Posted by Jeff Smith on 12/4/2017

A rising trend in urban and suburban neighborhoods is the concept of a community garden. What began as a way for people living in cities to grow some of their own vegetables has turned into a community-building sensation across the country.

Why start a community garden?

The benefits for having a community garden in your neighborhood are endless. First, it allows people to grow their own food--a rewarding process in itself. You'll learn about sewing seeds, caring for plants, and harvesting the vegetables. When it's all said and done, you'll save money as well, since it's much cheaper to grow your vegetables than to buy them from the grocery store. Gardens are also a great way to build a sense of community in your neighborhood. You'll meet new people, make new friends, and have something to be proud of together. Plus, talking about what you're planting is a great ice-breaker when it comes to meeting the neighbors for the first time. Aside from helping you and your neighbors, community gardens are also a modest way to help the environment. A garden means more food for bees, a refuge for local critters, and more plants producing oxygen. Plus, when you get your vegetables right from your garden you cut back on all of the resources used to wrap, pack, and ship vegetables across the country to grocery stores, reducing your carbon footprint in a small way. Excited yet? I hope so! Now that you know why to start a community garden you need to know how.

Steps to making a community garden

  1. Get the neighborhood together Invite your neighbors to a local cafe or library to talk about starting a garden. To build interest and awareness, start a Facebook group and post a few flyers in your neighborhood.
  2. Figure out the funding and logistics  At this meeting, start talking about how the garden is going to be funded. Seeds, tools, fertilizer, and other expenses don't have to put a damper on your fun if you're prepared. The three main sources of funding for a community garden are finding sponsors, running neighborhood fundraisers, or having a membership fee for plots in the garden.
  3. Find a spot for your garden The best places to turn into gardens are plots of land that currently bring down the aesthetic of the neighborhood. Find an area that could be cleaned up and approach the owner of the land with the idea. You can offer them free membership or whatever other resources are available in exchange for being able to use the land.
  4. Throw a cleaning and a kick-off party To build the garden, invite everyone from the neighborhood over to the plot of land for pizza. Then once they're there stick a shovel in their hand (okay, maybe let them eat a slice or two first). Once the garden is ready to be planted, you can host another "kick-off party" so everyone can celebrate their hard work.
  5. Rules are made to be spoken  Community gardens are a ton of fun. But to keep them that way you're going to need to decide on some ground rules for things like open hours, membership acceptance, tool usage, leadership, and so on. Post the rules on the Facebook, website, and at the garden itself so everyone can see them.
  6. Keep the momentum If you want your garden to last you'll need to do some work to keep everyone excited. Make a Facebook group, a website or whatever else you think will help people stay connected. Ideally, you want your messages to include everyone involved in the garden so that everyone feels involved.

Posted by Jeff Smith on 2/27/2017

A hardy perennial shrub native to Europe, hyssop is today widely cultivated in North America and throughout Asia. In the United States, hyssop can be found growing wild in open meadows and along the edge of the forest. Hyssop is a wonderful addition to any home herb garden both for its outstanding medicinal properties and to brew into a flavorful and refreshing tea. Known as the “Holy Herb”, hyssop has been used for centuries to clean shrines, temples, and sacred spaces. Throughout religious history, hyssop has held a prominent place in ceremonies and was used by the ancient Egyptians to cleanse the sores of lepers and is frequently mentioned in the Bible for its cleansing powers. History records that at the consecration of Westminster Abby, the holy herb was sprinkled on the altar. Medicinal Benefits Of Hyssop Fresh hyssop leaves, steeped in boiling water, creates a delightful tea. Pour one pint of boiling water over one ounce of freshly harvested chopped plant tops. Add a bit of honey and fresh lemon to relieve congestion and coughs due to allergies or a cold. Serve hot or cold. Traditionally, freshly harvested and finely minced hyssop leaves were simmered in honey and consumed as a syrup to ease shortness of breath, wheezing, and expel excessive phlegm. Hyssop blended and bruised, then combined with ground cumin seed and honey relieved the pain and infection from insect bites and was used by the Egyptians to treat bites from snakes, spiders, and scorpions. When hyssop is boiled with figs, a simple syrup is formed that is useful in the treatment of mouth sores or as a gargle to relieve throat pain or a toothache. An essential oil distilled from the hyssop plant is a cure for head lice and relieves the intense itching of lice bites. A poultice of steamed hyssop leaves is an effective remedy for the pain and discoloration of sprains, bruises and muscle injuries. Culinary Use For centuries, hyssop has been used by monks to craft fine liqueurs. Six tablespoons of hyssop liqueur added to ale is said to improve the disposition and the complexion. Fresh hyssop can be used in salads to impart a tangy, bitter taste and is often planted near grape plants to enhance the yield of the vines. Hyssop is frequently added to fruit salads, soups, and sauces to improve the flavor of stone fruits. Cultivation Hyssop adds beauty to the home garden, growing up to three feet tall at maturity. The plant can be started from seed or root division of a plant purchased at the nursery or home and garden supply. The plant is very attractive with dark and shiny long green leaves and an abundance of small white, blue or pink flowers with a delightful fragrance. The blue variety is considered the most fragrant and produces the most flowers. Hyssop likes a dry and sunny location with nutrient rich soil. When gathering leaves and flowers for tea, pick when the first flowers appear.

Tags: gardening   herbs   hyssop  
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Posted by Jeff Smith on 5/23/2016

Across North America, asparagus grows wild along roadside ditches and railway tracks. Although establishing a productive asparagus bed in the home garden requires a lot of work, patience, and perseverance, it is well worth the effort. A well-planned asparagus bed will produce for over 30 years. An established asparagus bed produces 25-to-30 pounds of stalks per 100 feet of row. Over the years, you will harvest thousands of pounds of fresh, flavorful asparagus to share with family and friends. Select a permanent sunny spot for your asparagus bed. Asparagus thrives in a full-sun location with fertile, well-drained soil. Organic gardeners recommend asparagus as an excellent companion planting to parsley, pawpaw, tomatoes, rhubarb, comfrey, raspberries, and basil. In the marketplace, asparagus, a major commercial crop in the United States, Australia, Europe, China, and Peru and is typically one of the most expensive vegetables available for purchase. Grow your asparagus crop for the freshest, organic produce for a pittance of the cost of buying it at the supermarket or farmer’s market. Asparagus gathered from the home garden is free of the noxious pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones, and toxic chemical fertilizers routinely sprayed on asparagus cultivated for commercial production. There are both male and female asparagus plants. A dioecious plant, they are either solely male or female. Female plants focus their energy into reproduction and seed bearing. The process requires most of the female plant’s energy and the bed sprouts worthless new seedlings that overcrowd the bed. Innovative horticultural breeding has developed new strains of male asparagus. Male asparagus plants produce thicker, firmer spears. Male asparagus does not present weedy seedling problems. When selecting starts for your asparagus bed, select male Jersey Knight, Jersey Giant, Jersey Prince, Syn 53, Syn 4-362, UC-157 or Viking KBC hybrids. Plant the best hybrid available. An asparagus bed remains productive for decades. The new male varieties are cold tolerant and resistant to fusarium and rust, common problems in asparagus cultivation. Prepare asparagus bed as early in the spring as the ground can be worked. Til the ground repeatedly to break up all dirt clods. Remove all rocks, roots, and weeds. Til again. •    Cultivated soil to a depth of 12-inches deep. •    Spread a four to six-inch layer of well-aged herbivore manure (cow, horse, sheep, lama, or goat) on the top of the bed. •    Cultivate well into the asparagus bed. Add a four to six-inch layer of landscape sand on the bed. (Do not use beach sand as it contains salt and toxic minerals.) Cultivate, dispersing the sand and manure completely into the soil. Preparing the asparagus bed is one of the most important steps in successful cultivation. Place the asparagus plants in trench six inches deep and 12-to-18 inches wide. Space rows 18-inches apart, mounding soil removed from the trenches between the rows. Space crowns 12 inches apart. Each crown presents numerous long, dangling, pencil-sized roots. Fan the roots outward, with crown bud side pointed upward in a centered position, slightly higher than the root spread. Cover crown and roots with two-to-three inches of soil. As asparagus plants become established and grow taller, gradually fill in the remaining soil. (Asparagus can be started from seed in growing trays or a seedling bed. Plants must wait until they are a year old before they can be transplanted to a permanent location. It's wise to wear gardening gloves when planting or tending asparagus. Handing the plant can cause skin irritations in people with sensitive skin. Asparagus tends to “push-up” or “rise” as the young plants develop. The crowns gradually grow closer to the soil surface. Savvy gardeners place an additional 2-to-4 inches of soil, from between the rows, on the crowns as the plants grow in successive years. Care As the asparagus bed develops and grows, plants produce a thick mat of roots that grow horizontally rather than vertically. First-year plants are spindly, becoming stronger and larger in diameter with age. Asparagus beds require substantial weeding. Carefully remove any invasive plants that sprout up in the bed. Fast growing asparagus spears are sensitive to mechanical injury from cutting tools or cultivation. Injured areas of the plant recover slowly. Asparagus beetles are common pests in home beds. They can be controlled with handpicking. Asparagus is a heavy feeder. Twice yearly applications of well-aged manure will provide all the organic fertilizer asparagus plants require. Sprinkle the manure on the surface of the soil and water well. Manure should be applied in the spring and the fall. The fall application encourages the development of the fern-like foliage that provides nutrients to the roots. Asparagus stems go dormant during the cold winter months. Asparagus should be cut to the ground and heavily mulched with a 12-to-18 layer of straw or dried leaves before the first frost. Harvesting Asparagus cultivation requires patience. Resist the urge to harvest your asparagus before it is ready. Do not harvest until the third season. Asparagus (Asparagus Officinalis) is an impressive plant. Provided with near-perfect conditions, asparagus can grow as much as ten inches in a day. A perennial, tender shoots continuously appear over a 6 to 8 week period during late spring and early summer. As the days and nights get warmer and longer, asparagus may need to be harvested daily. An asparagus planting is picked up to 20 times each season. Warmer temperatures cause asparagus tips to open prematurely which reduces quality and flavor. Harvest young asparagus stalks by snapping them off or use a small sharp knife to cut shoots off at ground level. Do not insert the blade below the soil level. The blade may damage emerging shoots. Once new shots cease to appear, old shoots will develop feathery, needle-like branched foliage and brilliant red berries (if the plant is female) to provide the nutrients required for a bountiful harvest the following year. The brilliant red berries are poisonous to humans and pets. By planting all male crowns you will not produce toxic berries in your garden. Because of the repellent, prickly feeling of the foliage, the Greeks stuffed asparagus leaves in home and grain bin holes accessed by mice and rodents. Seeds and the tuberous roots are harvested and dried for use in medicinal powders and teas.