With good sun and soil grapes grow well here.
Many of you have probably read the book about growing the fifty dollar tomato but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many ways to save money when raising your city veggies.
Here are some suggestions…
Raised Bed Materials
- Craig’s List or Freecycle often have free or low-cost wood – make sure it’s not painted or treated as this can leach into your bed.
- If you’re building beds for a cause then hardware stores will often sell you wood at wholesale prices. If you complete a donation form sometimes they will give you the wood. If you plan to go this route then do this early as it can take a while.
- You can also get creative with what you use to build the beds – old pieces of concrete and deconstructed pallets will all work. The goal is to hold the soil in and get it built up some so it’s easier to garden and will heat up a bit earlier than the surrounding ground level soil.
- If it’s for a cause and not for personal use you can write a donation letter to Cedar Grove and they will often donate compost. You need to pick it up so a good and sturdy truck that can handle a lot of weight will be needed.
- To build up your existing soil build a compost pile and add in grass clippings, dried leaves and non meat or dairy food scraps. (Making good compost is a bit trickier than this so it’s good to check out some resources on how to do it right.)
- If you are planting in existing soil it’s a good idea to do a soil test first to make sure it’s safe. The cheapest place to do this is through the University of Massachusetts. You dig a bit up, ship it off and the analysis comes in a couple of weeks.
- For a cause you can get free seeds early in the season from seed companies. These are last year’s seeds but they usually sprout just fine.
- Doing a seed swap with friends and neighbors is also good as you usually don’t use all the seeds that come in a packet. There’s also an organization called Seed Savers Exchange that you can use.
- Saving your own seed from year to year. If you do this be sure to check and see if the seed you are saving will be true to the plant you want. Many plants like beets and carrots will cross pollinate with less desirable species and the result is not what you anticipated. You will also need to save the seeds in a cool and dry place or they might not germinate very well.
- This seems like it would be an easy one but the rain pretty much stops just when you need it in July. Unless you have a huge number of rain barrels it doesn’t really help. You drain the barrel then it doesn’t rain for a long time and you wind up using the hose. Rain coming off an asphalt roof also shouldn’t be used on food plants as it can be contaminated.
- There are city approved grey water systems that clean the water going out into the yard and these can be used to recycle household waste water (usually from laundry or bathing – special soap is needed but it’s readily available).
- You can also conserve water by using drip irrigation and mulching with straw or other materials (sometimes the slugs go wild when you do this so watch your plants for damage).
Posted in Growing | Tagged cheap farming, cheap urban farming, low cost urban farming, saving money on urban farming | Leave a Comment »
Almost pea planting time!
Here is an interesting new research article via PubMed on contaminants in New York City urban garden soil. The upshot is test your soil if you are starting a new garden, bring in fresh soil if needed and use raised beds.
Tests have not shown much contamination in our local soils unless you are in the path of the Asarco Smelter plume. To see if you are in the path and what to do about it, visit Public Health’s site here.
Lead (Pb) and other metals in New York City community garden soils: Factors influencing contaminant distributions.
Mitchell RG1, Spliethoff HM2, Ribaudo LN2, Lopp DM3, Shayler HA4, Marquez-Bravo LG2, Lambert VT3, Ferenz GS3, Russell-Anelli JM4, Stone EB5, McBride MB4.
Urban gardens provide affordable fresh produce to communities with limited access to healthy food but may also increase exposure to lead (Pb) and other soil contaminants. Metals analysis of 564 soil samples from 54 New York City (NYC) community gardens found at least one sample exceeding health-based guidance values in 70% of gardens. However, most samples (78%) did not exceed guidance values, and medians were generally below those reported in NYC soil and other urban gardening studies. Barium (Ba) and Pb most frequently exceeded guidance values and along with cadmium (Cd) were strongly correlated with zinc (Zn), a commonly measured nutrient. Principal component analysis suggested that contaminants varied independently from organic matter and geogenic metals. Contaminants were associated with visible debris and a lack of raised beds; management practices (e.g., importing uncontaminated soil) have likely reduced metals concentrations. Continued exposure reduction efforts would benefit communities already burdened by environmental exposures.
Environ Pollut. 2014 Feb 3;187C:162-169. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2014.01.007. [Epub ahead of print]
Posted in Growing, Uncategorized | Tagged soil contaminants, soil testing | Leave a Comment »
For seeds to grow there needs to be the right combination of light, soil temperature, nutrients and moisture. Here in our cool Northwest climate one of the main things is waiting until the soil is really warm enough for germination to occur. Spring crops need soil temperatures in the 50’s to 60’s while summer crops need temperatures in the high 60’s. You can raise the soil temperature some by using cloches or other methods to trap heat and warm the soil.
Seasons can vary year to year but a rough guide to use is planting by the holidays:
- Peas by President’s Day
- Potatoes by St. Patrick’s Day, (this one is easy to remember)
- Corn and beans by Mother’s Day
- Tomatoes, squash and cucumbers by Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday. (Ok, this one is a bit esoteric – it’s June 8th.)
To get more detailed planting information a great resource is Seattle Tilth’s Maritime Northwest Garden Guide.
Posted in Growing | Tagged plant by the holidays | Leave a Comment »
I went to Sustainable Northeast’s Hands on Skills Fair and learned how to make another type of basket from the wonderful Sue McGann. To do this we used reeds purchased on-line and things Sue had collected. All the materials need to stay damp so they bend more easily.
- First cut slits in four of the spokes in the center of the spoke.
- Next make a slant cut on the ends of the non-slitted spokes so it is sharp and pointed.
- Slide the cut end spokes through the slits in the other spokes.
This basket has dogwood for spokes and reeds for weaving.
- Take a long reed, double it in half and loop it around four of the spokes.
- Line the two ends of the reed up and put the reed on the left over the reed on the right and behind the four spokes.
- Go around once then divide the spokes into sets of two and go around in a circle always putting the reed on the left over the right reed and behind the next set of two spokes.
- Do this 3 or 4 times.
- Next pull the spokes so they are one apart
- Continue going around in the same fashion.
- When you run out of reed you can either weave in an over under pattern with one length or double it and continue twisting as you did in the beginning.
Doing the sides.
- When it’s time to bend the spokes use pliers and crimp the spoke lightly as each spot you want it to bend.
- For the top loop each spoke behind the next one then trim the excess.
This basket has weeping willow, dogwood and reeds.
I used some palm and seagrass for variety and texture.
Sides can be straight or flare out.
Posted in Crafts | Tagged baskets, homemade baskets, making baskets, natural baskets | Leave a Comment »
Imbolc is on February 1st this year. It is an ancient holiday that falls half-way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox and you may know it better as St Brigid’s Day, Groundhog’s Day or Candlemas. This is one of my favorite days as it is noticeably lighter and you truly can start to feel spring in the air; early blooming flowers begin and chickens start to lay again.
I like to make honey cakes, cook a big dinner, that includes whatever greens I can find in the garden and if we have enough eggs, make a nice herbed omelet. Ordering seeds, planning new garden beds and dreaming of hot summer days are other great Imbolc activities!
Posted in People on the Move | Tagged Imbolc, Imolc | Leave a Comment »
“Oh there’s a hole in my sock dear Liza, dear Liza…” Wait, wrong song but the hole definitely is in my daughter’s sock; we’ve all moved to mainly wool socks and with each pair running about eighteen dollars it’s time to darn that hole.
Instead of using a darning mushroom I am using a handy grapefruit.
First turn the sock inside out and put something round into the sock to stretch the wool tight. Next weave back and forth, being sure to put the needle into solid material, to create the longitudinal warp. Pull the stitches taut but not too tight.
Use like colored yarn to fill the hole.
Once the warp is established weave the yarn back and forth, pushing the strands together to create a tight pattern. Once you’re done turn the sock back right side out and check your work.
I would hand wash darned socks or wash them in a cold water cycle and not put them in the dryer as the new wool may shrink differently from the old sock material.
Good luck and happy darning!
Posted in Crafts, Uncategorized | Tagged darning, sock darning, sock repair | Leave a Comment »
The sky is grey and the nights are cold so it’s time to make zesty winter salads to pick us up and keep us going until spring. Last night I made a salad that was good enough that my family kept eating way beyond politeness.
Easy and tasty!
- Emmer or wheat berries
- Delicata squash
- Kale – from your garden!
- Toasted nuts
- Olive oil
First cook your grain until it just has a little bite to it. (I used a crockpot on high for a couple of hours.) Next toast the nuts; any kind work well. Break up the kale and massage it. Roast the squash in a 450 degree oven with or without the skins. Chop up the onions then make a vinaigrette with the olive oil, vinegar and garlic. Once all the ingredients are ready just toss them together with the dressing and let it sit for a little bit to allow the flavors to blend. Yum!!
Posted in Cooking | Tagged winter salad | Leave a Comment »
My neighbors and I love our Swiss Chard!
It’s that time of year when the seed catalogs start pouring in. Glossy pictures showing burgeoning beets and luscious tomatoes make me forget January rains as I dream of the harvest to come. Just as I was about to lose myself to their siren call I got a text message from my neighbor suggesting we get a group together to share last year’s seeds and bulk buy new ones.
Buying with neighbors is a great way to both save money and do a communal growing plan. Does one neighbor have the microclimate and skill to grow squash while another is skilled at beets? This can make for some nice variety even with limited growing room. It also boosts interest in taking care of each other’s gardens during the busy summer months.
Coming to your yard soon!
If you want to get really fancy you can also divvy up who grows what starts. I have a big south facing garden window and grow lights that encourage me to grow way too many tomato and basil starts. Knowing I will be sharing these lets me go wild.
You can save seeds from some plants year to year and build up varieties that are super well suited to your particular soils and growing conditions. How about a Columbia City carrot or a Mount Baker melon?
To get started email or call anyone in your area you think might want to join in. To make this work you only need about four other people but getting communal things started can be a bit hard the first year. Once you’ve got your core group together pick a night, make a big pot of soup and see if others can bring sides and dessert; you’re nearly there! The night of the party talk about what varieties have produced well in the past, what you like to eat and who likes to grow what veggies. Once you have a good list then look at the seed catalogs, make your selections, divide up the cost and order away. When the seeds come in have a second party and pass out the seeds.
Posted in Growing | Tagged seed sharing, seed swapping | Leave a Comment »
On a foggy, wet, grey day in Seattle one of my favorite places to visit is the Volunteer Park Conservatory. Walking into this fragrant, warm place is like taking a small vacation.
Admission is four dollars; a kiosk lets you pay with a credit card if needed.
The orchid collection and stories about famous flower hunters are wonderful.
Lovely with a light fragrance of spring.
Reminds me of being back in Arizona.
Flowers are everywhere.
More delicate orchids.
You can close your eyes and almost feel the desert sun.
The Bromeliad room always has something interesting.
I love the color of these flowers.
Carnivorous plants surround a small pool.
A tropical paradise.
You can prolong the idea of a small vacation by lounging on one of the many benches.
Back outside to enjoy the mists.
Posted in Growing, People on the Move | Tagged Conservatory, greenhouse, orchids, volunteer park | Leave a Comment »
Oranges are in season right now and staying inside on a cold, rainy day to make marmalade is a great way to pass the time. Your whole house will smell wonderful!
Peel the oranges by scoring the orange and carefully peeling off the skin.
Peel the oranges.
Peel off the white pithy part of the orange and save this.
Remove the pith and save it.
Stack removed peels and cut into as narrow strips.
Slice into thin strips.
Collect up the white pith and put it into a cheesecloth bag. Put into a pot:
- Bagged pith,
- Cut up oranges
- Thinly sliced peels
Fill the pot until the orange mixture is half covered with water and juice. Soak for 12 hours.
Soaking for 12 hours.
Take out the bag of pith, remove large pieces of orange membranes and any extra pith that might have snuck in and add one cup of sugar for each cup of oranges. Cook until mixture thickens. Make sure to stir continuously or this mixture will burn.
It can take a few days for the marmalade to set. Be sure to cook until it thickens or it will be runny.
Ladle into sterile jars then water bath for 10 minutes. This tastes great on a slice of rye bread or other hearty bread. If you want to make a quick marmalade here’s a recipe with pectin that does not need to soak.
Posted in canning, Cooking | Tagged canning, orange marmalade | Leave a Comment »