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I just got an email this morning from Paul Ragsdale--Ragsdale Farms.  I met Paul and his son Zach last summer at the Garland Marketplace on the downtown square.  In fact, in August of last year I posted an article about them and the Marketplace Garland.  I'm happy to see they are not only still in business, but are thriving.  I'm also happy to see that Marketplace Garland is returning too--beginning in April of this year.

Zach Ragsdale above with Oleifera trees.

Zach Ragsdale is the one who introduced me to the Moringa Oleifera as well as the fact that one can make flour and thus bread from mesquite beans.  

 

I fear the Oleifera I purchased last summer from Zach went South from my lack of attention and water,  but I plan to purchase a new one from him in April.  However, the bottom of its stem (trunk) is still green so I watered it this morning in hopes and will keep you posted.

The Moringa Oleifera is a small, shrub or tree that can reach 12m (36 ft) in height at maturity and can live for up to 20 years. 

Every part of the Moringa Oleifera tree–from the roots to the leaves has beneficial properties that can serve humanity.  In many countries Morgina Oleifera is used as a micronutrient powder to treat diseases.  According to the literature, the Moringa is a shrub or tree that can reach 36 feet in height at maturity and can live for up to 20 years.  Like bamboo and hemp, Moringa is among the fast-growing trees as it can reach 9 feet in just 10 months.  The Moringa has deep roots and can survive drought conditions well.

Moringa is an important food source in some parts of the world. Because it can be grown cheaply and easily, and the leaves retain lots of vitamins and minerals when dried, moringa is used in India and Africa in feeding programs to fight malnutrition. The immature green pods are prepared similarly to green beans, while the seeds are removed from more mature pods and cooked like peas or roasted like nuts. The leaves are cooked and used like spinach, and they are also dried and powdered for use as a condiment.

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The Ragsdales must have been busy over the winter!   I see they are providing all-natural aquaponic produce and also constructing aquaponic systems from 35 or 55 gallon barrels that can easily fit in your home so you may conveniently grow your own produce.  No doubt they will be demonstrating some of their models at Marketplace Garland.

And don't forget their eggs!  They offer both chicken and duck eggs.  Of course their birds are free-range critters.  In fact they are treated by the Ragsdales as pets.  If you want to know anything about chickens, just ask Paul Ragsdale and he will tell you.  What's the difference between eggs purchased in a chain store and eggs purchased locally?  It's a world of difference.  Store bought chicken eggs are 30 days old on average when purchased.  That should be enough information right there.

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SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL FARMERS

The Marketplace is coming again to Garland in 2014~  Every 3rd Saturday

April 19th - May 17th - June 21st - July 19th - August 16th - September 20th

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If you care to try, here is my recipe for mesquite bean bread.  By the way, the Ragsdales sell mesquite beans at their booth.  Be sure to stop by their booth on April 19 in Garland and meet them.  You won't regret it, I promise.  I'm hoping to get out to their farm some time in the next month.

MESQUITE BEAN BREAD

INGREDIENTS

2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup mesquite flour
½ tsp yeast
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups of water

DIRECTIONS

Step 1: Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.
Step 2: Add water and mix.
Step 3: Stir with fork (mix will be sticky).
Step 4: Cover in a bowl, let sit overnight.
Step 5: Place bread dough on cutting board covered with towel for 2 hours.
Step 6: Put in bowl and bake @ 350 for 1 hour.

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After the initial installation that is. . .

The one drawback to these new methods of gardening is sometimes the expense if you cannot find reusable materials and the fact that building and setting them up can be time and labor intensive.  However, the good news is that once the garden (usually some form of a raised bed) is set up, there is no more back-breaking work of hoeing or tilling the soil each season as one expects to do with traditional gardens.  Also because most of these new methods of gardening break all the cardinal rules of proper plant spacing, there are few, if any, weeds to pull.

I recently posted a story about the square foot garden that members of Loving Garland Green installed here in Garland last week.  The square foot garden, a method developed by Mel Bartholomew in the 1980s, is another example of raised bed gardens that takes advantage of every square inch of soil.

Keyhole Gardens

This afternoon I just read an article in "Texas Gardener" about Keyhole Gardens by Suzanne Larry.  Nancy Lovett, a fellow gardener here in Garland told me about Keyhole gardens just about a week ago so I was interested to learn more about them.

A keyhole garden is a raised bed that is self-feeding and mostly self moisturizing and operates as an all in one gardening, comosting and recycling system.  If you can imagine a pie with a wedge-shaped piece cut out of it, you visualize a Keyhole garden.  It measures about six feet in diameter and stands about waist high.

Here are the steps to building a Keyhole garden:

1.  Measure a six foot diameter circle for the inside wall of your garden.

2.  Cut a wedge out of the circle as cutting a pie so you can access the center.

3. Build the exterior wall about three feet high using rocks, metal, wood (anything that can support the dirt).

4. Use wire mesh to create a tube about four feet high and one foot in diameter.

5. Line the walls with cardboard and fill the garden area with compostable materials. Wet the materials as you add them.

6. Fill the last few inches with compost or garden soil.  The soil should slope from a high point at the top of the center basket downward to the walls.

7.  Fill the center basket with compostable materials, kitchen scraps, herbaceous weeds, etc. that can provide plants with nutrients.

8.  Feed the garden by adding more kitchen scraps to the center basket.  Water the center basket only when plants won't survive without it.

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TWO GREAT RESOURCES TO LEARN MORE ABOUT KEYHOLE GARDENS

The March/April 2014 issue of Texas Gardner

"Keyhole:  The Easy Way to Garden"  by Suzanne Larry
This article is filled with photos.  Many of the Keyhole Gardens featured in this article are made from corrugated metal painted bright colors.  There are other examples of gardens build from stone.

Texas Co-op Power

"Keyhole Gardening:  Unlocking the Secrets of Drought-Hardy Gardens" by G. Elaine Acker Feb. 2012

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Yes, in addition to several square foot gardens, we will also feature at least one keyhole garden at the Garland Community Garden.  And I know just the guy to ask to help us build it--our mayor!  Here he is last week helping us put together a square foot garden.

 

 

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Another Urban Garden at 216 East Kingsbridge Drive Garland Texas 3/3/2014

This is what "local" looks like at my place this morning. If you went over to Charlies, you would see three large pots with blueberry bushes sitting in his family room.  Likely there are similar urban garden scenes all over the metroplex.

I was thinking this morning as I updated the website for Loving Garland Green that perhaps not everyone yet understands all the implications (for their own well-being in particular) of supporting local.

Local Urban Agriculture Is Important to the Health of Any Community--economic and physical health

With over 80 percent of the American population living in metropolitan centers, urban farming has the ability to dramatically enhance economic growth, increase food quality, and build healthier communities.  We in Garland are lucky to have a mayor who understands the value of urban gardens.

Economic benefits realized through urban farming are local and keep dollars circulating through the community. Urban farms also have a great return on investment, with every $1 invested in a community garden generating $6 worth of vegetables.

Community food enterprises are actually competitive with big-box retailers. As one report puts it:

“In recent years CFEs have discovered that they actually have unique advantages over bigger companies. They have a deeper awareness of local tastes and markets, they can obtain consumer feedback more quickly, and they can tweak their business models more swiftly. They can deliver goods and services faster, with shorter distribution links and smaller inventories. They can rely more on word-of¬mouth advertising that costs nothing.”

 

Local is Even More Specific than Some May Realize

We are all so busy that many of us don't even realize the consequences of our choices as consumers (although I do think we are improving).  For example, while it's true that most of the dollars spent at a chain retail store do leave your commuity within 24 hours of your purchase, did you know that it matters where the retain chain store is located?  For example, if I purchase goods subject to Texas sales tax in Garland, where I live, then 2% of that tax will go to support my municipality.  However, if I go to a grocery chain store located in Sachse, for example, the city of Garland does not receive a cent of any money that I spend in that store.  It will go to support the city of Sachse.

And speaking of our sales tax, I don't know how it works for other cities in the DFW area, but here in Garland, 1% of the 2% of the Texas sales tax that we get on taxable purchases made in our community goes to DART.

I don't know about you, but as for me, I'm fed up with many of these quasi government/private enterprise "partnerships."  It seems to me the ledgers on these "partnerships" are divided  so that the taxpapers pay all the expenses (anything on the debit side of the ledger) while the private owners and their investors reap all the benefits on the profit side.  We get the debit side and they get the credit side.

Maybe there is something I'm missing here in this agreement my city has with DART, but it seems to me in a partnership the taxpayers should be getting some of the rewards in terms of the profit that is being made.  It's one thing to give a hand up to folks in need, but our welfare for the wealthy needs to end.

Of course the argument is that the people of Garland have public transportation--but really, folks, what is the true cost to the taxpayers for this deal?  What does that ledger really look like?  I rather suspect that it is heavily tipped toward the private owners and their investors.  How much is DART really making off the people of Garland and other municipalities in our area?

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Garland Mayor Doug Athas assisted in one of the installations!  The mayor, like many mayors of large cities, understands the importance of urban agriculture in his city.  But our Mayor goes the extra mile and helps to install "Another Urban Garden" at the home of a local Garland family.

 

Two Urban Garden have been installed so far this weekend.

One installation was performed by a Loving Garland Green board member, Robert Opel, on Friday.  This installation took place in south Garland at the home of Jean Shortsleeve. The second garden was installed in north Garland this Saturday morning with the assistance of the Kahl family, our mayor, and several members of Loving Garland Green.  These two gardens are part of a program sponsored by Loving Garland Green.  It's called "Another Urban Garden."

As you can see from the photos of these two installations, each urban garden is different and is designed to accommodate the particular space and needs of the Garland resident requesting an installation.  As long as we can scrape together the funding and/or scrounge enough free raw materials from local street corners, members of Loving Garland Green have pledged over 200 hours of free labor to be dedicated to these efforts to assist residents of Garland in starting their own urban garden in 2014.

Just as location is key to successful real estate, location and soil are key to a successful garden.  In a soil mix of 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 garden soil and compost, 1/3 peat moss, we are convinced that just about any vegetable on the planet will thrive.  Soil needs to be light and fluffy.  A good rule of thumb is that one is able to stick one's entire index finger into the soil easily.  If this is not possible, add vermiculie and peat moss.  Another feature of this soil mix is that it holds water and thus helps conserve water.  With mulch on top once the plants have reached a few inches in height, watering will be even further reduced.

The purpose of "Another Urban Garden" is to increase the number of gardens in Garland.  Study after study indicates that urban agriculture strengthens local economies by creating new markets and strengthening existing markets.  Each person who signs up for assistance from Loving Garland Green with establishing their garden also agrees for the first year to keep records of their garden--what grows well, what does not, crop yields, and estimates of the total market value of their crops produced.  Loving Garland Green will compile this information on a monthly basis beginnng June 1 of this year into monthly reports.

 

ANOTHER URBAN GARDEN INSTALL FRIDAY FEBRUARY 28, 2014

The following report is from one of our board members, Robert Opel:
 
Hi Liz!   The magic of Gardening certainly is Wonderful. I went over to finish Jeannies Garden yesterday and took the lumber and timbers I had found On Wednesday Bulk Trash days. I had some tools, but not the right ones for cutting that big of timbers. I was planning to just do the best I could.
 
Then a miracle happened, in the form of Tony, Jeannies neighbor, whom I  had never met before.  He was outside and I was excited to share with him  what we we were doing with the Growing Garland Green, The Mission Goal of having 50,000 Urban Gardens for people in Garland, and the joys I've learned in gardening.
 
He offered not only a Skill Saw to make the work go better, but some beautiful landscape timbers  that were even better than the ones I had and the ideas of how best put it together.
 
It turns out Tony is a carpenter!  And he has been planning to build a Garden of his own right next door!
I could right then see the magic!  It felt so wonderful to be working with such a loving caring neighbor. 
And I had only just met him!
 
Your Fellow Greener,
Robert Opel
 
Below:  Neighbors helping neighbors.  Robert Opel (left) accepts assistance from Tony who lives next door to Jean.

   

This particular urban garden is approximately 9 feet by 3 feet wide.  Approximately 3 feet of it is already occupied by Iris.  The remaining area of approximately 6 feet by 3 feet (18 square feet) will be planted with vegetables.  Amazing to consider, but a one square foot garden unit measuring 16 sq ft (1.5 sq metres) holds an average of 130 plants and produces enough vegetables for one person.

 

 ANOTHER GARLAND URBAN GARDEN INSTALL WITH ASSISTANCE FROM MAYOR ATHAS

 Cassie Kahl, her husband Chris and their three children, Alexander, Zachary and Madilyn all worked with members of Loving Garland Green to install a square foot garden in the back yard of their home.  To the delight of us all, Mayor Athas showed up, rolled up his sleeves, and worked with us to get the job done.  In just about one hour and thirty minutes we assembled the bed, put in the soil mix, and planted lettuce, kale, carrots, peas, asparagus and radishes.  At the end of the month, squash, zucchini, and cucumbers will be added.  Then in mid-April, a couple of tomato plants will be featured.

Of course none of it could have been done without the assistance of the Kahl children:  Alex and Zach (age 5) and their sister, Madilyn, age three shown below with her pail. Children are natural and fearless gardeners.

 

The Kahl family pose for a picture with the garden finished--at least for this week. The garden contains 16 square feet with each foot square boundaries marked by a wooden grid.  The two pots to the side feature asparagus which was planted today (watered by Madilyn)  and a potato tower donated to the family garden by Loving Garland Green.  The sign on the front of the box identifies the square foot garden as belonging to the Kahls, tells a little bit about the "Another Urban Garden Program", and provides a map of what is and what will be planted in each of the squares.  The wooden trellises were part of the installation.  They are screwed into the frame of the raised bed.  Later they will provide support for cucumber, squash and zucchini.

 

After the garden was installed, Mayor Athas presented the family with a certificate authenticating them as official Garland Urban Farmers.

 

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A photo of my greenhouse on the left posted a week or so ago and then one of it today in my kitchen--bursting at the seams and overflowing into my kitchen with seedlings that are fast-becoming plants.

Over the weekend I moved my portable greenhouse from my dining room into my kitchen where the plants can get better light.  Also, over the weekend, I increased the square footage of my urban garden from 435 to 636 square feet--large enough to supply three adults with all their vegetable and fruit needs for a year.

All this flurry of gardening activity is remarkable in light of the fact that I planted my first garden in June of 2013.  Yes, from time to time I attempted to grow a few tomato plants and once or twice I tried to plant a real vegetable garden--only to have the plants die before maturity.  But  last year was my first successful attempt at planting of a variety of vegetables and a few fruit treee and berry bushes and plants. The only things that did not grow well were squash and two tomato plants.  However I did have great success with one of the tomato plants--a small pear-shaped tomato, from which I saved the seeds and have 50 seedlings started in my greenhouse.  All of the other crops were enormously successful:  okra, carrots, kale, cilantro, lettuce, Swiss chard, grapes, blueberries, and egg plant.

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Why the Sudden Success?

I attribute it all to raised garden beds which are filled with amended soil (1/3 compost, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 sphagnum moss).  After the plants are up about five inches, I add straw mulch to help slow down the drying of the bed as well as to keep the roots cool.  The vermiculite and spahgnum or peat moss help with water retention and reduce the need for water.

I used less water last summer with my front-yard garden than I did when it was a lawn.  You see, when the space around the beds (now covered in wood mulch) does not need to be watered, it cuts the square footage of the area to be watered by almost half.  I expect to use even less water this summer since last year I had converted only about one-third of my front lawn.  This year it will be two-thirds converted to garden space.

Another Urban Garden

Today I'm busy writing a grant to be presented to the Neighborhood Vitality Matching Grant Program.  This program will be administered by Loving Garland Green.  We are proposing to install one raised garden bed for residents of Garland who apply on a first/come, first/serve basis and who agree to the two requirements of our program:  1) to keep records of crop yields and submit them at least on a monthly basis to Loving Garland Green  and 2) to pass it forward within the year--by assisting another resident in establishing an urban garden and/or by sharing at least 10% of their produce with another family.

If and when we are funded for this program, residents of Garland will receive an email address to write to in order to enroll in this program.  We will make this announcement on our website at LovingGarlandGreen.org, on Eat Green DFW, on NextDoor, and likely somewhere on the City of Garland's website.

Residents who do not own their own home and whose landlord does not provide permission for them to establish a raised bed will be provided the option to use this program to build a garden plot in the Garland Community Garden located at 4022 Naaman School Road.

Members of Loving Garland Green are convinced the majority of those who participate in our program won't stop with one garden bed.  Before long, they too will be bitten by the garden bug.  We can expect many more urban gardens springing up all over our city of Garland.  And even more magic will transpire because gardens bring people together.

Bringing people together--neighbors to neighbors and family members to family members--is one of the best aspects of gardens.  However, gardens do much more:  gardens make people and communities healthier; gardens make communities more food secure; and gardens stimulate local economies.

Read more

How Urban Agriculture is Revitalizing Local Economies 

Urban Agriculture is Important for Food Security

Resilient City Food Systems

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This morning, after hearing on the news the mercury is dipping to 32 tonight and 29 tomorrow night, I walked out into my garden to see one of my almond trees bursting into bloom.  Later this afternoon I'll be covering it and other early risers in my garden with a planket.

Additional Updates from My Urban Garden

Since I last wrote, I've added four raised beds to the urban garden in my front yard.  This brings the total number of raised beds in my front yard and side driveway in back to 29 beds.  The total square footage is 636 square feet.  I estimate the market value of the crops I'll be growing in the spaces (Mother Nature willing) at $4,500 to $6,000 for 2014.  I still have room for approximately 400 square feet more of raised beds which would bring my total to a little over 1,000 square feet of growing space.  I don't plan to add any more new beds this spring.  However, I do plan to cover all the rest of my grass with cardboard and mulch on top.

One conservative estimate suggests that is takes about 200 square feet of raised garden beds to provide a season’s worth of fresh produce for a single person. By this estimate, a garden 800-1200 square feet should yield enough fruits and vegetables for a family of four.  [Source]  I will be keep records this year of my crop yields.  In the fall, I'll let you know what I think.

I'll be using less water to maintain this garden than I used to maintain the lawn as I've actually reduced the square footage of the space that requires watering.  Furthermore, it will require less work than the lawn.  Currently almost one -third of the beds are planted in perennials such as blueberries and blackberries which will come back every year.  

It is expensive the first year--putting in the raised beds, adding soil to the beds, mulching, etc.  However this is a front-end expense.  Starting the second year, your only cost is water which you might pay anyway for a lawn.  You can also reduce the cost of water by harvesting rainwater and also using ollas.  

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THE NEW BEDS

Below is a square foot garden 4' x 4'  (16 square feet).  The soil for this garden is a mixture of 1/3 compost, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 peat moss.  Unlike traditional rows, these gardens (originated in the 1980's by Mel Bartholomew) divide the planting spaces into foot squares.  I've planted oriental cabbage, lavendar, geraniums, radishes, carrots, kale, and Alyssiums in my square foot garden.

Below is the beginning of my container gardening space.  This weekend I built a potato tower and planted seed potatoes (organic gold yukons).  My friend Charlie scoffed at me but I paid no attention.  After all he laughed at me when I planted a cantaloupe in a pot last year.  However, he didn't laugh when it produced four of the best cantaloupes I've ever eaten.  To the left of the potato tower is a pot of kale that is coming up.  [More ways to grow potatoes.]

 

Below is a raised bed that breaks one of the cardinal rules for raised beds:  Do not make them any wider than four feet.  This ensures that you don't have to step into the bed to tend to the plants.  Sometimes when using found materials one has to bend the rules a bit. This bed is 6' x 8'.  The wood for this bed actually once was a bed--the kind people, not plants, sleep in.  It is made of solid knotty pine.  I rescued it from a trip to the dump the other day.  It currently has a potato tower.  Later on in March I'll plant zuchinni for one trellis and cucumbers for the other.  Along the front and sides of the box I'll plant tomatoes.

Below is a photo of a bed I added last week.  This bed is 4' x 8'.  It features two potato towers, onions, radished and califlower.  Frankly, I don't think the califlower are going to make it.

Below is a 2.5' x 5' raised bed.  It contains a Dwarf Kangaroo Paws (Angozanthos) a perennial that blooms spring through summer and is hardy to 10 degrees F. Also featured are some marigolds. I put this box on the other side of my grapevines.

 

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Today I decided to pretend the temperature is a balmy 60 degrees and install at least one of my potato towers.  I went to Home Depot the other day to get the lovely green wire that Mavis Butterfield of One Hundred Dollars a Month used for her potato towers.  Alas the cheapest I could find was $45.00 so I opted for some chicken wire I had on hand and some fallen bamboo that I had found to stabilize the sides.  Free is impossible to beat.  My potato tower does not look as fine as Mavis's, but I can live with that. (I hope my neighbors can too.)

Below is a photo of my potato tower:

I cleared away the compost down to the cardboard in the bottom of my raised bed and set the chicken wire cage inside.  Then I shoveled the soil back inside the cage and put straw on top of the soil and built it up about four inches all around on the sides to make a nest.

 Next, I shoved about 4 inches of compost on top of the straw.

Then I placed my potatoes on top of the soil as you can see in the photo below;

As a final step, I shoveled about four inches of soil and straw on top of the potatoes.  Now my potato tower looks like it did in Step 1.  When the potato plants are about 6 or 7 inches high, I will once again cover them in soil and straw just up to within an inch of their tops.  This process of layering with soil and straw will end when the potato plant begins to bloom.  At that time, some of the potatoes on the bottom level will likely be ready to harvest.

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Seed Potatoes.  The two smaller ones can be planted whole.  The larger ones will be cut into two or three pieces, each one with an eye.

Now is the time for Potato Planting! 

A few days ago I ordered online organic Yukon Gold seed potatoes.  They should be here on Monday.  Then on Saturday, I stoped by Rhodes, one of our locally owned nurseries here in Garland, Texas, and purchased the seed potatoes shown in the photo above.

Required Materials and Conditions:
1.  A wire cage. You can make a cylinder of chicken wire.
2.  A sunny spot ideally where a raised bed is located.
3.  At least 15 gallons of soil.  [A recommended mix is 1/3 vermiculite; 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 compost.]
4.  Seed potatoes. [Note: these are potatoes that were grown to be seed stock. You can purchase them at your local feed store.  Do not use potatoes you purchase at the supermarket as they may come with issues such as fungi.  The seed potatoes have to be prepared ahead of time.  The slips should be at least the size of a chicken egg.  The chunks cut off the potatoes should have at least two eyes.  Allow the cut pieces to dry about 24 hours prior to planting.  This reduces issues with fungal problems. The cut surface should have a callous after drying out.]
5. Straw  [I got a bale for about $9.00 at our local Roach Feed store here in Garland, Texas.  Below is a photo of it sitting in my dining room.  Don't get hay as it is full of weed seeds.]
 
 
 
INSTRUCTIONS for growing potatoes:
1. Put the wire cage on top of soil in a raised bed.
2.  Put the seed potatoes on top of the garden soil inside the cage and cover with four inches of soil.  Allow 10 to 12 inches between each potato.
3.  In about 2 weeks green foliage should protrude from the soil.  When the green tops are 6 to 8 inches tall, cover up to within 2 inches of the foilage with a mixture of two parts straw to one part compost.
4.  Note:  Make sure to keep the developing potatoes covered.  If they are exposed to sunlight, the potatoes turn green and become slightly toxic.
5.  During the growing period, you will need to repeat steps 3 and 4 two or three times.  Potatoes mature in 60 to 130 days depending on the variety.
6.  Stop adding soil and straw when the plants start to flower.  You might even be able to pull back the cover and harvest a few new potatoes at this time.
 
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No one who has talked to a member of Loving Garland Green--that's for certain!

from my seedling greenhouse - Flamenco Tomatoes are part of my ongoing quest to grow a decent tomato in Garland.  These open-pollinated seeds I purchased from www.nativeseeds.org.  I also planted seeds I saved last year from a small, pear-shaped tomato that was prolific and delicious.

Our members are busy busy busy:  Starting seeds, installing beds for urban gardens in people's yards, working on the papers for our 1023 filing as a nonprofit with the IRS.  We completed and received notice of our certification as a nonprofit in the state of Texas last week and hope to have waded through all the required paperwork for the IRS by March 1.  In the meantime, we are also registered as a Neighborhood Based Group with the City of Garland.   This entitles us to apply for grants under the Neighborhood Vitality program and currently we are writing a proposal to submit on or before March 1 to help fund a program we are developing as part of our Another Urban Garden.  This program segment is designed to create square foot gardens for children ages 4 to 12,  adolecents ages 13 to 18, handicapped adults any age, and seniors.  [Square Foot Gardening is a successful gardening format that was created by Mel Bartholomew in the 1980's.  It is a revolutinary way to grow more in less space.]

My Seedling Greenhouse - purchased from a local garden store for $29.00

Another Urban Garden Installation

My urban garden is registered as the first one with Loving Garland Green's Another Urban Garden program.  My garden was installed six months before Loving Garland Green came into existence.  We are hoping that urban gardener residents of Garland will also register their gardens with us and I did and share records of their crop yields and experiences with us.  Our ambitious goal is to have 50,000 urban gardens registered by the end of 2015.  We are convinced that increasing urban gardens not only reduces food scarcity, it also boosts the local economy by creating new markets and by supporting existing markets.

Part of the Another Urban Garden program includes helping citizens of Garland to create their own gardens.  To do this, a volunteer from Loving Garland Green meets with an interested citizen to help them plan their garden.  For beginning gardeners we recommend starting small the first year with a raised bed no larger than 4 x 10 (40 square feet).  We help the resident build the bed, plan the contents of their garden, set it up with some type of water conservation device, plant seeds, and monitor the garden throughout its first season.  Eventually we hope to develop this program into a local business that will support 5 to 15 new jobs for our community.

Last week, Charlie Bevilacqua, one of the founding members of Loving Garland Green, helped Ed Downing, one of our new members, to put together the frame for a raised bed (12 feet x 4 feet).  Charlie and Ed also selected large clay pots for Ed's container garden surrounding his patio.

Below Ed is watching Charlie put together the sides of the raised bed for his urban garden.

 

Below is a snapshot of what will eventually be Ed and Becky Browning's raised garden bed.  The sides of the bed were made with reused, found lumber.  The soil beneath the bed will not be tilled.  Instead, about 9 inches of amended soil (compost and vermiculite) will be placed right on top of the grass inside the box.  At the end of each growing season, a layer of compost will be added to the top layer of soil before planting the new crop.

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Along the spectrum of "greenness" I have friends whom I would designate as the darkest green to the left on the chart above.  If I were to designate my place on this scale, it would be midpoint of the second square to the right (and that is perhaps being too generous with myself).  I'm not even a vegetarian, much less a vegan, although I eat meat rarely--once or twice a week and mostly the meat is fish.  But I am making progress:  I'm eating more of my vegetables raw and almost every day I eat greens.

Moving Up on the Green Spectrum

Just the other day I was in Home Depot with a friend and I talked him out of buying some pesticide to kill some pesky box elder bugs.  [I did so by promising to find an organic solution to getting rid of the bugs.]

It is precisely at that juncture (organic way to get rid of bugs) that I separate from my more Kermitesque friends.  Many folks think that we should not do anything mean to any bug.  They believe that bugs are there for a good natural reason and we should let them be.  They have a point and I appreciate it.  In fact, there are many cases where people have introduced insects to eat other insects only to have the organic killing machines become pests themselves.  It's not always easy to find the happy medium, or even learn if there is one.  Sometimes it seems as if we often have two choices:  poison our ground water and soil or upset the balance of nature with our "organic" solutions.  But again, where is that area where we draw the line?  It is a line that to a great extent, is left up to the individual.  Some folks go so far as to only eat fallen fruit.  I sincerely doubt I will ever evolve or dissolve to that green marker.

My solution for the box elder bugs (I have these pests too) is to get out there on a warm day with a fly swatter.  As I murder them by the thousands I also chant Hail Marys.   Of course, my deep green friends are outraged by my behavior, but I find that I can live with it.  I find that following the swatting routine for about two hours every day for three days works.  I have to do this about three times a year.

My yard has been a pesticide-free zone for five years now.  Murdering the bugs by hand is my pest control system, but don't tell my deep-green friends.

Our Artificial World

Our world, particularly in the USA, is so artificial that we sometimes don't even notice any more what is real and what is not.  We have become like those people in Plato's cave allegory watching a shadow puppet show on the walls of the cave and thinking the shadows are real.  We Americans have a tendency to even admire artifice.  "Gee, that looks so real, I thought it was a real flower, a real bee, a real bird, a real kid, etc."  We pay hundreds of dollars to take our children to visit fake plastic places like Disneyland. Our admiration for the artificial is boundless.

The Hummingbird Feeder

I like to think I'm above it all, but deep down I know better.  Here's a case in point:  As you may know, I'm a member of Loving Garland Green.  A couple of days ago I saw the cutest thing in an old Bird and Garden book that Charlie gave me.  I thought: "Wow!  I'm going to make those with my grandchildren and then perhaps we will offer a class at the Garland Community Garden to make them later this spring."  They are hummingbird feeders.  You make them with a test tube with a lid, some copper wire, some yard, a small suction cup like those on the end of kid's toy arrows, and a plastic or silk flower from which you've removed the fake stamen.  (You can figure out the rest as I'm not providing instructions.)

I was actually all excited about this idea but then reason overtook me:  Wait a minute!  I'm going to make a device to encourage a hummingbird to suck sugar water out of a plastic flower?  Something is really wrong with that idea.  I don't even have to be a scientist to understand that.

What I'm going to do instead is plant plenty of flowers this year--for the hummingbirds, butterflies and the bees.  At the top of my list is Asclepias curassavica or tropical milkweed.  I successfully grew this flower in my garden last year.  It flowered from July until the end of October.  Bees love it.  I saved seeds.

 
Other common names for this flower include scarlet milkweed, Mexican milkweed, Blood flower, and Silk Weed.  Read more.

From my garden early October 2013: