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Monday
Nov072016

Meet the Compact and Capable Terrace Garden 

 

Do you have a steel railing with a skyline view for a backyard? Or a tree canopy so dense, even moss and ferns won’t grow out back?  

Maybe your backyard gets more sunlight than than the Pyramids at Giza, but there neighborhood HOA has deemed raised bed gardens to be most unseemly. 

Or perhaps you live on an organic farm, and just want a convenient place to grow culinary herbs right outside your kitchen door.

Whatever your reason, when the situation calls for a compact, sturdy cedar planter with a generous  amount of grow area, the Microfarm Terrace Garden is the answer.

 

It’s made with untreated red cedar, and designed to produce generous yields of organic produce even in tight spaces like patios, decks and balconies. The Terrace Garden is lightweight and easy to transport, and the inside growing area measures 16”x48” ;  the perfect amount of space to grow leafy green varieties like kale, spinach, and lettuces. The Terrace Garden’s 25” height makes gardening easier and more comfortable.  

 

And unlike other cedar planters, the legs on the Microfarm Terrace Garden are cut from a solid piece of red cedar, and the handcrafted components are screwed and glued together for an extremely durable and attractive design.  

Ready to try your hand at Organic Gardening, but want to start small? Do you have a child that’s interested in gardening? The Terrace Garden is a great way to master organic gardening fundamentals and nurture excitement about gardening and healthy eating with children. It’s  a handsome piece that combines the spirit of the edible kitchen garden with the timeless elegance of outdoor rustic furniture, and it’s sure to inspire and delight organic gardeners of all ages. 

And at only $299, the Terrace Garden is an budget friendly way to start growing organic produce in a premium quality, free standing cedar planter.

Would you like to see the Terrace Garden up close? Visit Blackhawk Garden Center and see it along with other Microfarm cedar garden products for sale there. 

 

Ready to get growing? email hello@microfarmgardens.com to begin your purchase and calculate shipping, or schedule pick up or complimentary delivery anywhere in Mecklenburg County.

Monday
Nov072016

The Miller Family's Organic Garden : The Ultimate Outdoor Living Amenity

The Miller family’s new custom home sits like a white citadel, proudly nestled into a wooded hillside in Southeast Charlotte. The family enjoys being outdoors, and with the help of their architect and builder, realized their vision of the perfect outdoor living space. Amenities like a saltwater swimming pool and an outdoor kitchen with refrigerated wine coolers, and an imported Italian pizza oven were thoughtfully placed for convenience and utility. And since growing organic produce was right up there with poolside pizza, their landscape architect cleverly placed three raised beds just outside the home’s backdoor, and adjacent to the outdoor kitchen.

The Miller family’s garden design includes three specially made Kitchen Garden raised beds, that feature supporting stakes placed on the outside of the cedar boards, for a unique look. The south facing garden site sits just outside the kitchen and breakfast area, so the family can harvest salad greens minutes before they're served with an evening meal. 

The garden receives more direct sunlight than a Las Vegas parking lot, and so we fitted each raised bed with 1/2” drip irrigation to make it easy to water the garden, and make adjustments to the watering schedule based on the season. The drip system was placed on its own irrigation zone, so that watering can be controlled independently of shrubs, grass, and other landscape plants on the property.

Our team filled each bed with a loamy blend of pine fines, mushroom compost and Stalite PermaTill, which will help ensure good drainage and soil structure season after season. Once the soil was carefully amended and watered, we planted a colorful assortment of cool season leafy greens including several varieties of kale, mustard greens,and swiss chard. Broccoli and cauliflower rounded out the rest of their fall garden, and we even saved room for three small rows of Inchelium Red garlic, which should go nicely on some of those poolside pizzas next summer. Happy gardening, Miller family!

Monday
Nov072016

How to Improve Soil Drainage in Raised Beds

There’s so much to love about gardening in raised beds. They’re smart, stylish, and entice you out into the sunshine more often. They bring the garden a little closer, and for that your back will never stop saying thank you. But best of all, raised beds allow even the novice gardener to begin growing with a light soil that most field farmers can only dream of. After all, what organic gardener would choose season after season of all out war with a stubborn plot of clay over a rich, loamy blend sold and delivered by the cubic yard? 

Our favorite organic soil blend is a mix of aged pine bark fines, mushroom compost, and PermaTill, which creates the ideal soil structure for a wide range of edible varieties. Yet more than once, our team has been called to correct a waterlogged, heavy soil in a gardener’s existing raised beds. Almost always, these raised beds have been filled with topsoil - a deceptively idyllic label for a heavy, sticky substrate with drainage properties that fall somewhere between asphalt and modeling clay. Fortunately this can be fixed by working in organic material like aged manure and compost, and one or more of the following materials:

 

Coarse Sand 
Easier to find than a parking spot at your local home improvement chain, coarse sand is also budget friendly. And unlike other material, it won’t break down, and lose its drainage and aeration properties over time.

 

 

PermaTill
Like sand, PermaTill is strong, durable, and will continue to provide drainage properties in soil almost indefinitely. It’s an inert media, made by heating and expanding small pieces of slate, and PermaTill has the added benefit of storing water soluble nutrients while still water and air to move through the soil.

 

 

 

Aged Pine Bark Fines 
Often made with bark from either the Southern Yellow Pine, or Loblolly Pine, aged pine fines are a staple of organic soil blends, and frequently used as a conditioner to help lighten heavy soils. or help absorb moisture and then release it slowly as the soil dries out. The aging process, along with their small size and shape allow aged pine bark fines to improve air circulation and oxygen delivery to plant roots.

 

 

Monday
Nov072016

Asian Greens for your Fall Garden

There’s a lot to love about Asian Greens like tatsoi and pak choi. They’re ready to harvest before you’ve even put the seed packet away, and they embrace cold weather like a polar bear. Plus they’re packed with nutrients, and can be planted well into the fall - long after many other cold season varieties. Best of all, they’re famously easy to grow - even for beginners - and a fun way to enjoy the fresh flavors of the orient from your organic garden this fall. 

 

 

Tatsoi
Often used as a substitute for spinach, Chinese Flat Cabbage, or tatsoi is marked by a dense, flat rosette of thick, glossy leaves. Its included in most mesclun salad mixes for its mild mustard flavor, and is a staple in many braised dishes and winter soup recipes.

 

 

 

Mizuna

A traditional Japanese salad green whose flight green color and spiked leaves add visual interest and a mild cabbage and mustard flavor to salad mixes. Seeds are direcxrt sown in the fall, and plants are surprisingly fast growing and cold tolerant.

 

 

Pak choi

Also called bok choi and tsoi sum, this open headed Chinese white cabbage is grown both for the crisp white stalks, as well as the tender green leaves at the top of the plant. Pak choi is often steamed, braised or even pickled, and plays the starring role in many Asian stir fries and salads. 

 

 

Pe tsai

Perhaps the most widely grown Asian green, pe tsai is also called celery cabbage, wong bok, and siew choy. Sweeter and more tender than European cabbage varieties, pe tsai forms tightly packed, barrel shaped heads, and has a mild tangy flavor that’s perfect in stir fry, soups and steamed recipes.

 

 

Gai choy

With a more prominent mustard flavor than other Asian greens, Chinese Mustard, or gai choi, is a diverse group that resembles open headed cabbage and some kale varieties. Gai choy was developed as a cross between Chinese cabbage and black mustard, and its cultivated like Chinese cabbage.

Thursday
Jul282016

Benefits of Drip Irrigation : A Tale of Two Gardeners

Your morning routine has always been rushed. But during the hot summer months - when your organic garden requires more frequent watering -  the race with the minute hand really gets underway. Between your second cup of coffee and running that blouse from the dryer to the ironing board, you wade through a gauntlet of holly bushes to the nearest spigot, and eventually wrangle water from a perpetually kinked up hose.

And it’s been extra hot this summer, so your garden is thirstier than a Las Vegas golf course. Minutes fly by like your twenties as it it guzzles water. By the time the soil is fully saturated, the sun is soaring high above the tree tops, and text and email alerts from work vibrate your phone right off the back porch. 

 

Meanwhile, your neighbor never seems to water her garden. And not that you really noticed or anything, but her garden doesn’t just look healthy, it looks like a professionally lighted product photo from a fancy organic gardening catalog. And there she is, sipping coffee on the patio, while writing poetry in her journal.

Perhaps she might dedicate a verse or two to the low pressure drip irrigation system that makes her mornings so pleasant. True, the humble plastic tubing may never ask how your day was, but it can give you more time, which is really better anyway, and improve the success of your organic garden.

 

Besides the obvious time saving convenience of having an automated watering system, drip irrigation has several big advantages over supplemental watering by hand or with sprinklers 

Drip irrigation tubing buried in the top six inches of soil makes water immediately available right in a plant’s root zone. As water is passes slowly through each drip emitter into the surrounding soil, it moves through the soil in all directions ; downward by the force of gravity, upward and outward by capillary action. This slow delivery of water below the soil surface allows the plant to absorb more available moisture through its roots.

 

Even when special care is taken to avoid surface evaporation by watering in the morning, a substantial amount of water directed from overhead will still be lost to evaporation. Wind, surface runoff, pressure, and other factors can result in even more wasted water from larger overhead sprinkler systems.

 

Another advantage drip irrigation has over hand watering and overhead sprinklers is that it keeps plant foliage dry. This helps prevent fungal diseases like powdery mildew, that thrive in conditions with wet foliage and poor air circulation.  

 

But surely drip irrigation must have its weak spots, right? What if you forget the drip line is there, and accidentally puncture it with a trowel? Or what if the drip emitters get clogged by soil particles or roots grow into them?

 

Sure, your irrigation system won’t bring in the groceries, or turn the compost pile for you, but the high tech drip emitters are designed not to clog, even when buried several inches below the soil surface. If a line is severed, which can happen, the leak is easy to spot by the puddle that forms above the cut, and the repair is as simple as connecting the severed line with a barbed plastic coupling.

 

Best of all, a simple low pressure drip irrigation system for your organic garden can be connected to a nearby hose bib, and controlled by a battery powered timer. There’s no need to hire a contractor to install an expensive irrigation system with multiple zones and a complicated control panel.

Just make sure you have plenty of room in your journal, because you’ll want to write a lengthy ode, or perhaps even a love ballad to your new flame - drip irrigation.