New Year Design Solutions

raking soil surface

January. The month of winter and the start of the new year – we can’t think of a better time than now for new garden resolutions and spring visioning. This is the perfect time to start dreaming about and planning for your spring garden. And we are here to provide services along the way. Whether it is to provide you with fruit trees, berry bushes and spring plant starts or to design a comprehensive edible landscape plan for your entire yard, the Farmer D Consulting team is ready to assist.

You may know us best for our raised bed gardens, but this is just the beginning of what we can do for your landscape.  We design and install edible and ecological landscapes, plan and implement school and community gardens, and design and program farms in communities across the country. We are even certified in permaculture design services. No project is too big or too small for our consulting team.

This year, it is our resolution to engage with more of you to grow community through agriculture.

Schedule a consultation to plan your new garden for a new year or rehabilitate a neglected one.  Stop by our store or email katie@farmerd.com.

How to Keep Those Pesky Rabbits Out of Your Garden

rabbit

While rabbits seldom do as much damage in the garden as deer and insects, their talent for destruction is certainly nothing to shake a stick at. However, it’s hard to imagine harming the cute little critters — so the challenge lies in simply keeping them from eating the things you don’t want them to eat.

The first step is identifying that rabbits are indeed your problem. Rabbits tend to feed during the twilight hours, so you may not ever spot one in your garden. However, you will definitely find evidence that they’ve been there. Watch for pea-sized droppings, signs of digging, and tufts of fur caught on branches. Then, take a closer look at your chewed plants. Since rabbits have both upper and lower incisors, they create a clean cut when they feed. Your plants will look like they’ve been trimmed with hand clippers.

Once you’ve confirmed that rabbits are the issue, you can move on to implementing a system to keep them out of your garden.

 

Fencing

Fencing is, hands down, the most effective method for keeping rabbits out of the garden. You can protect young plants by laying chicken wire (one inch or smaller mesh) directly over the plants to keep rabbits from reaching the leaves. For larger plants, use the wire to form a cylinder large enough to stop animals from reaching the foliage. Anchor the edges of the wire to keep rabbits from simply moving it out of the way.

Perimeter fencing should be at least two feet high to prevent rabbits from jumping over — but the higher, the better. To discourage burrowing, bury the bottom of the fence six inches into the ground and bend the buried portion away from plantings. Hardware cloth (wire mesh) with one-inch diameter openings is a popular fencing choice.

Electric fencing is another option. Three to five wires, spaced three to four inches apart should prevent rabbits from from jumping or hopping through the fence. Just be sure to place the lowest wire close to the ground where a rabbit’s sensitive nose would touch it.

 

Habitat Removal

Rabbits are timid creatures and feed only where they have cover from predators. This means you’ll find more damage around the edges of your garden than in the center. You can discourage rabbits from destroying your garden by removing easy hiding places, such as brush piles, tall grass, stone piles, and low growing shrubs. They’ll also use sheds, porches, and low decks for protection, so block any openings to prevent access.

 

Repellents

There are two types of rabbit repellents — those that release a repulsive odor and those that make plants taste bad. Taste-based repellents tend to be more effective. However, when food is scarce, rabbits will consume anything that’s available, including repellent-treated plants. Nevertheless, repellent sprays can be used to break a feeding cycle and give young plants enough time to grow and get ahead of the rabbits tastes. One downside to repellents is that most will need to be reapplied every few days, and especially after it rains.

 

Sacrificial Garden

Rabbits love alfalfa and clover, so if you have room in your yard for a small patch of these crops, you may want to consider planting a sacrificial garden. You’ll find that rabbits will much prefer binging on their favorite plants rather than nibbling on your garden veggies.

No gardener really wants to kill a rabbit, but when they’re feasting on your precious plants, the urge can certainly appear. However, by erecting a solid fence and clearing out some superfluous brush, you can eliminate your rabbit problem without resorting to extreme measures.

 

Contributed by Liz Greene, a dog loving, beard envying, pop culture geek from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. You can catch up with her latest misadventures on Instant Lo or follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene.

Goodnight Garden

Living in the southeast we have a great advantage of being able to grow food year round. This is especially great news for schools and in having year-round learning experiences centered on the school garden. Schools can even extend the productivity of their gardens by adding cold frames to their beds. Whatever your winter growing intentions, there is still work to do to put your garden to bed for the season.

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Some winter hardy plants, such as carrots, radishes, turnips, spinach and collards can continue producing until spring, but for the most part, the plants overwintering in your garden will be bulbs (onions, leeks, garlic) and perennials (herbs, flowers, strawberries). They will be dormant throughout the cold months – storing energy in their roots/bulbs and waiting for the spring. Mulch all of these planted beds, providing a nice blanket of warmth for the soil and roots.

Any summer/fall annual plants which have given all they can should be pulled and composted. Lightly till the soil of these empty beds while mixing in compost. It is preferable to plant a cover crop rather than leaving a bare exposed bed. Winter cover crop options include Austrian winter pea, winter rye, daikon, and/or clover.

Care for your herb garden includes removing dead annual herbs like basil, chervil and chamomile. Cut back perennial herbs to the budding crown. Evergreen herbs can continue to be harvested as needed.

Now is the time to inspect your fruit trees and remove any dead, diseased branches. Late winter you can prune your trees for abundant spring growth and production.

Other winter activities can include cleaning tools, making signs for the spring garden, ordering seed catalogs and planning the spring garden.

Local Artisan Corner: Dow Redcorn

redcorn

Farmer D’s is excited to partner with local artisans showcasing (and selling) their works in our new Artisan’s Corner. Just in time for the holidays! This month we are featuring beautiful, forest-inspired pottery by Dow Redcorn.

Dow Redcorn

I have been fascinated with nature, forests and the life cycles of trees my entire lifetime. The aspen of Colorado, the bald cypress of Louisiana and the white oak and acorns in my own backyard have all been sources of my inspiration. My art work reflects this in the form of trees, limbs, logs and stumps. My forms are made of stoneware, primarily thrown and altered. Once they have dowredcorntaken shape, they are carved using various tools and techniques to create a mix of reality and fanciful natural forms. They are often airbrushed with underglaze and finished with high-fired glazes. “Tree” pots, leaf mugs, acorn salt pigs. Anything is imaginable…

As a Native American from the Osage Indian Tribe in N.E. Oklahoma, the images of animals, nature and spirits have long adorned our tribe’s ceremonial clothing, blankets and historic tools used in daily living. While those images are not directly playing themselves out on my work today, the themes of nature and nature as incorporated into our daily lives is.

Backyard Berries

blueberry

Nothing feels so very summery like biting into a ripe strawberry. But, did you know fall is the best time to plant berries? And fall planting of strawberries, means a spring harvest of deliciousness.

Planting strawberries, blueberry shrubs and brambles in the autumn cool temperatures allows for the plants to become established and to build a healthy root system before going dormant for the winter months. Developing strong roots allows a berry plant the foundation it needs to burst forth in spring with flowers and ultimately ripe succulent fruit.

Tips for Planting

Berries need plenty of sun. In order to produce fruit, they need sunlight for energy and food. Though raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries love afternoon shade, too little sun will result in scant harvests.

When planting berry shrubs, such as blueberries, dig a hole no deeper than the existing root ball, but 3 times wider. Amend the native soil with compost and back fill into the planting hole around the shrub. Pat the soil to compress slightly and water. Using a slow release, organic fertilizer will also help give your shrub a jump in the spring. Be sure that you plant at least two different varieties of blueberries to ensure proper cross pollination.

Bramble berries, such as raspberries and blackberries need room to sprawl. You can also train canes onto fences, but resist the urge to weave them through the fence too much for pruning purposes. Brambles flower and fruit on previous year’s growth, so pruning older canes helps simplify your harvest. Prepare hole and soil same as the shrubs.

strawberryStrawberries need a full sun position, in moist, well drained soil. They tend to do well in raised beds and container gardens if you are short on space. Space strawberry plants about 8″ on center on a slight mound of soil, amended with compost and organic fertilizer. If rodents are an issue (rabbits are particularly fond of young strawberry plants), cover with floating row cover so the plants can remain undisturbed through winter.

Mulching with wheat straw will give your all of your berries extra protection over the winter months; trapping heat in the soil, retaining water and protecting roots and crowns from frost.

We have strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries in stock, ready to be planted for summer harvest. While you are at it, pick up compost and organic fertilizer for preparing a healthy winter bed for your berries.

Cultivating the Autumn Garden

collards

Gardening in autumn and winter is our favorite. Why not reap the benefits of year-round gardening in the south? The heat is gone, and so are the insect pests that plagued the tomatoes, corn, beans and squash. The sun has shifted and the trees disrobed of their leaves, creating full sun gardens where they didn’t exist in the summer. It is the ideal time to plant cool season crops.

What to Plant

Brassicas, like broccoli, kale, mustards and cabbages, can be planted up until November. Mounding soil around the base of these plants as they grow will help keep the roots cool in our fluctuating fall temperatures, giving you better heads come harvest time.

Lettuces, spinach and chard transplants can also be planted now, as well as cool season herbs, like parsley, cilantro and dill.

Seeds to be started now that will be harvested in spring include most of your root and bulb veggies: carrots, onions, beets, parsnips, chicory and celeriac. The cooler temperatures will insure a slower germination and stronger tap root.

Growing in WinterFarmerD_ColdFrameLARGE

You can also practice season extension, even in a home garden. Season extensions are practices that prolong the growing and harvesting season. As temperatures fall, cold frames or frost cloth will help your garden retain enough heat to continue thriving. Nothing lifts the spirits on a cold, gray morning then peeking under billowing white frost cloth to check on your bright greens and herbs.

Pests

Pests in the fall/winter garden are minimal. On warm spells, aphid populations may explode. Using safe and natural insecticides, such as Neem oil, or even a few strong jets of soapy water should remedy this problem. Furry critters can be a bit more persistent. Bird netting, hardware mesh, or even frost cloth can greatly deter squirrels and rabbits from treating your garden like a salad bar.

The white cabbage moth, will be your greatest challenge. What appear to be sweet and delicate white butterflies will playfully flirt in your garden, briefly landing on your brassicas before flitting away. Those momentary respites on the leaves are just long enough to lay a few eggs. In a few days, a very small caterpillar will emerge and take a few dainty bites from your leaves, which you will most likely overlook. Until the next day when they have morphed into Godzilla-sized monsters and you find your entire plant consumed! In actuality, the nymphs will hatch and begin eating your plants, consuming as they grow at an exponential pace. BT, or Bacillus thuringiensis, is a safe, organic remedy recommended for controlling these pests.

We Can Help

Farmer D’s offers an extensive variety of seeds, fall seedlings, perennial herbs and flowers, berry bushes and fruit trees for your home garden. We carry hand-crafted planters of all shapes and sizes, cold-frames and the soil and compost to fill them. In addition, if you are looking for more detailed garden design, planning and installation services, our Farmer D Consulting team and Backyard Cultivators are here to help. Contact byc@farmerd.com for more information.

 

Fall Planting 2015

Fall planting is right around the corner and we want to see your garden thrive! Here’s a quick guide to preparing your garden for its second growing season this year:

Start Your Seeds

seed starting image

There are many seeds that you can start indoors at home and now is the time to start them. You can start your brassicas (kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and collards) as well as your lettuces and other leafy greens. You will need seed starting medium, a seed starting tray, seeds, water, and sunlight.

We’ll be hosting a seed starting party and workshop at the end of the month, so be on the lookout on our Facebook page for details!

Amend Your Soil

Good gardeners grow plants, but great gardeners grow soil. After pulling out your summer plants, replenish your soil with compost and fertilizer. If you weren’t able to compost this summer, no problem because Farmer D Organics has got your back! We sell organic compost at our garden center by the bag. A 16-qt bag amends up to 100 square feet of soil.

We would also recommend that you invest in a basic organic fertilizer – the Farmer D Fertilizer is 3-4-4. If you’ve noticed any specific deficiencies in your soil, perhaps extensive yellowing of your foliage or weak fruit production, it may be worth it to get your soil tested so that you can fertilize according to your soil’s specific conditions and needs. We can send your soil off to be tested at Farmer Ds or you can connect with your local extension office.

Purchase Your Transplants and Root Veggie Seeds

If you don’t have the time to start your own seeds, you can always purchase transplants. Transplants, or seedlings, are seeds that have been started for you and have grown to be about 3-to-4 weeks old. This fall Farmer Ds will be carrying broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, arugula, lettuce, and herb transplants. We also have a wide variety of cool season vegetable seeds – carrots, kohlrabi, beets, radishes, and more.

After you’ve started your seeds, amended your soil, and purchased the other transplants and seeds that you need, you’re all set to start growing this season!

In addition to a fall seed starting workshop, we’ll also be hosting a fall planting workshop in September. At this workshop we’ll discuss even more details of fall planting, cover cropping, and how to prepare your garden for the cold winter months. Follow our Facebook page for those updates!

 

Growing in Shade

As you probably already know, sunlight is a vital element in the process of photosynthesis and is thus incredibly important to plants. Different amounts and types of sunlight are required by specific plants in order to grow or produce fruit. As important as it is, unfortunately sunlight is one of the plant requirements that we are able to change or manipulate the least. You can amend your soil, add organic matter, create a water schedule, but for the most part, creating more sunlight is beyond most people’s means. When designing your garden, it is quite important to understand how the sunlight moves across the property in order to place plants in their best locations.

tree canopy shade

Most fruiting vegetables, trees, and shrubs require full sun in order to produce substantial yields, though beans and peas can tolerate higher levels of shade than other fruiting plants. Root vegetables are typically able to thrive and produce with less sun than fruiting plants. Leafy greens are usually able to tolerate the least amount of sun, as far as the most commonly cultivated plants are concerned. They still require some sun, though.

The categories most typically used when discussing amount of sunlight are full sun, partial sun, partial shade, and full shade. Each one is defined by the daily amount of uninterrupted sunlight a location receives. Full sun is typically defined as at least 6 hours of unfiltered sun while partial sun and partial shade are between 6 to 3 hours of sunlight. Shade is typically defined as less than 3 hours of direct sun, with filtered light during the rest of the day. Important to note that full shade does not mean no sun, as that is inhospitable to most plants.

While these categories are useful, the full picture is a bit more complicated as sunlight can not only vary in length, but also in intensity. Afternoon sun is more intense than morning sun and a denser canopy will allow less light to pass through. A plant which needs partial shade may be alright with a few hours of sun, as long as it is in the morning. Sun loving plants can tolerate less direct sun as long as the rest of the day the shade is not too dense. Some shadier plants are able to stand more sun if they are watered more frequently while some shade plants will only burn in direct sun.

So, now let’s say you’ve a property with a lot of shade but you still want to garden. There are a few techniques and design strategies you can use. First, there is the possibility, depending on circumstances, of thinning out a canopy, either by taking down limbs or entire trees, in order to allow more sun in. Though clearing trees will not normally create a drastic shift in sunlight, due to forest and gap dynamics. A clearing has to be a certain ratio of width to height in order to create a sunny spot. Trees will also grow in order to fill in gaps that were once occupied. This means in order to create a lot of sun in a fully wooded area, many trees would have to be cut down as the clearing needs to be wide enough to let sun in as well as big enough to keep the trees from closing the canopy.

Second, you can take advantage of what little sun may be present and simply design around that. Typically, the northernmost edge of a clearing will receive the most sun. Eastern edges will get afternoon sun while western get morning sun. Sunnier plants would be on the northern and eastern edges while the shadier plants would do well on the western side. Selecting plants to the site is a very useful design process. While you may have really wanted to grow tomatoes and watermelons, you may have to grow shadier plants, like strawberries or blueberries, which can thrive in sun but are also able to tolerate more shade. Shading greens can keep them from bolting too quickly in hot summers. Herbs are also able to tolerate greater amounts of shade. In such an instance, I’d suggest making friends who also garden. You can exchange resources, like herbs or other medicinal plants, for veggies that they were able to grow.

The third technique may seem counterproductive but can actually be quite useful and interesting and that is to possibly create even more shade so as to grow specific plants, many of which can be medicinal. You could also grow mushrooms in a denser shade.

This Season’s Pick – Tomatoes!

TomatoesThis April, the Farmer D Blog is dedicated to all things tomato! Tomatoes are a Georgia favorite for spring and summer farms and gardens. Not only do we have a long growing season for them, but there are tons of varieties to choose from. Whether you are looking for cherry tomatoes as a snack, or paste tomatoes to make delicious marinara sauces, growing tomatoes is a move in the right direction!

General Growing Tips
Tomatoes prefer loamy soils, full-sun, and a lot of depth to extend their roots. In order to provide the depth they need, we recommend that you plant your tomatoes in a raised garden bed as opposed to in a planter. You could also plant your tomatoes in a large pot or tomato bag, so long as you have 24”-30” of depth for them to grow. When putting your tomatoes in the ground, plant them deeply, such that ⅔ of the plant is actually underneath the soil. All of the tiny hairs on the stem will shoot out as roots and will ensure a healthy, strong, and fruitful plant. “Full sun” refers to at least six unfiltered and direct hours of sunlight per day. When it comes to whether or not to stake your tomato plants, we suggest that you stake them or provide some structure to support the vertical growth of the plant. This saves space in your garden bed and prevents the spread of disease to your plants’ stems, leaves, and fruit!

Heirloom Vs. Open Pollinated Vs. Hybrid
“Heirloom” refers to a seed a variety that existed before 1940 and was passed down through the generations. Heirloom tomatoes often have distinct and funky shapes and add character to any garden. However, they generally don’t produce as much fruit as your open-pollinated or hybrid varieties. “Open-pollinated” refers to when a seed’s pollination occurred by natural mechanisms, i.e. by insect, bird, wind, or humans. Open-pollinated plants are more genetically diverse and adapt to local growing conditions over time. Lastly, there are “hybrid” seeds which refers to seeds that are intentionally crossed by humans in a controlled environment to breed a desired trait. Hybrid seeds are known to be very prolific.

What’s great about all three of these seed populations is that they can each be organically certified and naturally-grown. It’s truly a matter of finding the seeds’ tastes, colors, and textures that you enjoy most!

Determinate vs. Indeterminate vs. Compact
Another important distinction between tomato plants is determinate vs. indeterminate vs. compact varieties. A determinate variety will grow to a specific height and will only fruit for a set period of time. After that growth stage has been reached, you will find your determinate tomato plant fruiting less and becoming more susceptible to rot and disease. Determinate varieties are great if you know that you will only be able to tend to your garden for a couple of months rather than for the entire growing season. Indeterminate varieties will grow taller than most determinate varieties and will produce fruit for the entire growing season (early-summer to late-fall.) The last option refers to our compact varieties. As the best of both worlds – these compact plants only grow to be a couple of feet tall (similar to determinate varieties) but will fruit throughout the entire season (like the indeterminate varieties!)

As you can tell, there are many many options for growing tomatoes in your garden this year! If you’re new to planting tomatoes, come by Farmer D Organics Garden Center and we can help you pick out some tomato varieties that will work well for you. And if you’re a seasoned gardener, maybe this could be the year to try something new!

Farmer D’s Compost Tea Recipe

Farmer D Compost

Have you wanted the boost that a compost tea can bring to your plants but aren’t sure where to start? Here’s a simple compost tea recipe from Farmer D’s first book Citizen Farmers.

Compost feeds the soil biology in a garden. This enhances nutrients, moisture retention, disease resistance and overall plant vitality. When making compost tea, be sure to start with good quality compost and follow the National Organic Program’s safety guidelines. This recipe makes 5 gallons of tea, enough for a large home garden.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 Clean, 5-gallon (20 L) bucket (preferably ceramic or stainless steel. Plastic is ok- no bleach or chemical residues
  • 4 Gallons (15 L) rainwater, spring water or tap water
  • 1 Quart  (400 G) aged, good quality compost
  • Pantyhose, cheesecloth bag or fine screen colander
  • Stinging Nettle or Burdock leaves
  • 3 Tablespoons compost tea activator (such as unsulphured organic molasses or a ready-made activator such as Growing Solutions compost tea catalyst)
  • Small fish tank aerator pump with tubing and several bubblers or air stones to pump oxygen into the bucket of water with compost and activator

Bubbling compost tea

Fill the bucket with water. If using tap water, let it sit out for 24 hours to release chlorine. Place the compost in the pantyhose, cheesecloth bad or colander. Fully immerse the compost in the water without allowing soil particle to get in the water. (you can also brew without a mesh bag and instead run the finished tea through a fine-mesh or cheesecloth strainer.) Toss in a few handfuls of fresh stinging nettles, burdock leaves or other other appropriate herbs and weeds for added benefits. Add the compost activator, turn on the aerator pump, and let brew for 24 to 48 hours. If you are not using aerator, let sit for 5 to 10 days to allow for adequate fermentation.

Once brewed, compost tea has a short shelf life, so it should be applied as soon as possible, no later than 24 hours after being brewed. When using compost tea, dilute at 10 parts water to 1 part compost tea and apply as follows:

Foliar Applications: Spray in the morning or evening on underside of leaves of plants, shrubs and trees.

Soil Drench: Water new transplants or existing plants.

Lawn: Spray or run through your irrigation system.

Farmer D Organics Garden Centers
2154 Briarcliff Rd. Atlanta, GA 30329
Phone: (404) 325-0128
Summer Store Hours:
Monday Closed
Tuesday-Saturday 10:00am - 6:00pm
Sunday 11:00am - 5:00pm