Our Mission:

Our Mission: To enable individuals and communities to take an active part in the cultivation of systems that provide the highest quality fruits, vegetables, herbs and other yields, in a way that benefits themselves, cares for the land and environment, and provides a surplus to use, share and reinvest into the system.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Dandelion - Underappreciated Plants & "Weeds"

What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Many plants have acquired the label, "Weed" or "Invasive" regardless of where they grow; especially in our society that loves a manicured lawn or crop field.

According to Merriam-Webster.com the definition of a weed is:  a plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth; especially: one that tends to overgrow or choke out more desirable plants

So, the location of growth is the true factor in labeling a weed.

Probably the single most hated weed in the suburban landscape, the dandelion is actually a beneficial plant for your grass and landscape, in reasonable numbers.  Edible in it's entirety, a traditional medicinal plant, and dynamic nutrient accumulator the dandelion has gotten a bad rap.  Isn't it interesting that the companies that will sell you fertilizer for your grass, are the same ones the sell you the weed killer to eliminate dandelion and clover?

Here's another video in the Underappreciated Plants & Weeds series.

If you've ever made a dandelion stem bracelet, or chain, you might recall a sticky, milky sap.  Researchers are now looking to use this as a replacement for natural rubber from trees.  Automobile, truck and aircraft tires need a good percentage of natural rubber for flexibility at lower temperatures.  Already leading tire producers have invested millions into breeding dandelion, with increased size and harvestability.  Rubber yields in test locations have been equal to or better than rubber tree plantations per acre.

So the dandelion isn't as bad as we believe.  I still pull a few for mulch and to make sure they don't get out of control,  but maybe we should eat a few too.

Hope you enjoyed this post!  Have a great week, the weather looks about perfect!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Winterizing Your Rainwater System and More

We've had a few cold nights with frosts and borderline freezes.  Our tomatoes are still trying to ripen and the leaves haven't given up yet.  But as the cold sets in for good we want to make sure our water systems are prepared for winter. 

Freezing temperatures causes water to expand as it turns to ice.  As it expands it can cause damage to items that hold it.  Proper preparation can save you hard work and money.

Sprinklers, timers and hose nozzles should all be drained, and if possible stored in a garage or shed to keep snow and ice from accumulating in them.  We have an irrigation meter through the city that will also need the same treatment.  If you have very hard water now would be a good time to soak these overnight in a strong vinegar solution to remove or reduce the calcium deposits.  A good brushing afterwards might help extend their service life too.

This hose will need to be unrolled and drained or else trapped water in the bottom of the loops can stress the hose in these areas.  You can do this by placing it on a sloping area of your yard, or better yet a hill.  If you have in-ground irrigation, an air compressor will help clear the lines.

For your rainwater catchment you need to keep the same considerations in mind.  Water expands when it freezes, and keeping them free of rain, snow and ice until the season is over.  I'll explain several methods for winterizing your rain barrel and overflow system in this video.  I'll also show how to easily clear the sediment filter which should be done several times each year.

I hope you enjoyed this weeks post, and learned a little, or at least were reminded to care of the things that help you take care of your plants.

Thanks for checking in!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Embrace Diversity

I often hear a lot of talk promoting diversity, in our communities, workplaces and government agencies.  There is a lot to be gained with a diverse group working towards a particular goal.  A diverse workforce can bring a broad set of experiences to help solve a problem.  They might have encountered a similar problem before and can share how they solved it.  People with different backgrounds might have different ways of thinking about a problem, and the group may be able to build off of each others ideas.  Different languages and cultural experiences can help a business capitalize on markets they might not have been able to without a diverse workforce.  These are benefits you've most likely heard of in the workplace.  But did you know, we can use diversity to benefit our landscapes?

For example, several cultivars of apple tree will allow you to have ripe apples from late summer well into fall.  If you separate these with a plum or pear tree between, apple pests will have a hard time moving from tree to tree.

Another example would be the "Three Sisters" used by some Native American tribes.  Maize (corn), beans and squash were often grown together to benefit each other.  The maize provides corn, and at the same time gives the beans a natural trellis to grow on.  Besides the bean for food, they also work with nodule forming bacteria to fix nitrogen form the air which can act as a fertilizer for the corn and squash.  The squash grows low to the ground with large leaves that helps hold in moisture and act as a living mulch suppressing weeds.

Flowers in your garden not only look pretty but can also serve multiple purposes, sometimes called "stacking functions."  Marigolds can provide control of harmful nematodes, a sort of tiny worm.  Most flowers will attract and feed bees and other pollinators.  Some also provide habitat for predatory insects that can reduce harmful insect populations.  Don't forget there are herbal and medicinal flowers too!

Permaculture Design Principle #10
Use and value diversity: Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.

In the forest garden above species were selected for their food yield, including cherry, blueberry and more.  An herb mound on the right was also included near the Redbud tree which fixes nitrogen similar to the beans mentioned previously.  The horseradish in the back right corner can be harvested for its spicy root, but also mines nutrients from the subsoil.  The leaves can be cut to use as mulch providing these minerals for the other plants.  Echinacea and other flowers are grown in the sunny openings to attract beneficial insects and for their potential medicinal value.

Water features can provide habitat for amphibians (which are beneficial predators), a place to drink and bathe for birds, and relaxing sounds for a sleepy summer afternoon.  Chickens provide eggs, possibly meat, and perform pest control duties, compost enhancement and outstanding nutrient/fertilizer yield.  The possibilities are amazing!

As you can see, we can embrace diversity in our landscapes as well as in our communities.  Just as a diverse workforce can enhance a business, a diverse design can enhance your lifestyle and boost your connection with nature.  Each element can perform multiple functions which will increase the resiliency and productivity of your environment.

Thanks for reading!  If a diverse, sustainable and productive landscape interests you contact me and I can get you started.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

October Deals!

Brilliant red Blueberry foliage

Autumn is here, and so is the color.  We have had our first brush with frost, the leaves are changing and dropping.  Time marches on!

The crops are coming in and most of the chores in the yard are related to cleaning up.  New growth is rare, but still there if you look.  Our second planting of peas are still in bloom, and I am hoping to get some fresh spinach soon.

Ash Tree, the most colorful leaves have blown away

For more new Fall growth on your property, check out these special pricing offers!  The first three people to contact me will get a FREE 1-hour On-site Consultation* for your property!  Normally a $149 value!  Just mention this blog post in your message.
 *within a 30 mile radius, mileage can be worked out if outside the area.
Other deals this month include:
Three Bin Cedar Compost System for $449 installed, Regularly $499
 or a
4' x 8' x 6" Raised Bed $75 installed, Regularly $99
Take advantage of these deals to get started with a great new landscape design or even just a headstart on next years growing season!
Again, thanks for reading; and if you like what I'm doing like and share this page on Facebook.  I am close to 100 likes, please help me reach this milestone!