• Heirloom Seeds

Leaf Compost

Those precious fall leaves!

"Leaf Compost Pile"

My Leaf Compost Pile

Love them or not they are a  great source of plant nutrients. Calcium, phosphorous, nitrogen & magnesium.  Besides adding healthy nutrients to the soil, leaves create rich organic humus and leaf mold.

Leaf compost acts like a mop; it soaks up rain drops that will later moisturize sandy soils. It adds texture & aeration that clay soils benefit from. The leaf mold it creates invites worms. Roots love texture.  Gardens love worms.

How to Make Leaf Compost & Leaf Mold:

While Mother Nature actually makes leaf compost and mold, gardeners can respectfully take advantage of it. Once the natural basic breakdown process is understood, gardeners can work with it and get satisfying, sustainable results.

Leaves can take 2 – 3 years to breakdown. Here is a general description of the process and some simple tips to speed it up and a couple of things to avoid.

Composting leaves will need nitrogen to decompose. Turn leaf compost piles every now & then at regular intervals so all leaves are eventually exposed and/or unexposed to open air as well as turned under from time to time.  This will continue to keep the composting process moving right along.

Turn only the still composting leaves on top of the soil. Don’t turn the leaves into the soil at this point.   Leaves that are not decomposed and turned into the soil prematurely will rob desired plants of nitrogen.

For faster composting results grind or mulch your DRY leaves with a lawnmower equipped with an attached bag. I don’t have a lawnmower nor do I always have the time to mulch my dry leaves but when I do I throw on a pair of goggles & a dust mask & mulch them with my Weedwacker in a trash can.

Watering

Water assists the composting process.  Water down the leaf compost pile from time to time.  Don’t over water though.  Too much water will result in mildew odor.

Leaf Mold

Leaf Mold is the result of broken down leaf mulch. The matter found at the very bottom of an aging leaf compost pile. It is dark brown/black, crumbly and smells quite earthy. Leaf Mold is a superb soil conditioner, attracts worms, provides carbon, holds water and prevents erosion and drought.

Adding Additional Nutrients

When leaves have composted add any additional nutrients that your soil requires, if any. Add the additional nutrients to the leaf compost only and not the soil unless otherwise directed.

Leaf Compost – Sustainable – Agriculture

Urban Farming?  How do you compost leaves?

Butterflies

The Silent Pollinators

Butterflies pollinate large areas of plantscapes at one time. They habitually travel farther & pollinate  more area than the more aggressive pollinators like bees do. Unlike their larvae, adult butterflies do not eat solid foods.

"butterflies"

lizbetpalmer / Pixabay


They sip sweet, nutrient rich nectar through their long tongues but they need to drink water too. Butterflies drink from mud puddles. Mud Puddling is very important. It is rich in nutrients and salts that butterflies need.

These  easy going pollinators have large, long-legged  bodies that do not allow them to fit inside flowers and take up as much pollen as other smaller more aggressive pollinators do. Despite their size disadvantage; their weightless bodies do allow them to land on more delicate flowers than the heavier weighted pollinators can land on.
Butterflies pollinate while sipping nectar. They unintentionally rub against the flower’s anther picking up pollen on their body and then traveling from flower to flower to sip more nectar, rub & distribute more pollen.

Different species favor different flowers. Large flat – shaped flowers and large bunches of small flowers are easy for butterflies to stand on. Some of their favorite flowers are:
Anise, Hyssop, Butterfly Bush, Columbine, Dianthus, Golden Rod, New England Aster, Marigolds, Milkweed,Petunias, Verbena, Yarrow, to name a few.

Avoid Hybrids

Hybrids, even organic hybrids, do not always produce nectar or pollen. Pollinators will still try eating from hybrids leaving them without proper nutrition.
Just think of how many well-intended growers work with hybrids across the globe & how many pollinators have no choice but to rely on them.

Hybrids do not always produce reliable, sustainable, next generation seeds but if they do produce next generation seeds most of the time crops grown from these seeds are deformed, stunted & unreliable making them unsustainable for the grower.

Butterfly – Beneficial – Sustainable – Pollinator

Urban Farming?  Got Butterflies?


 

Garden Spiders

So many times I’ve nearly backed into it’s very large web.

"garden spider"

Meitzke / Pixabay

These poor sited easy-going predators hang upside down in the middle of their delicately woven webs. Garden Spider webs are strong & can reach larger than a foot in diameter. Garden spiders hang, waiting, reading, every vibration that contacts their web. It’s their strong sense of vibration that detects a catch and their intricately woven orb web that holds it while the Garden Spider wraps & liquefies it. Unfortunately these beneficials catch other beneficials as well as garden pests too.

Garden Spider’s like wooded, leafy landscapes.  Plant stalks, woody, twiggy, branches are all good for building webs. They enjoy living near gardens or wherever potential food & web building requirements are possible.
Size: Males 4mm – 8 mm & Females 10mm – 13mm
Color: Black/Brown, Pale Yellow, Black
Distinctive Markings: Cross-shape marking on abdomen
Life Span: 1 – 2 years
Web: Large, Extremely Strong, Orb Pattern mostly found in open areas
Temperament: Not Aggressive
Bite: Non-Poisonous & Rare
Prey: Insects

Garden Spider – Beneficial – Sustainable – Predator

Urban Farming?  Got Garden Spiders?

Nasturtium

"Nasturtium"

Nasturtiums Love Neglect
I Love Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums’ brilliant flowers & flat fan-shaped leaves  make it an interesting all season favorite.
Easy to grow.  Loves neglect.  Thrives well into fall.

Annual:   Self-seeding – Vine and Climbing varieties – Grows back year after year
Green Seeds are eaten as capers
Height: 10 – 12 inches
Width/Circumference up to 18″
Flowers: Edible. Flowers bloom in a variety of colors
Leaves: Edible – These flat fan-shaped leaves are so yummy, full of vitamin C & add a delightful peppery flavor to sandwich or salad.
Companion Plant:
Tomatoes, Strawberries, Cabbage, Cucumbers, Radishes, Fruit Trees
Nasturtiums improve the growth and flavor of most any plant. They deter & repel garden pests.
Pumpkin Beetles, Squash Bugs, Aphids, Cucumber Beetles, Whiteflies & more. Attracts beneficial insects.
An attractive, nutritious, delicious & easy companion plant to grow. Grow them in pots or directly in the ground. Great for small spaces but does well in open spaces too. Prefers poor unfertilized soil & very little water.

Warning
Avoid Hybrids

Hybrids, even organic hybrids, do not always produce nectar or pollen. Pollinators will still try eating from hybrids leaving them without proper nutrition.
Just think of how many well-intended growers work with hybrids across the globe & how many pollinators rely on them.
Hybrids do not always produce reliable, sustainable, next generation seeds but if they do produce next generation seeds most of the time crops grown from these seeds are deformed, stunted & unreliable making them unsustainable for the grower.

Nasturtiums – Companion – Edible – Sustainable

Urban Farming? Do you eat Nasturtiums?

 

Borage

"Borage Star Flower"Borage Bud"Bees Love Borage"
 

No rose could ever bring me such delight!
Bees dance on them – People eat from them – Crops thrive on them.
 

It’s spectacular fluorescent blue flowers in star shape design are an experience to behold.
Herb: Annual – Self-seeding – Grows back year after year.
Height: 2 to 3 feet tall.
Flowers: Edible Blue – Pink – White – Five pointed star-shaped flowers
Blooms continuously – Delicate honey sweet flavor
Leaves: Edible – These 2 – 6 inch leaves are rich in Calcium, Vitamin C, Potassium & Mineral Salts. Hairless young leaves are most desirable for eating. Mature leaves are good but hairy. Tastes just like cucumber.
Companion Plant to: Tomatoes, Strawberries, Spinach, Legumes, Brassicas, Squash – Most any plant will benefit from Borage. Borage strengthens neighboring plants resistance to disease & pests. Tomato Hornworms & Cabbage Worms detest Borage. Borage attracts many beneficial insects. Bees & Wasps love Borage! Borage enriches the soil, enriches the compost pile, enriches the spirit.

Warning
Avoid Hybrids

Hybrids, even organic hybrids, do not always produce nectar or pollen. Pollinators will still try eating from hybrids leaving them without proper nutrition.
Just think of how many well-intended growers work with hybrids across the globe & how many pollinators rely on them.

Hybrids do not always produce reliable, sustainable, next generation seeds but if they do produce next generation seeds most of the time crops grown from these seeds are deformed, stunted & unreliable making them unsustainable for the grower.

Borage – Companion – Edible – Sustainable.
Urban Farming? Do you eat Borage?

Hornworm

I was in creepy awe the day when we first met.

medium_hornworm

Hornworm:  The larvae stage of the Sphinx or Hawk Moth
Appearance: Thickly coated body with a horn near the rear.
Color: Significantly Camouflaged in Green.
Size: Large 3 – 4 inches
Eats: tomato, potato, tobacco, eggplant, pepper…very fast!
Footprint:  Defoliating plants – Yellow green eggs on underside of leaves –  Small specks of dark colored droppings.
Found:  Usually under the branches and closest to the trunk.
Companion Plants: Marigolds, Borage, Anise, Petunia deter the Tomato Hornworm while inviting predatory insects.
Predatory Insects:  Braconid Wasps, Lacewing, Lady Beetles
Treat the Soil:  Give the soil a thorough treatment by tilling as deep as 6 inches to destroy any cocoons after harvest.  Kills nearly 100%
Removal:  Hand pick to remove. Yuck!medium_hornworm eggs

A Braconid Wasp laid eggs inside this Hornworm. The white, rice-like larvae are Braconid Wasp cocoons.  The larvae live off of the Hornworm eventually killing it thus preventing it from transforming into yet another Sphinx/Hawk Moth who would lay more eggs that would eat more host plants like tomato plants.  The baby wasps eventually break out of their cocoons.  Their mission is to  find even more Hornworms to lay eggs inside.  Infected Hornworms never live long enough to form a cocoon, fly like a moth, or lay more eggs.

Leaving the wasp cocoon covered Hornworm alone will insure the wasp cocoons mature into wasps to hunt and destroy more Hornworms.  The infected Hornworm will die & turn brown long before it can transform itself into an egg laying moth.

Adult Hornworms who continue their life cycle eventually fall from  the host plant, (our food), and tunnel as deep as six inches into the soil to transform into the pupae stage.  Eventually adult moths emerge from the cocoon, mate, lay more eggs, eat more plants.  Eggs laid during the fall remain dormant until spring when they will emerge as moths.  This is why tilling the soil at least six inches down after the harvest in the fall will likely prevent an infestation in next year’s crop.

Working with our earth by planting companion plants to attract specific predatory insects is a sustainable method of urban farming without chemicals or pesticides.

Urban Farming? How do you combat hornworms?

Bees

Bees

"Bees"Bees Can Do No Wrong

Most everything I say about bees is biased because of my love and appreciation for them.

These busy pollinators are easy to please by simply adding flowers & plants that they love. Bees sense of fragrance and their ability to see all colors, excluding red; make planting bee attracting companion flowers & plants throughout food crops a breeze.   Planting a diverse assortment of colorful, fragrant flowers, garden vegetables, even trees & shrubs will be a sure invite to bees.
I choose perennials or self-seeding annuals…they’re more dependable at yearly flowering than I am at yearly seeding.
Nectar: Bees are serious about drinking their nectar. (they love to drink water too) Nectar provides bees with the essential energy they need to perform well. Bees use nectar to make honey.
Pollen: Pollen is their essential source for nutrients, fats & proteins. Bees pollinate the flowers. Bees carry pollen from one flower’s anther to another flowers stigma. Pollination leads to fruits & vegetables.
Menu Suggestions Include:
Borage
, Clover, Dandelion, Golden Rod,  Nasturtium, Purple Vetch, Sunflower to name a few and water….bees always need water in even the shallowest dish or the dew that gathers on the crops in the morning.

Avoid Hybrids
Hybrids, even organic hybrids, do not always produce nectar or pollen. Pollinators will still try eating from hybrids leaving them without proper nutrition.
Just think of how many well-intended growers work with hybrids across the globe & how many pollinators rely on them.
Hybrids do not always produce reliable, sustainable, next generation seeds but if they do produce next generation seeds most of the time crops grown from these seeds are deformed, stunted & unreliable making them unsustainable for the grower.

Bees – Beneficial – Sustainable – Pollinator

Urban Farming? Got Bees?