Saturday, April 20, 2013

Peas and Greens are Not Enough--Good Thing We Have Ramps!

Organic fertilizer honor wagon near Roseboom, NY
It's mud season up here in the Northeast, and this is the time of year I start itching to get in the mud  pit. It's also the time of year I envy you folks at more southern latitudes, who are probably already eating things from your garden. We're still a few weeks away from eating the ramps (aka wild leeks) that have poked up through the leaf carpet in the woods behind our house, little oases of green in the sea of brown.

Harvesting ramps, by the way, is considered foraging, but since they're just a few steps away from the back garden rows, and we take careful steps to make sure they spread (we only take 25% of each patch, we collect the seeds and spread them in new areas, and we sometimes plant bulbs in new areas), it's kind of like they're part of the garden. A delicious, garlicy, spinachy, oniony, leaky, mouth watering part of the garden [Homer Simpson gurgling sounds]...

All the muddy beds were overwintered with our local, organic nitrogen source, pictured here bagged and for sale in its honor wagon down the road. There's not much I can do until that mud dries up and I can get out there and plant. In the mean time, I've been bringing in more manure and building beds in areas that dry out faster, where I've been planting early greens, spinach, and peas. The deer really love the young pea shoots, but when it's still dropping below freezing at night (the forecast low for tonight is 25), I have to put a plastic tunnel cover over the row anyway, to keep the ground temp up, and that keeps the deer away from the peas until they're big enough that the deer aren't interested anymore.

Someday I'll stop playing those silly games with the wild animals, and just put an electric fence up, but for now, it's all about row covers, timing, and trapping and relocating. Last year I didn't get the trap up until after the woodchuck had eaten all the dill. This year, the trap is out already.

Monday, January 14, 2013

If you can't have a dream garden...

We can't all have our dream garden, like the organic garden at this Maui bed and breakfast, where, if you show up when they're ripe, you could be served organic cherimoya. But no matter where you live, you can have a garden. If it's just a few parsley plants in a window, you can have fresh food at your fingertips.

To wit: if you're not following John Robb's Resilient Communities web site, you should. His post the other day on bag gardens is certainly worth taking a look at. If you don't have good soil, or you only have a concrete area in your back yard, you can garden right out of the bag!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Raising Organic Family Farms: The Farm Favorite

Our friends and local organic farmers Dave and Sonia of Nectar Hills Farm could use your vote at the Raising Organic Family Farms "The Farm Favorite" contest.
From Feb. 22 – March 16, 2012, encourage your friends, family and social networks to vote for your story on Raising Organic Family Farms. Raising Organic Family Farms is excited to announce the launch of the “Farm Favorite “ people’s choice grant recipient. [...] The story with the most votes will receive the grant or scholarship requested as well as an additional $500 Farm Favorite grant from Raising Organic Family Farms.
We're encouraging our readers to go vote for Dave and Sonia, who struggle to make ends meet while they provide our local area with organic grass-fed beef and many other organic meats, produce, honey, apple cider and more. Here's more of their story from Raising Organic Family Farms:
Nectar Hills Farm is incredibly picturesque, with 200+ acres of pastured rolling hills, natural bubbling streams and crooked heirloom apple trees. It is the epitome of wild beauty. From the front steps of the 150 year old farmhouse it is easy to make out herds of sheep and scottish highlander cattle, seen as moving specks along the vast countryside. Curious pigs root through scattered brush with their babies in tow and two large emu birds step cautiously and proudly around the barnyard. Chickens and ducks cluck and waddle across the driveway enjoying their free range to the fullest, while the lone peacock seems to always be on his own personal mission. Grapes hang on a vine outside the kitchen door and near that stands a peach tree with fresh and fuzzy fruit. Throw in a few rescued dogs, a couple of friendly cats, several goats and three handsome horses and the joyful lively abundance has just begun to be summed up.
It's an encouraging story that should appeal to anyone who thinks that organic, local food is an important part or any sustainable economy. Go vote!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Organic Agriculture Loans at Kiva

I just wrote the good folks at Kiva an email about the dearth of organic and green projects available to loan money to.
I've been a member for a few months but have only made two loans because I've only found two where the borrower promised to use organic methods on the small farm. In each case, it was organic fertilizer, which is great, but only part of the picture.
I realize that these small farmers cannot afford organic certification. But they also cannot afford the petrochemicals used in industrial agriculture, and are therefore, probably, de facto organic.
I would like to see you work with your field partners to increase the organic projects, and green projects in general, available on your site. There are currently no green projects at all, and that is a shame.
Anyone who can afford to make a few microloans (current repayment rate is 98.93%) should check it out and maybe we can get Kiva to put more emphasis on green projects. You won't make any money on these loans, but you'll most likely get all your money back, and then you can make more loans to people who really need them!

Here's the guy I'm hoping will get funded next.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Hugelkultur - creating fertile soil with composting wood


John Robb of Global Guerrillas has an interesting post on Reclaiming Dead Soil through Hugelkultur which is a process of composting wood into a raised bed. Best to start with already rotting wood, as fresh wood consumes nitrogen early in the rotting process, so if your wood has not really started to rot, you should throw a lot of grass clippings in the process.

Personally, I throw everything (including, occasionally, sawdust and wood scraps) into my compost pile, and then layer the compost with composted horse manure on the raised beds in the spring before planting. Next year I'm going to break down and roto-till, because I need to get better control of the overall weed situation, and after tilling, I can lay out some material to keep the weeds down (I'm disabled and lazy and weeding is just too much work). I'm thinking that this Hugelkultur idea might be good for around the border, creating a barrier and a nice way to grow clover, which provides nitrogen and something for the rabbits to eat before they find their way into the garden.

Hugelkultur beds do take years to mature, so get started soon!

This all reminds me of Mort Mather's old saying that the soil is a bank, and you can't make withdrawals until you've made deposits.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

An Awful Year for the Garden

We had a very late and heavy show melt this year, which gave me an excuse to not get out there in the mud in the spring, so the garden got a late start. And then it rained like hell for a while, so it stayed soaking wet out there until we had about three weeks of no rain at all, at which point the whole garden dried up. I should have watered more, but we were busy with other things, like a little vacation we really needed, so only some things (tomatoes and peppers) really got enough water. Silly me--plants need water!

Then, of course, we had a hurricane followed by a tropical storm and upstate NY saw more water than it had in a hundred years (the new normal with global warming), so the garden was literally underwater and only the things in the high raised beds actually survived to tell the tale. The squash--especially the pumpkins and zuchini--fared especially poorly, while the tomatoes did OK, we got some peppers (the Thai peppers did well), and the radicchio is beautiful! And there's a section where I let some Jerusalem Artichokes take over--they seem to love all this water. Can't wait to dig up those roots!

Fortunately, not everyone is as lazy as I am when it comes to growing food. Yesterday at the Cooperstown farmer's market, I bought some baby bok choy and some mizuna greens from the nice man from Gaia's Breath Farm who said it was a funny year for them. Some things did well, and others did not. His mizuna greens certainly did well; they're delicious! Our friends Dave and Sonia at Nectar Hills Farm had a very good year, as their veggie farm land is high up and well drained. Of course, their organic land is mostly covered in grass, which their cows eat, making for some very delicious New York grass-fed beef.

And Ellen White Weir's place over in Cooperstown is doing great. She grows all her own flowers which she uses in her natural skin care products like lavender skin care treatment and calendula flower salves. Ellen also runs a New York Nature Camp for Kids that no amount of water could disrupt!

Meanwhile, it's time to plant next year's garlic here at the Supak place (my family thinks it's great that I'm growing garlic, as my Great Grampa Supak was a garlic farmer in Ontario, California way back in the day. I'm adding manure to the raised garlic bed (very important to grow garlic in a raised bed because it keeps the bulb up out of the floodwaters) today, and I'll be planting the garlic soon. You know, because I'm really lazy...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Organic Weed Control - Best Tip Ever

My long time gardening friend Mort Mather has the best organic weed control tip ever in his blog today. Long time readers who know this technique should go ahead and read anyway, as he's updated it a bit. For those of you unfamiliar with Mort, don't miss The Garden Spot, a long time feature at

Meanwhile, it's still wet and muddy here, which has set me back a few weeks. I did manage to get peas, arugula,  and lettuce in before this latest stretch of never ending clouds and rain, so it's not awful yet (a lot of locals up here say to wait till Memorial Day to plant any frost-sensitive plants anyway). And I've put out the two-inch layer of composted horse manure on the tomato spot, so the rain is helping fertilize that area, and I can use the Mort method of weed control there.

So, not all is lost yet. Still, I hope this isn't a glimpse of the summer to come, in which long stretches of wet, cool weather bring on another epidemic of tomato blight.

Friday, April 08, 2011

New York Natural Skin Care Products

The mud is almost dry enough to get out there and start working some horse manure into the soil. We used to go to Nectar Hills Farm to bag our own manure, but I'm a lazy gardener and have found an honor wagon selling bags of nice, dry horse manure for $2 a bag. Big bags. It's great! So, we'll be doing that manure thing soon. I'm late on getting the peas in, but I've learned to be leary of that late freeze, so...

Got a new web site client from down the road in Cooperstown, NY. Ellen White Weir runs a natural skin care products company called Goldpetals (picture of the Goldpetals barn, right). She makes salves, creams, sprays and botanical oils infused with golden calendula flowers. She also runs the Goldpetals Nature Camp for Kids, Plant Walks & Talks, Art Shows, and other events for nature lovers. The whole operation is ultra organic: check it out!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

I bet this happens all the time

How much organic fraud goes undetected? Considering the premium on the price of organic food, I'm really surprised we don't hear more of this going on, and not just from China.

in reference to:

"After years of ringing the alarm bell about fraudulent Chinese organic production, the nation’s preeminent organic farming watchdog, The Cornucopia Institute, applauded the federal government’s current approach to enforcement and its transparency. On February 11, The Department of Agriculture (USDA) publicly released evidence of attempted fraud by a Chinese organic agricultural marketer."
- USDA Uncovers Plot to Import Fake Chinese Organic Food | Cornucopia Institute (view on Google Sidewiki)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Manure Futures

This is an interesting article on the future of manure as fertilizer.

I would like to see a web site that listed local sources of manure so farmers could easily and less expensively use organic fertilizer.

We have a local "honor wagon" that has bags of dried horse manure for a couple of bucks per large bag. Great deal for me, and the people are making a little money off of something they need to get rid of anyway. If there was a manure site it could list these honor wagons too.

in reference to:

"So precious was manure that Chinese farmers stored it in burglarproof containers."
- Why Farmers Are Flocking to Manure | Cornucopia Institute (view on Google Sidewiki)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Best Practices for Your Area

All gardening is local. Duh. So, if you want to be a great gardener, one of the best ways to start is to do what your neighbor does. This list of gardening blogs is broken down by state, so you can see what the gardeners in your area are doing, and make it work for you. If you're in a cold climate, you'll find the parent blog, Cold Climate Gardening, worth the subscription.

One of the things I found by reading local gardening blogs is types of plants that do well in this area, like black seeded Simpson lettuce and some blight-resistant heirloom tomatoes. From Cold Climate Gardening, I've been learning the names of flowers, since before I moved here to the land of rain, I wouldn't water it if I couldn't eat it. And if I didn't water it, I didn't care what it was called.