Most people who garden believe that the growing season ends when the weather begins to turn cold and morning dew turns to frost. This is absolutely not true, though. A few places (USDA zones 0-2) have extremely short growing seasons that make it very difficult to grow vegetables outdoors without using specialized techniques and growing plants that are uniquely adapted to grow in that climate. However most people, even those who live in places where it reliably snows every winter (like Ontario, Canada), can continue to grow fresh herbs, vegetables, and even some flowers all year round.Read More
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If you have grown plants for food or aesthetics, you have probably experienced the frustration of losing some of your crops to insects and other pests. That is just a part of gardening, although if you grow crops year-round, you’ve probably realized that the upside of winter gardening is that you don’t have to spend much time fighting herbivores, since the cold weather kills them or drives them into a dormant stage. Animals are a different story, however, and you may find that hungry squirrels, deer, raccoons, or other critters are helping themselves to your plants even through the cold season.
To get rid of insect herbivores, many gardeners resort to using insecticide-pesticides. (Pesticides consist of a number of substances, including weed killers like RoundUp, insect-killing chemicals, and molluscucides, or “snail bait.”) In fact, most commercial (and many non-commercial) plants are grown with the aid of pesticides. While this may seem like a solution to the problem of insect herbivores ruining all your hard work, it has many downsides that have implications for your plants’ health, the health of the environment, and your own as well.Read More
If you have been gardening for a while, you’ve probably realized that making mistakes is a big part of the process of learning. Even the most experienced gardeners make errors of judgment that can lead to a failing or otherwise unsuccessful harvest. Some problems are inevitable when it comes to growing your own food: weather changes can ruin a harvest in a single day, so if you are not prepared (or available) to act fast in case of unexpected frost, heat wave, extended periods of rain or humidity, or sudden insect infestation, all of your hard work can be ruined very quickly…
Whether you’re a neophyte, a seasoned grower, or a business owner looking to make a profit from your harvest (or just earn a little extra cash on the side from your farm), you may be making some of these common mistakes that growers make, all of which affect the health, productivity, and viability of your garden in a major way.Read More
Companion planting is a small-scale method of intercropping, which refers to the practice of planting one kind of plant next to another or others that help it thrive. It is often associated with small-scale organic gardening (the type of gardening I have exclusively done for the past 18 years) or other biodynamic planting methods, and it is a favorite technique of farmers seeking to produce more yield in less space.
Although popular literature touts the benefits of intercropping over monocropping, there is a lot of debate, and consequently, confusion over which plants go well together, and whether some of the reported benefits of companion planting are consistent or coincidental. This is partly a debate between using scientific methods (usually in controlled, laboratory stings) and using personal experience to determine how to companion plant. There are benefits to both methods, though admittedly, I prefer to rely mostly on experience (my own and that of successful gardeners I know) with a smattering of science to help me understand why certain combinations have seemed to work well in my own garden, while others don’t seem to have much effect one way or another.Read More
This summer I’ve been blogging about container gardening quite a bit (that is, when I managed to blog! We’re undergoing some big changes here at Green and Prosperous that have taken up most of my blogging time, including developing an online course on container gardening for beginners and experienced growers alike). This post continues our summer theme, with a focus on how you can grow more in less space.Read More
Whether you have already begun your container gardening adventure or are just getting started, you’ve probably realized that container gardening presents many advantages over traditional in-ground gardening. Aside from being a great way to grow some of your own food in small spaces, as a container gardener you can exert more control over a number of variables that can sabotage an in-ground garden, like weather, pests, and soil quality. I covered these and other matters in last month’s post on container gardening. This post addresses some of the practical matters involved in not only starting your container garden, but helping it to thrive. Here are 8 things you should be doing to keep your container garden healthy, happy, and productive well into the fall season.Read More
Spring is here! For some of us, spring is finally here. Although the crazy weather patterns we’ve been experiencing in the mid-Atlantic region where I live have left many of us anxious to go out and dig around in the dirt, others may only be thinking about making this the year they grow some of their own food (or the year they grow more of their own food). If you’re ready to stop thinking about it and start doing but are challenged for space (maybe you live in an apartment of condo, or maybe you have a tiny yard, or your yard doubles as your dog’s bathroom), this post is for you. Maybe you have a healthy growing operation in place already but are starting to suffer from back problems because of all the bending involved in maintaining your garden. If so, this post is for you, too. Or maybe you’re just interested in trying something new or adding new elements to your garden. This post is for you, too.Read More
Fall is here and soon after, winter, and while many of us have put away the gardening tools and supplies, picked our last harvests, and composted the leftover stalks and roots, there’s no need to wait until the spring to begin again. Growing your own food is something you can do year-round if you begin this fall. If you’ve been considering fall (and winter) gardening but haven’t done anything about it, here are ten reasons to consider it a little more seriously…Read More
(part 2 of 2)
Sometimes, community gardens have the power to embody our collective memories of the past. While they can enable us to build new relationships and create opportunities to sustain a more food-secure future, they also tell us something about the struggles, strengths, and legacy of generations ago.
I explored some of these issues in an interview with Pastor Willie Wilson of Anacostia’s Union Temple Baptist Church on June 24th, the occasion of the 2017 opening of the church’s community garden to the public. The community garden at UTBC is a partnership between the University of the District of Columbia and the 11th St Bridge Project. Besides serving as a gathering point for the local community, it also provides a means to promote some of the ethics embodied by the church, most prominently spiritual development, fellowship, communication, and the uplift of marginalized African-American communities in the metro Washington, D.C. area.
Our interview quickly took on the overtones of a series of stories of past injustices, struggles of the present, and an unvarnished, if bleak view of at the future should the status quo remain in place, told through the lens and the experience of a man who has lived, worked, preached, and fought for this community for over 31 years as the lead pastor of UTBC.Read More
Growing some of your own food has numerous, scientifically proven physical, emotional, and mental health benefits. To anyone who has committed to a healthy lifestyle, it’s no surprise that eating a mostly plant-based diet is better for your health and can help you avoid some common pitfalls of aging, such as developing chronic inflammation and its associated illnesses. In the United States, food gardening is at its highest levels in the past decade, with the largest growth in participation among young households.
In my book, Go Green without Going Broke, I have written in detail about some of the benefits of growing your own food, and offered advice about how to do so, even if you’ve never grown anything before. Depending on the growing zone you live in, or the equipment at your disposal, you may have already started preparing your vegetable and herb garden by sowing seeds or transplanting seedlings. Today’s post focuses on a few key strategies that I have found to be very effective for reaping an abundant harvest that starts in spring and continues throughout the fall season, producing fresh food for you to enjoy for many months to come.Read More
When Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and John Mellencamp founded Farm Aid back in 1985, sponsoring its first concert in Champaign Illinois, American farmers were in crisis. A series of droughts had devastated farms in the Midwest, Ohio Valley, and Great Lakes regions, with Kentucky and Ohio suffering their driest spells of the 20th century. Family farms were struggling to stay afloat, with many of them deeply in debt. Although the drought conditions would continue (and in some places, worsen) throughout the 1980s, Farm Aid brought the troubles faced by American family farmers to public consciousness for the first time. It also raised money to help struggling farm families to stay on their land and pay off crushing debt.
Thirty-one years later, people sometimes wonder if Farm Aid is still around and if so, why.Read More
As more and more people around the world have become aware of the ongoing problems with industrial, large scale farming, we’ve seen a rise in urban and peri-urban farming. This is ultimately a good thing, but it can also present some problems that exacerbate existing problems.
Whether urban farming can solve any of the current global agricultural crises (food waste, food deserts, soil erosion, overuse of pesticides, increased use of GMOs, monocropping) is debatable, but done efficiently, it can address some of these problems on a small scale.Read More
If you read my post from last October 15, you’ll remember that I embarked on my second attempt at winter gardening this year. Happily, this attempt has been a lot more effective and (most of) my plants have so far survived the cold and snow outside. Although I’m far from confident in claiming this venture a success, it has taught me some valuable lessons about year-round gardening that I’d like to share with you.Read More