Spring Equinox: A Tipping Point

Honeybee on CrocusAhhh! At last! Whether it looks like it outside or not, we are assured that warmth is on its way! We have reached that tipping point: the day of the Vernal Equinox – when day and night are held in equilibrium. Symbolically, it provides a moment to think about balance in our own lives, too – and what we might do to bring tipping scales back into alignment.

Not to worry – I won’t delve deeply into the woo-woo here. Continue reading

Seed Order 2014

“By now you should have a pretty good idea what you will be growing, and where you will be growing it.” That’s a quote from Erica over at Northwest Edible Life on a post about February garden tasks.

My first thought was, “Um, yeah. I’m sure that applies to most all of us, right?” Continue reading

What Worked – or NOT – in the 2013 Garden

Winter Garden, Vincent Van Gogh: Buy through affiliate link at Art.com

Winter Garden, by Vincent Van Gogh (it looks like a dark and twisted place, does it not? You needn’t go there.)

It’s Garden Planning Season, and you know what THAT means: deep introspection to determine what worked and what didn’t, because unless you incorporate what you’ve learned into this year’s garden, you will be going forth with an impending sense of doom….

The winter is not that dark. Seriously. Lighten up already! Continue reading

Good Fungi vs Bad Fungi, Molds, Mildews, and Blights

A reader from Texas posed some very good questions relative to my recent post on the importance of building the soil and, in particular, the essential role fungi play in the process. (Read: To Convert an Orchard to a Food Forest, Start with the Soil)

Specifically – How do you differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys?

She asks, “Don’t we always seem to be spraying trees against fungus?” “What about all the mildew, fire blight, early blight, and other diseases that can take down tomatoes, squashes, and cucumbers seemingly overnight?”

Where do you start?

How do you help one without helping the other?  Or the converse, destroy one without harming the other?

Can you introduce good fungi? And can good fungi fight off the bad ones?

My response started to get a bit lengthy, and I decided it would be better as its own blogpost. Maybe some of the other readers out there can shed some light on this as well.

Rust on Quince Leaves

I am definitely going to try to be more on top of spraying this plant this year with nutritious compost teas, and maybe even something with baking soda. I have a lot of mulch around the base, but maybe it hasn’t had time to break down and feed the soil yet?? I believe this was the Quince. Hope it makes it!

Because I couldn’t agree more on how confusing some of this is! Continue reading

Solstice, Suntracks, Supermoons, and a Happy New Year!

Full Moon Rise
Dear Friends,

I thought I might write you all sooner. At the time of the last full moon of the year, for example, would have been appropriate, but the great white orb managed to boldly rise in the cold night sky and then set in quiet serenity the following morning without any website fanfare on my part (although I admit to a certain amount of cavorting in song and celebration, which is usually what happens when I whip out my harmonicas under a full moon….). (Not to draw correlations, of course.) Continue reading

To Convert an Orchard to a Food Forest, Start with the Soil

Orchard path at Barbolian FieldsWe have this old orchard on our homestead – how old is anybody’s guess. The house is over 100 years, so perhaps the trees are as well? How long do they live? It comprises 9 trees (apples, pie cherries, and an Italian prune), and despite its age, produces more than we can use, but not really enough for any kind of commercial enterprise.

The trees, like a lot of neglected orchards, are fraught with a tangle of suckers and twisted branches growing contrary to common sense. Gradually we have been pruning them back into shape, opening the centers to more light, and mowing the grass around and around. We are not ones to spray copper, sulfur, and assorted pesticides; nor have we added any fertilizers. In fact, we have rarely even watered them (they have obviously survived quite well on their own thus far, being situated alongside an irrigation ditch). It has been a learning process for us, too, and sometimes there is only so much you can do. The apples have a lot of scab. Pill bugs and earwigs enjoy them a lot. I think 4 of them are heirloom Gravensteins. They taste great.

And then one day, in reading Michael Phillips’ “The Holistic Orchard – Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way,” I began to realize that the typical orchard, planted in rows and surrounded by grass, produces in spite of the conditions we put them in. The descriptions were painfully familiar. It struck me that with a little help, this orchard could be so much more. Toby Hemenway’s book, “Gaia’s Garden,” was another eye-opener. Obviously, there are simple things we can all do to work with Nature, rather than against her.

Thus began the mission to let Nature “reclaim” the orchard. Continue reading

Thanksgiving Connections

sunchokesThe end of November! How did this happen?  It appears that we were so busy during the flurry of harvest activities and making sure things were getting tucked in before the coming chill, we forgot to look up! The days are not as long, you know; they are gone before you know it! We hardly noticed just how swiftly one turned into another while the sun skated low across the sky. What happened to high noon? Continue reading

Garlic Planting Conundrums – Part 3

This is my final post in this Garlic-Planting Conundrum series – and by now you probably think I am beating this whole thing into the ground. But I wanted to share a few practical things about figuring out your space needs and preparing the planting area, particularly under less-than-ideal conditions. Now is the time to think about next year, and with some forethought, you can save yourself a lot of work!

In this post I talk about

  • Figuring out how much garlic you should grow and how much space you will really need
  • Mulching and tilling – or not
  • What kinds of tools will help you get the job DONE (and which ones can you throw in the brambles)
  • Alternative planting methods, and do they work?
  • The nitty-gritty of building beds.

Continue reading