Tag Archives: garden

Henbit Edible, Prolific, Good for Bees & Hummingbirds

On Monday, on my way to Starkville to attend the Gaining Ground – Sustainability Institute of Mississippi board of directors meeting, I saw a giant field of henbit. I immediately pulled over and took a photo, because this often overlooked and unassuming plant is quite important to bees, hummingbirds, and — should be! — humans.

Some farmers might look at this field and say, ack, weeds! But for pollinators, this field of henbit is the Promised Land! (Photo by Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

Some farmers might look at this field and say, ack, weeds! But for pollinators, this field of henbit is the Promised Land! (Photo by Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

What a wonderful sight!!! For hungry bees, butterflies and hummingbirds this late winter, early spring “weed” is a godsend for its pollen and nectar.

At this time of year, when bees are foraging for pollen and nectar to stay alive, with their stores of honey from last year often depleted or dangerously low, henbit supplies needed sustenance.

Regular readers of this blog, perhaps, recognize that I’m something of a fanatic on this subject, as every year I urge farmers to please refrain from plowing under their henbit as long as possible, or spraying pre- or post-emerge herbicides. The bees will thank you!

In a few weeks, or now in some parts of the South, hummingbirds are making their way back north from the winter, and henbit provides an abundant supply of nectar for them, too!

It might not be a part of official farm policy to provide food for pollinators, but this humble little purple plant (a member of the mint family that tastes like kale) can be a tremendous food source.

Humans can eat henbit, too. The stem, flowers, and leaves are edible. It’s high in vitamins and you can cook it or eat it raw in salads, or make a tea from it.

According to naturalmedicinalherbs.net it has medicinal uses, including antirheumatic, diaphoretic, excitant, febrifuge, laxative and stimulant.

For more, see: http://www.ediblewildfood.com

So, if you see it growing in your garden and think, ack, what a noxious weed! Think again! This is a beneficial plant for pollinators that can spell the difference between life and death for some.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, and former organic farmer now teaching natural, sustainable and organic agricultural practices. His latest book is Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press). Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @EdiblePrayers or @OrganicWriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

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Still Too Early to Plant in Central MS

Everywhere I go, it seems, I bump into people who say, “I read your blog…. Have you planted your garden yet?” And I have to tell them: No, it’s still too early in central Mississippi.

Traditionally, down here anyway, the time to plant seeds was done by the moon, and around Good Friday.  I plan to plant the week after Easter, or the weekend of April 27 or thereabouts. (Photo by Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

Traditionally, down here anyway, the time to plant seeds was done by the moon, and around Good Friday. I plan to plant the week after Easter, or the weekend of April 27 or thereabouts. (Photo by Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

Traditionally, down here anyway, the time to plant seeds was done by the moon, and around Good Friday. For more than 30 years, I’ve always planted the week after Easter because we more often than not have a cold spell right at Easter, and I’m fairly assured that the crop will do well if planted afterwards.

This year, Easter is April 20. So, I’ll probably plant the weekend after, or around April 27.

The past two years, we’ve had warm winters, leading people to believe they can plant earlier than normal. (Although last spring was cold and rainy which didn’t do well for early planting.) Normally, April 15 is considered an early planting time. But the year before last, I probably could have planted in February and it would have done OK.

You want to plant as early as you can past the last frost, but not so early that the soil is cold and your seeds or plants just sit there and possibly rot in the ground.

Here’s a pdf frost chart for Miss.: http://bit.ly/f8QSAb.

For all states, see: http://bit.ly/i5SmsT.

As you can see by the chart, it’s a gamble to plant this time of year. As the chart shows, on March 23, for example, for Jackson, MS, it’s 50-50 whether the temperature will drop to 32 degrees and 90 percent that it will go down to 36 degrees. It’s only 10 percent, though, to reach 28 degrees. How lucky do you feel?

Sure, we could have a warm month and  you would be fine. But we could just as equally have an ice storm. Or one killing frost between now and Easter (which often is the case).

I’d just as soon not take the risk of having to reorder all my seeds or worrying if my plants were stunted, and would rather wait a little a bit to plant. It’s true that organic growers want to plant as early as possible to get a headstart on the bugs; a luxury that people who spray poisons can avoid. But having the first tomato on the block is not that important to me; having a good, healthy stand of tomatoes is much higher on the personal scale of priorities.

Most seed packets specify the proper soil temperature for sowing. Some plants do OK in cooler soils; some don’t.

For an ATTRA quick list of U.S. organic seed suppliers, see: http://ow.ly/sSsEm

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, and former organic farmer now teaching natural, sustainable and organic agricultural practices. His latest book is Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press). Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @EdiblePrayers or @OrganicWriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Garden Has Too Much Compost? Or Not Enough?

Just finished reading a fascinating article on soil fertility by Jon Frank (ACRES USA, Dec. 2013) that notes that gardens can “abused” by too much compost. Is there such a thing?

Frank, owner of International Ag Labs, a private soil testing firm (www.aglabs.com) gives examples of gardens “abused by too much compost” and gardens with “neglected/abandoned soil.” (See illustration)

Jon Frank (ACRES USA, Dec. 2013) asserts that gardens can "abused" by too much compost. Interesting article. But I think most gardens are not in that category. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Jon Frank (ACRES USA, Dec. 2013) asserts that gardens can be “abused” by too much compost. Interesting article. But I think most gardens are not in that category. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Frank posits that if you want to have maximum nutrient density in your crops, then you should ignore humus (as it will sort itself out with proper mineral content), and should have:

— Nitrogen: manage by crop needs and conductivity;

— P and K: 200-300 pounds each, 1 to 1 ratio; increase K slightly for Potassium-loving plants;

— Calcium: 3,500-4,000 pounds per acre; calcium to magnesium ration from 7-15:1;

Conductivity: 400-600 micro Siemens/centimeter — and he gives amendments necessary to correct that (for more, see the article).

I say it’s a fascinating article because, honestly, after wracking my brain, I can think of few gardens that suffer from “too much” compost. I do remember one friend’s garden that I suspect was “too much.” The soil was so moist and rich that it probably could have served as a worm bed for all its amendments.

But even Frank notes that the solution to a garden “abused” by too much compost is simply to grow more without adding more. Maybe “abuse” is too strong a word for the issue of adding compost. Additionally, given the fact that it takes so much raw vegetative matter to create so little “black gold,” I doubt too many gardens are approaching the “abuse” stage.

Nonetheless, the figures Frank gives are instructional. Looking at the soil report I obtained for my garden from Mississippi State Cooperative Extension Service (see earlier blog), I can see that there are some interesting figures that conflict with Frank’s interpretations.

Mind you, this garden is brand new; my landlady said the backyard was used as a garden many years ago, but not in the past 10 years or so. My test and the MSU interpretation vs Frank’s interpretation:

Phosphorus — 132 lbs per acre (MSU: high) – Frank says this is low and should be 200-300 lbs. I suspect that, with adding compost, that figure will rise;

Potassium – 156 lbs per acre (MSU: low) – Frank says this is just below the 200-300 pounds that’s ideal. Again, I suspect that compost will raise that.

Magnesium – 369 lbs per acre (MSU: very high) – linked to calcium by Frank;

Zinc – 97.9 lbs per acre (MSU: very high) – Not considered most important by Frank. That could fall, if I’m growing green manures (cover crops), which I expect to do;

Calcium – 3706 lbs per acre – Falls within perfect number for Frank and within the proper ratio to Magnesium he gives.

Everyone who has a garden/farm and pays attention to soil tests probably has his/her own ideas about what the proper ratios should be and how to go about fixing them.

MSU, in my soil report, for example, suggests 34-0-0 pre plant (high nitrogen) fertilizer and 0-0-60 (high Potash) fertilizer — synthetic chemicals. In my opinion, shared by most organic growers, such a course of action would burn the soil, killing earthworms and microbes that keep the soil environment healthy.

Rather, what I intend to do is plant the seeds with a fish emulsion to provide nitrogen, then side dress (adding more natural liquid fertilizer) and foliar feeding after the plants are up. In addition, I plan to plant clover between the rows and on unused soil to build nitrogen for my fall planting.

I don’t know if this falls within Frank’s ideas or not; but I agree with his overarching conclusion that it’s the “pattern” of nutrients in the soil that’s more important than the figures alone. Visual symptoms of the plants themselves will tell you what’s going on with the soil.  And: “Your role as steward of the soil is to create the right pattern in the soil.”

I would say that I disagree on his view on humus; in my opinion, developing proper humus ensures better availability of nutrients, which is what he’s aiming at. You can’t build tilth with minerals alone; you must build humus to create the environment for plants to efficiently process available nutrients. Proper humus assures adequate water retention, oxygen in the soil, and ease of root and fungal growth. This is done by rotating crops, plowing under green manure, adding compost and soil amendments, as needed.

As he notes, plants grown directly above a limestone bed can show a calcium deficiency, but biologically available calcium is as much a product of good soil structure (in my opinion) as the ratio of other minerals that can be tested in the lab.

It may be a question of which end of the microscope you are looking through; the goal — and ingredients — remain the same. But soil structure, humus, tilth, are issues that a organic gardener/farmer can readily see and control. To ignore that end of the equation may be just as much a “neglect” or “abuse” of soils as any scientific test may reveal.

For the average gardener, what does this mean? Give your soil the love it richly deserves, using natural, sustainable and organic growing methods, and it will richly reward you with healthful, nutritionally dense foods.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, and former organic farmer now teaching natural, sustainable and organic agricultural practices. His latest book is Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press). Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @EdiblePrayers or @OrganicWriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Time to Start Work on Garden, Bees

For gardeners in the South, now is the time to at least start planning your garden this year; if you grow organic, or raise bees, it’s maybe even getting a little late.

Even though it's cold outside, it's time to start work on your garden in the South, if you have a new one or are expanding. Here, I ran a first pass over my backyard. I've moved to the city and am putting in a new garden. (Photo by Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

Even though it’s cold outside, it’s time to start work on your garden in the South, if you have a new one or are expanding. Here, I ran a first pass over my backyard. I’ve moved to the city and am putting in a new garden. (Photo by Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

Why so? If you’re a beekeeper, and you need to replenish a hive or start a new one, you should have ordered your bees in November. That’s sort of a traditional time to order, so that bee breeders can know what to expect. Moreover, if you wait until spring, all the available queens, nucs or packaged bees may be sold out.

That’s especially true of people who follow natural beekeeping, or keeping bees without chemicals; there are fewer commercial breeders. (And before you email me, I recommend two: BeeLicious in Hattiesburg, MS, and Beeweaver in Texas.)

Regarding gardening, it’s somewhat the same story if you’re an organic gardener.

You want to plant as early as possible after frost in order to try to get a leg up on the bugs. I usually start planting the week after Easter (in central Mississippi).

I’ve just recently moved to “the big city” — well, it’s a small city, population 1,400 — but it’s “big” for me after living in the country for the past 15 years. (You can read more about it in my newsletter: http://mad.ly/36ff64?pact=20069131533&fe=1)

With the permission of my landlady, I’m putting in a garden. I managed to get a first pass with my tiller on January 31, to break up the roots of the turf grass. I’ll give it another pass in a week or so; then, add compost and till it.

The proposed garden has good black soil. I'll have it tested by the state soil lab just to see what's in it. If you're an organic grower, you need to test your soil every year. (Photo by Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

The proposed garden has good black soil. I’ll have it tested by the state soil lab just to see what’s in it. If you’re an organic grower, you need to test your soil every year. (Photo by Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

Not sure what I’m going to plant yet. I’ll send off a soil sample to get it tested and find out what it needs, if anything. Regardless, I plan to build up the soil with compost and might boost it with “green manure” (a cover crop).

We’ll see….

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @edibleprayers or visit blueskywaters.com.

Let Trees Do The Work For Next Spring’s Garden

Oct. 10, 2012
Honor the Tree: Let it do the Work for next Spring’s Garden

People  who garden can always find things to do. Sometimes, it seems we have too little time to actually enjoy our gardens. So why waste time, or a  season, for that matter? You can get a head start on next spring’s  organic garden now
and free yourself for relaxation and enjoyment.
How? Take advantage of “free” vegetative matter to build up your next year’s garden bed with leaves.
Fall  brings leaves by the ton, not only in our yards but around our neighborhoods and, well, everywhere there’s a tree. People are busy  raking and
bagging them up, in fact, so they can be picked up in urban  areas to be thrown away. Country folk often just pile them up and burn  them. Why let this free vegetable matter go to waste? Or, worse, add to  pollution?
Think  for a minute: The trees took nutrients from the soil last spring and mixed with sunlight, air and water came up with these glorious leaves to  shade us all summer. That’s a lot of energy expended. That’s a lot of  soil nutrients.
Why dump it in a landfill?
Honor  the tree. Recycle! Ask your neighbor (if you are sure he or she hasn’t been spraying trees with poison) if you can take those piled leaves.
You  can just dump them in your garden, as thick as you like, and cover them with plastic (black or clear, doesn’t matter), and next spring you will  have
nicely composted leaves with added nutrients from the other yard(s) to your garden—free imported fertilizer. It should be decomposed  enough to mix with compost you have saved also to provide a rich, dark,  loamy growing medium ready
to plant.
It’s  also a great way to expand your garden. If, say, you have a 4-foot by 8-foot Jim’s plot and want to double it in size, just put down cardboard  or
layers of old newspapers (to block weeds) in the new area, and put  leaves on it and cover it with plastic. When you uncover it in  the spring, voila! New
garden!
It’s  called “lasagna gardening.” That is, layering paper or cardboard and leaves like lasagna to create a raised bed for plants. No tilling. No  muss, no
fuss.
Some  purists will say that one type of leaf—say oak, or pine or pecan—is too acidic or whatever to use in this way. Don’t worry about it. If you, as  I
always recommend, take a soil sample each spring to be tested for  fertility, pH, etc., you can determine exactly which amendments are  needed to produce the food you want to grow.
The  main thing is to not waste this opportunity. Now is the time to prepare for spring. Let the seasons do the work for you, so you can enjoy your  garden come spring.
Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Irrigating The Organic Garden

Proper Irrigation Helps Keep Plants Disease Free

July 12, 2012

Water, Water Everywhere….

People who jump into organic  gardening without any preparation often start off
on the wrong foot by  overwatering or not watering properly. They may have
stereotypes in  their minds that are hard to erase. One is the image of lawn
sprinklers  casting long arcs of water into the air, as is often seen in photos
of  golf courses.
While  watering with a sprinkler like that can work, it’s not the best way  and,
if done in the heat of the day or in the evening is an example of  how not to
water your garden and can even be self-defeating. While it  may give the
gardener the impression that he or she has “done some work  in the garden,” it
can be harmful for two reasons: First, during a hot,  sunny day, the water
mostly evaporates before it can soak in to the  plants’ roots where it can
actually do some good. Second, sprinkling  raises humidity in the garden, which
can create ideal conditions for  harmful fungal and bacterial growth, and
rejuvenate viruses in the soil  that can stunt or kill plants. The effect is
worse if you use sprinkling  techniques in the late evening; it allows fungi and
bacteria to grow  overnight and really “set in.”
If  you use a sprinkler in your garden, it’s best to use it in the morning  and
leave it running long enough so that the water soaks in. The garden  will then
have all day in the sun. Water on the leaves, plant stems and  the ground
surface will dry out as the day goes on, leaving the water  where it belongs, at
the roots.
You  will find that morning watering in this way can be a great delight.  Birds
use the puddles to splash in and wash themselves, pollinators will  flitter in
and out, drinking the precious liquid, and your plants will  seem to grow and
blossom before your very eyes as they absorb the  moisture and turn their leafy
faces toward the sun. It can be a  spiritual experience.
The  key is to not overwater. Once a week is plenty, and you may need to  water
less. To test whether your garden needs watering, stick your  finger in the
soil. If your finger goes in easily with a slight feeling  of moisture, it’s
fine. If it’s muddy, it’s too wet.
It’s  a careful balance. Plant roots need to be able to breathe in the soil.
That requires air pockets as well as moisture. You want your soil to be  light
and fluffy (have good “tilth”) with lots of organic matter, but  damp enough so
that earthworms can happy slither through, and beneficial  bacteria and fungi
can thrive. In organic gardening, your soil is  alive. It needs to thrive for
your plants to thrive.
Professional  gardeners, of course, have found more efficient (and often
expensive)  ways to water their crops. Some use garden or lawn sprinklers on
tripods  with timers so that they can soak a large area in a small amount of
time. By moving the tripods, they’re able to cover several acres. If  your
garden is the small, backyard variety, timers and tripods probably  aren’t
necessary.
Drip  and soaker systems are additional watering options for larger gardens.
Drip irrigation sends an even supply of water directly to the root zone.  It
uses less water because it doesn’t run off on the surface (carrying  precious
top soil with it) or evaporate as readily as water mist sprayed  into the air.
It almost eradicates mold or fungal concerns because the  drip tape or soaker
hose is in contact with the soil. In established  crop systems, gardeners often
will bury the hoses so they stay put,  about 4 inches deep, so they water only
the roots. Burying your soaker  hoses to keep them from freezing and splitting
is a good idea if you  plan to leave them out during the winter.
Unburied  hoses will give you the advantage of using them where they’re needed
most and removing them otherwise. But whether you bury your soakers or  leave
them above ground, you’ll need to be careful when you mow around  the garden, or till within it. With buried hoses, be sure to remember  (or mark) where you
buried them!
Soaker  hoses are available at most garden supply stores and online. Because
you want the water pressure to be low throughout your garden, keep your  hose
sections to no longer than 100 feet. If you need additional length,  connect
100-foot sections using garden hose splitters with adjustable  valves. That way,
you can adjust the flow in each section—open the  valves for highest flow at the
end, lowest at the beginning.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Make organic garden an ‘open space, sacred space’

April 6, 2012

Make organic garden an ‘open space, sacred space’

“Every neighborhood needs a Walden Pond in their backyard, a place where people can be in nature and reconnect to themselves, to the land, and to each other.”

So say Tom and Kitty Stoner, founders of the TKF Foundation, and its Open Spaces, Sacred Places program that supports having natural oases in cities, neighborhoods and businesses.
Today, Good Friday, is traditional planting time in central Mississippi. Given the oddly warm and even hot weather, it seems late to plant, but it’s not. The best time is just starting.
Planning your garden is part of the fun, as well. You, too, can make your organic garden a welcoming place for others, or for rejuvenating yourself. That’s what gardens are all about, in my view anyway. They feed the body and the soul.
Over next to our spring/fall garden plot, I have a reclining chair. During warm weather – even winter, if the sun is out – my beautiful wife Annette can frequently find me there, looking out over the rows and spirals of plants in the garden.
In sunny weather, I watch the bees buzz from flower to flower while laden with pollen like they’re wearing waders. I watch the butterflies in their arrays of yellows, oranges and blues, flit here and there. And the birds drop from the sky to alight, eying bugs in the soft soil. We are serenaded by their birdsong.
Sometimes, I take a book to read. Sometimes, I just hold the book in my lap, transfixed by nature’s unfolding tableau.
According to the Stoners’ website, http://www.opensacred.org, an Open Space, Sacred Space has four elements: portal, path, destination and surround. Each is self-explanatory, with the Stoners concluding: “The Sense of Surround ensures that the visitor is safe within the sacred space, until his or her return to everyday life, retracing steps on the path and moving back out through the portal.”
The wonder is that these oases can be built just about anywhere, or everywhere. Perhaps, wherever the heart yearns for peace and a place that helps reveal the joy that resides within.

Reader response: What liquid organic fertilizer do you recommend? How can it be applied?
I don’t recommend any brand, but to get transplants and seeds started we usually mix kelp and fish emulsion or blood meal.
You can take your seedlings and dip them in the mix and plant them, to give them a boost. Or dribble it around the roots for a topical dressing. Later, you can spray the kelp as foliar feeding.
Check local garden stores’ organic sections. If they’re OMRI approved (www.omri. org), they should be fine.
If you are vegan and don’t approve of using animal products, you can use mineral mixes with the same elements. Just read the labels or go online.
Bottles of fertilizer are pricey, but they also go a long way; you don’t have to apply very often.

Reader response: I heard someone say “plants can’t tell the difference between synthetic and organic fertilizer.” Is this true?
Well, if you believe what the chemical companies tell you, that’s true. But if you call yourself an organic grower, no way!
First: Synthetic fertilizers are banned in the National Organic Program. You cannot be certified organic and use them.
Second, using synthetic fertilizers also is an affront to the basic philosophy of organics. Organic growing is from the soil up, not the chemical applicator down.
Ammonia- based synthetic fertilizers kill microorganisms in the soil, kill earthworms that keep it aerated and fertilized by their natural processes,they burn plant roots and destroy humus.
They weaken plants’ resistance to disease; which works out great for chemical manufacturers because they then can also sell chemical insecticides, fungicides and other poisons.
That’s in the microcosm: your own backyard. In the macrocosm, they poison drinking water, kill lakes and cause waterways to choke with weeds; they even are responsible for the giant dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where there is no oxygen.
You can’t throw harsh chemicals on the soil and not expect consequences – in our food, yards or planet.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Planting by the ‘signs’ so old, it’s new again

March 30, 2012
Planting by ‘the signs’ so old, it’s new again – and timely!

Good Friday – April 6 – is traditional planting time. Some people go by the calendar when they plant, some by how the weather feels. Like now: It’s
(freakishly) warm, right?
But the old folks used to take into account the moon and stars.
Maria Thun, who lives in Germany and has been putting her guide together since the 1950s, is the internationally recognized expert on this, known in
biodynamic farming circles as the voice of planting by “the signs.” Thun’s guide is published in 18 languages.
Such calculations can also tell the best time to work with bees, Thun contends. As the bees live in darkness in their hives, their rhythms are along
the lines of root crops, which have their own cycles she calls “root days.”
The best time to plant flowering plants is on “flower days,” she says, when the ascending moon is in Libra, Gemini or Aquarius. Fruit plants grown from
seed such as beans and tomatoes are best planted or tended on “fruit days” when the ascending moon is in Leo, Sagittarius or Aries. Cabbages, lettuces and the like are best tended on “leaf days.”
Thun’s guide for 2012 shows this week to be a good time to plant, with leaf days Sunday and Monday; fruit days late Monday and all day Tuesday; and a
partial root day Thursday.
From April 8-14: Partial root and flower Sunday (Easter); partial flower and leaf Monday; leaf Tuesday; partial leaf and fruit Wednesday; fruit Thursday and Friday; and root Saturday.
The Best Southern U.S. transplanting time is April 11-25.
Her North American Biodynamic Sowing and Planting Calendar 2012 (Floris Books, $13.95) is available from Steiner Books: P.O. Box 960; Herndon VA 20172-0960; (703) 661-1594; or http://www.steinerbooks.org.

Worms not so icky, huh: My column on earthworms was a big hit.
A caller said his late wife used to order worms through the mail and sprinkle them around her garden. It was less messy than raising worms, he said. You can buy red wigglers by the pound at bait shops, or order them online. (Here’s one place we have bought worms: http://www.unclejimswormfarm.com/. You can buy 1,000 for $18.95 plus shipping.)
The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has a web page devoted to vermi-composting: http://bit.ly/HmxboE .
The “Worm Woman” lives on: Although Mary “Worm Woman” Appelhof died in 2005, her writings live on: http://www.wormwoman. com.
World Wide Worm Web?: For all worms all the time, commentary, forums, etc., see: http://www.wormdigest.org.
The definitive book on worms: The Earth Moved by Amy Stewart – a New York Times best-selling author, no less – with 213 pages on worms, just reissued in
paperback: Algonquin Books; $12.95.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Foraging for ‘Farm-aceuticals’ a healthy pastime

Foraging for ‘farm-aceuticals’ provides a healthy pastime

With warm weather playing “hide and seek” with winter, lots of  “weeds” are popping up, but don’t be quick to pull them up from the  organic garden, as they can provide “farm-aceuticals.”
According  to renowned herbalist Susun Weed (Healing Wise, Ash Tree Publishing,  2003, $17.95), here are a few “weeds” with medicinal properties:
•Chickweed (Stellaria media) dissolves cysts, tonifies the thyroid and aids in weight loss.
•Daisy (Bellis perennis) relieves headaches, muscle pain and allergy symptoms.
•Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) relieves gas, heartburn and indigestion.
•Dock, also called yellow dock, curly dock and broad dock helps “all women’s problems.”
•Plantain, also called ribwort or pig’s ear, speeds healing, relieves pain, stops itching.
•St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) relieves muscle aches, is useful with shingles, sciatica, back pain and headaches.
For details, see: www.matrifocus.com/BEL07/wisewoman.htm.

Reader response: Are genetically modified foods really a problem?
I’ll answer with a couple of quotes from Food Inc. by Eric Schlosser:
•”Animal  genes and even human genes are randomly inserted into the chromosomes  of plants, fish and animals, creating heretofore unimaginable transgenic  lifeforms. For the first time in history, transnational biotechnology  corporations are becoming the architects and ‘owners’ of life.”
•”With  little or no regulatory restraints, labeling requirements or scientific  protocol, bioengineers have begun creating hundreds of new GE  ‘frankenfoods’ and crops. The research is done with little concern for  the human and environmental hazards.”
•”An increasing number of  scientists are warning that current gene-splicing techniques are crude,  inexact and unpredictable – and therefore inherently dangerous.”
I  think that sums it up: It’s unregulated, possibly unsafe for humans,  certainly a danger to the environment, morally questionable, and likely  to make developing countries even more dependent on hand-outs or subject  to starvation.

California may vote on GMO: Polling shows  80 percent of California voters support labels on GMO  foods. And they  are starting a petition drive to put it on their Nov. 6 ballot.
Organic and food safety interests will be watching; it’s likely, as goes California, so goes the nation. For more, see: http://organicconsumersfund.org.

Come see me: I’ll be speaking Feb. 25 at the Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute  of Mississippi conference at Eagle Ridge Conference Center in Raymond  on Organic Backyard Market Gardening. For more information, visit www.ggsim.org

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Don’t have much space for organic garden? Grow up!

Jan. 21, 2010
Don’t have much space for organic garden? Grow up!

Folks who live in urban areas or apartments may sometimes feel left out of the grow-your-own organic food movement.
Don’t! In addition to community supported agriculture, where churches, civic groups, neighbors and/or farmer/entrepreneurs often offer urban gardens, it may only take a little ingenuity to be growing wholesome, nutritious food.
For example, pots or buckets on apartment balconies (even on high rises) can offer great spots for winter greens or summer tomatoes.
For those with no yard to speak of, like a town house, if you have a garage, you can plant in a wheelbarrow and simply roll it out during the day and back in at night.
But one of the most creative compendiums of ideas for the garden challenged is a new book: Vertical Vegetables and Fruit: Creative Gardening Techniques for Growing Up in Small Spaces by Rhonda Massingham Hart (Storey Publishing, $16.95).
Although the book is mostly devoted to small plots, that is, people who have a few feet of actual ground to work with, it also gives ample instructions on other ways to grow in small spaces, such as using hanging pots, buckets and pruning techniques.
It also gives good tips for varieties of plants, seeds and soil requirements.
Primarily, though, it emphasizes a fact that many folks may have overlooked: “Every square foot of garden space comes with a bonus 6 cubic feet or more of usable growing space above it.”
Maybe for some folks in urban or cramped quarters now is a good time to start planning for spring with a new outlook.
In other words, it’s time to get vertical and grow up!

Paula Deen’s larding it on: I’m disappointed that Paula Deen, who has made a fortune showing people how to cook fried foods, didn’t take the opportunity of announcing her Type 2 diabetes this week with a change of lifestyle.
She could have made an impact in diabetes prevention.
Instead she announced her illness saying that she’s actually had it for three years – and was unapologetic about her role in promoting unhealthy diets, saying that people should eat what they want. The point seemed to be her having inked a contract with a pharmaceutical company for an insulin alterative drug.
But why not eat a healthy diet to help prevent diabetes to begin with?
Taking her at her word, Deen achieved fame promoting unhealthy diets and now indeed must bear personal responsibility for her choice. She now will also be an example of what not to eat.
Mississippians, listed as having the most obese people of any state and suffering all the ills of poor diet – diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, joint problems and reduced physical mobility – should take note.
A balanced diet and moderate exercise can do wonders.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.