May Happenings

What a busy month it is!  Everything is finally planted and growing at long last.  The garden is packed full of plants and seeds attempting to rise to the surface.  Now comes the part where I keep them in the clear by watering them and keeping the weeds and bugs away.  I’ve been updating the links in the availability section so that you can see the pictures and descriptions of the items that I’m selling.  Right now, Romaine lettuce and Radishes are for sale, alongside the Horseradish and Eggs that are always available.

Jane, the little mixed silkie chick that was hatched last month will be six weeks old tomorrow.  If you would like to see some pictures, check the facebook page.  Hopefully on thursday the five Easter Egger chicks will arrive.  I’m excited to see what they look like.  If everything works as planned, they will be given to one of the broody chickens who hatched last year’s clutch, named “Salt.”

After scouting out a few markets and debating the options, I’ve decided to go to the Millersville Farmers Market.  This market runs through October near Millersville University.  It is every Wednesday night from 4-8pm.  Each week has a theme and special focus.  This coming Wednesday, for instance, is the Wellness Fair.  June sixth is the Strawberry Festival and on August 22nd, it is the Summer Garden Party.  If you would like more information, you can check out their facebook in the link above or contact me to see what I’ll selling each week.

Why is organic so expensive?

Many individuals would choose organic if they could.  But this isn’t often feasible for those with lower incomes, school debt, or other financial issues, especially during times of economic downturn.  And those individuals frequently question why organic is more expensive, sometimes thinking that organic growers can simply get away with charging more.  This really is not the case.  There are many reasons for the price differential including pest and weed control, and growing methods.

While most commercial farms using petroleum based pesticides and herbicides that leach into ground water, remain in the plants, and create both super-weeds and super-bugs, organic producers stick to more time consuming, but much healthier means.  Spraying crops a few times is very simple and can be done using large machinery operated by a single individual.  This allows for instantaneous results and nearly guaranteeing that the plants will have no barriers to growing as large as possible.  Organic growers have a much different set of weapons for combatting pests and weeds amongst their crops.

Organic growers often rely more heavily upon man power than machinery and chemicals. Destroying eggs of pests manually, by squishing them, is a method of preventing hatching.    The adults and larvae can also be removed from the plants and squished or drowned in a soap and water mixture.  Other methods kill or simply deter the pests.  Diatomaceous Earth, which is essentially crushed crustaceans, stops pests in their tracks and can kill a number of them by creating microscopic cuts in their exoskeleton or drying out their mucus membranes, as in the case of slugs.  Many plants also deter various pests such as garlic and hot peppers and a number of herbs, which can be ground up and put into a spray bottle or simply grown near or around the crops.

There are fewer ways to deal with weeds, but these methods can also be time consuming. Prevention is an easier tactic that can be achieved by mulching or laying down cardboard or newspaper.  Mulch can be any smothering-type substance.  While plastic can be an organic tactic, it does not help to improve the soil over time like natural mulch.  Organic mulch cannot have chemicals in it, so commercially available mulch would not be used.  However, things such as leaves, straw, or grass are good choices that feed the plants, keep down weeds, and improve the soil over time.  Once the plants are growing, they can still be smothered, but other tactics may be put into action depending upon their location.  Boiling water and vinegar can both be used to kill weeds if they aren’t near crops.  But pulling them out, roots and all, is a sure method and then they can also go into the compost bin.

Finally, for fertilizer, rather than the blue crystals known to many, organic growers will use a number of seemingly random items.  Kitchen scraps make for great plant food.  Items such as coffee grounds, egg shells, and fish bones are great alternatives to chemical fertilizers and enable less waste to go into landfills.  Composted vegetables and plant-derived materials takes some time to make, but permanently improves the soil and provides long lasting nutrients for the plants.  Various types of animal waste is also a wonderful method a number of organic growers may use.  Nevertheless, spreading composted materials and using kitchen scraps takes much more time than watering plants every few weeks with blue crystals.

While buying organic does cost more, it may improve your life in the long run and will surely improve the lives of you children and grandchildren as we improve the soil and use less harmful chemicals.  When it seems like an organic grower is trying to scam you, just remember the amount of time and effort that went into producing that vegetable was much greater than that of a commercial grower who sprayed down his crops a few times and poisoned your drinking water.  Also, now that you know what methods go into growing organic produce, you can put some of them into action in your own garden!

Creating a Raised Bed

I’ve created a few raised beds this year to see if they improve conditions and yield of my produce.  Once they are created, they don’t take much effort to maintain.  But creating them can be back breaking at first.  Some people choose to create raised beds that are walled in by bricks, cinder blocks, or wood.  Creating those walls are up to you and isn’t very difficult, especially with bricks or cinder blocks.  Many companies sell corner pieces to connect the wood for your raised beds so that you won’t need to screw or nail any of the pieces together.

My raised beds, being much larger than those that could be created using bricks and cinder blocks are wall-less.  They are simply raised rows in the garden.  Check the video on youtube if you would like to see them. (My youtube channel)  These first beds were started by rototilling the soil.  I then put down a hefty amount of leaves which I covered with large paper bags that once held the leaves.  To keep the bags in place, I threw soil on top of these bags.  I left them sit like that for a few months before I spread the rest of the soil on top.

In retrospect, I think I would have done that when I laid down the leaves and paper.  In any case, the beds are now light and airy.  Over the summer, the leaves and paper will degrade, leaving behind lots of nutrients, which the growing plants will absorb.  At the end of the season, compost, manure, leaves, and newspaper can be put down on these beds and left for the winter.  This is a great way to create awesome soil that feeds your plants organically.  Because I won’t have to till these beds again, I am also going to be created a wonderful environment for mycelium and earth worms.  The layers of compost, leaves, manure, and paper also prevent weeds from growing in the beds, which can save hours of labor in the heat of the summer.