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Sunflowers: How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Sunflower Plants

Field of sunflowersPlanting sunflowers is a great and easy way to get some color into your vegetable garden.  Sunflowers require full sun and can grow is just about any soil as long as it isn’t waterlogged.  They grow in soil in the pH range of 6.0 to 7.5

The wild sunflower is native to North America and was first domesticated by the Native American Indians.  The American Indians used the sunflowers throughout their daily lives either as food, such as flour for cakes, mush or bread.  Sunflower oil was coveted for the making as bread as well.  As we all know, a favorite way to eat sunflowers is to crack the shell and have a quick snack. Other uses included dyes for textiles or body painting or the oil for skin and hair.  Even the dried stalk could be used as building material. Continue reading



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Growing Nasturtiums and Edible Landscaping

NastutiumsNasturtium originated as the Latin “naris” which means “nose” and “torquere” meaning “to twist”.  Nasturtiums are noted for their peppery taste when eaten.  Both the leaves and flowers are edible and make colorful decorations to tabletop feasts.  Nasturium is an easy to grow annual that add brightness and contrast to the greens of your vegetable garden.

The showy flowers and leaves entice visitors to endeavor and explore your garden.  They are an excellent flower for growing with children, as they grow very quickly and an excellent choice for cut flowers.  Nasturtium are best grown in full sun with well-drained soil.  Continue reading



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Hügelkultur – Natural No-till No-dig Gardening

LogHügelkultur means mound culture or hill culture and is a process of composting whereby raised beds are prepared with decaying logs and debris under a layer of soil.  Through this process the soil is enriched through decomposition of biomass, while supplying nutrients to the plants planted upon or near the mound.

The mound can be created through the use of many composting materials or the more defined approach is with the use of logs.  The gradual decay of logs results in a constant supply of nutrients for up to 20 years or longer depending on the type of logs you use. Continue reading


Organic Soil Testing

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Laboratory Soil Testing For Organic Gardening

organic soil potting soil

Beginner gardeners often have the impression that you just plant a seed or transplant and then you get your vegetables, that the garden will continue producing as long as you continue planting.  This couldn’t be furthest from the truth.  Just as in many aspects of life, the garden soil life is cyclical.

As you harvest each year, you not only harvest your favorite vegetables, but also a portion of the nutrients that were in your soil.  As you continue to harvest, you are depleting the soil of these nutrients.  Over time, you’ll deplete them so much that very little will grow. Continue reading


Damaged Raspberries

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Damaged Raspberries from Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD)

Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD)Spotted wing drosophila are little flies (think fruit flies) that have red eyes and a black spot on each of their wings.  They attack ripening cherries and raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, and strawberry crops.

I’d heard that it’s a bumper crop this year.  My friend told me she has worms (ie larva) in her raspberries.  I though nah, not me.  Well, I was wrong.  My entire crop is covered in the little fruit flies!  What a mess!  They’ve damaged at least half of my crop.

What’s unique about this fly is that they attack undamaged fruit by the female, which penetrates the thin skin of the fruit and lays 1 to 3 eggs underneath the surface of the fruit.

Continue reading


Genovese Basil, Organic

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Growing Basil Indoors During Cool Weather

Genovese Basil Seed Container SeedlingsGrowing basil indoors is very simple.  Just find a Rubbermaid type container and then fill your container half full with moistened seed starting or potting soil.  Using a fork, gently flatten to soil, taking care not to compress it.

Genovese Basil Seed Starting SeedlingsSprinkle your basil seeds on top, and then cover your basil with the saran wrap and keep in place with a rubber band.  Then all you need to do is place your basil container directly under your fluorescent plant lights.

The first day, your seeds will look like little white sticky seeds.  The outer layer is a mucous like gel.  In a few days you’re seeds will germinate.  Allow your seedlings to grow up to the saran wrap.

At this point, you’ll want to remove the rubber band and pull the saran back just enough to let air into your container.  Leave the container open like this for a day or two. Continue reading


Matt’s Wild Tomato, Organic

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Growing Matt’s Wild Tomato in Your Organic Garden

Matt's Wild Cherry TomatoMatt’s Wild tomato is one of the smaller cherry tomatoes with intense tomato flavor (~1/2” in size). The texture is smooth, while the color is a deep red.

Many years ago, a friend introduced me to these little gems and I was hooked.  The exceptional flavor is hard to beat compared to most other tomatoes.  The tomatoes themselves are soft but firm.  If you find a squishy tomato, don’t eat it as it has gone bad! Continue reading


Preparing Raised Garden Beds

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How To Prepare A Raised Bed With Only A Few 2 x 3’s And A Few Pieces Of Rebar Or EMT Conduit

Raised Garden BedI live in an area that was in the glacial melt region.  This means that as the glacier melted, it left behind all the debris.  This includes rock of all sizes and shapes.  This also means that there is no soil to be found.

Of course, when they build a house they add back a layer of sand and 1″ of top soil if you’re lucky.  I barely have 1″ of top soil in my yard.  The only thing that seems to grow are weeds.  Grass is not an option.  I have tried to re-seed my yard with clover; that seems to be working well. Continue reading


Wood Ash: A garden supplement

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Applying Wood Ash As An Excellent Source of Calcium and Potassium For Your Garden

Wood ashWood ash is traditionally used by gardeners as an excellent source of potash (potassium).  Wood ash is the powdered residue remaining after the combustion of wood.  In this instance, I am referring to wood ash that is generated in your home fireplace place.

Remember whatever you burn will end up being ash that you would spread on your garden beds.  Therefore, only burn black and white newspaper as the colored paper or glossy paper contains heavy metals.

Also, only use ash from wood that is chemical free.  Do not use commercial products such as those slow-burning logs from the supermarket, painted or stained wood products, briquettes, or pressure treated wood! Continue reading


Biochar:  Save those branches!

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Creating biochar from backyard brush to enhance water and nutrient retention in your garden.

For those of you who are new to biochar, there’s a whole science out there to be discovered.  Biochar could one day literally save the worlds agricultural soils.  More on that another day.

Homemade Biochar Pennsylvania Pyramid KillnBiochar is defined as “bio” meaning biology and “char” as charcoal.  Biochar is carbonized material of any kind, which is then inoculated with microorganisms.

Part of the science behind biochar involves the fascinating aspects of the charcoal.  The xylem and phloem are the parts of a trees which are involved in the transfer of nutrients and the transfer of water, respectively.  When charcoal is formed the structure of the carbon is retained while everything else is burned away. Continue reading