Permaculture

This category contains 7 posts

Planting your Winter Garden in the Summer

Heirloom CarrotsEver wondered when would be a great time to plant a garden you can harvest in the cold of winter? Now! Believe it or not, from now till mid-summer is the ideal time to plant seeds for your fall and winter garden.

 

If growing a winter garden has piqued your interest, then read up on how to best grow varieties you would like on your winter table. It will be wise to do some research and even check in with your local extension office, as not all varieties will want to be grown now and some will grow better in the fall and others in the spring.

 

As your spring garden begins to wane and more space becomes available in your garden beds, now would be a great time to begin selecting your favorite cool loving vegetables.   Think Brussels spouts, cabbage, kale, carrots, beets, Swiss Chard, broccoli, lettuce, cauliflower, celery, radishes and many more!

 

Keep in mind that protecting your plants from the heat, during the summer months and then protecting them from fall and winter frosts will be the key to a successful winter garden. Integrating cold-frames, row covers and clotches might be the perfect solution to extending the seasons and protecting your crops.

 

When deciding what to plant, think of the varieties that take the most time to mature and plant those now, while plan to seed those varieties that are fast to mature and plant those later in the season. Take into account the amount of time needed before transplanting and harvesting, this in addition to, noting plants sensitive to frost is something to consider. Lastly, taking into consideration fall factor is key to success! Fall factor represents the change in pace plants take as they move into the dark of the year.

 

When thinking of what you want to enjoy on those cold winter days, its important to work backwards when planning your garden. Take into account the following:

 

  • The amount of days from planting to transplanting
  • Incorporate the average number of days till maturity
  • Tack on an extra couple of weeks to account for the fall factor

 

= The number of days to count backwards for prime winter garden production

 

It is important to take extra care of your seedlings as they emerge. Keeping them in areas that hover around 85 degrees or below is important to make sure they are not being scorched. Some of our mini-micro climates in our yard or patios can quickly reach high temperatures. An easy solution would also be to start your seedlings inside and transplant after they have reached about an inch or so in height.

 

Keep in mind that mulching your garden beds now, like any other time, is only going to benefit water retention, weed suppression, added organic matter and enhanced fertility.

 

Succession planting is another excellent planning method to help you arrive at a continuous harvest. Keep track of your planting days on your garden calendar or journal. Keeping good notes, year after year, will ensure that you are learning from your mistakes and making the most of each season!

 

Take the opportunity, our entire inventory is 35% off till July 7th, 2015. Use the coupon code: “SUMMER”.

 

 

Preparing your Garden for Spring

Late autumn/Early Winter is an ideal time to prepare your garden for the spring season to come. Many gardeners consider this season, the beginning of Spring, because what you

do or don’t do now, will be reflected in your garden next year.

For many of you, your fall/winter garden may just be part of your annual garden cycle. Either way, this is the time of the year to work on your soil, clean up beds, cut-back blackened stems and foliage and dead-head flowers. All this, helps prevent the possibility of harboring disease pathogens and insect eggs, over the winter. Another simple tip on preventing spreading pathogens is simply by not leaving the hose nozzle on the ground!

As winter approaches, there are many preparations to do in order to put your garden to bed, until late winter. Weed, weed, weed … by stopping weeds from spreading now, you will save yourself a lot of backache come spring. Since the ground is moist, weeding couldn’t be easier. While weeding, make sure that the root structure of your winter garden is not being compromised.

Once your beds have cleared, adding leaf mulch, specifically oak leaf, would be ideal. Avoid redwood, eucalyptus, bay and pine leaves for their acidic content. Cover your beds with 6 inches of lightweight mulch and fork that in a bit. For added nutrients, add compost underneath and work it in before adding the leaves. This thin cover will serve as the ideal winter layer to protect your plants, soil and roots. Though our ground does not freeze, this extra layer will begin breaking down and become organic matter for your spring and summer plantings.

As you are cutting back and dead-heading, this is an optimal time to work your compost pile. Remember to not throw in weed seeds or anything that may be diseased. Hot, active piles kill weed seeds and disease pathogens, but you need to have a compost thermometer to be assured your pile reaches 150 degrees or beyond.

A great way to add more organic matter to you soil is by cutting the annuals at their base and leaving the roots there to decompose over the course of time. Snip off the seed heads and sprinkle them around your garden.

This is a great time to propagate and divide perennials, but remember to wait until the first frost to cut back your perennials to soil level.Chard

How is your soil? The more fertile and aerated your soil is, the more hydration it will be able to receive. Know the texture of your soil, what it is made of, its structure and how it behaves. Knowing these qualities will help address the needs of your soil. With all the rain we have been receiving, it behooves us to be able to prepare our soil to receive as much moisture as possible. Adding mulch and wood chips can significantly help prevent runoff and erosion.

As the rains come down observe how the water travels in your yard, garden and around your house.   Slowing water down while sinking it into the water table are ideal methods to maximize water penetration into the earth. Integrating burms into your landscape is a more project intensive solution, but could offer an excellent solution to direct and sink rainwater into the ground. Keep in mind that working deep into the soil, while it is still very wet, can be destructive to the soil structure. Wait until the earth has dried before starting any project.

Rain barrels are another easy way to collect all the water that we are receiving these days. They are easily found and simply to install. If you are handy, you can build one out of a range of materials.

These days are perfect to set the stage for a beautiful spring and summer garden to come!

The Living Seed Company is an organic and heirloom seed company based in Point Reyes Station. As a Bay Area seed company.

www.LivingSeedCompany.com 415.663.8002

 

The Universe under our feet – Soil

Did you know that soil was alive?   Many people do not realize this, something that on the surface may look look dead, but upon closer inspection is bustling with life!

Many people have misconceived notions about soil, it is usually associated with words such as something being dirty or soiled.  An inaccurate correlation to an element of our life that is so critical and and that is such a dependent element to our survival.  Healthy soil goes hand in hand with a healthy environment.

The nation that destroys its soil – destroys itself” (Roosevelt 1937)

The first and most important step in improving soil health is to recognize that soil is a living organism and all parts of our ecosystem depend on it – it is vital to our survival, the growth of our food and maintenance of our ecology.

There are billions of microorganisms that make up a whole network below ground.  In one spoonful there are 600 million bacteria!    Imagine that – there is an entire network of life below the ground, right underneath our toes.  A network that works together with the trees, the plants, the fungus and so much more, all to be able to sustain life above ground for us – amazing!

Soil, for example, is the measure of the health of biological systems.  In other words, soil is the metaphor of our environment, if we have healthy soil we have a healthy environment. Annually, we are losing 1 percent of our topsoil per year, due to industrial  agriculture, the process of mono-cropping, heavy chemical use and erosion of our soils.  Just to put things into perspective –  it takes thousands of years to form one inch of topsoil.

Life in the soil provides the structure for more life, and the formation of more soil.  Soil is equated to food and food is equated to life.  The fertility and the quality of soil will determine the health and stability of all life that is relying on it  – just as the health of each human being will determine fertility and the quality of their life.

The reality is that a simple way to help maintain healthy soil and manage waste in your home is by simply composting.   In essence it is an excellent free resource of nutrients for our plants and the earth.  It doesn’t smell, but mainly, it reduces the amount of waste going to a landfill, all are creating the fertile ground for a microcosm universe to exist and for soil sustainability to flourish!  Don’t know where to start?  Check out our simple DIY Urban Vermiculture Composting post!

We are all organisms working within one larger organism – called Planet Earth.  Seeing on the micro and macro level, gives us a wider perspective into the many realms that are living in harmony here with us.

DIY Urban Vermiculture Composting

DIY Urban Vermiculture Composting

What Is Compost?

Composting is part of the natural process of decomposition, that naturally occurs in nature. A compost bin functions as a digester that breaks down organic matter, allowing nutrients to be assimilated back into the earth for continual benefit. The final product that is produced is known as humus – often referred to as black gold for its ability to regenerate the soil, act as a natural fertilizer, aerate soil, prevent erosion etc. Humus contains carbon, nitrogen, in addition to, beneficial bacteria and millions of microorganisms. It is not static but rather completely alive. It is an excellent component to even out soil variations, absorb water and support plant and animal life while assisting in the production of soil – a critical element in our evolution.

Why Compost?

Most solid waste in municipal settings is in large part food scraps. By composting of our food scraps, we drastically reduce our waste, which in turn, lightens the load on our landfills. Currently, our landfills are being exhausted at unprecedented rates. Landfills throughout our the country have closed, due to maximum capacity, forcing cities to truck or rail our garbage across state and international borders. Compost adds a rich nutrient to gardens, plant life and trees. Many city dwellers that may not have a garden to deposit their goods in, will donate them to neighborhood trees. When compost is placed on the earth, it helps to regenerate the soil of an immediate area, regenerating the soil structure and water absorption capacity. When gardens benefit from rich humus, the food will naturally thrive and produce healthy and nutritious food for you. There is no need to purchase synthetic chemical fertilizers that are contaminants your home, your health and the earth. Artificial fertilizers by pass the natural process with synthetic chemicals promoting the growth of weeds, disease and pests – while contaminating our health, and the air and water quality of a region. Balance For a compost pile to decompose properly, a sweet balance or proper alkalinity, must be maintained. There are two elements that are necessary in a compost pile – brown and green material. Brown consists of what is high Carbon (woody, dried leaves, sawdust, brown, paper, egg cartons). Green consists of high Nitrogen (fresh produce, grass, food scraps, grass clippings or garden prunings, tea bags, coffee grinds, etc). The balance should be maintained at a ratio of about 30:1 (Carbon to Nitrogen). It’s not as complex as it sounds, this variation is usually found in the range of food people eat.

Does It Smell?

No. Contrary to popular belief compost, when maintained under proper conditions, it does not smell. Finished compost will have the look, feel and odor of rich soil – depending on the conditions it may take from 6 – 12 weeks. Optimal conditions inside the bin are to be hot, but the heat will be generated naturally – it should not be left in direct sun. It can be stored in a patio, garage, basement, shed, or utility closet. There should not be an infestation of fruit flies either. There will microorganisms growing and even some mold may appear – these elements should break down.

What Not to Add: You do not want to add: dairy, cheese, milk-related products, meats, bones, chicken, whole eggs, fat, weeds with mature seeds, pet feces, pressure/chemical treated wood. Animal feces carries pathogens and should not be added to your bin. You can create one specifically for your dog, but do not use it on your garden. Do not add food that is too moldy. Only add organic matter and do not add non-organic garbage, plastic, metal or glass. Best to remove stickers, rubber bands and tags that are placed on food.

What You Will Need:

• Plastic Bin with tight lid.

• Order worms online or retrieve a bag of existing compost with worms from a friend.

• Newspaper – acts as the bedding and the carbon source, which will provide energy.  The microbial oxidation of carbon produces heat.

• Drill – 1/4” drill bit.

• Fresh food scraps.

♦ If you want to harvest the worm tea, you will need:

• 2 bricks.

• A pan the relative size to the surface area to the bottom of the bin.

Rule of Thumb:

To determine bin size you need two square feet of surface area per person, or one square foot of surface area per pound of food waste per week.

                         Step 1

• Source a plastic bin.

• 18 gallon bin accommodates 1 – 3 people.

• The bin can be as small as 1 gallon pale for one person. I made one for my sister that lives in NYC and she had a thriving compost bin.  I made of a one gallon plastic pale and I used the same instructions for this one, but applied it on a smaller scale.

• A 32 gallon is perfect for a family for 4 + people. Try to find plastic bins at thrift stores or any used locations – I found mine in my dumpster!

The bin will provide the home of the worms by creating the optimum conditions to break down organic matter into rich humus or compost.

             Step 2

• Drill 1/4” holes all around the top and sides of bin.  This will help to aerate the bin.

• Space holes about 3 – 4” on top and on the sides.

• Space holes on sides 3” apart in 3 rows – The holes are necessary to aerate the bin and allows the worms to breathe and allow oxygen to contribute to the decomposition process.  Oxygen is an important part of the process, as it for oxidizes the carbon in the decomposition process.

                          Step 3

• Drill 3 holes on each side of 1” lip of bottom of bin.

• Compost juice (aka castings) will be excreted from here.

• Place bin on grass and allow castings to enter soil.

• To harvest castings, raise with bricks over a pan or tray.  It is highly recommended to collect this nutrient rich addictive.

• Collect the castings and dilute with water 1:20. Castings are the excrement of the worms and is a natural fertilizer, soil enhancer and plant food. The worms will not come out – they prefer to be where the food is.

              Step 4

• Find newspaper in your recycling bin or use any other carbon rich material ie: saw dust or brown paper bags.  Newspaper is the most abundant material in an urban setting and an easy material to source.  For this demo, I will be using newspaper as the source of carbon, should you decide to use something else, just replace it when newspaper is being called for.  Straw is not recommended – length of time to break down is too long.

• Shred newspaper length-wise to 1” strips.

• This creates bedding for the worms inside.

• Acquire enough newspaper to fill the bin (the bedding will give the worms the brown or carbon component needed). The worms will also eat the bedding, you will need to add newspaper accordingly. As you notice it go down, add additional shredded newspaper.

• Place half of the shredded newspaper in the bin and soak newspaper to get all angels wet.

• Ring newspaper like a wet sponge.  Remove excess water, this will help create the optimum condition for proper moisture levels – like a wet sponge.

• Fluff compressed moistened newspaper.

    Step 5

• Purchase worms, specifically red wigglers (Eisenia foetida or Eisenia andrei) or acquire a bag from a friend.

• You will begin using only one side and this will help in keeping the worms in one area.

• Using one side will facilitate during harvesting. The worms will adjust and procreate according to the size of the bin – within due time. It is important to purchase the proper amount of worms to facilitate this process.

1 lb has 1500 worms is good enough for 1 – 2 people.  The worms will adjust to the amount of food being fed and will self regulate.

   Step 6

• Add food scraps to same side of bin.

• Do not add any meat, dairy, fat, oil, bones, feces.  You can add organic material such as tea bags, hair, non-glossy paper

• Place only organic food scraps for compost used in gardens.  Heavy metals found in pesticides and herbicides and possible GMO contaminated residue can stay within the decomposition cycle and be returned to your crops.  This is your opportunity to truly know what goes into your food and your food supply.

• Do not add big pits, excess citrus or weeds.  Weeds that are seeding can continue to spread if compost does not get hot enough to kill seeds.  It must reach 130 degrees to be assured of this – best to keep it if you are not sure.

   Step 7

• Add the second layer of dry bedding over bin – covering the entire bin.  This layer adds coverage and protection to the worms.

• Continue to replace this layer as it gets eaten.

• Place lid tight.

• When adding food scraps remove newspaper, add food scraps and once again add newspaper and cover with lid again.

• Newspaper should be fluffy and not compact and there should always be a layer covering the food and the worms.

How to Maintain: 

You will need to turn the compost heap every couple of weeks, mixing all the ingredients on one side. This will assure that enough oxygen reaches all areas.  Depending on the size of the bin, the amount of food and the overall condition of the compost heap, will depend on the amount of times you will need to turn it.

Start monitoring the conditions of your worms, moisture levels and overall appearance.  You want to be able to gauge an issue, should one arise by simply looking at it – i.e.  too wet or too dry.  You will have a complete eco system, and it will self regulate as long as food is being provided and moisture levels are maintained. Keep in mind if you are only working with one side of the bin to try to keep contents ! ! on that same side.

How to Harvest:

Depending on the weather and conditions, your pile may take from 6 – 12 weeks. Once you begin to notice most of the pile become a rich dark humus, you may be ready to harvest.  Crush egg shell and cut up your waste to give it more surface area – this will help in the breaking down process.

A simple way to harvest is empty the contents on a tarp and sift through it. The worms will crawl away from any light and into the protected space of an available pile.  Another simple way is to scoop 1/3 of the humus and use generously.  Don’t be concerned to take worms with you – that may be inevitable.

For those that chose to use one side of the bin, start adding new bedding and fresh food to the side that has been left alone. After a couple of days, all the worms will have migrated to the other side. At this point you will remove all the contents from the composted side and use.

If you are harvesting the worm castings as well, you will start to notice it in the tray, once it is ready. Collect what is there and dilute it 20:1 with water and use on your plants or garden.

What If:

Bin Smells

Check Conditions:

• Is there enough bedding?

• Is there a material that should not be there?

• Is food exposed?

• How is circulation?

• Is it too wet/dry?

• Is there an imbalance with the amount of food added?

Check moisture levels:

If it is too wet: Add additional shredded newspaper – stop feeding worms. Wait till a balance has been reached before continuing.

If it is too dry: It may have become anaerobic – lacking oxygen.  Add more food (produce) and consider adding some water.

Worms are Dying

Check conditions:

• Is there enough bedding?

• Is there enough food?

• Is it too hot?

• Check moisture levels.

If it is too wet: Add additional shredded newspaper – stop feeding.

If it is too dry: Add more food (produce) and consider adding some water.

Tips:

An easy way to collect your food scraps in your kitchen is by keeping them in a bowl or in a jar. Keeping it too air tight will cause mold. Make sure to not keep it out of the sun.  Feed your worms regularly, this will assure them getting the freshest food and minimize smell and fruit flies. Storing it in the fridge is great option in hot and humid places; freezing is not recommended.

For more information on The Living Seed Company, check out our website.

Seed School in Marin 2011 featuring Bill McDorman

Our First Donated Collection gets Delivered!

We presented our first donated Founders Collection to the Indian Valley Farm at the  College of Marin.  I am currently enrolled in their Organic Farming class, taught by author, Buddhist meditation teacher and organic gardening mentor Wendy Johnson and her teaching partner Henry Wallace, a man who deeply understands the science and the art of farming, creating a dynamic and poetic duo.

The origin of the donation stemmed from my dear friend Jeanne Verger, having the desire to support the vision of Living Seed Company and not having a garden or any land to plant her seeds.  With that, she humbly asked if we knew a place that could use the seeds. I immediately thought of the farm and how wonderful it would be to donate one of our Founders Collection of 22 varieties to our school farm.

In no time was the idea planted and that the seeds were delivered and received with gratitude and appreciation by my professors!

We are now donating one seed collection to a youth group or school group for every ten that we sell.  Please contact info@livingseedcompany.com if you are interested in donating a collection or two!  For more information on the farm at Indian Valley check out the blog for the latest happenings on the land!

Southern California Permaculture Convergence

The 2nd annual Southern California Permaculture Convergence is happening only one month away on April 29-May 1 in Malibu.
Dozens of permaculture speakers: Penny Livingston-Stark, Mark Lakeman, Larry Santoyo, Brock Doleman, Warren Brush, James Stark, Benjamin Fahrer, Darren Butler, Joan Stevens and so many more!  I have had the honor and privilege of studying under with Penny, Larry, Brock and of course James and this is a stellar line up of the most cutting edge permaculture teachers – what an exciting event!
There will be presentations on Mushroom Cultivation, Transition Towns, Time Banking, Raising goats, Intro to Permaculture and so much more.

A Kids corner going on all day Saturday with some amazing activities happening there. Mini Cob House construction, seed balls and rocket stoves, nature games and more. The kids will have a blast!!

Music from amazing local musicians, free giveaways, organic meals.  There is so much going on and yet ticket prices are just $125 for camping or $150 for bunkhouse (ask for special kids discount codes).


www.LivingSeedCompany.com

We're dedicated to the preservation of the genetic diversity in our food chain through the distribution and growing of open-pollinated seeds and educating about the life affirming art of seed saving.

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