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Home Gardeners Provide Healthy Food for Hungry People #IShared

Grow Extra to Share!

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One out of six Americans is food insecure, meaning they don’t know from where their next meal will come. No matter where you live, there are people in your community that are experiencing hunger. Food pantries help fill in the gaps but are continuously lacking in healthy, fresh produce to offer.  Luckily, you can help alleviate this issue in your own neighborhood!Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, food and outdoor

As home gardeners, you are already doing a wonderful thing when you grow your own food. You know that it is good for you, your family, and the environment. By planting just a little extra to donate, you can improve the health of your community as well. When you donate your excess garden bounty, you are helping to relieve hunger and making an impact on obesity and other food-related diseases.Image may contain: one or more people, plant and outdoor

Consider planting an extra row or even a few additional plants to donate to a local food pantry. And if you find yourself with a runaway zucchini plant or another bountiful crop that gives you more than you can eat, don’t let it go to waste! Even a small donation will help increase food security in your area.

Don’t waste any food this year! Donate it to a pantry near you so that there is No Food Left Behind!

Find a Pantry

Click here to enter your zip code to find a registered pantry near you! Then, click on that pantry to learn more about them including crucial information like their hours of operation and how much fresh produce they can accept in one delivery. When in doubt, give them a call! Most pantries are happy to answer your questions and make donating easy!Image may contain: food

Share Your Produce

Once you find a food pantry or food bank near you, it’s time to donate your extra produce! Most food pantries have specific drop-off days and times so be sure to find out when they are available to receive donations. Please be sure to only donate food that is high-quality enough that you yourself would eat it. Donations need to be relatively clean and of a suitable ripeness. Even small donations are welcome at most pantries! Or you can always pool your resources with your neighbors to form a larger donation!Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing and outdoor

Consider donating regularly to the pantry closest to you. Your contribution will go directly to the hungry people in your community. You will have the gratitude of your community and all of us here at Down To Earth Community Gardens. In fact, we would love to hear about your donations! Send a pm to our Facebook page or an email to tmyer58@hotmail.com and let us know how much produce you were able to share. You can also visit our Facebook page and post the information there too, be sure to use hashtag #IShared on your Social Media & Instagram photos.

 

How to Create a Vertical Trellis Under $30

How to Grow More in Less Space with a Vertical Garden 

Source: Roots And Refuge Farm

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What Is a Vertical Garden?

Put very simply, a vertical garden is a way to encourage fruits, vegetables, herbs or flowers to grow up instead of down on the ground, by means of some kind of support or structure. It can be done in the ground, in containers, on a wall, or even without soil.
Building your $30 Garden Trellis DIY How To (scroll 7 min in)

The best edible plants for growing in a vertical garden have climbing or vining habits, like cucumbers, tomatoes, pole beans, peas, and even a variety of squash and pumpkins (You can also add vining flowers to your vertical elements for beauty, too!).

While lack of space (such as in an urban or apartment setting) usually motivates the vertical approach, there are many other advantages to this creative way of gardening:

  • Disease prevention
  • Ease of harvest (no bending over)
  • Higher yield
  • More shapely produce (no flat side from laying on the ground)
  • Visual interest or even privacy
  • Portability; some container systems can be moved to follow available sun
  • Controlling invasive or wide-spreading plants like squash vines
  • Creates shelter for shade-loving plants (or people)

The possible ways a vertical garden might look are endless, from the very simple and cheap to the breathtakingly complex and expensive.

Traditional Garden with Vertical Elements

If you have an existing backyard garden, plan to add a trellis and climbing plants on the north side of your plot. This keeps your taller plants from shading the rest of the garden. I also suggest using a support that is portable and not permanent, so you can rotate your plantings from season to season.

Here are some veggie ideas to grow your plants vertically in a traditional garden bed with an added trellis:

  • Cucumbers
  • Corn, Pole Beans, and Squash
  • Squash (Acorn, Butternut, Delicata) – train the vines up using twine/zip ties.
  • Tomatoes

Don’t forget to plant lettuce, spinach, and other delicate, shade-loving plants in the shade these trellises provide!

 

 

Rainwater Harvesting 101

Rainwater Harvesting 101: What is it, What are the benefits & How to build rain barrels

Source: Innovative Water Solutions, Snohomish Conservation District

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What is Rainwater Harvesting?
Rainwater harvesting is collecting the run-off from a structure or other impervious surface in order to store it for later use. Traditionally, this involves harvesting the rain from a roof. The rain will collect in gutters that channel the water into downspouts and then into some sort of storage vessel. Rainwater collection systems can be as simple as collecting rain in a rain barrel or as elaborate as harvesting rainwater into large cisterns to supply your entire household demand.

All that is necessary to take advantage of this resource is to capture the free water falling on your roof and direct it to a rainwater storage tank. By doing this, you can take control of your water supply and replace all or at least a substantial portion of your water needs. Rainwater harvesting systems can be configured to supply your whole house and/or your landscape needs. P1190344.jpg

What are the Benefits of Rainwater Collection?

  • Rainwater is a relatively clean and absolutely free source of water
  • You have total control over your water supply (ideal for cities with water restrictions)
  • It is socially acceptable and environmentally responsible
  • It promotes self-sufficiency and helps conserve water
  • Rainwater is better for landscape plants and gardens because it is not chlorinated
  • It reduces storm water runoff from homes and businesses
  • It can solve the drainage problems on your property while providing you with free water
  • It uses simple technologies that are inexpensive and easy to maintain
  • It can be used as a main source of water or as a back up source to wells and municipal water
  • The system can be easily retrofitted to an existing structure or built during new home construction
  • Systems are very flexible and can be modular in nature, allowing expansion, reconfiguration, or relocation, if necessary
  • It can provide an excellent back-up source of water for emergencies

Theis, Cindy (3).jpgRain Barrels And How to Build Them
This method is the most common and one that many people are familiar with. This involves installing a barrel at a gutter downspout to collect rainwater.

The actual barrel may be a recycled barrel or a new commercially available rain barrel.

  • Summary: Easily implemented, Barrels are readily available. Barrels don’t take up much space so they can fit into any situation.  Great for storm water control and a backup water source.

 

Enabled Gardening: Learn about gardening with disabilities

Enabled Garden Design – Learn About Gardening With Disabilities

By: Jackie Carroll

Doctors now tell us that gardening is a therapeutic activity that fortifies the mind, body and spirit. As gardeners, we’ve always known that the sun and soil that gives life to our plants also facilitate growth in our own lives. So what happens as we age or become ill and we become suddenly unable to provide for the garden that’s given us so much? Simple. Keep going and create an enabled garden design! Gardening with disabilities is not only possible, but it’s a great way to maintain one’s lifestyle and happiness during a time of physical adversity.

What is an Enabled Garden?

So what is an enabled garden? In much the same way homes and vehicles can be remodeled to accommodate people with various handicaps, so can a garden. An enabled garden will use concepts such as raised garden beds, modified tools, and wider pathways to achieve both accessibility and functionality. The ultimate goal is to have a garden that can be enjoyed by everyone from the very young to the very old, and even the blind and wheelchair bound. And just as with any gardening project, the disabled gardener ideas are endless.

How to Create an Enabled Garden
Design Enabled garden design ideas are only limited by the needs of the gardener and the creativity of the designer. Learning how to create an enabled garden begins with learning about what has been done before. Here are some proven disabled gardener ideas to help get you started:

Tools can be modifiedImage result for gardening with disabilities to the needs of the user. Foam tubes or large hair curlers placed over the handles will aid with grip and arm splints can also be attached for further assistance. Cords attached to handles can be slipped around the wrist to prevent dropping.

  • When considering pathways for wheelchairs, note that they should be at least 3 feet wide, smooth and free of obstruction.

 

Raised beds can be built at heights and widths specific to the needs of the gardener. For example, wheelchair accessible plant beds should be no more than 30 inches in height (24 inches is ideal) and 5 feet wide.

  • For the blind gardener, consider a ground level garden bed with durable plants that are textured and scented.
  • Hanging planters can be fixed with a pulley system that allows the user to lower them for watering or pruning. A pole with a hook attached can also accomplish this task.

There are many resources online to find additional disabled gardener ideas. Just make sure they’re suited to the person or people who will frequent the garden. With the right decisions and a good dose of creativity and care, the enabled garden can be a monument to beauty and functionality, allowing those gardening with disabilities to grow stronger alongside their garden.Related image

Read more at Gardening Know How: Enabled Garden Design – Learn About Gardening With Disabilities https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/special/accessible/gardening-with-disabilities.htm

Gardening by the Moon, An Age Old Practice

Gardening by the Moon is a great way to plan your garden. Many of our readers follow the age-old practice of planting by the Moon’s phase for a healthier, more productive garden.

Moon Cherry Flowers

The basic idea behind Planting by the Moon is that cycles of the Moon affect plant growth. Just as the Moon’s gravitational pull causes tides to rise and fall, it also affects moisture in the soil.

Therefore, it’s said that seeds will absorb more water during the full Moon and the new Moon, when more moisture is pulled to the soil surface. This causes seeds to swell, resulting in greater germination and better-established plants.

Moon phase gardening takes into account two periods of the lunar cycle: the time between the new Moon and the full Moon (the waxing of the Moon), and the time between the full Moon and the new Moon (the waning of the Moon).

The Moon also impacts plant growth through geotropism—which is how plants grow in response to gravity.  Roots grow downward in the direction of gravitational pull and stems grow in the opposite direction (i.e., upwards). This behavior can be easily demonstrated with potted plants. Lay one on its side and the stem will grow upwards. Or, consider a tulip bulb. If you plant the bulb incorrectly with the pointed end down, it will turn around and send its shoots upward.

How to Plant by the Moon’s Phases

To plant by the Moon, follow these guidelines:

  • Plant your annual flowers and fruit and vegetables that bear crops above ground (such as corn, tomatoes, watermelon, and zucchini) during the waxing of the Moon—from the day the Moon is new to the day it is full. As the moonlight increases night by night, plants are encouraged to grow leaves and stems.
  • Plant flowering bulbs, biennial and perennial flowers, and vegetables that bear crops below ground (such as onions, carrots, and potatoes) during the waning of the Moon—from the day after it is full to the day before it is new again. As the moonlight decreases night by night, plants are encouraged to grow roots, tubers, and bulbs.

    Dates for Planting by the Moon

    See the Almanac Planting Calendar for planting dates based on 1) average last frost dates and 2) Moon phase. All is customized to your local U.S. zip code or Canadian postal code!

    The Almanac provides favorable dates for sowing seeds or transplanting in the ground for all popular vegetables and edibles.

    You could also calculate planting dates yourself by looking at this Moon Phase Calendar and the guidelines above, though this method won’t take your climate into account.

    Finally, don’t forget to check out the library of Growing Guides to learn how to grow all the your favorite fruit, vegetables, and flowers!

    Do you garden by the Moon? Do you think the technique helps you grow better crops? Let us know in the comments!

    Source:

    The 2019 Old Farmer’s Almanac

Tips for the Aging Gardener

Tips for the Aging Gardener

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I have a confession to make…my body is aging! At this point in my life, I’m starting to think about ways to simplify gardening tasks and change things up so that I will never have to give up gardening. With aging in mind, I’ve pulled together a hearty list of Tips for the Aging Gardener.

For my readers who are under 40, read on; because you, my gardening friend, are aging too. Plus, you’re sure to find some gardening tips that you can utilize as well.

Gardening Tools & Equipment Designed to Make Gardening Easier for Seniors & All Gardeners

Having the right equipment goes a long way in simplifying gardening and the wear and tear on our bodies. For instance, a handy kneeler works perfect for getting up and down in the garden and the padding helps with stress to the knees. When you tire of kneeling, turn it over and it makes a stool too. I love the pocket for keeping tools accessible.

If you aren’t keen on carrying a kneeling bench around the garden, consider wearing comfortable knee pads.  Kneeling is hard on the knees, so be okay with just sitting on the ground as you’re doing your weeding or deadheading. Just don’t get stuck down there.

Be sure the tools you are using are solid, ergonomic tools to prevent injuries.

Tips for Simplifying Gardening Tasks

Get organized and make lists. I find that when I have a list of tasks I want to accomplish, it’s much easier for me to stay focused and get that particular job done.

Replace flowers that need lots of babying and weedy perennials, with lower maintenance perennials and shrubs that don’t need as much coddling.

I can’t stress mulching enough. Mulch goes a long way to keep weeds at bay and it also shades the soil and helps it retain moisture. Use a good shredded wood mulch that will break down and fortify the soil.  We obtain our mulch for free thanks to relationships with local arborists.  Purchasing mulch through a local supplier is also an option.

If you don’t want to spend the money from your gardening budget on wood mulch, use shredded leaves and grass clippings. Adding a thick layer of newspaper around plants before you mulch also helps weed seeds from taking root.

Consider installing drip irrigation or a soaker hose to ease the burden of watering.

Asking for Help

One thing I’ve done for several years now is to ask for help.  Advertise your need for help at your garden club, your church, in a local Facebook group, or a local neighborhood group.  I appreciate the littles that pop by to help during our busy harvest season.Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, child, outdoor, nature and closeup

If you’re on a limited income and you really don’t have a means to hire help, tell your family members that you would like help in the garden in lieu of special occasion gifts, like birthdays or Christmas. Be sure to treat those who help you like royalty (for example cookies, fresh lemonade) so they won’t bulk at helping you again in the future.

Gardening Tips for Those With Mobility Issues

Raised beds and container gardens are a great way to garden if mobility is an issue. They can be placed on a patio and made easily accessible.

Vertical gardening is also a great way to minimize stress on our bodies from bending over and a great use of space where space is limited.

Be creative with containers – turn empty pots upside down to make a table of sorts to place other planters on to raise their height.

Put containers on casters so they can easily be moved.

Keep in mind that raised beds and containers dry out much more quickly than plantings that are in the ground, so they will need to be watered more frequently. However, for a person with limited mobility, watering a garden would likely be a very therapeutic and satisfying chore.

Tips for Helping Our Bodies Adapt to the Stress of GardeningImage result for grandparents and grandkids gardening

Do the bulk of your heavy duty gardening chores in the early mornings and evenings when the sun isn’t as intense.

Do some simple stretches before and after you’ve had a gardening session. If I get lazy over the winter and slack in my exercise routine, I will pick it up in February just to get in shape for gardening season.

Mix up your gardening tasks and limit your time at one task, so you aren’t repeating the same motion over and over. Alternate chores that require bending over with chores that require you to be upright. For instance, alternate raking with weeding, or alternate weeding with watering, etc. Alternating and mixing up our gardening chores will help reduce stress to joints and muscles from repetitive motion.

Drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Be sure to pace yourself and take breaks even if you don’t think you need them.

Add benches or chairs to your shady garden areas where you can take breaks and take in the beauty of your gardens. Pssst, don’t sit there and dream up more projects like I do though.

As we age our skin gets thinner (as other parts of our body get thicker – boo) so we need to protect it. Wear sunscreen and lip protection. I’m very picky about what I put on my skin, so organic sunscreen and lip balm comes in handy.

Also be sure to protect your eyes from the sun’s rays by wearing sunglasses. Garden hats are also an option to protect your head and face from the sun.

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Wear sturdy protective footwear. Don’t garden in flip flops (I hope you’re reading this, sweet sister of mine). Wear shoes that are going to support your feet and protect them from bug bites, splinters from mulch, etc. I find that when I wear sturdy solid shoes that my feet, legs and back don’t get as tired or sore.

When you’re gardening day is done, take a soak in an Epsom Salt Bath. The magnesium in Epsom salts are very therapeutic and help to smooth achy sore muscles.

Most important of all, be okay with imperfect! Really, find joy in the beauty and enjoy your time in the garden. Don’t let your aging body rob you of the joy your love for gardening brings you.

Whether you are a senior, or a gardener like me that’s in denial but aging anyway, I hope you’ve gained some ideas and tips today for maintaining your garden as you age. Feel free to forward the link to this article along to those who would benefit from these Tips for Aging Gardeners.

Happy Gardening!

 

 

March Tips: The Pacific Northwest Garden

Winter’s long wait is almost over. Get busy outdoors. As the weather starts to warm, it’s time to dig in on planting, pruning, and pest control.

Divide Perennials

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Early spring is the ideal time to divide crowded clumps of summer- and fall-blooming perennials. This includes purple coneflowers, Shasta daisies, asters, and garden mums. After planting divisions, don’t forget to water if spring rains fail to materialize.

Learn how to divide perennials.

Begin Slug Patrol

As soon as bulbs begin to poke through soil, slugs start feeding. To get a jump on controlling these voracious chewers, put out slug bait when you see bulb shoots. Slugs are most active during mild, rainy weather. You’ll likely spot three types of slugs.

European black slug: They are usually brown but occasionally black or white. This slug feeds on new growth and poses a large threat to garden plants.

Banana slug: Most often yellow or black-spotted yellow, banana slugs can also be green or white. They feed on mushrooms, leaf litter, and dead plants. As a result, they pose no threat to the garden.

Leopard slug: This slug is gray with black spots. It’s omnivorous, eating garden plants but also feasting on insects, such as European black slugs.

Spray for Pests and Diseases

Break out the sprayer late this month to treat trees and shrubs typically attacked by scale. Spray horticultural oil, which also helps control mites. Don’t spray blue spruce trees.

Learn more ways to fight garden pests.

Test Garden Tip: Awaken overwintered fuchsias by shifting them from darkness to a spot near a south-facing or other sunny window. Don’t move the plants outdoors until all danger of frost has passed.

Start Planting

Wait to dig until after soil has warmed and isn’t too wet. Watch maple trees to know when soil is warm enough for planting. When leaves start to emerge, soil should be good to go.

Edibles:

  • Get cole crops into the ground: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and kohlrabi. Look for seedlings at local nurseries.
  • Tuck bare-root asparagus and rhubarb, as well as onion sets and potatoes, into soil.
  • Sow seeds of leafy salad favorites (lettuce, spinach) and onion-family plants (leeks, onions, shallots). Beets, carrots, and radishes can also be planted now.
  • Start warm-season seeds indoors so you’ll have healthy seedlings for planting when all danger of frost has passed. This includes basil, eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes.

Get your tomatoes off to a good start.

Perennials:

  • Look for bare-root and potted perennials at garden centers. If you want to add early-spring perennials, such as creeping phlox, purchase plants while they’re in bloom to ensure you’re getting the color you want.
  • Nurseries have a great selection of bare-root plants. Buying bare-root plants is a great way to stretch your gardening dollars.
  • You can also plant potted or balled-and-burlapped landscape plants.

Test Garden Tip: Begin planting gladiola and begonia bulbs this month. If you’re a big glad fan and want a season-long show, tuck bulbs into soil every two weeks until mid-July — then sit back and enjoy the floral fireworks.

Prune Roses, Shrubs, and Clematis

Roses: Early in the month, remove old, thin, and unproductive rose canes. Cut back bush roses to 12-18 inches tall and shrub roses to 3 feet. Thin climbing roses if canes are thick and tangled.

Don’t miss our tips for pruning roses.

Shrubs: Wait to prune spring-flowering shrubs after blossoms fade. It’s OK to remove dead or storm-damaged branches prior to bloom; they may detract from the show.

Clematis: Along the coast, cut summer and fall bloomers back to the strongest stems. Scratch fertilizer into soil around the base of vines and water in. Refresh mulch around vines. Inland, wait to prune until all danger of a hard frost has passed. In all areas, prune spring-blooming clematis immediately after flowering.

Fertilize

Bulbs: As new shoots appear, scratch bulb fertilizer into soil around plants. This feeding ensures a strong show next year.

Landscape plants: Use a complete, all-purpose product for trees and shrubs. Apply before growth begins.

Rhododendrons, azaleas, and camellias: Choose a fertilizer designed for acid-loving plants.

Berries: Feed plants with an all-purpose fertilizer. You can also heap compost around canes. Do not feed strawberry plants until after harvest in June.

Test Garden Tip: Top-dress a rock garden using a mixture of sand, loam, and coconut fiber to reduce soil compaction and erosion, help soil retain moisture, and cool soil. This fast-draining topdressing also protects plant crowns from excess moisture. Don’t worry how the garden looks after top-dressing. Rains will wash materials into soil.

Address Lawn Challenges

Bare spots: Repair bare spots in the lawn. Simply scratch up soil and toss on seed. Keep the seedbed moist until sprouts appear. If birds, rodents, or deer create heavy traffic in your yard, use clean straw or a light dressing of compost to protect seed from hungry critters.

Grass seed choices: If you’re starting a new lawn, use fescue for shady areas and a mix of bentgrass and perennial ryegrass for sunny sections. Buffalograss thrives east of the Cascades. This drought-tolerant turf is a low-maintenance favorite in other regions where it’s widely grown.

Weeds: Preemergent weed killers will take care of annual grassy weeds, such as crabgrass and annual bluegrass. The trick is applying it before seeds germinate. Usually, if you apply when forsythia begins to bloom, you’ll hit the right window. Follow application instructions on the bag with regard to rainfall.

Check out our Weed Identification Guide.

Moss: For lawns that typically don’t have a moss issue, choose a spring fertilizer that contains iron. The iron will eliminate any moss that invaded the lawn over winter.

Test Garden Tip: Fertilize lawns when grass starts to green up. Choose a complete fertilizer labeled for spring use.

Check out our lawn-fertilizer calculator.