worms, composting, organic gardening, and nature

Posts tagged ‘gardening’

No Till Gardening


One of the best ways to increase the amount of nutrient converting soil microbes in your soil is to practice No or Low Till Gardening.  This means that instead of disturbing your garden soil with shovel or tiller, you allow the natural fungi and carbon sequestering to remain intact by a simple management program.  Whether you garden a small, raised bed plot or an acre, No Till can reduce your time and labor, while increasing your yield.  Here are a few simple ways to adopt this practice:

Establish Beds First

You will want to establish a raised bed or garden area with lots of compost to create a loose soil bed with lots of organic matter before starting a No Till Garden plan.  Once you have 6-12 inches of loose soil established in your area, your goal will be to maintain the quality of this soil.  Plant your first season of crops, and once plants are established by more than 3-4 inches of growth, mulch heavily (2-6 inches) in areas where you see bare soil.

Mulch, Mulch, Mulch

Maintain a layer of mulch in all areas that do not have seeds, but do have bare soil.  This serves to maintain moisture, provide organic matter for microbes to feed on, encourage earthworm habitation and protect those roots and microbe populations from UV damage.  My favorite garden mulch is shredded fall leaves. As the microbes and earthworms feed on the mulch, they break down the mulch into humus.  Another tip is to spread 6-18 inches of hardwood mulch in the walkways.  About every 6 months you will be able to scrape aside the top layer of mulch and find wonderful humus to add to your garden beds.  Replace walkway mulch to start the next season’s garden compost.

 Trim, Don’t Pull

Whenever possible, try to trim spent plants at the soil level instead of pulling out the root ecosystem.  This is especially important for legumes like peas and beans, which add nitrogen to the soil.  Large roots usually have fungi established along their root hairs that act as nutrient converters for most plants.  By pulling these roots, you lose organic matter that could enhance your soil as it decomposes and you also disturb long strands of fungal hyphae.

 Add Compost, Worm castings and Amendments each Time you Plant

Every season, you will need to add some compost to the top layer of your soil to maintain your 6-12 inches of loose soil.  If you had adequate mulch, you will need to add much less compost.  Living worm castings, added at 10 lbs per 100 square feet will maintain your soil microbe population.  Amendments like Azomite or Texas Green Sand will help keep trace nutrient levels high and allow them to be converted by the soil microbes in a plant available form.  Watering and rain will allow these top dressed amendments and worm castings to filter into the soil ecosystem, there is no need to till them in.

 Plant amongst Roots

Finally, you can plant your seeds and transplants amongst the old roots that are still in the soil.  Brush back mulch to plant in the soil. If you added appropriate compost, there should be plenty of soil for seedlings to establish.

 These tips should help your gardening experience by reducing many hard hours of work.  Enjoy Your Freedom from the shovel and tiller and watch as your plants produce like never before!

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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)!