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Thursday, January 31, 2013

No Dig Gardening

I grew up on a potato farm and remember riding in the tractor with my father as he tilled the earth. The smell of freshly plowed dirt still takes me back to my youth. I also gardened with my parents as a child and all of my life we would add compost to our garden and till it in.

A few years ago I started researching no till/no dig methods of gardening and it intrigued me. I thought about the beautiful forests here in the Wasatch mountains and the fact that they never needed to be tilled to get new growth. The no till method seemed natural to me, and my back liked the idea of not having to till or dig up the earth. I started a no till portion of our garden and it has worked really well.

The main feature of the no dig method is found in it's title. The earth is not tilled or dug. Manure, compost, straw, and other organic materials are added directly to the surface. Proponents of the no dig method argue that digging can displace nutrients and compact the soil, harm beneficial microbes and life in the soil, and bring weed seeds to the surface causing more weeds to exist. As always you can also find literature to negate these claims.

I am of the belief that there are a lot of ways to successfully farm and garden. I am not against tilling personally and I still own a tiller for part of my garden. I wanted to mention this method to give people and idea of another method to use to be more self sufficient. If you don't like tilling, digging, and weeding then the no till method might be something for you to try. The videos in this post are done by No Dig Gardening. Their site has great information on the no dig method and the videos are awesome.

What are your thoughts on the no dig method. Have you done it? 


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Where To Buy Heirloom Seeds

We get a lot of questions about where to buy heirloom seeds. We have bought from a few suppliers online. In addition, I have heard a lot of positive things about the suppliers listed below. We are not affiliated or compensated by any of these sites.

Seed Savers Exchange:We have ordered a lot of seeds from this site and are big fans. According to their site, ther mission is to "conserve and promote America's culturally diverse but endangered food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants."

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds: We have been very happy with our orders from Baker Creek. They say that they "carry one of the largest selections of seeds from the 19th century, including many Asian and European varieties. The company has become a tool to promote and preserve our agricultural and culinary heritage." I like there variety and their back story as a family business.

Johnny's Selected Seeds: Although we haven't ordered from them we have heard a lot of good things. They have an organic and an heirloom section. If you want to harvest seeds make sure you look for heirloom varieties.

High Mowing Organic Seeds: This company sounds intriguing as they say that all of their heirlooms are organic.

Territorial Seed Company: Established in 1979, they seem to have a lot of variety.

Another suggestion is to find a local gardening store to see if they carry heirloom seeds. There is a company called IFA here in Utah and they already have displays of heirlooms that they say have been proven to grow well in our environment.I like the idea of going to a local company if you can.

What have I missed? What other places would you recommend?


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Our Favorite Heirlooms

If you use heirloom seeds like we do, it's time to order your seeds. I have started to see heirloom seeds available in the local big box stores the past few years but you can't beat the variety available through your favorite seed catalog. We buy a lot of our seeds from Seed Savers Exchange. If you are new to gardening, or just want to try other varieties, here are some of our favorites. All images are from seedsavers.org.

Beam's Yellow Pear: These small, pear shaped tomatoes are great fresh. Our kids eat them like candy. They also are good in a tomato salad adding color and variety. We have grown these for 4 to 5 years now and we never have issues with them. They are very prolific and your friends will be amazed at their shape and color.

Black Beauty Zucchini : I recommend zucchini to new gardeners as it is really hard not to be successful with them. They are very hardy and two plants give our family more than we can handle. Many zucchini are hard to grow in smaller gardens as their vines tend to spread out, but this variety is bushy and stays compact.. We grew it last year in our flower garden. Great sauteed, pickled, or even as a main ingredient in fritters or bread.

Burpee's Golden Beet : We love beets raw and roasted in our house but we hate stained clothes. These beets have the taste we desire but the nice yellow color doesn't stain. These are good to plant early in the year as beets can withstand colder temperatures. If you play your cards right you can get a spring and a fall harvest from these.
Summer Crookneck Squash: Like the Zucchini, if you are a new gardener and your main goal is to have something that actually produces, this is a good bet. They are hardy, grow in many different climates, and you won't believe how many squash you get from one plant. Many types of crookneck spread vines all over but this one is more bushy and compact. These are best picked young, before the warts start to appear.

What are some of the heirloom varieties you like? I would like to try some new ones this year.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Everyone a Farmer

Uncle Dale teaches a course at the University of Maryland titled Farm Management & Sustainable Food Production. He stresses that everyone can be a farmer through backyard farming. One of his students took this to heart and developed an new innovative product. 

It's called a Nourishmat and according to the University of Maryland's College of Agriculture & Natural Resources website it is a "6 feet by 4 feet polypropylene mat with pre-cut holes, labels and a grid telling would-be gardeners exactly what, where, and how far apart to plant. The UV treated polypropylene cuts down on weeds and is outfitted with a drip irrigation system that works by simply plugging in a hose."

You can read more about the ingenious Nourishmat at http://www.nourishmatbeta.com/.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Broody Chicken

You might recall a guest article written by Michael Atkinson in which he re-engineered his chickens pecking order. He sent me this video of one of his broody frizzle chickens. The feathers on this hen are fantastic, and it's fun to see her motherly instinct kick in.



Thursday, January 24, 2013

Quinoa: Harmful or Healthy

Photograph: George Steinmetz/Corbis guardianews.com
I like carbohydrates as much as the next person but when I tire of brown rice and whole wheat bread, I love to turn to quinoa as a nice alternative. Technically quinoa is a seed rather than a grain. It is a good source for carbohydrates, and has a high amount of protein when compared to traditional grains. I read two articles last week that brought up some of the social issues that we should think about when eating quinoa.

The first article  from The Guardian is written by  Dan Collyns. He points out that the price of quinoa has tripled since 2006. I would assume this is good for farmers and producers. He does a good job of discussing the pros and cons for the producers. They are getting more money for their crop, but they are less likely to consume quinoa because they can sell for such a high premium.

The second article on the same site is written by

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Join Us At the Small Flock Poultry Expo

We invite all Backyard Farming followers in the mid-Atlantic region to attend the 2nd Annual Small Flock Poultry Expo organized by the University of Maryland and held on Saturday, February 2, from 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM at the Carroll County Agriculture Center in Westminster, Maryland. Last year’s Expo was a huge success. We expected about 100 participants, but over 400 people showed up from 7 states. 
This year there will be 24 seminars to choose from including poultry nutrition, disease prevention and control, chicken breeds, egg and meat production basics, housing, pasturing, feeding and watering systems, regulations and ordinances, organic production, breeding and egg incubation, turkey production, brooding chicks, poultry in diversified livestock operations, egg grading and handling, marketing and economics, urban poultry, and protecting your flock. 
 Vendors will be available with live poultry and poultry related items. A poultry processing demonstration will be conducted. Producers and Extension specialists will be available for technical questions about production practices. 4-H will conduct activities and competitions. There will be a pasture coop building demonstration.  Door prizes will be awarded. Lunch and snacks will be available for purchase.
For additional information and a registration form go to http://carroll.umd.edu/ag/poultry.cfm
I would be excited to meet our Backyard Farming followers there.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Taking Chickens to the People

Uncle Dale is a Farm Management Specialist at the University of Maryland. Last summer he started taking his chickens on the road. The program is called "Loan a Layer" and Dale takes his collapsible chicken coop and three hens to different schools and organizations around the state, focusing on those in inner cities who don't have access to agriculture on a regular basis. Read more about this program and see more pictures on the University of Maryland's College of Agriculture &Natural Resources website.

Uncle Dale showing off his hen.
What are some of the ways you share your passion for backyard farming with others?