Posts Tagged ‘garden’

Composter Dos and Don’ts

Our swanky new composter

Image by binarydreams via Flickr

Our clients, friends and family often ask us, what can I put in my composter? Well here’s a quick list to help you out, starting with what you can put in it:

  • Organic materials:
    • for sure: this includes all types of food and drink, tea bags, coffee filters, flowers and plants (leaves, grass clippings)
    • with caution: corn cobs, pine needles (take a long time to decompose), milk (in small amounts), soap scraps (Ivory and Dove only)
    • avoid: raw meat scraps, bones and carnivore manure (unless you can heat your composter up to a very high temperature and cook out any bacteria)
  • Paper materials:
    • Paper napkins/towels, post-it notes, shredded newspaper , kleenex tissues, unpaid bills (this is my favourite!), movie tickets stubs, shredded cereal boxes, grocery receipts and greeting card envelopes.  Remember to shred paper/cardboard before adding to your composter
  • Other Miscellaneous:
    • Who knew? Q-tips (cotton swabs: cardboard, not plastic sticks), old leather gardening gloves. straw, leather wallets, lint from clothes dryer, fingernail and toenail clippings, wooden toothpicks, pencil shavings, wool socks, leather watch bands, vacuum cleaner bag contents, dead bees and flies and urine (it’s sterile, really)
  • Do compost as often or as seldom as you like
  • Do put your composter in the sun for at least part of the day (the sun helps cook down what’s inside)
  • Do roll your composter to help mix the contents if you can
  • Don’t compost only organic materials or only paper materials.  A good compost includes a good mix of both.

We use two large recycled olive barrels for our composters.  They’re light weight and easy to roll (mix) and blend into our foliage.  But if you’re looking for a more commerical style composter we’re happy to tell you we’re in the process of sourcing a composter supplier.  Check our site soon for details on which composters you can choose from. 

If you live in Toronto we invite you take the Free Me From the Green Bin Challenge where you try to compost everything for a full month thereby eliminating the need for your green bin.  Your garbage man will thank you.

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

www.twitter.com/homeorganicfarm
www.facebook.com/athomeorganicfarms
www.athomeorganicfarms.com

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6 Reasons to Grow your Own Food

I just read a fantastic post about why you should grow your own food.

Even with all the compelling reasons, many of us are victim to the wonderful world of convenience, and it’s sometimes hard to take the time (or find the time) to garden your own veggies (even if they are fresher, more local and more organic than anything you can buy).

We understand that sometimes you need a little push, or a helping hand and we’d like to be both the push and the hand for you.

At Home Organic Farms operates in Toronto and will build, install and maintain an organic vegetable garden for you, right in your backyard.  Now there is no excuse not to get growing yourself.  Contact us to learn more.

Want to help inspire someone else? Share your story with us.

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

www.twitter.com/homeorganicfarm
www.facebook.com/athomeorganicfarms
www.athomeorganicfarms.com

Fooling Mother Nature: Winter Edition

Fooling Mother Nature in the winter is not as hard as it sounds.  Most cold tolerant plants enjoy the cooler months; it’s the wind they don’t like.

You need a cold frame filled with cold tolerant plants like Mache, carrots and arugula.  A cold frame is a box with hinged covers so that the plants are protected from the wind.  The cover is usually made of glass, or plastic, or something clear and non-porous.  It’s not the cold that harms or kills the plants it’s the wind chill.  Snow adds extra insulation so that’s not a problem either. 

 I am in Toronto, Ontario (Zone 5) so to ensure that I have plants in the winter to harvest I make sure to sow my seeds in early-mid October so that there is sufficient time for the plants to grow before winter.  Plants take longer to grow in the cold weather so be sure to allow yourself some extra time.  Also, be sure to go lighter when you water because water evaporates and drains slower in the cooler temperatures. 

AHOF has been harvesting plants throughout the winter for a few years now and can provide the cold frames for you.  We also have greenhouses available which is a nice alternative to cold frames.  Please contact us for more details. 

Have any winter gardening tips you’d like to share? Let us know!

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

www.twitter.com/homeorganicfarm
www.facebook.com/athomeorganicfarms
www.athomeorganicfarms.com

Fooling Mother Nature: Summer Edition

I have a company that builds and maintains organic vegetable gardens for home owners, businesses, schools… everyone!  So it makes sense that I employ a few tricks to grow food faster or help extend the growing season both earlier and longer.

Like knowing which plants to plant when. 

To keep it simple, let’s split the Torontonian growing season in to two categories: Summer and Not-summer.  Or more specifically, hot and not-so-hot. 

Let’s use hot peppers as an example of a summer vegetable.  Peppers hate cold wet weather and frost often has a detrimental effect on them.  So how can you get them producing earlier in the season?

  1. For starts you must get a head start by purchasing seedlings or starting them on a sunny window on your own.
  2. Second you need to make sure they are in a warm/hot environment early on in the season when the temperature outside isn’t in the 30’s.  A simply way to do this is to grab a plastic garbage bag and cover the plant ensuring that there is soil overtop of the opening to guard against wind.  Now you have created a greenhouse effect so that you can have warmer temperatures in the bag and the plant will grow and produce faster. 

A note about pollination, I suggest that you remove the bag during the warmest point of the day to allow bees to pollinate the plant or you have to do it yourself. 

  1. Another neat trick is to put a jug of water inside the bag with the plant.  The water will warm up and slowly cool down overnight allowing you to keep warmer temperatures over night too.

 

Now for the not-summer plants; most greens go to seed (bolt) when the warm temperatures come in. 

  1. You need to go out of your way to make sure you search out heat loving greens during the summer to make sure you have a supply all year.
  2. Alternatively, you can setup some shade (if you already don’t have any) over top.  I like to grow ground cherries in the summer so I usually grow greens underneath the plant as there is a nice shade canopy that the plant grows into. 

A note about bolting plants.  Usually the greens turn bitter when the hot weather comes in, but if you enjoy bitter greens then make sure you clip off the flowers when they start to grow.  The plant will continue to yield leaves for a while longer.

Have any tips or tricks that have worked for you? Please share them along. 

Stay tuned for our Winter Edition of Fooling Mother Nature next week.

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

www.twitter.com/homeorganicfarm
www.facebook.com/athomeorganicfarms
www.athomeorganicfarms.com

How Big Should My Vegetable Garden Be?

The best answer is often the simplest one.  How ever much you want.  The aim of the vegetable garden is to produce food.  Once that goal is attained what is left over is up to you and you have 3 choices – consume it, preserve it or give it away.

But as a general rule of thumb, one 4’ x 8’ raised bed supplements 2 adults nicely. If you have a highly vegetarian diet or enjoy more food than the average Joe, go for one garden per person.

cedar summer garden

Summer Garden

If you find you have a shortage of fresh veggies to harvest, you can always plant more, but what happens if you have too many tomatoes for example.  We may be creatures of habit, but we often enjoy variety in our diet.  If you have already preserved as many tomatoes as you can (frozen tomato sauce is my favourite) then give some away.  Who would not want to be the recipient of free home grown tomatoes?!?!

For me, vegetable gardening is very much like tattoos.  Once you start it’s hard to stop.  But sometimes getting started is the hardest part. If you recently started a garden please share your inspiration.  If you’re thinking about it but haven’t gotten around to it yet, why not??

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

www.twitter.com/homeorganicfarm
www.facebook.com/athomeorganicfarms
www.athomeorganicfarms.com

What’s in Your Salad?

Organic Vegetables TorontoToday you may have gone to the grocery store and bought some produce.  Perhaps you came home and made a delicious meal with organic vegetables you bought.  Congrats! You’re already one step ahead of the many Torontonians that think take-out or restaurants are a major food group.

We didn’t get a chance to visit the grocery store today.  Lucky for us, our backyard garden is already producing, and we picked our Arugula fresh from our cold frame.

We also have organic carrots and merlot lettuce ready and are seeing the first signs of our fall garlic planting come up. 

Do you have a spring crop yet? Interested in one? 
From one self-proclaimed foodie to another, nothing beats local, organic produce that you’ve grown yourself!

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic
www.twitter.com/homeorganicfarm
www.facebook.com/athomeorganicfarms
www.athomeorganicfarms.com

Why Aren’t We Growing Our Own Food?

Honestly, why not?  Why do you not grow your own food?  It’s December 13th and I have a cold frame full of carrots, arugula, Merlot lettuce and Mache.  I have some seeds that I sowed a couple of weeks ago that are waiting for things to warm up a little so they can germinate and I can get an early spring crop for my family.  My daughter should be starting solids around that time so I can introduce her to, right from the first few bites, 100% organically home grown food.  How awesome is that!

In almost every country in the world people grow their own food and have been for hundreds if not thousands of years.  The survival of the human race has depended on (among other things) our ability to feed ourselves.  Nowadays however, the ability to feed ourselves seems to depend on our ability to drive to the closest grocery store or pick up the phone for delivery.  Please don’t get me started on absurdity of “finger cooking”.

That’s the evolution of the food supply system I suppose.  I think it’s time for a collective hanging of our heads in shame.

Don’t get me wrong I love that I get to have fresh vegetables all year round, even if organic strawberries cost $6.99 a box, but we need to break our absolute dependence on the food supply system when it’s simply not necessary, like the summer months.  We in the GTA are so spoiled by the 24 hour a day, 365 day a year grocery stores that the idea of rationing produce to last through the winter is laughable. 

Think about it for a minute.  Would you be able to plan your garden so that you grew enough fresh vegetables to feed your family? Maybe.  What about planning your garden, tending to it all year long and consuming only what you can grow? I doubt it.  I am a very accomplished cook and gardener and even I’m having trouble with the concept.  I plan to write more about this topic in the future and, if I can, convince my wife to eat vegetables exclusively from the garden. 

Really folks, there are so many reasons to grow your own food that it’s staggering and I intend on discussing some of them in turn.  Here are a few words to get you thinking about it: genetic, modified, pesticide and herbicide.  I don’t have any of those in my backyard.

I am here to help in what ever way I can in order to get more people growing and eating food from their ownbackyard.

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic
www.twitter.com/homeorganicfarm
www.facebook.com/athomeorganicfarms
www.athomeorganicfarms.com

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