Garden Planning part one: Dirty Talk | picky to plenty

I’ve been under a lot of stress lately. Like a lot. I was in a car accident nearly three months ago and it has turned my world upside down. While the accident wasn’t too serious, thankfully, it was enough to cause me health problems I’ve been dealing with ever since. One way to cope with stress is to do things I love — cook, write from the heart and dream.

There’s something about being up to the elbows in fresh soil that is oddly soothing. Caring for a vegetable garden is a satisfying journey that begins with the dirt. While it’s too early to get my hands dirty (though seed planting begins in only a few short weeks) I can cope with the stress by daydreaming about this year’s gardens.

One of my biggest mistakes in gardening last year was not paying attention to the soil. My raised beds thrived because they had great soil, the newer ones in the front however, terrible. Here on the Niagara Escarpment we have a lovely red clay soil… not so good for growing. While we did add a few yards of soil to the plot and some manure and compost, it was not enough to create an atmosphere where plants would thrive. Case in point, my midget pepper and bean plants which were barely half way up my calf when they reached their maximum height.

via Garden Planning part one: Dirty Talk | picky to plenty.


In defense of weeds | FoodGrow

In defense of weeds

February 2, 2015 by Stephen 1 Comment

I provide a haven for weeds. No crap! Sometimes, if no one is looking, I even save seed.

There are places on my property where I have broken ground, turned the grasses under, and waited, just to see what would grow.

And I recommend it. Urge, even, every gardener to think, just for a moment……what would grow here If all these introduced grasses, shipped here from some place in Europe, where removed?

What would grow if I stopped ripping it all out at the slightest hint of germination, If I let some stuff just be?

How would it look?

What insects?

What wildlife?

Would the plants I want to grow do better?

And I promise it will be enjoyable and educational in a way that changes everything. Some of this happens, I think, because you stop looking at the weeds as weeds and think of them as plants again. Just like any other plant, and you get to see how they can benefit the ecosystem that is your garden.

Of course some weeds you will know all too well. Like invasive grasses or “Old Man’s Beard” (an invasive weed in my country that destroys native forest). These should be dealt with in the usual way.

What I’m talking about the other stuff. Like cow parsley.

via In defense of weeds | FoodGrow.

NZ’s rare heritage vegetables under threat.


Hold the seeds of Hokianga red corn in your hand and they gleam like burnished gems. They are considered to be treasure of the most precious kind by the Koanga Institute, a non-profit charitable trust that has been saving rare and unusual heritage vegetable and flower seeds, bulbs and fruit trees for almost 30 years.

It has been a lifelong quest of Kay Baxter, a permaculture garden guru, to save the best-tasting, nutrient-filled heritage plants for future generations to enjoy.

“Since 1900, the world has lost more than 90 per cent of the global genetic biodiversity in our food plants,” says Baxter. “These plants have disappeared largely as a result of the industrialisation of our food production.

“In particular, the Koanga Institute is saving the seeds that are New Zealand heritage seeds, those that were brought to Aotearoa by our ancestors and grown in gardens here.”

Kay and dedicated groups of volunteers have spent decades hunting for original seeds, bulbs and trees.

The search has taken them to remote farmland where lone fruit trees produced the last of their kind, and to meet relatives of old-time gardeners who want to protect the legacy and integrity of the seeds that their ancestors have guarded for hundreds of years.

It is a big job growing seed lines and trees that are sold to gardeners around New Zealand, and it’s becoming more expensive, too.

The Koanga Institute is based on a remote block of land near Wairoa, about a two-hour drive south-west of Gisborne, where these unique vegetables and trees can safely be grown without the worry of cross-contamination by modern varieties.

Read more here: http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/food-wine/cuisine/64056736/nzs-rare-heritage-vegetables-under-threat

Food forests growing in popularity


It’s almost like having the produce section of a supermarket in your backyard… only it’s not quite as organised.

Food forests, also known as forest gardening, are an easy to maintain and sustainable way of cultivating a garden by creating a mini ecosystem in your backyard.

One of the world’s leading examples is growing in Southland.

Permaculturalists Robert and Robyn Guyton had been working on their Riverton forest garden, which has been internationally recognised, for over 20 years.

It was in the last three years that the couple have been running workshops teaching people how to develop their own food forests.

“We’ve probably spent about 30 hours working on our garden since spring,” Robyn told the group.

Anytime we need anything we just go for a browse, Robyn Guton said.

“All year round I can have a green salad.”

The couple even had their own bees and hens.

However, they still had to buy dairy products and other essentials, she said.

Yesterday the Guytons hosted a group of ten people at their property who had come from throughout the South Island to see their forest.

Juliet Pope said she had come from Arrowtown with her family to see the Guyton’s “legendary” food forest.

“It’s the best example, evidently, in the world of a cool climate food forest.”

Pope had done a permaculture design course and was also a qualified architect, she said.

Pope and her husband had two and a half acres on which they had fruit and nut trees, plus ducks and chickens, she said.

“We’re going to continue working with the orchard and bring in more diversity.”

Read more here: http://www.stuff.co.nz/southland-times/64943621/Food-forests-growing-in-popularity

How a small British garden became a mature food forest

Sami Grover (@samigrover)

food forest photo

Video screen capture Permaculture Magazine

Many years ago I picked up a book called The Permaculture Garden, by Graham Bell. I was more than a little hooked by the practical tips and inspiring visions of urban and suburban gardens turned into food forests.

Since then, I’ve visited/read about/watched videos on more than my fair share of permaculture projects. From Mike Feingold’s awesome permaculture allotment to a20-year-old forest garden in the mountains, many have been inspiring examples of ecplogical design. This is the first time, however, that I’ve seen Graham Bell’s own garden.

In a video for Permaculture Magazine, Graham talks us through how he and his wife Nancy developed a mature permaculture food forest over the course of 25 years.

Read more here: http://www.treehugger.com/lawn-garden/how-small-british-garden-became-mature-food-forest.html

The comprehensive guide to growing tomatoes in Canberra despite all odds

Jackie French has everything you need to know about producing perfect tomatoes in Canberra.

Your guide: Growing tomatoes.Your guide: Growing tomatoes.

Summer smells of hot grass, ripe tomatoes and the pungency of tomato leaves as you brush against them to pick the fruit.

There’s still time to have your own tomato crop this year. Tomatoes will start to yield ripe fruit about 10 – 20 weeks after planting depending on climate and variety. Cherry tomatoes are much earlier and crop later into the cool of the year.

Young tomatoes are more disease resistant than older plants, so even if you already have a flourishing crop, plant new tomatoes every two or three months or take cuttings from the last lot and plant them as far away as practicable from the others or let old branches root.

Read more here: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/canberra-life/the-comprehensive-guide-to-growing-tomatoes-in-canberra-despite-all-odds-20150115-12qxsw.html

Learn your seed lingo

By Kate Jerome

The seed catalogs are piling up on my coffee table, and every time I have a few minutes free I sneak a peek. One of my dear friends calls it “seed porn.” Even though it’s certainly easier to order online these days, there is nothing like sitting in a comfy chair with a cup of tea and thumbing through the pages of delicious descriptions and pictures of every imaginable vegetable and flower.

As you start to make plans for next spring’s garden, it might be worth a refresher on some of the lingo in the catalogs. Another reminder is to find a few friends who also want to order and put in a joint order and share seeds. Do you really need 25 green zebra tomato plants? Sharing the order and seed packets makes sense financially and is also a great way to bond with gardening friends.

— Heirloom: We see this term frequently these days. A simple definition is a variety that has been around for more than 100 years and comes “true” from seed. They are open-pollinated.

— Open-pollinated: These seeds will reliably produce plants that are exactly like the parent plant. If you plan to save your seeds for the following year, the seeds from an open-pollinated variety will result in plants identical to the plant you saved seed from.

— F1: This means the variety is a hybrid rather than open-pollinated. In other words, humans have taken two varieties and cross-bred them to result in a third variety that is the F1 hybrid. These seeds are usually more expensive than open-pollinated seeds simply because of the human labor involved in producing them. Hybridization is often done to produce new colors, to produce a plant that is higher-yielding, or to breed in disease-resistance. It has nothing to do with genetically modifying the seed: F1s are not GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

— VFN: These initials stand for verticillium, fusarium and nematodes. These are all pests that can affect tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. If these letters are listed in the variety description, it means that the plant has been bred to be resistant to the pests. You may also see any combination of the letters or a single letter.

— Organic: These seeds have been grown with certified organic methods. If you plan to become certified as an organic grower, you must use organic seeds. For the home grower, it is simply a comfort to know that no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers were used to produce the seed. For me, it is also a nice reassurance that the farm producing the seed is taking care of their soil and land.

Read more here: http://www.kenoshanews.com/lifestyles/learn_your_seed_lingo_480854025.html