A few days ago, I received a beautiful delivery from a local farm – 200 sweet onion starts! Needless to say, I was pretty excited.
This year, onions will be the only crop I am really intensively growing over the cold months, while I work hard to finish doing some major clearing and laying out paths and new beds in time for spring and summer.
To save myself time, and because I didn’t have an in-ground bed ready to plant a root crop, I decided to repurpose an old greenhouse that was in disrepair, and turn it into a raised bed.
While the baby onions get their footing, I’m using a couple of old window panes to keep them warm when the temperatures get particularly cold at night.
To protect the onions from our overabundance of frisky squirrels and neighborhood feral cats, I made a cover using poultry wire that will easily keep the dig-happy wildlife at bay.
Onions are one of the easiest crops to grow, especially in the cold months here in the south. If you give them aerated, loose, healthy soil that’s free of stones and debris, they’ll pretty much take care of themselves.
When I got the bed planted, I had plenty left over to tuck a few here-and-there throughout the garden, and I saved the smallest of them to plant in a self-watering container to keep indoors, ensuring that we’ll have fresh onion greens all winter long.
Early this morning, a neighbor put out a message that they had some house plants that were in desperate need of a savior. Some people pick up every stray animal they see, I pick up plants. What can I say, I believe in second chances.
I call them Golden Pothos, but they’re known by several names, including Devil’s Ivy. Whatever they are to you, these two Epipremnum aureum plants had been exposed to several nights of sub-freezing temperatures, but I could tell there was life in them, so I got to work. I hadn’t been at it long when I discovered that one of these plants had been a safe harbor to a family of winged creatures at some point.
I can’t explain it, but when I saw the nest, I wanted to save these plants even more. Plants are living stories, and I knew that these still had tales to tell. Much of them was too damaged by the cold to save, but I cut away all of the dead and dying parts, cleared out the leaf debris (and the nest), and got them ready to be nestled in the office for the winter.
I also salvaged a few stems (pictured above on the right) to root so that I can start another plant from these two.
We’re embarking on something new here at MEG. I want to talk to people with a real life interesting or inspiring story to tell for a series of pieces I’m writing for My Earth Garden. It’s time to counteract all of the pervasive negativity we are bombarded with on a daily basis. This is my way of putting positive, uplifting, and inspiring stories out there for the world to see.
I’m not putting limitations on what the story might be, because I want to hear from people from all walks of life. Inspiration can often be found in the most surprising places, and it’s important that we don’t miss out because we’re not looking in the right direction!
Do you have a real life interesting or inspiring story to share? Want to nominate someone who inspires you? Send me email and tell me about it. You can send your stories and nominations to:
I look forward to hearing from you, and maybe sharing your story with the world!
Seed tape is the OCD gardener’s dream. Not only does it nearly eliminate wasted seeds and thinning, it is an easy way to make sure that your rows are evenly spaced for a more neat and orderly appearance.
If you’re not the obsessive type, seed tape means you don’t have to fumble with those tiny seeds like carrots and radishes. Instead, you just lay out the tape where you want it, cover it with soil, water, and wait.
The problem with seed tape – at least my problem with seed tape – is that it is expensive. A 15-foot strip of carrot seed tape, for example, will cost you around $5 for something you could easily do with a packet of inexpensive seed, and supplies you already have on hand. I briefly discussed how to make your own seed tape in my book I GARDEN: Urban Style, but I wanted to do a quick explainer here about how it’s done.
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Today is the first full day of Spring 2016, so this will be a week of final preparations for the growing season. Here’s what will be happening in the garden:
New Potting Shed
Later this week my new potting shed will be installed, so I am taking advantage of the cooler temperatures today to finish prepping the site for the builders. The area where the shed will sit has been invaded by English Ivy (Hedera helix) and Periwinkle (Vinca minor) for several years, so eradicating them isn’t a quick task, as many of you probably know. Once the ground has been cleared of vines, I will pin down a layer of 6 mil black plastic to ensure that I won’t have to deal with them coming back underneath the building later.
After construction, I will install a solar panel kit on the roof of the potting shed to provide for my minor power needs. Because of this, I am also cutting away part of a row of privet that runs the length of the property line. Eventually the entire row will be removed and replaced with a privacy fence. With that privet removed, the panels will receive a respectable amount of sun daily. I will write in more detail about the solar kit and the installation process in the future.
Gutters will be added to the potting shed to collect rainwater for use in the garden. I will do this myself in order to share the step-by-step process of installing gutters and connecting them to a rainwater harvesting system.
Even a small area of sloped rooftop can provide a substantial amount of water.
Buy Spring Vegetable Starts
I am very happy to have a local friend who owns a small business dedicated to encouraging people to grow their own food and flowers. This week I will ‘buy local’ and get many of my spring and summer edible starts from my friend Nathan Strange of Strange and Co. It is still just a bit too early to put plants out, so these babies will live in the micro greenhouse for a few weeks while they mature. Not to worry, I will still direct sow edibles from seed this year, but due to space constraints I was unable to start indoor plants.
What are you doing in the garden this week?
I am not a fan of folding clothes. That’s why I end up digging through a basket full of clean laundry to find socks before I take on the task of folding the last 4 loads that have accumulated. It isn’t laziness, it’s just not a chore I particularly find pleasure in. Until now.
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To you, this may just be a pile of pine straw, but there is more to it than that.
“The duty of helping one’s self in the highest sense involves the helping of one’s neighbors.” Samuel Smiles
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Kombucha is a delicious, lightly-fermented beverage with proven anti-microbial benefits and naturally occurring probiotics. Thought it’s a trendy drink these days, kombucha has been used for centuries as a tasty health tonic.
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I love chai, but for a long time I couldn’t drink them because every commercially-produced chai tea contains ginger, and I am one of the unlucky few who happen to be allergic to the delicious rhizome. After years of pitiful pouting, I had the idea to deconstruct an ingredient list and thus began my experimentation with homemade chai.
It took a few tries, but after some trial and error (and error, and error…) I came up with a recipe that I think is pretty damn good, and it takes less than 15 minutes.
One big mistake I made early on had to do with the spices I was using. As you probably know, the spices are what makes the chai. If you are using old, outdated crap out of the back of the cabinet, your chai is going to taste like that unwrapped mint you found in the bottom of your granny’s purse when you were four. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Get your butt to a store that carries a good selection of spices, and make sure they aren’t old. Trust your instincts; if you feel like you should ask a manager how old those cinnamon sticks are, just buy them somewhere else. And if you live in the middle of nowhere, you can find inexpensive spices online. I’ve had great service from Penzeys (and they’re not paying me anything to say that).
Michael's Homemade Chai Recipe
- 3 cups water
- 6 black peppercorns
- 4 cardamom pods (green if you can find them)
- 3 pieces of star anise
- 2 small sticks of cinnamon, broken into pieces
- 4 cloves
- 1" piece of ginger, thinly sliced
- 2 Tbs of sugar
- 3 tsp or 3 bags of black tea
- 3 cups milk (I prefer soy, but do what makes you happy)
- In a large pot, bring water to boil. Add the peppercorns, cardamom, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger.
- Boil for 5 minutes and reduce heat to low.
- Add tea and sugar and simmer for 3 minutes.
- Add soy milk. Let simmer for another 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat and strain.
You can either strain your chai right into a mug or do what I do and pour it into a French press
. It’s more convenient and easier to strain that way, plus you can take the pot with you for refills.
The other night while out for dinner with my fiancé, I spotted a soup special on the menu board that intrigued me. The chef had combined chickpeas with tomatoes and basil. Sure, that sounds like a winning combo, but for some reason it had never occurred to me to combine them as a soup. I took this as a challenge.
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