Friday, March 20, 2009

Organic Gardening at The White House

Digging up grass! Step one to any garden going onto your lawn....

What an amazing sight: the first lady out there digging up the White House lawn to put in an organic victory garden. Digging up grass that's well established is hard work. Of course, I'm waiting for the pictures from after the ground-breaking ceremony. I'm sure the staff got in there and prepared the raised bed soil properly. For an 1100 sq. ft. garden, it takes some work. Unless you're looking to get exercise, like I am, just bring in the damn tiller. Here's the NY Times story on the White House garden. I'll keep an eye out for the follow up. I can't think of anything better for the organic food movement to have happen than the President pulling weeds.

I'm terracing my way up the little hill side now. I prefer it, as I can have better drainage near the terrace walls, and plant a better variety of things in a smaller area. I take my time with a little shovel and a big ice scraper, and I cut the hillside out in a brick, which I flip over and rake level.

But this will be the last time I bust my butt turning that former grass patch. My disability limits me, but I always was a lazy gardener. That's why I like to read Mort Mather's organic gardening articles. Once you're established, no-till is the way to go. I just layer on new compost every year, maybe poke it a little with a pitch fork.

Funny, our seeds and starter trays showed up today, and I've been planting this afternoon, watching birds show up so fat with eggs that they won't fly away when I go out there. I got a chance to think back over the years, all the gardening I've done in different places like the mountains near LA, Hawaii, and now here in Zone 5a. All the years of advocating organic agriculture (my organic gardening web site was one of the first), and here we are, a first lady starting an organic food garden on the White House lawn.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Organic no-till agriculture will save the world!

A story in the Christian Science Monitor about no-till organic agriculture caught my eye:

New way to farm boosts climate, too

Once I've established my raised or terraced beds (a muddy job that I'm currently devoting a couple of hours a day on--as much as my arthritis will allow), I follow an organic no-till method on a micro-scale. This is my first year up here in zone 5, but the parts of the garden that I didn't make into a cold frame were covered in leaves. This fall, I'll plant a cover crop that I can just knock down, use as mulch, or rake away. I'm a little worried about seeds becoming weeds in my planting area, but I figure using Mort's method of weed control (water, rake, wait, repeat) will help. Plus, I'll be adding manure and compost on top of last years soil, so that will help too.

If a cover crop is too much work, I recommend just covering your whole garden in layers of manure and straw. The worms will do a lot of the "tilling" for you, coming up to get the decomposing organic matter which they eat as they tunnel back down, leaving pathways for water to get deep into the spongy soil they leave behind.

In this article, the guys who developed the tractor attachment discovered the process by accident, as doing this kind of thing on a large scale is a whole different animal than what we small scale home gardeners have been doing for a long time now. As far as reducing one's carbon footprint goes, gardening at home is hard to beat. The only oil used is to get the seeds and manure to my house. No tractors. No trucks full of food. Just a big garden full of fresh vegies waiting for me to go out and pick! And, it forces me to do my garden yoga exercises!

It is good to see these farmers doing their best to help the world, though. The fact that this method stops runoff and topsoil erosion is enough to make me want to support it. The carbon sequestering is a bonus!