Friday, May 31, 2013

What is a Hugelkultur?

And how can it help your vegetable growing?

A hugelkuture is a high raised beds filled with organic matter that can include bulky wood, compost, sticks, leaves, sod, brush and more.  The idea is you dig a trench and fill it with organic material and then some so the trench will be full plus a mound above ground. Then you use the dirt you dug up to cover the whole mound. You want the hill to be steep. It is suppose to have sloping sides. That keeps the soil on top from getting compacted because the whole pile will be decomposing and settling as you go.Then you seed a mix of plants to help tie it all together. The growing roots will help hold the loose pile together. Tubers such as potatoes or Jerusalem artichokes are good option for this. Then you can plant it as you would a regular raised bed or you could continue to seed it polyculture style. Polyculture style means keeping all your seeds mixed together and throwing them out in a mumble jumble on the bed. Kids love doing this. 
So why would you do this?

Hugelkutures are great way to keep water in your garden. The trench fills with water when it rains and the decaying organic material holds on to the water like a sponge keeping your seeds and plants watered. It really cuts back on how often you need to water and is great for our dry Texas climate. It is also a great way to compost any large tree branches on your property. A hugelkuture also provides many different micro-climates- this just means, some sides of the bed are shadier, cooler, warmer, or sunnier. This gives your plants lots of good environments to grow. The fun part of polyseeding is that when you mix up a combination of seeds and just throw them on to the bed, different plants will pop up on differnt sides of the hugelkuture depending on what micro-environment the plants prefers.

So what do you think? Are you interested in trying a hugelkulture in your garden?

If you are interested in learning more, you can look up Sepp Holzer's Permaculture Hugelkuture method. He is our go to guy.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Summer Trellis

Malabar Spinach
We had a good question over on our facebook page about what to do with an bare trellis over the Summer.

You have an empty trellis too? Do you want to make a trellis and use it over the Summer?

OK! Let's go.

You can plant our favorite Summer Green climber- Malabar Spinach. Beautiful red vines and tasty greens.

Or look for a climbing variety of Cow Peas. Cow peas, also called Black Eyed Peas, also called Southern Peas, are a great nitrogen fixer for your soil if you want to rest the area before your fall plants go in. Plus, you get black eyed peas out of the deal. Make sure you find the climbing variety if you are looking to use your trellis. Regular cow peas are great too. Dry them and save them for the new year.
My first baby with a Chinese Noodle Bean.

You can also plant Chinese Noodle Beans- which are comically large and add some fun to the garden. These are great in stir fry.

Or you can try melons that you trellis with old pantyhose. 

What is growing on your trellis this Summer? If you have any gardening questions- please feel free to ask here in the comments! That's what I am here for! 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

How to Make Seed Balls

We are making seed balls with Native Butterfly Flower Mix from Native American Seed. We are trying something new this time- using only clay and seeds- no compost. This is somewhat of an experiment because seed balls normally call for compost in the mix to help the plants get started. I am hoping this will work too and some of our seeds will root where they are thrown. As I always say- just try it and see. There are no failures in the garden- only learning experiences. Do you want to make seed balls? Here is my how to:

 1. Dig up clay from your friends organic farm in Elgin while they are out of town. Thanks Aubrey and Perrine!
-Alternately: Dig up clay from your own backyard or buy clay from an art store or pottery supply shop.
2. Break up clay chunks into powdery clay with a hammer.
3. Put the powder in an old cookie tray.
4. Put some native wildflower seeds or organic veggie seeds mix into the tray.
5. Shake them all up together. You can also mix in compost at this stage.
6. Squirt with fine mist of water. You want it just wet enough to stick together but not soaking wet.
7. Shake the tray. A small seed balls will start forming. Rub the clay in between your palms like you are making a playdoh snowman (or something.) Then you can add more clay to the balls. You don't want to put too many seeds in each ball because they will all be sprouting in about that same small area and the plants need room to grow.
8. Let balls dry for a few days.
9. Fun part! Throw them out in an neglected, empty areas around town. Right before or during a rain storm is a great time.
10. Watch them bloom. Feel like the renegade but positive force in the world that you are.

Monday, May 20, 2013


Yay! We planted milkweed a few months ago and today we noticed there were over 20 caterpillars on our two plants! Consider me a butterfly rancher. If you planted milkweed, check your plant! We are all working together to bring back the monarchs. Man, I am embarrassingly excited about this. It's nice to feel like you can do something so small and see you have made a difference for a little creature.

What is a butterfly garden without butterflies? -Roy Rogers

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Backyard Harvest

Earning her title as Dirtiest Kid in the World 2.0. Eating Purple "Green" Beans

I have been writing every month about what to plant when but I haven't been showing you the pay off! Here is a sample of what we are harvesting this weekend. Hope you are enjoying some tasty treats out of your garden as well.

Ruby Red Chard


Butternut Squash

California Golden Pepper


Butternut Squash Blossom

Jerusalem Artichokes

Pansies! We add these to salads for fancy fun.
 How deeply seated in the human heart is the liking for gardens and gardening.-Alexander Smith

Thursday, May 2, 2013


Rental Garden Space
We are currently renting a space in Austin while we fix up our San Antonio urban farm to sell. I love our cozy little downsized home. I can wholeheartedly recommend a smaller house to everyone! I love living in (and cleaning!) a small home.

But I have to admit- the tiny backyard is putting a cramp in our style. We passed our chicken friends on to my brother and our neighbors. (For now) When we relocate for good, I expect it to be on a much larger piece of land with nothing but chickens and veggies as far as the eye can see. Maybe ducks? Maybe bees? Also, renting is different from owning. What does this space mean? Is it ours? Technically, just for now- but why not improve it while we are here? How can you really own a piece of Earth?  On that note: here is my favorite Ted Talk of all time by Ron Finley, an urban gardener in LA. Plus, our landlady is really cool. So here's what we have done with our small spot.

Here is the before shot. Although, by this point, Javi had already gathered logs and made a border. He did this before we unloaded the moving boxes. Priorities, ya'll.
We cleared out all the trash, junky brush, and used found logs to make the border. Then we raked up the leaves to help make the raised beds and brought in compost.
You gotta have a Kersey Olla! All the way from San Antonio and a bean tipi.

Then we planted seeds, put in stepping stones (Our Betsy Gruy Original  Stepping Stone made the trip of course!) and planted transplants. Since we don't have much space, we are also using lots of pots. (Even in the alley way behind the house- Not technically our "space")
Handsome nephew Hank painting in the garden. When you come to our house-we put you to work. Also, we never water the garden. Yeah really never. I should write a post about that...
Here is our garden today. It is lovely and manageable. But I am looking forward to having more space someday soon. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Sowing Seeds: May

Happy May Day! This is my favorite month because I am partial to my birthday. My amazing sister-in-law Arielle made this cake for me last year! She also wrote about our family wilderness foraging adventure if you want to hear about it. I have so many things I want to share with you but I haven't been a very good blogger lately. I did want to check in with you on what you can plant this month!

Here goes:

This is the last chance to try to plant some Lima beans or snap beans. And I mean, like you know, tomorrow. Past that and I think you missed the boat.

But you can start getting your hot hot hot summer plants in:
Summer Greens,
Black Eye Peas (Cow Peas)
Sweet Potato Slips
Winter Squash and

Also, I just learned that the first Saturday in May is Naked Gardening Day. Will you be celebrating?