more… including many frogs. 

My SIL alone has provided me with so many tchotchkes I can’t begin to name them all, but she has a problem with crafting so…

The point being, we have lots (and I do mean Lots) of garden décor. Most of it remains outdoors year-round with the exception of really breakable items. Once it goes into storage in the fall I don’t decorate extensively outside with the exception of Christmas, at which time I again am not responsible. 

It seems my beloved has a little issue with Christmas lights. It has been mentioned that our home can be seen from outer space! 

The post Decorating The Landscape appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening

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