Arcadia Farms

  (Portage, Michigan)
Eat healthier. Save money. Create local jobs.
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Introduction to Gardening Workshop

introduction to gardening workshop

I’m thrilled to announce that Arcadia Farms will be hosting an Introduction to Gardening Workshop on Saturday, March 22 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm at the Holiday Inn West in Kalamazoo! Participants must pre-register at www.arcadia-farms.net/classes.

If you’re a new gardener who’s had a difficult time getting started, or if you’ve always wanted a garden but don’t know where to start, this class is for you!

Participants will learn…

  • Basic gardening terms
  • The best place and method for gardening at their location
  • Plant combinations to avoid or to encourage
  • Organic methods for growing, fertilizing and protecting their crops
  • How and when to both select and start seeds
  • How to transplant seedlings into the garden
  • How and when to water, weed, fertilize and apply pest control
  • How to make compost and use it in the garden
  • Resources for further study and support

We’ll have hands-on exercises to increase your comfort level. You’ll go home not only with one or two starter seedlings, but also with the inspiration and confidence you need to make this year’s garden a success! I hope you’ll consider joining us or passing this information on to a friend who may be interested.

The cost is $38 per person and space is limited. For a printable flyer, click here.

 
 

Seed Starting Resources

Those of us who live in cooler climates and who want to get a jump-start on the growing season have been thinking about seed-starting recently. Last winter I shared several informative posts about how and when to start seeds. This winter I thought it would be beneficial to present all of those resources to you in one easy-access post. So without further ado – here are some of my favorite resources for seed starting.

Arcadia Farms Seed Starting Plans

Here’s a peek into how we’ve put all of the advice below together to create our own seed starting plan.

2013 Seed Starting Plan

2014 Seed Starting Plan

Resources

soaking onion seeds in water

Seed Starting Spreadsheet Template

Instructions for how to use this spreadsheet are included on the first tab.

Seed Sources

Here are my favorite sources for seeds (heirloom and open-pollinated).

Soaking Seeds

Soaking seeds before planting speeds up germination by stirring up the process of the dormant baby plant inside the seed’s hull coming to life.

Optimum Transplant Age

Starting seeds indoors helps gardeners in cooler climates to get a jump start on the growing season. But how soon should you start your seeds? This chart provides guidelines for optimum transplant ages of select crops.

Square Foot Gardening Plant Spacing

Here’s a cheat sheet chart to let you know how many plants to sow per square foot. It’s easy to read on your mobile device so that you can use it in the garden.

Planting by Moon Phases

Did you know that the gravitational pull of the moon actually impacts the success rate of seedlings? Check this article out to learn more about the phenomenon and how you can use it to your advantage in the garden.

kale seedling in newspaper pot

Planting in Newspaper Pots

When you start seeds indoors, you need media – a substance to start your seeds in. I’m now using potting soil in plastic trays, but there are several options. Here’s an analysis of them all, along with details on how to make your own newspaper pots.

Keeping a Garden Journal

A garden journal is a tool you can use to keep track of important garden stats and observations. Being able to look back on this information will help you to plan for next year and will help you to identify patterns in your garden that you otherwise wouldn’t detect. In general, a garden journal allows you to record your successes and failures and details that may have impacted the outcome.

Square Foot Garden Seed Tape

Here’s an easy way to prepare for your spring garden while the snow is still on the ground. Seed tape helps you evenly space your seeds for maximization of resources.

Setting Up Your Garden for Seed-Saving

Here is a fabulous webinar video by Seed Savers Exchange on how to design your garden for seed saving. The post includes my summary notes to highlight the key concepts for those of you who don’t have time to watch the whole thing.

Container Gardening Tips

Everyone can have a garden, including renters and apartment dwellers. Here are some tips on container gardening to make yours a success.

Chitting (Sprouting) Potatoes

Chitting potatoes is the act of sprouting them before they are planted. It speeds up the maturity process and it’s super easy. This guide will show you how.

bean seedling

Planting Garlic

Garlic is a staple in the kitchen for many of us. The fact that it’s so easy and inexpensive to grow means it would also be a great staple in your garden. Here are tips for the best type of garlic for your garden, when to plant it and how to plant.

Garden Apps Wish List

For the technologically inclined among us, here are some apps that can streamline the gardening process.

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.

 
 

Square Foot Garden Seed Tape

how to make seed tape

Seeds come in many shapes and sizes. The tiniest seeds – such as radishes, carrots and onions – can be difficult to sow with precision. One way to address this problem is to use seed tape. Fortunately seed tape is easy to make, store and use, both in traditional row gardens and Square Foot Gardening raised beds. Seed tape helps you conserve seeds, minimizes (or eliminates) the need to thin plants later in the season, and makes a great winter-time project to give you a jump start on spring. Also gardeners with back issues will find this method of sowing seeds much less painful than bending over a garden bed. Plus if you’re a neat freak, it will give you control over having a beautifully, perfectly spaced garden. Won’t the neighbors be jealous?

For pictures and all of the instructions for creating square foot garden seed tape, click here.

 
 

Container Gardening Tips

Plants in a WindowThe more I learn about sustainable living, the more convinced I become that everyone can grow fresh food at home. Not everyone can have the same 1,500 square feet of garden space that we have here at Arcadia Farms, but even renters and apartment dwellers can grow a significant amount of food in a container garden. Container gardening is also a great place for reluctant homeowners to start. If you’re convinced that growing some of your own food would be beneficial but are hesitant to rent a rototiller and start digging up your backyard, consider starting with a container garden. Today I want to share some tips with you on how to make your container garden a successful one.

For the most part, growing veggies in containers is the same as growing them directly in the ground or a raised bed. One obvious difference is that you have less soil to work with. With less soil, you’ll need to pay close attention to your plants nutritional needs (small space means soil nutrients can be used up more readily). You’ll also need to keep a close eye on moisture (it’s easy to over or underwater a container garden). Let’s talk about those two factors – and a few other things you should keep in mind.

1. Give Your Plants Nutrients

raw egg fertilizer

{image Credit}
www.redbookmag.com

To make sure your plants get the nutrients they need, I recommend starting with good quality compost. Because the soil in your container is more likely to become compacted over time, mixing in some vermiculite would also be preferable. There are also many ready-mixed organic garden soils that provide a good supply of nutrients while still being lightweight.

After your plants are established (are showing their true leaves), you’ll want to give them with a natural fertilizer. Good choices are fish emulsion (diluted in water per the bottle’s directions) or an organic soil amendment (such as Jobes organic tomato and vegetable fertilizer.) Fertilize every 1 to 2 weeks after your plants begin to show their true leaves. Here’s another idea for fertilizing your container: A whole, in-shell, raw egg. Warning: I’ve never actually tried this myself, rather, I found the idea on Pinterest. The idea is that the egg will decompose slowly and add nutrients to the soil as it does.

If you intend to use the same containers over and over again, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when it comes to soil fertility. First, you should add new organic matter every year. Fall is a good time to do this so that the materials have time to breakdown over the winter. You can accomplish this by adding grass clippings, shredded leaves, table scraps, store-bought or homemade compost. The second thing to keep in mind has to do with crop rotation. Just like an in-ground garden, plants of the same family ‘eat’ certain nutrients in the soil. If you continue to plant the same type of plant in the same container, over time the nutrients necessary for the healthy growth of that plant will be depleted. To avoid this issue, rotate similarly sized containers through various crops of different plant families. If your season and container are conducive to this, consider sowing some manner of nitrogen-fixing crop after your summer veggies are spent. This cover crop will keep weeds from inhabiting your container over the cooler months and will also add nitrogen to the soil. For a list of nitrogen-fixing cover crops, click here. In general, any legume will do the trick, such as peas and beans.

You can also add nutrients to your container by adding a layer of woody debris – such as broken branches, twigs or even small logs – to the bottom of your container. As the wood breaks down it adds nutrients to the soil, among other benefits.

2. Manage Moisture

{Image Credit} www.amazon.com

{Image Credit}
www.amazon.com

Another benefit of adding woody debris to your container is that it helps to retain moisture. As wood breaks down it acts like a sponge, attracting water and then releasing it slowly into the surrounding soil as needed. This is the primary function of wood in hugelkultur – a system where raised bed gardens are built over piles of well-rotted (spongy) wood to help retain moisture and reduce (or eliminate) the need for irrigation. You can put this hugelkultur benefit to work for you on a container-sized scale. I even read that one blogger found better success with logs placed vertically than horizontally, essentially because the grain of the log acted like a straw for moisture to move up and down. (As soon as I can re-find his post I will link to it here!).  Keep the following tips in mind when selecting wood for your container:

  • Avoid wood so large that will interfere with the growth of root crops (i.e. carrots)
  • Avoid treated lumber
  • Avoid wood from plants that contain natural herbicides, such as black walnut
  • The more rotten the wood, the better
  • Fresh wood that contains a significant amount of tannin (i.e. pine) should be avoided until the wood is older (6 months old at earliest, just my opinion)

Don’t feel like you need to use a giant log in your 12” pot – just a handful of fallen sticks from the yard will help! These sticks will also help provide some air pockets for drainage at the bottom of the container which is of critical importance in container planting. (You don’t want to drown the roots of your plant – they need air too!)

Because containers can dry out easily, try mulching the top to keep the soil cool and water from evaporating. If your container is large enough, you may consider using an olla to reduce the amount of time you spend on watering.

And lastly, because moisture management is so important in container gardening, you’ll want to invest in a moisture meter. For $5-$10 you can find something like this (image above) which takes the guesswork out of whether or not to water – just stick the probes into the soil and you’ll find out how much moisture is already present.

3. Choose the Right Container (Size, Shape & Materials)

When it comes to container gardening, bigger is generally better. That’s because you have more moisture-retaining, nutrient-rich soil to work with. But that doesn’t mean a small container can’t be just as successful! In Mel Brook’s Square Foot Gardening method, nearly everything can be grown in soil that is just 6” deep.  (Root crops will need a minimum of 12”.) The necessary width of your container will depend on what you’re growing – tomato plants do best with at least 2 square feet of space while one head of lettuce requires only 12.5% of a single square foot. Use these plant spacing rules as a guideline for container planting.

Tall or vining crops (such as cucumbers and tomatoes) will need a trellis. Does your container have enough space to hold both your plant and your trellis? Or will you use an external trellis near the container such as a fence or a porch railing? Here are some ideas for container-gardening trellises. Click on the image for more info and image sources.

outdoor trellis string trellis simple diy copper trellis raspberries trellis sapling green ladder trellis

Also consider the material makeup of your container. You’ll want to avoid containers from treated materials, ones that may leach chemicals into your soil or that previously held harmful chemicals/materials.

4. Location, Location, Location

This isn’t real estate, but location is still pretty darn important! The closer your containers are to the house, the less likely you’ll be to neglect them. Plus if you have easy access to your cherry tomatoes and snap beans, you (and your family) will be more likely to grab a few for a snack or dinner than if you have to wander far from the back door.

When choosing a location for your container garden, sunlight is another huge consideration. In general, you’re looking for a location with as much sun as possible. However some plants benefit from a little shade. To determine the best location for each crop, check out the info on the back of the seed packet. Once you’ve identified your shade-loving plants and your sun-loving plants, you can devise a plan for each group. You may even be able to use your large sun-loving plants to provide shade to your shade-loving plants. Shade-lovers staged on the east side of sun-lovers will get plenty of morning sun but will be shielded from harsher afternoon rays.

And when you place your containers, keep pests in mind! Do you have deer nearby? You may want to keep your containers in a fenced area. Is the sunniest spot in the yard also in the path of your pets and kids – you’ll need a plan to keep them from being toppled over. Another way to keep bunnies and other critters away from your veggies is to interplant smelly things to deter them – chives, garlic, marigolds and rosemary are good options.

Inspiration

As you ponder how to incorporate these tips into your own container garden, click here to take a peep at some of these neato ideas for inspiration.

I’m working right now on a custom container gardening plan for growing lots of things like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, potatoes and herbs. I hope to share that with you soon!

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.  

 
 

Dibble Templates for Easy Planting

Beekman 1802 holes from a dibble

{Image Credit}
http://beekman1802.com

Ever since I learned about dibbles, I’ve been wanting to make one of my own. A dibble is  a tool used to space seeds or seedlings in your garden by poking holes at exact measurements. Exact measurement comes in handy when it comes to Square Foot Gardening (SFG) because the main point of this intensive-planting method is to squeeze as many plants into 1 square foot (SQF) section as you can without hampering the plants’ ability to flourish. (For more on Square Foot Gardening, click here.)

Until recently, all of the dibbles I had discovered were board with pegs (to poke holes in the soil) managed with one central handle or two handles on the edges. I still think these are handy tools, but frankly, I don’t have the skill-set to make one. (However, if you know anything about woodworking at all, making your own dibble would probably be a breeze for you. Click here for a tutorial.) In addition to not being very confident with a saw, I’m also operating my micro-farm on a micro-budget. Simple as a wooden dibble may be, it still requires purchasing materials and I’d rather save that money for other items. Plus, to be most useful for my purposes, I would need four dibbles, each for the following SFG patterns:

  • 4 seeds per SQF
  • 8 seeds per SQF
  • 9 seeds per SQF
  • 16 seeds per SQF

Four boards. Lots of materials. Lots of time. I’ll pass.

And pass I have… for a long time… until I saw something that looked like this:

four seed dibble

This four-seed dibble allows you to perfectly place four seeds in one square foot of your garden.

Aha! Thanks to a post from a friend on Facebook (Clementine’s Homestead), I finally met my dibble match! This dibble is made from cardboard, which is cheap, easy to work with and readily available to pretty much anyone. Sure, it’s not as pretty as the wooden variety. And frankly, it’s also a smidge less efficient because you have to poke each hole rather than pushing the dibble down once, but, it still serves the same purpose of evenly distributing your seeds. If you have the skill-set, time and materials, you could make this same dibble with a wooden board (or a sheet of metal for that matter).

Wouldn’t you like to make one of these dibbles for your own garden? I thought you might… And that’s why I created these! Here are five dibble templates you can print at home to create your own dibbles in a matter of minutes. (That’s right, I did all of the measuring for you… feel free to leave a tip at the door as you leave.) Because they are 12? long, you’ll need to print on Legal Size (8.5? x 14?) paper. I created the templates in two sections (A & B) so that they are more easily printed from a home computer (which can sometimes only accommodate paper that is 8.5? wide).

To download our free dibble templates, click here.

 
 

Gardening Gadgets for Kids

Wish List Wednesday | Gardening Gadgets for Kids

Welcome to another Wish List Wednesday! This week Owen will begin sowing seeds for his 4’ x 6’ raised garden, located next to his swing set in the backyard. Last summer I enjoyed watching him pick and share fresh cucumbers with his friends in the neighborhood (and they all enjoyed it too)! This year he’s growing sunflowers, dragon egg cucumbers and a watermelon plant. Since now is a great time for little ones to start getting involved in the garden and pre-garden work, I thought it would be fun to do a Wish List Wednesday featuring tools and gadgets for kids. To make the list, I consulted my resident expert on kid-friendly gardening. Here’s what he came up with.

 

Watering Cans

Fancy Pants Watering CanPinned by Arcadia FarmsOnto In the Garden

Lucky Elephant Watering CanPinned by Arcadia FarmsOnto In the Garden

Verdie Chameleon Kids Watering CanPinned by Arcadia FarmsOnto In the Garden

Kid-friendly Compost Bins

Children's Compost BinPinned by Arcadia FarmsOnto In the Garden

DIY Kids Compost BinPinned by Arcadia FarmsOnto In the Garden

Garden Gloves

Kids Garden GlovesPinned by Arcadia FarmsOnto In the Garden

Harvest Baskets and Buckets

All-purpose bucket for the gardenPinned by Arcadia FarmsOnto In the Garden

Metal harvest basketPinned by Arcadia FarmsOnto In the Garden

Twigz Kids Garden BucketPinned by Arcadia FarmsOnto In the Garden

A Garden Border Fence (To Keep Pets Out)

Garden Border FencePinned by Arcadia FarmsOnto In the Garden

Garden Boots

Garden Boots for KidsPinned by Arcadia FarmsOnto In the Garden

Garden Boots for KidsPinned by Arcadia FarmsOnto In the Garden

Garden Boots for KidsPinned by Arcadia FarmsOnto In the Garden

Garden Tools

Morgan Cycle 6 pc. Junior Garden Tool Set - Kids Gardening Tools at HayneedlePinned by Arcadia FarmsOnto In the Garden

Mini-Greenhouse

Mini GreenhousePinned by Arcadia FarmsOnto In the Garden

Super simple mini greenhousesPinned by Arcadia FarmsOnto In the Garden

Mini Greenhouse from IKEAPinned by Arcadia FarmsOnto In the Garden

Kid-Sized Wheelbarrow

A wheelbarrow for the wee ones.Pinned by Arcadia FarmsOnto In the Garden

 

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.    

 
 

Planting Herbs in Upcycled Tin Cans

This winter I shared with you that I want a beautiful, traditionally styled, super-sized tea garden full of straight-up tea plant (Camellia sinensis) hedges and oodles of herbs. Despite my grandest dreams, our micro-farm only has room for a micro tea garden. So instead of having something like this…

formal garden

{Image Credit}
www.dnalandscape.com

I’m going to have something like this…

tin can herbs

{Image Credit}
http://fotofraulein.blogspot.com

I’ll be growing herbs for tea in upcycled tin cans which will hang from the posts of our garden fence. I’m also hoping to add some herb containers closer to the house. This weekend I got started on planting my first herbs – stevia.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with stevia, it is a natural sweetening alternative to cane sugar. I’m going to use the leaves in tea but you can also use it in powder form for baking. (Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the aftertaste it leaves in baked goods.) I’m starting small with just five containers. Here’s what I did.

I’ve been collecting an assortment of tin cans all year. I grabbed five of them and used a drill to make holes in the bottom. Because stevia likes well-drained soil, I wanted to add a little something to the bottom of each can to create air pockets for drainage. What better to use than some of the myriad twigs lying around my yard? Cleans my yard up a smidge (ok, a very tiny smidge), makes good use of what would otherwise be yard waste and creates a mini-hugelkultur climate in my herb containers. Win win win!

holes in tin can planter for herbs

I started by drilling drainage holes in the bottoms of my tin cans.

tin can herb planters with twigs for drainage

Next I added a layer of fallen twigs. These will aid in drainage by creating air pockets and will also add a hugelkultur effect to these tiny planters.

planting stevia in tin can herb planters

I’m planting stevia from Seed Savers Exchange in these mini-planters.

I’ve never grown stevia before… can’t wait to see (and taste) what lies ahead! And I’m super excited about all the other tea-worthy herbs that are yet to come.

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.  

 
 

Benefits of Gardening

If you’re a gardener, you know that gardening brings more than just fresh veggies into your life. Spending some time outdoors, digging in the dirt and tending to your plants can merit health, mental, financial and communitybenefits. Here’s a ‘lil infographic to illustrate the point. (Click on the image below to enlarge it)

{Image Credit} www.lochnesswatergardens.com

{Image Credit}
www.lochnesswatergardens.com

 
 

Garden Apps Wish List

Wish List Wednesday | Garden Apps (from seed to table!)

I’ll be the first to admit that there’s nothing organic or sustainable about apps for your mobile device. At first glance it may seem a little off-center that a website about living sustainably is featuring a Wish List of Android and iPhone apps, but please, hold the phone! Our take on sustainable living is a wee bit different than you might expect. In this recent post about the topic of sustainable living I mentioned that “the beauty of sustainable living is that we can (responsibly) enjoy the comforts of modern resources without worry for what we’ll do if or when they’re gone. Living sustainably does not mean utterly forsaking modern resources, but it does mean that we have a plan for living well should we need to live without them.”

So in the spirit of smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, I give you this month’s Wish List Wednesday! There’s a whole world of nifty apps out there just waiting for you to discover them! Check out these neat programs that can be accessed from your mobile device and can make garden planning, planting, watering, harvesting, local eating, cooking and recordkeeping one step easier.

Square Foot Gardening Spacing

Square Foot Gardening Plant Spacing Cheat Sheet. Its written to be easy to read from your mobile device so you can check it on your phone while you’re in the garden. {Arcadia Farms}

 

Gardening Toolkit
The Gardening Toolkit – The app that loves to grow! Organize your plants in multiple gardens. Advice on what to grow and when to grow it. Data and photos for 1000 plants and vegetables.

 

Gardenate
The garden calendar shows the vegetables and herbs you can plant every month. A detailed guide to growing the most popular garden vegetables, with local planting information for the USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the UK.

 

Green Drop
Green Drop is a full featured garden/plant manager. – Organize your plants into gardens with locations – Monitor and get reminders when plants need water, food, or are ready for harvest. – Keep notes on your plants. – Manually adjust watering, feeding, and harvest dates if needed. – Keep a gallery of pictures of each plant with notes and date picture was taken (to track growth).

 

Herbs+
Herbs+ gives you images and information on the most popular herbs in an elegant, fun-to-use application. Each herb offers gardening tips, culinary ideas, medicinal uses and a crisp image to help you identify the herb.

 

Bugs in the Garden
Quickly ID common North American insects in your vegetable garden. Includes realistic illustrations and photos of both adults and larva (caterpillars and grubs). Gives basic advice on management and damage assessment. If you have seen while gardening: * Beetles * Moths * Aphids * Caterpillars * Grubs This app will help identify them. 33 pictures of 23 bugs all on one page to swiftly pinpoint the bugs in your garden.

 

Mother Earth News
The new MOTHER EARTH NEWS app acts as a virtual library of our electronic resources, conveniently bringing them all together in one handy tool. You can browse through our resources and download those that most interest you. Our How to Can and Food Garden Guide tools, previously available only as separate apps, are offered for free within the MOTHER EARTH NEWS app and together will guide you through growing a great organic garden and preserving your fresh harvests.

 

Garden  Guide (Mother Earth News)
The Food Gardening Guide from Mother Earth News is a one-stop gardening app from America’s leading magazine on organic gardening. The app provides expert advice on Crops and Techniques, plus a Resources section to find even more helpful information. Shown with beautiful illustrations, the Crops section includes planting and harvesting instructions along with recommended varieties, pest control advice and extra tips to improve your garden’s yields.

 

How to Can (Mother Earth News)
This app explains how to can fresh produce using both water bath and pressure canners. Complete basic instructions plus timing details for over 20 crops make this free app a must-have for anyone who cans or wants to learn how to can. Incorporates advice from the United States Department of Agriculture and the Ball brand home canning products company. The Basics section will fully equip even the most novice of canners with all the information needed to get started.

 

Harvest Plan
Harvest Plan is a neat little application for your mobile device that lets you keep tabs on your garden. With a library of more than 200 popular plants at the start, harvest plan will keep you abreast of what’s where and when it’s going to be ready. Keep track of plantings, losses, and yields – even attach a picture of your plants to the entry. When it’s time to check on your plants, Harvest Plan will post a notification to your device’s notification panel so you won’t miss it.

 

Taste of Home Recipe App
Taste of Home’s recipe app brings provides tons of recipes featuring the season’s freshest flavors right to your phone. Each season brings a new collection of recipes for fresh fruits and veggies. Recipes have photos. Allows you to browse by course, cooking style, cuisine, ingredients or holidays. My favorite part: You can find which locally-grown ingredients are available in your state this season—just choose your location, browse the ingredients, and find hundreds of recipes!

 

AmpleHarvest
While America has more than 50 million people who are hungry or are at real risk of being hungry (“food insecure people”), more than 40 million Americans grow food in home gardens – often more than they can use, preserve or give to friends. It doesn’t have to be this way. Whether you deliberately planted an extra row of food or just harvested more zucchini (or any other fruit, vegetables, herbs or nuts) than you can possibly use, AmpleHarvest.

 

Honorable Mentions

Fooducate
Don’t Diet – Eat Healthy with Fooducate! Featured App on Android Market Dec 2011. Scan and choose healthy groceries. Over 200,000 unique UPCs! As featured in Oprah’s O Magazine, USAToday, NYTimes, WSJ, Lifehacker, Gizmodo and on ABC, FOX, NBC and more… Instead of trying to decode nutrition facts labels and ingredient lists… …use your Android phone to: ? Automatically scan a product barcode ? See product highlights (both good & bad) ? Select better alternatives

 

Locavore
LOCAVORE: It’s your seasonal, local food network. Locavore makes searching & sharing in-season, local food a breeze by mapping farms and farmers’ markets, and what is in season based off your location. Features: 1 – Share photos about local, in season food & sellers 2 – Locate farms and farmers’ markets near you 3 – Browse what’s in-season and soon to come 4 – Find who is selling it and where 5 – Get details about your local farmers’ market 6 – Post what you ate locally to Facebook

 
 

A Micro Tea Garden

I want a tea garden. And by ‘tea garden’, I mean a garden with hedges made of true tea plants (Camellia sinensis) and tea-worthy herbs that I can harvest at my leisure (<— said with my best British accent) then steep for a delicious homemade tea minutes later. On top of that, I wouldn’t mind sitting in the midst of all those beautiful hedges and herbs while I sip said tea. The ideal tea garden would be very near my back door. I have visions of something marvelous and much like the following:

Source: flickr.com via Arcadia on Pinterest

Source: mydeco.com via Arcadia on Pinterest

Source: everythingfab.com via Arcadia on Pinterest

 

 

 

Source: ripe6.net via Arcadia on Pinterest

 

 

But the unfortunate reality is that there just isn’t a great space available for my fantasy tea garden. While I do plan to incorporate some herbs like chamomile and mint into the main garden this year, the bulk of the garden space (Main Garden and Fenceline Garden) is rightfully set aside for growing vegetables to support our CSA. I considered planting around the perimeter of the house (that would be pretty and practical!) but I know that there was a previous application of insecticide for termintes applied here and I’m reluctant. (Apparently this treatment bonds to the soil and stays put so its not an issue for the rest of the property – the garden is at the complete other end of our acre – but I’m not taking a chance of growing edible plants right above or next to it.)

What’s a tea loving girl to do? How about this: I intend to have my tea garden in containers. I’ll be reusing (up-cycling, if you will) tin cans as planters which will be affixed to the posts of our garden fence. They’ll get plenty of sun out there, they’ll be conveniently close to our water source and they’ll just be pleasant to look at and smell as I work in the garden. After drilling a few drainage holes in the bottom and filling them with compost, they should be well-suited to growing little bits of beauty. I’ll have several cans of yarrow, thyme, spearmint, sage, rosemary, peppermint, lavender, lemon grass, fennel, chamomile and anise. Those herbs with fragrant flowers will hopefully also attract more bees and butterflies. I’m not 100% sure yet what they’ll look like or how I’ll secure them to the fence (maybe just nails?) but here’s a gallery of inspiration that the final product is sure to come from.

 

What do you think? Any suggestions for how to hang them? Or suggestions for tea-worthy herbs to grow in them? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.  

 
 

Winter Gardening Confessions (An Update)

garden in January

Seems like anytime I’m making small talk these days I’m asked “How’s your garden?” (No complaints here; I’m happy to share!)

So, let me just tell you how the garden is. It’s good. But not as expected. I just paid the garden a visit yesterday for the first time in a couple of weeks. (A couple of weeks?? Hmm… I feel like this post is part confession…) Here’s what I found.

Winter Update

The peas still look green and healthy. They’re a wee bit larger and beginning to tangle about each other, but otherwise there’s no change. The lettuce in this bed looks healthy but is essentially the same size as in November. This is also the bed with an outdoor thermometer inside. Here are the stats: Under the row cover, it was 65*. Outside the row cover, it was 34* and sunny. The high temp was recorded at 96* and the lowest recorded temp was 18*.

This lettuce seedling hasn't had any noticeable growth in over a month.

This lettuce seedling hasn’t had any noticeable growth in over a month.

Peas growing in January

The peas are (barely) growing under a row cover on this January day.

Confession: The kale bed has never been covered (for several reasons). Despite being buried under several inches of snow, half of the kale looks good still. The other half was transplanted from the Fenceline Garden in late fall and never did look terribly healthy. I’m going to sample both tomorrow (perhaps in an omelet?) to see how they taste.

This kale is growing under a blanket of fall leaves and snow.

This kale is growing under a blanket of fall leaves and snow.

The cover over the carrot bed was partially collapsed and covered in some major ice chunks. After I remedied that situation, I crawled inside (yup… I confess I was too lazy to open the iced-to-the-ground side) and plucked a couple of carrots from the center of the bed. In fact, I ate them while I wrote this post! They’re pretty small (maybe three inches) but they sure taste good! Can I tell you a dirty little secret? (More confessions…) These carrots were transplanted from a different bed. I know, I know, you shouldn’t transplant root vegetables… but there were a bunch of small carrots still hanging around this fall and I was curious to see what would happen if I transplanted them to another bed for winter growing. If these two carrots are any indication, they haven’t grown at all, but they sure are tasty!

Hard to believe it, but there are carrots "growing" under those leaves. More like "stored" under those leaves.

Hard to believe it, but there are carrots “growing” under those leaves. More like “stored” under those leaves.

Next I checked the bed with beets and chard growing in it, both crops still there from fall. They don’t seem to have grown much but I did pick a few beets for dinner. However, my favorite part of this bed isn’t edible… not yet anyway. Late this fall (November?) I direct seeded spinach to this bed. I’d given up hope that they would ever germinate, but there they were today smiling up at me! These are about the only plants that have actually shown growth during the winter. It will be fun to see if they continue to grow to a harvest-able state during the winter or if they simply overwinter till we hit springtime.

This bed has chard and which have shown no noticeable growth in over a month. The spinach in this bed however has germinated nicely over the last few weeks.

This bed has chard and beets which have shown no noticeable growth in over a month. The spinach in this bed however has germinated nicely over the last few weeks.

Spinach seedlings grown under a row cover in December and January.

Spinach seedlings grown under a row cover in December and January.

And speaking of overwintering spinach, yet another bed had a layer of teeny baby spinach plants sleeping under a blanket of fall leaves (and a canopy of plastic). No growth, but I’m pretty confident that they’ll overwinter for a spring harvest. Same deal with the turnips; no growth, but they look healthy under their leaf-mulch and hopefully will take off this spring.

This spinach seedling germinated in late fall. There are many more like it under this layer of leaves.

This spinach seedling germinated in late fall. There are many more like it under this layer of leaves.

Turnips waiting for spring under a bed of fall leaves (and a plastic row cover).

Turnips waiting for spring under a bed of fall leaves (and a plastic row cover).

I didn’t get a chance to check on the newly seeded carrots and parsnips which are under several inches of leaf-mulch and several more inches of snow.

raised beds in snow

The story of ‘looks-healthy-but-no-growth’ is repeated in the greenhouse. I have many (100?) seedlings that I was going to plant out in the garden which are frozen in time. Some of them were destined for beds that have row covers and I probably should go ahead and transplant them. (Confession: With the busyness of the holidays I didn’t get around to it.) I did bring one lettuce plant into the house which is beginning to grow as it thaws.

SAMSUNG\

SAMSUNG

 

So in summary, while things aren’t growing like I thought they would, we still have a few winter delights to nibble on and I’m optimistic that I’ll have several early crops in the spring.

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.  

 
 

Meet the Winter Team

Last week I shared in this post that I’m planning to grow vegetables this winter. For those of you who are following and would like to try to do the same, I thought I’d share just exactly what we’re planting.  [Read More]
 
 

Baby, it's (almost) cold outside!

It’s fall. Big time. Temperatures are dropping along with brown and orange leaves. The tomato plants are bending beneath the weight of green fruit hoping for enough time. (I’ll be picking them before we get frost.) The zucchini, cucumbers and beans are all distant memories. And all I can think about is sowing seeds. Yes, that’s right, sowing seeds. Today I planted seeds in the main garden and before the weekend is over, I’ll have planted many more. Why? Because I’m experimenting with four-season growing!  [Read More]
 
 
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