By Luis Tobon
There are many people out there that are growing their own food to feed themselves but sometimes they may have too much. This is where Crop Swaps come in.
Crop swaps are popping up and people are trading using their surplus from their home gardens. One gardener may have too many tomatoes but their zucchini didn't make it and they can trade out for it.
The swaps, not only, help by getting rid of garden surplus but also bring communities together. People can actually get out and meet their neighbors. Face to face interactions are becoming something that most people rarely do. The technological advances have pushed people apart and these meet-ups can help foster community.
The movement is huge in Australia and there are swaps weekly and probably daily. The rest of the world should be doing this. The United States needs to take some notes and catch up.
My Garden Tools
By Luis Tobon
There are many gadgets out there for everything and gardening is no different. This is a list of the basic tools I use on a regular basis.
1. Trowel - I not only use it for sowing seeds but also for transplanting and anything else that may come up. You don't need to spend a ton of money.
2. Ratchet Clippers - There are different type of clippers out there but I fell in love when I saw these. These work great because each squeeze makes it tighter. It helps by making the cut easier.
3. LED Headlamp - We all lead busy lives and if we can't get to the garden during the day this will work wonders for you. It will also make it easier to see those bugs that only come out at night.
4. Spade Fork - I really only use it when turning over beds but it is used year round. I try to succession plant and a fork helps loosen the soil.
5. A hat - I prefer a hat with a big brim to keep as much sun off as possible. I try to not be out in the heat or too much sun but that is sometimes the only opportunities to get here. I know this hat may not fit your style but a hat should be part of your repertoire.
6. Weeding tool - I love this one so much that I have two of them. I love it because it pulls out the weed and the full root. It doesn't always work out that way but those instances are rare.
That's pretty much all I use. I try to keep it simple and not overthink anything.
Product Review: Growoya
By Luis Tobon
Drip irrigation has been around for a long time but watering with clay pots, ollas, has been around for centuries.
The basic principle is that the ollas are buried and filled with water. The water then seeps out and waters the plants around it. A layer of mulch should be added and the olla is refilled as needed. It depends on your soil, weather and plants as to how often the ollas need to be refilled.
Now that you have the basic idea of how it works we can start the review!
I had been looking at alternatives to watering the garden. I have put in drip irrigation systems and it is pretty simple once you get the basics down. Once the system is put on a timer there is nothing else to really do. I have an issue with that. I know people are busy but watering the garden can be very relaxing.
I don't remember how I found Growoya but I'm glad I did. I started following them on Instagram, @growoya, and they were having weekly giveaways.
Needless to say, I won one and I was hooked. I chose my biggest bed and figured out how many I needed.
The bed is 4x13 feet. I had won a medium Olla and decided that I needed 3 more in order to get the bed
covered. I waited for a promo and ordered the other 3.
The medium covers a 3x3 foot area. I didn't mind that there would be 6 inches on either side that wouldn't get watered. I figured that once the plants filled in, it wouldn't be an issue.
I put in the 4 ollas in at Spring planting and added plants around it. The Growoya site recommends that the plants are to be placed in a circular pattern around the olla with the thirstiest plants closest to it. I followed the recommendation and the plants seem to love it.
As always, I watered the plants in well and did a deep watering on the bed to give it a good start. I filled the ollas and have needed to be refilled every other day. I know that mulch would help in keeping the moisture levels up but I just haven't had the time to do it.
I check the ollas every day and top them off but they really don't require it. The plants are close enough together that the soil isn't really exposed to direct sun and that helps keep the soil moist.
Overall, I am really happy with the Growoyas. The install couldn't be any easier. You just dig a hole, place
the olla in the hole and bury it. The tops stick out with a bright green cap. The color makes it much easier to find when the plants are overgrown.
I am using these in Southern California so I can keep these buried year round but for those of you that get snow, it is recommended to take them out during winter. You can put them back in when the weather allows.
I would highly recommend this product and will continue to use it.
I didn't receive any compensation from Growoya directly and these opinions are all my own. I did win the first one from them but that was it.
I am including some affiliate links for you to Amazon in case you are interested.
Click the image below.
Finding The Light When You Are Short On Sun
By Kaye Kittrell
In my very first episode of “Late Bloomer Show” I remarked, “Plants need sun. Who knew?” I really didn’t know about the sun needs of plants when I started gardening as a novice in 2012. And I had no idea about the challenges I would face growing an edible garden in my small yard. If I had, I might not have begun.
After five years of gardening, I can say unequivocally that finding the light has been my biggest challenge (even bigger than my powdery mildew issues, which are legend J), and I have not solved it, because you have what you have to work with, especially in an urban setting. In my case, our house (and the big house to the right of us) is in the way! But, you can find ways to grow a garden to meet that challenge.
In my second year of gardening, I wrote an eBook “10 Steps to a Successful First Garden” (free download at latebloomershow.com) to help beginners get started and maybe avoid some of my first missteps, and Step #2 is “Where’s the Sun?” Here is an excerpt: “You must be in touch with all aspects of your available light at different times of the year. How does it pass over your space? Are the neighbor’s trees blocking light (or WILL they in a year or two)?
You can buy soil, seeds and whatever. But you can’t buy sun! You either have it or you don’t.
So, figure out where your sun is, even if it is only on a balcony or a roof, and then you can start to plan what you are able to grow. A gardening rule of thumb is to plant rows facing the north, so the plants get morning and afternoon sun, but if you only have a tiny space that gets sun, you may not be able to afford that luxury. I couldn’t. Once you figure out how the sun passes over, be sure to plant the tall stuff in the back, so you aren’t cutting off light to shorter vegetables.”
Stand in the middle of your garden and take note of where the sun is, at different times of the day. Get an idea of how it’s going to pass over. In winter, the sun is much lower in the sky. Drawing a diagram of your garden is a great idea and put an arrow for the direction of the sun. If you have a big open backyard with no trees, you have no problem. But, that’s not the case with most urban yards. The denser the buildings, the taller the fences, the placement of your dwelling, and less space you have, the more creative you have to get.
My neighbor used to tell me that reflective light adds to the overall light a plant receives, so planting against a light-colored wall that the sun hits can boost the light. Also, a reflective surface that the sun hits can bounce light into a dark area. I did this the first year in the afternoons to get my little lemon tree established.
One of the best ways to deal with low light, especially in colder months when the sun is lower, is by using grow pots, preferably cloth pots that air prune the roots. You know how easy some plants get root bound, with coils of roots at the bottom of pots? This doesn’t really happen in cloth pots. I chase the sun all winter moving my pots around. And since you know you are going to be moving them, don’t use over 5-gallon pots if you are working alone. They get heavy! If you are handy with a hand truck, no problem! You can go up to 10-gallon.
Here in Southern California, where it doesn’t freeze, you can garden year-round. Here’s an illustration in pictures of how I’ve developed a planting routine with what I call my Back 40, about a 50 square foot raised bed, which gets restricted sun except in summer.
This is 11AM in mid-April, 2016, and how my Back 40 looked after clearing off my winter plantings. (The buried orange bucket is one of my worm towers and was relocated.)
This is four days later, at 6:40PM. April is when I got my big pile of wood chips. I planted in six tomato plants, piled on 6-8 inches of wood chips, and placed my potted peppers in the available space. However, I wasn’t satisfied with all the wood chips falling over the edge, so, four days later, I added another round of redwood to raise the bed height so I could accommodate more woodchips and raise the plants a couple of inches higher.
This is the light at 4PM. Counting on the sun getting higher in the sky each day, I planned to keep the peppers here until the tomatoes were big enough to block their sun, and then I moved them to the driveway to join more peppers. At this point, in the beginning of June, I get more sun on the back of the driveway, which is reserved for gardening. Since light comes at an angle here too, I rotated the pots weekly. I use saucers to conserve water.
Chasing the sun is what I do. I have an upper balcony with 11AM to 4PM sun and this can be a great option for you. It worked well for peppers in 2015, and pollinators found them and I had lots of peppers. But, with a balcony, you have to consider where your water source is and how much trouble it will take to get it to your plants.
By October, the tomatoes were gone from the raised bed and it was prepped for winter, with sweet peas and brassicas planted in cloth pots sitting on top. My thinking was, let the wood chips break down over winter and by elevating the sweet peas up 10 inches in pots, they would reach the sun more hours of the day as they grew.
The sun is nearly always coming at your garden at an angle. It is never directly overhead my property. So, I always plant shorter veggies in front of taller ones. Remember how they will be growing and the shadow they will cast.
This is how the Back 40 looks today in early February. It’s raining, but you can see the brassicas are covered in voile to protect them from cabbage moths laying eggs, and my strategy is working with the sweet peas taller on the left because afternoon sun comes from the right.
See how this bed developed here.
I have learned to plant vining plants all along the fence as the sidewalk is on the other side and they won’t shade anything
Even within a pot, a shadow will be cast, but if your pots are light enough, it’s easy to swivel them around once a week during the growing season.
And if you are really short on space, a vertical growing system is a great idea. You can pack a lot of plants into a small space, and if it rotates, you can ensure the plants get an equal amount of light on all sides.
The ideal growing condition for most edible plants is to be bathed in sunlight several hours a day. But, sometimes that’s just not possible.
Luckily, there are a few edible plants that grow in shade or reduced sunlight, such as potatoes, chard and lettuce. Decide what you like to eat, and then check the light requirements before you purchase seeds or starts.
One more challenge growing near the ocean is “June gloom,” when the sun fails to break through the clouds most mornings. And it can begin in April and go into July. That’s just something else we have to deal with. But, with all the challenges, that rush of planting seeds and watching them develop, keeps you coming back year after year. And you get to eat the produce!
Kaye Kittrell is an urban gardener and producer of Late Bloomer Show on YouTube. You can witness her five-year journey to grow food in a small space with little sun at https://www.youtube.com/user/kittrellkaye. All photos ©Kaye Kittrell 2017.
We are not all blessed with having the space to have a garden at home. Container gardening only takes keeps you satisfied for so long and that is where the community gardens step in to help.
Community gardens vary by state, city, or even neighborhoods and no 2 are alike but the idea is all the same. They unite residents and provide a place to grow our own produce. Fees, rules, and regulations will differ from garden to garden. Most gardens require a fee and some also require community service hours. Gardening is growing in popularity and space at the community gardens is limited. Many, if not all, have a waiting list.
The difference in community gardens does not end there. Plot size from garden to garden will vary but should not be an issue. Most plants don't require tons of space and should coexist without any issues. Some plants will need trellises or cages to help control growth but it should not be a problem. Of course, gardens should be planned out.
Once the plot is all planned out, the soil may need to be amended with compost and other organic material. A great benefit to having a plot in a community garden is that most, not all, will have compost and/or mulch for its gardeners. Some gardens may also have manure that can be added to plots to encourage growth. These "extras" may be free or come at a fee. Along with these extras, the garden may have a stand that sells seeds or seedlings that can be purchased but these can also be bought elsewhere.
After you have seeds or seedlings planted, you need to know how to keep them growing. Gardening does not come easy to anybody and books can only explain things so much. Some books and online resources are so broad sometimes that we are left to figure it out on our own. This is a perfect excuse to talk to your fellow gardeners and see what has worked for them. Your new friends may be full of useful information, tips and ideas that may have worked for them. I am all for making our own mistakes and learning from them, but what is wrong with getting some help along the way? Meet your plot neighbors and as many people as you can and form new friendships.
Forming new friendships is part of life and helps us enjoy it. Once these friendships have been formed there is a feeling of community. Different people garden for different reasons, but getting out of the house and interacting with other people has its own rewards. Technology has put most people behind a computer screen and avatars are the only way we interact with the world.
So, hop on the web and look up the community gardens that may be in your area. You may be shocked to find that you may have one nearby and you never knew about it.
5 reasons to grow medicinal plants
Why would you consider growing your own medicinal herbs when you can buy them in the health food store or even on the internet? Because when you grow them yourself, you get the highest quality possible. It’s really hard to find high quality herbs and once you grow your own, once you smell the strong scent of the fresh harvested plants you will never buy medicinal herbs again.
5 reasons to grow medicinal plants
1. Preventive health care
That’s a given and enough a reason to grow medicinal herbs. Choose them, plant them and as they mature, learn to use them correctly as medicine. Plants such as echinacea, chamomile, calendula, lavender, holy basil and motherwort are well worth your garden space since they can be turned into great medicine for you and your family.
2. Many medicinal plants are also culinary plants/spices
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, as the song goes, are just a few of the many culinary herbs which are also medicinal plants. Add oregano, garden fennel, peppermint, marjoram, basil, chives, garlic and onions to this list and you have enough plants to start a beautiful herb garden. If you have limited space or live in an apartment, you can still grow herbs as they don’t take a lot of space and can be grown in containers.
3. Many are good companion plants in the vegetable garden and orchard
Several of the weeds you might already have in your garden are medicinal herbs and great companion plants to vegetables and fruit trees. Nettle, for example, is a fantastic medicinal herb and an awesome companion plant to apple and pear trees.
Another example is calendula (pot marigold). Not it only looks awesome planted near cabbages, calendula helps keep the soil healthy which a must if you want to grow any member of the cabbage family.
Basil, another excellent medicinal and culinary herb, contains saponins which are compounds with anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Basil roots secrete saponins which neighboring plants absorb thus becoming more resistant to bacterial and fungal attack. Basil is an excellent companion herb for tomatoes and the cabbage family which includes cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts.
Plants rich in essential oils, such as lavender, thyme and oregano attract pollinating insects which will increase your crops. They also attract beneficial and predatory insects that feed on several garden pests.
4. Most medicinal plants are easy to grow
Unless you live in a very cold or very hot, harsh climate, most medicinal plants will prove to be easy to grow. Most medicinal herbs that are also culinary herbs can be grown from seed as well as in containers. The advantage of growing them in containers is that you can bring them indoors when conditions outside are not right for their survival. I live in zone 7 and grow tender plants such as ginger, turmeric, aloe veraand lemon grass in containers and overwinter them in my living room. None of these could stand a chance outside in the winter.
5. They beautify your garden
Who doesn’t want to have a gorgeous garden. Well, many medicinal plants are beautiful. Echinacea adds drama to any garden; calendula brights up any corner and you will fall in love with passionflower. If you don’t have the space to grow a medicinal bed, plant some medicinal plants in your existing flower beds. You can also use them as companion plants or fillers in the vegetable beds. Use medicinal shrubs such as elderberry, Damask roses and hawthorn in the back of the border to add vertical elements. Hawthorn can be grown as a hedge that houses several critters in the winter months while keeping deer out of your garden.
This is a guest post by Giovanna Becker of Herbstead, a resource for information on how to use and grow medicinal herbs. Giovanna lives in Northern Germany with her husband and two cats. She is a gardener and herbalist who grows most of her food and medicine. You can connect with her at http://www.herbstead.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/myherbstead and on Instagram at https:www/instagram.com/herbstead. If you’d like to learn more about medicinal herbs, you can visit the Herbs A-Z page at http://www.herbstead.com/herbs-a-z
Are You Gardening? Why Not?
By Luis Tobon
I am here for the first post and I am asking as to why you are not gardening. I ran a google search for reasons to not garden but did not find anything that satisfied me.
Space may be an issue but there are ways around it. There are many posts and information out there. I started by using containers and will continue to do so in one way or another.
I thought gardening would be too difficult but it has not been too bad. I am not going to lie, there is a learning curve. Although, the internet is there to help with every question / issue to that may arise. I started by tossing seeds into soil and added water. I know the feeling of not knowing as to whether or not anything will grow but when it starts coming in, there is no feeling like it in the world. I remember sending out pictures via Twitter when my first seeds started sprouting and I now use Instagram.
That's what I can think of now and would love to hear your reasons. I will be creating an FAQ page with the responses I get here.
You can always contact us for a consultation and we can get something set up