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Monday
Nov262018

Calculate Your Potential Rain Harvest

There are plenty of good reasons to catch and store rainwater, and people have been doing it for thousands of years. But have you ever wondered just how much water flows down your home’s roof when it rains?  Well, you could flex those grade school mathematics skills and make the computation based on the size of your house and amount of rainfall. Or you could click here to use a simple automatic rain harvesting calculator courtesy of North American Rain Systems. Happy Harvesting!

 

Monday
Nov262018

Kitchen Garden goes Mid-Century Modern

With a savvy eye for architectural proportion and clean lines, Nancy and Michelle transformed a charming home in a quiet South Charlotte neighborhood into a mid-century modern masterpiece. Painted brick with wood accents created a warm, modern feel, and large picture windows brought sunlight into brand new corners of the home.  A thick canopy of oak and poplar trees overhead along with a brand new privacy fence give the property the feel of a restful countryside retreat. Yet as if to make sure that there’s no mistaking that this home is a city dweller, modern frosted glass garage doors open up into an expansive pea gravel drive.  ON our first visit, tiny seedlings were just sprouting up in a new cedar potting shed built onto the back side of of the garage. In fact, it looked like the only thing left to complete their dream home was an organic garden. 

Their five new Kitchen Garden raised beds fit right into the facade like hay in a barnyard. The couple chose a sunny location just outside a large kitchen window, with a spigot just a few feet away, and easy access to the driveway and garage. Their Kitchen Garden raised beds were made with naturally durable, rough-sawn red cedar, which has plenty of rustic texture and straight-from-the-mill visual appeal. We filled the beds with an OMRI listed blend of pine bark fines, mushroom compost and expanded slate pebbles, and amended with Espoma’s iconic Plant-Tone organic fertilizer blend.

 

 

 

Tuesday
Nov132018

Choose the Ideal Site for Your Greenhouse

You can already picture a battalion of sprouted seedlings on sturdy cedar shelves. Automated vent windows pull fresh air past your smiling face through the cedar framed structure and  supplemental lighting clicks on at dusk exactly as programmed. Tools and supplies are neatly stowed below a smartly designed potting station.

But have you selected the best location for your greenhouse?

Choosing the right site for your greenhouse is an important initial step, and considering these factors before committing to a site will help ensure you get the most out of your investment. 

 

Sunlight 

Perhaps the most important factor in choosing a greenhouse site is the amount of direct sunlight the area receives. Most non-commercial, backyard greenhouses are used primarily from late fall until early spring, where a south-facing site with no obstructions and maximum winter sun exposure is ideal. Often an ideal greenhouse site is near a tree or even in the shade of a tree, which isn’t a problem provided that the tree is deciduous and will shed it’s leaves during the part of the year you’ll be using the greenhouse. In fact, shade in the summer can be a welcome relief from the punishing effects of intense heat, and help extend the life of the structure, and even make it bearable for use as a storage and workspace. Consider carefully, however, the shadow cast by permanent structures nearby, like buildings and fences. And remember that a completely glazed greenhouse design will increase the amount of available light versus designs with glazing only on the south facing side.

 

 

Wind

Try to avoid placing your greenhouse in a windy location, like an exposed hill top, which can cool the structure, increasing the cost of supplemental heat. High wind loads also place additional strain on the structure’s frame. If this is simply unavoidable, you can reduce the effects of wind by planting a hedgerow that will function as a windbreak between the prevailing winds and the greenhouse. A sturdy evergreen like the Emerald Green Arborvitae is an excellent, fast-growing variety for the Southeastern US, that will provide year-round relief from high winds. Remember to plan for eventual growth, and allow plenty of space between the greenhouse and what your new hedgerow might look like in 10-15 years. Fifteen to Twenty feet between the hedgerow and greenhouse wall is usually about right.

 

 

Other Considerations

In order to maintain a healthy grow environment, It’s important for a greenhouse to have good drainage. Avoid low lying locations that stay soggy, and if this isn’t possible, decide on the type of flooring, and on the design and location of a drainage system before construction begins.  Another drawback to low-lying areas is the effect of frost pockets - areas where cold air pools and settles - which can lower the temperature in the greenhouse. Grade the area if necessary to allow cold air to drain away from the site, or choose another location.

Also, consider carefully how convenient a prospective greenhouse site is to water and power sources, and outdoor garden areas. Even if you don’t plan to install permanent plumbing and electrical outlets inside the structure, if you can’t picture yourself lugging a hose out to the site, or ferrying plants and supplies there and back, then it’s probably to far away. 

 

 

Tuesday
Nov132018

Garlic and Perennial Onion Growing Essentials

Garlic and perennial onions produce a ton of yield, with very little effort on your part, and their epic contribution in flavor in the kitchen more than offsets the little bit of preparation and planning that goes into growing them in your garden. Just remember these five essentials and you’re well on your way to a flavor-packed garlic and perennial onion harvest.

 

 

Soil Preparation

Garlic and perennial onions like shallots, leeks, and potato onions thrive in a light, loam soil type that drains well. Be sure to add plenty of organic material like compost or aged manure. Use dolomite lime or sulfur to maintain a pH between 6.5-7.0 ; Acid or alkaline soil impairs growth and delays maturity. Remember, garlic and perennial onions are heavy feeders, so be sure to amend your soil with organic sources of nitrogen, and especially phosphorous and potassium before planting. Rock phosphate and green sand are two excellent slow release sources of these two essential nutrients.

 

 

 

Planting & Cultivation

While it is possible in the Southeastern US to plant garlic and perennial onions in the spring, fall planting typically yields much more. Timing here is key ; There’s a sweet spot between planting too early in the fall, which invites disease and hungry rodents like voles , and too late, which hinders the roots from becoming established before the onset of winter.

Plant soft neck and hard neck garlic cloves about an inch deep, and 6” apart in rows about a foot apart. Perennial onion bulbs may be planted the same way, while Egyptian walking onions need closer to 9” between plants, and multiplier and perennial leeks only require about 2” between plants. It’s important to keep the soil evenly most while your bulbs are growing as drying out stunts development and reduces yields. Use an organic mulch in your garden to conserve water and maintain even soil moisture throughout the growing season.

 

 

Pest & Disease Control

As with most all edible varieties, the best way to control insect pests is to cultivate strong healthy plants. Rotating alliums throughout your garden will help control common insect pests like onion fly and thrips, and insecticidal soap or a horticultural oil like neem oil can be useful for controlling infestations.


Use mouse traps to catch voles and field mice, both of which travel in underground tunnels created by moles. Onion neck rot is a disease usually caused by excessive rain and poor air circulation.

 

 

 

Harvest, Curing & Storage

Garlic can be harvested when the lower third of the leaves have turned brown. Many gardeners make the mistake of waiting until the tops have fallen over, which is too late and makes the bulbs less attractive and harder to clean. Multiplier onions should be harvested when about half of the tops have fallen and the clusters can be gently lifted or dug up. Top set onions like Egyptian Walking Onions are usually grown for the greens, so digging up the bulbs would be mainly for transplanting. Avoid rinsing garlic and perennial onions once harvested as this encourages rot. Instead, simply shake off any excess soil and move the bulbs to a warm, dry, well ventilated area to begin the curing process, which usually take a month or two. Check frequently for spoiled bulbs, gently removing them without bruising the others. any Store cured bulbs over the winter in an unheated room like a garage or root cellar and remember that good air circulation will help prevent spoilage.

Tuesday
Nov132018

Cedar Jubilation : The Children's Garden at Wing Haven

Wing Haven has long been the iconic Myers Park destination where gardening enthusiasts of all ages can enjoy local flora and fauna. Winding pathways guide guests through acres of thoughtfully curated gardens, past bubbling fountains, underneath rustic arbors, and many other delightful garden features.

The Children’s Garden at Wing Haven has long been a main draw, with raised beds devoted to edible gardening, a whimsical chicken coop, greenhouse, compost bins and shaded picnic tables. 

 

In summer 2018, we partnered with Wing Haven on an expansion of the Children’s Garden and delivered ten 4’x8’ Kitchen Garden raised bed kits, two fully assembled 8’ long cedar picnic tables, and a three bin cedar compost system, also delivered as a kit.

 

The Kitchen Garden raised bed kits consisted of all of the cedar components for each garden bed, pre-cut and ready to assemble. A keen local Boy Scout brought wood glue, exterior screws, and a few fellow scouts, and assembled the raised kits and filled them with soil as a requirement to earn the prestigious Eagle Scout rank. Wing Haven staff including Jill Goodrich supervised the scouts’ work, and created a circular layout for the garden beds that serves as an excellent gathering and area for day camps and other interactive children’s learning activities in the garden.

 

A Boy Scout from another Troop built a the three-bin compost station and kid-sized tool rack in much the same the same way ;  wood glue, screws and a few eager helpers came together to assemble cedar components that had been pre-cut, bundled, and delivered to the site.

Wing Haven's Cedar Picnic Tables from Microfarm Organic Gardens on Vimeo.

 

The end result in both cases was remarkably good quality and workmanship, and a visually pleasing finished product. In fact, both projects were every bit as sturdy and well-made as if our own team had completed the installation. 

 

Yet, one unexpected result of these sturdy new cedar garden projects was that they now threw an unflattering spotlight on two well-worn, painted picnic tables, that were sagging from many years of service. So our craftsmen designed and built two hefty new picnic tables with rough-sawn red cedar, and stainless steel fasteners. These robust new picnic tables slapped high fives with the two retired tables on their way out, and now sit right beside the Children’s Garden garden giving young growers a comfortable, shaded place to sit and learn.