I’ve been thinking a lot about composting over the past couple of weeks. Probably because turning my compost pile is on my list of tasks but also because planting season is winding down and I’m beginning to turn my attention to other aspects of the garden. Hands-down, how to compost is one of the questions I get most often in my consultations with clients.
Getting good at composting is all about taking the time to understand the science of decomposition, mixing the right ingredients together, letting natural systems do the work and, ultimately, ushering in a pretty incredible transformation. This transformation helps build your soil, which is a key aspect of your garden, the foundation upon which healthy food and a resilient life are built.
And as with so many processes in the garden, composting becomes a teacher for other aspects of our lives.
Despite the long list of garden tasks over the past few weeks, I’ve naturally been preoccupied, saddened, and angered with what is happening in our country and in the world. I’ve been reflecting on how we can take this moment in time – with the pandemic, the civil unrest, the injustice against communities of color, the divisiveness in our national politics, and transform it into something regenerative, something that helps build a more just and equitable future for all.
And that’s why I’ve been thinking a lot about composting. In composting, we understand and appreciate that decomposition does not happen right away. Transformation is a process and a balancing act. If we don’t have enough moisture in a compost pile, it’s static; if we add too many kitchen scraps, it will putrefy; if we don’t aerate the pile, it will start to smell.
We can’t transform kitchen scraps into nutrient-rich soil overnight, just like we can’t transform our society overnight. Both processes need our participation and take time, observation, attention, and understanding.
Like everything that I’ve attached myself to, whether it’s gardening or social justice, this is a marathon, not a sprint. We are playing a long game, one that demands patience, care, and community building. From observing patterns in natural systems, we also know that disruption can lead to regeneration.
So though my video is about composting, I hope that it also gets you to think about the promise and possibility of transformation. In it, I take you through the ins and outs of building a hot compost pile. This video is taken from the Building Healthy Soil Module of my Online Edible Backyards Series.
On a practical level, my intent is to clear up any questions you may have with regards to composting. In a broader sense, my hope is that as you build your compost pile, you are reminded of that process of transformation and the part you need to play in it, both in your garden and in your community.
I’ve accepted that I may never see the change I want to see in the world, but I take solace in the fact that I’ll play a small part in its transformation to a more resilient future.
Enjoy the video and let me know if you have any additional questions in the comments below!
The promise of spring is in the air! I have tiny arugula, spinach, and lettuce seedlings coming up in the greenhouse and the snow is slowly melting off my annual garden beds. We've been pruning our trees in the food forest and I'll be tackling the berry bushes by the end of the week. I love this renewed sense of hope and possibility as we emerge from a long and cold winter.
If you watched my Planting Calendar video a few weeks ago then you'll know that now is the time to start planting seeds indoors. In cold climates, we need to get a jumpstart on the season. We do this by starting some of our crops indoors so that they get to be big enough before moving them to our gardens outside.
Starting seeds indoors can save you a lot of money in the long run as one packet of seeds can yield dozens of seedlings. Plus, you get to grow the varieties that you would like, rather than choosing from what the nursery has to offer. It's also rather nourishing to nurture and care for these beautiful green seedlings while it's still brown and snowy outside.
If you're excited about the prospect of a little indoor gardening then you'll want to check out my video today. In it, I go through the materials you'll need to start seeds indoors as well as the process that I use. So click on the video below to learn more!
As I write this, there's about 4 feet of snow piled against the south side of the greenhouse, the pond is almost completely obscured and the chickens are getting a little stir-crazy having been cooped up in their house. The thermometer reads 10 degrees F, which seems balmy compared to the subzero temperatures that we've been experiencing over the past couple of weeks.
But, believe it or not, it really is time to start planning for the growing season ahead.
In my video today, I wanted to share one of the most useful resources I have in my vegetable gardening toolkit - the Planting Calendar. In gardening, especially in cold climates, timing is everything. This Planting Calendar will give you a good guideline for what to plant when as we move into spring. It will also give you an idea of when to start your seeds indoors. Click on the video to learn more and then download my calendar below!
Click here to download my Planting Calendar. Remember, use this as a guide but be sure to check with your gardening neighbors and friends about dates that may be more specific to your site.
Have questions? Please ask them in the comments below!
There’s a philosophical and a practical side to gardening, “the why” we do it and then “the how.”
In most of my videos, I cover “the how” of gardening, giving you advice and recommendations on everything from ripening tomatoes, to composting, to establishing a food forest. And in the case of my video today, the Top 5 Seed Companies that I would recommend.
However, before you dive into watching, I wanted to spend a little bit of time talking about seeds, delving more into the philosophical, before you get to the practical.
In the chaos of early spring, I often take seeds for granted. I’m so focused on the “doing” aspect of gardening i.e. prep the soil, plant the seed, water, repeat, that I don’t spend too much time in contemplation mode.
When I allow myself to get quiet, to really consider the meaning and potential of seeds, it sort of blows me away. Every season, each tiny seed that I have in my hand holds the potential for generations of food. GENERATIONS.
Because if I continued to save the seed from those plants year after year, to cultivate varieties that do well in our cold climate, to share those seeds with my friends and neighbors and to have them do the same with different plants, then we start to move towards a truly local and resilient food system.
Of course, that’s how it used to be. In an age where we can walk into a grocery store and get whatever we crave on demand, we often forget how our ancestors were inextricably tied to their food and to their land. Only since the advent of industrial agriculture has this connection been severed, taken from the realm of the commons and put under the control of the corporations.
Fundamentally, this is why I have a garden. Yes, the fresh tomatoes are delicious but for me, it’s about reclaiming our food from the monocultures, the pesticides, and the chemical fertilizers that impoverish our soil, our health, and our communities.
Our food system has a long way to go in terms of seed banks in local communities across the country, each adapted to that particular region. In the meantime, My Top 5 Seed Company Recommendations are good go-to places to get your seed. The first two companies are regional sources for seeds and the next two are companies who are at the forefront of seed diversity, seed saving, and reintroducing heirloom varieties.
As we retrain ourselves as agricultural workers, as we rediscover truths that used to be so much a part of the fabric of what it was to be a human being, we start to appreciate the ‘little things’, like seeds, that are actually quite significant. They are what connect us to the earth, to our food, to our bodies, and to our spirit.
So though I may talk about the practical in this video, I encourage you to come back to the philosophical, to the heart of gardening, and to the potential of the seed this gardening season.
Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed... Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders. – Henry David Thoreau
I'm not sure about you but for me, composting in the winter time is a bit of a challenge. Though it's possible to insulate an outdoor pile and add high nitrogen materials to keep the pile cooking, in my opinion, it's not really worth the time and energy.
After I've thrown the kitchen scraps that I can to my chickens, I do two things with the remaining material:
This video is actually from the Building Healthy Soil Module of my Online Edible Backyards Series (which is available at a 25% discount here).
In having a few options for composting, I am following the permaculture principle of 'each function is supported by multiple elements'. In other words, I want to compost and cut down on my waste. How do I do that? I have three different ways: feeding scraps to my chickens, an outdoor compost pile, and an indoor worm bin. Make sense? So when one option, like the outdoor pile, is unavailable, then I have a few other options to fulfill this function of zero waste. Building redundancy in your system increases your resilience.
If worms kind of make you squirm and/or you don't want to don your parka and trudge through the snow to your compost pile, then I also want to let you know about the business, Happy Trash Can. Happy Trash Can offers a residential curbside composting service. Even if you don't need this service yourself, I'd love it if you passed along this information to your neighbors and friends. Learn more about them here.
Whether you have an outdoor compost pile, an indoor worm bin, or have someone picking up your kitchen scraps, let's all work together to divert as much food waste from our landfill as possible!
Enjoy the video,
Community. Connection. Meaningful Work.
We all want these things, but every day is filled with challenges and compromises, not to mention bad news. Sometimes, it can be hard to envision a hopeful and sustainable future for ourselves and the planet.
But there is a growing movement that focuses on positive concrete solutions, one that helps us become more self-reliant, grow food we can trust, improve our quality of life, and build better relationships. That movement is called permaculture and if you haven't jumped on board, now is the time.
In my video today, I explain five reasons why you should consider taking the Women's Online Permaculture Design Course.
If you've been following me for awhile, you know that I am one of 40 permaculture teachers who comprise the first-ever online permaculture design course taught by all women. For more information about the course, go here.
This is a self-paced online course that is available right now. You could be learning about how best to design your property, grow food, capture water, and build soil within minutes of enrolling!
PLUS, there is currently a Winter Solstice Sale on the course at the lowest price ever! If you sign-up now, you'll get a 20% discount. However, you need to act soon as the discount spots are running out! So click on the video below to learn more about why you should take this ground-breaking course.
Again, if you want more information about the course, click here.
Or, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (406.600.7881). I am happy to answer any questions or concerns you might have.
Make the decision to transform you land and your life. Join me for the course!
I distinctly remember planting my bare root grape vines in late April, 4 years ago, with a couple volunteers, Tim and Carli. It was their first day helping out and I felt kind of bad about the task I had chosen. Rather than giving them an uplifting experience of planting seeds in a backyard garden, we were working next to my driveway, along a busy noisy road.
I had my reasons for the placement of the grapes (which I cover in the video) and of course, Tim and Carli were excellent sports. We busted up the sod along the fence, planted the vines, and mulched them well with wood chip. That same season, I planted some hyssop and oregano in that area too. And in the first year, the vines produced a couple select bunches. Every since then, they have been consistent and abundant.
Like I mention in the video, I'm no expert grape grower and I'm certainly still figuring out the art of pruning. However, we've had quite a bit of success and gotten great yields. I share some of my tips with you in the video below.
After watching the video, I'd love to hear from you. Have you had any grape growing successes and challenges? Please share in the comments below!
The growing season is in full swing and the garden is now in production mode. These are the days you really appreciate as a gardener, where you can wander and graze in your garden, in the early morning, and come back to your kitchen with a bowl full of garden goodness.
This is the time of summer crops like green beans, basil, zucchini, yellow squash, the occasional ripe tomato and one of my personal favorites, fava beans. I'm partial to fava beans, not only because they are delicious but because I think the plant itself, with its black and white flowers, is beautiful. Plus, this particular vegetable offers so many other benefits that I cover in my video.
So check out my video below to understand why growing this multifunctional crop is good for you and your garden!
Next to dealing with late frosts in June, there's nothing more frustrating as a gardener than having your plants munched on by critters. After the effort of babying those seedlings throughout the spring and meticulously planting them in nicely amended soil, it's disheartening to wake up one day to flea beetles boring small holes in your potato leaves, green juicy cabbage loopers taking chunks out of your broccoli leaves, or aphids attacking your pepper plants.
But as an organic gardener, you know that the last thing I'd recommend is grabbing a bottle of pesticide. Pesticides not only kill beneficial insects and soil microorganisms, they only treat the symptom and not the cause of the pest. So what options do we have instead?
In my video today, I talk about some general pest and weed management strategies that you can adopt in your garden. Rather than going to war with the pests, this approach encourages you to add life to your garden. Click on the video below to learn more!
What pest and weed management strategies do you use? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below!
As more and more people move to urban areas, it's become increasingly important to learn how to garden in small spaces. Though we're fortunate in Montana to still have a lot of land and open spaces, our cities are expanding, especially Bozeman! The more savvy we can get with urban garden designs, the more possibilities we provide ourselves for growing a resilient city which is more food secure.
Though I have ample space to grow on our 3/4 acre lot, many of my client's have much smaller urban yards. It's interesting to contrast the approach that I take to each space. What I like about small spaces, is the ability to be more innovative in your approach. Space limitations often allow for more creative solutions.
In my short video today, I give you a tour of a client's property where, in under 200 square feet, we've managed to pack in quite an array of both annual and perennial food. From elderberries to gooseberries to raspberries to Brussels sprouts, corn, leeks and cauliflower, it just goes to show that you don't need a huge space to grow a lot of food.
In fact, even if we used just one of her raised beds, with season extension techniques and trellises, the bed could be producing a lot of food from early April to at least mid-October.
So if you have a small space, don't let it stop you from growing. Check out the video below to get some inspiration and ideas!