4,000 square feet of raised beds becomes $16,000 in fresh veggies

More than a century ago, a plant breeder and seed merchant named W. Atlee Burpee bought Fordhook Farm in Doylestown, Pa., and developed varieties of vegetables for the home gardener. Today, the enterprise continues in the same soil under W. Atlee Burpee & Co.’s president, George Ball, who has seen the circle come full turn.

The company’s founder was selling seeds to people who relied on a domestic vegetable garden to provide much of their family’s food. The world changed; successive generations grew less reliant on their own horticultural green thumb and more on hopping into the car and driving to the supermarket.

But seed companies report a huge increase in sales this year as idea of a home veggie plot has come back with a vengeance. Read the rest of this entry »

Have you started your organic vegetable garden yet? For most people, the danger of frost is over making this weekend a great time to get everything underway. The following steps help make growing your own as easy as 1-2-3:

1. Planning. Feeling a little overwhelmed? It’s Clyde to the rescue! Clyde’s utilized his skills as an engineer to come up with a pocket sized slide chart (similar to a slide rule – ha!) to show you everything you need to know to prepare and keep your garden on track. Clyde’s Garden Planner shows “at-a-glance” when to plant vegetables, gives frost dates, shows planting depth, distance, harvest dates and much more. Clyde managed to pack a ton of information into this handy little tool. At only $3.50 postage paid it’s a bargain. Clyde even has a four minute video. Check it out at http://cdmplanning.hypermart.net/

2. Soil. Not just any soil. Well balanced soil. Well balanced soil that contains the proper minerals. After growing organic for years we thought we had it down – lots of good compost, some peat moss, manure, and we were good to go. Until last year when our smaller garden had what can only be described as “failure to thrive.” We knew we needed something but what? Not a bunch of store bought chemicals that’s for sure. So this year we got a soil test, (yes, the soil was nutrient deficient), quizzed other local organic gardeners, examined the ingredients in quick fix fertilizers, and then found Michael. Dubbed the soil doctor, Michael Astera from Soil Minerals.com has been researching, amending, and teaching on the benefits of proper soil balance for years. Not only can he perform a comprehensive (and worthwhile) test to determine what your soil needs, he will advise on what and how much to then put in it (organic of couse). Be prepared to not only have great soil and an abundant garden, but a few online sessions with Michael and you’ll have a PhD in soil management. See The Importance of Well Balanced Soil. Read the rest of this entry »

Michael Pollan, author of “Omnivore’s Dilema,” has a great article in the New York Times on climate change and the virtues of growing your own food. Check it out at: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/20/magazine/20wwln-lede-t.html?_r=2&ei=5087&em=&en=d8cc9200fb79ea20&ex=1209009600&pagewanted=print&oref=slogin

Home vegetable gardens are booming as a result of the twin movements to eat local and pinch pennies. Although the 2008 planting season is still largely in the planning stages, it appears vegetable seed sales will be up significantly from year-ago figures, said Barb Melera, president of D. Landreth Seed Co., in New Freedom, Pa.

“I just came back from the Southeastern Flower Show in Atlanta and we sold three to four times the amount of seed packets we did the previous year,” Melera said. “This is the first time I’ve ever heard people say’I can grow this more cheaply than I can buy it in the supermarket.’ That’s a 180-degree turn from the norm.”

Roger Doiron, a gardener and fresh food advocate from Scarborough, Maine, said he turned $85 worth of seeds into more than six months of vegetables for his family of five. Read the rest of this entry »

“My whole life has been spent waiting for an epiphany, a manifestation of God’s presence, the kind of transcendent, magical experience that lets you see your place in the big picture. And that is what I had with my first compost heap. I love compost and I believe that composting can save not the entire world, but a good portion of it.” –Bette Midler, in a Los Angeles Times interview

Compost is a dark, friable, partially decomposed form of organic matter similar in nature to the organic matter in the soil. It’s an easy and satisfying way to turn kitchen scraps and yard trimmings into ‘black gold’ – a dark, crumbly, nutrient-rich soil conditioner.

Composting also:

  • Saves money by lowering garbage bills and replacing store-bought soil conditioners. It takes the fossil fuel equivalent of 2.5 gallons of gasoline to produce a single 40-pound bag of synthetic fertilizer.
  • Helps garden and house plants by improving the fertility and health of your soil. The organic matter in the compost makes heavy clay soils easier to work by binding the soil particles together. Such aggregation of the soil particles helps improve aeration, root penetration, and water infiltration, and reduces crusting of the soil surface. Additional organic matter also helps sandy soils retain water and nutrients.
  • Saves water by helping the soil hold moisture and reducing water runoff.
  • Benefits the environment by recycling valuable organic resources and extending the life of our landfills. A third of all landfill waste across the United States comes from garden clippings and kitchen waste. Each American is responsible for 1,200 pounds of compostable organic waste annually, and tossing it out not only stuffs landfills unnecessarily but the processes of natural decay can also lead to the production of methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Read the rest of this entry »

Last week we began a new weekly series on growing herbs and vegetables. The first article, called All You Need Is Love…and a Garden, listed the many reasons to start your own garden. To that list we’d like to add the rapidly rising food prices (feels like a recession to us) and the rapidly diminishing variety and availability of “heirloom” vegetables. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, since 1900, approximately 75% of the world’s genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been eliminated. Almost 96% of the commercial vegetable varieties available in 1903 are now extinct! We can do our part by planting heirloom seeds, saving the seeds from our harvest, and passing them on to others to grow and enjoy.

You don’t need a lot of space – a windowsill, patio, rooftop, small patch of land will do. You do need good soil. Fellow gardener and soil scientist Michael Astera put together the following information to help get you thinking about the importance of well-balanced soil.  Read the rest of this entry »

Looking for a couple of fun, uplifting, worthwhile things to do?

Rent the movie, “Across the Universe.” It’s brilliantly written, has a great cast, and the soundtrack incorporates 34 compositions written by the Beatles and masterfully done by a variety of talented unknown artists. We all LOVED it!

Speaking of the Beatles, can you guess who said the following, “I’m not really a career person. I’m a gardener, basically.” It was George Harrison!

And now is the time to start thinking about your own garden.

There is no act more gratifying, more basic, more liberating, than to coax food from the earth. The smell of dirt, the crunch of a freshly picked cucumber, the juiciness of a homegrown tomato, it just doesn’t get any better. And it’s not as complicated as you might think. If you have access to a deck, a roof, a patch of ground no larger than a flower bed, or far more space, you can grow your own.

Never done it before? Don’t know where to begin? Not a problem. Read the rest of this entry »