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Companion Planting Improves
Garden Success!

Early in my gardening adventure, I planted tomatoes and cabbage in rows next to each other and watched my tomatoes turn yellow with blight and disease. I had no idea that tomatoes and the Brassica family (cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussel sprouts) pass diseases to each other. What a learning experience. I felt like such a failure…especially after all that work.

As luck would have it, I came across a gardening article in the local paper about companion planting and found out why my plants didn’t thrive. Here are some common vegetables that are not friends:
Corn Tomatoes
Bush beans Onion
Pole Beans Beets/Cabbage/Tomatoes
Cabbage Tomatoes
Celery Carrots
Potatoes Cucumbers
Eggplant Corn/Lettuce/Onions

There is a plethora of information on the web concerning companion planting and often the information is contradictory. The list that I like the best is found here: http://mysquarefootgarden.net/companion-planting/ and it was verified by a friend in Ag Extension. You can download the file and keep it electronically or print out in hard copy.

The list is color coded with red, green and yellow. Red is stop (not friends), Yellow (ok, but not best friends), and green is great (best friends). I use this list with our garden renters to help them plan out ‘friendly gardens’ that will thrive.

Many herbs will deter pests and help their friend veggies to thrive. A great example of an herb/veggie marriage is tomatoes and basil. Most knowledgeable gardeners will plant basil in the same area as their tomatoes, because the herb will confuse the pest with smell and the tomatoes will be more flavorful. Garlic is also a friend of the tomato plant and will help to deter deer and other varmints because the wildlife does not like the smell of garlic. I’m not sure if the garlic will help the flavor of your tomatoes, but you could definitely plant a border with it.

I hope these tips help you to have a more successful garden this year! If you have more questions about companion planting or any gardening topic, send me an email: stoneycreekfarmtennessee@gmail.com

The 3 Most Important Tips for a
Successful Vegetable Garden

You may have heard these tips before, but it never hurts to repeat them…especially when we are just getting started into Gardening Season! Here are the three things that I emphasize every year in our Gardening 101 Class, because you will be able to grow lots of vegetables when you follow these rules:

  1. Proper soil content is a must.
    If you are gardening directly in the soil, then you must do a soil test. Soil tests are easy and will help you amend it with nutrients if it’s lacking. Also, if the soil is too alkaline or too acidic, it will definitely affect your veggie production. Here is the link with instructions on how to do a soil test in TN and where to carry your sample for evaluation. https://extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/PB1061.pdf

    If you are gardening in a new raised bed, it is important to start out with an balanced mixture of soil that will drain well. We use a mixture of 50% composted cow manure and 50% topsoil in our beds. We are careful not to overwater, since there is not a lot of drainage materials in it like sand or vermiculite. Another great mixture is Mel’s mix from the Square Foot Garden Book. The average mixture is approximately 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 compost (different types of compost should be used). Mel’s soil mixture claims that you can’t overwater it (which is the number one issue with beginning gardeners). Of course there are numerous other soil mixtures that you can use and easily research over the internet, but the most important point is nutrient content with a PH around 6.1 – 6.3. Proper PH will allow the nutrients to feed the vegetable plants and thrive.

  2. Planting seed and transplanting plants in your garden must occur at the correct time and temperature.
    The easiest way to find out when to plant certain vegetables is to follow the USDA hardiness map: http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/

    A good rule of thumb is to plant your vegetable garden after the last frost date for your area, which is April 15th for Middle Tennessee. Of course each state and area will have different frost dates…so be sure to look. Some vegetables, like corn and okra, need a warmer soil temperature to germinate, if they are being planted by seed directly into the soil. Seed packets will tell you the proper soil temperature required. Almost any thermometer can be put in the soil to check out the temperature.

  3. Successful gardens must have 8 hours or more of sunlight per day and one inch of water a week.
    Sunlight is important for most vegetable to grow well. Some gardeners have gotten away with only 6 hours of sunlight, but it’s always hit or miss….depending on the particular variety. One inch of rainwater per week is a must for the plants, which roughly equates to a quart mason jar of water in the week. That does not mean to water each plant only once per week with a quart of water…it means that over a week’s period of time, it should receive about a quart. The easiest way to determine how much water it is getting, is to keep a rain gauge and monitor how much rain you are getting and then supplement whenever needed. The most common mistake of beginning gardeners is overwatering their plants!

I hope these tips have been helpful and feel free to contact us with any questions or comments at stoneycreekfarmtennessee@gmail.com

Want to learn about gardening, but don’t know where to start? Our Gardening 101 Class will give you all the tools and resources to begin a garden and be successful. Plus you have the option to buy a 4’x4′ raised bed for only $20 by attending the class.

You will learn about the following topics:
• Planting from seed
• Transplanting plants to your garden
• Overview of raised bed gardening
• Compost and soil mixtures for healthy plants
• Watering methods and rainwater capture
• Temporary Greenhouse production
and companion planting, best web resources and more….

Gardening 101 Class
April 7th, Saturday, 10:00 am – 11:30 am
Cost $35, plus the option of purchasing a 4’x4′ raised bed for only $20

This class is free to anyone renting a garden plot at Stoney Creek Farm for 2018.
To register:




 

Sustainable Christmas

More Meaning and Joy – Less Stress and “Stuff”

While growing up in Humboldt, TN on a small farm we rented from Aunt Joyce and Uncle Brance, Christmas had so much joy and meaning. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we always had food on the table and tons of love. My Mom was the oldest of 11 children, so there were always lots of cousins to enjoy at Holiday gatherings. On Christmas day we visited my grandparents home place with all the aunts, uncles and cousins and received thoughtful gifts…some of them, I still have. Aunt Elaine made me a cross stitched pin cushion, because she knew I liked to sew and I still use that same pin cushion today.

After I graduated from college in 1982, holidays were much more materialistic. I wanted so much “stuff” and the more I bought, the more I “needed”. Then family wants came into play and the cycle continued for years. One day in my forties a lightbulb when on in my head and the realization hit – all that “stuff” was temporary and didn’t have a lot of meaning. The latest gadgets were discarded after 6 months and some gifts didn’t even get used.

The real meaning of the holidays is found in being with family and friends and enjoying our time together. So make your holiday memories count this year and here are some ideas to keep the season significant and worthwhile.

  One Gen Away food distribution
http://www.onegenaway.com

Serve or Give to Others in Need
Giving to people in need is really what Christmas is all about and it gives your children a wonderful example of what generosity is all about. I know of families who have given their Christmas budget to other families who are not as fortunate. We give to OneGenAway, the Nashville Rescue Mission, GraceWorks, Angel Tree, Samaritan’s Purse and as many as our budget will allow. We have sent Christmas boxes to the Military oversees who are keeping our nation safe. We have friends who serve every Holiday at soup kitchens to help our homeless, but receive more blessings than they give. What can you do this Holiday to make it special for those in need?

Angel Tree Donations

Useful Gifts that are Homemade
My friends and family have told me that some of the best presents they receive during the holiday are the basket of homemade goodies from us. I make jams, jellies, canned green beans and tomatoes, and sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls for them to eat over the holiday season. Sometimes, if I’m real industrious, I crochet or knit cotton dishcloths and scrubbies and include those too. The gifts are a piece of our sustainable life and very useful to the recipient. One of my favorite gifts every year is a bag of haystack cookies that our friend Linda gives us…it’s my favorite treat and I even freeze some of them to savor past the holiday.

Make and Decorate Christmas Cookies (or any special recipe) together
When my daughter Allison was little, her older cousin Carey would invite her over to bake and decorate Christmas sugar cookies with her every year in December. She would come home from that afternoon with all these tasty adorable decorated cookies that she could share with others. What a special memory that made for both of them and I’m sure Allison will continue that with her kids someday.

Play Games Together
Get off the video games and turn off the TV! A board or card game is fun and makes memories. Here is a site that has plenty of unique Christmas games to enjoy: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/christmas-party-games/?lp=true
Another fun game is to list the alphabet on a sheet of paper with lines next to each letter and guess holiday words that begin with each letter. Give each person or team 5 minutes to complete it. The winner is the person or team who has the MOST AND BEST answers. You will be surprised by the hilarious answers!

White Elephant Gifts
A white elephant gift exchange[1] or Yankee swap[2] is a party game where white elephant gifts are exchanged during festivities. The goal of a white elephant party is usually to entertain rather than to gain. Each participant supplies one wrapped gift. The gifts are placed in a central location, and participants determine in which order they will take turns selecting them. The first person opens a wrapped gift, and the turn ends. On subsequent turns, each person has the choice to either unwrap a new present or to “steal” another’s. When a person’s gift is stolen, that person can either choose another wrapped gift to open or can steal from another player. To avoid never ending circles, each gift can only be stolen once per turn. The game is over when everyone has a present. Generally, it is recommended to have at least six participants for the gift exchange party. With a larger group, game play may be more protracted. (source Wikipedia)

The white elephant gift should be something that you did not buy or something very inexpensive. An appropriate gift is something that you already have that you don’t want…the crazier, the better. One year I wrapped up a James Dean plastic mug set that I won at another White Elephant Exchange and I received an Ear Wax Candle Kit. The more laughs, the more fun you have!

Drawing Names for Gifts
Why give a gift to everyone in your entire extended family? Drawing names and concentrating on that one person to get them a special, meaningful gift can be a great way to celebrate the holiday. There is a more room in the budget when you only have to buy for one cousin…and not 10 of them.

Christmas Letter instead of a Card
I started sending a Christmas Letter each year instead of cards, so we could share information and updates about the family to extended members and friends who we don’t see on a weekly or monthly basis. A one page letter is sufficient, since most people won’t read more than that. I either use Christmas bordered paper or I create a letter and print it myself. It gives a personal touch and you can include photos of the kids and fur babies.

Christmas/Holiday Movies
Every year we watch several of our favorite Christmas movies together like ‘Its a Wonderful Life’, ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, ‘Christmas Vacation” …to name a few. Of course the Hallmark Channel has wonderful (sappy) movies that get you in the Christmas Spirit too. Watching as a family or in a group of friends, making popcorn and enjoying more home made goodies makes our holidays very memorable.

We hope you have a wonderful Christmas, Happy New Year, and enjoy a Sustainable Holiday that emphasizes memories and joy…the real Spirit of Christmas!
Leigh and Olin

 

 

 

 

    What I’ve learned from Bees

    Michigan State University has an interesting article that states, “It has often been said that bees are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat.”  Bees are the main insect pollinators for vegetables and crops.  European honey bees are the largest managed pollinators, but their are hundreds of other species of solitary bees that are extremely important to pollinating our world.

    As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, we use a Solitary Leaf Cutter Bee to help pollinate our U-pick Summer Garden and Rental Plots, but this year with the help of Cathi Clarke (who did ALL the work), we added two honey bee hives to the farm.

    Cathi Clarke, Stoney Creek Farm Beekeeper

     Our two honey bee hives have taught us invaluable Life Lessons that we didn’t expect to Learn!  Here are some of those lessons:

    1. Ego is not important
      Everybody in the hive knows their job and they do it to the best of their ability for the good of the hive.  Yes, there is a ‘Queen Bee’, but she has a purpose, just like the rest of the hive.  So don’t let jealously about position or title in an organization make you discontent or unhappy…do your job to the best of your ability by making a difference in the world around you.
    2. Working together is essential
      A dissatisfied or weak bee colony will swarm (mutiny) from the hive or collapse (die).  So it is important for all the bees to support the hive, keep out the predators, and set up the colony for future success.
    3. Plan for the Future (to be sustainable)
      Since this is the first year of our two bee hives, Cathi is leaving the honey flow in the hives to support the bees for the coming winter.  Bees need to survive the winter, so food is essential.  She may have to supplement their food supply, if that amount of honey is not enough.  By leaving the honey flow, we will have stronger and more vigorous hives next year…THEN we can take a good bit of honey after the hive can sustain itself!
    4. Defend your family against outside forces
      Predators are notorious for killing honey bee hives.  Mites, beetles and wax moths are only a few of the evil forces that can kill the hive.  Bees are great at defending the hive against predators, but sometimes bee keepers have to help keep the hive safe as the number of predators grow.  Just like bees, sometimes we have to enlist help of others to keep our family safe and protected…so don’t hesitate to get the help you need.
    5. ‘Bee’ the best you can, for the time you are on Earth
      Depending on the role of the bee, some have lifecycles of only 3-4 weeks.  During that time, the worker bees are literally working as hard as they can to gather as much pollen for the hive as possible.  Their time on earth is limited and very important for the health of the hive and producing new replacement workers.  Wouldn’t it be great if we all looked at our lives with that kind of urgent purpose?

      So in conclusion, if we all lived our lives with the simplicity of purpose that bees use in their family (hive), we could improve our world …one day at a time.

    To read more of the fascinating Michigan State article (cited above), simply click this link    http://www.canr.msu.edu/nativeplants/pollination/

    Olin and Leigh, Stoney Creek Farm

      The Dirt Rich Family Bundle
      makes a Great Holiday Gift!

      Want to support local agriculture and teach families about sustainable living this Holiday Season?  You can do both with the Dirt Rich Family Bundle.  The Bundle contains the following author signed copy books within a red mesh produce bag complete with sparkling bow:

      One “Dirt Rich – How to Experience more Joy and Less Stress Through Sustainable Farm Living” Book
      Two “Dirt Rich Kids Coloring and Activity Books”
      Two farm box crayons

      The bundle is only $25 plus $5 shipping anywhere within the continental US.

      To order your Dirt Rich Family Bundles click the link below:
      Dirt Rich Family Bundle