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Having 2 small kids and lots of extra projects, I can relate to the time warp that consumes those precious daylight hours. How can we get it all done and still engage with our families in a meaningful and fun way? One way that I have found to lure my kids outside and into the garden is to have various berry bushes, edible flowers, and perennials scattered throughout the yard. As I water the garden, I can keep tabs on what plants are producing and I can give them little nudges to go check specific plants out. It is a game that seems to also help them really create a relationship of their own with the plants. One of the best parts is to see their excitement in finding something really tasty to snack on. If as parents, we can make sure to get off our phones for 30 minutes a day and have the kids join us in the garden, then we can maximize our food production more AND spend time with our families. This is another great reason to have more food plants in your yard!
~ Brandon Moncrief
GYGO Seed Swap
Now is a wonderful time to start taking a look to see what you would like to plant this Spring! We would like you to join us for a Seed Swap Social to connect with people and try something new this year in your garden. This is a VIRTUAL event as we host via Zoom and if you are not on our newsletter and email list click HERE to join and receive the link for the event.
Even if you don't have any seeds to contribute, please feel free to participate and join in. At GYGO, we believe we are only as strong as our community, and this is a great way to create more resiliency and stronger plants over time. We are looking forward to seeing you there!
~ Lana Medina
When the Guilds You Learned in Your PDC Blow Up in Your Face
We've all seen it in diagrams, designs, and pictures. The fruit tree in the middle and the circle of plants around to provide the multiple functions of a plant ecosystem -- the "guild" of plants. It can look nice, and it can certainly work, however, in many (if not most) situations, this type of planting is completely impractical -- especially on a larger scale.
The idea that these "permaculture" food forests are curvy and natural looking are maintenance free is a myth that is often a barrier to success. The more wild and "natural" you make these systems, the more you sacrifice yield. Yield of course can be measured by bird habitat, insect populations, etc, but in this case yield is referring to food production for the people in the system. But moreover, these more traditional guild plantings are anything but low maintenance. The grass encroaches, the birds drop weed seeds in, the wind blows them in and you start losing access to as all the layers grow up in a jungle-like fashion. If you need to irrigate these systems, the more time consuming and difficult it becomes as well. Often the best solution is to create straight rows of plantings! Yes, we said it. Straight rows. Because we feel that one of the most important and overlooked elements in the design, is YOU!
~ Kevin Feinstein
More Than You Can Ever Plant!
In these winter months, it is a good time to go through your seed inventory, order more seeds, and start getting a plan for this year's growing season. I typically organize my seeds each year into 4 basic categories:
The first category is those that need to plant now or soon, that can put put out when there is still a chance of frost. These include your "cool season" crops that can take some frost and prefer cooler weather such as lettuce, brassicas, cilantro, peas, beets, and spinach.
The second category are seeds of warm season crops (those that cannot take any frost and like warm weather) that I need to start early indoors or in the greenhouse. These include tomates, peppers, sweet potato slips, melons, cucumbers, squash, etc.
The third category are warm season crops that I will direct sow in the ground after all chance of frost is past. These include green beans, cowpeas, corn, okra, etc.
The fourth category is inevitable. Stuff you are simply not going to plant this year but you want to keep anyway. I have 2 boxes full of these!
Each year when going through seeds, I have more than I thought! Where to plant them all?
That is the amazing abundance of seeds!
~ Kevin Feinstein
Growing without Pesticides
Gardening and growing consistently without the use of pesticides can be challenging. This is why so many farmers use them. However, at GYGO, we rarely use them and when we do, we use safe and natural produts such as neem oil or Dr. Bronner's soap.
My advice for those who want to join us on this mission to grow without pesticides -- BE FLEXIBLE. Don't be too attached to certain crops and know that sometimes you are going to lose some. Here are some practices that will allow you to minimize your losses when growing this way:
1. Plant a diversity of crops (some you lose, some you don't). In that diversity of plants -- some confuse pests, some are trap plants, some house beneficials, other repel pests.
2. Use plants and varieties that are appropriate to your area and climate. Don't try to force a square peg in a round hole. Just because you love spinach, doesn't mean you should keep trying to grow it if it's not right for your climate and garden.
3. Work on building up soil health -- microbes, minerals, and texture. Healthy plants can often fight off pests.
4. Consider brewing and sparying compost tea
5. Make sure the plants have good airflow, sun, and water. A stressed out plant is more likely to succumb to pest pressures.
~ Kevin Feinstein
Companion planting is something that in my experience is underutilized yet overhyped at the same time. To dive in deeper, I suggest referencing a book such as the famous Carrots Love Tomatoes, and explore online resources. You may quickly discover that many of these sources contradict each other and those with lots of gardening experience often find this level of companion planting to be more trouble than it's worth -- for annula garden crops. Especially for the beginner.
Let's go over some very general guidelines for basic companion planting. Legumes are crops like peas, beans, and clover that fix nitrogen in the soil. They are companions to most plants but don't plant them with alliums (garlic, onions, etc.) Basils and marigolds are great companions for nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, etc). It is also advisable to have some flowering plants that attract pollinators such as zinnias close by, and those that house beneficial insects such as flowering cilantro, parsley, yarrow, dill, etc. I always let my cilantro (coridander) flower to attract the beneficial insects. You may also want to consider planting aromatic herbs somewhere nearby such as oregano, basil, mint, sage, lavender, etc. The ancient 3 sisters garden is perhaps the most widely known companion planting – corn, beans and squash. For annuals, though, I would argue crop rotation and diversity is more important than companion plantings as such.
For perennials such as fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, flowering shrubs, groundcover, etc such as in permaculture style plant guild, placing plants that are companions and complimentary to each other can be far more valuable.
~ Kevin Feinstein