Square Foot Gardening Update

Square Foot Gardening Update

This post and associated video provide you with a Square Foot Gardening Update.  The overall concept of square foot gardening is to put a different plant or grouping of plants in each individual square foot of garden soil.  This provides diversity of nutrients to and from the garden soil and plants, plenty of diversity for beneficial insects and confusion for pest insects.

The Garden Bed

My garden bed is made of 4×4 posts.  The posts are laid horizontally on the ground and stacked two high, giving me about a 7-inch deep bed.  Every foot I have nails put into the 4×4 posts so I can keep track of each square.  I write letters and numbers on the wood between the nails, which I will cover later in the post.  My beds are 16-foot long and 4-foot wide.  This allows me to be able to reach into the center of the bed without ever having to walk on the soil, which would pack and compress the soil.

Square Foot Gardening Update

Square Foot Gardening Update

Documentation

Each foot on the 4×4 post, lengthwise, is marked with a number from 1 to 16.  Then on the 4-foot side of the bed I have letters – A, B, C, D.  This means that I have one square that corresponds to 1A and one to 3C and one for 14D.  On a piece of paper, I make a grid and label it with 1-16 and A-D. This allows me to document what I have planted in each square and to easily find it. At the top of the sheet I write the year and bed location.  The bed location is because I have many beds and this allows me to keep them straight.

Square Foot Gardening Update Documentation

Square Foot Gardening Update Documentation

Year after Year

Each year I refer to the previous year’s drawing and make sure I mix the plants up.  What I mean by this is that I do not plant the same plant or type of plant in the same square that I planted it last year. This allows the plants to diversely give and take from the soil. If I had one type of plant in the same spot each year, it may deplete certain nutrients.  By rotating, it can replenish nutrients in the soil.

This rotating also reduces disease and pest pressure.  If eggs from a pest are laid in the soil around a plant that they like and the next year I put different plants there that the pest likely don’t like, then that makes my garden less palatable for the pest.  This also helps with diseases like tomato blight.  If the soil has tomato blight in it from last year’s plant and I put a tomato in the same soil, well, this year’s plant is very likely going to get tomato blight.  But if I put the tomatoes several feet away from last year’s location, the tomatoes have a much better chance of not getting tomato blight.

The Video

Click on the picture below to view the Square Foot Gardening Update YouTube video.

Square Foot Gardening Update YouTube

Square Foot Gardening Update YouTube

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Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017

Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017

This post is a Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017.  It shows my two-year-old food forest, goes over some of the plants in the garden, and shows some of the supporting features in the forest garden.


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The Plan

What Plan?  There was a plan to put a food forest in a berm that the construction folks left when they put in my garage.  I had just started to learn about food forests and really liked the concept.  I built mine by just going through catalogs and purchasing plants that I like and putting them in.  This is not the way to properly plan a food forest, but for my small area it has worked out ok.

Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017

Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017

Rainwater Harvesting System

One of the support systems is a rainwater harvesting system that collects water from the garage roof, filters the water, and stores it for future use.  This water is used to water the newer plants in the food forest in the dryer times of the year.

Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017 - Rainwater Harvest

Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017 – Rainwater Harvest

Deer Deterrent

I have a string with wire running through it that is connected up to a solar charge controller.  The string runs all the way around the food forest as well as two runs up the center.  The string is charged with 6000v in the winter and 9000v in the summer and so far, it has done a wonderful job of keeping the deer away.

Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017 - Solar Charger

Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017 – Solar Charger

So, what is a Food Forest

Many people ask what a food forest is.  It is basically an assembly of plants put together in a way that they will grow up and be a forest.  But instead of just any old forest, most of the plants are edible, so it ends up being an edible food forest.

Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017 - Sand Cherry

Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017 – Sand Cherry

The Plants

I highly recommend you watch the video to see the plants and get a little more detail on the various plants in the food forest.  Here are some of the plants that I talk about in the video; sand cherry, chestnut tree, raspberry, elderberry, mimosa tree, aronia, and plum tree.  I also go over; cornus mas dogwood, fiddlehead ferns, comfrey, blueberry, quince, nanking bush cherry, gold silverberry, rosa rugosa, figs, mulberry, and many more.

Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017 - Comfrey

Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017 – Comfrey


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Herb Spiral with Michael Judd | Permaculture

Herb Spiral with Michael Judd | Permaculture

Today I have the pleasure of showing you Herb Spiral with Michael Judd and some of the work he has done with herb spirals and to explain what an herb spiral is.  Michael himself makes an appearance near the end of the video to give a tour of one of the herb spirals that he has built.


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About Michael

Herb Spiral with Michael Judd | Permaculture

Herb Spiral with Michael Judd | Permaculture

Michael Judd is the hugely successful author of Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist.  He also runs Ecologiadesign.com where he does consulting and design work and can actually do an entire project from beginning to end, including installation.  Michael also does several workshops, talks, and tours throughout the year.  He has been featured on several podcasts including; The Urban Farm podcast, A Way to Garden podcast, The Real Dirt podcast, Sustainable World Radio podcast, Grow Edible podcast, and the Permaculture Podcast.

Herb Spiral with Michael Judd | Permaculture

Herb Spiral with Michael Judd | Permaculture

Permaculture

Michael not only teaches others about permaculture, but he lives the permaculture life.  I have been to his house a couple of times and he has permaculture all around.  He has an Hugelkultur mound, which is wood buried by dirt.  He has a food forest, bees, and even built and lives in a straw bale house.

Herb Spiral Basics

An herb spiral as explained by Michael Judd is like a snail shell coming out of the ground to create microclimates and provide lots of planting space in a small area.

Herb spirals are beautiful but also allow you to stack plants horizontally AND vertically to maximize space.

Herb Spiral with Michael Judd | Permaculture

Herb Spiral with Michael Judd | Permaculture

Microclimates

An herb spiral creates microclimates with regards to heat, moisture, sun and shade.  At the top of an herb spiral the soil is drier than the soil at the bottom of the herb spiral.  This is because the water seeps into the soil and naturally flows down because of gravity.

There are areas that get morning sun only, other areas that get late day sun only and some areas that get all day sun.  This variation allows you to put plants in specific areas of the spiral to meet their sun needs.  This also applies to heat and coolness because of the amount of sun they receive.

Herb Spiral with Michael Judd | Permaculture

Herb Spiral with Michael Judd | Permaculture

Extended Season

Herb spirals are generally made with large rocks or bricks.  These large blocks absorb sun during the day and help keep the plants warm, extending the growing season.

Michael Judd’s book, Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist explains how to build an herb spiral.  You can purchase his book on Amazon.

The Video

Check out the video below titled Herb Spiral with Michael Judd

All photos and video courtesy of Michael Judd; used with permission

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Baltimore City Fruit Tree Partnership Program

Baltimore City Fruit Tree Partnership Program

This past weekend I attended the Baltimore City Fruit Tree Partnership Program as a vendor.  It is a really neat program that gives a free fruit tree away to anyone in the city who wants one.

Baltimore City Fruit Tree Partnership Program

Baltimore City Fruit Tree Partnership Program

All the patrons had to do was show up on the day they were giving the trees away and receive their free tree.  They also had a lot of vendors and other tables set up to provide a lot of information to the guests. The event was also sponsored by the Baltimore City Orchard Project.

The Event

The tree giveaway is held one day in the spring and one day in the fall.  The fall event that I attended this year was held at the conservatory in Druid Hill Park in downtown Baltimore City.  It was held on Saturday November 5th, which turned out to be a beautiful sunny day.  In the morning it was in the thirties when we were setting up.  But by teardown time, it was in the mid-70s and I left with a sun burn.

The Truck

Baltimore City Fruit Tree Partnership Program

Baltimore City Fruit Tree Partnership Program

The trees were in the back of a truck.  They had Pawpaw trees, Persimmon trees and Fig trees that they were giving away.  The patrons went to a tent in the front of the truck and registered, then they went behind the tent to the truck and picked out their tree.  That’s all there was to it.

Baltimore City Fruit Tree Partnership Program

Baltimore City Fruit Tree Partnership Program – More Trees

The Workshops

They had several different workshops that were running throughout the day.  They had a seminar on how to start a community orchard, how to prune and train fruit trees, and how to winterize the fig trees.  There was also a workshop on companion planting and a tropical fruit tour in the conservatory.

Baltimore City Fruit Tree Partnership Program

Baltimore City Fruit Tree Partnership Program

The Vendors

Baltimore City Fruit Tree Partnership Program

Baltimore City Fruit Tree Partnership Program

Some of the vendors included Baltimore Tree Farm, Blue Water Baltimore Project, Mill Stone Cellars, and of course Great Escape Farms.  There was also a vendor that was making food in a wok, but I never did catch the name of his business. One vendor made some fresh pressed cider and another vendor was giving tastings of hard ciders.

Baltimore City Fruit Tree Partnership Program

Baltimore City Fruit Tree Partnership Program

Baltimore City Fruit Tree Partnership Program

Baltimore City Fruit Tree Partnership Program – Cider Making

Great Escape Farms

This was the debut of Great Escape Farms as a vendor at any event.  We have been selling online for almost a year now, but this was the first time at an affair with face to face contact.  It was an awesome experience.  I only sold a couple of dozen plants, but did get almost two dozen people to sign up for our newsletter.  It was awesome meeting people face to face and chatting with them.

Baltimore City Fruit Tree Partnership Program

Baltimore City Fruit Tree Partnership Program – Great Escape Farms

?Want to Help our Small Business Out?

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The Video

Check out the video below titled Baltimore City Fruit Tree Partnership Program.

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Forest Garden Design and Care Class

Forest Garden Design and Care Class

Yesterday I attended a Forest Garden Design and Care class in Bowie, MD, just outside of Washington, DC.  I have studied forest garden design and even wrote articles on it, but I’m still learning.  This article is about my day, about the class, and about the training site.

Forest Garden Design and Care

Forest Garden Design and Care

The class, Forest Garden Design and Care, was hosted by a company called Forested.  The company is owned and operated by Lincoln Smith. They have a 10 Acre forest garden in Bowie, MD that they use for research and to hold classes.  The class itself was more of a walk around and talk about how to implement different concepts.  This was one of the best aspects of the class.  I’ve been taking classes, both online and in person for years, but actually seeing something live in person and being able to hear about it and ask questions is the greatest learning experience.  I’ve highlighted some of the things I learned below.

We started the day off by introducing ourselves and chatting about the history of the site.  Then we did a tour of about 1/3 of the property talking about items that a permaculturast would put into a sector analysis, like sun, wind, and water runoff.  We looked a many of the different species and talked about why each one is located where it is at.

Forest Garden Design and Care

Compost Pile

We then moved to the compost pile and had a long discussion about how to make compost, proper temperatures, and what to do with the compost.  They had a thermometer stuck in the pile and it was pushing 140 degrees.  Then they moved the pile to add oxygen and mix it up as well as to add a little moisture to keep everything balanced.  More compost information is in the highlighted link.

After the compost overview we cleaned up and got ready for lunch.  They had some eggs from the goose and we went out and picked some shiitake mushrooms.  They were growing this in a wooded area.  They had some logs from a cut down tree that were cut to about three foot each.  Sometime last year they held another class on mushroom growing and inoculated the logs with mushroom spores and now they are ready to harvest.  A picture of the log and the mushrooms are below.

Forest Garden Design and Care

Shiitake Log

Forest Garden Design and Care

Shiitake

We then moved onto the greens.  They had some chives growing somewhere and cut some of those.  I wasn’t involved with that.  I was involved with getting our leafy greens.  This consisted of leaves from a plant called stinging nettle.  I have been told that the hairs cause a stinging sensation.  I don’t know because I wore gloves.  To neutralize the stinging, you boil them.  We did this and then I ate a leaf and it was very tasty.  I’ve been told that they are very good for you.  This will be a topic for another post.  A picture of the stinging nettle is below.

Forest Garden Design and Care

Stinging Nettle

After we gathered the wild edibles, one of the workers cooked everything up and made us omelets.  They were absolutely wonderful!

After lunch we talked about sun and shadows and how to plan ahead and how you may have to cut some of the canopy trees down in the future.  We then moved out and got a visual of what he was talking about.

Forest Garden Design and Care

Forest Garden Design and Care

Forest Garden Design and Care

Poison Ivy

From there we moved into the woods and got a look at the ecosystem inside the forest.  I found this fascinating and was taking a lot of notes and pictures.  One thing I did notice about the property is there was a lot of poison ivy.  Mostly in the woods, but I found a few areas where it was growing out in full sun as well.

The Forest Garden Design and Care

Vertical Gardening

The Forest Garden Design and Care class was suppose to end at 4PM, but we were still going at 4:30.  They did say if we needed to go, to just head on out.  Some folks left around 4:45.  I was there until almost quarter till six.  In the after hours session we got an overview of vertical gardening and they gave us some bocking 14 comfrey plants.

The Forest Garden Design and Care class was an awesome experience and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is in the Baltimore/DC area.  We did have two separate groups that came from up in north/central PA, so they drove several hours for the class.  I learned a huge amount at the class, which is a wonderful thing.  They have more scheduled and you can get more information at www.forested.us

The first thing I learned is to have a master plan, start big and move to the small.  I have a forest garden at the farm in WV, but I have just been willy nilly throwing plants that I like into the ground.  I knew that wasn’t the way to go, but I was anxious to get several of my exotic species onto the property.  This training highlighted the fact that I’m going to have issues with my canopy trees as they are too close together.  I may have to move or remove some of them that I put in.  I hope they are still small enough so that I can move them to the swales when I put them in later this year.

The second thing I learned is that there is an entire ecosystem happening inside the forest.  I have very little growing in the woodlands in WV.  I was taking a lot of notes during the tour of the woodlands and, last night after I got home, ordered several hundred dollars of woodland perennials, shrubs, and trees.  These I do have plenty of space immediately ready for at the farm and look forward to designing and planting these areas.  I’ll do a separate post on that in the coming weeks.

Please tell us what you think about Forest Garden Design and Care by commenting below.

Sheet Mulching or Lasagna Gardening

Sheet Mulching or Lasagna Gardening

Sheet mulching or lasagna gardening,  is like composting in place. The process can take three to six months, but the finished compost does not have to be hauled. It suppresses weeds and builds fertile soil.

Sheet Mulch

Sheet Mulch

Sheet mulching or lasagna gardening is layering various compost material on the ground.  A sample picture of this is shown above.  The goal is to attract worms, build fertile soil, kill out any existing weeds, cover existing seeds so deeply that they can not germinate, and basically start a garden area from scratch with a clean slate.

Sheet Mulching or Lasagna Gardening

Sheet Mulching or Lasagna Gardening

I have a garden out at my farm.  It was there when I bought the farm and it has all kinds of tall prickly weeds that come up every year.  Last year I put a tarp over one section of the garden and weighted it down.  It prevented anything from coming up in that particular area, but if I simply remove the tarp, the weed seeds will germinate and I’ll have issues again.  Sheet mulching or lasagna gardening will solve my weed problem and pump life into the soil that will help my garden plants grow strong.  I actually started on the project this past weekend.  You can see in the picture titled “Sheet Mulching or Lasagna Gardening” where my father-in-law is watering the soil and in the back quarter of the fenced in area we already have an inch of manure down.

I’m Thirsty, but Don’t Drown Me

Before we get into the sheet mulching steps, lets talk about water.  You need to add water at several steps throughout the sheet mulch process.  The water is to keep the soil life happy.  But how much water.  You don’t want to drown your soil life.  The basic guideline is as wet as a wrung out sponge.  By this I mean, if you take a kitchen sponge and thoroughly wet it and then wring it out, the water just flows out.  What you are looking for is what a sponge is like after it is wrung out.  It is wet, but very little or not water comes out.  The optimum wetness is to get one drop of water out.  Taking this back to the garden, if you wet your organic material, let it set for a couple of minutes after watering.  Then pick up a handful and wring it out.  What you want is one drop of water.  That is the optimum.  If you get no water, you probably want a little more.  If you get a flood of water you are overdoing the water.  Now on to sheet mulching.

Sheet Mulch Steps (Long)

So this year I’m going to implement sheet mulching or lasagna gardening.  I go over the detailed steps here and I have an abbreviated list near the bottom of this article.

Cut, Loosen, and Moisten

First, cut down any tall weeds or grasses and do any fine leveling that is needed.  If your soil is compacted break it up a little with a pitch fork, but don’t turn or till the soil as this does more damage to the soil life than it does good by loosening the soil.  Then give the soil a good watering, as soil life likes a moist, but not soaked environment.

Add Amendments

The next step of sheet mulching or lasagna gardening is to do a soil test and see if you need to add any amendments.  You may need nitrogen or lime or a number of other additives that would be discovered in a soil test. In my case, I need to add gypsum, which is used for clay soil or compacted soil.  I found a 30-pound bag of gypsum at Lowes for $6.00. You can use lime if your soil is too acidic or use Elemental sulfur if you need more acidic soil.

I have done three posts on different soil test kits.  They can be found here:

Hold All Test Tube Soil Kit Product Review

Hold All Moisture Light and Ph Product Review

Ferry Morse Soil Tester Review

Feed the Soil Life

Then feed the existing soil life.  This is done by putting down a layer of compost or manure on the ground.  The existing soil life will be used to increase the rate of break down of the organic matter that you will be adding.  The faster the organic matter breaks down the faster your garden area will be ready to use.  After the compost or manure is put down, moisten it by watering.

Kill Those Stubborn Weeds

The next step will help kill out stubborn weed seeds and perennial weeds.  You put down ¼ to ½ inch of newspaper or thick cardboard.  If using newspaper, use only the print pages and not the glossy color inserts.  Those likely contain a lot of metals and toxins.  If using cardboard, remove any stapes, tape, and labels that will not break down quickly.  The newspaper and cardboard will break down eventually, but will kill the weeds and perennial plants before it does.  It also makes for good worm food as they start working their ways up.  Overlap the paper or cardboard by at least 6 inches so weeds don’t come up in the seams.  Then thoroughly water this level.  I use cardboard boxes folded flat and water the inside, and outside of the boxes before I lay them down and then I water them again while they are down.

Worm Food

Lure the worms up from lower layers by adding manure or compost on top of the cardboard or newspaper and then water it.  This will give the worms a reason to work their way up through the layer below.

Thick Layers of Organic Matter

Now add thick layers of organic matter.  You want to add 8 to 12-inches.  I’m using hay and oak leaves for my carbon layer and then horse manure for my nitrogen layer.  You want to watch your carbon to nitrogen layers here and have them be as close as possible to a good compost mixture.  Follow the highlighted link for information on compost mixtures.  After every couple of layers, add some water to keep it moist.  You don’t really want to wait until the end and water from the top because it is very difficult to get the pile evenly wet once it gets thick.  The compost link above gives you the full list of what a carbon is and what a nitrogen is.

Quote from Permaculture Magazine

According to Permaculture Magazine: “The first year of break down means the wood (and fungi) steal a lot of the nitrogen out of the surrounding environment, so adding nitrogen during the first year or planting crops that add nitrogen to the soil (like legumes) or planting species with minimal nitrogen requirements is necessary, unless there is plenty of organic material on top of the wood. After the wood absorbs nitrogen to its fill, the wood will start to break down and start to give nitrogen back in the process. In the end you will be left with a beautiful bed of nutrient rich soil”

(Source:www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/many-benefits-hugelkultur)

Now Add Compost

Once the organic matter is added, you want to add some compost on top.  If you have some compost that isn’t fully “cooked” yet, that would be even better.  The uncooked compost will add composting bacteria to the pile and give it a jump start from the top side on the breakdown process.  Even if it is fully cooked, there are still bacteria in there that will help.  Now water the compost in.

The Final Touch

Not cap it off.  Put a mulch on top to keep the pile moist and so it won’t dry out or blow around in the wind.  I plan on using wood chips for my pile.  Then water it in.  Usually it takes four to six months to break down.  If you want or need to plant in the sheet mulch before then, make a hole in the sheet mulch by pushing it aside, add some compost where you need to plant and then plant into the compost.

Sheet Mulch Steps (Short version)

  • Level the area
  • Cut down any tall weeds or grasses
  • Amend the soil as necessary (get a soil test and use the results from that to figure out what you need.)
  • Water the area
  • If the soil is compacted, break it up a little
  • Add an inch or so of manure and then water it.
  • Cover with cardboard or ¼ to ½ inch of newspaper, overlap the sheets by 6 inches or so
  • Add an inch or so of manure and then water it.
  • Add organic material such as straw or wood chips and water again.  Try to balance the carbon to nitrogen ratio.  See the article about COMPOST
  • Put a few inches of compost on top and water in.
  • Add a couple of inches of mulch or wood chips to cover the area and water it.

In a few weeks I’ll be posting a video and some pictures of my sheet mulch project out at the farm.

Give us your thoughts on Sheet Mulching or Lasagna Gardening by commenting below.

Plant Propagation via Cuttings | Wind Blown

Plant Propagation via Cuttings | Wind Blown

This article, Plant Propagation via Cuttings – Wind Blown, talks about the cuttings that were planted in January and February out at the farm in WV.  I went up there this weekend and found that many of the cuttings were just laying on the ground.

Plant Propagation via Cuttings | Wind Blown

Plant Propagation via Cuttings | Wind Blown

What I believe happened is the wind blew them over.  When the cuttings were put in the ground, the ground was partially frozen and I could not put them in the ground as much as I would have liked to.  That coupled with the sand being very loose just by the nature of the rooting medium and the wind I get at the top of the hill, was enough to put the cuttings on their side.

The blueberries were the worst.  I think every single blueberry was uprooted.  Because the plants have been in snow and we have received a good deal of rain this year, I don’t think this will phase the cuttings too much at all.  Hardwood cuttings are a lot more forgiving than softwood cuttings because it is cooler and there are not leaves that add to the drying out of a plant.  If this had happened to softwood cuttings, I’d have about an hour or two in the shade and only a few minutes in the sun to save the cuttings.

So the fix for this weekend was to simply push the plants back in the ground to the depth that they should have been in the first place.  That was easy to do this weekend since we were above freezing and did not have to fight with frozen sand.  This week they are calling for some rain, so that will help settle the sand and keep the cuttings alive.

Please view our YouTube video below to see a video of the weekend issues.

 

Please visit our YouTube channel to see our other videos about plant propagation at the Great Escape Farms YouTube Channel.

Please let us know what you think about our post, Plant Propagation via Cuttings | Wind Blown, by commenting below.

Seed Scarification Techniques | Scarify Your Seeds

Seed Scarification Techniques | Scarify Your Seeds

Seed Scarification Techniques | Scarify Your Seeds

This post goes over several different Seed Scarification Techniques.  To scarify your seeds is the damaging of the protective coating on a seed so it will break dormancy.  Yesterday I covered the topic How to Stratify Seeds.  You will notice that this article and yesterday’s article start out very similar, but the approach and end result are very different.

There are seeds that you can take right off the plant, put in the ground, and a new plant will start.  I did that with green beans last year.  I planted them, they produced beans (seeds), I picked them and planted them.  They grew into new bean plants and I did the same process again.  I did this for three generations in year.

Other seeds go dormant and do not allow this to happen.  They have protection that gives the plant a better chance of surviving.  Some require cold stratification as discussed in yesterdays article.  Others require scarification to get around a tough coating on the seeds, which is the subject of today’s post.

But first, lets take a look at why seeds would implement this strange behavior.  If a plant just dropped seed right below where the plant is growing and the seed immediately started growing, that species of plant would cramp itself and not spread very efficiently.  One mechanism to spread seed far and wide is to put a coating on the seeds that allow it to go on a rough ride.  That ride could be through a digestive track of a bird, bear or deer.  The digestive track does not ruin the seed, but causes minor damage to the coating of the seed allowing it to break dormancy.

Other plants have adapted to growing on banks of a stream and when the seed pods burst and the seeds land in the stream, they take a wild ride down the stream.  Along the way the rub up against the rocks and sand in the stream.  This action will rub the protective coating away and allow the seed to break dormancy.  Eventually the seed will get caught up in silt or mud and will sprout, propagating far from the mother plant.

Seed Scarification Techniques | Scarify Your Seeds

Seed Scarification Techniques | Scarify Your Seeds

If we have seeds that have this protective coating we need to fake the seeds into breaking the dormancy they are in.  We are basically going to “scar” the seeds with scarification.  There are several techniques to do this.  Some of the different seed scarification techniques include using sandpaper or very hot water.

The sandpaper technique involves using sandpaper or a small file to scar the seed coating.  After the seed is scarred, soak the seed in water overnight.  Most seeds will swell a little as they soak up the water.  I have used this technique several times and have had about a 60 to 70% success rate.

The picture titled Seed Scarification Techniques | Scarify Your Seeds shows two seeds on sandpaper.  These are mesquite seeds that need scarification.  You can see that the seed on the top and to the left is not scarified and the seed that is a little lower and on the right was scarified by the sandpaper.

The other way to scarify your seeds involves hot water.  You bring a pot of water up to a boil and then remove it from the heat.  After it has cooled for just about a minute, you pour that hot water into a container with the seed and let the seeds soak in the water overnight.  The seeds usually swell when this is done.

After the seeds have soaked overnight you can plant them in fertile soil and they should be good to go.  The one caveat is that some seeds need to be scarified and then stratified.  This is were research on your particular seeds come into play.

Please check out the YouTube video below for seed scarification techniques and how to stratify you seeds.

Check out the Seed Scarification Techniques | Scarify Your Seeds video as well as other videos like this at the Great Escape Farms YouTube channel .

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How to Stratify Seeds | Start Seed Stratification

How to Stratify Seeds | Start Seed Stratification

How to Stratify Seeds | Start Seed Stratification

This post, titled How to Stratify Seeds | Start Seed Stratification, explains why you need to stratify seeds and how to stratify seeds.

There are seeds that you can take right off the plant, put in the ground, and a new plant will start.  I did that with green beans last year.  I planted them, they produced beans (seeds), I picked them and planted them.  They grew into new bean plants and I did the same process again.  I did this for three generations in year.

How to Stratify Seeds

How to Stratify Seeds

Other seeds go dormant and do not allow this to happen.  They have protection that gives the plant a better chance of surviving. If certain seeds started growing right away and a frost or freeze hits them when they are very young and have not established a good root system yet, they will likely die.  A protection method that plants have is to stay dormant until the seeds have had a period of cold weather and then warmth.  Many seeds require 90 days or more of this cold weather to break dormancy.  The cold needed is usually 34 to 39 degrees.

We can force plants to break dormancy by giving them what they need – damp, cold conditions for a period of time. This process of breaking dormancy via a period of cold weather is called stratification.  The way I do it is to take a paper towel, wet it, squeeze all the water out so it is just damp and then put seeds on it.  Once the seeds are on the paper towel, I fold it up, and put it in a sandwich bag.  Make sure you label the sandwich bag with the type of plant and when the plant needs to come out based on how long it needs to stratify.  You can see my bag labeled with the seeds wrapped in a paper towel in the picture titled “How to Stratify Seeds”.

Now take any sandwich bags that you have seeds to stratify in and put them in a brown paper bag to limit the amount of light that the seeds get.  Now put the brown paper bag in a refrigerator.  I usually put mine in a drawer just so it is out of the way.

After the time is up, pull the sandwich bag out and let it sit at room temperature for a day.  At this point the seeds are ready to plant in soil.

You will find variations of this process that use Pete moss and other things.  The damp paper towel has not let me down yet.  I have done everything from exotic perennial seeds to apple seeds and they always have a pretty good success rate.

Check out the YouTube video below for a video of the entire process of How to Stratify Seeds | Start Seed Stratification.

 

See this video, How to Stratify Seeds | Start Seed Stratification, and more at the Great Escape Farms YouTube Channel.

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Compost Information – Grow Soil to Grow Good Plants

Compost Information – Grow Soil to Grow Good Plants

Compost Information – Grow Soil to Grow Good Plants

This post gives  you valuable compost information, how to make it, and the “Do”s and “Don’t”s of making compost.

Compost Information

Compost Information

Composting is a natural process in which macro- and micro-organisms break down organic materials such as leaves, grass and vegetable scraps to form a rich, soil-like substance. The resulting compost is a dark, rich, organic material.  When added to soil, compost provides nutrients to plants and improves the water-holding capacity of soil.

Composting adds nutrients to the soil. Microscopic organisms in compost help aerate the soil, break down organic material for plant use and ward off plant disease.  Composting is actually growing soil which benefit the plants and let you grow good plants. Better soil equates to better tasting and more nutritionally dense food.

Composting is accomplished by mixing carbon material (browns) with nitrogen materials (greens) and keeping it aerated and sufficiently wet.  When the right combination of ingredients is mixed together, good bacteria go to work and break it down and make nutrients bio-available to the plants.  More on the combination of ingredients later.

Most beneficial organisms in compost are in aerobic composting.  Aerobic composting is the bacteria breaking down the material with oxygen.  In addition to bacteria you’ll also find actinobacteria, fungi, protozoa, rotifers and usually earth worms in an aerobic compost pile.  Anaerobic composting on the other hand happens with a lack of enough oxygen.  Anaerobic composting causes a pile to stink and causes mostly bad organisms to multiply in you compost pile.  To ensure that you have Aerobic vs. Anaerobic composting, you “turn” your pile several times to get oxygen into the center of the pile.  This is usually done by moving the pile from one location to another.

Compost Dos and Don’ts

C:N Carbon to Nitrogen ratio

  • 60% should be carbon – wood chips, sawdust, brown leaves, cardboard, newspapers, junk mail, straw or hay, pine needles, wood ash, corn cobs and stalks, and dryer lint.
  • 30% should be greens – lawn clippings, veggie waste, green leaves, weeds, table scraps, fruit and vegetable scraps, green comfrey leaves, seaweed and kelp, chicken manure, coffee grounds, and tea leaves.
  • 10% High Nitrogen – This jumpstarts your pile – manure from clean animals, untreated alfalfa, meat, blood, and road kill offal.
  • Do NOT use: pet manures, Banana, peach, or orange peels, or black walnut leaves.
  • Water – compost must be kept at 50% moisture. Squeeze a handful of compost and….
    • If no water drips and it won’t hold together you are under 30% moisture and you wont have the diversity you need
    • If water comes out from between your fingers you are at 70% or more, you have gone anaerobic and must dry it out and start over.
    • You want to only be able to squeeze out ONE drop of water to have your moisture correct at 50%
  • Cover with a tarp
  • Do NOT start a pile too small. A Pile must be 3’x3’ to create and hold enough heat to compost efficiently.
  • Maintain 131 F for 3 days, or 150 F for 2 days or 165 F for 1 day (use caution above 165 F – at 170 F and above too much oxygen is used and the pile can go anaerobic.
  • Pile must be turned to get an even temperature or average of 131 for 3 days on all parts of the pile. A minimum of 3 turns.  More if needed.  May be needed if it gets to hot.  This temperature for this duration will kill most bad bugs and weed seeds in the pile.

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For more compost information go to howtocompost.org

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