A Beehive Giveaway from Toxic Free NC!


Fawn Pattison of Toxic Free NC wants to give away a bee hive. Let’s help her!

Do you know of a community garden in North Carolina that would benefit from a free beehive and colony? Well, the great folks at Toxic Free NC would like to help! Their Save-A-Bee Giveaway is designed to connect community gardens with pollinating bees. They are true Food Heroes! Here is more information:

We’ve all heard a lot about how bee populations are on the decline. That’s why we’re giving away a hive of bees (and more) to a lucky community garden in NC.

One lucky community garden in NC will win the chance to grow more healthy, pesticide-free food with the pollinator power of a brand new beehive. And you’re going to choose the winner!

Nominate your favorite community garden and they’ll be put in the running to win:

  • a beehive;
  • a nucleus colony of bees (to be delivered in May);
  • a workshop about natural beekeeping; and
  • an Organic Gardening Workshop from Toxic Free NC.

To be eligible, the community garden must be based in NC, must have fighting hunger as part of its mission, and must be either organic already, or willing to move to organic gardening practices in order to support a bee colony.

Nominations are due by October 4th, so quick, like a bunny (or a bee), get those nominations in!

Click HERE for the details and nomination form!

Planning Your Spring Garden


It won’t be long before we are planing again!

Produce doesn’t get more local than your own yard or patio. It’s gardening season again–what are your plans?

This month, we are finishing up plans for our vegetable and herb garden. We made some good changes to our garden last year to take advantage of our strengths and minimize our challenges (which are many). Our raised beds now make a more cohesive gardening area in our one patch of full sun, and we have plans for a mulched walkway leading to the back yard, which should make our sunny side yard a little more appealing. Our goal is to get a lot of planning done over the next few weeks so we can take advantage of warm weather as soon as possible and get plants in the ground a bit early. One thing we need to do is have a water spigot added to that side of the house. In the hot summer, even water from our rain barrels isn’t enough to keep the plants going and hauling a hose from around the house while mosquitoes are attacking me is not my idea of a good time.

Previously, we planted only vegetables in our raised beds, but this year we are adding more herbs to the mix. Not only will the herbs complement the vegetables we receive from our CSA, many of them will overwinter, saving us some work and expense next year. They will also save us a good deal of money this year. Those packets of fresh herbs at the grocery are crazy expensive!

Are you planning a garden this year? We received some wonderful information and support at the Dig In! Conference last year, sponsored by Advocates for Health in Action. Here are 10 questions to ask yourself before you start picking out plants and digging your garden beds.

  1. What do you want from your space? –Do you want flowers for the table? Food for your family? Both? Herbs to season your food? Does the garden need to be decorative?
  2. What are you willing to put in?–This is an important question and my guess is that most gardeners (myself included) don’t confront this question honestly. I swear to myself that I WILL water the garden even when the mosquitoes are as big as horses and coming after me. This, of course, is a lie. Think about what you can really give in terms of time, money, work, effort and space.
  3. What kind of land do you have?–Is your plot of land a balcony? A small farm? A suburban lot? A plot in a community garden? The kind of land you have (and how much) will dictate whether containers, raised beds, or a tractor are in order. Even a small space like a balcony can, with the right sun, be a vegetable garden.
  4. Get your soil tested!–I don’t do this because with our tree roots, we use raised beds. We fill them with certified, composted material and fertilize with fish emulsion and as long as we are watering (read #2 above), we do well.
  5. Know what soil your plants need.–If you like boggy plants (sweet flag, some irises), put in a pond. If you want roses, you will need a richer soil. We like many Mediterranean herbs (oregano, rosemary, basil), and these don’t require rich soil or a great deal of attention, but they also don’t like to be overwatered as their natural climate is hot, dry, with rocky soil. Any good garden center will be able to tell you what your plants need.
  6. Create a friendly space.–If you want to spend time in your garden puttering around or if you have outdoor animals (or small children), don’t plant thorny or toxic plants. This sounds obvious, but some stunningly lovely plants can be toxic if eaten. And if you want your child (as I do) to feel comfortable tasting in the garden, you need to check out your plants!
  7. Consider all the senses.–Consider taste, scent, appearance and texture in the garden. Good plants to start with are swiss chard, lemon balm, rosemary, fig trees and strawberries.
  8. Compost!–We have a rolling composter that is wonderful for using up the many leaves we have in the fall plus the coffee grounds and vegetable trimmings. Truthfully, we need to add a second one because we are eating more vegetables and have quite a lot to compost. Homemade compost practically makes itself and is almost like free gold for your garden! If you have a patio garden, there are smaller composters that do not take up much space or you can try worm composting.
  9. Use readily available materials.–If you have a patio or container garden, go to your local garden center and ask for larger black pots that shrubs and small trees come in. They may charge you a bit or they may be so happy to find someone to use them that they will be free. Also, if your town does some landscaping, they may have all kinds of pots for you.
  10. Consider an herb spiral. These spiral shaped gardens use brick, rock or other materials to create a spiral with plants added between the lines of the spiral. See onehere from another blogger, The Kale Yard.

Here’s to the optimism of spring, when all gardening miracles are possible! Have fun planning your garden, whether it is a few pots or a few acres!

Spring Gardening–Resources


Know what is super cool?

Picking out your groceries from your own back/side/front yard. That’s what’s cool. And it’s almost planting time!

We’ve had all winter to harvest the Swiss chard, Chinese cabbage and collard greens from our garden of raised beds and the greens are still coming (well, except the kale, which fed some very healthy bunnies). As long as you don’t pull the roots out of the ground (we harvest by cutting the leaves off with kitchen shears), the leaves will keep growing…and growing…and growing… One of these weekends, I’m going to do a massive green cooking and freezing session so we’ll have some of our favorite greens this summer.

After the first of the year, our mailbox starts filling up with gardening catalogs. By this time I have forgotten about the mosquitoes, humidity and my neighbor’s children stealing my tomaotes, and can dream big. I’m contemplating our strategy for this year (chicken wire for the bunnies and a taser “keep out” sign for my neighbor’s children), and thought I would share some helpful resources that are a bit out of the ordinary!

In addition to the resources below, you can follow us now on Pinterest under Deanna Mitchell!

Tips from Farmers Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen

This Farm-to-Fork blog from one of our favorite restaurants features advice and helpful tips from NC farmers. While some tips won’t apply if you are, say, in upper Michigan, many of them apply to all gardeners starting out with a new spring garden!

Sprout Robot http://www.sproutrobot.com

This cool little program asks for your zip code and then gives you a list of what to plant now, what seeds to start now and what to transplant now. It will even generate a garden calendar for you. What a great way to get started!

Companion Planting Guide http://www.permaculturenews.org

Wondering how to develop a planting plan that keeps everyone happy? Think of this guide like a master dinner party seating chart for your garden. You’ll be the diplomat of veggies with this handy downloadable chart!

Heirloom Seeds http://www.seedsavers.org

Make Monsanto crazy and order heirloom, open pollinated seeds for your garden. Seed Savers is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring our biodiversity of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers.

Raised Bed Kits http://www.gardeners.com

We have purchased both raised beds and corner brackets to make our own raised beds from wood and have been very satisfied with everything. The Grow Beds we have are 3-4 years old and still look great. Plus we can move them between seasons if we need to–they are incredibly light.

So grab a cup of tea or coffee, settle in with a stack of catalogs or your tablet and get to work–it’s almost planting time!

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