July 31, 2009
We are still on vacation in Ohio (and other places in the Midwest) and have visited many farms. I am exploring (edible) garden design elements this trip and I’ve been thinking a lot about rows in a garden and how they are rooted in farming. Even on a small scale in a garden, rows are functional and make it easier to do things like cultivate the soil, trellis crops, harvest efficiently and install drip irrigation tape. While we can certainly experiment with different shapes when inventing our garden beds, it is important to remember that lines and rows can be beautiful too! Check out the beauty and functionality of some farm rows we’ve encountered:
Wheat shocks stacked neatly in rows on an Amish farm
Blueberries planted in wide rows (to allow room for pickers and mowers) at Chance Creek Blues
Cucumbers, kale, and squash lined up at the George Jones Memorial Farm
July 27, 2009
Here is another inspired edible yard in Kansas City:
These folks planted sweet potatoes in their parkway (the area between the sidewalk and the street). I like how they mulched with the straw – it provides some complementary color to the green tops of the sweet potatoes. I also like how they integrated some stepping stones so that folks can still park on the street and walk into their yard. Sweet potatoes would be an excellent choice for an edible summer landscape in Central Texas since they do well in the heat. They also integrated some red-stemmed okra (another great choice for a summer landscape in Texas) into their front yard:
July 24, 2009
This week we’re traveling throughout the Midwest. One of my missions on this vacation is to study and be inspired by the vegetable gardens and farms we visit. I am paying close attention to their designs – layouts, repeated patterns, hardscape features and the ways food crops are integrated into the landscape. Our first stop was Kansas City, Missouri:
Our friend Jessica and her youngest daughter, Pearl, pose next to their edible front yard in Kansas City. Even though her yard is tiny (about 400 square feet), Jessica has transformed her front lawn into a thriving vegetable garden complete with cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, squash, tomatillos, and a lovely border of zinnias for color. She has integrated several hardscape or permanent features into her garden that give it structure, prevent erosion and give access. The railroad tie and rocks keep her sloped yard (and rich, organic soil) from sliding down onto the sidewalk. Check out her brick pathway lined with flowers and tomatoes below:
Here’s a shot of Josephine (Jessica’s oldest daughter) and my son, Joe Henry, picking tomatoes while standing on the brick pathway. A more permanent pathway makes it easier for kids to remember to walk on the paths and not in the garden beds!
Green Zebra tomatoes in Jessica’s garden
July 18, 2009
This week in our garden …
… we eat salad! Since it is difficult to grow lettuce and other salad greens in our Texas summers, growing lettuce in containers is a great way to beat the heat and produce perfect salad. If you seed lettuce every few weeks or so, you can have a continual harvest throughout the summer. Lettuce needs cooler temperatures and light to germinate so broadcast your seeds on top of some good, organic potting soil in the containers, cover with plastic to keep them moist and move them into an air conditioned space to germinate. Immediately after the seeds sprout, move the containers outside but make sure they are not in direct sunlight all day – morning sun is best. Keep them watered and let them have some shade in the afternoon. The lettuce will be ready to harvest in a few weeks and you should be able to get at least 2 or 3 cuttings from each planting.
These cedar boxes or flats are space efficient and ideal for growing salad greens, sprouts and microgreens. You can build the boxes out of any untreated wood – both cedar and pine are good choices since they are also rot-resistant and will last many years.
July 13, 2009
This week in our garden…
a metal paint bucket planted with chives, a jalapeno pepper, and silver-leaf oregano
terra cotta and metal pots work well for growing vegetables and herbs
… we’ve added a few containers of herbs and vegetables to our mix. Yes, that’s mulch in the pot – in this brutal heat, you definitely should mulch in your pot to conserve water and fertility!
Thanks to everyone who participated in my container growing workshop on Sunday and thanks to Pat and Bruno for hosting! The swiss chard-zucchini quiche was delicious and a special treat after our class. Of course, the chard and zucchini were grown in Bruno and Pat’s container garden. The class was held under the shade of a fig tree and covered the basics of growing food in containers. Here’s a re-cap:
1.Start with a plan: sketch out your space, collect containers, decide what you want to grow and whether or not they will do well in containers.
2. Almost any container will do but bigger is better in order to maximize your growing space. Terra cotta, glazed pottery, metal and wood are good choices.
3. Use a high-quality organic potting soil and organic fertilizer for best results.
4. You can grow almost anything in containers but it is wise to choose crops that are shallow-rooted (especially for small containers) such as lettuce, spinach, and radishes; quick to mature to maximize your yield; and also consider using appropriate varieties for containers.
5. Be sure to check your containers and water daily or as needed. Containers dry out much quicker than your in-ground garden beds!
Matt’s Wild Cherry is a great tomato variety for containers
July 6, 2009
This week in our garden …
Buckwheat (above & below)
Purple Hull Peas
… our cover crops are up and growing. We use buckwheat, purple hull peas and black-eyed peas as summer cover crops. We broadcast the seed in late June and July and then lightly rake them into the soil. Sometimes we’ll add a thin layer of grass clipping mulch or leaves onto the top of the seeds to help them stay moist until they sprout. Once the seeds sprout, we manage the cover crops in several ways. We clip some of the buckwheat sprouts at the soil surface using our garden scissors and throw them into our summer salads. Buckwheat leaves and stems are delicious! By letting the roots remain in the soil, they add valuable organic matter as they breakdown. (Back on our farm, we used to let some of our buckwheat go to flower for our honeybees. Buckwheat honey is something special for sure! It’s thick and dark like molasses.) We’ll let some of our peas go to seed too so that we can harvest the pods and eat the peas. We don’t usually turn the cover crops into the soil although you can certainly do this (before they go to flower and seed) and they will add some nitrogen and organic matter to your soil. But be careful when tilling under your cover crops in the summer – you might burn off more organic matter than you add! Another way to ensure that your cover crops are building your soil is to skim or trim off the tops, leave the roots and soil structure intact, and add the tops to your compost pile. This way most of the valuable nutrients and biomass is captured in your soil and in your compost pile.