Saturday, April 30, 2011

Has spring sprung yet?

It's been so cold, it's been hard to think about planting. It seems that when it's as cold as it has been, the seeds don't germinate well anyway. I've learned that you just can't rush growth. However, the parsley and onions are coming up from last year. We still haven't planted Swiss chard.
 The weather forecast for the next 10 days, calls for lows in the 40's and the highs are pushing 60, with rain throughout the week.

Ken gathered worms off our gravel driveway the other morning after the saturating rain. Unfortunately, he didn't put them in the worm farm, he took them fishing.
I am saving coffee grounds for the worm farm, everyday in a container, it's amazing how fast they accumulate.  Pretty soon, it will be warm enough to start a worm farm outside.

Here's the worm composting link again. I made a previous post with basic instructions.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Lasagna gardening is easy as spaghetti

Lasagna (or sheet) gardening is an easy way to start a garden in a new spot or enrich an existing garden. Not to be confused with the Italian dish, this method eliminates the need to work the soil with shovel or rototiller. The reason for the name is because it requires layering of newspapers and compost.
My neighbors used a form of this method for their garden 10 years ago. They mulched with lake seaweed and decomposed chicken manure... it worked well. There were still weeds though and I don't see how you can completely eliminate the need to weed. One of my coworkers uses a weed eater when her garden gets really overgrown. Here's the steps to start a lasagna garden, minus the pasta and weed eater.

1. If you are starting a new garden, pick a spot that will get sunlight most of the day and that will drain well. You don't want your garden in the low spot or the high spot in the yard. Outline the area where you want the garden and mow the grass short.

2. Cover with a thick layer of newspapers, 5 pages thick. Then saturate with water.

3. Next layer with 2 inches of peat moss or other brown organic material such as: leaves, pine needles, straw, rotting hay, composted horse manure or other compost, humus, sawdust, grass clippings, barn litter, coffee grounds, seaweed, paper, cardboard and wood ashes. (whatever you have available).

4. Next layer with 1 inch of green material such as grass clippings, vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, unwanted plants or weeds-that haven't gone to seed. (Fresh grass clippings are high in nitrogen, so don't use very much). It is ideal to use twice as much brown material as green.

5. Continue layering 2 parts brown and 1 part green, as deep as the roots of the plants prior to planting, (usually 8 to 10 inches).

6.  Plant the plants, covering around the roots with organic matter. Or... let the raised beds sit and decompose before planting. Either way, give the bed a good saturated watering right away. After planting, continue mulching around the plants as they grow.

In an existing garden, stomp the weeds down or use a weed eater. Then follow steps 2-6 above.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Michigan Backyard Farms brings fresh to 'your backyard'

Jerry Holcomb

Jerry Holcomb started his Michigan Backyard Farms business to serve a growing demand for fresh and local produce. Drawing from the idea of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), where farmers sell shares of their projected garden harvest, Holcomb has taken the concept to a new place, the shareholders’ own backyards.
Over the last 20 years, CSA’s have become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Typically the share consists of a box of seasonal produce each week throughout the growing season. Some farmers offer the share owners the opportunity to work on the farm and pick their own produce.
“I have wanted to start my own CSA for some time now. But finding the right piece of property and then the recent rough financial times put the idea on the back burner. So, I just continued to dig up more and more of my own yard to add more garden space. What a simple idea! Put the CSA right in the customers own backyard,” said Holcomb.
Local CSA's charge between $320 to $600 per share for about a 15-week growing season with an average of about 200 pounds of fresh produce per year, according to Holcomb.
“My pricing will be competitive for the same produce. Additionally, the customer will either have an existing garden section that may need updated or a section of the yard will need to be converted to a mini-farm. This cost will be evaluated in person on a backyard by backyard basis,” said Holcomb.
Jerry and his wife Robyn also own Yukon Construction, LLC. Jerry grew up in Farmington Hills, then moved out to White Lake in the mid 1980s.
“I have had a passion for gardening since I was a boy here in Michigan,” Jerry said. He is a licensed builder and contractor.When the construction business slowed down, he went to work for Walled Lake Cosolidated Schools as a bus driver and paraprofessional for special needs students.
Jerry is able to create a garden in someone’s backyard or by a business. He is also able to help a school start a garden. He offers whatever services are needed: starting the garden, maintenance, consulting and assisting. He helps homeowners and businesses convert unused/wasted sections of their yards into sustainable, food producing mini-farms. Each mini-farm is customized to meet shareholders' preferences.
“Nothing can compare to freshly picked vegetables. When you work with Michigan Backyard Farms, you're forming a direct relationship between yourself and the food you consume. You'll be there to see your food grown. You will have the enjoyment, the knowledge and the nutritional advantages of eating the freshest vegetables,” said Jerry.
Most of the gardening is done by hand. Jerry uses the “Lasagna Gardening” method, which eliminates the traditional digging and tilling normally associated with vegetable gardening. He first cuts the grass really short, then creates a weed barrier with a layer of wet thin cardboard or newspapers, then pine needles and hay. Then he builds it up with newspapers and whatever organic material is available: rotted hay, composted horse manure and leaves. He then layers with more wet newspapers, lasagna style.
Jerry uses organic methods of farming, including pest control, composting, natural fertilizers and organic heirloom seeds. “I will be at your mini-farm at least once per week: weeding, fertilizing, pest control, checking watering system, harvesting, composting and re-planting,” he said.
If someone wants to work the garden themselves, Jerry encourages it. He is happy to teach people about gardening. He has five children ages 7 to 17. He said they help out some with the family garden and recently went to their place in the Upper Peninsula where they tapped Maple syrup. He and Robyn get everybody in the family involved in sustainable living projects. “The kids love eating out of the garden,” Jerry said.

Holcomb family
For information, call Jerry Holcomb of Michigan Backyard Farms at 248-529-3830 or visit on facebook.Michigan-Backyard-Farms

 by Kathy Blake, For Journal Register Newspapers

Monday, April 18, 2011

Worm farming is easy dirty work

1. To start a worm farm, get a wooden container that has holes. Small holes can be drilled into the container, not big enough for escapees. Plastic containers aren't a good choice because they keep the farm too wet. You also need a lid to keep the rain out.

2. Add bedding material like dead plants, leaves and/or newspaper clippings and some soil.

3. Add green material like household fruit and vegetable scraps and egg shells.

4. Just add worms. You can dig them up in your yard. (A great place to find worms is under dead wood in moist areas. Don't dig them up from the garden though, leave those there and don't name them. You can also buy them at various places. I saw Gurney's is selling them in their garden catalog.

5. Periodically, add more bedding material and scraps.

The article below tells all about worm composting.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Garden Design 1-2-3 Workshop

Garden Design 1-2-3 Workshop
9 a.m. to 1 p.m.Saturday, April 30, May 7, 14 and 21, 2011
Oakland County Executive
Office Conference Center
2100 Pontiac Lake Road, 41W
Waterford, MI 48328

$160 fee: includes light morning refreshments each day and instructional handouts. Along with a variety of design exercises there will be a recommended garden design book list and web site list. Participants will be responsible for buying their own drafting supplies. Kits are available online for $50 including delivery.

Enclose your $160 check made payable to Oakland County by April 24, 2011
Mail this registration form by April 24, 2011 to:
MSU Extension – Dept. 416, 1200 North Telegraph Road, Pontiac, MI 48341
Include name, address, city, zip code, daytime phone number, email address.
One person per registration form.
Confirmation letters will be mailed upon receipt of registration and payment.

For questions, call Linda Smith at 248-858-0887 or email

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lawn Care class in Waterford

Michigan State University Extension - Oakland County Lawn care class is 6 to 8:30 p.m. May 19, 2011 at Oakland County Executive Office Building Conference Center, 2100 Pontiac Lake Road, Waterford.
Do you want to improve the appearance of your lawn but don’t know how? Introductory course designed for the beginning or non-gardener or new homeowner who would like to improve the appearance of their lawn. Professor Kevin Frank Ph.D of the MSU Crop & Soil Science department
will cover assessing your lawn, soil testing, rejuvenation, starting a new lawn, lawn maintenance, and
lawn equipment. Dr. Frank is a dynamic speaker and this will be a very enjoyable class.
Cost is $20 per person which includes light refreshments.
Phone: 248-858-0887
Fax: 248-858-1477

Registration Deadline is May 13
Mail check for $20 with name, address and telephone number to:
MSU Extension –Horticulture 1200 N. Telegraph Rd Pontiac, MI 48341
Phone: 248-858-0887
Fax: 248-858-1477

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Time to plant peas

It's been fun doing this blog, but the best part is coming to fruition. Looking back at old posts, keeps me on schedule. (My Mom writes planting events on her calendar and then keeps the old calendars).
Let's see, we planted peas April 8. Oops, It's April 9. The weather is supposed to be nice, so today's the day to plant peas, potatoes, lettuce, onions and parsley. Spinach too if there's room although it doesn't produce much.
 In two weeks, we can plant broccoli, cabbage, celery, Brussels spouts and cauliflower plants outside. We wait until mid-May to plant beans and squash seeds and we wait until the end of May to plant egg plant, pepper and tomato plants.
My indoor seedlings are not doing very well. They are spindly and falling over, except for the lettuce, which I could put outside now.