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How to Start an Organic Garden in 9 Easy Steps:

You’ve been trying to eat more organic foods, both to decrease the amount of pesticides you and your family consume, and to help protect the environment from overloading with toxic chemicals. But organics can get a bit expensive, we know. Luckily, there’s a way to grow your own fresh produce while having fun and learning at the same time: organic gardening!

Don’t know where to start? It is possible to hire someone to install and maintain a beautiful organic garden for you. But most of us can roll up our sleeves with a surprisingly small amount of effort. Remember, you can start small, even with just a single plant or two. Don’t worry if things aren’t perfect right away.

Organic gardening means you won’t be using synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, but that doesn’t mean your plants are left to fend for themselves. There are an array of tools you can use to bolster plant health and ward off pests. Organic gardening also isn’t just about what you don’t do, it’s about trying to foster a more holistic, natural ecosystem. Read on for specific tips, taken from The Daily Green’s expert garden blogger, Leslie Land, her New York Times book 1000 Gardening Questions & Answers and other sources.

Preparing the Soil

In order to get the best results with your new organic garden, you’ll want to make sure the soil is properly conditioned. You have to eat, and so do plants, so make sure your veggies get lots of fresh nutrients. Good healthy soil helps build up strong, productive plants. Chemical soil treatments can not only seep into your food, but they can also harm the beneficial bacteria, worms and other microbes in the soil.

The best way to gauge the quality of your soil is to get it tested. You can get a home testing kit, or better, send a sample to your local agricultural extension office. For a modest fee you’ll get a complete breakdown of pH and nutrient levels, as well as treatment recommendations (be sure to tell them you’re going organic). That way you can tailor your gardening program. Typically, it’s best to test in the Fall, and apply any organic nutrients before Winter.

Even if you don’t have time for testing, you’ll want to make sure your soil has plenty of humus — the organic matter, not the similarly named Mediterranean spread. According to 1000 Gardening Questions & Answers, you’ll want to mix in compost, leaf and grass clippings and manure. Manure should be composted, unless you aren’t going to harvest or plant anything for two months after application. Preferably, get your manure from local livestock that have been organically and humanely raised — and never use manure from animals that eat meat.

How to Make Good Compost

All gardens benefit from compost — and preferably you can make your own on site. Hey, it’s free! Compost feeds plants, helps conserve water, cuts down on weeds, and keeps food and yard waste out of landfills (where it produces methane), instead turning garbage into “black gold.” Spread compost around plants, mix with potting soil, use to bolster struggling plants…it’s hard to use too much!

According to Country Living, the best compost forms from the right ratio of nitrogen- and carbon-rich organic waste, mixed with soil, water and air. It might sound like complicated chemistry, but don’t worry too much if you don’t have time to make perfect compost. Even a minimally tended pile will still yield decent results.

  1. To get started, measure out a space at least three feet square. Your compost heap can be a simple pile or contained within a custom pen or bin (some can be rotated, to improve results).
  2. Add alternating layers of carbon (or brown) material — leaves and garden trimmings — and nitrogen (or green) material — such as kitchen scraps and manure, with a thin layer of soil in between.
  3. Top off the pile with four to six inches of soil. Turn the pile as new layers are added and water to keep (barely) moist, in order to foster microbe action. You should get good compost in as little as two months (longer if it’s cold).
  4. A properly maintained compost pile shouldn’t smell. But if it does add more dry carbon material (leaves, straw, or sawdust) and turn it more frequently.
  5. Even if you live in a city, you can do some composting under your counter with a tidy worm kit, or partner with a community garden.

Choose the Right Plants

It really pays to select plants that will thrive in your specific micro-conditions. As a general guide don’t forget to check the USDA’s Hardiness Zones (which have recently been updated by the National Arbor Day Foundation due to climate change). Choose plants that will be well adjusted to each spot, in terms of light, moisture, drainage and soil quality. Most gardens have gradations in these variables. The happier your plants are, the more resistant they’ll be to attackers.

If you’re buying seedlings, look for plants raised without chemical fertilizers and pesticides. A great place to look is at your local farmers’ market, which may also have native plants and varieties well suited to your area. It’s better to buy stocky seedlings with few, if any blooms yet, and with roots that don’t look overcrowded.

Many things are best grown from seed, including sunflowers, annual poppies, evening-scented stock (Matthiola bicornis), coriander, dill, annual phlox (Phlox drummondii), larkspur, annual lupine, morning glories, sweet peas, squash and cucumbers.

Plant Crops in Wide Beds

Plants that you will be harvesting, such as vegetables or cutting flowers, should be grouped tightly in beds that you don’t walk on (raised beds work great). Grouping reduces weeding and water waste, and helps you target compost and nutrients. Easier path maintenance helps lead to healthy soil. Ample space between rows helps promote air circulation, which repels fungal attacks.

Remember that seedlings won’t always stay diminutive, and you do want to try to limit over shadowing. It’s a good idea to thin crops based on nursery suggestions.

According to Leslie Land, if you have limited space and time, and want the highest returns of fresh organic produce, these plants are typically winners:

  1. Indeterminate Tomatoes. So named because the vines keep getting bigger and producing new fruit until they are felled by frost.
  2. Non-Hybrid (Old-Fashioned) Pole Beans. They keep growing and producing ’til frost — assuming you keep them picked.
  3. Zucchini. Everything they say about avalanches of zucchini is true, especially of hybrid varieties.
  4. Swiss Chard. You can keep breaking off outer leaves for months, and every picking will be tender as long as plants get enough water.
  5. Tall Snow Peas and Sugarsnaps. They grow readily and produce delicious rewards.

Proper Watering

The best time to water plants is usually in the morning. Why? Mornings tend to be cool and without strong winds, so the amount of water lost to evaporation is reduced. If you water in the evening plants stay damp over night, making them more likely to be damaged by fungal and bacterial diseases.

Ideally, you want to water the roots, not the greenery, which is easily damaged. A drip or soak system can work great, or just carefully water the bases of plants by hand.

Most experts recommend substantial, infrequent watering for established plants, typically a total of about one inch of water per week (including rain). One or two applications a week encourages deeper rooting, which promotes stronger plants. To avoid shocking tender greenery, try to use water at or near air temperature (collected rainwater is best).

With population growth and climate change putting increasing pressure on our precious freshwater supplies, it is becoming more important than ever to save water.

Weeding

Ah weeding. Even if you live in the Biosphere, you’ll still get weeds, since their tiny seeds are pervasive. Pulling weeds by hand may sound like hard work — and it can be — but it also can be good exercise, and gets you outside in the fresh air. You don’t want to pour toxic chemicals on your food, or where your children and pets play, right?

Reduce the number of weeds you have to contend with by applying mulch (which also helps protect the soil). According to Leslie Land, organic mulch that will rot down into the soil is almost always preferable to landscape fabric, although burlap and other materials can work in a pinch. Straw is cheap but doesn’t last long. Wood chips are nice, but can get pricey. Many people opt to use lawn clippings, although it should be noted that because they are high in nitrogen, clippings should only be used on plants that need a lot of the nutrient, such as squash and lettuce.

If you get tired of weeding or aren’t able to bend over, consider hiring some neighborhood kids. It’s a good way to get to know others in your community. Remember too that raised beds can be made wheelchair accessible, and others can take advantage of wheeled stools, arthritis-friendly gardening tools and other equipment.

Protect Plants Without Toxic Pesticides

If your plants are being assaulted by pests, it may be a sign of other problems, so the first thing you should do is make sure they are getting enough light, nutrients and moisture. Also remember that a diverse garden helps prevent pests, by limiting the amount of one type of plant offered up to enemies, and boosting biodiversity.

It’s a good thing to foster natural predators in your garden, such as frogs, toads, lizards, birds, and even bats. Beneficial insects can be your best friends, especially lady bugs (many nurseries even sell cans of them, though it’s true there’s a high probability they won’t stick around). Leave a small source of water out to attract friendly predators. It’s also a good idea to grow plants with small blossoms, such as sweet alyssum and dill, which attract predatory insects. Nets and row covers can also work.

It may sound surprising, but homeowners use more pesticides on their lawns and gardens than farmers do, acre for acre, according to EPA data. But there are organic alternatives that are much safer for you and our environment. Find out what problem you have (an agricultural extension service can help), then look for alternatives.

Organic weapons include Bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally occurring bacteria that disrupts the digestion of caterpillars and other leaf-eaters. You can also use horticultural oils, insecticidal soaps and garlic and/or hot pepper sprays.

Harvesting

Don’t forget to harvest the fruits of your labor! Fresh organic produce also makes great gifts, educating your friends, neighbors and coworkers. Generally, the more you harvest, the more your plants will produce for you.

During peak harvest season, you’ll likely find that it’s best to check your garden every day. Got herbs? If you use them fresh pick them right before you need them. But if you’ll be drying and storing them, it’s best to wait until just before they flower, since they’ll have the most flavor. Gather all herbs except basil in mid morning, shortly after dew has dried. Harvest basil in the late afternoon, since it will last longer after some time in the sun. It’s best not to wash herbs before you dry or use them, since that can leach flaor (extra incentive for growing organic!).

When harvesting leafy greens pick sporadically from the entire crop, a little from each plant. For broccoli, wait until the central head is as large as it will get, before sending off buds for flowering. Cut it off right above the leaf node, and you’ll likely get better production from the rest of the plant. In general, it’s best to cut produce off with a sharp knife or scissors, versus ripping with your fingers, which can cause more damage to plant tissue.

If you get too much bounty, remember you can also freeze, store some types of produce in a root cellar, or take up canning. Enjoy!

Cleanup

If you have sick plants to remove, either during the season or at the end of the year, make sure you pull up the entire organism. Don’t forget to rake up underneath, since diseased leaves can harbor problems for a long time. Put all infected material deep in the woods, in the ground at least a foot deep, or on the bonfire.

Most healthy or expired plants can actually be left in place over winter. You’ll provide some food and habitat for birds and other wildlife, and plant cover can help protect your soil from eroding. It’s better to chop off annuals then yank them out, because that way you’ll leave soil intact, and help prevent weeds from gaining a foothold.

(original post)

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Gardening in the Fall: Preparing for a Frost

Once autumn begins, it’s a good time to start thinking about frosts and freezes and the effect they can have on your plants. Most garden plants, assuming they’re hardy in your area, will weather the winter without any problem. An abrupt, early freeze may cause them to drop their leaves prematurely or cause some tissue damage, but most will rebound next spring.

However, there are exceptions. Use the following tips to ensure that your garden is ready when the frost bites.

Bring tender plants indoors. Depending on where you live, some plants may behave as either annuals or perennials that simply can’t handle even a light frost. Many people don’t bother trying to extend the life of plants generally not meant to last more than a year and let them die back after a freeze hits.

However, if you grow tender annuals and perennials in pots and want to save them, move the pots into the garage or house when frost threatens and take them back out when the weather warms a bit, at least for a week or two. This process allows the plant acclimate better to a drastic change in growing conditions.

Tropicals can go in the house or garage before temperatures drop below 45 degrees F. Before bringing them inside, spray any plants that appear to have pests, such as spider mites, aphids and mealy bugs. A solution containing neem oil works well for treating these pests. Once the plants are inside, cut back on watering and withhold applying any fertilizer until next spring.

Don’t forget to prepare your house for the new arrivals. There’s nothing worse than watching the evening weather, only to discover that a freeze is on the way, and realize that you don’t have any room for your plants.

Protect evergreens. Evergreens in pots can be especially vulnerable. If their roots freeze, they may not make it through the winter. Those in large pots may be fine during mild winters, but evergreens in small pots should be protected. Place them against a wall and cover the pots with mulch or shredded leaves. Keep them watered throughout the winter. Don’t allow the root balls of evergreens in the garden dry out completely, even if it means dragging the hose out in the middle of winter and giving them a thorough soaking.

Cover tender seedlings in the vegetable garden. Fall veggies, especially tender seedlings, may need protection, although most can survive temperatures of around 28 degrees F with little or no tissue damage. Nevertheless, when the forecast calls for temperatures in that range, keep a few blankets handy to cover crops overnight.

During the day, if temperatures rise above freezing, remove the blankets so that excessive heat doesn’t accumulate beneath the coverings. Some people use clear plastic to protect their plants. Plastic causes more accumulation of heat, which is good, but if you don’t take the plastic off before direct sun hits it the next day, your plants will cook.

Grow hardy selections of culinary herbs during the winter months. Most culinary herbs are fairly tender but can survive temperatures in the upper 20s. However, some herbs, such as rosemary and thyme, can overwinter in their pots outdoors.

Watch out for new plant growth. Interestingly, some plants may actually start to put on new growth in response to cooler temperatures, especially if summer temps were really hot. But that new growth is tender, especially in the case of broadleaf and needled evergreens, and unless it has a chance to harden off before a freeze, it may die back.

Resist cutting back ornamental grasses. If you grow ornamental grasses, resist the temptation to cut the foliage back until late winter or early spring because all that top growth helps insulate the root ball. That’s especially true if the grass is only marginally hardy in your area.

Keep in mind that freezes don’t just affect plants. They can wreak havoc on other features in your garden as well.

Clean out and store pots in a protected area. Even the best pots can crack if the soil is left in them over the winter, so remember to remove the soil. If you have time and are so inclined, scrub the pots clean with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water.

Store watering cans in a protected area. Watering cans, especially galvanized cans, may expand and crack if water left in them freezes. Empty watering cans and place them where they can’t collect rainwater.

Winterize water features. Water features are of particular concern during the winter. Small features will freeze, despite the running water produced by the fountain, and that can ruin the pump and the pot. So make sure you drain them and store the pot and pump in the garage or garden shed. Depending on where you live, larger water features and ponds may freeze over somewhat, but if they are deep enough or have a waterfall rapid and large enough, they shouldn’t freeze solid. Consult a pond installation expert on how to properly winterize your water feature.

Prepare fish for the winter. Koi enter a state of suspended animation during the winter and survive the cold water with no problem. Cut back on feeding the koi because the more they eat, the more waste they produce. In cold water the bacteria that breaks down that waste doesn’t work well. So to maintain water quality, limit feeding to those occasional warm spells that may occur in the winter.

Generally speaking, winter frosts and freezes don’t cause nearly as many problems in the garden as late-spring freezes, when plants are busting out all over with tender new growth. So don’t panic this winter when the mercury takes a dive. Just do what you’ve got to do, then go inside and warm up by the fire.

(original post)

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10 Eco-Friendly Gardening Tips

Taking care of your lawn and garden is just as important as taking care of your roof. An attractive landscape can increase the value of your home and add curb appeal. Maintaining your lawn and garden properly can save money and time. Eco-friendly or “green,” landscaping habits can help the environment and decrease the amount of hazardous chemicals around your home. Did you know that the average suburban lawn uses six times the hazardous chemicals per acre as conventional farming does? Learn how to avoid chemical use below.

Tip 1: Water Efficiently: Water during strategically planned times only. The best time to water is between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. Watering in the afternoon is inefficient since water is lost due to evaporation and wind. The second-best time to water is between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Running an irrigation system excessively can waste a lot of water. Just one hour can use up to 250 gallons of water.

Tip 2: Install an Irrigation System: Consider the installation of a sprinkler or irrigation system for your lawn. Irrigation systems work well at targeting only the specific areas of your lawn that need to be watered, thus cutting back on unnecessary watering of uplanted areas. Irrigation systems are available with a timer option, which helps homeowners avoid overwatering by turning off the system at predetermined times. Make sure to check the weather forecast and turn off the timer when rain is predicted.

Tip 3: Go Organic: Say goodbye to chemical fertilizers and pesticides. There are many top-quality organic and natural weed killers. Additionally, organic compost can be used.

Tip 4: Make Your Own Compost: Make your own compost to use in your garden. Compost can be used as a fertilizer, serving as an excellent alternative to chemical-based fertilizers. Making your own compost involves mixing browns (such as dead leaves, branches or twigs, greens (such as grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps and coffee grounds) and water in a compost bin.

Tip 5: Mulch: Garden mulch can enhance the look of your garden and help keep it healthy. Spreading mulch in your garden can also save time by decreasing the need for watering, applying herbicides and pulling weeds.

Tip 6: Drought-Tolerant Plants: The technique of using drought-tolerant plants, known as xeriscaping will significantly help reduce water usage in your garden.

Tip 7: Native Plants: Planting native plants will cut down on the need for water and fertilizer. For example, if you live in Arizona, don’t plant high water plants such as bluegrass or clover.

Tip 8: Make Your Own Planters: Making your own planters is a great way to reuse empty containers. Rinse out plastic containers (cottage cheese, yogurt and dessert whip containers are just the right size), fill them with dirt, add a plant and you have a great new planter. Not only is this eco-friendly, it’s also inexpensive.

Tip 9: Harvest Rainwater: Harvesting rainwater means collecting and storing rainwater to be used for your lawn or garden. This is a simple way to conserve water and help your garden bloom.

Tip 10: Hang Birdfeeders and Nesting Boxes: Birdfeeders and nesting boxes attract birds to your garden. Birds are a great benefit to gardens as they eat unwanted pests, such as snails and slugs. Instead of using pesticide against these little bugs, simply invite the birds in and they’ll take care of the pests naturally.

(original post)

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Weeds You Can Eat: Dandelion

One person’s weed-filled lawn is another person’s salad bar.

Perhaps the most familiar lawn weed of them all, the dandelion may also be the weed that’s most known to be edible. In fact, the reason it exists in the U.S. is that European settlers introduced it as a salad green. You can buy dandelion greens at some specialty food markets, but odds are, there are some growing, for free, a whole lot closer to you. They have a slightly bitter taste when they mature, so harvest the tender leaves that appear in early spring and in late fall, when they’re sweetest. The flowers are edible too and have a mildly bittersweet flavor. And eat them up! Dandelions have more beta-carotene than carrots.

(original post)

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Getting Started with Sustainable Landscaping: Tips from the Field

Sustainability in landscape has many different meanings. Some define a sustainable landscape as a discipline that emphasizes plant health, soil condition, water quality, and resource conservation. To be sustainable does not mean the elimination of fertilizers, synthetic compounds, petroleum based products and gas powered equipment. Rather, sustainability means the creation of outdoor spaces that utilize the three R’s, ‘reduce, recycle, reuse’. A sustainable landscape creates a balanced relationship between the natural and manmade environment.

The Approach

Each year millions are spent on designing, building, and maintaining landscapes that use too many unsustainable resources. This is wasteful and depletes our water, contaminates the soil and water table, and pollutes the air from the use of gas-powered equipment. These problems can be avoided or reduced by practicing sustainable landscape design and construction. Using sustainable practices will reduce greenhouse gasses by conserving resources, energy and minimizing fertilizer and pesticide use. A sustainable landscape will also reduce labor costs, making it less expensive overall to implement and maintain.

Gary’s Sustainable Landscaping Guidelines

1. [For new planting areas] add 6″ of compost to the soil and use a rototiller to incorporate the compost into the top 4″.

2. Mulch and top dress with 3″ of compost.

3. Design low volume irrigation by installing low volume nozzles and subsurface drip system to reduce water use and increase soil moisture. Install an Evapo-Transpiration (ET) controller to reduce over watering. ET controllers use weather data to calculate ET.

4. Install drainage systems to eliminate storm water contamination and add rainwater harvest systems to reclaim run off and collect rainfall. This can be then pumped or gravity feed to the irrigation system.

5. Construct retaining walls, block or vegetative to prevent run off and erosion. Segmented retaining walls are a good way to prevent run off and erosion and allow for drainage behind them. They are engineered and can be built to over 4’. This wall system can keep soil and debris out of the storm water systems.

6. Plant lawn on level ground to prevent run off and conserve water. Always encourage clients to plant turf on the level (see #7)

7. Reduce amount of lawn and instead use ground cover plants or synthetic turf.

8. Practice prudent use of synthetic fertilizers and pest controls. Use Mechanical and natural methods as part of an integrated program. There are polymers on the market that will aerate the soil and combine with a liquid compost product to get great results.

9. Remember use products and materials that are part of Reuse, Reduce, Recycle practices.

(original post by the Ecological Landscaping Association)

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Weeds You Can Eat: Bamboo

One person’s weed-filled lawn is another person’s salad bar.

This familiar plant, made into everything from floorboards to pajamas, is actually a type of grass. And if anyone near you has ever planted any (it’s actually grown by U.S. farmers in warm climates and even as far north as New England), there’s a good chance some of it will spread into your yard because, once it escapes, the weed can be very invasive and hard to control. Bamboo shoots are full of fiber, and are sometimes described as tasting like corn. Should any pop up in your vicinity, harvest shoots that are less than two weeks old and under 1 foot tall. Bamboo shoots have to be cooked before you eat them: Peel the outer leaves away and remove any tough flesh. Cut across the grain into one-eighth-inch slices, and boil in an uncovered pan for 20 minutes (or longer, if there’s still a bitter taste to them). After they’re prepared in this way, you can eat them with some soy sauce, add to salads, or use them in stir-fries.

(original post)

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New Generation Discovers Grow-It-Yourself Dyes

When you are a practicing alchemist, as Sasha Duerr is, strangers will often ask you to demonstrate your powers by heating up a caldron in the yard. It’s a living, and Ms. Duerr is usually happy to give it a try. On a recent Monday afternoon, she had arranged to spark up three propane camp stoves and scavenge a few things to boil.

Ms. Duerr, 36, intended to show how easy it is to transmute common plants into natural fabric dyes of rare beauty. The formula has been an open secret since the days of Pliny the Elder: fill a pot with water, add a basket of leaves and a square of silk, bring the potion to a simmer. Then wait for the magic to happen.

Ms. Duerr had set up her folding table on the Oakland grounds of the California College of the Arts, where she teaches textile design. “Two years ago, we started this garden,” she said, walking into a shady corner near an earthquake supply shed. Before that, the unkempt space “was kind of a home for wayward art projects.”

In three or four beds ringed by salvaged bricks, Ms. Duerr has planted a “rainbow row.”

The root of the madder plant creates a true red. “Poppy roots make a yellow-orange,” she said. A light green comes from fava bean vines. “You know you can eat the fava leaves, too,” Ms. Duerr said. And she snapped off some foliage for a quick snack.

Across the street from the garden, a Wendy’s was advertising a crispy chicken sandwich at a shockingly low price. Ms. Duerr believes the equivalent of fast food is fast fashion: an industrial process filled with joyless overconsumption and noxious byproducts.

Today’s batch of botanical dyes, by contrast, would be safe to brew during Ms. Duerr’s pregnancy. (From the looks of it, she was about 48 weeks along.) As for wastefulness, Ms. Duerr said, “I almost never buy anything new.” This afternoon, for instance, she was wearing a pre-owned lime-yellow maternity top, which she had dyed with sour grass (a k a Bermuda buttercup), an invasive California weed.

A honeybee alighted on her shirt. “When you’re working with natural dyes, that happens all the time,” she said. “I’ve had hummingbirds come and sit on my shoulder. I’m sure there are plant pheromones. They see the color and it’s alive.”

In truth, the art of natural dyeing has been near dead since the mid-Victorian era. Yet in Ms. Duerr’s experience, the last couple of years have seen a new bloom of interest in growing botanical dyes.

In a formerly derelict lot in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, a new dye garden and Community Supported Agriculture program will begin this spring. The Textile Arts Center, which is helping to start the garden, will offer not just plant material, but a workshop and access to its Gowanus studio. All 10 of the offered shares sold out in mid-March.

Natural dyes exist all around us, said Isa Rodrigues, 26, who organizes the center’s Sewing Seeds program, yet “people are not aware of them.” Colors can come from common flowers (like dahlias and marigolds); tree leaves (Japanese maple, sweet gum); berries (blackberry, elderberry); herbs (mint, rosemary); nuts and shells (acorn, black walnut hulls); and barks (birch, madrone).

If you’re looking at a plant, you’re looking at a potential dye.

In old manuals, you can often spot the traditional dye plants — madder, woad, true indigo — from the word “tinctoria” or “tinctorum” in the botanical nomenclature. Yet Pamela Feldman, 58, has always needed to identify these mysterious specimens for the other community gardeners who share the grounds of the old Chicago Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium.

This spring, though, her weedy-looking plants may become a less exotic sight. At the annual planning meeting, Ms. Feldman learned, “there are four other people at the garden growing natural dye plants.”

Knowledge about sustainable dye techniques seems to be blowing around like so much pollen. For 17 years, Ms. Feldman has published the Turkey Red Journal (turkeyredjournal.com), a twice-yearly periodical that addresses recondite topics like Japanese mud dyes and Scandinavian mushroom coloring. But most dyers seem to learn through workshops or apprenticeships….

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE HERE

 

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Suffolk County Tests Wastewater Treatment Technology in Sag Harbor

On Monday, August 27, Suffolk County officials in conjunction with Sag Harbor Village and the Southampton-based Evergreen Wastewater Treatment Systems, Inc. installed Global Water’s Wastewater Recycling Test system at the Sag Harbor Wastewater Treatment Plant on Bay Street.

According to Damon Futterman of Evergreen Wastewater Treatment Systems, Inc. the “green” wastewater recycling system is one the United States military has used for over a decade. The system produces potable effluent, said Futterman, and no sludge — the byproduct of most wastewater treatment facilities which smells and can be potentially damaging to the environment when sold as fertilizer after being processed.

“It’s a totally green system,” said Futterman, who will have the rights to sell the system on Long Island if Suffolk County officials find the test in Sag Harbor is indeed successful.

Futterman said he learned about the technology after trying to find a solution for Southampton Village’s business district. Once the county heard about the technology, it was suggested that it be tested in Sag Harbor to see if it would be an effective method for local governments to explore as the county pushes for more environmentally sensitive wastewater methods — both in traditional wastewater treatment plants and in home septic systems.

According to Futterman, Suffolk County and an independent environmental testing firm will complete the study on the system’s effectiveness by the end of September.

(original post)

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14 Simple Gardening Tips and Tricks

From using leftover coffee beans to preventing dirt from getting underneath fingernails, master gardener Paul James shares his top 14 tips and shortcuts to make spring gardening a breeze.

1. To remove the salt deposits that form on clay pots, combine equal parts white vinegar, rubbing alcohol and water in a spray bottle. Apply the mixture to the pot and scrub with a plastic brush. Let the pot dry before you plant anything in it.

2. To prevent accumulating dirt under your fingernails while you work in the garden, draw your fingernails across a bar of soap and you’ll effectively seal the undersides of your nails so dirt can’t collect beneath them. Then, after you’ve finished in the garden, use a nailbrush to remove the soap and your nails will be sparkling clean.

3. To prevent the line on your string trimmer from jamming or breaking, treat with a spray vegetable oil before installing it in the trimmer.

4. Turn a long-handled tool into a measuring stick! Lay a long-handled garden tool on the ground, and next to it place a tape measure. Using a permanent marker, write inch and foot marks on the handle. When you need to space plants a certain distance apart (from just an inch to several feet) you’ll already have a measuring device in your hand.

5. To have garden twine handy when you need it, just stick a ball of twine in a small clay pot, pull the end of the twine through the drainage hole, and set the pot upside down in the garden. Do that, and you’ll never go looking for twine again.

6. Little clay pots make great cloches for protecting young plants from sudden, overnight frosts and freezes.

7. To turn a clay pot into a hose guide, just stab a roughly one-foot length of steel reinforcing bar into the ground at the corner of a bed and slip two clay pots over it: one facing down, the other facing up. The guides will prevent damage to your plants as you drag the hose along the bed.

8. To create perfectly natural markers, write the names of plants (using a permanent marker) on the flat faces of stones of various sizes and place them at or near the base of your plants.

9. Got aphids? You can control them with a strong blast of water from the hose or with insecticidal soap. But here’s another suggestion, one that’s a lot more fun; get some tape! Wrap a wide strip of tape around your hand, sticky side out, and pat the leaves of plants infested with aphids. Concentrate on the undersides of leaves, because that’s where the little buggers like to hide.

10. The next time you boil or steam vegetables, don’t pour the water down the drain, use it to water potted patio plants, and you’ll be amazed at how the plants respond to the “vegetable soup.”

11. Use leftover tea and coffee grounds to acidify the soil of acid-loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, gardenias and even blueberries. A light sprinkling of about one-quarter of an inch applied once a month will keep the pH of the soil on the acidic side.

12. Use chamomile tea to control damping-off fungus, which often attacks young seedlings quite suddenly. Just add a spot of tea to the soil around the base of seedlings once a week or use it as a foliar spray.

13. If you need an instant table for tea service, look no farther than your collection of clay pots and saucers. Just flip a good-sized pot over, and top it off with a large saucer. And when you’ve had your share of tea, fill the saucer with water, and your “table” is now a birdbath.

14. The quickest way in the world to dry herbs: just lay a sheet of newspaper on the seat of your car, arrange the herbs in a single layer, then roll up the windows and close the doors. Your herbs will be quickly dried to perfection. What’s more, your car will smell great.

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Sunflower Varieties For All Occasions

Which sunflower varieties are best for your garden?


The Best Sunflowers for the Birds and Bees

‘Giganteus’ produces heads a foot or more across (county fair alert!) on plants growing to 12 feet or more in height. It doesn’t need to be staked and produces pounds of seeds (for you and the birds).

‘Lemon Queen’ is the sunflower chosen by the Great Sunflower Project for its annual bee count. Bees love this sunflower, which can be grown in containers. It tops out at about 72 inches tall in the ground. Find out more about the project at greatsunflower.org.

‘Mammoth Grey Stripe’ is huge—growing to 12 feet tall—and it produces seed that both you and the birds will love on blooms about a foot across.

The Best Sunflowers for Cut Flowers

‘Autumn Beauty’, a multistem variety, grows 40 to 60 inches tall with 5-inch flowers in shades of red and yellow and bronze.

‘Chianti Hybrid’ is wine-red with flecks of gold, a real showstopper that tops out at around 5 feet. It’s multiple-branched with purple stems.

‘Italian White’ produces delicate 3-to-4-inch white to pale yellow blooms with brown centers on a 60-inch plant.

‘Soraya’ is the first sunflower named an All-America Selections Winner. Raised both for flowers and to attract birds, this branching plant produces 4-to-6-inch flowers in orange with dark centers on 6-foot-tall plants.

‘Taiyo’ is a top florists’ choice. Its 10-to-12-inch yellow blooms grow on a 5-to-6-foot plant.

The Best Big and Tall Sunflowers

‘Kong Hybrid’ is a sturdy-stemmed, 14-foot sunflower with perfectly round 10-inch golden flowers.

‘Mammoth Russian’ is the classic county-fair competition sunflower. It grows 12 to 15 feet with a 15-inch head filled with striped, edible seeds.

‘Sunzilla’ will grow to 16 feet tall with golden flowers filled with edible seeds.

‘Titan’ is an heirloom with giant golden flower heads growing to as much as 24 inches across.

The Best Small Sunflowers

‘Big Smile’ will give you one. These 10-to-24-inch plants produce 3-to-6-inch blooms in bright golden yellow with nearly black centers. Perfect for containers.

‘Elf’ produces 4-inch blooms on a plant that grows to only 16 inches tall—great for containers. Also attracts butterflies.

‘Junior’ is the first pollen-free, dwarf, branching sunflower. The 2-foot-high plants boast bright yellow petals on 4-to-5-inch faces.

‘Little Becka’ packs a lot of personality into a relatively small package. At only 3 feet high, it produces a profusion of 6-inch bicolor flowers of red and yellow.

The Best Pollen-Free Sunflowers

‘Bashful’ is a bushy plant producing 4-inch flowers of pastel yellow and salmon pink. And it’s a dwarf (could you tell by the name?) at only 36 inches high.

‘Chocolate Cherry’ is a midsized plant covered by chocolate-burgundy petals that surround dark brown disks.

‘Firecracker’ yields armfuls of gold and russet flowers on a compact, multistemmed plant that grows 2 to 3 feet high.

‘Moulin Rouge’ is a branching, 60-to-80-inch plant bearing 3-to-4-inch dark burgundy blooms.

The Best Sunflowers for Snacking

‘Hopi Black Dye’ is an indigenous variety once grown by Native Americans for use as both dye and food. Golden yellow petals surround a dark, blue-black center on a plant that grows to about 9 feet tall.

‘Royal Hybrid’ is a high-yielding seed used by growers to produce bird and snack seed for the market. Plants grow 7 feet and up and produce large, edible seeds on 8-inch flowerheads.

‘Snack Seed’ is a large-headed hybrid producing pounds of fat seeds for humans and birds.

‘Super Snack Mix’ produces only single, 10-inch flowers on a 5-foot plant, but the seeds are extremely large and easy to crack.

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