June 21st, 2012
Growing Your Business….Card

Business cards are pretty boring. You give them to people and they probably do what you do when people give you theirs—lose them, throw them away, or let them pile up on your desk until you either lose them or throw them away.

I think OG’s art director had this in mind when he set out to design business cards for the team. He wanted to give people one more option—to plant them.

Our business cards are printed on handmade seed paper that contains non-invasive wildflower seeds. Gimmicky? Yeah, maybe a little. But definitely memorable.

My friend Kevin decided to put my card to the test.

He sent me these pictures:

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Photos: K. Daylor

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June 13th, 2012
What to do with all this straw?

Last week I got a call from my farmer friend. He needed some help clearing out the broken bales of old straw in the loft of his barn to make room for fresh bales. He called me because he knew I’d be interested in the old straw for mulch. And certainly I was.

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We stacked the good bales to the side and pitched all the loose stuff to the door. Then we loaded it onto a trailer and brought it to my house and unloaded it near my garden.

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Now I’ve got a giant pile of straw.

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Move over, Ruth Stout. I’ve got some mulching to do.

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June 7th, 2012
Building a Chicken Tractor, part 1

I know backyard chickens are sort of trendy, or at least they were a few years ago, but I’ve always been slightly behind the times. For me it’s all about things happening when they happen. And now it’s happening.

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Following the vague plans for a moveable coop that I found on OG’s free download page, I started building what will eventually be home to a small flock of Rhode Island reds—three birds to be exact.

Fresh eggs and chicken poop—an organic gardener’s dream. Stay tuned for updates on my progress.

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June 4th, 2012
Bamboo in the Garden

I love bamboo. There, I said it.

I love it for its trellising potential. I love it for how it becomes the skeleton of a garden, the frame from which my sprawling vines will hang and bear fruit.

I would never plant bamboo in my own yard, of course. Let’s face it—it’s an arrogant weed when left to its own devices.

hurlock-bamboo-stand

I found an overgrown stand of bamboo not far my house, a living privacy fence gone wild. A quick call to the owner granted me permission to cut and haul away as much as I’d like.

Armed with a pair of loppers, hand pruners, and a roll of electrical tape, I entered the tight grove of evergreen grass, the tall canes rising up all around me. I lopped the canes close to the ground and dragged them out into the open space, where I snipped off the leaves and the skinny tops and was left with the perfect raw material for trellis and teepee.

When I thought I had enough canes, I bundled them together in groups of eight, wrapping them with electrical tape the way an electrician bundles sticks of conduit. I strapped the bundles to the car roof and headed back to my garden.

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Why is bamboo so great? It’s lightweight and strong. And—if you play your cards right—it’s free.

The teepee is the easiest bamboo structure to make. You take three or four canes, tie them together about a foot from the end, spread the other ends open, and push the canes into the ground. Wrap a spiral of jute twine from top to bottom to give your climbers something to hold on to. This is perfect for pole beans, morning glories, even cucumbers and some small squash or gourds—really anything that sprawls and climbs will appreciate a good bamboo teepee. Leave one side open, and by mid to late summer your kids will have a fun shady hideout.

Learn more: How to Make a Simple Bamboo Trellis

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Another favorite bamboo structure is something that I call the net trellis. It’s essentially two teepees (preferably tripods) connected by a horizontal stick of bamboo at the top, from which you hang a net of jute twine.

Tie lengths of twine horizontally between the tripods, about every 8 inches. Then do the same vertically across the connector piece, again about every 8 inches, looping each string around the horizontals. Be sure to put a little tension on the twine as you go, ensuring that your net isn’t too loose. Tie the ends of the strings off to the bottommost horizontal. Do this all the way across, and soon you’ll have a handsome little net for your climbers to ascend.

The trick to this, like the trick to almost anything, is to take your time. Be patient, watch what you’re doing, be present, feel the air, hear the birds, make the net.

The net trellis is also great for beans, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, and more.

hurlock-Florida-weave

I’m using bamboo in a new way this year, too—as supports for the Florida weave I’m trying on my tomatoes.  I’m officially done with those flimsy metal tomato cages. Every year by August, my beautiful tomato plants are cascading over the tops of the cages. I prune and tie up as much as I can, but my plants inevitably grow out of control.

This year, I hope things will be different. I have two main rows of tomatoes—one row of six plants (three ‘Brandywine’ and three ‘Cosmonaut Volkov’) and another row of four plants (two ‘Indigo Rose’ and two ‘Green Zebra’). At the ends of each row and between every two plants, I have driven into the soil very thick and very tall canes of bamboo. (I made a pilot hole first using a long metal rod from a quoits set and a small sledgehammer. I was then able to sink the bamboo into the ground about 18 to 24 inches, leaving 7 feet above ground.)

I will weave twine around the plants and the poles, adding another length of twine every 8 inches or so as the plants grow. By August, I should have a nice, neat wall of tomato vines.

For more detailed instruction on the Florida weave, go here:

As with most things, bamboo doesn’t last forever. It will eventually dry out, become brittle, and render itself useless—which is why I go back each year to cut more. And when I go back, I always cut more than I need, because giving a fellow gardener or two a bundle of fresh-cut bamboo is like adding fresh compost to your gardening karma.

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May 31st, 2012
2012 Gardening Goals, revisited

It’s good to have goals, right? Goals provide direction and a way to measure your progress. So here it is, the end of May, and I thought it would be a good time to check in on the goals that I set for myself this past January.

1. I will start all of my own seeds.

Check. This worked out way better than I thought it would. As with most successful endeavors, I had a lot of help. Thanks to Alex Norelli for the grow lights and heat mats. Thanks to Doug Hall for the flats and pots. Thanks to Mark Highland at Organic Mechanics for the seed-starting mix, and thanks especially to High Mowing Organic Seeds for graciously supplying most of the seeds.

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2. I will only grow seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds.

Yep, pretty much. I contacted HM a while back and told them my plan. They donated an excellent order of seeds. But then I kept seeing the High Mowing seed display at Kimberton Whole Foods and certain things would catch my eye, things that I didn’t know I wanted when I placed my original order.

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3. I will not overplant tomatoes.

Somehow, I’ve managed not to overplant the tomatoes by planting more tomatoes than I’ve ever planted. Figure that one out. Fifteen plants! But this year they have plenty of space and I’m supporting them with the cat’s cradle technique instead of those stupid wire cages.

4. I will grow more flowers in my garden.

So far, so good.  Marigold, zinnia, cosmos, bachelor buttons, nasturtium, nicotiana, calendula, poppies, and lots of sunflowers. Hey pollinators, come on in!

5. I will plant a sunflower house for my kids.

Sort of. It’s not quite a house, but the edges around the play area (sliding board, bean teepee, balance beam) are thickly planted with sunflowers. It may end up feeling like a room by the end of the summer.

6. I will grow strawberries.

Check. Six ‘Mara des Bois’ day neutral strawberry plants given to me by OG deputy editor Doug Hall. Thanks again, Doug!

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7. My garden will be productive earlier in the season.

We’ve been eating kale from the garden since February.

8. I’m going to buy (or make) a rain gauge.

Fail. I have not gotten a rain gauge yet. And all the “make your own rain gauge” websites and videos are flawed beyond words. They essentially tell you to tape a ruler to a jar and—presto—you have a rain gauge. I wasn’t the greatest student of mathematics or science, and I never took a meteorology class, but my instincts tell me that there is more to making a rain gauge than this. If you have any insight, please let me know.

9. I’m going to keep a detailed garden journal.

Almost. I started a garden journal. My first entry was on March 4 when I planted my onion seeds. Unfortunately, my most recent entry was on April 25 when I repotted my peppers, eggplant, tomatillo, and parsley, and planted nasturtium.

I suppose I could go back and fill in the blanks, but so much has happened since then. I will thank myself in the future if I can get back into journaling.

10. Keep my hopes high and my expectations low.

Always.

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My garden, so far (this morning May 31, 2012).

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Stay tuned for my next set of gardening goals…

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May 25th, 2012
garden update may 25, 2012

Too busy in the garden to write many blog posts. I suppose if I adhere to the “picture is worth a thousand words” rule, I should be OK.

a view of the garden from the raised bed of kale

a view of the garden from the raised bed of kale

Here come the taters. Almost ready for more soil.

Here come the taters. Almost ready for more soil.

A little bamboo goes a long way...

A little bamboo goes a long way...

These seedlings are all in the ground now.

These seedlings are all in the ground now.


Be sure to check out my new Nighttime Gardening video.

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April 25th, 2012
Organic Mechanics Potting Soil Giveaway

Don’t forget: All week long we’re giving away an awesome prize package from our friends at Organic Mechanics. One lucky winner will be selected to receive a care package from Organic Mechanics this week. Here’s what you’ll get:

• (1) 8qt Premium Blend (OMRI listed indoor potting soil)
• (1) 16qt Container Blend (all-purpose outdoor potting soil)
• (1) 16qt Seed Starting Blend (OMRI listed potting soil for seed starting indoors)
• (1) 1.0cuft Planting Mix (OMRI listed compost blend soil amendment – great for building raised bed veggie gardens!)
• (5) 1 lb. Worm Castings (premium soil amendment, great for making worm “tea”, directions on our website’s Products page)
• (1) Organic Mechanics T Shirt (Green, L or XL available)

All you have to do is register here: http://blogs.organicgardening.com/organic-mechanics-giveaway

OrgMechanics-prizes

Note: Last month we gave away an electric tiller, but we have not heard back from our potential winner yet (I’m looking at you, Minnesota). Be sure to use your real email address so we can contact you and award the prize. If your name is randomly selected, you will receive an email from me about the middle of next week. Thanks!

For more information about Organic Mechanics, go here: www.organicmechanicsoil.com

* No purchase necessary to enter or win.
* A purchase will not improve your chances of winning.
* You are not a winner yet.
* Void where prohibited.
* Must be over 18 to enter, and legal resident of 50 United States or DC and Canada (excluding residents of the Province of QUEBEC)
* Sweepstakes begins at 12:01 a.m. ET April 23, 2012 and ends 11:59 p.m. ET April 27, 2012 with the final drawing on May 3, 2012
* Entries must be received by 11:59 pm (ET) on April 27, 2012
* Click here for official rules.

April 23rd, 2012
Gardening at Night & Organic Mechanics Giveaway

As the father of two young daughters, I don’t always have enough daylight after work to do any gardening. I get home around six and it’s a whirlwind of cooking, eating, playing, and reading before it’s all said and done. By the time my girls are fed, read, and in bed, it’s somewhere around 8:30 and twilight is just giving way to darkness.

So what’s a gardener to do? Two words: Nighttime Gardening. With that in mind, I’d like to share with you my new homemade video series called “Gardening at Night.” The first episode is called “Slugs Love Beer.” Keep in mind that I’m shooting and editing this myself, and I’m still trying to dial it in a bit. So it’s with some nervousness and potential embarrassment that I give you this:

Organic Mechanic Giveaway

This spring, I’ve been trying out the seed starting mix from Organic Mechanics Potting Soil.  I’ve started tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, tomatillos, parsley, basil, corn and lots of annual flowers in this mix. My seedlings are big, strong, and healthy. The mix holds moisture really well so my flats don’t dry out as fast as some other starting mixes. It’s made from coconut fiber, pine bark, rice hulls, worm castings, and an OMRI-listed organic fertilizer.

And here is your chance to try their line of products. One lucky winner will be selected to receive a care package from Organic Mechanics this week. Here’s what you’ll get:

• (1) 8qt Premium Blend (OMRI listed indoor potting soil)
• (1) 16qt Container Blend (all-purpose outdoor potting soil)
• (1) 16qt Seed Starting Blend (OMRI listed potting soil for seed starting indoors)
• (1) 1.0cuft Planting Mix (OMRI listed compost blend soil amendment – great for building raised bed veggie gardens!)
• (5) 1 lb. Worm Castings (premium soil amendment, great for making worm “tea”, directions on our website’s Products page)
• (1) Organic Mechanics T Shirt (Green, L or XL available)

All you have to do is register here: http://blogs.organicgardening.com/organic-mechanics-giveaway

OrgMechanics-prizes

Note: Last month we gave away an electric tiller, but we have not heard back from our potential winner yet (I’m looking at you, Minnesota). Be sure to use your real email address so we can contact you and award the prize. If your name is randomly selected, you will receive an email from me about the middle of next week. Thanks!

For more information about Organic Mechanics, go here: www.organicmechanicsoil.com

April 10th, 2012
April Already

You’d think I would have gotten a lot of gardening done since my last blog post. You’d be right, too. Luckily, there is no direct correlation between my blogging frequency and my gardening. Here’s what I’ve been working on at home these past few weeks.

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In the basement, under lights, I have the following:

Green Zebra tomatoes
Cosmonaut Volkov tomatoes
Indigo Rose tomatoes
Brandywine tomatoes
Amish Paste tomatoes
Sweetie Cherry tomatoes
Toma Verde tomatillo
Corno di Torro sweet peppers
Rosa Bianca eggplant
Jasmine-scented nicotiana
Italian Flat Leaf Parsley
Genovese basil
Sweet corn

I started the corn in newspaper pots. I’ve heard that corn seedlings don’t transplant well, so I’m hoping that I can avoid any issues by simply planting the whole newspaper pot.

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I also started Siberian Kale, Red Russian Kale, Fordhook Chard, and Champion Collards. I transplanted these last weekend, and now they’re out there under a row cover. About 5 days before I transplanted them, I took the temperature of my soil. It was 50 degrees, so I covered that raised bed with black plastic and 5 days later the temp was nearly 60 degrees.

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I also have a flat of onion, Dakota Tears & Siskiyou Sweet Walla Walla. That flat gets moved around a lot, usually shuffling back and forth between the kitchen table and the deck.

The peas that we planted around Saint Patty’s Day are sprouting. They’re not doing so well, though. I think I have either cut worms or very hungry slugs. I’m going to pre-sprout some more peas and replant this weekend.

All of these varieties are from High Mowing Organic Seeds. And I’ve been using Organic Mechanic’s Seed Starting Mix.

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PS. If you entered the Sun Joe Tiller Giveaway last month, check your email. We’ve selected a potential winner and sent her an email. If this is you, please respond so we can get the prize to you!

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March 26th, 2012
Sun Joe Giveaway

Another excellent early spring weekend. Saturday was rainy but Sunday was great around here. Not quite as warm as it’s been, but I’m OK with that. After a week of highs in the 70s, it’s good to get back to feeling like spring again. I thought maybe we missed it and we jumped right to summer.

Yesterday, I was able to get a lot done—turning the soil in some raised beds, weeding, dividing and moving perennials—but I feel like the best work I got done was the imagining. Gardening puts me into a certain kind of mediation. I’m not always aware that it’s happening, and after a few minutes I’ll realize that I’m just leaning on my shovel, looking around, lost in thought. (My wife calls this Spacing Out.) These meditative garden space outs are simply a creative lateral drift that leaves me with good ideas.

Speaking of preparing the soil in spring, now is a good time to mention that this week, we’ll be giving away this cool little tiller/cultivator from Sun Joe:Tiller JoeTiller Joe TJ600E
This medium-sized, no-bend, lightweight electric tiller features a seven inch cultivating depth and four steel blade tines.  TJ600E cultivates a 14 inch wide path in one pass thanks to a substantial 6.5 amp motor.  Made for an average area, this two-handle tiller retails for $159.99.

All you have to do to enter is go here to register: http://blogs.organicgardening.com/sun-joe-sweepstakes

One lucky winner will win this tiller from Sun Joe. A winner will be selected randomly on Monday April 2.

* No purchase necessary to enter or win.
* A purchase will not improve your chances of winning.
* You are not a winner yet.
* Void where prohibited.
* Must be over 18 to enter, and legal resident of 50 United States or DC and Canada (excluding residents of the Province of QUEBEC)
* Sweepstakes begins at 12:01 a.m. ET March 26, 2012 and ends 11:59 p.m. ET March 30, 2012 with the final drawing on April 3, 2012
* Entries must be received by 11:59 pm (ET) on March 30, 2012
* Click here for official rules.
* Sun Joe,
86 Executive Ave.  Edison, NJ 08817 and Rodale Inc., 400 South 10th Street, Emmaus, PA 18048-0099 are the sponsors of this sweepstakes.

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