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TowerPower

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Imagine...what if we all did this?

Imagine...what if we all did this?

At a gathering in 2010, two elderly farmers in bib overalls were presenting their work to create a food hub that distributed food to the local elementary schools. They talked about the challenges of having enough produce throughout the school year for the schools and competing with companies that shipped cheap food in from out of state. They also talked about growing up when everyone farmed iwth a horse and all of the food was local and organic. It's amazing what people can do when they decide they want something and are willing to work together for it. 

Denmark to become 100% organic country!

"Denmark is the most developed country in the world when it comes to organic products and their trade with the world but that’s not what the Danish government is settling with. The government has raised a whooping 53 million euros in 2015 in an effort to turn the country into an organic country. This is probably the most ambitious plan of the century but considering the fact that Denmark has already proved it’s love for organic food, this seems to be achievable."

"Denmark is also way ahead of other countries in terms of producing organic food. The country’s national organic brand will be celebrating 25 years in business, which makes it one of the oldest organic brand in the world. As a result, the organic exports have increased by a whooping 200% since 2007."

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Double the Growing Power

Double the Growing Power

We wanted to highlight one of our Garden Tower growers, Bill Land. Bill has been gardening and working b2ap3_thumbnail_Bill-Land-setup.jpgtoward an abundant world for most of his life. Bill worked in planning and zoning for many years and has been involved in projects that promote community-building in Illinois and Indiana. Throughout that time, Bill has gardened. He has been gardening with the Garden Tower since almost the inception of the Garden Tower Project. This year he set up his towers a bit differently. We wanted to share with you what he did, incase you are interested in trying it next time you plant your Garden Tower. 


The first thing to note, is that Bill doubled up each of the pockets with lacinato kale, romaine lettuce, and rainbow chard. In the spring, he alternated these three types of plants in diagonal rows. In the top ring of each tower, there are three Bloody Butcher tomatoes, three basil, and two bush beans. This means he had 95-100 plants in the Garden Tower at any given point (remember, you can rotate out plants and add new ones throughout the season). The plants are getting the support they need in the soil, because rich, complex nutrients are available right at the root zone! This is one of the great secrets for healthy, nutritious fruits, flowers, and veggies. b2ap3_thumbnail_First-Harvest.jpg

For amendments, Bill added Dr. Earth and a goat/horse manure mix were added to one tower. The other tower had: Dr. Earth, manure mix, and azomite. He also experimented with putting copper and other metals near the tower to attract a beneficial electrical charge--encouraging plant growth.

 

These two spring towers were planted the on May 3, 2015. The first harvest was on day 26—and continued to go strong throughout the summer despite copious amounts of rain.

If you are interested in sharing your story with the Garden Tower as a feature, contact us!

 

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GMO-Free: or IS it?

GMO-Free: or IS it?

The debate around genetically modified organisms is intense this year as labeling laws and bans and bans on bans are taken up. GMO technology has become pervasive in our world; and its impact on our food supply gets most of the attention. Is your food safe or isn’t it?

Whether you believe GMOs are dangerous or not, the majority of people agree we should have an option to know whether the food we buy contains them. And this is where GMOs get even more confusing. Many companies voluntarily label their foods GMO-free. Others don’t. 

There is also the belief that if you buy organic, your food is also GMO free. This was called into question by Henry I. Miller and Drew L. Kershen in a July 8 opinion piece for Forbes magazine. The key passage is includes this quote from USDA officials:

“As USDA officials have said repeatedly: “Organic certification is process based. That is, certifying agents attest to the ability of organic operations to follow a set of production standards and practices which meet the requirements of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and the [National Organic Program] regulations . . . If all aspects of the organic production or handling process were followed correctly, then the presence of detectable residue from a genetically modified organism alone does not constitute a violation of this regulation” [emphasis added]. 

This language is probably meant to protect the investment farmers have made in certifying organic and the value of organic as a label. It also means that due to genetic drift or other means, organic food may have GMO “residue” in it.

Miller and Kershen go on to point out the issues with certification and accountability with organic certification programs. Among their points, they report that there are only two conditions under which organic produce can be tested: 1, if the farmer is suspected of intentionally violating organic standards; 2, 5% of the operations certifiers work with are tested annually.

The authors' bottom line is that eating organically doesn't guarantee your food is GMO free. They seem to miss the point that farmers choose not to use materials like synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that will compromise their certification. This means the food is not sprayed with synthetic toxins and that natural, organic substances are used.  In addition, growers are becoming savvy to dealing with genetic drift by using measures like planting corn earlier than GMO corn is planted so that pollination times are staggered.

Does this mean throw out the value of eating organically? By no means! Becoming more aware about the concerns surrounding food safety and helps us understand why we want to buy and eat certain foods—or turn more towards growing our own.

 

Resources:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/thehartmangroup/2015/07/01/gmos-symbolic-for-whats-wrong-with-americas-food-system/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/henrymiller/2015/07/08/pragmatism-fanaticism-and-organic-agriculture/

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/06/08/fears-not-facts-support-gmo-free-food/

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Harvest and Seed Saving Tips for a Fun Fall!

Harvest and Seed Saving Tips for a Fun Fall!

 Welcome August and the bounty of the summer garden! This is a wonderful time of year to share some of your prize veggies with your friends and brag a bit about your growing skills in the garden (pun intended). We know how to enjoy our harvest, but we often miss a secondary harvest that will reap many rewards for you—saving seeds! Even if you didn’t garden this year, you can save seeds from the foods you eat.

The world of seed saving can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be to get started. Starting out is simple and only requires a few household items, time and experimentation. Here are some of the benefits:

  1. Saving the cost of seed for the next growing cycle
  2. Knowing the source of your seed and its production conditions
  3. Self-reliance and increased confidence
  4. Fascination with the history of seeds!  (Warning, it can become an obsession.)
  5. Breeding your own, localized varieties—and naming them
  6. Refining varieties that are adapted to your local environment b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_1781.jpg

So how do you get started?

1. Gather seeds from foods you’ve grown and foods you like to eat (especially organic foods). ★

       Here are some suggestions for getting started: peppers, squash, tomatoes (note these need to be fermented), beans, peas

2. Treat the seeds: Tomatoes need to be submerged in water for about three days until the gelatinous coating ferments off and the seeds are able to be dried on a paper towel. This is one of the more “science lab” types of seeds to be saved. Most seeds just need to be left to dry out for a few days. Remove any seeds that seem damaged or affected by mold or bacteria. 

3. Label and store. Once the seeds are dry, you can store them away for use in the future. Seeds should be labeled (type, specific variety, date saved, source). They should be stored in cool, dry storage. Some seed savers stick their silica packets from consumer goods in the oven to reactivate them and then put them in the envelopes or tins or jars with the seeds. I re-use envelopes from mailings and store my seeds in tins organized by the next season I’ll start sowing them.

b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_1785_20150823-213857_1.JPGYour seeds are now waiting for their chance to shine in your garden!

 

Resource for further reading and research:

Ashworth, Suzanne. Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners. Seed Savers Exchange, 2002. 

★ Organic foods may have a better possibility of being more true between the vegetable or fruit you eat and the next generation. But not always. Buying from local farmers that use open-pollinated (and even heirloom) vegetable seed is the best option. However, even if you have a hybrid in your seed collection, by continuing to select for the best qualities, you can arrive at something unique and valuable. 

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Fall-ing in Love with your Garden-Again!

Fall-ing in Love with your Garden-Again!

It’s the high heat of summer. Believe it or not, it’s time to get your fall garden under way. July is the month to plan your fall and winter gardens, start seeds or obtain young starts. It's a good idea to use transplants if you live in the colder zones or high heat. If you’re in the heat of zones 9-11, you’ve probably had a slow month in the garden, and now is the time to introduce new things. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_hconw1CC.jpgFirst, evaluate your garden. Take out underperforming plants or those that have finished fruiting and harvesting. Next, look at those plants that will finish in the next month and those that will finish in two months (September/October).  Also identify those plants that might overwinter or that you will let go until they produce seed. Now you will know which areas are opening up for the next round of growth and production. Remember, start seeds or locate where you will obtain transplants now. This is especially true for those in more northern latitudes, as production drops when natural light fades. Alternately, consider giving your indoor garden more light. Full spectrum fluorescent bulbs are the most cost effective. 

Recordkeeping. Make a record of how varieties performed this season and anything that you believe negatively affected your plants. You can start to identify the pattern to garden woes such as: moths, heat, rain, bacterial infection and other problems. Also note varieties that performed exceptionally well. 

 

Seed Stock. Leftover seeds from the spring can get you started. As a general rule small seeds have a harder time surviving from season to season. You may have lower germination rates with tiny seeds. Review your seed stocks and order now. You might also find seeds at a discount at a local greenhouse. You can even buy a little extra to get you started in the late winter/spring. It’s a good idea to have dates on your seeds and keep a supply of them on hand.  b2ap3_thumbnail_Chard_Backlit.jpg

Challenges: keeping them cool and moist! Start your seeds in the shade and keep them moist. Shade cloth can help you regulate temperatures and moisture.  In the heat seedlings can dry out if not carefully attended to. Other challenges can come from pests that enjoy the tender new plants. Again, shade cloth or netting can help deter unwanted attention. 


Once your seedlings are ready—or your transplants purchased—popping them into the right spots is pretty easy. Baby these transplants a little while they adjust in the warm season to their new homes. Give them adequate water and protection from intense light or heat for the first week. Once they adjust, they will provide your garden with fresh life, new beauty, and the next round of interesting things to watch—and eat! 

 

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Eating and the Environment

Eating and the Environment

Please note: nothing in this blog replaces the care of your trusted medical advisor. 

 Our modern world can be stressful. Financial, relationship stresses, sleep/waking cycles, electro-magnetic fields, and environmental toxins all play a part. There is good news. We can change our lifestyle philosophy and habits to embrace healthier options.  Our choices on food are one way of doing that. 

Get the lead out: choosing foods that chelate 

When our son was about eight months old, he tested for higher lead levels. Whether the lead came from an old paint chip or crawling on the floor somewhere else, we don’t know. Each month for a few months his blood tests showed lead.  The levels quickly fell within acceptable limits. Our family learned that foods high in vitamin C will help remove lead from the bloodstream: strawberries, cabbage, broccoli, etc…were high on his list of foods. Since that time I’ve been on the lookout for which foods help us release toxins. 

Besides raw, high vitamin C foods, cilantro tends to pull heavy metals out of the body. Parsley is also our friend. Reportedly it is effective at removing mercury from our bodies. This is especially important in areas where coal-produced electricity affects the water supply. 

 

Pump up the volume: choosing foods that support you

Besides eating foods to detox, our family chooses foods that support health including: 

Sea vegetables. We now prefer those ethically harvested from the Atlantic Ocean and avoid those from the Pacific or the Gulf of Mexico. They are naturally higher in healthy iodine and minerals—which help to protect the thyroid and keep it in balance. Hint: you can throw in a handful with your kimchi. 

Raw, fermented foods. We love homemade kimchi, sauerkraut and gingerbeer. Kombucha, yogurt, kefir and many other foods make a regular appearance in our home. The bacteria used in the fermentation process are beneficial for your digestive system. They start to break down the food making the vitamins and minerals more available to your body. Nothing is as satisfying as dishing out a helping of kimchi made with veggies from your garden! 

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 Mushrooms are another of our favorites—but you must cook them! They supposed to be good for everything from ridding yourself of a cold to fighting cancer. Paul Stamets of Fungi Perfecti has shared research that mushrooms exposed to sunlight for two days store many times the Vitamin D of their counterparts. Apparently this practice is so healthy that even squirrels do it! (Permaculture Activist, #86, November 2012)

There are some other things to consider incorporating into your weekly or yearly diet.

  • Consider including detox regimes. 
  • Stress and relaxation programs help with balancing your hormones (especially cortisol and adrenaline).
  • Water is critical for your health. Of course there are many other options. These are a few to get you started. 

Resources: 

http://www.naturalnews.com/038670_heavy_metals_chelation_foods.html#

Permaculture Activist (now Permaculture Design Magazine) #86, November 2012

Fallon, Sally, Mary G. Enig, PhD. Nourishing Traditions. Washington, DC: New Trends Publishing, Inc., 2001.

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