Tuesday, September 16, 2008

New Foundation websites


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Monday, September 15, 2008

How to Properly Grow a Healthy Garden Using Compost and Manure

Q. Even if it's a poorer source of nitrogen than oil-based products (urea, ammonium nitrate, and ammonium sulfate), won't compost (particularly composted manure) get the job done? That's a completely free and renewable resource. My garden beds this year are heavily composted with manure and the plants are all absolutely gorgeous.

Next year I want to use the Mittleider Method, as it looks very efficient. Will I be shooting myself in the foot if I use "farm-raised nitrogen"?

A. If you believe the day is coming when we won't be able to get mineral nutrients, you should definitely learn how to prepare and use the organic materials that you WILL have available to you. You may not want to count on manure though, because if everyone relies on cows and horses to provide their fertilizer, 90% will be disappointed. There just isn't enough to go around.

For those of you who feel strongly about continuing to use manure and compost, make certain that you learn how to compost properly, by maintaining temperatures of at least 140 degrees fahrenheit throughout the process, and always do it that way. This provides sufficient heat to kill all pathogens.

I recommend you read my article on The Zoo-Doo Man in these FAQs. That will help you understand what's required, as well as my perspective on the issues involved.

Once you solve the issue of proper composting you will want to understand, and know how to deal with, the issues of deficiencies and salinity.

Because there is no practical way of knowing how much of the 13 nutrients your compost has in it, you will very likely be faced with deficiencies of some of them. These will show up in your plants, and if you recognize and treat them quickly you can save the crop. Sometimes a garden crop is lost when an ounce or two of zinc, iron, boron, or manganese, etc. would completely solve the problem.

I highly recommend you get the Mittleider Garden Doctor books, available at www.growfood.com, and begin to use them. They will save their cost many times over!

Another issue that needs to be addressed when using manure and compost is that of too much at the beginning and not enough later on. Most people apply 2"-4" of compost and work it into their garden before planting. Doing that to the entire garden is wasteful of compost, and most of the nutrients go to feed the weeds in the aisles. So to start with, apply compost and manure only to your bed area.

And how much should you apply? Three inches of manure applied to the 45 square feet of a 30'-long soil-bed would weigh 200-300#, and would contain 2-3# of each of the major nutrients, plus lesser amounts of the secondary and micro-nutrients. We only apply about 2 OUNCES of each of the major elements to a soil-bed before planting, so the 3" application of compost puts 15 to 20 times more mineral salts into the soil than is needed right then.

This much salt in your soil may stop or even reverse the process of osmosis that takes moisture and nutrients into your plants, which will harm or kill your small seedlings. Inexperienced and careless organic gardeners are frequently discouraged, and sometimes give up, when they experience the immutable effects of this often-misunderstood natural law.

Therefore, apply only about 1/2" of compost to your planting area before planting, and after your plants are up add another 1/2" to the surface of the planting area and work it into the soil. Continue this process every two weeks - until 3 weeks before harvesting for single crop varieties, and until 6-8 weeks before the first frost for everbearing crops like tomatoes, cucumbers and squash.

I know how to prepare and use manure and compost, and have done it very successfully. I choose to use natural mineral nutrients because 1) it is so much easier and cost effective, 2) we eliminate problems such as pests, weed seeds, and diseases, and 3) we eliminate 13 unknowns by accurately providing our plants with everything that they need.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Pay It Forward" - You Can Too!

Q. I am a Mother of 5 children. I don't have a lot of knowledge about gardening and would like to learn more. I don't have a lot of time to spend gardening and need to find the best way.

A. I'm sharing my response to with you only to show how each of us can help make the world a better place by sharing - even in small ways - the good that we know. And perhaps you will come to know what motivates me a little better also.

Dear Mother: May I send you a gift to assist you? I am from a family of 13, and my mother didn't have time to do justice to a garden, so being the oldest boy at home most of the time, I was assigned that task. I would have loved the materials I'm going to suggest here.

On the website - at the Store, you can look at the materials the Foundation makes available. Any one of the gardening books can make you a proficient gardener!

There are a couple of things, however, that I think apply especially well to a busy mother. The 6 Steps to Successful Gardening book is very simple and easy to read and follow, with illustrations for virtually every step.

And the Garden Wizard CD automates the planning and creation steps, and gives you a wealth of background assistance and guidance.

Depending on the ages and computer literacy of your children, and the possibilities of getting them involved in a "fun" gardening project, I believe you would benefit from either one or both of these.

Because My own wife - recently deceased - raised 5 girls, I felt a kinship for some reason when I read your note, and would like to send you one or the other of these two resources as a gift.

Please , if you would like to take me up on the offer, just give me your address and I'll get something on its way tomorrow.

Best wishes for success in the most important work in the world - raising children. And I hope you can get some of them involved in gardening with you. I still thank my own mom 53 years later for getting me started (she even entered one of "my" pumpkins in the State Fair, for which I received a ribbon!).

Now don't start sending me names of people you know who want a free book or CD, because I couldn't begin to fill the requests.

Instead, I challenge each of you reading this to think of ways to "Pay Forward" the knowledge by which you've been blessed, by helping and/or encouraging others - in this way or any one of countless others.

Do you have neighbors or family you'd like to see improve their gardening efforts? How about a widow or single mother who needs a little boost?

I can help any of you who would like to use the Foundation's gardening materials in this way. If you buy 5 or more, for charitable purposes only, in any combination, I will make the Garden Wizard CD and 6 Steps to Successful Gardening available for 1/2 price for the next 30 days, as the gardening season is getting started.

And if you are REALLY interested in helping others, I invite you to consider assisting people in many other countries, who almost ALL need help! As one example among many I could name, the Madagascar garden project I conducted in 2002 is suffering the effects of a typhoon that destroyed the greenhouse and storage shed. It is devastating to this little school that has been running on virtually no money since I left, except for the year's supply of fertilizers and seeds I left with them.

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