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Monday
Aug072017

5 Fun Root Varieties to Plant in Late Summer

 

It feels like summer is finally in full swing. You’re on a first name basis with the ice cream man, and now your teeth don’t chatter when you jump in the neighborhood pool. The electric meter spins like a pinwheel on a windy day. This time of year, root varieties like turnips and carrots may seem as out of place as an Emperor Penguin in Myrtle Beach, but in the Southeast, late summer is an ideal time to seed an assortment of colorful, and tasty root vegetable varieties that will be ready to harvest in the fall. 

 

Rutabaga (Swedes) Brassica napus napobrassica

Like turnips, rutabagas are cold resistant, and frequently prepared by boiling, steaming,  mashing, roasting baking, or frying. Their yellow to deep gold flesh has a rich, buttery flavor, that makes a hearty winter dish, when when mashed and served together with potatoes.The greens can be cooked like, kale, and they’re a good source of vitamin C, and believed to have the same anti-cancer qualities as turnips. ‘Gilfeather’ is an iconic, 1860’s  heirloom variety from Vermont with an exceptionally sweet root, and tender, sweet tops that are cooked as greens. ‘Laurentian’ is an excellent winter storage variety that was developed in Canada before1860.

This North American favorite, has a globe shaped, pale yellow root with a delightfully fine texture, and flavor. Direct sow in holes 1/2” deep, thin seedlings to 6” apart, in rows 12” apart. Rutabagas prefer a light, fertile soil with low nitrogen levels, and be sure to correct boron deficient soil by incorporating trace minerals.


Beet Beta Vulgaris

Until the 1800’s, beets were referred to as ‘blood turnips’, and grown mainly as a winter storage crop. Large, tapered roots were typically slow roasted to enhance their sweet flavor. The Beet has come a long way, since then, and cultivars have been developed that are sweeter, and more tender - just as tasty served hot or cold, sliced in salads, or steamed or boiled.

‘Detroit Dark Red’ is a popular, heirloom variety developed in 1892. The red and white rings of the pre1840, Italian heirloom ‘Chioggia’, make a fun garnish or an excellent choice for recipes that call for a white beet.

‘Bull’s Blood’ is a popular variety, often grown for the famously tender leaves, that are harvested long before the root develops. Sow seeds 3/4” deep, thin to 4” apart in rows 12” apart. Seeds must be kept evenly moist, and sown when extreme heat of summer has passed. unlike other root crops, beets benefit from added nitrogen. Mulch to control weeds, and keep seeds evenly moist.

 

Turnip Brassica rapa rapifera

One of several varieties, including broccoli raab and chinese cabbage, that were developed from an ancient cross breeding between kale and swedes. Modern cultivars have been selected for a globe shaped root, that varies from sweet, crisp flavor used in salads, to a more richer texture, cooked like potatoes in soups and stews.

Turnip greens  are high in phosphorous, calcium, and potassium, and both roots and greens are rich in vitamin C and folic acid. Sow seeds 1/4” deep, thin seedlings to 4” apart, in rows 12” apart. ‘Purple Top White Globe’ is a popular heirloom variety, developed before 1880, and the standard market and home garden cultivar. This white turnip has a purple shoulder at the top,and is best harvested when roots are about 3” in diameter.

 

Carrot Daucus carota

Yellow and purple carrots were first recorded in the 10th century, and since then, they've been used to make everything from syrup, jelly, and dye, to wine and liquor. For teh first few hundred years of cxultivation, carrots were purple.


Carrots grow best in light, sandy loam, that is free of rocks, and you can lighten heavy soils with peat moss or leaf mold.Remember that too much nitrogen favors top growth, and causes roots to become rough and branched, and that it's important to maintain high levels of potassium and phosphorous. Sow seeds 1/4” deep, 3 seeds per inch, thin to 2” apart, in rows 12” apart, and keep seeds evenly moist. Some growers cover newly seeded rows with burlap, or cardboard  to help keep seed rows from drying out on hot days.

‘Cosmic Purple’ is a spicy, purple skinned carrot with orange flesh, that adds a fun pop of color to salads and stir fry dishes. ‘Chantennay Red Core’ is a stocky, dark orange, French heirloom dating from the late 1800’s, that grows in heavier soils, better than other carrot varieties. 

 

Radish Raphanus sativus

A popular, fast growing root variety that has delighted with it’s crisp, spicy flavor for ages, radishes were given as rations, to workers building Egypt’s Great Pyramid. And, because they’re ready to harvest in as little as three weeks, radishes are especially fun for children to grow. By 500 B.C., radishes had made their way to Asia, where selection over many generations, produced larger, cold resistant cultivars, ideal for slicing and cooking in soups.

Modern favorites include the pre1885 heirloom,  ‘French Breakfast’ , and ‘Easter Egg’ - a round radish, in a colorful mix of white, red and purple. Time tested Winter storage varieties include the pre1824 heirloom, ’Black Spanish Round’, and ‘Migato Rose’. Plant salad-type radish seeds 1/2” deep, thin to 2” between plants, in rows 6” apart. For Winter storage varieties, allow 4”-6” between plants.Radishes can be planted in between rows of slower growing varieties, to maximize space and help control weed growth. 



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.