Tag Archives: planting

It’s not too late to plant

It’s not too late to plant
May 2, 2012

For those who have been thinking “I’d like to start an organic garden  this year,” it’s not too late. Lots of folks plant during the first week  in May.
Traditionally in Mississippi, the old folks advise planting on  Good Friday, but that’s not a hard rule, and it mostly applies to seeds,  not “starts,” or plants
started in pots. Also, we generally experience a  frost around Easter in Mississippi, which can kill tender plants. So  it’s often wise to wait until the
week after Easter to plant.
That covers early planting, but what about on the other end? How late can you plant?
You can plant just about anytime in spring and summer and grow fresh,  wholesome fruits and vegetables. For organic gardens, the operative word  is “bugs.”
Because we don’t use chemical poisons—where one can plant  late and then spray and spray and spray to control ever more hatches of  insects—we want to get started early and allow both beneficial and  harmful insects to develop together, in balance.
At my little ShooFly farm, anyway, we plant early to harvest before it  gets really hot in August. Who wants to be out working in the hot sun  when it’s 100
degrees and the humidity is 98 percent? We don’t, for  sure!
It’s a balancing act; you don’t want to plant too early and endanger  the plants via frost or when the soil is so cold that seeds don’t  germinate and rot in the
ground. Plant too early and your plants may  become stunted, but you don’t want to wait so long that the bugs are  already established to eat up your plants.
To plan a timeline for your garden, just read the seed packet. It will  say how many days until maturity. For example, if you plant corn with 90  days maturity,
and you plant May 2, you can expect ripe corn August 2  or thereabouts.

Making a ‘Jim’s Plot’
I recommend  creating a “Jim’s Plot,” a 4-foot by 8-foot plot, either  raised bed or not,  to start your garden. If you like, you can always  expand it; but
that’s a good starting size.
Outline a 4-by-8 area and enclose it in nontoxic materials. You can buy  synthetic lumber, including stuff made from recycled plastics and  rubber, or
use materials you have at hand like concrete blocks, tin or  other materials. You could also simply mound up the soil as a natural  boundary or use cedar or
redwood lumber.
In the plot, use either bagged soil—Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Garden  Soil is widely available at garden stores and is OMRI (Organic Materials  Review
Institute) approved for certified organic use—or dig from areas  of your yard where leaves may have accumulated over the years to provide  loamy soil. Work the soil with a shovel to loosen it to the depth of  the shovel (about 8 inches), or use a garden tiller. Start keeping a  compost bin and add compost
periodically to build up the soil.
It should take you maybe a day to build and plant the plot. Use  certified organic seeds (available at local garden supply stores) or  heirloom plants. To
be all organic, don’t use hybrids or genetically  modified (GMO) plants.

Women and Their Gardens
“Women and Their Gardens” by Catherine Horwood (Ball Publishing, 2012,  $26.95) would make a terrific Mother’s Day gift idea. Subtitled “A  History from the Elizabethan Era to Today,” it’s a hefty tome at 431  pages, but it’s filled with interesting lore from the 18th-century  salons of Mayfair to the women gardeners of World War II. The book’s  focus is English gardens; it doesn’t delve into the modern  small-agriculture movement in America that is liberally composed of  young women. But if she’s into gardening, mom might like it.

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.

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Getting started growing organic food easy as 1-2-3

March 2, 2012
Getting started with growing organic food easy as 1-2-3

Think growing organic food is difficult? If you have a wheelbarrow, garage and driveway, it’s as easy as 1-2-3.

1) Presumably, your garage doesn’t get below 32 degrees. If so, go to the garden store and buy a couple of bags of organic potting soil (Miracle-Gro makes OMRI-approved Organic Choice for certified organic gardening; it’s usually available at Walmart);

2) Put your bags of potting soil in your wheelbarrow; plant your organic or heirloom seeds by punching them through the plastic bag into the contained soil and lightly water (don’t overwater, or make soggy);

3) During the day, if temps are warm, lightly water or mist the soil and wheel the wheelbarrow to a sunny spot in the driveway; at night, wheel it back into the garage.

Within days, you will have plants sprouting, and in about 4-5 weeks, they will be ready to put into your 4-foot-by-8-foot organic “Jim’s plot.” Or, if you keep them pruned, they can produce right there in the wheelbarrow!

See, one, two, three. Who says organic gardening is hard to do?

Reader response on feeding bees: A woman called to question last week’s item about beekeepers needing to feed the bees. While not a “beek,” she wanted to know if she could help, too, adding that she had found where some bees had drowned in a container while apparently looking for water on her patio. Some observations:

First, bees require lots of water and if they don’t have a place to land (such as a leaf) in a pond or other water source, many can drown trying to obtain it. During drought, it’s a good idea to offer bees a water source, and it can be done by putting gravel in a baking pan (in shade) and filling it with water so that the bees can stand on the rocks and sip.

Similarly, one can pour a mixture of organic sugar and water in the pan to feed bees (mix sugar into warm, not hot, water until it won’t absorb any more to make the syrup). Beekeepers have specially designed feeders for their hives that release sugar water, as needed, by the bees. It’s important to keep the sugar water fresh, so it doesn’t spoil, just as you would do with hummingbird feeders.

Note: Do NOT give bees honey. While honey is safe for humans, each bee colony has its own viral load of diseases specific to that hive; bees, for example, in natural (or organic) hives without antibiotic treatments by the beekeeper could be killed off by being fed honey from treated bees. Even “raw” or organic honey can transmit diseases that the bees may not have.

Just give them sugar water.

Need bees? Smart beekeepers order their bees in November for spring delivery. There are still a few beekeepers with bees to sell; one “natural” beekeeper (without chemicals) is Beelicious Honey in Hattiesburg. I saw the owners recently and they have a few orders left. For details, visit http://www.beelicioushoney.com or write info@beelicioushoney.com or call (601) 447-4658. You will have to pick up the bees in person.

Aldo Leopold showing at Millsaps: On Tuesday, Millsaps is showing Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time, the first full-length, high-definition documentary film made about the legendary conservationist.

Although probably best known as the author of the conservation classic A Sand County Almanac, Leopold is also renowned for his work as an educator, philosopher, forester, ecologist and wilderness advocate.

For tickets, call (601) 974-1130. Tickets are also available at the door. Admission is $10. For additional information, visit http://www.aldoleopold. org/greenfire.

Ag Day: National “Ag Day” will be observed Thursday at the Mississippi Farmers Market on High Street in Jackson, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Speeches and fresh, locally produced food will be the highlights.

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.

Soil’s Voracious Appetite

February 11, 2011

Soil with voracious appetite key to organic garden

How’s your 4×8-foot organic “Jim’s Plot” doing? If your garden is like ours, most of the plants have played out their life cycle or succumbed to the cold weather, even using Agribon or some type of frost-prevention row covers.

It’s a mixed lot; and a pretty ragged one! This winter has not been kind, but it should pay off with fewer bugs in summer.

Some of these plants, like the chard and carrots, will spring to life in spring. So, don’t be too quick to pull up old plants if they appear to have good roots.

Pretty soon it will be time to plant again. I know, looking at seed catalogs has you champing at the bit, but it’s not time yet.

Look ahead on the calendar. When do you intend to plant?

Here in central Mississippi, the old folks used to plant seeds on Good Friday, which this year is April 22. To be cautious, I’ve always planted a week after Easter, as we sometimes have a frost that week; Easter this year is April 24. That’s kind of late.

We’ll probably set out plants in March, relying on Agribon to protect them from frost; but that’s a gamble. According to the temperature tables, there’s a 50 percent chance of 28 degree weather where we are on March 9, and warms thereafter.

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

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

Most of our neighbors set out summer crop plants the first week in May. But there’s a caveat: They use pesticides, herbicides, etc. For organic growing, if you want to beat the bugs, plant as early as you can after the last frost date. We don’t have the luxury of spraying bugs.

So, to set your planting timetable, count back at least 60 days (and possibly 90 days), which should be now: Time to work your soil to make sure that it will have digested all the old plant material from your cover crops and any other green amendments so you are not robbing your new plants in spring from nitrogen being used in the decomposition process.

Why the variation in time? You want your soil to be hungry and healthy.

Healthy soil with lots of microorganisms in it is hungry and will digest vegetable matter quickly, turning it into rich, moist earth with lots of “loft” in it, to hold moisture and combat compaction; unhealthy soil will take time.

You know that smell of freshly turned earth? That’s actually the odor of actinomycetes, fungi-like bacteria. Soil repeatedly dosed with chemicals lacks that odor and the moist, crumbly texture of living soils.

Chemically laced soils can still grow crops when more chemicals are added, even when all the naturally occurring fungi that act to feed plants are killed off by them. But we want a full organic symphony of nutrients for full flavors with our food crops.

You can quicken the soil digestion process, if needed, by adding micro-organisms used for compost (such as actinomycetes, rhizobial bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi, Azolla, yeast and others, as long as they are not genetically modified organisms, GMO, which are forbidden in organic products) available from garden supply stores or online. Healthy micro-organisms with lots of vegetable mass for them to eat create robust soils for healthier, bountiful crops.

You might also consider buying a screw-in chlorine filter for your garden hose (available from pool or spa supply stores) to use when watering to keep from stunting the soil micro-organisms.

Keep dumping composted compost in your plot; and stir it around some. If you have some leaves, put them in; keep turning them. It may not appear that much is happening in your garden, but it’s busy. The soil is repairing itself from the growing season, with a little help from you, to make it ready for spring.

We want soil for planting with good “tilth,” crumbly and loose, that smells alive like fresh-turned earth!

Homesteaders, have you ordered your chickens yet?

If you plan on backyard chickens, the major suppliers generally ship from February to July.

Some online sites:

Video – PallenSmith Choosing the Right Chicken Breed for You: http://ow.ly/2Pmzf.

Catalog: Murray McMurray Hatchery: http://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com. Or write: Murray McMurray Hatchery, PO BOX 458, 191 Closz Drive, Webster City Iowa 50595. Phone: (515) 832-3280.

Upcoming events:

Annette and I will be at the Gaining Ground-Sustainability Institute of Mississippi conference on “Sustainable Living” Feb. 19-20 in Hattiesburg (Note: Felder Rushing was scheduled to speak, but he is unable to attend). For additional information, visit http://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.