Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Modern Farmer Magazine

There are a lot of gardening/farming magazines out there. Each have their niche audience - Urban Farm (people with less space and more money), Mother Earth News (people with more space and less money), Organic Gardening (people with more space and more money…and chablis…JK).  I've tried  all the above, and they are all good for different purposes. But my wife just brought home something that really caught my eye.

The Modern Farmer instantly caught my attention. Very well designed magazine with nice "eye feel." Seems like the Dwell of farming/gardening. Great photos and graphics abound. The covers almost seem more like what you would find on an art publication. Very eye catching. The articles range from product reviews to profiles of farmers all over the world…including the third world. There are also more scientifically focused articles which focus on deeper issues associated with food production. There are articles on farmers market ettiquette and articles on wasting food. The latter featured some pretty cool websites or apps. A Scottish one caught my attention. It's whole  purpose was to find recipes that would utilize whatever you had in your fridge. Kinda cool. Maybe useful. And it's Scottish, so…It's gotta be good. Other articles focus on Corn Mazes, growing in winter, and eating roadkill.

The website gives a feel for what the magazine has to offer: .

The next issue will feature a look at the reindeer ranching Sami in Finland and northern Scandinavia. Already looking forward to that one!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Spring Is Coming...I hope

Soil Testing

Finally got our soil tested. Now I just have to figure out what it means. You pack up a few cubic inches of dirt - from various parts of your garden. Send it off to the VA Tech Soil lab with a 10 or so bucks and a few days later you get an email with all this info.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Winter Crop Death Match

Rhubarb is dead ( well, not truly) - carrots, kale , and rutabaga continue on. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Nature's Bird Feeder

Winter berry holly - looks great and tastes great ... to birds. Native plant, drought hardy - all that good stuff. Plant one today and sit back and watch the birdies.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Winter Growing Contest

Potatoes were the next to go. Rhubarb, kale, and rutabaga still alive, but showing signs of stress. Carrots doing fine.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cold Weather Growing Experiment

First to check out after a few frosty nights - spinach. I was a little surprised, actually.  Carrots, rutabaga, kale, and most of the taters still going strong. Rhubarb will probably go next. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Composting Thoughts

Composting could be one of my favorite things about gardening. Definitely an area were you can win and the squirrels will lose....not that it's a competition. I've gone through various phases - from extreme to more mellow. Used to collect compost from friends and bring back veggie scraps, coffee grounds and eggshells from trips. Over time,  I'd like to think the compost has imparted some wisdom to me and now I'm slightly more relaxed about it. All things start as dirt and all things return to dirt, so...what's the hurry.

Anyway - I've learned a few things about composting and here are my top 10 tips in order of importance...sort of.

1) Add plenty of browns. Over 50% in fact. Mike McGrath says more like 90% but I can't quite do that.            I still like the idea that my kitchen scraps are important and such a high % of browns suggests they might not be useful. I add dirt since it has microorganisms that help beak down the material faster and I also add ground up leaves that I get free from the county trades center .  Mr. McGrath feels that the ground up leaves are the magic and main ingredient for composting.

2) If you are composting kitchen waste in Arlington, you must have an enclosed composting system. If you do not, you will draw rats and then later hawks. It is entertaining, but your neighbors will not approve.

3) Having more than one pile or container is essential. If you keep adding to the same pile, it will always have undigested bits that are not ready for use. When one pile or bin is full, switch to the second and let the first rest for a spell before using.

4) I've heard of people composting newspaper, old shoes, "compostable" silverware, etc. But you have to ask yourself - is this material I want in my yard, in my plants, in my stomach? Compostable silverware and cups take forever to break down so...don't bother.

5) It will not make as much as you think. It's the sad truth, so prepare yourself for it now. I used to think I could create a mountain of soil by composting. But turns out that when things break down into soil - it makes surprisingly small amounts.

6) No oils and sugars. You can compost a lot more in an enclosed system. I have done limited amounts of bread and pasta. I do not put meat in, though the odd dead bird or mouse has ended up in my compost.

7) Coffee is the king and egg shell is the queen.

8) Tumblers speed up the process dramatically. Get one. I mean, get two. It's also good exercise.

9)  Don't use your neighbors grass clippings. No matter how tempting that bag is. It has pesticides, fertilizer, round up, and other evil things.

10) Try not to think of grocery store purchases as future compost - "boy this cantaloup sure has a lot of compostable material." Just not the right way to think about food.

11) Yup - bonus round! When you compost you are saving the world. Yup, that's right. I said it. You are returning nutrition to depleted land. You are making the Earth more like what it used to be and what is should be. You are also saving your tax dollars - less trash or less waste in the water supply. In addition, ground with added compost has less runoff which means less water for county systems to deal with during storms. So many benefits...oh, and you can grow plants better, too.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Essential Bulb Planting Tools

Radio, fancy bulb tube digger, and sharp bladed digger. I use the tube thing to start the hole and the sharp bladed digger to go a little deeper. It has measuring marks up to six inches which is very helpful. Planting went a lot quicker this year with these handy tools. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Planting Bulbs, Listening to Jazz

With my good friend, J. O. Lantern. Hot tip for bulb planting- to discourage squirrels from raiding newly planted bulbs, place a rotting pumpkin above. Works like a charm, or maybe just tells them where to dig.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pumpkin Defense System

If you want your jack o lanterns to last til All Hallows' eve- this is what you do in our hood. Rough squirrels round here.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Mulched Paths

Looking good! 

The trick is to use tons of mulch in the paths. Makes everything look good and organized. Doesn't stop the squirrels from taking 70% of your food.