worms, composting, organic gardening, and nature

Archive for August, 2011

Gardeners are Super Heroes

So, you always wanted to wear a cape, brightly colored spandex, and proclaim that you are here to “Save the Day!”?  Go ahead, you deserve it, because Gardeners are Super Heroes!  Grab your magic hand trowel and let’s talk about how you can fight off an evil nemesis each day.

We are talking about “it” that can’t be named, that villain that kills over 500,000 Americans each year…begins with a C, yes, Cancer.  The good news is that cancer has a kryptonite, and that is healthy, organic foods that are loaded with KaPOW!

Here are 7 healthy, cancer-fighting foods that you can grow in your garden.  By growing your own, they will not lose important nutrients during transportation and storage, and (even more importantly) won’t be laced with chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, or irradiated.  You will have control of everything you use on your familys foods–and as a Superhero, you would never jeopardize health with nasty killers like chemicals in your food!  I’ll use a blue text to show my words below.

From: Top 10 Antioxidant Foods

“Berries—Blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are loaded with proanthocyanidins, which are the antioxidants that may help in preventing cancer as well as heart disease.  Additionally, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries have ellagic acid, which is a plant compound that fights carcinogens.  And blueberries seem to help elderly folks retain cognitive function longer.  Stir berries into yogurt, add them to salads, or eat them au natural for a delicious snack.”

If you buy berries in the grocery store, they will already start to lose some of  those important antioxidants.  The most important thing, though, is that if you are not buying all these berries organically, they are going to have been fumigated with tons of antifungal chemicals that are known carcinogens.  Blueberries are not able to be grown in our North Texas Clay Soil…but you could try to grow them in large pots.  Blackberries are a fairly easy to establish crop that would last a lifetime in your backyard.  Strawberries are both fun and delicious to grow in pots or beds.

“Broccoli—Along with other cruciferous veggies such as cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, broccoli may help in preventing cancer and heart disease.  In general, the crucifers contain indole-3-carbinol, which is a powerful antioxidant that breaks down estrogen and reduces the risk of breast cancer, along with ovarian and cervical cancer.  Beta-carotene is also found in broccoli, and is though to be a cancer and heart disease preventative.  Drizzle lightly-steamed broccoli with salad dressing and enjoy.”

The time to get started is NOW!  I plan on broccoli, broccoli raab, Brussel Sprouts, Mustard Greens, Bok Choi and other dark leafy greens.  These will be picked and eaten immediately, saving all the health benefit and cost of buying from the store…and again, no chemicals to offset the health benefits.

“Tomatoes—Lycopene is the hero within the much-beloved tomato.  Lycopene is in the carotenoid family, which is also in pink grapefruit and is twice as strong as beta-carotene.  According to the latest studies, men who eat more tomatoes or tomato sauce benefit from lower rates of prostate cancer.  Lycopene is also thought to prevent cancer of the lungs, colon, and breasts.  Additionally, tomatoes contain glutathione, which increases immune function.  Add Roma tomatoes to fresh pasta along with olive oil, or add sun-dried tomatoes to soups or mashed potatoes.”

We froze bags of tomatoes, and made multiple batches of stored Marinara sauce from our early summer tomatoes.  I still have healthy plants and am really hoping for a cool down so my plants can start setting fruit again.

“Red Grapes and Red Wine—Red grapes contain reservatrol and quercetin, and those are potent antioxidants that get rid of free-radicals and keep blood vessels open and unobstructed.  Reservatrol is believed to help prevent cancer and reduce inflammation, gastric ulcers, strokes, and osteoporosis.  Sip a glass of red wine or snack on frozen grapes.”

I am NOT a grape growing expert, nor do I currently have grapes…but no time like next growing season to start!  Here is a guide, but remember to use organic methods instead of any chemicals:  Texas A&M Grape Growing Guide. 

Oh, and I highly recommend sipping a nice glass of red wine as you enjoy the fruits of your garden labors (in moderation, of course).

“Garlic—It isn’t just vampire repellent anymore.  It has been shown to help prevent heart disease, cancer, and slow down aging.  The key ingredients are the sulfur compounds that give garlic its pungent aroma and taste.  Keep your heart healthy and prevent cancer by adding garlic to soups, stews, or spreading roast garlic on warm bread.  Garlic is also an excellent anti-fungal and can help with asthma and yeast infections.”

I do grow LOTS AND LOTS of garlic.  It is nearly impossible to find organic garlic in the stores, and almost as hard to find garlic grown by US farmers.  The amount of anti-fungals and other posions dumped on garlic during conventional growth and shipping (usually from China) is staggering.  There is also evidence that our loosely regulated imported garlic has high levels of heavy metal contamination.  October is the time to plant this crop, and you should order your seed source ASAP.

Spinach—It can help protect your vision because it contains the antioxidant lutein.  Studies show that spinach-eaters are less likely to get cataracts or macular degeneration.  Lutein accomplishes this by shielding your retina from sun damage and keeping free-radicals from hurting your eyes.  Eat spinach salads or add chopped spinach into brown rice dishes.

Time to plant spinach too–easy to grow in a bed or a pot.  Easy to grow by seed, so it is very affordable.  Trim the outside leaves, leaving the inner leaves, and you can cut and grow again all winter long.

Carrots—They are power packed with beta-carotene, a member of the carotenoid family of antioxidants.  This free-radical fighter is also found in yellow-orange vegetables, sweet potatoes, and beets.  Beta-carotene fights cancer and can reduce arthritis from progressing by as much as 70%.  Cook carrots for the highest amount of available antioxidants, since heat breaks down active compounds, making them more available.

Guess What?  Time to grow carrots also.  I suggest either planting these in a large container (at least 12 inches deep), or in a raised bed of at least 12 inches deep.  Don’t even bother to grow these directly into our North Texas Clay–too compacted and carrots need a nice loose organic mix.  Biggest issue is not thinning these enough to allow them to grow.  Keep reseeding through the season and you will have carrots from the first picking until April or May.

Sow (pun intended)–what are you waiting for?  Go out and grow, Superhero (wear spandex and capes while gardening at your own risk)!

To Hell with Wall Street, Gardening Might be Your Best Investment Ever!

I’ve been looking at prices everywhere it seems.  Loaves of whole wheat sandwich bread at the regular grocery are priced over $4/loaf!  Whole grain cereals are well above $3, organic raises the price even higher.  Last night I took a little shopping trip to one of Dallas’ destination stores for artisan and organic foods.  Organic milk is between $5.19 and $6 a gallon, the price of artisan bread had raised a dollar, while the size of the loaf had shrunk considerably.  Artisan cheese had raised at least $2/lb in price.  The press is on for the consumer and the farmer at the other end, only the middle man is unharmed.  Seasonal produce prices seem to be holding steady, but organic fruits and vegetables were both hard to find and precious in price.

Most people think of the hallmarks of summer, tomatoes and peppers, when they think of gardening.  However, fall gardening is both easy and productive.  I plan on growing like I have never grown before—using my community garden plots, home garden, containers, and even my front landscaping to grow healthful and affordable food for my family.  This will give me about 650 square foot of garden space. What can I expect to save for my family?

I did a calculation of a “Produce Value Expectation” for a Fall/Winter Organic Garden, using a standard (4X8) plot.  I then used prices similar to what I have seen for Whole Foods/Central Market Organic Produce.

Anticipated Crop Harvested by Christmas (4X8 plot):

Arugula:  5 lbs X $5/lb = $25

Green Beans:  4 lbs X $5/lb = $20

Broccoli (4 plants) 10 lbs X $4/lb = $40

Peas:  2 lbs X $6= $12

Cucumber:  7 lbs X $3/lb = $21

Mesclun Leaf Lettuce:  5 lbs X $5/lb = $25

Spinach:  4 lbs X $5/lb= $20

Beets (greens and beets)  2 lbs Greens X $2/lb = $4  4 lb beets X $5/lb + $20 total =$24

Kale:  10 lbs X $3/lb = $30

Swiss Chard:  5 lbs X $3/lb = $15

Carrots:  2 lbs X $2 = $4

Radish = 5 lbs X $2/lb = $10


$242 by Christmas


An easy calculation would show that in my families 650 square foot of space, I could grow almost $5000 worth of produce, using this formula!  Realistically, I will probably use space to grow less costly foods like carrots and green beans, so even if our family saved half of that price, I would be thrilled.  Honestly, much of that space still has healthy tomato and pepper plants that I have nursed through the summer and am hoping for a huge fall bounty.  Okra will go crazy in its space until the first freeze too.  Have you seen the prices for organic tomatoes and peppers?!  Maybe I will see a value around $5000!

Radish, beets and carrots can be replanted as they are harvested and greens can be cut and harvested again and again and with adequate care will last though the Winter Season.  Lettuce will last until the first major freeze, and even then can often be covered to extend their useful season.  I spent some time looking at using a 4 X 8 plot for a total year in Texas and feel sure that, depending on what you plant, the weather and your care, a Total Yearly Produce Value on a 4X8 Organic Vegetable Garden Plot could easily equal somewhere between $1365-$2275.  The seeds, plants and additional amendments for this plot, once established shouldn’t be that much of a burden, especially if you compost and worm compost to add to your bed.

Texas Worm Ranch installs organic vegetable gardens, complete with planting and ongoing email and Facebook help.  A standard garden’s price is $700, fully installed.  What other investment gives you a Return on Investment of 95% —225% in the first year alone?  With only the cost of plants, seeds, amendments and water from there forward, you will be enjoying safe, nutritious, chemical free, tasty and affordable produce for a lifetime.  Hope you laugh all the way to the bank!

Grow Green

Tips for growing greener …be organic, affordable and successful in your yard.


1)      Quit Chemicals Cold Turkey

In America, we dump nearly 100 million pounds of toxic and cancer-causing pesticides on lawns and gardens each year.  These chemicals kill the biological life in the soil, poison our natural waterways, and expose humans to significant risk:

“Studies show that these hazardous lawn chemicals are drifting into our homes where they contaminate indoor air and surfaces, exposing children at levels ten times higher than pre-application levels.

Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 19 are linked with cancer or carcinogencity, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 26 with liver or kidney damage, 15 with neurotoxicity, and 11 with disruption of the endocrine (hormonal) system.”

From: http://www.beyondpesticides.org/pesticidefreelawns/


2)      Plan to go green  a)  replace some lawn space with drought tolerant perennials, b) grow your own veggies c)  think of habitat plants for birds, bees, butterflies, reptiles and amphibians d)  replace your lawn/pest service with a greener service (Rohde’s, Ron’s Organics, Lindsey’s Tree Service Worm Wine Treatment, Green Pest Guys)  e) when your mower goes, replace with electric f)don’t use blowers

3)      Capture and create your own fertilizer, instead of sending it to the landfill.  Composting is easy and free!

4)      Water Wisely for lawn health and conservation —1 inch per week (including rain) on lawns—no more than twice a week for yards.  Water in morning, for best results.

5)      Mulch-Mow leaves and grass clippings to fertilize your yard.

6)      Use Mulch in Beds to conserve water, protect roots and keep soil healthy and alive.

7)      Empty water sources to prevent mosquitoes

8)      Enjoy your natural surroundings

Sustainable Revolution

I know everybody has been keeping an eye on their stock portfolios, the national debt debacle, the rising cost (and depletion) of fossil fuels and the heat…but I wonder if anybody has had the thought of how all this might impact them, and what they can do to protect themselves a bit?  It doesn’t mean moving to Canada (yet), but a little move to sustainability would be prudent for every family, I think.  So bear with me, in a series of blogs.  We’ll talk of the Why, What, and How to go from being totally dependent on the current food system, to at least supplementing your food supply, while reducing your food budget and improving your health.  Meanwhile, we can help you reduce your water use, energy costs and mowing time.  What we will try to accomplish is moving you to an Urban, Sustainable, Ecosystem.

There’s nothing more peaceful than a gardener sowing his/her seeds, and I can only grin to think of gardeners with pitchforks in hand, marching on City Hall.  However, the systems, codes, and social mores we have in place do tend to make the gentle gardener somewhat of an anachronism these days.  Our neighbors and HOAs expect us to have perfectly groomed, green and homogeneous yards, the codes of our cities support that, and the federal government subsidizes cheaply made processed foods to the point that most Americans have gone to the dark side of food that is cheap and easy, but not necessarily healthful or inexpensive for our medical system.   Be prepared to be labeled as an antagonist, perhaps an anarchist, or at the very least a civil resistor when you grab your shovel and compost.  Perhaps your neighbors will lob more colorful names your way as you transform a portion of water-sucking lawn space to self sustaining foodscapes, but once you share a homegrown tomato with them, perhaps they will concede that battle?

If you want to be prepared for rising food costs, water restrictions, fuel shortages, job loss, or simply want to lead your family to lead a healthier lifestyle, then join the Revolution—we are here to help you become a USEr (Urban, Sustainable, Ecosystem).