Friday, October 09, 2009

September 2009

Urban Sustainable Living September

September 2009
Organic Weeding
New and Featured Video from the Web
William Moss
California In the House
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Ezine Archives
Dear Patricia,

Patti in the GardenThis month we have on camera Garden hosts William Moss and Justin Cave contributing inspiring advice! I met both of them at this year's Independent Garden Center show and begged them to the ezine. Read their articles below.
We have the return of Annie, The Dirt Diva from her book writing sabatical. I can not wait to read her new books!
Lots of great new video for your enjoyment and don't forget to scroll down to the bottom and see a little micro website my daughter and I made! Let's hear it for Garden Kid TV. Show it to your tweeners! Hopefully they will be insipred to garden too.
Check out my Article at Vegetable Gardener on Composting!
I am traveling what feels like non stop for the next two months so check out my schedule and come and visit if I am in your neck of the woods.
Volunteers Needed!
If there is anyone around this Monday or Tuesday Sept 21st & 22nd from 9am-5pm and can volunteer here at the farm, send me an email please! We'll be doing a variety of fall gardening tasks including harvesting, so you'll be able to go home with some fresh food from my farm, a dvd, and a nice medium impact workout. A light lunch will be provided! Come join me if you can.
From the Sustainable Home Front!
Patti the Garden Girl
William WeemsI am dedicating this issue to my Husbands friend William Weems a 9/11/2001 victim. We miss you Bill! Please Donate blood to your local red cross.

Apple'Organic' weeding
Getting rid of weeds the natural way!
By Justin Cave

There's no doubt about it, organic is the way to go! Maybe you have heard terms such as "organic," "eco-friendly" or "earth conscious." So what does it mean to you, and where can you start? This summer, try an "organic" approach to weed control. Organic weed control is the process of ridding your garden of weeds with out the use of harsh chemicals. Weeds are simply plants that are considered undesirable, growing in places you don't want them to! Weeding doesn't always require hard, physical labor. There are lots of easy ways get rid of those pesky weeds in your garden.

To properly win the battle against weeds, it helps know who your foe is. Identifying weeds is one of the first steps you can take to protect all your hard work in the yard. Some types are incredibly invasive and fast-growing, and others can cause problems for humans if they get too close. Most of us have had the unfortunate encounter with the infamous poison ivy, oak or sumac. However, most common weeds are just a plain, old nuisance. These don't cause skin reactions or breathing difficulties, they just don't look good!

It is just a fact of life that weeds exist in all gardens. Spread in a variety of ways by wind, water and animals, you can even introduce more weeds by the soil amendments that you use to help your garden grow. Greg Hamby of Seed N' Harvest, an Atlanta and Forsyth based company, says that there are a few important steps to take in an organic garden. "Prevention is one of the best tactics in battling weeds. That is why it is important to provide the best condition possible for the growth of desirable plants," he says. Issues like improper watering, insect damage and disease, and soil compaction are all allies to the development of weeds. Once you have begun to create a more nurturing environment in your yard, another step you can take is to remove all offending weeds by hand. Yes, the old-fashioned way. This way, you can eliminate the weed, roots and any seeds to ensure that they won't be back any time soon.

An organic garden and lawn requires healthy soil. It helps if beneficial organisms such as worms and other good bugs are alive in your garden. It is a fact that composting pays dividends. Remember, not all dirt is created equal. Specializing in organic vegetable gardening, Hamby urges, "Using good organic soil is essential to a healthy garden. Vegetables will grow and taste better, and you can have confidence in what you are eating."

BeansHaving your own compost bin is a great way to recycle and create rich soil amendments for your garden, not to mention prolonging the life of your local landfill. Organic waste that is commonly composted includes shredded brush, leaves, grass clippings and garden debris. Kitchen items such as coffee grounds, eggshells, vegetable waste and even fireplace ashes work great.

The use of barriers in the garden is another popular weed deterrent. Lay down a plastic liner to help block weeds. An organic alternative to plastic is ordinary newspaper. This is a great way to reuse the excess paper that you have lying around. Use a layer about 1/4-inch thick, and lay the paper in the desired areas; then wet it down so it doesn't blow away. Since paper is organic, it can be turned into the soil next spring. Once it is in place, cover the newspaper with a layer of straw or organic mulch to give your garden a well-groomed, weed-free look.

Another effective tactic against weeds is mulching. Mulching is actually one of the most beneficial things you can do to prevent weeds, conserve water and encourage a healthy garden. A two- to four-inch layer of mulch will reduce the germination and growth of weeds-not to mention it will maintain soil moisture, which can minimize watering needs for plants in mulched beds. For this reason, mulch acts as Mother Nature's blanket. It keeps soils cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, protecting your plants year-round. Organic mulches include pine straw, hardwood and softwood bark, compost mixes, leaves and wood chips. As these mulches break down and decompose, they improve soil quality and fertility, so any landscape professional or arborist will tell you that this is a plus.
Weeds are sometimes just as noticeable in the lawn as they are in the veggie garden. Organic fertilizers and proper lawn care practices can subdue weeds in your turf. Hamby reiterates to "be careful with products that claim t
o be organic. Some products may be 15 percent organic and 85 percent synthetic."

Products like corn husk and corn meal are good organic fertilizers. They don't work quite as fast as chemical fertilizers, but your lawn will thank you for it. The fact is that healthy turf grass won't give much room for weeds to grow. Seasonal aerations and mowing to the proper height-2 to 3 inches-will help your lawn. Cutting more than one-third of the total height can cause unnecessary stress. Besides, taller grass will choke out weeds.

Whether you are planting a vegetable garden or tending to your lawn, the weeds have got to go! It is true that you will never be able to get rid of all weeds in your landscape. A healthy garden promotes biodiversity, and weeds are part of the cycle. And just like the change in the season, you can bet that the weeds will be back next spring. So do your part and be responsible by taking an organic approach. Combine organic ideologies with proper maintenance and you are on your way!

Justin Cave of Atlanta is host of HGTV's "Ground Breakers" and principal of Sierra Consulting.

Garden Girl TV Video Links
New Release
Square Foot Gardening:
September Tips
Saving the harvest!

Featured Video
A Trip to the Farm!


Vegetable Gardening
Patti and Ale harvest from the Three Sisters Garden

Three Sisters


William MossMoss In The City
Original Urban Gardener: Carl Walton

Urban gardening and sustainability are hot and trendy within certain circles now. But we are well behind the curve. Some have been both urban and sustainable for decades. On the west side of Chicago lives one such pioneer.

Mr. Carl Walton planted his garden in 1970, soon after arriving from Mississippi. It is not expansive, but an average city lot of about half an acre including the house. For Mr. Walton being green or sustainable is just common sense. Sustainable gardening, which limits your inputs and outputs, is both productive and cost effective. His methods include:

  • Collecting rainwater from gutters in trashcans. Once homemade cisterns are full, he redirects the gutters to water grape vines and peach trees.

  • Composting with grass clippings, plant debris, food scraps, fish guts, etc.
    Building and enriching the soil by tilling in leaves, hulls, and other plant waste in autumn

  • Using natural IPM methods, like a cat to protect the grapes and black pepper to deter rabbits.

  • Collecting, saving, and planting his seeds, even peaches and apples.

Walton GrandkidsMr. Walton will be 90 years old on October 8th. You would never guess it. His warm face, encyclopedic memory, firm handshake, and fashionable leather sandals are more typical of a man decades younger. Gardening keeps him young. He states, "It's my daily exercise. That's why I am still here. Most people my age are gone, either dead or in a nursing home." He also credits daily doses of a homemade concoction of pokeweed, mint, sage, garlic, and honey for keeping him vigorous. I'll have to trust him on that one.

From the street the modest front yard with arborvitaes, sunflowers, and impatiens conceals a productive urban farm. The speckled butter beans were seven feet high. Even though Mr. Walton had just harvested them all, the vines were still strong and green. As they fade, he will pull the beans down, till them into the soil, and sow more collards for autumn harvest. He keeps his garden at peak production throughout the season.
Extra produce is given to the community. A stack of giveaway bags and rubber bands are a testament to his garden's bounty. My wife and I were not allowed to leave without taking a couple bags of food.

Walton PearThe number of fruits and vegetables in his small lot is expansive and surprising. There are several varieties of tomatoes, beans, celery, eggplant, cucumber, collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, onions, garlic, pokeweed, sage, mint, pear tree, peach trees, apple trees, grape vines, strawberries, a walnut sapling, and a thin-shelled pecan sapling.
The yard is packed. There is just enough room to maneuver through the rows of beans, tomatoes, pokeweed, and cucumbers. You have to squeeze under the grape vines to get to the rear section of the garden. There, mustard and turnip seedlings are emerging near an apple tree. The only down time is middle of winter and even then he can harvest onions.
But he is not just limited to produce. He has a love for flowers. And it was obvious from the bursts of color throughout the garden and front yard. A magnolia tree, canna, hardy hibiscus, cosmos, sedum, rose bushes, tiger lilies, ferns, datura, hollyhock, violas, and bleeding heart were some of the ornamentals I noticed. He says I have to return in spring to admire all the early bloomers.

But make no mistakes, this is a garden is about producing food. Mr. Walton is nearly self-sufficient. He buys meat, sugar, cooking oil, and a few other necessities; but his garden supplies all his produce. He freezes and stores the summer's excess for the long Chicago winters. His garden also indirectly helps him get animal protein. Like most old-school gardeners, Mr. Walton seems to be a jack-of-all-trades, and that includes fishing and inventing. His homemade electric probe is used to shock worms from the wet ground. He takes those worms to Lake Michigan and other local fishing holes in search of bluegill, crappie, and catfish. I learned of another skill, when he showed me his grape harvest.

In a barrel near the pear tree most of the harvest was fermenting into wine. Truly, a man after my own heart! I could only smile at this Chicagoan making Concord grape wine (on top of everything else) from his little urban plot. The only wine-making secrets he revealed were yeast, sugar, and a wooden masher. But later he slyly took me inside and gave me a bottle of last year's brew, when my wife was not looking. I tried it when I got home and it was good. A little too sweet for me, so I cut it with equal parts chardonnay and sat on my rooftop contemplating this man's accomplishments.

AppleMr. Walton makes me reluctant to call myself an expert. He has practicing sustainable gardening longer than my mother has been alive. Before I was born, he was already an accomplished urban gardener on the west side of Chicago. In these odd times, what's old is new again. Resource conserving methods that date back to 19th century Mississippi are in vogue. I feel honored to have been welcomed into his garden, and hope to eventually follow in his footsteps.

Mr. Walton is a living testament to the benefits of urban gardening. Actual proof that urbanites can live sustainably. But he would not call it sustainability, permaculture, environmentalism, or any other trendy name. It is simply the best way to garden. Saving seeds, collecting rainwater, composting, crop rotation with legumes, and enriching the soil are all examples of top-notch horticulture and they save money. Meeting him has made me re-evaluate my gardening practices.
If a 90 year old man with a quarter acre of growing space can feed himself and his wife, then what am I doing? As food prices continue to increase along with the demand for fresh, local, nutritious produce, Mr. Walton's lifestyle will become more valued and hopefully emulated. He proves that even urbanites can sustain themselves with a little land and a lot of effort.
But when you watch Mr. Walton it doesn't look like work. He is having fun in his garden and he is proud of it. And that's the key. Sustainability is not a task to check off on your list, it's a lifestyle to live and celebrate. So here's to you, Mr. Walton, cheers.


ApplePetaluma Bounty: Send me the Food Posse!
September 2009

It's always mystified me that people who can afford health insurance and can shop at Whole Foods have access to safe and healthy food, while the ones who can't afford a doctor's visit are left to buy cheap processed food, lacking any nutritional value, and increasing their chances of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and a plethora of other debilitating diseases. What dimwit created this unjust food system? That guy is SO FIRED!

FlowersThen one rainy day, Lisa Ludwigsen, resource development coordinator of 'Petaluma Bounty' took me on a private tour of a new organic farm/community garden Petaluma, California. Petaluma Bounty is a nonprofit organization working to address hunger and improve local food options. Not only do they grow fresh food on their two-acre farm in downtown Petaluma, but they also redistribute surplus food and provide affordable fresh, organic food to low income families, schools and seniors. "Our mission is to provide a healthier food system in Petaluma," says Grayson James, executive director of the organization. A growing number of seniors in Petaluma live on fixed incomes and are unable to afford healthy, fresh food, while almost 1 in 3 children in Petaluma City Schools live in families that cannot afford to put healthy food on the table on a daily basis.

Petuluma CountyThe farm received the initial seed funding from the Hub of Petaluma Foundation. Elim Lutheran Church is the fiscal sponsor. "I gave a presentation at the church a few years ago," says James. "After the meeting, the daughter of Mr. Stonitsch, a longtime Petaluma resident, graciously convinced her dad to let us use his property on Shasta Road to grow this community farm." Gottfried Stonitsch is generously leasing the land where he raised his family, to Bounty Farm for five years. Along with support from Clover Stornetta Farms, North Bay Construction, Whole Foods, Green Waster Recovery, Exchange Bank and Kaiser Permanente the vision soon became a reality. "We envisioned this as the visual focal point for a healthy Petaluma food system. People can come here and experience food growing in the ground, look at it, taste it, get their hands dirty and learn. This is an educational forum," says James.

"The property was once a thriving lumber yard. I can't thank the volunteers enough," says farm manager Amy Rice-Jones. "They've done the cleaning and preparing of the land, and recently 25 brave, strong volunteers built a large greenhouse on the property in practically one day. The community support has just been incredible."
Fields of cover crops of vetch, fava beans, peas and oats are all thriving happily on the day I visit. In the spring they'll be chopped down and worked into the soil as a nutritious fertilizer and amendment before the flower and vegetable seedlings growing in the new greenhouse, are planted in the ground.

"During the summer months, I bring Mr. Stonitsch a flower bouquet every week. He lives here on the property. Periodically he'll come around. He's a big fan of the flower garden," says Jones. "Numerous restaurants in Petaluma cook with our crops; CafÈ Zazzle, Dempsey's, The Tea Room CafÈ and Central Market are a few. Our produce and flowers are also available at the local Farmer's Market. In the growing season, we have a flower subscription business where local businesses can sign up to purchase a fresh weekly bouquet of locally grown, organic flowers."

"Amy showed up here and just plugged into this and started growing flowers. This program is bringing so many people together, thanks to her," says Ludwigsen. "The volunteers are instrumental. Every bit of Petaluma Bounty is volunteers. We have kids from age 3 to age 80 coming here to help out!"

Besides the 2-acre farm, Petaluma Bounty has 3 other remarkable programs:

1. Bounty Hunters collect surplus fruits and vegetables from the local community. All those peaches you left sitting on the ground inviting pests and fungus, because you're busy tweeting on Twitter, can now be doing what they're supposed to being doing, feeding people. There's even a 'food posse' who will be sent to pick up food at your home if you're unable to drop it off at one of the Bounty Hunter's collection sites. These brave bounty hunters have collected 90,00 pounds of surplus food since August 2006!

2. The Bounty Box Food Club delivers a weekly box of healthy, fresh produce to low-income households at wholesale prices (subsidized by retail Bounty Box sales and corporate sponsorships).

3. Petaluma Bounty has also created community gardens at McDowell Elementary School and McKinley Elementary school and a third garden is located close to Petaluma's historic downtown. Many families who live in apartments now have a place to grow their own food.

"Our mission is to make healthy food available to everyone in Petaluma. To change a food system, it can't be done with just one program. You have to take a broader view. We're connecting with others locally to see how we can all team together so we can really start to shift an entire system," says Grayson James.

To volunteer time or equipment or to make financial donations, contact Amy or Grayson at or call 707-775-3663.



Boston, MA-September 23rd
Garden Girl Farm
Tour my farm as part of the Natural Products Expo East Trade Show at the Boston Convention Center.
Nashville, TN--September 27th--Time TBD
Green Power Day--More info to come

St. Louis, MO--October 11th--1pm
Saint Louis Science Center
SCI FEST '09--I'll be there on October 10th & speaking on Sun Oct 11th.

Houston, TX--October 18th--Time TBD
Olive Barn--Stop by for a great time in Houston!
Boston, MA--December 16th Time TBD
Boston Architectural College--Urban Sustainable Living Lecture

To book Patti Moreno for an event contact the Lavin Agency at
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