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Climate Crisis Food Occidental Arts & Ecology Center Sonoma CA US

The Occidental Arts & Ecology Center (OAEC) is an 80-acre research, demonstration, advocacy and organizing center in Sonoma County, California. We live in a time of profound challenges that require immediate, courageous and strategic responses. We are confronted by global ecological and climate crises… OAEC supports diverse communities to design their own regenerative systems at the regional and local scale. OAEC supports change makers and communities to design for a resilient future.

There are other organizations like this one that are helping us plan specifically for our areas. Sometimes the processes of one situation can be used as a template, adapted for another area, the basic premises, sequences holding across the board.

July 2019 Kollibri Terre Sonnenblume’s latest article was published. The title reads: Our Veggie Gardens Won’t Feed us in a Real Crisis As things stand right now, for most of us he’s right.

As Veg Gardeners we are emissaries to all who would grow food! In a serious crisis, our skills may be called on to feed many people. Kollibri’s provocative article makes you think about how important our growing can be in these times of extreme climate situations.

Some of you may be permaculturists, already knowing about collaboration with the land, sustainability, self-reliance, having multiple support/backup systems. Others of you may be rank gardening beginners. Most of us are in progress. We need you all!

Kollibri’s experience is his. There are many stories to be told, many responses possible. Some of my thoughts and responses include:

  • Select safe land for your growing space carefully for the long term. Anticipate what changes you can, timing as possible. Have a backup plan in mind. Yes, there will be unanticipated events – a microburst storm, a devastating foreign insect coming through, huge hail where it hasn’t happened before, others.
  • Change your diet. In a crisis you might expect to let go of meat, diary, and grains, or reduce your intake dramatically. Instead of beef, raise fish or other animals, perhaps. Maybe your choice will be animals that provide milk and fur. How about chickens? They poop manure, scratch, eat insects, make eggs!
  • Learn about soil. Check out the soil chapter in the book Gaia’s Garden!
  • Plant efficient per square foot plants. Our small 10X20 Community Garden plots teach us that. Those plants can be high producers like zucchini, plants that produce prolifically all season long, or cut and come again types like lettuces and kales. In summer string beans are super producers – broad beans and long beans give you more bean for the space they take up!
  • Plant Perennial plants, like Tree Collards, for continuous crop all year and year after year.
  • If you have cold winters, plant potatoes that store well. In summer plant winter squashes that store well in winter. Set up an in-the-ground greenhouse to equalize seasonal temps.
  • Learn about Succession Planting. While one plant is growing, plant another round. Some plants are started every week.
  • Learn about Seed Saving so you allow time and space for that type of production as well.
  • Plant year round habitat for birds to keep pests down, and for bees and other pollinators to keep pollination going.
  • Check out what the indigenous ancestors in that area survived well on. Restore some of that process. It could be an efficient food forest. Could be ‘Tending the Wild,’ using edible native plants, as Kat Anderson writes about. If your land is hilly, terracing is a phenomenal and beautiful technique.
  • Plant plants that have over-the-top nutritional value like fast grower Garden Purslane, pur·sluhn, aka Verdolaga south of the border.
  • If you are planting for a family, consider the special food needs of children, people who are ill, elders. Plant herbs for medicine.

The Gardener’s New Emergency Kit Bag!

SEEDS  A gardener’s emergency kit bag is a little different! It likely includes important select seeds for all seasons in an airtight container! Select some productive fast growers, like lettuce and radish (has edible leaves too), and ones of plants that produce all season long. Select bush and pole beans, determinate and indeterminate tomatoes. Select heat, drought and cold tolerant plant seeds. Some will grow earlier crops that produce in cool weather! Some survive heat, grow later and more healthily in fall. Some will survive frosts, even freezing. Be sure to have seeds for all seasons. Some areas, especially flooded areas, it isn’t recommended to grow edible plants there for at least one full season, so you need access to fresh soil and to be prepared for every season. Remember, you won’t be the only hungry people. Take as many seeds as possible. Seeds for flood soil restoration. Seeds for sprouts!

SOIL  If you anticipate you would need ‘soil,’ whether you would be able to leave in a vehicle or intend to stay where you are, keep a couple or more bags of fresh clean compost around at all times. You can plant directly in compost. Remember, kitchen scraps can be processed to be used to make more compost. Think about including a lightweight folding shovel in your emergency kit.

What if you live in an apartment? Growing food in a north facing window system would be a challenge – not enough sun. If you have power, set up some grow lights. These days, thoughtfulness about your directional window placing could become vital. Install  window solar power devices for when your power is off! Many a fine container garden has been planted in windows, on balconies, along the stairs, on the walls, a pallet leaning against the wall, in hanging baskets, on trellises made of strings or wire. Creativity abounds! Also grow tasty high protein sprouts!

Weather Crises are now unpredictable. The modern survivor needs to be prepared for any kind of emergency at any location, at any time.

IN a Crisis situation, burning heat, a water wipe out, an extended freeze, it’s over. What do you do? In a worst case scenario, there may no longer be a nursery or transplants at it. Most crops planted from seed take two+ months to get into production. Lettuce/Microgreens are really fast, but even they take about two weeks minimum. Radish, an incredibly fast grower, takes about a month. Transportation may be an issue. You may need to migrate to land that has plants to forage. Carry your lettuce plantings with you – wagon, cart, bicycle, grocery cart, sleep with them to protect them. You may become vegan for a while. You may not be happy, but you won’t die, probably will lose some weight! Succession planting becomes a necessity.

Always have an emergency backup supply of dry food for until your new plants become available to eat. Be sure your food supply takes up little space and weighs little. You want to be able to carry it comfortably if need be. In airtight/waterproof bags pack: Jerky, nuts, the least bulky dried vegs and fruits. Keep a ready lightweight waterproof backpack.

Heat – Maybe Drought, Fire

In a serious heat situation you may need to migrate north to a cooler higher land with access to clean water. Plant right away in a sheltered, perhaps shaded area, use shade cloth if you can get it, branches if you can’t. Choose a north facing slope for less sun. If there is no slope, build one as you can. Put up windbreaks to slow drying wind. If the soil is sandy, compost, compost, compost for water holding capacity. Bring seaweed from the ocean if you are coastal. Mulch to cool down the soil. If it is windy, put shade cloth or another cover to hold the mulch in place, especially if your land is sloped. The Zuni used ‘gravel,’ handpicked pebbles as ‘mulch’ in their waffle spaces. Use the old Zuni humble technique of Waffle gardeningThey knew how to garden in heat! Simplest and cheapest is to set up an underground greenhouse to equalize seasonal temps. Make it the right size for your needs. Dig it right into the side of a hill or slope if possible. You want that shade and shelter for both you and the plants. Check out the Pros and cons of building bank barns? It can be improvised to suit a temporary immediate need, or planned to the inch if built on purpose…

In the most urban situations like New York City, use those balconies, the rooftops, a window! Just be sure the balcony or roof will support the additional weight of soil and water. Wherever you plant, choose highly productive plants per square foot. Pole beans on a trellis! Bush Zucchini. Cut-and-come-again plants like chard, celery, lettuce/microgreens, kales. Chard, celery and lettuce need a lot of water. Otherwise, choose plants that are heat and drought tolerant.

Greenhouse Walipini Pit Interior

Walipini Pit Greenhouse! How a Walipini works and how to build one!

Great tips here: Underground Greenhouse Ideas: What Are Pit Greenhouses

In the long term, plant more trees like fast grower legume trees that feed the soil and cool the Earth. Plant them in Bioswales that hold moisture. The trees make shade, hold even more moisture, secure the soil with their roots. If possible, start where there is an initial water supply.

Climate Crisis Food Bioswale Duarte CA by BlueGreen Consulting

Beautiful Nature Walk Bioswale at Dawn, Duarte CA by BlueGreen Consulting

Flood

This is no longer new to us, but it’s a dramatic example. 7.23.19: Less than a month after New York City declared a climate emergency due to a heat wave, the reality of the crisis came crashing home Monday as streets across Brooklyn and Queens were inundated with dirty water flash flooding a day after power went down in three boroughs. These New Yorkers aren’t going to be growing much of their own food right now. But, do what you can! Use those balconies, the rooftops, a window that receives sun. A LOT can be grown in small spaces! Choose apartments wisely – sun facing in case you need that sun.

Climate Crisis Food Flood NYC July 2019

July 2019 NYC: Heat Wave, Blackouts, Flood back to back.

Some consider floods to be worse than droughts. Flood soils are dangerous, mask and gloves needed when you do remediation. You may not be able to grow edible plants there for at least a season.

You don’t want to plant in low areas after a flood. There are sewage, oils, plastics, garbage, disease in that water – likely Giardia, sometimes dead animals and humans, their fecal matter, fecal matter from nearby animal/chicken farms. Afterwards there are decaying materials. The soil that remains may be infected for a long time to come. Your first tactic would be to plant quick growing detoxing grasses, sunflowers and other plants that remove crud. Grow plants that reach deep into the soil and loosen its structure. Turn the soil to off gas toxins and so dangerous soil organisms will dry and die. Incorporate fresh clean compost. See more ideas

If your veg garden got flooded, here are some important tips from Colorado State Master Gardeners.

Planting in lowlands, below dams or water barriers, may not be the wise choice these days. An unusual amount of fast high water can blast right through these structures. The face of agriculture is changing. Grains and corn may become unprofitable choices, equaling less beef, higher prices. Water may bring silt and fertile soil or fast flooding may wash away all the topsoil leaving nutritionless, even dirty, soil. For your personal situation, choose higher land. If needed, protect it with terracing, done with a combination of bioswales and Hugelkultur. Choose the cleanest soil you can find to plant in.

Soil Restoration Please see this List of Phytoremediation Plants Used to Clean Contaminated Soil. Alfalfa grows quickly. Sunflowers take longer but are pretty. Willow trees. Per Anita B. Stone ‘Indian Grass is one of nine members of grasses that assist in phytoremediation plants. When planted on farmland, the reduction of pesticides and herbicides is significant. This list also includes Buffalo grass and Western wheatgrass, both capable of absorbing hydrocarbons from the land.’ Be sure to grow grasses appropriate to your location, native grasses if possible. Put some alfalfa and grass seeds in your emergency kit!

Three things are important! 1) Install a ground cover of water absorbing plants to detox the soil if you must replant in areas that have flooded. 2) Plant quick growing legume soil feeding plants and trees to feed and restore the soil. 3) Include plants that will grow deep and break up that soil, that make breathing airways for soil organisms that will help clean up the soil.

Climate Crisis Food Cincinnati's Rapid Run Park Bioswale Slow Sink Spread Water

Rapid Run Urban Bioswale, Seven Hills Neighborhood, Cincinnati OH  The learning curve was steep…

In the long term, in non-urban areas, or urban areas that are interspersed with land, build bioswales that interrupt stormwater flow and divert it to areas that need water! Interrupt flooding with many bioswales – just like in nature. Remember these words: Slow, Sink, Spread! Put rough big materials in the bottom to slow that water down so it has time to sink. Cleverly make that bioswale curvy – install ‘S’ curves, to slow that water down! Make side branches, bulges along the way, and deltas to spread that water. Again, make generous stormwater retention ponds along the way.

A big 2¢ worth from Cornell! Woody Shrubs for Stormwater Retention Practices

China is building 30 ‘sponge cities’ that aim to soak up floodwater and prevent disaster

Freezing or an Extended Period of Exceptional Cold

Climate Crisis Food Freeze Extended Exceptional Cold

There may be no snow plow, cell service; electricity may be out. It’s not safe outdoors for humans or pets, farm animals, livestock. Fishing at the lake through an ice hole may be all that’s left, IF you have a lake, if it has fish…

In an immediate situation, a southern migration may be in order, preferably to land with a clean water supply. If you stay, go Vegan, at least temporarily. Building a greenhouse may be a challenge. We want warmer, to reduce wind chill. The ground may be frozen, so no underground greenhouse yet. But you can build along a south facing slope, even a snowbank! If there is no slope, build one. Gather and pile up any materials at hand. Make the face from wood panels, plastic sheets, old windows, even logs and branches can do the job. At each side put up permeable wind barriers that make a U shape with your ‘greenhouse’ and let the area inside the U warm up. Use any reflective materials you can find to reflect heat onto your greenhouse.

In the long term, well in advance, build a greenhouse. Such a greenhouse can be built in the ground during summer months when the soil can be worked. Homesteaders in -40° weather, used their garage and came to two prime conclusions. #1 is Insulation! No surprise. #2 was their water tanks, a thermal mass that kept their water buckets near the tanks from freezing solid! They needed water for their plants! You can put in stoves, showers, sleeping quarters! Store foods you want to be cold well away from the stove area. Clearly, light is needed. That’s why a greenhouse against a slope or a mound you make is a practical idea. The south facing side can have light allowing material slanted against it steeply enough the snow falls down. If you want to collect it to make water, all the easier. Depending on what you want to do, snow can act as insulation. See excellent tips at SF Gate: How to Keep a Greenhouse Above Freezing. When you can, install a self-sufficient Solar Power System for energy to keep your plants warm, lighted and growing.

Green Sprouts in the Canadian Arctic A unique “Green Igloo” project is helping grow fresh vegetables in a remote Inuit community! The 42-foot growing dome, built in modular sections, can handle seven feet of snow and winds up to 110 miles per hour.

Keep extra bags of compost/manure, to plant in while soil isn’t available. Grow cold-tolerant crops that can even tolerate a freeze. Harvest frugally. Plants grow slowly when it’s cold. Grow plants that regrow – like lettuces/microgreens, bunch onions, spinach, chard, Kales. Plant successively to keep supplies coming. While one plant is regrowing you can harvest another area.

We have now discussed Greenhouses for both heat and freeze temps needs. Underground greenhouses accommodate both situations with less difficulty. Just be sure to make them safe from flooding or snowmeltBioswales work well with planting more trees and diverting water, making more space for the natural flow of water.

Climate Crisis Many Sprouts are surprisingly High in Protein!

We haven’t talked about SPROUTS! Technically, growing sprouts isn’t gardening, but it’s a relative! In all cases, Heat, Flood and Freeze they can be grown easily and super quickly, 2 to 5 days, in light weight containers. Select seeds that have plenty of protein! Make a fast growing mix and a slower mix. Mix in some spicy seeds for tasty results. You do need water to rinse them and they need to be kept warm. You could carry them in your jacket when it’s cold. In the diagram below, particularly note the grams of Protein!

Climate Crisis GROW SPROUTS!
Please right click on image, select ‘Search Google for image’ to see a more clear image.

If you are starting over, you might consider a Food Forest. If you have enough land with good soil, they have special advantages, including the possibility of mitigating crisis situations. Same goes for the use of Permaculture techniques, which might include a Food Forest. Food Forests often start with, may already have trees you want in place. They can provide shade and windbreaks. Wood for winter. Food Forests provide high density production per square foot, a variety of foods and living needs in a much smaller space! It would serve you well to read up on both and possibly modify your long term plans for a safer, more sustainable and comfortable life.

Not everyone likes or wants to garden. If you are evacuated, right away select a food person. Could be an experienced veg gardener who knows how to get things going again. They will work intuitively and be innovative on their feet as needed. Select someone who has a natural inclination. If no one in your group likes gardening, appoint someone responsible and practical to do it anyway. Give them your support by working side by side with them as much as possible. It’s a start. Some people don’t yet know they would like to garden! Show them what you are growing; give them a few samples of your 100% fresh organic food with no packaging! That full bodied taste and fresh texture makes a huge difference! Someone who loves gardening enjoys the work it takes. A greater amount of fresh food will need to be grown to meet initial crisis needs.

Some of us Community Gardeners are considering meeting together if there is a serious crisis and we would evacuate together if need be. We could help people with the food situation. Local permaculturists might form a group to help our community in extreme circumstances. They might train for different kinds of climate situations. We need Permaculture First Responders on staff! Farmers might join an advocacy association to train key gardeners about mass production techniques. Neighborhood associations could create a seat on the council for a person to get knowledgeable and take charge of crisis food needs. Certain centrally located secure homes could be appointed as gathering places. Homeowners that already have veg gardens could be assisted to produce more.

We have been talking about temporary survival fixes in extreme circumstances. The important key to all is responsible land stewardship toward regenerative agriculture. See Elemental Ecosystems’ immense Crater Garden Project in Gallatin, Montana!

Climate Crisis Regenerative Agriculture

Plan and support Regenerative Agriculture!

This post is intended to be provocative in its own way. Please think about it, let us know your ideas, make comments, ask questions, share your experiences. This has been in the back of my mind for some time and is still in progress. Our solutions now will undoubtedly change as circumstances change, unfold. It will take all our collective genius. People who have lived alone will find themselves suddenly thrust into collaborating. Life will be changing for all of us. We’re in it together.

Be safe, be well, tend your future just as you would your garden ~ it is a garden of another kind!


Updated as new information comes in…

Sharing is Caring! Let’s get the word out!

 

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The Green Bean Connection newsletter started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

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Soil Makes a Difference, Abundance

In Warrenville, IL, Shawna Coronado transformed her front yard to edible landscaping!

Super Soil Makes all the Difference! Great soil grows healthy plant roots and powerful veggies! Here are important seasonal soil care tips…first let’s consider your land.

The Lay of your Land! The shape of your land has a lot to do with the condition of your soil. If you are on a slope, do a little terracing to preserve your precious topsoil from erosion. Use the water saving principles, Slow, Spread, Sink! In lower areas, berms, raised borders, are a simple way to keep your water where it is best used. The berms also allow airflow to go over an area rather than drying the soil there. See Zuni Waffle Gardening! So shape your space! Plant according to what your land can support. Put drought tolerant heat lover plants in drier hotter places. Put water needing veggies in partial shade, in lower water collecting areas, by a spigot. Plant tall heat lovers in the West so not so heat tolerant shorter plants can be shaded from the hottest afternoon sun. If they all like Sun, plant tall to the east and north.

SEASONS

Fall – Put Summer to Bed – Clean up! Remove debris, any infested habitat. Clear places where unwanted pests or diseases might overwinter. Remove mulch so the soil can warm up when the sun is low and there is less day length. In Southern areas, amend your soil for winter planting.

WinterIn SoCal, feed 1/2 strength during cooler weather when uptake is slower. Raise Green Manures, soil feeding cover crops to restore your soil. Cultivate after rains! It’s an age old technique to aerate soil, let it dry out, kill off soil fungi. It is also called, Dust Mulching. Simply cultivate about 2 or 3 inches deep. This disturbs the soil surface, interrupting the wicking of soil moisture from below to the surface and losing it to evaporation.

In SoCal End of Winter, Early Spring

Compost well. Compost has excellent water holding capacity and your seeds need to be kept moist for germination. Homemade compost especially thrives with living organisms. Worms are happy and make castings! Add other amendments you prefer at the same time.

Some plants, like strawberries, need slightly acidic soil. When their soil is right, they fend off diseases better and produce like crazy. They like to be moist, so get the right compost, the kind for shade plants, and dig it in. Strawberries don’t have deep roots, so shovel-depth deep is great.

Now, before you go compost crazy, in Nature, organic matter, our equivalent is compost, only makes up a small fraction of the soil (normally 5 to 10 percent), yet organic matter is absolutely essential. There is various thinking about what the right amount of compost is to use in a veggie garden that is pumping out those veggies! Cornell University says use 3 inches over the surface worked into the top 3-6 inches of soil! Research shows ideal soil contains 5% organic matter by weight, 10% by volume. Like with a lot of gardening, more is not always better, nor necessary!

Depending on what you are planting where, add well aged manure. Hard working leaf crops like lettuces love manure, so do peppers. Heavy feeders like large plants, indeterminate tomatoes, might like a little more. Just be careful not to add so much your crop goes to leaf and no fruits! If you do, there are remedies for that, but you lose production time when that happens. Peas and beans draw their own Nitrogen from the air, and carrots will grow hairy and fork if their soil is too rich. No additional manure is needed for them.

Preparing Planting Beds for Seeds

In addition to the above, incorporate Worm Castings for all your plantings, but, seeds benefit a lot! They germinate more quickly, seedlings grow faster! Leaves grow bigger, more flowers, fruits or vegetables are produced. Vermicompost suppresses several diseases of cucumbers, radishes, strawberries, grapes, tomatoes and peppers, and it also significantly reduces parasitic nematodes, aphids, mealybugs and mites! Who could ask for more?! These effects are greatest when a smaller amount of vermicompost is used—just 10-40% of the total volume of the plant growth medium is all that is needed, 25% is ideal!

See more at Soil Care for Spring Planting! 

At Planting Time – Using these specific ingredients below may not be your personal choice, but consider adding equivalent goodies. Every plant has different needs. Planting holes are a truly plant specific spots!

Planting Hole Amendments for Transplants

  • Nonfat powdered milk is a natural germicide and immediately boosts plant immune systems. A handful does the job.
  • Worm Castings for rapid growth, disease suppression, reduce insect pests! 25% is ideal.
  • Bone Meal is high in P, Phosphorus – blooms! Uptake is about two months, right at bloom time. It is also high in calcium, which helps prevent blossom end rot in tomatoes. I plop in a generous handful.
  • Adding Jamaican bat guano high in P, Phosphorus, at planting time helps your plants continue to bloom LATE in the season! Its NPK ratio is 1-10-0.2, takes 4 months to become available to your plants.
  • Well aged Manure to boost Nitrogen – especially for manure lovers like eggplant, melons, peppers, big indeterminate tomatoes, winter squash and hard working leaf plants like lettuces.
  • Mycorrhizal fungi – Brassicas don’t dance with it, but other plants thrive. It links your plants’ roots with the soil, increases uptake of nutrients. Just sprinkle it on the roots of your transplant and give it a pat so it will stick. The roots and the fungi need to be in contact!
  • Compost if your soil needs a little boost right where you are planting. Remember, your plant has a circle of tiny feeder roots out to the mature dripline and sometimes beyond. That’s where the majority of feeding takes place when your plant gets big. Be sure to compost far enough out for them to be well nourished. Your plant will do better longer.
  • If your soil has fungi problems, wilts, blights, add a tiny tad of coffee grounds. A 1/2 a percent does the job. Yes, you read right, that is a 1/2 a %!
  • Add Green Sand or some such for a long term mineral boost if you think your soil needs it. Kelp works quickly.

In soil with fungi, plant high so the soil drains and dries, the fungi dies. Make basins so the bottom of the basin is above the general soil level. If a plant with a lot of large leaves, put a stake in the center of the basin so you know where to water. Make the basin large enough so the edges don’t degrade from the watering and your large plant is sure to get enough water to it’s dripline, where the lateral surface roots feed. Many plants uptake more food and from these lateral roots than the central deep roots.
Special Soil Berm Basin Level for Tomatoes and Cucumbers

When Your Soil Heats Up, Mulch! A two-to-four inch layer of mulch decreases evaporation from the soil by 70 percent or more! Mulch prevents light germinating weed seeds from sprouting. You save your soil nutrients and time in the garden weeding! Water well before applying the mulch, or you will insulate dry soil rather than moist soil. Be garden smart – when possible use a mulch that decomposes and feeds your soil. But if all you have is gravel, use it!

SideDressing – Between summer watering and keeping up with harvesting, sidedressing often is neglected. But your plants work hard and need some chow! Feed your plants at bloom time. They are just about to go into their maximum production. Liquid fertilizers are easy for them to uptake. Teas – compost, worm, manure, fish/kelp – are terrific. Foliar feeding, sprinkling the leaves, upper and under, with some Epsom Salts/sulfur mix is super for Solanaceae – eggplant, pepper, tomato, tomatillo, and roses, but especially peppers! This care increases your bounty, extends your growing season.  

High to Late Summer – High summer replenish low mulch. Remove and trash mulch where plants have had pests or disease; replace with clean mulch. Keep your soil consistently moist. If you are off on vacation, choose a dependable person to tend your plants. Be sure to have them keep your plants harvested so your plants don’t quit producing. Late summer feed your plants if they aren’t looking so perky and if you still want crop. But if your plant is done, no amount of feeding will matter. They know when the days are getting shorter… Late Summer, as cooling starts, remove mulch so the soil is again warmed by the Sun. 

Words on Watering from water challenged Los Angeles! This is written by Master Gardeners representing the University of California Cooperative Extension:

  • Use the shovel test to know when to water: soil should be moist to the base of the shovel when inserted into the soil.
  • Deep watering is important. Water is not getting deep enough if you sprinkle your garden every day. It is best to water to the point of run-off, and water as frequently as needed to meet the shovel test. Also, with too much run-off, you are wasting water.
  • Teach your plants to grow deeply for moisture. In spring, for average soils, water deeply only every 2-3 weeks. By the time that summer’s heat arrives, plant feeder roots will be growing deeply for moisture, and the plants won’t need watering more frequently than once a week during very hot spells.
  • One inch of irrigated water will soak down to different depths, depending on how heavy your soil is: 12″ deep in sandy soil, 9″ deep in loamy soil, but only 3″ deep in clay soil. Plant root zones generally reach from 2-12″ down, but larger plants like tomatoes may reach 3′ down. Clay soil, because it is so compact, can be watered a little each day for two to three days to allow absorption down that far, rather than a lot of runoff by watering once for a long time.
  • The ideal time to water is in the morning before the sun is high. This avoids evaporation and also gives the plants time to dry off before sunset, which deters mildews.
  • Refrain from overhead watering when the evenings remain warm, especially when leaves can’t dry off by sunset. Fungal diseases thrive when temperatures remain between 70 and 80 degrees; and they need only 2-4 hours of moist, warm conditions to develop. Overwatering is the cause of most plants dying. Too much water drowns the roots.
  • Occasionally you should overhead water in order to clean both sides of leaves.
  • Avoid walking in your garden after watering so that you do not compact the soil. Use stepping stones, boards, or straw or mulch paths. Never step into raised beds. Healthy living soil is 25% air, 25% water. It needs to breathe and be moist for the soil organisms to do their work.

ALL Year Make Compost! It is your single most bestest amendment of all! If you could choose only one, this would be it. It’s nutritious, has super water holding capacity, and steadily releases nutrition to your soil!

When your soil looks good enough to eat, you probably have it right! 

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!

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I would like to share this article with you.  Lovingly written, applies to all gardening!  Linda Buzzell, co-founder of Santa Barbara Organic Garden Club, has a true communion with plant beings, and I’m hoping we, you and I, will all work on bettering our connections with them as well.  Long before I started veggie gardening, less than a decade ago, I read Findhorn Garden and was impressed way back then, by the relationship the gardeners had with the land and the plants and how successful that was for them both.  Bless you for your kind attention. 

Mystic Rose at Rosaflora.net

A WINTER MEDITATION ON PRUNING

Linda Buzzell-Saltzman

Winter and early spring are the seasons when many gardeners, orchardists and farmers — fancying themselves surgeons — approach their trees, shrubs and roses with knives, pruning shears and saws in hand, seemingly unaware that these plants are, as the Buddhists would say, sentient beings.

Most pruning is less a conversation between two of nature’s creatures and more an act of ruthless domination under the guise of necessity.

For some reason over the last few millennia we have come to believe that plants are unable to survive, bloom and fruit properly without human intervention. And while much of the painstaking breeding and hybridizing by our ancestors has provided us with an extraordinary variety of edible plants, it may be time to question some of the time-honored Western methods of plant care.

What’s shocking to many people is that scientific research is beginning to reveal the utter lack of necessity for most of the one-sided surgery we call pruning.  For example, a British study showed that rose bushes pruned with hedge clippers yielded as many flowers as those carefully manicured with hand pruners – and that roses left alone yielded still more!

Where did we get the arrogant idea that we know better than the plant itself how to maximize its productivity and health? Such a strange notion, when you think about it… perhaps part of the larger delusion that nature is here merely for us to exploit without thought of the damage we may be doing to individual living beings or our biosphere.

So when might our pruning interventions actually be helpful rather than hurtful? And for whom?

The first principle of permaculture is “observe and interact” – admirable advice in the present instance.  Taking time to respectfully see how the plant itself intends to grow, bloom and fruit allows us greater insight into if, how and when to intervene.

Vintage Gardens Nursery’s Gregg Lowery, heritage rose expert extraordinaire, points out that mostly we prune for our own reasons that have nothing to do with the plant in question. It’s a one way conversation. For instance, we may prune to make a plant look better to our eyes, our sense of what’s beautiful or “tidy.” Or we may need to prune for space, when a tree or bush begins to outgrow its allotted place – probably because we made the mistake of not allowing for full, natural growth when we planted it – our error, not the plant’s!

Rather than remove such a plant entirely, we may need to first apologize, and then gently shape it.  Not just to suit our ideas of aesthetics (again, to please us, not the plant), but hopefully to benefit both the plant and our space needs.

If so, we might want to observe that traditional pruning times and methods were usually designed for Northern conditions, to protect a tender plant from winter frosts. In a warm-winter climate this isn’t necessary, and yet many of us who live in Mediterranean climate zones dutifully hack away at our roses in usually-wet winters, reducing them to stubs and weakening them with radical surgery.  In fact, it’s usually better to do any pruning for size in the summer if possible, when lack of rain may ensure more sanitary conditions.

This whole “do no harm” philosophy of pruning owes a great debt to Japanese philosopher-farmer Masanobu Fukuoka, author of a hugely influential book called One Straw Revolution, who advocated what he called “natural farming” or what some have dubbed “The Zen of Farming,” in which we refrain from digging, cutting or intervening unnecessarily in natural soil and plant systems which we truly don’t understand. We also may need to refine our view of what’s beautiful, to appreciate nature’s own gardening style rather than the control-heavy European aesthetic.

If we do prune, perhaps we might initiate a respectful dialogue with our plants and trees, rather than a monologue. What might be helpful to the plant?  Perhaps the removal of a dead or diseased limb?  A limb that is rubbing against another in the wind?  A sucker from below the graft (if we have a grafter plant) that is draining energy from the top growth?

Observation is the key. And listening.  If we take the time to really get to know our plants, they will guide us in our care for them.

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Young Food Forest Fruit Tree Guild by the Resilliency Institute
This is a single tree young simple mini system designed by Joshua Reynolds at 
Texas Edible Landscapes. He sells these PODS, self-sustaining micro eco-systems, that can come with lots of variables per the plants you pick. July 2019 prices – Ready made, $550; custom is $750. Food Forests and Guilds are catching on!

If you want to grow your own, if your land already has plants growing naturally on it, sit down with them. Maybe a bit each day for a few days. Let the land talk with you. Notice the lay of the land, how it flows.

Plant a tree thinking in terms of a food forest, guild! Trees are your master plant. Think carefully what tree that will be. It will be there a long time. What effect will the mature tree have? What about shading your area, the neighbor’s area? Do you want it to be a windbreak so the land will be warmed for veg planting? What does your space accommodate? Do you want full grown trees? Or would your space and palate do better with an array of different kinds of dwarf trees, mixed semidwarf trees at fruit picking reachable height? You don’t have to have tall trees…

Food Forest at Alan Day Community Garden, Norway, Maine
Food Forest at Alan Day Community Garden, Norway, Maine

December, January are a great time to install native plants and fruit trees! Nurseries stock them bare-root then! See if any of this info affects where and how you place them. A large food forest can be anchored by a south opening ‘U’ shaped planting of trees that captures heat for growing veggies in its center area. It can start with a single tree in your backyard. Read Toby Hemenway’s book ‘Gaia’s Garden,’ especially the chapter on Designing Garden Guilds. Toby says “…biological support replaces human intervention, shifting the garden’s burden onto the broad back of nature.” If you have time and inclination, see Linda & Larry’s Food Forest Video! Besides their suburban Santa Barbara yard being a food forest, it is the epitome of edible landscaping!  

*Guild plants are plants that grow well together. It’s a LOT more than companion planting by twos, two plants that like, enhance, or help each other, though that is wonderful too. Happy plants make more food! Guilds are systems of plants starting with a tree if you have the space! Generally that tree is a fruit or nut tree that provides food too. For lots of great ideas, check out Permies.com on Guilds. If you love the idea of guilds, and apples, check out the details at this Apple Tree Guild! – image at left. A super functioning guild utilizes both vertical space and horizontal overlapping circles!

Food forests are naturally occuring in nature. Permaculturists think of them designed in layers. From Wiki, adapted to one person’s Apple Guild example, running vertically from the top down:

  1. The canopy – the treetops.
  2. The understory or low tree layer – anything under about 4.5 metres. Our apple trees will be in this zone but in our neighbourhood they’ll be some of the highest plants around so nothing will be competing with them for light.
  3. Shrubs – our raspberries, broad beans, and blackcurrants are in this layer. Being larger, the vicinity of the apple tree will only sustain a few of these. Broad beans are a good bet since their roots fix nitrogen from the air and get it into the soil where the tree and other plants can use it.
  4. Herbaceous layer – lettuces, dill, thyme, cabbage, rhubarb and so on. Anything that flowers with the apple blossom will attract insects which will help to pollinate the tree (without which, no apples).
  5. Rhizosphere – root crops like carrots and potatoes grow here, so need to be kept far from the shallow roots of an apple tree.
  6. Soil surface – home of our strawberries, sedum and clover. Clover is another soil feeding nitrogen-fixing plant.
  7. Vertical layer – our hops, cucumbers, sweetpeas and vines grow here. Sweetpeas fix nitrogen in their roots, which can be left in the ground after they have died back – but they climb and have thick foliage, so only suitable for larger trees.
  8. Some people include the underground network of some fungi as an eighth layer. In our garden the edible fungi include puffballs, though somehow we never catch them before they are football-sized.

That’s the vertical plane – there’s also a horizontal plane. An apple tree’s root spread is one-and-a-half times the diameter of its canopy and its principle feeding roots lie close to the surface, which tends to be where most of the soil’s nutrients are.

Blended Mature Food Forest by William Horvath

Your Food Forest might look like William Horvath’s when it is mature. As your food forest grows, fills in, there will be no obvious layers. It will look just like nature does, blended, each plant getting sunlight per it’s height. William Horvath has ongoing experience with Food Foresting! See his detailed May 5, 2017 post and read the comments! 

When you are reading online, remember to pay attention to where the guild example is. There are super wet northern guilds, snowy mountains, humid areas, hot and dry south western desert types, snowy northern plains and central US flatlands. All will require their own special treatment. Your best guide will be Mother Nature herself. If you are a native plant fan, the ones in your area may be the most sustainable choice of all per water needs. What did the indigenous peoples eat there?

If you are growing for income, research to find the most productive trees and crops in your area will be key. If you want self reliance, diversity is key – what grows super well together. You want crops coming in all year – fresh potent nutrition makes for healthy lives, and  crops that store well if you don’t have the all year option! Some gardeners opt for a combination of in-the-ground plants interspersed with greenhouses.

I am in hopes you will talk this up to your apartment owner, install it on your own property. No matter what the size, model your veggie garden after it, share it with every gardener anywhere, of any kind that you know. This principle is so important in many ways. Guild lists can be made for every area, plant zone, specific for every tree! Guild planting makes sense.

  • It’s economical.  Plants grow densely, produce more for less work. We are making on prem food forests when times are hard and may get harder.
  • Ecologically we are restoring native habitat when we plant and support those plants that use our water more wisely.
  • It is sustainable –  produces more food on less land, cuts food miles, no fuel, packaging.
  • Health is prime as we eat organic, much more nutritious food that hasn’t been depleted by shipping, storage and processing.

Our list [SEE IT!] author is Linda Buzzell-Saltzman, M.A., MFT, co-editor with Craig Chalquist of the anthology Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind, Sierra Club Books (May 2009). She is a psychotherapist and ecotherapist in Santa Barbara, where she specializes in helping clients with career issues, financial challenges and the transition to a simpler, more sustainable and nature-connected lifestyle. Linda is an heirloom rose lover, current board member of the Santa Barbara Rose Society, founder of the International Assn for Ecotherapy and co-founder of the Santa Barbara Organic Garden Club! She cares.

Linda’s List is intended for a Mediterranean climate like coastal Southern California has, one of only 5 in the world. The list in your area may be different. Check out your local gardener’s successes, check with your local nursery. This list is not tree specific yet. We’re working on that!

More than a list of plants, Linda’s List gives tips for good growing, eating, and usage!

SEE PART 2, the List!

Updated 7.1.19

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!

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From the LA Examiner.com Pasta with fried zucchini, teardrop tomatoes and walnut pesto!

Four of the highest yield summer plants per square foot are indeterminate tomatoes, pole beans, zucchinis, and chard!  Three of these crops can be grown up, on trellises, in cages, so your land need is small.  Chard is prolific, cut and come again all year long!

Tomatoes are classically grown UP!  They have their own little support systems, tomato cages!  Some people trellis them, grow them against the fence, espalier them, even grow them upside down!  At Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden we have two foot diameter cages we build out of two remesh panels – if you are local, drop by to see them on the job!  

We use those same structures for pole beans!  Pole beans love growing on trellises, any kind!  Those simple tripods tied at the top work fine.  Or let them shinny up your sunflower Jack-in-the-Beanstalk style!  I feed them across my remesh panel horizontally so they remain at harvest height!

For zuchs, the easiest thing is to grab the largest strongest tomato cage you have and feed the zuch leaves up though it as your zuch grows! Let some of the outmost leaves stick out so the plant is more open for easier harvesting in the center, air flows to allow cooler conditions to prevent mildews. Cut the bottommost leaves off as the plant gets taller and well foliated, plant other plants underneath! As your zuch vines more, put in another cage, or two, right next to the first one. Let your vine grow right over the top of them, above the other plants already growing there. Put in as many cages as you need as your vine grows.  This is one time when it really doesn’t pay to let your zuchs get huge on the vine, break the plant from their weight, fall on plants below!  Harvest small and salad tender.  If you see one coming, don’t neglect to check on it in a maximum of 2 days.  In prime conditions they are FAST growers!  

If you are growing butternuts/winter squash, or gourds, pop in a well staked sturdy trellis – simplest is remesh 4′ X 7′ panels from Home Depot or OSH, or an arbor. Remesh can be bent whimsically or cut to fit a spot perfectly, or green wire tied together to make cage sizes that suit your needs. Tie your vine, 10′ for squash, 25′ for gourds, to the trellis, or to a southwest facing fence so your squash get plenty of heat and light. Use that flat green garden tie that expands with your plant as your plant grows.  Heavy fruits will need to be supported. Use cloth twine, net veggie bags ie onion bags, old panty hose, old sheets, towels, colorful cloth scraps, parts of old clothes. Have fun with it! 

That said, another ‘vertical’ trick, that doesn’t require tying, is to put up an upside down ‘U’ shaped device. Take one of those remesh panels, or a trellis and lay it over the top of sawhorses or any way you can devise, cinder blocks staked with rebar, whatever you have around. Be sure to support anyplace that needs it so the structure won’t sag. Plant your plants, cucumbers, melons, beans, outside the ends of your ‘arbor’; let them grow up and over. Your fruits will be supported by the remesh or trellis! Don’t make your structure too wide, and make it high enough – you want easy access to tend and harvest other plants that you will grow underneath, like summer lettuces that need a little shade!  Or it can be a kid play place and they will harvest the beans for you! 

Trellises?! Buying them readymade is time saving. Some gardeners would never dream of buying one. They build their own! Some make the simplest, three poles tied together at the top. Others go into fastidious detail and artistic ritual, creating works of beauty! To them, gardening wouldn’t BE gardening without doing that. 

Blessings on your way.  Up you go!

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