Thursday, 19 April 2007

Growing our own organic vegetables: first harvests!

Some pictures of our first harvests. The peas were simply delicious! An amazing flavour!

Salat made from rucula, lettuce, parsley, endive and oregano


Radish, two types

Anemoma, just flowers, (not edible) to add extra color in the garden

Sunday, 15 April 2007

On the arms of Mother Nature

It is naive to assume mulching solves all problems related to fast drying of soil in our container gardening. It is also naive to assume that our self-sufficiency is so assure and so easy. Well, although beautiful I still feel I have to listen more and more to the rhytmus of nature as permaculture often states.
Its beggining to become a very warm dry spring and container gardening needs watering nearly every day. After a weekend and a small period out, and strong ways of avoiding drying are needed. I arrived today after weekend with several plants wilted. I will put more plants in more shadow conditions, and arrange them in a way that some will provide shade for others (and even using materials such as cardboard for shading)
I feel happy so many things unknown.
I feel like a little child on the arms of Mother Nature. :-)

Path to Freedom, a very curious urban self-sufficient familiar project, puts water saving coming with very smart solutions. Please read Water wise ways

Friday, 13 April 2007

Eliminating (organically) pests on brocculi and turnips

Its official. After my happiness of harvesting my first peas and radish, I noticed that a pest in growing on my garden: cabbage maggot. These white larvae appears when flies put their eggs under rotten organic matter (and since I mulch plants...).
Please search google for cabbage maggot for more information. They are white small larvae and very abundant in eating the roots of my brocculi and they lead to dead already of half of the young turnips.

When I was harvesting the radish a few were also with these but the worse is the brocculi as I noticed they were wilting (and I though it was the warm weather) and now leaves are getting pale and a bit of purple colour (since they are eating the roots!) I unroot two plants, wash well the roots and transplanted them to two containers to see what happens (brocculi usually get well with transplanting).

I read that biological control exists for controlling cabbage maggots but information is not consistent. Eventually, mint, thyme, sage, garlic, marigolds and tansy may help. I will experiment with these. I also read that parasitic wasps (Carrots, Alfalfa, Goldenrod, Horehound, Yarrow, White Clover attract these) and Diatomaceous earth (but these algae may be toxic) are described to kill and control the larvae.

Well, I feel sorry to use these words. In truth I respect Mother Nature as I am on of his sons, a tiny part of her and thus I will try to hear her messages and feel her equilibrium. I can only ask her a healing of those plants as I could have more biological organic local food grown for eating and showing my friends and companions how to grow their own food. I will add more news in soon! Love to all*

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Tips for avoiding soil drying in containers, while growing vegetables

Well, been five days away with nice sunny spring days and after i came I found a beautiful garden growing but soil dries pretty fast when grow these edibles in containers.
I have made some useful insights for container gardening and grow your own vegetables.

First, important conditions include the size of your container, number and spacement of plants, number of direct sunlight hours and type of soil. These will make your plants dry too fast or more slowly. Plan these.

Tips for avoiding soil drying in containers:
1- your plants covering the soil with dried leaves and moss. Do not leave the soil naked!
2- plant them in ideal soil, very rich in organic matter and very dark and turfa-like, fine appearance textura
3- put a small dish for collecting water after you water the containers (it will keep the soil more humid)
4- keep plants which love sunlight with plenty of sunlight (such as tomatoes, potatoes, brocculi, peas) having the care to water them plenty. Put others such as spinach, lettuce and arugula in partial sunlight since they grow well in half-shadow.

Conditions for growing:
Brocculi- they were growing fast under very sunny conditions (all day) and liking some urine fertilization but now I changed them to slighty less sunny conditions as they are demanding more water nad drying fast. Two are already with a small flower bud! But they love sun and dislike rain weather, although they demand a fair ammount of water. 3 plants per 20x20cm container
Cabbage- similar to brocculi but withstand more dry conditions; they also love urine fertilization. 3 plants per container
Brussels sprouts- these are more sensible; they are less hardy than the formers and I cover them during cold nights with plastic bottles, now they began growing really fast and want plenty of water and sunny conditions (but not much to dry them)- 3 plants per 20x35cm container
Tomatoes- these love sun and humid conditions. do not put them under cold and do not let them dry. they are small but growing very well.
Peas- curiously I have fertilize these, maybe you may do it when they are growing small in February, later stop as they fix their own nitrogen. they are flowering and fruiting much, and demand mainly sunny conditions and withstand some dry soil but not much. 4 plants per 20x20cm containers but they can grow even more tight as long as soil is good and have good water conditions. I will harvest a big amount of these this week!
Chick peas- these are starting to flower but flowers are a bit weak maybe since weather was cold. they prefer sunny weather and humid and good soils. they want space, i put 4 plants per 20x20 containers and I will wait to see if they will fruit well
Lentils- similar to chick peas but they prefer a bit more shadow (maybe half-day sunlight as in my warm open balcony). They want humid soils although they can withstand dry soils for some time. They liked urine fertilization in me case. 4 plants per container, not more as they will dry easily. Try grow all these legumes in definitive place and avoid transplanting.
Radish- give some space, good soil and do not let them dry. Put on sunny conditions with half-day direct sunlight, good water conditions and maybe you may fertilize a bit on the beggining. They grew really well with legumes and fast. Avoid transplating. I am harvesting these and the bigger are the ones grown together with the peas, chick peas and lentils. They taste good!
Strawberries- ok in sunny humid conditions. Not too much sun. Once in a while I eat from these.
Arugula- they withstand although they dont prefer cold or very sunny weather. They will do better in half-sunny and humid soils but they withstand well dry conditions too (at least until now). They enjoy urine fertilization. I will wait to see if they grow better in sunny and shadow conditions.
Endive- similar to previous but enjoy more half-shadow conditions (away from strong sunlight) and humid soils and with urine fertilization. If weather is more warm (or covered with plastic bottles) they will grow faster! 10cm spaced
Lettuce- in half-shadow, protect from cold and do not let they dry nor water too much (they will die easily). fertilize but be aware of overwater or nitrogen burning. 10cm spaced. I have only harvested once.
Spinach- these are growing really well after they were transplanted on a 10cm distance and plenty of urine fertilization and half-shadow conditions. Weather is also not cold. Very fast growers.
Thyme- they are growing well but slowly in sun and half-shadow conditions and they seem to enjoy some urine fertilization. I currently use these in food.
Oregano- they prefer sunny weather but they will want plenty of water as they grow really fast. Natural fertilization will speed them even more. Grow them with brocculi as I did (they do well together). Very fast growers.
Cereals- grow them in very sunny conditions in winter and in spring in half-shadow and fertilize a lot. They are ok with water, you can water them plenty as they will grow with all plants tight one another. They are growing taller now, in a nice green confusion. It should flower soon.
Turnips- do not transplant, they will not do well. they dont like dry, they dont like very wet (they will rot). they prefer half-shadow, half-sunny. Mines are not very well and I think it was because I have transplanted them two months ago. However, the tiny plants smell like turnip!
Carrots- put these in half-shadow, humid good soil. they will do well, and add a garlic as companion plant on a 20x20 container. Avoid transplanting! They are really slow growers but mines are already showing signs of enlargment. And they smell like carrots!

Garlic- one has died; the other two are not growing that well. They seem to prefer sunny and humid but not very wet conditions.
Onions- these are growing well on very sunny and humid conditions
Cumins and Coriander- these are growing slowly slowly. Lets wait to see what happens. Coriander smell a lot!
Peppermint- incredibly fast growing. I make tea with the leaves very often. Very good flavour. Fast growers in half-shadow conditions, they withstand some dry soil, but water them well.

I also order some (organic) seeds from Tamar Organics (UK) and these should arrive tomorrow.

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Sustainable development events

Green gathering in April, in Portugal, about natural and sustainable practices

In next weekend after Easter, in 13, 14, 15 (friday, saturday and sunday) there will occur the portuguese Green Gathering, near Tábua, one hour from the main city of Coimbra.

The meeting is entirely non-formal, based on a communal and ecological basis, with volunteering, common tasks and workshops about natural practices, self-sufficiency, community and even some spiritual ones. The common kitchen has vegetarian food and there are morning meetings for delivering everyone's tasks.

The participants stay in camping tents, in the beautiful forest place of the small-holding of Quinta da Cabeça do Mato. This meeting is of importance in a time where in the world we have these discussion about self-sufficiency, energy solutions, and where each of us has a role in giving his contribution to the planet.

More information in e