Organic Gardening

HugelKulture

I was fortunate to attend the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (TOFGA) conference in Austin in early February. Growers and meat producers from all over the state gathered to share their tips and strategies for organic and sustainable agriculture. I attended a session given by Arturo Arrendondo who spoke about various methods to conserve water and resources in your growing practices. HugelKulture is a method of gardening originally practiced in Germany.  

The following is a quote from Arturo:

“A HugelKulture is a type of raised bed garden that allows you to use organic materials that are too big to go into the compost pile. Over a 3 to 5 year time period the materials in the bed decompose, and provide a slow release of nutrients for the garden plants. Because of its three-dimensionality, a HugelKulture raised bed garden combines the multiple functions of rainwater harvesting, catchment, and irrigation using no cistern, pumps, or PVC pipes. Done properly, there may be no need to water all summer!”

I decided to build a HugelKulture in an 8’ by 4’ space in my garden to see how well it works. The way to design a HugelKulture is to first lay out the size of garden you want to install. Then you procure some the largest logs you can handle and that will fit in the space you are working with. My neighbors had a large tree fall down, so they allowed me to cut up some of the logs to use for my base. I purchased concrete blocks to enclose the bed. However, I don’t think Arturo uses anything to enclose his beds. I then placed the logs on the inside of the bed to a depth of about 2’. On top of that I worked in partially finished compost and leaves. Then on top of that I put in finished compost mixed with top soil at a ratio of 3 parts compost to 1 part soil. I thoroughly watered in each layer as I went. As the logs decompose they are supposed to absorb and hold rain water to alleviate the need for supplemental watering. They are also supposed to release nutrients for the plants. I understand in the first 2 years that the decomposing wood will also absorb nitrogen.      

Submitted by Mike Schmitt

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LOOK WHAT YOU CAN DO!

Here are a couple pictures our Vice-president John Caldwell shared of his tomato harvest. 

John_Caldwells_tomato_harvest canning

John entered a "Biggest Tomato" contest at his local Calloways garden center.  He came in second with a tomato weighing 1lb 8oz.  The winner was 1lb 9oz.  Well, not a bad showing John.  You showed folks what they can produce organically.

John explains:

 In the first photo:  "The paper bags are being used to ripen the pink tomatoes and the red tomatoes are ready for sharing and canning."

In the second photo: "...shows the canned tomatoes and my 1 pound 8 oz tomato that came in #2 for ‘biggest tomato’ at Calloway’s."

John also stated, "The key to a good tomato harvest is to start a wide variety of seeds indoors in January.  Some of the varieties will produce well and some will not produce well.  Save the seeds from the winners and plant them next year.  Our tomato harvest so far is about 170 pounds."

Thanks John for sharing your secrets for a successful bounty.

EPSOM SALT FOR TOMATOES AND OTHER PLANTS

Here is info on the use of Epsom salt for your tomatoes and other plants:

What is Epsom Salt

Magnesium sulfate (MgSO4) is a naturally occurring chemical compound, which is composed of magnesium, sulfur and oxygen. This chemical compound is devoid of water, but in its hydrated state, magnesium sulfate is called epsom salt (MgSO4-7H2O). The name is derived from the town of Epsom in England, which is the place where this salt was discovered for the first time. Nowadays, epsom salt is commonly available in health stores and is used for a wide range of household applications.

This compound is one of the indispensable ingredients in bath salts and is also widely used for its healing properties. It is also used as a cleansing agent. You might have heard about the use of epsom salt for tomato plants, roses and peppers. So, it is also used as a garden supplement. It is said to be very much effective in growing healthy plants and for promoting production of blooms and fruits.

Read more: EPSOM SALT FOR TOMATOES AND OTHER PLANTS