Planting my #Garden for #Earthday Today

After WWII, America realized what we thought was the golden promise of an Industrialized Era.  We were (and are) an industrious bunch, working on efficiencies and trying to make EVERYTHING cheaper, better, faster…  at any cost, apparently.  We got good at it.  VERY good.  The problem is, in an era of excess, waste occurs.  We are content with car that get 20 MPG when gas is under $2 a

gallon.  Now it’s over $4 a gallon and we’re worried.  We, as consumers don’t see why it’s so expensive.  We don’t often realize that it takes MILLIONS of years to create the oil we use in practically EVERYTHING we produce from gas, to industrial fertilizers to plastic goods.  It’s taken us under a hundred years to notice that oil is not unlimited and that we maybe running to the end of our supply.  Millions of years to make, a century to use.  Hmmm…  Time to move on to something different.

What does this have to do with my garden?  Nothing really, except that by planting a garden, you too can help save the Earth, just like supporting endeavors to utilize renewable energy sources.  I guess they are linked.  And, it is Earth day after all.  And there’s only one Earth.

So, let’s ALL plan ahead.  Invest in renewable energy now AND start finding ways to conserve water.  Because, the next wars will be fought over H2O.  Trust me.  And it worries me.  Plan now.  Happy Earth Day, Earth.

Straw Bale Garden In the Works

I first heard about this technique a couple of months ago.  The idea is that you can start the composting process in the bales by letting nitrogen (in my case, organic chicken manure) soak into them and allow them to “cook” over the space of a week.  (See previous post for details).  

Now that we have started our rainy season, I have purchased 4 bales of straw and have set them out into our mini farm.  My “farm hands” spread the manure over the tops and soaked them in real good.  We’ll continue the soaking process a couple of times a day unless it’s raining.  Hopefully these guys will start heating up real well and maybe we’ll see some mushrooms poking out.

After the bales cool down when the reaction subsides, the natural nitrogen in the straw will be available for whatever we want to plant.  We will be using them mostly for micro kale, micro cucumbers, pea tendrils, red vein sorrel, and nasturtiums for our Beyond the Kitchen farm dinners.  It’s gonna be great!

THE Way to Grow Vegetables for Your Restaurant or Home

I recently stumbled across an idea that many people have been exploring for a long time.  It’s called Straw Bale Gardening.  It’s got a huge advantage to conventional gardening.  It’s essentially a form of container gardening, but it’s very low cost and extremely  flexible in it’s set-up.  The bales sit up high on top of the ground and you don’t have to deal with turning soil, bending so far over, rocks, poor soil, or getting as dirty.  The only disadvantage that I can see so far is they initially take a lot of water to get them cooking.  After that, an easy drip system will minimize water loss.  Perfect for urban farming, even directly on concrete.  Make sure you don’t mind a little discoloration on the concrete if you do.

What’s happening is that the bales of straw (not hay), after conditioning, start to slowly decompose releasing nitrogen into your plants. Conditioning is easy.  Simply soak the bales in water twice a day for about 10 days.  Add about 3 cups of organic, nitrogen rich fertilizer to the tops of the bales at the beginning of this process so the nutrients can soak down into the bales.  Be sure the ties that are keeping the bales together are running horizontally so that no part touches the ground otherwise they could rot and your bales would fall apart. 

Sometime during this 10 days, the bale will start to get very warm in the middle.  This is the start of the chemical break down otherwise known as the conditioning.  If it does not heat up, it won’t grow your garden.  The heating up will subside after about a week.  After that, you simply lay out some compost on top of your bales and plant your seeds or transplant your starts.  Just water and fertilize as normal and get ready to enjoy some great produce.  The details can be found here.

This is am extremely simplified version of the conditioning phase.  There are many examples out there of watering/feeding schedules to follow and how to achieve the “best” results.   Check them out.   A vast majority of people using this method report much fewer weeds, pests, diseases, and fewer general problems than planting directly in the ground.  Bales will last 2 seasons.  After that, spread them out over the ground to have some great compost to start some new bales.   I will be planting potatoes, peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, beets, broccoli, and a few herbs.  I can’t wait to give it a try.  Why not you?

Wheat from Dunbar Farms, Southern Oregon

We have spread some wheat berries from Dunbar Farm around our garden a few months ago when it was really cold out.  Actually, it was our chief maintenance man, Trapper who grabbed a handful back in February when I was toiling with what to do with them.  Well, now that it’s warm, and the sun is shining, this is what we have…

 This is a great example of natural selection.  This wheat is grown in this area and selected for these growing condition.  I’m not sure of the lineage of this red wheat before I got it, only that it is an heirloom variety…  But we have kept it going for another season.  Perhaps we will continue to replant it season after season and show how this wheat is much better than GM seeds that have no value after it’s planted.  My seeds have history and can be replanted year after year, adapted to this region, unlike the genetically modified wheat that can only be planted for one season, then it’s lost.  Only time and people can decide what’s better.

Our Micro Greens Revisited

So, I took the plunge and purchased a 50 liter bag of “Hydroton”.  This is the clay like rocks I started experimenting with to grow microgreens under out grow lights in the kitchen.  It cost $35 and we are now converting all our indoor growing operations to utilize it.  Our most recent planting includes pea tendrils, micro radish and micro beets.  The tendrils have been tested and work great (see prior post) but the other items have yet to be seen.  Germination has already taken place after just 2 days.

New Hybrid-Hydroponic System Results for Micro Greens in Our Kitchen

Well, here are some photos of what our pea tendrils look like using the new soiless growing medium.  These photos are taken 10 days after germination with just water and organic fertilizer.


 Needless to say, we will be switching all of our indoor growing operations to this new system. 
 It’s remarkable.  Thanks to the Ladybug Store for hooking us up with the experiment.  

What is Sustainable?

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the USDA Website:

Definition of Sustainable Agriculture

The term ”sustainable agriculture” (U.S. Code Title 7, Section 3103) means an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will over the long-term:

  • Satisfy human food and fiber needs.
  • Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agriculture economy depends.
  • Make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls.
  • Sustain the economic viability of farm operations.
  • Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.

 

From Yourdictionary.com:

us·tain·able (sə stānə bəl)

adjective

  1. capable of being sustained
  2. designating, of, or characterized by a practice that sustains a given condition, as economic growth or a human population, without destroying or depleting natural resources, polluting the environment

I need to qualify this by saying I am not a farmer.  I respect farmers/ranchers/food producers.  It’s hard work.  It’s also very unpredictable.  Farming sustainability requires an understanding of the relationships between organisms and their environment.  One must benefit the other.  Consider it a closed loop system.  You don’t really need to introduce anything if done well.  Composting, water catchment and wind or solar power are examples of sustainable practices.  It’s important for me as a chef to understand how this works.  I need to understand why a commercial egg costs me 11 cents while a sustainable egg costs me 25 cents.  It’s important for my guests to understand this as well.

Food is getting more and more expensive.  There are reasons why.  Food in the US is cheaper than most other countries.  It’s artificially kept low by the government.  I don’t yet fully understand why.  I’m in the process of studying it now.  The main thing to know is that the food system must change.  If we are to continue as a people, we need to get back to basics and re-learn what our grandparents held dearly.  Are we as Americans generally privileged?  Yes.  Are we softer because of this?  Yes.  Will this be our undoing?  Only you can decide.  For now, support your sustainable food producers.  Just in case.  It may cost more, but can you put a price on a healthy planet?

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