Farm Hack

Farm Hack is an innovative blog that synthesizes high tech and low tech in the service of growing food and community. The blog is run by the National Young Farmers Coalition. While geared towards agriculture, many of the posts will be of interest to backyard gardeners. Recent subjects include a project to develop an infrared camera to monitor plant health, smartphone tools for farmers and open source appropriate technology re...

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How To Manage a Compost Pile Using Temperature

...keeping the pile between 131° F (55° C) and 163°F (72°C) for a period of 15 days. The only time you turn is when the pile starts to dip below 131° F or to prevent the pile from going above 163°F. The technique is simple–all you do is take the temperature once a day with a compost thermometer and write down the result on a calendar. The graph above is the result that I got from a pile made out of horse bedding, chicken manure from our hens,...

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Anne Hars’ Top Ramen Keyhole Vegetable Garden

...“I call it my Top Ramen garden,” says gardener, Root Simple neighbor and artist Anne Hars, “I planted things that go well in Top Ramen.” Hars is referring to her keyhole vegetable bed that she created this winter. With the keyhole, Hars has made good use of a very small front yard with a dense planting of Ramen friendly veggies including bok choi, three kinds of kale, sunflowers, carrots, peas, garlic, radishes, spinach,...

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Straw Bale Garden Part III: Adding Fertilizer

...1/2 cup of urea per bale or “bone meal, fish meal, or compost for a more organic approach.” (I think they mean blood meal as bone meal does not have much nitrogen in it.) Choosing the organic approach, we’re watering in two cups of blood meal a day to each bale for days four to six. Days seven through nine, we’ll cut back to one cup of blood meal per bale. By day ten the bales should be almost ready to plant. Once the bale...

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Fruit Tree Update: Flavor Delight Aprium

One of my big regrets is not planting a bunch of fruit trees when we first moved into our house in 1998.* Thankfully though, we got our act together eventually. In 2011, we put in a call local fruit tree expert Steve Hovfendahl for some suggestions. His advice was based on what would grow in our warm climate as well as fruit tasting results conducted by the Dave Wilson nursery. It’s been over two years since we planted...

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Radish Surprise

...ignored it. It grew bigger, and bigger, and bigger. Usually a radish is harvested early, so we never see how big they can get. This one got huge, then burst out into hundreds of tiny purple flowers. Hummingbirds, honey bees and all sorts of flying insects visit it all day, every day. It has become one of the queens of the garden. The picture below is horrible. The radish plant really is quite pretty,  the equal of any ornamental flowering shrub&#...

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Straw Bale Garden Part V: Growing Vegetables

It’s too early to call my straw bale garden a success but, so far, the vegetables I planted in the bales are growing. I got a late start on planting–I put in the tomatoes, squash and basil in mid May/Early June–just in time for the cloudy, cool weather we have here in early summer. Check out the difference between the tomato I planted in a bale on the left, compared with a tomato in one o...

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Straw Bale Garden: What I Learned

Straw bale garden–April on the left, November on the right. The straw bale garden I started this spring has been one of the most successful vegetable gardens I’ve ever planted. In fact it’s still producing well into November. Here’s what I learned from the experiment: Plants that suck up a lot of nitrogen, like squash, do well in a straw bale garden. My tomatoes flourished but, due to the high nitrogen...

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Picture Sundays: What Commuting by Bike Looked Like in 1942

From the Library of Congress photo archive a 1942 picture from Burbank, CA: The bicycle brigade at Lockheed Vega Aircraft Corporation. Employees living within four miles of Lockheed’s plant may purchase bicycles through the company and resell them to the company when need for them no longer exists. This mode of transportation is becoming increasingly popular, and has resulted in the sale of 2,400 bicycles in record time...

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Induced Demand

Image: Wikipedia. I was on the phone the other day having a conversation about greywater with a person enrolled in an entrepreneurial program. She asked me an excellent question: did having a greywater system cause me to use more water? She was alluding to a concept known as induced demand. In other words, when you have more of something you use more. Buy a hybrid car and you end up driving more miles since you don’t pay...

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