Soil Disease – Rotate Your Veg!

It is widely accepted that moving members of the nightshade family through your garden and following crop rotation is a must.  Typically, it is recommended that tomatoes (and other nightshades like potatoes or eggplant) should only be planted every sixth growing cycle – that’s about every year and a half if you grow intensively. With that I received an email recently from an urban gardener planting in her parking strip.  She has been planting tomatoes in the same spot for 3 years and just this year encountered a problem. “We converted our planting strip into a vegetable garden with the neighbor and have in the past had great success with fruit and veggies.  Last year our tomato crop got a disease where they would come in and the tops would turn brown.  We were told it was a soil issue and we’d have to replace all the soil before planting … Continue reading

Tomato Blight

This is an excellent account from a farmer about the problems with Tomato Blight and commercial agriculture.  A must read.  It speaks to the spread of disease, but like we have witnessed the spread of health crisis in the past.  The question is – do we ban all shipment of plants and thrwat commercial agriculture?  Do we set up subsidies for farmers at risk of losing a big percentage of their annual income?  What is the solution to this?  Email me here, if you have some thoughts –      

Organic Tomatoes

UC Davis, those smarties down in California, just released a 10-year study comparing the “Influence of Organic and Conventional Crop Management Practices on the Content of Flavonoids in Tomatoes”.  Flavonoids are “plant secondary metabolites” and are commonly known for their antioxidant qualities. They also help the plant produce pigment which in turn attracts polliantors. You know, all the good stuff. You can read the study here, but in essence organic tomatoes contain higher levels of minerals.  The study compared conventionally grown fruits to those grown on organic plots over the course of 10 (!) years, and noted the nutritent content.  If you take the time to read, you will note that they attribute this to increased amounts of organic matter in the soil, and the decreased need to add manures (ie fertilizer) to the gardens. This is exactly what I encourage urban gardeners to do at home – practice crop … Continue reading

How & Why to Prune Tomatoes

Come summertime, when the air is hot and the sun is high, everyone comes down with a little case of tomato-fever. I’m not sure how this plant entered such epochal proportions as to measure the success of a home gardener, but it has. It seems if you can grow a good tomato, you’ll be awarded with some stamp-of-approval from the tomato gods. With that, here is one more demystified trick for you to consider. TOMATO SUCKERS are the small sets of leaves that grow between the main stem, and a leafy branch of tomato plants. These suckers, if left to grow, will be one more flowering & fruiting stem for the plant. These additional fruits will ultimately compete for nutrients from the plant, and over time lessen the chances of all fruit coming to delicious maturity. Our NW season, in particular, can not support such prolific tomato production. Our summers … Continue reading

Urban Garden Share in the Toronto Star

Got a little shout out from CANADA today! Super cool, I thought.  Not only because it’s my first piece of international press , but because it’s a great article that speaks to both the idea of community and people getting in touch with their food. I’m starting to sound like a REAL. CHEESEBALL. when I talk about connecting people with their food, but I’m slowly realizing just how important it is. Both to me, personally, and to this little thing we call mother earth.  You can also read here about how the Obama administration is turning it’s eye to global agriculture recently.  A nice short eye-opener to keep you abreast on the (slow) work being done to change policy.(even if it refers to GMOs as part of the solution – you know how I feel about that.)

June & July in the Garden

By now your gardens should be planted and sprouting and growing!  Summer crops got planted throughout May and June is now a month where all of us can take a big deep breathe and relax a bit as we wait for crops to come in.  This also gives us time to plan for fall – another big time of year for gardeners.  Tree fruit and edible perennials (artichoke, mustard plants, tea plants, etc) can be planted this fall – the last window to plant before spring. July is the month notoriously dedicated to tomato staking and supports. I’m not a fan of tomato cages, but instead I build a support system of bamboo in my tomato beds.  It’s cheap and uber-efficient. These are also very important months for watering.  Whilst we typically consider July & August to be the hottest months (and they are!), days are actually getting shorter and … Continue reading

Are GMO’s Organic?

The GMO debate is a big one. BIG. And I’m not sure what all the answers are (yet), so on this BIG debate I’m going with my gut and urging my politicians, peers, colleagues, family – anyone who will listen – to have a voice in the BIG debate that will change the future of our food supply.  Monsanto owns a lot of this worlds seed.  Gates Foundation does work in Africa in support of GMOs, because they think it’s going to solve the hunger crisis. I don’t know if these things are ultimately good or bad, but I don’t think that creating plants that are immune to bugs seems wise, nor do I think that feeding a world that is overpopulated is the answer to th global food shortage.  What I do know, however, is that I don’t want people playing with the genetics of anything I take into … Continue reading

Urban Pantry, The Cookbook

So, here is the short story – I am writing a cookbook! Here is the long story – it’s not out until May 2010. Urban Pantry will be a modern, clean, hip, inviting, whiff of elegance all wrapped up in one little book about how to cook economically and eco-fabulously at home. This is not your grandmother’s musty old pantry! This is an efficient, thrifty, organized, seasonal storage space or cupboard—a home cook’s go-to place for basic food prep and sustainable meals.  I will have recipes on preserving, using whole grains, and whipping up quick meals from your well stocked urban pantry. Got any requests?  Send them my way! I’m off to write and brainstorm in the gorgeous Methow Valley. Stops at Blue Bird Grain Farm and Sunny Pines goat dairy are in order.  I’ll be cookin’ and writing, writing and cookin’.  Always on the gogo, cookin’ up something tasty! … Continue reading

What to Grow in Your Urban Garden NOW, May

May is suuuuuuuch a busy month in the garden.  So busy, in fact, that I barely have time to write this and you likely have no time to read it.  So, a few bullet points for us urbanites on the gogo………… – Do not set tomato plants out until Memorial Day weekend at earliest (and do feel free to send me a bday gift this same weekend.  I like champagne & anything blue.) – Continue to sow lettuces this month – just a few seeds at a time.  And by “a few”, I mean four or five.  That’s four or five heading lettuce seed (not loose leaf).  Wait three weeks and repeat. – Potatoes go in this month! Fun! I only reco’ potatoes if you have a lot of space and an entire bed (at least 3’x2′) that you can dedicate them to. Otherwise, buy at the farmers market from … Continue reading