Planning for Planting

Andrea's Plot Plan

Andrea's Plot Plan

There’s a great post at Heavy Petal about some simple steps to planning your garden so you’re growing and harvesting each season.

Andrea, the author, went to a permaculture course in her hometown of Vancouver, BC, and learned a simple method of charting out the plan in a grid:

I find this a great way to quickly see if I’ve got any obvious empty spots in a bed. In one bed, for example, I just had carrots and tomatoes, which left big blank spots in the “Harvest” row for spring, and in the “Plant” row for fall. By adding an overwintering vegetable such as leeks or Brussels sprouts to that bed, I could plant in fall and be harvesting the next spring – getting that much more action out of a single bed.

From, Planning for a year-round harvest (or How I went from slacker to Serious Planner). Check it out!


March 26, 2009 at 10:53 am Leave a comment

Family Farms Pulled Us Out of the Great Depression…

…maybe Barack Obama can shape some policy to help them do it again.

If agriculture is indeed the building blocks of modern civilization, a concept I first understood from reading Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, then Family Farms Pulled Us Out of the Great Depression by Jay Greathouse, definitely makes sense. Greathouse discusses parities for food prices which enable farmers to price their crops at or above the actual costs of the raw materials, a concept long gone during these days of globalized agri-business.

Our recovery started in 1942, the year the Steagall Amendment to the War Stabilization Act mandated farm parity, but the war got the credit. We then had ten years of economic stability until 1952 when the Steagall Amendment was allowed to expire.

In 1952 “export-oriented pricing” replaced the New Deal policy that had put farm prices in balance, or parity, with other prices. That New Deal policy worked effectively with farmer-approved “supply management” that cost far less than today’s subsidies to Agri-business.

Farm parity laws that created a fair price floor for all raw materials was the main agent for moving the United States out of the Great Depression of the 1930s. This support of prices allowed farmers to afford to stay on the farm and rebuild the United States economy literally from the ground up.


November 24, 2008 at 12:02 pm Leave a comment

State of the Garden

Strawberries. Right after taking the shot, I ate them!

Strawberries. Right after taking the shot, I ate them!

I’m by no means an expert gardener. In fact, this is really only the third season I’ve been growing food. But I have to say this is my favorite batch of plants yet. I dug up a patch of the lawn outside my apartment and took care to only carve out enough space that I could manage on my own. The first round of plants included four tomatoes (two in pots), two zucchini, four butter lettuce, a row of baby spinach, a row of spring mix, three broccoli, one green bell pepper, an eggplant, several basil plants, cilantro, parsley and a couple strawberries. I was worried when the lettuce started disappearing due to a hungry gopher, but fortunately for me, the neighbor cats took care of him before he did too much damage. However, I soon discovered the cats love to sleep and dig in the garden. A tomato and a zucchini start suffered broken stems due to cat nap. They have since recovered and since the cats saved me from doing the dirty gopher removal work, I am happy to have them nearby. (Though I do think they dug around newly planted seeds where I haven’t seen one sprout in over two weeks.)

Black Crim Ripening

Black Crim Ripening

By now, mid-August, the first rounds of greens are long gone. I have had zucchini coming out of my ears now for almost two months and the long-awaited tomatoes are finally stating to redden. In Santa Cruz this year everyone has been waiting and waiting for the tomatoes and they are finally upon us! See more garden photos on my flickr page.

Zucchini, zucchini, zucchini

Zucchini, zucchini, zucchini

The passionflower is going off! A few fruits are appearing and the monarch butterflies can't get enough.

The passionflower is going off! A few fruits are appearing and the monarch butterflies can't get enough.

August 16, 2008 at 9:22 pm Leave a comment

Three Women Document their Bike Adventure of Sustainable Ag Projects

Liz, Kat and Lara, three women from Washington, D.C. biked 2,000 miles last year to tour community agricultural projects from Washington, D.C. to Montreal, Canada. They carried video equipment with them and the footage has turned into a low budget documentary. Here’s a preview:

An article in the Washington Post today reported on their journey and upcoming film release:

In the course of their three-month odyssey, the women found a community garden in the gutted ghettos of Baltimore, were run off the road by a truck in New Jersey, abandoned efforts to cycle across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York and got hopelessly lost in New England towns. They slept in the gardens of strangers, discovered new ethnic food and recipes and cemented their desire to change the world by growing vegetables.

Yay for bike adventure! Yay for community garden projects!

July 24, 2008 at 3:18 pm 3 comments

Find Your Local Farmer’s Market

Buying LocalWhen people begin consciously eating, i.e. local and organic or growing their own food, the primary reason is usually a self-serving one, to not ingest pesticides. While this is true and undoubtedly a great reason to eat organic food from your local farmers, the real benefits are actually far more selfless, watersheds (and local water supplies) are spared from farm chemical runoff, use of oil to manufacture and ship seeds, pesticides and fertilizers is spared, conditions for farmworkers are healthier and the surrounding environment for animals is preserved. From GardenMandy, Real Reasons Why We Should Buy From Local Farmers:

Some people say the key to freedom is empowerment and self-sufficiency. Not everyone agrees, but most people who are concerned about the environment at all see that there really is a need for people to buy and use food from local growers.

No matter your reason for making this lifestyle choice, the first step is to find your local farmers market so you can talk with the farmers themselves. You can find your local farmer’s market using this handy map Farmer’s Market Search tool at You simply type in your city and a Google map appears highlighting all the regional farmer’s markets. Click on them to get information about when they are open during the week and what seasons.

Find Your Farmer\'s Market at

Find Your Farmer's Market at

July 23, 2008 at 9:02 am 2 comments

DIY Tempeh – Try This at Home

inner-tempeh homemade by Renae

inner-tempeh homemade by Renae

I was making a tempeh stir-fry with some garden veggies and wondering if I could make my own homemade tempeh to compliment my home-grown veggies and herbs. After a few Google searches, I came across this great step-by-step “Making Tempeh” published by Renae on her blog, i eat food. Making tempeh at home seems like quite an involved process where you will have to get creative to make some steps happen correctly. One step in the tempeh-making process requires the soybeans to be kept at 88 degrees Fahrenheit for about 24 hours. Renae says after failing with a food dehydrator she found success using a homemade yogurt machine:

What finally worked for me was putting the soy beans on a wok steamer nestled into a yogurt maker, the lid of which I kept partially on for the first 12 hours then removed. After 12 hours, the tempeh will begin generating its own heat, which you’ll want to compensate for.

I’m not sure how I can accomplish this in my own kitchen as I don’t have a yogurt machine but if i get any good ideas, I’ll be sure to try it out. If you take up the challenge, be sure to leave a comment and let me know how it goes!

July 13, 2008 at 5:35 pm 1 comment

It’s Not the Beta-Carotene, it’s the Carrot

Good Food DiagramSome familiar themes about how Americans eat and its links to disease were put together nicely in a 20-minute talk by Mark Bittman of the New York Times, “What’s Wrong with what we eat.” In one mentioning the importance of a whole-plant-based diet (it’s not the beta-carotene, its the carrot), Bittman touches on the meat and agribusiness industry, disease, junkfood marketing, and the “organivore” and “locavore” responses to the industrial food industry all while noting the importance of our food choices on climate change.

July 7, 2008 at 11:33 am Leave a comment

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