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Archive for the ‘gardening’ Category

Good News From The Biomass Front

Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 6, 2010

The Kreidermachers show how it’s done.

From the Sustainability page on their website:

Everything grown onsite – our family grows everything on the farm starting from seeds or small cuttings of plants, so there is no trucking of finished plants before you purchase them in our retail greenhouse. We have a special production greenhouse with open roof vents (below), so we don’t need to run fans to cool the greenhouse and plants get direct sun making them adapt faster when you take them home.

Water conservation – for several decades we’ve watered all the plants thru “ebb and flow” benching (below), which means we pump water into the bench, let the plants soak up the water and then drain the remainder back into a tub at the end of the bench to save for the next watering. Besides saving a lot of water, the plants stay healthier since the foliage isn’t getting wet (and susceptible to disease). For nearly the past decade, we’ve taken the next step by collecting rain water onsite and using it to water the plants. We also have rain collection barrels for customers to use at home.

Heating thru renewable energy sources – as everyone is concerned about the increasing cost of gas for their cars/trucks, we’ve been seeing even sharper increases in natural gas prices for heating the greenhouses over the past decade. Eric and Paul have changed the greenhouse heating to bio-mass boilers (above) and currently working on making our own pellets from native prairie grasses, corn stover, etc., which are better renewable energy sources. See Alternative Energy Solutions, LLC for more.

Natural liquid Daniels Fertilizer – everyone comments on how healthy our plants look. We credit some of that to the fact that for more than ten years we have used a liquid fertilizer that is much “friendlier” to plants. It’s a natural fertilizer, made from soybean extract, and thereby doesn’t burn the plant’s roots if it’s stressed. We also sell the Daniels Fertilizer in the retail for use at home.

Soil Mix made with renewable resources – we’ve been working for years to get the right mix of components to grow in, and in the past few years we’ve been primarily looking at alternatives to peat moss. Our soil mix (pictured below) is now primarily made with Coir (Coconut fiber) and Rice hulls. We also make a soil mix especially formulated for container gardening that can be purchased in our retail.

Organic pest & disease control – We don’t like having to spray chemicals anymore than our customers, so we’ve been experimenting with beneficial bugs and compost teas. We still need to do more work to understand how it all works, but so far it seems to be looking very promising. Customers are always asking for “safer” means of treating bugs and fungus on their plants at home. We have the best organic products on the market.

Bio-degradable pots & baskets – for a number of years we’ve used fiber hanging baskets and perennial pots, as well as Rice hull pots for the annuals. Both the fiber and rice hull pots will break down in a compost pile or landfill within 2-3 years, but unfortunately they don’t break down fast enough to leave the plants in them when you plant in the ground. Our goal, beyond getting rid of the use of plastics, is to find a pot that you can just put in the ground with your plant still in it and the roots will go right thru the pot. We’re getting closer this year with a new pot (pictured below) for the vegetables that has slits for the roots to grow right thru.

We’re never done searching for ways to improve the way we grow or “greener” ways to do it. We’ll be sure to keep updating on what we’re doing.

Posted in energy, environment, family values, farming, food, gardening, global food crisis, global warming, Good Causes, Good Things, Minnesota, sustainability | 3 Comments »

Spring Planting

Posted by Phoenix Woman on February 22, 2010

Well, more like spring container garden seeding, in my case.

I went down to the local gardening store and picked up the following items:

— A packet of tomato seeds (of the plum-shaped “Roma” variety)

— A container of seed starter plugs

— A bunch of biodegradable seedling cups made out of cow poop

I’ve got four of the plugs well soaked and seeded and under a dome to hold in the humidity; I massively overseeded each plug (this was by accident, not design) and so should have at least a few seeds sprout; I’ll put any extra thriving seedlings in fresh plugs. When the seedlings are big enough, they’ll go into cow cups, and then into my tray. (If some of my alleged perennials didn’t survive this winter, then I’ll have room for lots of sprouts.)

This is going to be the Year of the Tomato.

Posted in gardening | 7 Comments »

Winter Farming — In Vermont

Posted by Phoenix Woman on January 10, 2010

Yes, Vermont. Here’s how — by crafting giant greenhouses that move back and forth on rails skids (thanks, Slim!):

When Pete Johnson, a leader among New England’s organic farmers, set out one day last fall to pull an 18,000-pound greenhouse, in fits and starts, over a field-grown plot of lettuce, he inched forward an idea that could help make fresh local produce available year-round, even in Vermont.It was late October. For most of his fellow farmers, harvest time was over until spring. But Mr. Johnson was just revving up his tractor – and his dream.

He wants to extend the growing season into winter, and to start spring crops in late winter, in ground protected temporarily by movable greenhouses. Johnson had seen this done experimentally elsewhere. But he was trying it on a commercial scale, with greenhouses 200 feet long – twice the length of a basketball court and two-thirds as wide.

[…]

Johnson’s tractor was connected by steel cables to one of the front corners of one of his greenhouses. His facilities manager, Steve Perkins, sat at the wheel of a second tractor connected to the other front corner of the greenhouse. A chilly autumn wind rippled the lightweight fabric covering rows of salad greens. But even unheated, the greenhouse might protect plants enough to keep them producing through the winter: That was the idea.

[…]

As fall gave way to winter, Johnson saw his vision vindicated. Through weeks of snow and some single-digit temperatures, Johnson supplied his community-supported agriculture (CSA) customers with fresh lettuce and other greens grown inside the unheated greenhouse. (In CSA consumers buy food directly from local farmers.)

Those plants stopped growing during Vermont’s deep January freeze (minus 30 degrees one week), but Johnson expects to start harvesting new growth in mid-February. “And that’s pretty cool to get fresh greens from unheated greenhouses all but one month of the winter,” he says.

This is amazing. If Pete’s Greens can do it in Vermont, it can be done just about anywhere.

Posted in farming, food, gardening, Good Things | 5 Comments »

Good News From Colombia, Of All Places

Posted by Phoenix Woman on January 4, 2010

Proof that good things can flourish even in one of the world’s most notorious narcostates:

Indigenous and rural women from southern Tolima, a province located in the heart of Colombia, are lending a hand to the bleak land around them, with the aim of simultaneously recovering the ecosystem and regaining their own dignity, in a community effort that is changing their environment and their lives.

Manos de Mujer (Women’s Hands) is the name of the non-governmental organisation working since 2001 in Natagaima, a town some 100 kilometres south of the provincial capital, Ibagué. Nine hundred women of the Pijao native community plant ecosystem-friendly seeds to grow natural crops without the use of agrochemicals.

“Nine years ago, the land all around my plot was a yellowish colour. There were only one or two lonely trees,” Claudina Loaiza, who has been part of the projects since its onset, told IPS.

[…]

“When I left the father of my children, because of his drinking and cheating, I began planting my own fruit and vegetable garden in my yard; this was something I really wanted,” Loaiza said, her eyes shining as she introduced her daughter and niece, who work the land with her.

“I’m the kind of woman who’d rather be alone than have a bad man by her side,” she said, before going on to describe how she fenced off her one-hectare garden with 144 metres of wire netting.

“I felt, and I still feel, so proud, because we were planting beans, watermelon, plantain, cassava, corn, green vegetables and all sorts of things, without using any weed killers or chemicals, just what we prepared for fertilising and replenishing the soil,” she explained.

Posted in Colombia, environment, family values, farming, food, gardening, Good Things | 1 Comment »

Some Good News

Posted by Phoenix Woman on June 1, 2009

Because good news is good!

From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (via BooRadley):

Three abandoned, century-old greenhouses that years ago produced flowers to beautify the graves and grounds of the historic south side [Forest Home] cemetery are being brought back to life, this time with vegetables.

Empty for nearly a decade because they became too expensive to heat through winter, the A-frame glass greenhouses will be used year-round by the organization Growing Power to grow thousands of pounds of fresh vegetables for city residents and others served by the nonprofit group, based on the north side.

[…]

Growing Power can produce a high volume of affordable food because [Growing Power CEO and founder Will] Allen has developed cost-efficient renewable energy systems to nurture fast-growing plants in tight, urban spaces.

The nonprofit also is tied into a network of farmers to help provide produce year-round.

The cemetery greenhouses will be heated in winter through aquaponics – a closed system that replicates a clean river with fish and plants. It works like this: Large tanks of water stocked with fish such as tilapia are heated. The water releases heat into the air, so no other energy source is required. (Heating water also is much less expensive than heating air.) Plants keep the water clean for the fish, which also are sold as food.

Allen, a former pro basketball player, grew up on a farm in the Washington, DC area. When he finished with his pro career, he went to work for Procter & Gamble and then got back into farming — this time, urban farming. If there is such a thing as the Lord’s work, he’s doing it.

Posted in farming, food, gardening, global food crisis, Good Things, heroes | 12 Comments »

Vertical Farming

Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 21, 2009

Terrapass’ Adam Stein, who is normally skeptical of vertical farming, links approvingly to this LA Times piece on two high-tech greenhouses that grow large amounts of high-value crops like tomatoes with far less of a water input than needed in conventional farming — a big deal in desert places like Southern California:

Rising out of verdant acres of strawberries and artichokes between Highway 101 and the Pacific Ocean in Ventura County are two mammoth, high-tech greenhouses.

[…]

The facility generates its own renewable power. It hoards rainwater. It hosts its own bumblebees for pollination. And it requires a fraction of the chemicals used in neighboring fields to coax plants to produce like champions.

[…]

The son of a Dutch immigrant farmer, the 51-year-old Houweling has helped build his family’s agricultural business into one of the largest greenhouse-based growers in North America. But the California facility is no ordinary hothouse.

On a recent afternoon, he was eager to show visitors clusters of plump, sweet tomatoes hanging overhead from vines that reach high into the rafters. This arrangement allows the farm’s 450 permanent employees to climb ladders to pick the fruit instead of stooping. The plants, which are fed individually through tubing that looks like intravenous hospital equipment, produce 20 times more fruit per acre than in conventional field production.

Virtually nothing is wasted in this ecosystem. Workers have dug a four-acre pond to store rainwater and runoff. This water, along with condensation, is collected, filtered and recirculated back to each of the 20-acre greenhouses. That has cut water use to less than one-fifth of that required in conventional field cultivation. Fertilizer use has been reduced by half. There are no herbicides and almost no pesticides, and there is no dust.

Five-acres of photovoltaic solar cells supply much of the electricity to run pumps and climate controls. Thermal systems collect solar heat and warehouse refrigeration exhaust to warm the greenhouses on cool evenings. Together, the two systems generate 2.1 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 1,500 homes.

“We believe this is the first greenhouse in the world that is energy neutral,” Houweling said.

Until recently, it wouldn’t have been possible to do this and make any money at it — and it certainly won’t work everywhere, or for every crop. But in places like California, where the prices for land are high and access to water is by no means guaranteed, this is likely going to be the wave of the future for various types of produce.

Posted in climate change, energy, environment, farming, food, gardening, global food crisis, global warming, Good Things | 2 Comments »

Happy Easter/Ostara/Spring Festival Of Your Choice!

Posted by Phoenix Woman on April 12, 2009

Bring on the fertility! (Well, not for me personally, unless it’s for my garden.)

In that spirit, here’s Gjallarhorn and their song/video dedicated to Suvetar, the Finnish goddess of spring. Enjoy!

Posted in family values, farming, gardening, Good Things, saving the earth | Comments Off on Happy Easter/Ostara/Spring Festival Of Your Choice!

Friday Morning News Roundup

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 20, 2009

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Lawrence Wilkerson, who served under Colin Powell at the State Department before Powell was purged for not being pro-PNAC enough:

Many detainees locked up at Guantanamo were innocent men swept up by U.S. forces unable to distinguish enemies from noncombatants, a former Bush administration official said Thursday. “There are still innocent people there,” Lawrence B. Wilkerson, a Republican who was chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, told The Associated Press. “Some have been there six or seven years.”

He stepped forward because he was sickened by Dick Cheney’s trashing Obama earlier this week. But of course, this was ignored in favor of AIG.

— Speaking of which, Nate Silver has a good piece that cuts through the noise and screeching on the subject.

— President Obama sez ‘hi!’ to hybrids. Specifically, the next generation of plug-in hybrids, especially the SUVs.

The First Lady is growing an organic garden near where her daughters play:

Twenty-three fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington will help her dig up the soil for the 1,100-square-foot plot in a spot visible to passers-by on E Street. (It’s just below the Obama girls’ swing set.) Students from the school, which has had a garden since 2001, will also help plant, harvest and cook the vegetables, berries and herbs.

[…]

The Clintons grew some vegetables in pots on the roof of the White House. But the Obamas’ garden will have 55 varieties of vegetables — from a wish list of the kitchen staff — grown from organic seedlings started at the executive mansion’s greenhouses.

The Obamas will feed their love of Mexican food with cilantro, tomatilloes and hot peppers. Lettuces will include red romaine, green oak leaf, butterhead, red leaf and galactic. There will be spinach, chard, collards and black kale. For desserts, there will be a patch of berries. And herbs will include some more unusual varieties, like anise hyssop and Thai basil. A White House carpenter who is a beekeeper will tend two hives for honey.

Total cost for the seeds, mulch, etc., is $200.

The plots will be in raised beds fertilized with White House compost, crab meal from the Chesapeake Bay, lime and green sand. Ladybugs and praying mantises will help control harmful bugs.

Cristeta Comerford, the White House’s executive chef, is eager to plan menus around the garden, and Bill Yosses, the pastry chef, is looking forward to berry season.

Sam Kass, an assistant White House chef who prepared healthful meals for the Obama family in Chicago and is an advocate of local food, will oversee the garden. The White House grounds crew and kitchen staff will do most of the work, but other White House staff members have volunteered.

Now that’s gardening we can believe in!

Posted in automobiles, bailout, banking, big money, Dick Cheney, economy, energy, environment, food, gardening, Iraq war, terrorism, torture | 3 Comments »

Greenish News For A Monday Morning

Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 22, 2008

— Got an iPod? Looking for a speaker dock, but want something more attractive than white or black plastic? Try these wood-enclosed units from Vers. They look pretty spiffy to me!

— I should try this: The fine art of using miniature greenhouses, or cloches, to extend a short growing season.

— Wondering how much energy your roof could give you? If you live in San Francisco, wonder no more (h/t Time Magazine). You can find out your roof’s potential solar output, as well as the cost of a solar system, simply by going to this website and typing in your address.

Posted in gardening, global food crisis, solar, sustainability | Comments Off on Greenish News For A Monday Morning

Thursday Morning News Roundup

Posted by Phoenix Woman on August 14, 2008

— Adam Stein discusses the limits of localism and why vertical gardens aren’t the solution to feeding city dwellers.

— GM’s all-electric Chevy Volt won’t be released until 2010, but the car already has over 33,000 prospective buyers waiting for one — and many of those buyers are overseas ones. This is how we save American industry, people.

— Sean Hannity, trying to minimize John McCain’s many adulteries even as he attacked John Edwards for straying, actually used the words “extenuating circumstances” in McCain’s defense. And Alan Colmes, normally Mister Milquetoast, just did a Benihana-chef number on him for it.

Posted in 2008, automobiles, energy, environment, gardening, global food crisis, global warming, John Edwards, John McCain, Republicans acting badly, rightwing moral cripples, saving the earth, sustainability | Comments Off on Thursday Morning News Roundup