Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Careful what you ask for

An interesting article from Ann Cusack of the L.A.. times.

I support organic farming, gardening and land care because I believe it is a sustainable way for those of us living on our island to care for the fragile sandy soils we have here.
I also support changes in the farm bill to bring more diversity to our food supply, and more economic diversity to our communities.
Ms Cusacks article discusses the polarization in our communities regarding the various camps of organic and non organic growing. I can't figure out how to post the link - but she and her article are available via google

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


What an exciting few days - we have been working on building soil in most of my beds Lasagna style. While the beds are a bit large for excellent lasagna method gardens, for this year at least it is a beginning.

The front field where the potted nursery stock sat for so many years under black nursery tarp had such miserable soil in it - I made a stab at it with easy crops - lettuce, basil, chicory - had good lettuce - hey, it was all sand! It now lays under a good thick layer of cardboard, followed by rough material gathered from clients gardens, my gardens, and now we are adding in some eel grass and some ancient horse manure - can't believe someone has horse manure that is 20 years old! sprinkles of bone meal as we go along - it won't be 20" deep, but it is a great start.

Back garden has been neglected for 14 years when I put in truck loads of goat manure - it is pooped. Same method - cardboard, rough debris and bone meal, topping with the horse and eel grass . I will make that my main food garden come spring - I see it every day, it's smaller and more controllable - easier to get deer fence around it - which was a problem with front field and the temporary fence - kept meaning to get that high wire up and hang the Japanese lanterns on it to shoo the deer away - but summer is "clients first" time.

Also thinking of moving some of the benches in the greenhouse and putting in an old cold frame, filling it with compost and trying some winter crops - Elliot Coleman style ( ish)

Really can't believe I'm still in fall clean up stages and anticipating next springs crops - a month ago I didn't want to see a garden as long as I lived! That's the Nantucket Season for you!

The only crop that didn't suffer from this summer? Artichokes - lots of yummy ones.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

And that was Summer?

What a trying gardening season. Lots and lots of cold rains in June ( slept with 2 comforters nearly until the 4th of July) a brief bit of good clear sunshine and then into an August when we didn't see much sun because of hazy humidity. Sky cleared on Sept 1 and we were all shocked to see that it was beginning fall - our beautiful golden light was upon us overnight.

Lots of fungus - trees, veggies, lawns - Nantucket was hit with the terrible tomatoe blight that wiped out the crop throughout the Northeast, Potatoes followed, then squashes and melons - I hear on the mainland the apple crops are bumper - good for them.

So, a sorry post after such a long wait - I'll be back with pix and some of the fun soon

Sunday, July 5, 2009

ah summer

Haven't had much time to check in since May - our veggie garden is thriving - sooo much rain this spring - (June is also Spring on Nantucket) so the lettuce is great, can't say much for the tomatoes, peppers, eggplant etc - but with the 4th of July our weather pattern might be changing and we will have a late harvest of these tropical favorites.

Lilies are just beginning bloom, some Peonies around, the Arrowood Viburnum is at it's peak and the wild roses abound - yes pix someday soon I hope

Monday, May 11, 2009

From Carolyn Walsh following our Fete

Stewardship is personal responsibility for taking care
of another person's property or financial
 affairs or in religious orders taking care of finances. Historically, stewardship was the responsibility given to household servants to bring food and drinks to a castle dining hall. The term was then expanded to indicate a household employee's responsibility for managing household or domestic affairs. Stewardship later became the responsibility for taking care of passengers' domestic needs on a ship, train and airplane, or managing the service provided to diners in a restaurant. The term continues to be used in these specific ways, but it is also used in a more general way to refer to a responsibility to take care of something one does not own. "Every person has a responsibility to look after the planet both for themselves and for the future generations. Acting irresponsibly could cause damage such as pollution, the destruction of cultural heritage, etc."

Friday, May 8, 2009

If you grow it, you can come ... Plot luck 2009

This is our next great venture - I am so inspired by what the crew at Sunset Magazine have done with forming their various "teams" to explore local food ventures that we are going to have a series of "Plot lucks" this growing season (thank you Carolyn Walsh for that catchy term)

 Obviously this will be a very exclusive dining group - you must have grown it, or caught it, in order to attend - and you will need to bring it with you to our feast - no cheating!

Short on space?  Lettuce makes beautiful window boxes - mixed textures, colors, add some nasturtiums - Spinach in a container will last longer as you can move it into cooler sites when summer heats up - Kale is a magnificent bold partner in any container, Artichokes do great in a containers - as to Watermelon!

And then there is foraged food.  And things we don't think about like daylilies - key ingredient in many Chinese dishes.

This can give us all a chance to see our progress, mull over failures, learn more from each other about what works and what doesn't work on Nantucket and become even better gardeners, beekeepers, egg gatherers ...

Anyone know how to make sheep cheese?  How about perennial crops? berries? fruit trees?

Stay tuned.  The One Island Diet

Thursday, May 7, 2009

michael pollan - 5/4/09 making farmers cool again

Michael Pollan, “Deep Agriculture”

May 6th, 02009 by Kevin Kelly

Michael PollanMaking farmers cool again

Farming has become an occupation and cultural force of the past. Michael Pollan’s talk promoted the premise — and hope — that farming can become an occupation and force of the future. In the past century American farmers were given the assignment to produce lots of calories cheaply, and they did. They became the most productive humans on earth. A single farmer in Iowa could feed 150 of his neighbors. That is a true modern miracle. “American farmers are incredibly inventive, innovative, and accomplished. They can do whatever we ask them, we just need to give them a new set of requirements.”

The benefit of a reformed food system, besides better food, better environment and less climate shock, is better health and the savings of trillions of dollars. Four out of five chronic diseases are diet-related. Three quarters of medical spending goes to preventable chronic disease. Pollan says we cannot have a healthy population, without a healthy diet. The news is that we are learning that we cannot have a healthy diet without a healthy agriculture. And right now, farming is sick.

Pollan outlined what this recovery for American farmers and food producers should be. First a post-modern food system should be “resolarized.” Right now it takes 10 calories of fossil fuel to manufacture 1 calorie of food on average, and 55 calories to produce 1 calorie of beef. If any industry should be solar-based it should be food, which was the “original solar economy.” Instead, right now “we are eating oil.” Cheap oil and farm policies subsidize the 5 main crops (and only those crops), upon which the rest of our cheap food system is based. These main crops are planted as monocultures, which require cheap pesticides and fertilizers and produce wastes that are all problems in themselves. Pollan’s solution is not to dismantle the food system but to redirect it. Because of the long-term planning and learning that stewarding land requires, he believes subsidies of some type are essential for agriculture. Agriculture, he stated, should not be a freemarket. By picking the proper incentives we can re-localize, re-solarize, and revive the healing power of balanced farms and wholesome gardens.

Governments should reward farmers for diversifying away from monocultures. Pollan gave a few examples of where this has worked at scale. They should be rewarded for growing cover crops with the benefit of reducing erosion. Rewarded for returning animals to the mix. Rewarded for the amount of carbon they sequester in soil. Rewarded for halting urban sprawl by keeping farmland intact. In fact farmland should find a similar status as wetlands; developers and communities get “credit” for retaining farmland. Farmers should be rewarded for localize food provision. If only 2% of government contracts for food (as in school lunch programs, or government-run hospitals) required that the food be produced within 100 miles, it would transform the food system.

How might such change happen? Only if consumers and citizens demand it. One thing that might help is if web cams and images of the actual feed lot, or slaughterhouse, were required to be available for food that flowed through it. Imagine getting a carton of milk that showed not a metaphorical alpine meadow, but the real cages of the real dirty cows that produced that liter of milk. Or put a second calories count on labels, this one showing how many calories of energy it takes to deliver the item to you.

The major problem with his vision? He says there are simply not enough farmers. Only 1 million now feed the US and other people of the world. Many more people, many more college educated people, many more innovators and entrepreneurs, and many more backyard gardeners need to produce this new food system. Start in educational programs, such as one promoted by Alice Waters, where kids learn to grow food, cook, and eat smarter. “Make lunch an academic subject.” Follow the lead of Michelle Obama and make turning lawns into organic gardens fashionable, respectable.

Make farms and farmers cool again

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

New York Times January 5, 2009

oy! my shift key is stuck!

this is one very good reason to join us this saturday may 9 - and please scroll down for tons of information on our Eat your Garden festivities - these 2 men are my greatest living cultural heros - please enrich your lives and read more of their works.  The farm bill is a passion of mine - i believe it is the most important domestic legislation our congress works with - as it determines the future of our food,OUR AGRICULTURAL   practices - a good issue to w eigh in on.


A 50-Year Farm Bill

Published: January 4, 2009

THE extraordinary rainstorms last June caused catastrophic soil erosion in the grain lands of Iowa, where there were gullies 200 feet wide. But even worse damage is done over the long term under normal rainfall — by the little rills and sheets of erosion on incompletely covered or denuded cropland, and by various degradations resulting from industrial procedures and technologies alien to both agriculture and nature.

Soil that is used and abused in this way is as nonrenewable as (and far more valuable than) oil. Unlike oil, it has no technological substitute — and no powerful friends in the halls of government.

Agriculture has too often involved an insupportable abuse and waste of soil, ever since the first farmers took away the soil-saving cover and roots of perennial plants. Civilizations have destroyed themselves by destroying their farmland. This irremediable loss, never enough noticed, has been made worse by the huge monocultures and continuous soil-exposure of the agriculture we now practice.

To the problem of soil loss, the industrialization of agriculture has added pollution by toxic chemicals, now universally present in our farmlands and streams. Some of this toxicity is associated with the widely acclaimed method of minimum tillage. We should not poison our soils to save them.

Industrial agricultural has made our food supply entirely dependent on fossil fuels and, by substituting technological “solutions” for human work and care, has virtually destroyed the cultures of husbandry (imperfect as they may have been) once indigenous to family farms and farming neighborhoods.

Clearly, our present ways of agriculture are not sustainable, and so our food supply is not sustainable. We must restore ecological health to our agricultural landscapes, as well as economic and cultural stability to our rural communities.

For 50 or 60 years, we have let ourselves believe that as long as we have money we will have food. That is a mistake. If we continue our offenses against the land and the labor by which we are fed, the food supply will decline, and we will have a problem far more complex than the failure of our paper economy. The government will bring forth no food by providing hundreds of billons of dollars to the agribusiness corporations.

Any restorations will require, above all else, a substantial increase in the acreages of perennial plants. The most immediately practicable way of doing this is to go back to crop rotations that include hay, pasture and grazing animals.

But a more radical response is necessary if we are to keep eating and preserve our land at the same time. In fact, research in Canada, Australia, China and the United States over the last 30 years suggests that perennialization of the major grain crops like wheat, rice, sorghum and sunflowers can be developed in the foreseeable future. By increasing the use of mixtures of grain-bearing perennials, we can better protect the soil and substantially reduce greenhouse gases, fossil-fuel use and toxic pollution.

Carbon sequestration would increase, and the husbandry of water and soil nutrients would become much more efficient. And with an increase in the use of perennial plants and grazing animals would come more employment opportunities in agriculture — provided, of course, that farmers would be paid justly for their work and their goods.

Thoughtful farmers and consumers everywhere are already making many necessary changes in the production and marketing of food. But we also need a national agricultural policy that is based upon ecological principles. We need a 50-year farm bill that addresses forthrightly the problems of soil loss and degradation, toxic pollution, fossil-fuel dependency and the destruction of rural communities.

This is a political issue, certainly, but it far transcends the farm politics we are used to. It is an issue as close to every one of us as our own stomachs.

Wes Jackson is a plant geneticist and president of The Land Institute in Salina, Kan. Wendell Berry is a farmer and writer in Port Royal, Ky.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Join Us In Community

Sitting here in February searching for hope as the news drummed on with financial disaster stories I could only be thankful that I am a gardener - one, I had a great pile of seed catalogues to warm my vision and memory, two, I knew that I could grow my own food, and three, I have great clients who allow me to explore my creativity in their soil, and with their palates - I love dreaming up new Kitchen Gardens for these people.

Having trained innumerable young gardeners for 20 years now, I am also aware of how little most people know about growing - food or flowers, and I recall my great enthusiasm that first kitchen garden I planted - and what a miserable failure it was!  I celebrate ignorance - it leads me to wonderful new things - so I decided to call on various friends and gardening associates on island to see if we couldn't put together a reverse "county fair" - nothing to show for our efforts like traditional county fairs held in the fall, but a fair, a fete to celebrate spring and our desire to bring forth a harvest.

We are all engaged in conversations of late about how to bring a sense of community back to our island - I believe community happens when people join together to share their skills for the common cause - in this case a healthy source of food and a means of stewarding our land.

Please look at the various blogs on this site for information on our first annual organic gardening festival, who will be leading workshops, how to register, the wonderful people who are giving their time, talent, skills and money to share with their community.  And then ...

Mark your calendar for     May 9             Register            and join us.

Schedule for May 9 Workshops: and directions to 84 Egan 

Please register for these workshops : / 228-2093

We decided due to so many late registrations and time limits on my part that the blog will need to be your guide for hand out materials - refer back to this site for information on the workshops you participated in, and if you have questions please email me at

If the $15 fee is keeping you from joining us, don't let it - we can waive it, this is about Community joining to share skills, and to enjoy being a community.

You might want to consider bringing a picnic if you plan to spend some time, Annyes is providing some food and drinks - but you know best what you like.

10 am:  Raised bed building - Dane. Materials to use, construction pointers.

11 am:  "Lasagna Gardening" - Claudia Butler, Dylan Wallace - a method for building soil using layers; planting tips for lasagna gardens

12 noon:  Filling the Raised beds - Chapin Kline & Cinda Gaynor - soil mixes, proportions of compost, peat, native soil, fertilizers.

1 pm: In Ground Gardens - A Slosek or 2! working with native soils, amendments, fertilizers; planting techniques.

2 pm:  Square Foot Gardening - Natalie -  a planting technique for maximum production in minimum space
3 pm:  Container Gardening - Ellie Huyser -  Grow carrots in a pot?  Tomatoes in a tire? soil mix, fertilizers, planting techniques for containers

The Garden Gams will be ongoing throughout the day.

Directions: Old South Road toward the airport, left on Egan lane - go thru the large "S" curve - there will be a straight-away in front of you - The Gardens is the first on right on the straight-away - look for our poster.

Garden Gams: This is the unscheduled informal part of Saturday - these resources will be here at different points - Laura Simon and  A-Z seed information; Jim Gross is bringing a hive and is certainly our Mr Bee on Nantucket - they are expecting to spend the day with us; Jason Sullivan will be here  at noon with information on Organic Lawn Care; Caroline Ellis is bringing her "girls" the  chickens and will be available to discuss the joy of fresh eggs  ; Ashley Mott from Pumpkin Pond Farm  will be here in morning and will present beneficial insects.  We have generous donations for Organic Gardening magazines, seed catalogues from great organic seed companies, and a special treat for the young gardeners - Surprize! is the best way I can describe it. Those Mushroom guys will be joining us to show and tell about this new growing enterprise on Nantucket

Look for our poster. Kudos and gratitude to Anne Butler Sutherland for allowing us to use this wonderful painting of carrots, and thank you to Jack Weinhold for putting it all in a great graphic design.

Also huge thanks to Nantucket Land Council for assisting with the advertising that more people  will know about us and be able to take advantage of "growing school"

Laura Simon of the most beautiful organic garden on island has also been very generous with both her time in obtaining seed catalogues from her special companies for us, as well as donating funds to help pay for poster printing and other materials we will be needing. 

Until I can figure out how to link - go to: to view more of Annes wonderful paintings.  She is exhibiting at  South Wharf Gallery on India this year.

Coast of Maine has most generously donated product that they sell at Bartlett Farm
 - Lobster compost, potting soils, and untreated mulches.

Thanks to Greg Maskell and Chapin Kline of Maskell Landscape  for a whole truck full of locally grown compost - unloaded even!
Lindsay of Atlantic Landscape is not only lending us Natalie for the day, but thoughtfully donated soil amendments to use in our Raised Bed garden

My friend Margaret has just won a coveted award from James Beard Society - I've attempted to link her blog here - look for the other Sunset blogs in their "one block diet" series - could we do a "One Island Diet"??


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Organic Vegetable Gardening Fete - May 9. 2009

Our first annual (?) Organic Vegetable Gardening Fete!  May 9, 2009 10 am - 4 pm
Hosted by The Gardens - Nantucket Wildflower at 84 Egan Lane ( off Old South Rd)
This will be a series of formal workshops (see list below) to give hands-on experience in organic gardening to non-gardeners, and new information to non-organic gardeners.  We will also have informal "Garden Gams" on going through the day.
Gardeners experienced with growing organic vegetables and the various specific soil and planting techniques on Nantucket will be leading each workshop.

Formal workshops: you will need to register for these

Raised Bed Gardens - check out This Old House video, 3 part workshop
Square Foot Gardens - book, and on-line info
Lasagna Gardens - book, and on-line info
In Ground Gardens
Container Gardens

The informal Garden Gams will cover subjects ranging from Bees, Compost, Fencing, Seed an Seeding, Perennial crops, Chickens, Organic Lawn care, Beneficial Insects
For those who might be new to Nantucket, "Gam" is an old Nantucket word for a talk e.g.. " had a good gam with Janet at the post office today"

Watch this blog for updates, information on organic kitchen gardening.

We are asking that you register so we can keep groups a workable size, and we will need to  have handouts printed - also why we are charging an admission fee, to help cover some of the

Registration:,  or call: 508-228-2093 expect to leave a message, you will be called back with a confirmation.  Fees will be paid on admission.

Many great thanks to the Nantucket Land Council - just for being themselves - but also for picking up the advertising costs for this event that more Islanders might know about the event, and be able to attend.

Workshop leaders:

Raised beds : Dane from Seaside Gardens will build the frame, tips on what wood to use, how to secure the frame.  Chapin Kline will be demonstrating how to fill the new raised bed,  we will show how to mix native soils with composts, manures, organic fertilizers ( what to  use, how much, what it should look like when you are finished) Natalie will be leading the planting of the  Raised beds in The "Square Foot Gardening" method -  this workshop will be in 3 sections to allow time for question and answer times. Just in, Winnie of Graves Fencing is going to build a classic "square foot garden" frame - but for seniors - a 4'x4' frame 30 " high. 

Lasagna Gardening: This workshop will be lead by Claudia Butler and Dylan Wallace.  Known as "Native Gardeners" they have been focused on organic gardening for some time as many of you know, their pickup even runs on vegetable oil! Lasagna refers to a method of layering materials to build a great organic soil

In Ground Garden:  We are fortunate to  have  several Sloseks, of Moors End Farm, who have volunteered for  this workshop -  essentially this program will demonstrate what you do with native soil - the good, the bad and of course the ugly.  We enjoy mostly sandy soils here, but there are varieties of that, and then there are those clay pockets.  How to identify what your soil is, what amendments do you need, how much?  what fertilizers to use, how to apply it, how much to apply - what should your mix look like when it is ready to plant

Container Gardening:  Ellie Huyser, the cheery soul who persons the check out counter at Valeros grew all her vegetables in containers last year - and had great success, so she will share her experiences with this workshop - what soil to use in a container, what fertilizers, how much to apply, when to apply.

Ringmaster:  Cinda Gaynor, thats me - I'll be around adding my advice, direction, tips from my experience, filling in where needed - and encouraging the Garden Gam with various people who will join us through the day with great experience in all sort of garden related information: beekeeping, compost,  Caroline Ellis is bringing her "girls" ( chickens) to share their tales of life in Quaise Pasture,  Ashley Mott from Pumpkin Pond Farm is taking about beneficial insects. ,  Laura Simon will be here to discuss seed issues - she has several companies who have sent their catalogues to share, fencing issues, Jason Sullivan will give us an overview of Organic Lawn Care - the Gam is wide open for garden talk - join in!

I do not know who created this delightful poster,
I wish I did so I could thank them.  Hope you enjoy it
as much as I have

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Workshop highlights

Square Foot Gardening

The Square Foot Gardening technique is more a planting style, and we will be covering this in our workshops - you can go to their website at any time and get tips and information.
For the May 9 Garden Fete  this workshop will be the 3rd part of the Raised Bed section - our raised bed will be filled in part 2, and then planted out in this style for part 3

These are  the "bullet" point sheets we will give you May 9 - basics we will cover in the demonstration.

Raised Bed construction:

Preparing the site/considerations

Is the site level?

Is the site an existing garden space or will it be constructed on a lawn area?

Amount of sunlight and irrigation

Existing garden space:  Level approximate area and set frame level with stakes installed every 4' inside of the frame.  Loosen soil with in frame with a garden fork and or shovel.  Fill bottom with 2-4" of well rotted compost, cover with a layer of cardboard or 3-6 sheets wet newspaper and fill remaining 8" or so with composted garden soil, fertilizers, leaf mold.

Lawn area:  Cut turf out within the dimensions of the frame with a metal edger and shovel saving the sod.  Break up the soil with a garden fork or shovel and level area with a rake.  Set frame level using stakes installed every 4' inside of frame.  Lay sod upside down inside frame and cover with cardboard or wet newspaper.  Fill remaining *" or so with your garden soil.


Materials ( for a 4' x 12' raised bed)

  - (2)  12', 2x10

  - (2)  3'9" , 2x10

  - (4)  18" - 24" corner braces with a 45 degree angle cut on ends

  - (1)  3'9"  2x4 mid-support

  -  3 1/2 " nails or screws - galvanized or stainless

  - (4-6)  2-3'  2x4 stakes


 - Nail together frame "upside down" next to prepared site.

 - Square frame using 3' 4' 5' triangle method, or by measuring diagonally both ways making    sure to have even measurements.

 - Attach corner braces when frame is square

 - Install mid-support at center

 - Flip the frame over into prepared soil and level by driving stakes every 4' inside and          attaching to frame using nails or screws.

 - Fill the frame as described above, plan your garden, and Happy Planting!

Questions? - Ask for Dane at Seaside Gardens Inc. - 165 Hummock Pond Road or call: 508-228-1732

Square Foot Gardening:


      Grow only what you will use

      Draw a map and use it (don’t forget to save it for next year)

      Rely on succession planting to extend the growing season

      Practice crop rotation

Benefits of Raised Bed Gardening

      Better production per square foot

      Easy to amend and fortify soil

      Advantageous for water conservation

      Easier on the back

      Less difficult to control pests

      Warms up faster so seeds and seedlings can be started earlier

Basic Rules of Square Foot Gardening

      Don’t walk on the growing soil. (easier to accomplish with a raised bed)

      Keep replanting each square as it is harvested.

      Cover newly planted seeds and seedlings to protect them.

      Water with sun warmed water.

      Add humus (organic matter) to the soil every time you plant a crop.

      Plant only 1-2 seeds in their final spacing.

      Use spacing rules for 12” square

Spacing and Planting

      One plant per 12” grid

·      Vine tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, corn, eggplant, musk melon, peppers

      Four plants per 12” grid

·      Swiss chard, leaf lettuce, parsley

      Nine plants per 12” grid

·      Bush beans, spinach

      Sixteen plants per 12” grid

·      Beets, radishes, carrots, onions

Reference Material

Bartholomew, Mel. Square Foot Gardening. The Rodale Press, 2005.       

And another from Natalie who will be demonstrating Square Foot planting techniques May 9

Square Foot Gardening Bullet Points
1. What Is the square foot method?
 -squares Instead of rows
 - plant only what you desire to harvest
 - reduce material and water waste
 - reduce maintenance ie. weeding, thinning etc
2. Climbing/ VinIng plants
 -vertical structures
 - space saving and easier on the back to harvest
3. Companion planting
 - pest deterrent crops ie. onions, garlic, marigolds and nasturtiums
plated In alternating squares.
 - legumes In the garden and as cover crops such as red clover
4. Crop rotation
 - prevent nutrient deficiency
 - prevent pest attraction
5. Succession Planting (kind of like companion planting but different
because It deals with timing)
 -always have a continuous harvest-- don't get stuck with 56 carrots
all at the same time!
 - quick maturing vs long season crops (Inter sowing In the same
space) ie. radishes and carrots or arugula and peppers
6. Planting
for this I will show how to direct sow and also how to transplant
seedlings I will also go through the logistics of buying,storing and
planting: seed potatoes, onion sets and garlic cloves
 - placement of full sun and partial sun vegetables
7. Harvest

Don't treat your soil like dirt!

This is part of the "bullet points" for soils - in general, but specifically for the raised beds workshops. - from Natalie 

Soil filling/ mixing bullet points:

Importance of healthy soil:
 -high organic matter
 -high rate of microorganisms and bacteria
 -how synthetic fertilizers and excessive and unnecessary
pesticides/fungicides will set soil health back
2. Soil Structure-
 -sand, silt and clay plus at least 8%-12% Organic matter
 -how soil should feel In the hand/ the clumping test
3. Amendments for sandy Nantucket soil
 -peat moss/ vermiculite
 -green sand
 -well rotted manure
 -leaf mold
  -humus and how It works (don't worry I wont go Into cationic exchange
 -Importance of earthworms!
4. Fertilizers
 I don't really use fertilizers often I rely on healthy soils
 -organic vs. synthetic
 -slow release vs quick release
5. PH
 -Importance of PH being right for the plant
 -plant cannot access nutrients unless PH Is right
 - Nantucket PH, soil tests and amendments like lime and wood as

Lasagna Gardening

This book was given me one hectic Thanksgiving weekend.  I set it aside thinking it was about growing a garden for a Mediterranean diet - interesting, but not pressing.
When i finally got to it mid-winter reading time I had a very pleasant surprise!
Yes, she does a great job on "how to grow" most vegetables one would want , but the book is about a system of "no-till" no digging, method of building healthy, deep fertile soil.  

A Winner!
At our gardening fete in May, this is one of the methods of soil preparation that will be demonstrated.

Beginning with sod and working up - sod, heavy layer of wet newspaper, peat moss, compost, peat moss, compost, peat moss, grass clippings, peat moss, chopped leaves, pat moss, topped with wood ashes - with bone meal, blood meal, and maybe some lime sprinkled between the layers -  as you can see uses peat moss between each of the layers. - This is the "Lasagna" of this method - the layering.

What you plant is basic:  what you eat, what grows in your region, etc - it is not limited to Italian cuisine.  

Other than creating a very easy way to build soil, this book also take you through various plant selections, is filled with information on growing each of them,  and  various ways of applying this method.

Patricia Lanza is an experienced Gardener, Chef, Inn keeper,radio show host - her experience has enriched mine. 
"Lasagna Gardening"  Rodale Gardening Books, ISBN# 0-87596-962-3 in paperback

This from Claudia Butler and Dylan Wallace - the "bullet" points for their workshop.Lasagna Gardening Basics Workshop May 9th, 2009“One year I was so busy that I didn’t have the garden tilled at allI plied it high with the contents of all the compost piles, several bales of peat moss, and lots of aged barn litter.  I bought plants, plunked them in holes, and gave them a rough mulch of grass clippings each time I mowed.”

·      Based on commonsense approach w/ readily available natural materials

·      Saves work, energy, time and money.

·      After the initial installation you simply mulch each spring-no tilling or digging required!

·      Layers keep garden bed cool and damp, requiring less watering

·      Recycles household wastes on site into fertilizer and mulch & keeps it out of the landfills.

  • Chemical free, healthy for your family and the environment.

* Planting Basics:

·      Soil Test; ask for “organic” recommendations.

·      “Charge” existing soil with water, amend to adjust pH if needed

·      Smother grass & weeds with thick pads of black & white News Paper or clean Cardboard, making sure to over lap edges by 3-4 inches

·      Next add 2-3 inches of peat or pine duff, for paths add wood chips instead.

·      Then spread 4-8 inch layer of organic mulch.

·      Repeat peat/mulch layers until 18+ inches.

  • Each bed will be different depending on your materials.

* “Cooking” the Bed; reduces height & creates a loose, crumbly soil quickly.

·      Use 4X as much brown (carbon) material such as peat moss, hay, straw,  & chopped leaves, small twigs-as you do green (high-nitrogen) materials such as kitchen scraps, and fresh manure.  ** Use a compost thermometer to check that the temperature of the beds reach 150F when using fresh manure.

·      Apply material in 4-6 inch layers while at the same time sprinkling organic soil amendments such as wood ash (clean), sea weed (washed), oyster shells (crushed), bone meal, as well as lime or sulfur to adjust pH.

·      Be sure to check all the products you purchase have an OMRI (Organic Materials Review) seal on the packaging to be sure it is completely “organic”.

·      When the bed is18-24 inches high, cover with a dark material such as plastic, or cover with a thick layer of old straw that is weed seed free.

·      With the right amount of sun, moisture and temperature the bed will break down into beautiful soil in 6-8 weeks, with the help of billions of living organisms in the soil.

Lead by Dylan Wallace & Claudia Butler

NOFA Accredited Organic Land Care Professionals

Nantucket Native, specializing in Edible and Medicinal Plants





*      OMRI web site has current products lists and publications,

     *   NOFA information & handbook, 

Container Gardening

If you have a sunny space for a pot on your patio,deck, windowbox, you have room enought to grow summer veggies.  For some varieties it is best to choose compact varieties, expect to train vining crops like bean, pea, squash on supports.

Containers: Large - from 18 to 24 inches wide and 12-16 inches deep will keep roots from drying out quickly and give them room to grow.  Plastic, terracotta, wood - with drainage holes.

Potting Soil: I use a commercial mix that includes pine bark and is not too fine - there are organic potting soils but I don't have experience with them yet.

Fertilizers:  aged chicken manure 3 parts potting soil to one part chicken. I would also add 1/2 cup of bone meal in a 24 inch pot - less for smaller.  The liquid organic fertilizers are good - especially if you are noticing deficiencies - yellow leafs, yellow margins on your leafs - I use fish based products  and foliar feed as well - spray or pour over leafs - Neptunes Harvest claims it repels deer..  Sunset Magazine has great advice on everything - go to this site for Best Crops for Pots - and hundreds of other ideas - do remember it is a West Coast Magazine, so the weather patterns are different - it's generally warmer year round.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Organic Gardening magazine

The Rodale people who publish this wonderful magazine have just sent me a whole box of their current issue to hand out at our Gardening Fete May 9 - is that great or what?

I do encourage you to go to their site frequently as everything you ever wanted to know is within their archives.

Happy learning!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Risky food

You can look on any number of websites for these lists,  I've tried to limit them to things that grow well on Nantucket.  I encourage you to look at these other sites for information on fruits and other foods so you can make sound decisions when shopping. 

 These are also the foods you might most want to plant in your own garden  - at least you will know what you are eating.

These are foods that are grown with sizable quantities of pesticides, herbicides, they are often "GM" foods (genetically modified).  The soils are usually laden with non organic fertilizers - I also have issues with the labor practices and health of laborers working with so many chemicals.

Bell Peppers
Red Raspberries

Apples can be a difficult crop on Nantucket - "Cedar-Apple Rust"  is a fungus transmitted from Cedar trees to Apple trees,  an  Apple tree should not be planted within 500 yards of a Cedar tree - good luck on Nantucket!  
You might consider "Espalier" trees - flat trees grown against a wall, fence, small so you can easily apply an organic fungicide

Pears do well here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Little Stuff

You shouldn't walk on the soil in your garden once it is prepared.  You can track in new diseases, you compact the soil.  Create workable beds that you can reach from all sides, lay some sort of pathway between them.  Lumber, Stone, Gravel, Landscape cloth, Mulch.

When you plant, don't press the soil around the plant/seedling - it can create air pockets, wait until you are finished planting, then "water" in so all the soil particles settle around the roots of your plant.

Critical when transplanting plants : that they go in no deeper than the level that they are now living.  If they are too deep, soil will cover stem, trunk, and rot the stem.  too high and they could dry out.  The only plant capable of adjusting itself in soil so it is at the proper depth is a true Lily - and I think that is truly awe some.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Some basic gardening terms

Soil - is what the good earth has given us to grow in.  Sandy, Clay, Loam, combinations of the same.

Soil amendments - are not necessarily fertilizers, but organic substances we incorporate into soil to adjust it to our crops needs, and to make a better soil. Compost, leaf mold, peat moss are the usual amendments - organic products that will continue to break down, add air to soil, act as sponges to hold water and nutrients.

Fertilizers - plant need basic nutrients to thrive.  The "major" nutrients are NPK - Nitrogen, Phosphors, Potassium - minor nutrients are also necessary. A plant will not survive with out sufficient quantities and proportions of Major nutrients.

Organic fertilizers -  are fertilizers derived from plants and animals.  Chemical fertilizers are derived through chemical processes.

Certified Organic - is a means of producing food, plants and animals that follow strict codes established by our governments.  We now have a national organic code that one must qualify to be certified.  Previously we had various states codes eg: Oregon Tilth, California Organic.  Most home gardeners ought not tie themselves up with certification. Practice organic methods, use organic products for healthy soils and healthy food, but certification is complicated, expensive and requires a lot of time.

Cover crops -  a crop one can plant to hold nutrients in the soil when a crop is not growing, or to hold soils over winter to protect from erosion and nutrient loss.  Good to turn the cover crop into the soil early in season so it becomes compost.

Frost dates - last date to expect frost in spring,  first date to expect frost in Fall.  Frost will freeze your plants, and kill them.  You can protect crops from frost by placing blankets and various crop covers when you suspect a frost is due.

Heavy Freeze - this is a crop killer.

Hardening off - plants raised indoors or in a green house are "tender"  they have not yet formed the tough cells to prevent sunburn, wind damage, light frost damage.  Plants need a protected period when the are placed outdoors, but under some sort of cover.  an unheated cold frame, a plastic hoop, under a table - especially at night.  A week or two will have them ready to move into permanent positions.

Crop covers - usually spun polyester floating blankets "Remay" is a brand name, holds in heat, protects from insects, prey, rain can pass through.  Winter blankets are heavy white fiberfill like blankets and protect plants over winter.  

Shade blankets - fabric woven to lightly shade crops like lettuce durning hot sunny days.

Bolt-  when a cool season crop , like Lettuce, Spinach get to hot, too much sun, they get very tall and start to set seed - "bolt" upwards  unless you want the seed, it is time to put this plant in the compost pile.

Cool season crops -  some plants grow well in the "cool season"  spring and fall, shorter day lenght, cool nights, cooler days  -Lettuce, Spinach, Peas are some of these.  You can manipulate growing conditions to a certain degree to prolong these crops - plant where they will receive more shade, use shade cloths.

Warm season crops - some plants grow best in hotter weather, will not grow in cool weather, they like longer day lengths and warmer nights Tomatoes, Eggplants, Corn, Squash, Sweet Potatoes are some of these.  You can manipulate growing  conditions to encourage some of these - crop covers, dark mulches, clear "cloches", grow in controlled green houses.

What is Organic?  Should I be certified? - Laura Simon
 Sometimes would be organic gardeners are daunted by the  word "certified" that so often precedes "organic" on food labels and in the press. It conjures up visions of endless forms, applications, and government intrusion, but this is true only if you are planning to sell your produce to Whole Foods. There is no certification process for home gardeners. Organic gardening is not about doing paperwork. It's about feeding the soil naturally, so the soil can feed the vegetables and flowers. It's about  banishing chemical fertilizers and poisonous insect sprays from your tool shed and your food. Organic gardening is about taking lessons from Nature. You pass the first time you bite into a sun-ripened, juicy tomato or a just-picked crunchy salad and know that you are eating pure, delicious food with no toxic seasonings. Good health. That's all the  certification you need.

Soils:  for now please go to my other blog - thegardens-nantucket - ( click at top of page) look in March for the soils blog - always being added to.