Organic Gardening News

Neighborhood’s Hands Program: Lighting the Way in a Food Desert

Organic Gardening 2 - Mon, 2022-09-26 10:00

Dr. S.D. Patterson is the Executive Director of Neighborhood’s Hands, a stunning example for districts similar to this Winston-Salem region of North Carolina. Dr. Patterson warmly describes the local population of low-income, disenfranchised folks who live in this “food desert” region of North Carolina. Dr. Patterson grew up in this neighborhood and as a child, he experienced what it’s like to be in need of meals. After practicing law for 18 years, he earned his degree in Pastoral Care, and has been referred to as an “everyday hero.” This is his neighborhood, and these are his people. He wants them to be fed, educated and healthy, and spends his days making sure that happens.

Among other things, Neighborhood’s Hands headquarters is also an official national “Safe Place,” as well as a Youth Center. They provide after-school programs here, as well as workforce development training, mentoring for men and women, an ongoing adult GED course and a mobile food pantry. They deliver food daily to those who need it most.

Community Gardening

Gardening Know How was excited about Neighborhood’s Hands’ community garden. What’s extraordinary about this program is that anyone and everyone is welcome to eat here, from the table, the food pantry or local food bank. The food raised in the garden, as well as food donated by local grocery stores and other community partners is absolutely free to everyone. No one needs to be hungry here, in spite of the region’s imperfect conditions.

The program’s facility is right up the street from their community gardens. The local extension service as well as the NC state university come there to teach the area’s students all about the proper ways to garden, then they transport the kids in the program’s van to the garden so they can practice some hands-on gardening. 

Dr. Patterson tells us these inner city kids, who are primarily African American, put any party issues aside and work together to do the planting and weeding as needed. Most of the major work in the garden is done on a volunteer basis, except one person who is paid to cut grass and do weeding, and a visiting farmer. This community is a model for others like it, where there are opportunities to overcome daily adversity and to thrive. This stellar legacy for his own neighborhood sets right a situation that he came to know firsthand. Dr. Patterson is truly an everyday hero.

If you love this story and would like to make a donation to Neighborhood’s Hands, click here.

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 Neighborhood’s Hands Program: Lighting the Way in a Food Desert appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening

Neighborhood’s Hands Program: Lighting the Way in a Food Desert

Organic Gardening 2 - Mon, 2022-09-26 10:00

Dr. S.D. Patterson is the Executive Director of Neighborhood’s Hands, a stunning example for districts similar to this Winston-Salem region of North Carolina. Dr. Patterson warmly describes the local population of low-income, disenfranchised folks who live in this “food desert” region of North Carolina. Dr. Patterson grew up in this neighborhood and as a child, he experienced what it’s like to be in need of meals. After practicing law for 18 years, he earned his degree in Pastoral Care, and has been referred to as an “everyday hero.” This is his neighborhood, and these are his people. He wants them to be fed, educated and healthy, and spends his days making sure that happens.

Among other things, Neighborhood’s Hands headquarters is also an official national “Safe Place,” as well as a Youth Center. They provide after-school programs here, as well as workforce development training, mentoring for men and women, an ongoing adult GED course and a mobile food pantry. They deliver food daily to those who need it most.

Community Gardening

Gardening Know How was excited about Neighborhood’s Hands’ community garden. What’s extraordinary about this program is that anyone and everyone is welcome to eat here, from the table, the food pantry or local food bank. The food raised in the garden, as well as food donated by local grocery stores and other community partners is absolutely free to everyone. No one needs to be hungry here, in spite of the region’s imperfect conditions.

The program’s facility is right up the street from their community gardens. The local extension service as well as the NC state university come there to teach the area’s students all about the proper ways to garden, then they transport the kids in the program’s van to the garden so they can practice some hands-on gardening. 

Dr. Patterson tells us these inner city kids, who are primarily African American, put any party issues aside and work together to do the planting and weeding as needed. Most of the major work in the garden is done on a volunteer basis, except one person who is paid to cut grass and do weeding, and a visiting farmer. This community is a model for others like it, where there are opportunities to overcome daily adversity and to thrive. This stellar legacy for his own neighborhood sets right a situation that he came to know firsthand. Dr. Patterson is truly an everyday hero.

If you love this story and would like to make a donation to Neighborhood’s Hands, click here.

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 Neighborhood’s Hands Program: Lighting the Way in a Food Desert appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening

Lighting In The Garden

Organic Gardening 2 - Sun, 2022-09-25 08:00

Lighting isn’t my favorite chore to tackle in the garden. Like other gardeners, I would rather have my hands in the dirt than in electrical circuits. On the other hand, the right choice and use of lighting makes a world of difference on summer evenings. Here are my favorite options. 

String Lights

Hands down, my favorite lighting in the garden is string lights. We have two strings of Edison bulbs under the aluminum awning over our back patio. The bulbs are bigger and brighter than fairy lights but not so bright that they ruin a relaxing summer night

Without a working outdoor outlet, getting the right lights on the patio took some creativity. We had one standard incandescent bulb on the outside wall by the back slider door that provided harsh light and attracted a million bugs at night. 

I found the perfect product to remedy the situation: an adapter you can screw in where a lightbulb would normally go. It has two outlets on it, to which we attached two strings of lights. Now, we have a soft glow, perfect for enjoying the warm summer nights, alone or with a group of friends to entertain. 

Solar-Powered Lights

The string lights provide both ambience and a practical lighting, but I also enjoy other touches of light for nights in the garden. Without additional outlets, I harness the power of the sun to enjoy these whimsical lights. 

Because these are mostly for fun, I like to find unique solar lights. My favorite is an animal figurine with a bear and its friends that glows when you turn it on after a day of soaking up the sun. 

Motion Response Lights

I prefer not to light up the whole garden at night. I enjoy the few lights on the back patio, but don’t have any lights lining walkways or the front sidewalk. 

For security purposes, we use a couple of bright bulbs on either side of the garage door. Not quite floodlights, they provide adequate lighting to make the space safer at night. Because we don’t want the lights on all the time, motion sensitive fixtures are perfect. They only go on when someone moves near the lights. 

Garden lighting is a practical element of an outdoor space, but it can also be fun. For our garden, lighting is both security and a way to extend the number of hours we can spend outside enjoying it.

The post Lighting In The Garden appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening

Lighting In The Garden

Organic Gardening 2 - Sun, 2022-09-25 08:00

Lighting isn’t my favorite chore to tackle in the garden. Like other gardeners, I would rather have my hands in the dirt than in electrical circuits. On the other hand, the right choice and use of lighting makes a world of difference on summer evenings. Here are my favorite options. 

String Lights

Hands down, my favorite lighting in the garden is string lights. We have two strings of Edison bulbs under the aluminum awning over our back patio. The bulbs are bigger and brighter than fairy lights but not so bright that they ruin a relaxing summer night

Without a working outdoor outlet, getting the right lights on the patio took some creativity. We had one standard incandescent bulb on the outside wall by the back slider door that provided harsh light and attracted a million bugs at night. 

I found the perfect product to remedy the situation: an adapter you can screw in where a lightbulb would normally go. It has two outlets on it, to which we attached two strings of lights. Now, we have a soft glow, perfect for enjoying the warm summer nights, alone or with a group of friends to entertain. 

Solar-Powered Lights

The string lights provide both ambience and a practical lighting, but I also enjoy other touches of light for nights in the garden. Without additional outlets, I harness the power of the sun to enjoy these whimsical lights. 

Because these are mostly for fun, I like to find unique solar lights. My favorite is an animal figurine with a bear and its friends that glows when you turn it on after a day of soaking up the sun. 

Motion Response Lights

I prefer not to light up the whole garden at night. I enjoy the few lights on the back patio, but don’t have any lights lining walkways or the front sidewalk. 

For security purposes, we use a couple of bright bulbs on either side of the garage door. Not quite floodlights, they provide adequate lighting to make the space safer at night. Because we don’t want the lights on all the time, motion sensitive fixtures are perfect. They only go on when someone moves near the lights. 

Garden lighting is a practical element of an outdoor space, but it can also be fun. For our garden, lighting is both security and a way to extend the number of hours we can spend outside enjoying it.

The post Lighting In The Garden appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening

Mums Steal The Show

Organic Gardening 2 - Sat, 2022-09-24 08:00

I’d have to say that garden mums dominate my landscape in autumn. Not only do I have a few favorites growing among the other perennials, but each fall I collect a few more for decorative purposes. Alongside the pumpkins, I tuck in several pots of chrysanthemums in the deep hues befitting a fall display. 

I daresay I am running out of room to plant the new ones I buy each September or October. Many people treat them as annuals, and some mums are meant to be displayed then tossed, but I find that hard to do. I know our annuals go by the wayside in winter, but we’ve enjoyed them all summer. It’s hard to discard a plant I only acquired a month before. 

I love their mounding habit and the flush of bloom that covers the whole plant. Colors like burgundy, gold, pumpkin, scarlet, and coral are hard to resist. I always want one of each. 

Mums Steal the Show

In the perennial garden, I have my beloved white mum that has returned for more than 20 years, a pink variety called Clara Curtis, a gorgeous pumpkin-colored mum, a traditional yellow mum, a reddish mum, Tabitha Scarlet, and one still in a container from last year that survived winter, Beverly Bronze. I may try to hold back on buying any more for this year and may instead focus on pansies and violas to go with my pumpkins.

Pansies and violas have those deep, contrasting colors that stir my emotion. And with Halloween coming, it’s easy to find multicolored blooms in combinations of yellow, orange, violet and burgundy. And who can resist those face-like patterns?

Fall Color in Summer

Besides the standard autumn fare, plenty of summer plants could pass for fall flowers. One of my container favorites, Crossandra infundibuliformis Orange Marmalade, does double duty, easing right into fall with its showy orange blooms. I move it from the back patio to the front of the house to coordinate with the “Halloween display.” It blooms nonstop all summer, but can’t tolerate a freeze, so I bring it indoors to overwinter. 

The bicolored red-and-yellow blanket flower, Gaillardia pulchella, is one of my favorite native plants. Its showy blooms also move right into autumn. Another red and gold native, Mexican hat, Ratibida columnifera, looks right at home in the summer or the fall garden. The pollinator favorite, goldenrod, is among my fall bloomers, but I fear the purple coneflower may have run it over this year. And I do have a couple of native asters that bloom in fall – aromatic aster and silky aster. One blooms so late I always worry it will succumb to a freeze before it blooms. 

Well, now I am in the mood to work on that autumn display. Maybe I will buy just one more chrysanthemum. 

The post Mums Steal The Show appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening

Mums Steal The Show

Organic Gardening 2 - Sat, 2022-09-24 08:00

I’d have to say that garden mums dominate my landscape in autumn. Not only do I have a few favorites growing among the other perennials, but each fall I collect a few more for decorative purposes. Alongside the pumpkins, I tuck in several pots of chrysanthemums in the deep hues befitting a fall display. 

I daresay I am running out of room to plant the new ones I buy each September or October. Many people treat them as annuals, and some mums are meant to be displayed then tossed, but I find that hard to do. I know our annuals go by the wayside in winter, but we’ve enjoyed them all summer. It’s hard to discard a plant I only acquired a month before. 

I love their mounding habit and the flush of bloom that covers the whole plant. Colors like burgundy, gold, pumpkin, scarlet, and coral are hard to resist. I always want one of each. 

Mums Steal the Show

In the perennial garden, I have my beloved white mum that has returned for more than 20 years, a pink variety called Clara Curtis, a gorgeous pumpkin-colored mum, a traditional yellow mum, a reddish mum, Tabitha Scarlet, and one still in a container from last year that survived winter, Beverly Bronze. I may try to hold back on buying any more for this year and may instead focus on pansies and violas to go with my pumpkins.

Pansies and violas have those deep, contrasting colors that stir my emotion. And with Halloween coming, it’s easy to find multicolored blooms in combinations of yellow, orange, violet and burgundy. And who can resist those face-like patterns?

Fall Color in Summer

Besides the standard autumn fare, plenty of summer plants could pass for fall flowers. One of my container favorites, Crossandra infundibuliformis Orange Marmalade, does double duty, easing right into fall with its showy orange blooms. I move it from the back patio to the front of the house to coordinate with the “Halloween display.” It blooms nonstop all summer, but can’t tolerate a freeze, so I bring it indoors to overwinter. 

The bicolored red-and-yellow blanket flower, Gaillardia pulchella, is one of my favorite native plants. Its showy blooms also move right into autumn. Another red and gold native, Mexican hat, Ratibida columnifera, looks right at home in the summer or the fall garden. The pollinator favorite, goldenrod, is among my fall bloomers, but I fear the purple coneflower may have run it over this year. And I do have a couple of native asters that bloom in fall – aromatic aster and silky aster. One blooms so late I always worry it will succumb to a freeze before it blooms. 

Well, now I am in the mood to work on that autumn display. Maybe I will buy just one more chrysanthemum. 

The post Mums Steal The Show appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening

Brian Minter: Why not devote a portion of your garden to naturalizing bulbs?

Organic Gardening - Fri, 2022-09-23 12:00
Opinion: Naturalized bulbs will not only brighten our spirits in winter, but they'll also serve as a very important resource for pollinators.
Categories: Organic Gardening

The Worst Pest

Organic Gardening 2 - Fri, 2022-09-23 08:00

Every garden has some challenges, and they often take the form of insect pests or destructive animal pests. Bugs can suck the sap out of your plant leaves, eat your buds, and even chow down on fruits and vegetables. Animals can dig through the garden and eat bulbs and plants. So, which is the worst pest in my garden? You may be totally shocked by my answer to this question.

Insect Pests

My garden has its share of insect pests. I have found so many aphid clusters just under a rose bud that it looked like it had grown scales. Spider mites? Loads of them. Scales that look like tiny dots? My citrus tree leaves were specked with them.

How about snails and slugs? I have these more in France than San Francisco, probably because it rains more, and the soil isn’t sandy. The pests that troubled me the most were wood-boring beetles that seemed to like the taste of my young American oak tree.

Wild Animal Pests

San Francisco is an area that had wild animals before people, and even after the people came, the animals refused to leave. On any given evening, the pattering I hear on the patio in my backyard might be skunk or opossums, but it is more likely raccoons.

Raccoons in the garden make the biggest impact. Their agile fingered paws lift up the bricks surrounding the flower beds, dig up plants to eat the grubs beneath, and browse the compost heap virtually every night. One night, just for fun, I put three dozen eggs, still in their boxes but time expired, in the compost heap. By morning, all 36 eggs were lifted out, cracked, and eaten.

Worst Pest

I have a very high tolerance for pests in the garden. I hose off most bugs and sometimes use neem oil, but in general, bugs don’t worry me too much. Once I bought lady bugs to tackle the aphid population, and some of those predators or their great grand kids are still at work.

When it comes to wild creatures, I love having them back there. I put out big dishes of water for them and don’t raise a ruckus when they have their babies under my back patio. They do sometimes destroy plants, but usually their damage is just digging things up that a little work on my part will take care of.

So, what is my worst pest? Neighborhood cats. People in San Francisco would be livid if someone’s pet dog got into their backyard, but they think their cats have a God-given right to roam. Neighborhood cats kill the birds I feed and, when they can, take out squirrels and make the dogs bark. I guess the true pests are not the cats, but the neighbors who encourage them to roam.

The post The Worst Pest appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening

The Worst Pest

Organic Gardening 2 - Fri, 2022-09-23 08:00

Every garden has some challenges, and they often take the form of insect pests or destructive animal pests. Bugs can suck the sap out of your plant leaves, eat your buds, and even chow down on fruits and vegetables. Animals can dig through the garden and eat bulbs and plants. So, which is the worst pest in my garden? You may be totally shocked by my answer to this question.

Insect Pests

My garden has its share of insect pests. I have found so many aphid clusters just under a rose bud that it looked like it had grown scales. Spider mites? Loads of them. Scales that look like tiny dots? My citrus tree leaves were specked with them.

How about snails and slugs? I have these more in France than San Francisco, probably because it rains more, and the soil isn’t sandy. The pests that troubled me the most were wood-boring beetles that seemed to like the taste of my young American oak tree.

Wild Animal Pests

San Francisco is an area that had wild animals before people, and even after the people came, the animals refused to leave. On any given evening, the pattering I hear on the patio in my backyard might be skunk or opossums, but it is more likely raccoons.

Raccoons in the garden make the biggest impact. Their agile fingered paws lift up the bricks surrounding the flower beds, dig up plants to eat the grubs beneath, and browse the compost heap virtually every night. One night, just for fun, I put three dozen eggs, still in their boxes but time expired, in the compost heap. By morning, all 36 eggs were lifted out, cracked, and eaten.

Worst Pest

I have a very high tolerance for pests in the garden. I hose off most bugs and sometimes use neem oil, but in general, bugs don’t worry me too much. Once I bought lady bugs to tackle the aphid population, and some of those predators or their great grand kids are still at work.

When it comes to wild creatures, I love having them back there. I put out big dishes of water for them and don’t raise a ruckus when they have their babies under my back patio. They do sometimes destroy plants, but usually their damage is just digging things up that a little work on my part will take care of.

So, what is my worst pest? Neighborhood cats. People in San Francisco would be livid if someone’s pet dog got into their backyard, but they think their cats have a God-given right to roam. Neighborhood cats kill the birds I feed and, when they can, take out squirrels and make the dogs bark. I guess the true pests are not the cats, but the neighbors who encourage them to roam.

The post The Worst Pest appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening

Bring On The Tomatoes

Organic Gardening 2 - Thu, 2022-09-22 08:00

Harvest time can be exciting but it’s not always the same each season. It’s nearly a guarantee in my garden that I will fail to harvest SOMETHING. That being said, I’m sure to reap plenty of tomatoes, for which I’m thankful.

When All Else Fails, Bring on the Tomatoes

Were it not for the tomato harvest, this gardener would likely throw in the trowel as far as growing vegetables! Every year in the garden I’m presented with some type of issue. And it’s always different from season to season, which makes planning for such disasters difficult. Be it weather related, insects or whatever, I just can’t seem to catch a break. One year it was the loss of zucchini to squash bugs. Another time the cucumber plants succumbed to powdery mildew. I’ve had beans to just completely shut down and carrots that looked deformed. Last year the bell peppers were all stunted, and the plants that did grow took off more like vines. Weird, I know. 

It’s always something! But there’s at least one plant that always comes through, even with minor issues along the way – my tomato harvest hasn’t failed me yet. Maybe it’s because I plant more of these than is really needed. Regardless of why, at least know that I will have one good producing tomato plant. In fact, there was one year when I nearly fell over when the prettiest, bushiest tomato plant I’ve ever grown failed to produce. It was beautiful one day but when I went to water the tomato plant the following day, the entire plant had been stripped”¦ no leaves, no blooms, no fruit. Nothing but a stick remained with empty stems that once held lush foliage and hopeful fruit. It was devastating.

I was worried hornworms had gotten to it, though none were ever found, and my other tomatoes nearby grew just fine without issue. They also, thankfully, yielded loads of fruit – so much that I couldn’t give it away quick enough. And I’ve had monstrous cherry tomato plants with so many tomatoes I ran out of people to take them. I mean, you can only eat so much, right? My Cherokee Purple rarely lets me down, providing a good harvest nearly every season (knock on wood). Needless to say, I plant tomatoes every year. At least when it’s harvest time, I know I’ll get to eat a juicy tomato sandwich!

The post Bring On The Tomatoes appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening

Bring On The Tomatoes

Organic Gardening 2 - Thu, 2022-09-22 08:00

Harvest time can be exciting but it’s not always the same each season. It’s nearly a guarantee in my garden that I will fail to harvest SOMETHING. That being said, I’m sure to reap plenty of tomatoes, for which I’m thankful.

When All Else Fails, Bring on the Tomatoes

Were it not for the tomato harvest, this gardener would likely throw in the trowel as far as growing vegetables! Every year in the garden I’m presented with some type of issue. And it’s always different from season to season, which makes planning for such disasters difficult. Be it weather related, insects or whatever, I just can’t seem to catch a break. One year it was the loss of zucchini to squash bugs. Another time the cucumber plants succumbed to powdery mildew. I’ve had beans to just completely shut down and carrots that looked deformed. Last year the bell peppers were all stunted, and the plants that did grow took off more like vines. Weird, I know. 

It’s always something! But there’s at least one plant that always comes through, even with minor issues along the way – my tomato harvest hasn’t failed me yet. Maybe it’s because I plant more of these than is really needed. Regardless of why, at least know that I will have one good producing tomato plant. In fact, there was one year when I nearly fell over when the prettiest, bushiest tomato plant I’ve ever grown failed to produce. It was beautiful one day but when I went to water the tomato plant the following day, the entire plant had been stripped… no leaves, no blooms, no fruit. Nothing but a stick remained with empty stems that once held lush foliage and hopeful fruit. It was devastating.

I was worried hornworms had gotten to it, though none were ever found, and my other tomatoes nearby grew just fine without issue. They also, thankfully, yielded loads of fruit – so much that I couldn’t give it away quick enough. And I’ve had monstrous cherry tomato plants with so many tomatoes I ran out of people to take them. I mean, you can only eat so much, right? My Cherokee Purple rarely lets me down, providing a good harvest nearly every season (knock on wood). Needless to say, I plant tomatoes every year. At least when it’s harvest time, I know I’ll get to eat a juicy tomato sandwich!

The post Bring On The Tomatoes appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening

Cover Crops On The Local Farm

Organic Gardening 2 - Wed, 2022-09-21 08:00

I have never experimented with cover crops in my own garden, but I recently learned all about them on a tour. I have a share in a local teaching farm run by Michigan State University. I get part of the harvest each year. On a tour of the farm, I found out how and why they use cover crops to grow more veggies for us shareholders. 

Using Cover Crops

The tour of the farm was fascinating, especially as a gardener. I learned a lot about small-scale farming and how much work goes into growing my vegetables. One topic dealt with cover crops.

I already knew something about the practice of sowing a cover crop, but my knowledge was limited. A cover crop is a plant used to cover a field after a harvest. It is often a legume or a grass. 

Benefits of Cover Crops

My primary understanding of why the farm would use a cover crop before the tour was to enrich the soil. You sow the seeds after the harvest, let the plants sprout and grow a little, and then turn them into the soil to act as a fertilizer or compost. What I didn’t know was that cover crops provide many more benefits: 

  • They reduce or prevent erosion in the soil. They generally help the soil and other crops better cope with unpredictable changes in rain, from downpours to drought. 
  • Cover crops improve overall soil health after other crops have depleted it of nutrients. 
  • If using legumes, like vetch or clover, the cover crop fixes nitrogen in the soil. 
  • A bare field will start to grow something, whether you like it or not. Putting in specific cover crops gives farmers the choice of what to grow and helps smother weeds. 
  • Cover crop roots help break through soil that has been compacted by plows and other equipment. 
  • Cover crops attract beneficial pollinators to the area. 
Cover Crops Used on the Farm

My local farm is a teaching farm that educates agriculture interns. They experiment with different crops and methods, including cover crop types. During our tour, the farm manager talked about using the following: 

  • Clover and vetch The farm has used both of these cover crops in the past because they are nitrogen-fixing legumes and attract pollinators. 
  • Annual ryegrass They have also experimented with ryegrass, which forms a very dense cover. The farm manager explained that this cover is best for preventing erosion and smothering weeds. One issue, they pointed out, is that compounds in ryegrass can prevent smaller vegetable seeds from germinating. 
  • Winter wheat  Winter wheat is cold hardy, so it grows longer into winter than other plants and comes back in early spring. For this reason, it’s a good option for plants that go in the ground in late spring, like tomatoes and peppers. 

Learning more about cover crops and how they help grow my own produce was interesting. I hope to be able to use this expert information one day when I have more room for a vegetable patch. 

The post Cover Crops On The Local Farm appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening

Cover Crops On The Local Farm

Organic Gardening 2 - Wed, 2022-09-21 08:00

I have never experimented with cover crops in my own garden, but I recently learned all about them on a tour. I have a share in a local teaching farm run by Michigan State University. I get part of the harvest each year. On a tour of the farm, I found out how and why they use cover crops to grow more veggies for us shareholders. 

Using Cover Crops

The tour of the farm was fascinating, especially as a gardener. I learned a lot about small-scale farming and how much work goes into growing my vegetables. One topic dealt with cover crops.

I already knew something about the practice of sowing a cover crop, but my knowledge was limited. A cover crop is a plant used to cover a field after a harvest. It is often a legume or a grass. 

Benefits of Cover Crops

My primary understanding of why the farm would use a cover crop before the tour was to enrich the soil. You sow the seeds after the harvest, let the plants sprout and grow a little, and then turn them into the soil to act as a fertilizer or compost. What I didn’t know was that cover crops provide many more benefits: 

  • They reduce or prevent erosion in the soil. They generally help the soil and other crops better cope with unpredictable changes in rain, from downpours to drought. 
  • Cover crops improve overall soil health after other crops have depleted it of nutrients. 
  • If using legumes, like vetch or clover, the cover crop fixes nitrogen in the soil. 
  • A bare field will start to grow something, whether you like it or not. Putting in specific cover crops gives farmers the choice of what to grow and helps smother weeds. 
  • Cover crop roots help break through soil that has been compacted by plows and other equipment. 
  • Cover crops attract beneficial pollinators to the area. 
Cover Crops Used on the Farm

My local farm is a teaching farm that educates agriculture interns. They experiment with different crops and methods, including cover crop types. During our tour, the farm manager talked about using the following: 

  • Clover and vetch The farm has used both of these cover crops in the past because they are nitrogen-fixing legumes and attract pollinators. 
  • Annual ryegrass They have also experimented with ryegrass, which forms a very dense cover. The farm manager explained that this cover is best for preventing erosion and smothering weeds. One issue, they pointed out, is that compounds in ryegrass can prevent smaller vegetable seeds from germinating. 
  • Winter wheat  Winter wheat is cold hardy, so it grows longer into winter than other plants and comes back in early spring. For this reason, it’s a good option for plants that go in the ground in late spring, like tomatoes and peppers. 

Learning more about cover crops and how they help grow my own produce was interesting. I hope to be able to use this expert information one day when I have more room for a vegetable patch. 

The post Cover Crops On The Local Farm appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening

My Beet Beats Your Beet

Organic Gardening 2 - Tue, 2022-09-20 08:00

Beets are not just easy veggies to grow, they are also among my favorites. I love oven-roasted beets, beet salads and beet soups. Since beets grow relatively well in foggy San Francisco, they always get a place in my spring garden.

Beets are root vegetables, which means you don’t see your crop as its growing. That means that if you happen to have grown an enormous beet, you don’t have any idea until harvest day.

Growing Beets

“Beet roots,” as beets are often called, are a colorful, cool season crop that is easy to grow from seed. They can survive chilly weather down to near freezing, but grow best in well-prepared soil in full sun.

There are many different kinds of beets. Typically deep red, some beet varieties are yellow, white, or striped. Beets also come in different shapes too.

Harvesting Beets

Beet roots can be harvested at different points in their development, starting from the time a beet is the size of a golf ball. But beets can grow much bigger. How big? You see them in the markets the size of large oranges. 

And don’t forget the greens. Beet leaves are very nutritious cooked as leafy greens. They have a delicious and distinctive flavor and can be served on their own or mixed with other cooked greens.

My Beet Story

I always put beets into my spring garden and sometimes into my fall garden. The beets don’t tend to get attacked by bugs and usually grow pretty quickly if there is enough sun. 

Generally, my beets stay small – about the size of a kiwi. But sometimes I head to France in the middle of the growing season and find surprises waiting for me when I get back. This was the case last year. I finally returned to San Francisco in August, and found my beets still growing. 

Since they were four weeks late for harvest, I went ahead and pulled them out. To my amazement, they were huge. The biggest beet was the size of a cantaloupe. I took a few photos, but later had to toss the beet. It had turned tough and woody, but my gosh, it was the biggest beet of all.

The post My Beet Beats Your Beet appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

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