Monday, April 19, 2010

Simple Gardening Tips for Earth Day

Love your Mother – Earth, that is!

Happy Earth Day 2010.

Forty years ago, in 1970 amidst the Vietnam War and the last of the real hippies, the first Earth Day was celebrated. I don’t think I took much notice back then and for the next two decades. I was too caught up in my own world of abundance and working for a large corporation where the money seemed endless. As long as my own little world wasn’t affected it was hard for me to feel that anything was going wrong. Sure there were movies that brought things to light, like Erin Brocovich and Three Mile Island, but again those things happened to other people, not me, so I never felt the impact.

But now days I DO care what happens to the Earth.  And one of the things that has been the most FUN for me is figuring out how to NOT buy new things, especially in the garden, except of course plants.  But even with plants I am learning more about propogating and collecting the seeds from my own plants and flowers so I do not need to buy anymore.

As my plants begin to end their life they will flower and go to seed.  I am learning patience as I watch nature's life cycle unfold before my eyes.  Last week, a started to collect the broccoli seeds.

Notice how long the stalks are in photo #1, the pods in #2 and finally the seeds in #3.  Amazing.  I have hundreds of seeds for next fall now all off of 4 plants that I let go to seed!  And this morning I started taking out my wildflowers and have hundres of blue bells, african daisy and soon California poppies.

But seed saving isn't the only thing you can do to help Mother Earth.  At a recent Garden Coaching session with Stefania, she showed me the compost sifter she made using an old plastic plant tray she got from the nursery when she bought plants and a piece of left over wire fencing she had from her garden fence. (you can see the fence in the background).  She used zip ties to hold it together.  She loves the size and light weight nature of it.  It is easy to use by herself over a small trash can.  Very creative.  No plastic going to the recycle plant here.

How will you celebrate Earth Day this year?  Perhaps stay home and play in the garden, get creative and find a use for the things you might dispose of or even recycle.  Start a tool share club with your neighbors, pledge to not buy anything new for 30 days, start a compost pile. YOU name it!

What will you plan to do for your Mother - Earth that is!

Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess

Monday, April 12, 2010

How much to plant and how to increase your yield to feed your family

Planning Your Vegetable Garden

How much to plant and how to increase your yield to feed your family

Every vegetable gardener I know is always looking for ways to get more food from their gardens. I certainly am and so are many of the people I work with on putting in a new garden. There are several theories and practices being used across the country today to get more yield from home gardens. They are all sound and very similar and have several common themes running through them.

Since I garden using permaculture practices I have summarized the practices that support creating a more self sustaining garden that will produce higher yields and need less work and outside resources like fertilizers, water and ME!

It is important to review some of the basics in setting up your garden before going into the specifics of how to actually garden. Garden placement is just as important as what plants or seeds you put into the garden. Making sure your garden gets the proper amount of sun or shade (as in the case of very sunny places like AZ, NV, CA and TX) as well as its proximity to the home and a water source.

Six to eight hours of sun are necessary for healthy, strong plants. However, if you live in a particularly hot sunny location like me, in Phoenix, AZ, you will want those sun hours to be in the morning and early afternoon. Creating a garden where you see it on a daily basis will help you keep an eye on what is happening in your garden so you can react quickly to water needs and attacks by pests. Whether or not you choose to have an automated watering system is up to you, but have the water nearby so you are not dragging hoses all over the garden/landscape and risk damaging plants.

The size of the garden bed will have an impact on how much food is produced since plants need a certain amount of room to grow to a healthy, mature size. A well-amended soil will nourish plants and provide the nutrients, beneficial bacteria, nematodes and other micro-organisms necessary for growth.

Determining What to Plant

This will sound very basic but what do you eat? List your favorite vegetables, ask the kids what they like to eat and plant those plants. If you are just starting out in gardening keep it to those foods that you can easily find in the grocery store. These are the plants that will be easiest to grow. The more exotic the food, the more challenging to grow!

How much do you eat? Does everyone in the family enjoy it and how often? Do you want to can or freeze some food and how much? First, consider how you measure-in pints or cups. Usually a pint will feed two people. Then multiply that by how often you actually eat that particular food. That will give you an idea of how many pints or pounds you need. Repeat this calculation for all the food your family eats.

Factor in a little additional food for the uncontrollable variables that will impact the health of the plant. Pests, disease and adverse weather will impact the amount of produce on the plants. I like to error on planting a little more than I think I need as I can always share the excess with friends and neighbors if I truly have too much! Also, in order to eat that food throughout a full year, you will need to preserve some.

I will be teaching this and MORE this Wednesday, Apreil 14th in Tempe, AZ.  Find out more here
I hope to see you in a class or in your garden soon!
Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess

Monday, April 5, 2010

How to handle young seedlings

I get a monthly newsletter from who has a fabulous garden planning tool. You can try it for 30 days for free.  Check it out here.

This article excerpt is from Barbara Pleasant their American horticultural expert and an award-winning garden writer. Since I start a lot of my seeds in the ground or in small pots outside I have seen some of the conditions she menitons.  These seedlings are so delicate that it is important you handle them correctly if you want them to flourish.

Pricking Out Seedlings
About half of the seedlings I start indoors grow exactly as they should, with one sturdy plant near the middle of each seedling container, so that the root ball forms a plug plant type mass. The others come up crowded, and need to be 'pricked out' – gardening lingo for separating the little seedlings and transplanting them to individual containers. Gardeners who buy seedlings also do a fair amount of pricking out, because it’s not usual to find several lettuce, basil or even tomato seedlings growing in the same pot. Transplanting the young seedlings to individual containers can double or triple your supply of plants.

You can read the rest of her article here.

Happy Digging,

The Garden Goddess


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