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DIY Organic Fertilizers And The Benefits

May 23rd, 2012

If you’re looking for a fertilizer that maximizes your edible garden’s nutritional content, without the worry of harsh chemicals and synthesizers found in traditional fertilizers, perhaps making your own organic blend is a logical next step.  Similar to cooking, controlling the ingredients in your own natural fertilizer can be a healthier and safer alternative to what we see packaged in stores. Initially, a DIY fertilizer may remind you of a high school chemistry class, and seem somewhat daunting. Yet, a little motivation to get you started (from us) and some further research (from you) has the potential to turn even a neophyte gardener into a fertilizer-blending dynamo! To get you started…

The Commercial Fertilizer Dilemma:  Common chemical fertilizers like Ammonium Sulphate, Potassium Chloride, and Potash are non-synthetic (and not harmful to health), and directly supply the amount of Nitrogen and Potassium needed for plant vitality. However, these fertilizers purchased at your local gardening store are not only costly, but can eventually damage the soil’s physical, biological and chemical structure.  Studies have shown that consistent and long-term use of chemical fertilizers change the soil’s alkalinity, salinity and sodium levels, while eventually depleting your plant’s root systems of oxygen.  While synthetic fertilizers have the potential to infiltrate food and ultimately harm our health.

Furthermore, from an environmental perspective, chemical and synthetic fertilizers pose a real threat to the Mama Earth. There is growing concern that chemicals found in fertilizers coupled with excess run-off continues to damage natural eco-systems, lakes, rivers and oceans.  It has become increasingly clear that long-term use has consequences not only for our home gardens, but on a larger scale as well.

A Few Rules Of Thumb: Before you begin, it is important to consider which blends will work best for your plants, and what is locally available to purchase.  Many ingredients can be found at your local gardening center, and some may have to be purchased online.  With a little research, you’ll become more familiar with both of these concepts. Also, keep in mind that a good fertilizer may only need to be applied once a year, ideally before you plant your first Spring crop.  Generally, blending the fertilizer in with the soil before you plant works well.  Therefore, be sure to mix the right amount for your own garden’s needs, and store the rest in an airtight container.

Ingredients To Consider:

*Seed meals are byproducts of vegetable oil and animal feeds. They contain highly nutritious seeds like flaxseeds, soybeans, cotton seeds and sunflower seeds.  They are prized for their high Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium content.

*Heavy Nitrogen blends have natural amino acids and can yield vibrantly large vegetables, as Nitrogen is wonderful for the growth process.

*Adding ocean products like Kelp Meal can be quite beneficial for heavy feeders like squash, tomatoes, corn, broccoli and cabbage.

*Using rock phosphate has high doses of Phosphorous, which will provide vigorous growth for edible plants and flowers.

*Gypsum is a wonderful source for Calcium, and will not raise the soil’s Ph levels.

*Dolomite has a neutral Ph, and is a prized source of Calcium and Magnesium.

*Rock dusts are blends of several different types of rocks, and can revitalize over worked soil.

*Green Sand is harvested from the ocean, and is a natural source of Iron, Magnesium, Silica and minerals.

*Adding Lime with its Calcium and Magnesium will add strength to your garden. It can also raise Ph levels in the soil if needed.

Sample Fertilizer Recipe (1:5:2)

4 parts seed meal

2 parts Gypsum

1 part Rock Phosphate

1 part Green Sand

1 part Dolomite Lime

Method: Mix all ingredients well.

Would you consider making your own organic fertilizer? What is your favorite blend?

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Live Easy In the Summer With These Gardening Tips

May 22nd, 2012

Summer time is a good excuse to slow down the gardening for a month or two, and enjoy your garden at your next pool party or barbeque bash.  Your flowers should be blooming idiots by now, while your vegetables and fruit are producing regularly. If you live in the Southwest or a warmer climate, you should have already planted everything last month, while those that have cooler weather can buy some extra time.  However, the summer should be a time for maintenance, and we’d like to share some tips on what you should (and shouldn’t!) be doing this season.

Gardens may require more supplemental watering during the summer months. Therefore, it’s a good time to install the drip irrigation system you’ve been thinking about, especially if you wish not to be hunched over your garden under the beating sun. Drip irrigation is also effective for decreasing the risk of evaporation, erosion and run-off, which happens more frequently in the hot summer months. If you prefer to water manually, water your plants deeply and more frequently (especially your trees and shrubs) if the weekly rainfall hits below 1” a week.

Get to know your soil and how it retains water. Soil tends to crack and dry up quickly in the hot sun, especially if it’s clay soil lacking organic matter. Sandy soil with organic matter retains the most water, and decreases the chance of pesky evaporation.  While watering is important, be careful to not overwater your plants, as this could lead to fungus and disease.

Hold off on planting anything new this time of year. Any new plants should have been planted a few weeks after the last frost, and now is the time to maintain and harvest.  However, if you live in a moderate summer climate, there are some warm-loving plants that could grow nicely in warm soil, and if given plenty of attention and water. In moderate summer climates, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, eggplants, peppers, brussel sprouts and corn all can grow quite well during this time. Thegardenhelper.com can further provide more information on boldly planting this time of year!

Weeding will most likely be the brunt of the maintenance required in the summer time, as weeds thrive in the dry heat and can inhibit a vibrant garden. Aim to weed about 2-3 times a week. Removing weeds quickly and when they are small will make weeding a snap, as large root systems won’t have the opportunity to form. If you receive a good monsoon storm, or some summer rain, you’ll find the task of weeding even easier as the soil softens. Natural weed killers are always recommended, as they will have little to no impact on the environment. Vinegar works well against weeds, but may require a few applications to really do the trick. Boiling water is also effective, just be sure to use caution around surrounding plants, as well as yourself!

Some other general rules for summer gardening include applying mulch and knowing when to prune.  Mulch can do wonders for your garden, as it protects the soil from high temperatures, retains moisture, and prevents water evaporation and runoff.  It can also reduce the rate of weeds, which is even more appreciated when temperatures hit 100+ degrees! Stop by our blog post on mulching here for more helpful tips.

Generally, excessive pruning should be avoided during the summer months. However, removing fading blossoms to promote further growth, or pruning late flowering shrubs and hedges in the early summer months should be fine. When the weather gets even warmer, it’s best to avoid pruning whenever possible, as it can really damage a plant fast (about as fast as those weeds grew).

Bonus! We found a terrific guide for month-by-month tips on maintaining lawns, ornamentals and citrus trees from June – August.

What summer maintenance do you practice in your own garden?  

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Helpful Tips On Growing and Storing A Bumper Crop

May 14th, 2012

Bumper crops normally occur when favorable environmental conditions are present for a good length of time.  Yet, you shouldn’t have to rely on good luck or perform a rain dance to grow a surplus of fruit, vegetables and herbs. Rather, there are some helpful tips to practice that will bolster your chances of yielding a nice sized bumper crop, and some very easy ways to store the fruits of your labor.

Proper Planning:  Form a plan first that maximizes space while continuing to keep your garden healthy, and free of weeds and pests. Calculate how many rows you need, how large your plants are expected to grow, and how much space is needed for efficient growth. Consider growing your plants vertically if your space is limited, or try less traditional approaches like using a community garden to gain more accessible land.

Preparing The Soil: Soil is the real backbone behind creating a garden that has the potential for a bumper crop. It’s important for adding nutrients to edible plants, and essential for strength and vitality. If your soil is lacking fertility and proper drainage, do not despair! Determine what type of soil you are working with.  Is it the consistency of sand or clay?  Then consider adding organic matter to the soil. Adding compost (see composting tips here), mulch, or creating your own organic fertilizer are three great ways to improve the quality very quickly.

Pre-emptive Pest Strikes: Start warding off pests before they become an issue. A variety of herbs like chives, garlic and coriander are natural deterrents for pests like aphids, while sage, rosemary and coriander can keep flies at bay. Do some research and read our post about companion planting to learn more about naturally controlling pests. Or, if you’re facing a situation where pests have already infiltrated your garden, we have a wonderful list of natural methods to treat them.

What To Grow: Choose vegetables and herbs that grow easily and in abundance. Zucchini, green beans, carrots, snap peas, tomatoes, dill, rosemary and cilantro all require an average degree of maintenance, and can produce a real bounty of delicious results!

Bumper Crop, Now What?  There are a variety of methods to store your bumper crop so that it’s fresh for another week, many months, or even years. Canning is the most ideal storage method, as it can preserve your prized fruits and vegetables for the longest length of time. It is also the preferred method when a natural disaster strikes and electricity is limited or unavailable, as cans only need a cool, dark place to maintain their quality.  If you’re interested in the canning process, learn how here.

Another method that will safely store a bumper crop is freezing. Freezing is ideal because it can maintain more nutrients than canning, but keep in mind that food is more susceptible to spoiling in an emergency if electricity is limited or unavailable. Yet, if short-term storage is what you’re looking for, freezing may be well suited for your bumper crop. Be sure to blanch your vegetables first (fruit is unnecessary to blanch), seal and then freeze.

Storing a bumper crop of herbs and peppers can be quite easy, as both can be dried and will stay fresh for months. Washing herbs and/or peppers and drying them on a rack, mesh, an open counter or hanging them all work quite well. Once dry, mince or store whole in a refrigerator for more long-term preservation.

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Gardening Gift Baskets Perfect For Mother’s Day

May 3rd, 2012

For many of us, our mother is the person who is always happy when we call, and has a special knack for making us feel wonderful. With Mother’s Day on May 13th, searching for the perfect gift for our own mother, wife, someone expecting, or a daughter with children of her own can feel daunting.  If the mother you have in mind is a gardener or an aspiring gardener, surprising her with a Humble Seed gift basket may be just the thing she’ll love. Our prepared gift baskets have a variety of gardening goodies, seeds, and a mini-tool tote that will help her garden look exceptionally lovely.  We also include freshly-scented handsoap and lotion in each basket to refresh her hands after spending a cheerful day in the soil, among beautiful flowers and fresh vegetables, beneath the warm sun.

If your mom is your favorite chef and loves freshly picked herbs for her most flavorful dishes, Uncle Herb’s Favorites Gift Basket is a real treat! It’s also perfect for first time gardeners. This basket features our Uncle Herb’s seed kit, which contains 10 varieties of quality non-GMO and non-hybrid culinary herb seeds. Included in the basket is our 7-Piece Humble Garden Mini-Tool Tote, which contains gloves, assorted tools and a mister. We also add Authentic Haven Brand Natural Brew, which will enhance the vitality of the garden. Finally, we added a hand-crafted, hand-cut bar of Annie’s Goat Hill chamomile and neroli scented goat milk soap, and a 4 oz hand lotion; perfect for refreshing tired hands after a day in the garden. Each basket is shrink-wrapped for secure shipping

Hot Mama’s Peppers and Chiles Gift Basket is perfect for mothers who love to spice things up in the kitchen! This basket features our Hot Mama’s seed kit, which contains 10 varieties of chiles and pepper seeds. Included in the basket is our 7-Piece Humble Garden Mini-Tool Tote, which contains gloves, assorted tools and a mister. We also add Authentic Haven Brand Natural Brew, which will enhance the vitality of the garden. Finally, we added a hand-crafted, hand-cut bar of Annie’s Goat Hill chamomile and neroli scented goat milk soap and a 4 oz hand lotion, perfect for refreshing tired hands after a day in the garden. Basket is shrink-wrapped for secure shipping.

Veggin’ Out Gift Basket is ideal for mothers who love freshly-picked crisp vegetables, and for first-time gardeners. This basket features our Veggin’ Out seed kit, which is equipped with 11 different non-GMO and non-hybrid vegetable seed varieties, ideal for backyard and container gardening. Included in the basket is our 7-Piece Humble Garden Mini-Tool Tote, which contains gloves, assorted tools and a mister. We also add Authentic Haven Brand Natural Brew, which will enhance the vitality of the garden. Finally, we added a hand-crafted, hand-cut bar of Annie’s Goat Hill chamomile and neroli scented goat milk soap and a 4 oz hand lotion, perfect for refreshing tired hands after a day in the garden. As always, this basket is shrink-wrapped for secure shipping.

If the mother you have in mind is an avid gardener, The Humble Seed Trio Gift Basket is the ultimate Mother’s Day gift!  It features all three quality seed kits: Uncle Herb’s Favorites, Hot Mama’s Peppers and Chiles, and Veggin’ Out. This basket contains over 30 varieties of vegetables, peppers and culinary herb seeds with non-GMO, heirloom and organic varieties. Included in the basket is our 7-Piece Humble Seed Garden Mini-Tool Tote, which contains gloves, assorted mini-tools and a mister.  We also add Authentic Haven Brand Natural Brew, which will enhance the vitality of the garden. Finally, we added a hand-crafted, hand-cut bar of Annie’s Goat Hill chamomile and neroli scented goat milk soap and a 4 oz hand lotion, perfect for refreshing tired hands after a day in the garden. Basket is shrink-wrapped for shipping.

Looking for something further to surprise a mother on May 13th? Our $30.00 Humble Seed Gift Card is also a great option.

*All prices include packaging, shipping and handling. Orders ship UPS Ground Shipping. Please allow 4-5 business days.

Each of us at Humble Seed want to wish all of you beautiful mothers and mothers to be a happy Mother’s Day!

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Mulch Much? Discover Why It’s Important

May 2nd, 2012

Biting into a crisp carrot, or admiring the brilliant red color of a beet has more to do with the quality of top soil than most consider.  With climbing temperatures in the Spring and Summer, soil can easily lose it’s efficiency if not protected and nourished. Mulch is either an organic or non-organic protective cover placed on the top layer of soil.  If you’ve never considered using mulch, simply applying it can enhance your garden’s vitality at a low cost and with little maintenance (seriously, everyone’s a winner).

Why Mulch?

For one, mulching is a lot of bang for your buck.  Many gardeners find that mulching with a variety of materials can yield a good list of benefits!

To name a few, mulch

*insulates soil and stabilizes temperature, especially in the warmer months.

*provides shade for soil, which reduces evaporation and increases moisture levels.

*helps to reduce erosion from rain and wind. This can also improve the permeability of the soil.

*can suppress weed growth.

*protects soil from solar radiation damage.

*encourages faster growth and a more vital garden

Mulching Materials

A variety of organic and non-organic materials can be used as mulch in your garden. In a forest, we see dried leaves and twigs become “mulch,” as it forms around tree trunks, protecting the top soil and roots of each tree.  Many gardeners use the same idea as they mulch in their own garden.  Natural falling leaves, twigs, and pine needles all work well (and come at no cost!).  Yet grass clippings, nut shells, plastic mulch sheets, shredded wood, hay, cardboard, bark, sawdust, crushed rocks and aged compost are also commonly used.

Which Mulch Is Which?

Start by brainstorming what you would like to accomplish from the mulch. Would you like the mulch to look attractive, or would it serve a more functional purpose? Are you applying in the spring and summer, or are you looking to winterize your plants? Do some research on which mulch is best for the plant(s) in your garden. For example, when mulching around annuals and perennials, small pieces of shredded wood or bark work best. Or, to show off the vibrant colors of your flowers or vegetables, applying dark mulch will heighten their beauty. Also, pine needles can create more acidity in your garden, which can benefit a potato heap.

How To Apply It

It is most beneficial to apply mulch at the beginning of the growing season and then reapplied when necessary. Once you have done further research and selected the right mulch for your garden, clean the area you plan to mulch by weeding or removing unwanted materials. Apply the mulch in a single layer on the surface of the soil, about 2-6 inches thick and wide enough to cover all potential underground roots. Keep in mind that trees require thicker layers of mulch while flower and vegetable beds need only a thin layer to be effective.

If you’re looking to lower the maintenance in your garden, drip irrigation is not a bad idea! It’s less work intensive than manual watering, and normally only needs to be adjusted seasonally. Drip irrigation is the most efficient watering system when mulch is present in your garden, as the water can be applied directly to the root zone. When irrigating, keep the soil bed moist yet never flooded or too dry.  Also, use caution not to over water your plants, as mulch can prevent most water evaporation.

Friends, what types of mulch do you prefer in your garden?

 

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