Organic Gardening News Archives - Amaral Farm

Rodale Institute’s Organic Field Day moves online due to coronavirus | News

In response to Pennsylvania coronavirus guidelines, Rodale Institute, the regenerative organic agriculture nonprofit based in Maxatawny Township, will hold its annual Organic Field Day virtually this year.

Typically an event that includes wagon tours of its 333-acre headquarters and presentations from Rodale Institute research trials, this year’s event will take place virtually July 13—17. That enables the event to be accessed by people all over the world. Registrants will be able to access more than 15 prerecorded, in-field video presentations at their convenience, as well as attend live question and answer sessions with the experts, to be scheduled at various times throughout the week.

Registration cost is $25. Interested participants can register at

Presentations include: the principles of regenerative organic agriculture; organic no-till and cover crops; organic apple orchards; treatment-free beekeeping; Rodale Institute research trials such as the Farming Systems Trial and Vegetable Systems Trial; industrial hemp; pollinator habitats; and composting.

Previous Organic Field Days saw more than 400 visitors to the Rodale Institute farm, including some international attendees. This year, anyone in the world can learn about the research of Rodale Institute firsthand at their convenience.

“While we love each year to welcome our organic community to the farm in Kutztown, we are excited about the opportunity to make our research available to an audience across the globe in 2020,” Jeff Moyer, Rodale Institute CEO, said in a news release. “Rodale Institute is committed to upholding the standards of education and research that we have provided to the agriculture community for over 70 years, and this new virtual format allows us to build on that commitment in new and innovative ways.”

Those who register for the event will receive login instructions via email before July 13th. During that week, the credentials provided will allow access to more than 15 video presentations. The videos can be viewed all at once or individually and can be replayed over the course of the week. Presentations range from 15 to 20 minutes long.

A schedule for the live question and answer video sessions with the experts will be announced prior to the event.

In addition to its Organic Field Day, Rodale Institute has migrated many of its traditionally in-person workshops to a webinar format. Previous topics have included Organic Gardening 101, Compost Like a Pro and Vermicomposting for a Bountiful Garden. Register for webinars and view previous recordings at

While Field Day will be held virtually, Rodale Institute’s headquarters re-opened to the public June 5. Guests are encouraged to take a self-guided walking/audio tour of the property to supplement their Field Day education, adhering to all posted social distancing guidelines. Additionally, the Rodale Institute Visitor Center is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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Jul 20 | Summer Camp

It’s not to late to join in on the fun at Sweetwater Organic Community Farm. We still have openings available for week six of our summer camp. The starting date for this is July 20th through July 23rd from 9:00am to 1:00pm.

Seed farm sees huge increase in orders, but also new challenges

Hawthorn Farm Organic Seeds has seen a huge rise in orders but selling-out of stock will create a supply challenge in the following years

PALMERSTON – A county seed farm is seeing a big rise in orders during the pandemic as people shift to at-home activities and hobbies.

Kim Delaney, owner of Hawthorn Farm Organic Seeds in Palmerston, said orders eventually got up to 10 times the usual daily volume. They had to close over Easter weekend to make sure they didn’t oversell.

“The orders were pouring in so fast it was hard to keep track if we were going to be sold out of something,” Delaney said. “We opened on the Tuesday after Easter and in that one day we sold so much seed we had to shut down again.”

Delaney said they would leave for lunch and come back to nearly 300 emails in an hour with their constantly ringing. The farm has hired an additional worker to help handle orders while the rest of the staff can focus on getting next year’s seed crops planted in the fields.

This unexpected increase in orders has made the farm scrap their usual three-year rotation for growing.

“That wasn’t going to work this year because we sold out of so much seed that we have to grow almost everything,” Delaney said.

Growing a lot of varieties can prove challenging for a single farm. Delaney explained that plants cross at the species level so related crops have to be kept separate. For example broccoli needs a mile of isolation from any relatives which include cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale and cabbage.

“We’re going to have to work with other seed growers and see who is growing what and see if we can each grow a lot of one thing just to make sure that we can restock as much as possible,” Delaney said. “It might take a couple years to get everything restocked again.”

Delaney described the increase in orders as a mixed blessing because they stayed successful financially but now supply will become a challenge. She speculated that there might not be as many varieties of seeds available for consumers in the next few years.

She thinks the pandemic has made gardening appeal to people who want to be more self-sufficient with their own food supply and provides an opportunity to teach their children at home a practical skill.

Delaney has noticed people are buying seeds that replace what they would normally buy at a grocery store such as celery, carrots, onions and cauliflower. She wondered if beginners understand how challenging those are to grow.

Customers are also sticking with the popular tomatoes and peppers which are easier to grow.

To learn more about gardening, Delaney suggests beginners find locals who are knowledgeable and have learned from their own trials.

“The way you get to be a good gardener is to make a lot of mistakes,” Delaney said. “If you can find a good local gardener, they’re going to know what does well in your local area.”

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Growing asparagus is a rewarding — and tasty — pursuit

This time of the gardening season, many of us are enjoying harvesting fresh asparagus from the garden. Asparagus is a perennial crop (comes back year after year) and takes about 3 years to establish in a garden bed.

Asparagus is known to produce good yields for 12 to 15 years or more. Cornell recommended varieties for New York State include: Jersey Giant, Jersey Kin, Jersey Knight, Viking KB3, and Purple Passion. For a complete listing of recommended vegetable varieties can be found at Cornell Garden Based Learning website

Asparagus crowns with the roots are planted in the spring. They grow best in full sun and well drained soil. Sandy soils with a mixture of organic matter added to garden bed is a plus. Organic matter (humus) can be obtained from well-rotted cow, horse, rabbit, or sheep manure, leaf mold and compost. The crowns should be planted in a bed first by digging a trench at lest 10 inches wide and six- to eight-inches deep. Crowns should be spaced 18 inches apart.

Once the asparagus plants are established in the garden, start harvesting a few spears during the third season. Cut/snap spears when they are six- to eight- inches tall over three- week period. The fourth season harvest the spears over four to six weeks. Stop harvesting when the spear’s diameter decreases to a size smaller than a lead pencil.

Plants will continue to grow producing fern like leaves. Allow the ferns tops to remain over the winter. The next spring cut them at ground level before new growth resumes.

To help suppress weeds in the garden bed, place four- to six-inch-deep organic mulch (weed-free straw, and/or sawdust) around the plants. A hoe or weeding tool can be used to knock down any stray weeds.

Asparagus is a vegetable that is low in calories, provides a good source of fiber and vitamins A and C. It can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, grilled, roasted or added to salads and culinary dishes.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County also has a wonderful Home and Garden section on its website at If you have gardening questions call our office at 315-736-3394 and leave a message at ext. 100. Be sure to like and follow us on Facebook and check out our Youtube channel for great garden training videos.

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Green-fingered youngsters urged to grow rainbows to support NHS and key workers

GREEN-FINGERED youngsters are being encouraged to grow a rainbow to support the NHS and key workers.

They are being urged to grow a rainbow of flowers in their garden, on their balcony or windowsill, or by using the leaves and petals from existing plants to create their own unique rainbow design, to mark National Children’s Gardening Week (May 23 to 31).

Chris Collins, National Children’s Gardening Week Ambassador and Head of Organic Horticulture at Garden Organic in Ryton, said: “Gardening and interacting with nature can create hours of fun for children and giving them a specific project to do is the spur they need to engage them.

“What better project at the moment than one to support our NHS and key workers?”

Learning about plants and how they grow feeds into many different parts of the national curriculum and parents can support this learning by providing children with some seeds and a trowel and letting them discover the wonders of growing.

Chris added: “Children love nothing more than getting their hands in the soil and getting them dirty. Buy them some seeds, preferably organic and get them started.”

There is still plenty that can be sown this time of year – simply follow the instructions on the seed packets for how to grow.

Chris’s top recommendations for a rainbow of colour are:

Red – Nasturtium. These are really simple to grow, and you can eat the flowers too.

Orange – English or Pot Marigold. This is a fantastic addition to any garden, the flowers attract a number of beneficial insects which will help control pests.

Yellow – Sunflower. Everyone loves the cheerful flower of a sunflower! Their bright yellow flowers attract butterflies and bees and you can see who in your household can grow the tallest one for a bit of competition.

Green – Herbs. Why not sow a row of herbs in the middle of your rainbow? They will provide a luscious strip of green that you can enjoy in the kitchen as well as the garden.

Blue – Cornflower. These beautiful blue flowers attract hoverflies in the summer months and the seeds are loved by birds.

Purple – Aster. This perennial plant has star-like purple flowers which will be teeming with butterflies and hoverflies come the autumn months.

Pink – Cosmos. Cosmos come in a wide range of colours but the bright pink are especially stunning. The beautiful and delicate flowers will be alive with beneficial hoverflies, lacewings and parasitic wasps (which don’t sting!).

While children are waiting for their seeds to grow they could also create a rainbow using petals and leaves.

Encourage them to go into the garden and collect a variety of leaves and petals of different colours to stick on a sheet of paper in the shape of a rainbow. Don’t worry if there is a colour missing as the rainbow shape will still be there.

All you need is list of the colours of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and pink), pencil, paper, and glue.

Further ideas to get children interested in the garden during National Children’s Gardening week include going on a bug hunt to identify insects or creating a cress caterpillar.

Visit for further information and activity sheets.

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Weed It & Reap: Garden myths and misconceptions | Community Columns

Gardeners have turned to Facebook groups and other online resources for vegetable-growing advice. Luckily for us, the Treasure Valley is full of people eager to share their knowledge and help out their Idaho neighbors. Much of what is shared is good, but not everything. As research is conducted by colleges and universities, long-held gardening notions are being disproven, but that knowledge is not reaching all who need it.

Here are some garden myths circulating locally.

• “Prevent Blossom End Rot (a dark squishy spot on the bottom of the fruit) on tomatoes by adding calcium in the planting hole.” People suggest putting a Tums tablet or broken eggshells in the planting hole to provide calcium to the plant. Some swear by it but if their tomatoes grow well, it is because they are doing other things right. Our soils are rarely calcium deficient. Research shows that uneven watering is the culprit. To prevent this deformity, try to not let the soil dry out completely in between waterings.

• “Sprinkle broken eggshells around your plants because the sharp edges will protect them from slugs and snails.” These creatures have no problem crawling over razor blades so eggshells don’t faze them.

• “Tomatoes do best if Epsom salt is mixed into their surrounding soil, or if it is diluted with water and sprayed on the plant.” The thought is that tomatoes need the magnesium found in Epsom salt. Treasure Valley soils typically have adequate magnesium, and the salts could actually harm the soil’s chemistry.

• “Use weed cloth to deter weeds to save you time and effort.” Placing landscape fabric to block weeds works initially, but becomes a high maintenance gardening nightmare over time. Plants eventually grow up through it, and seeds land on top, grow down, and embed their roots in it. Removing those plants is difficult and may result in messy looking, torn fabric. Instead, use a thick layer of organic mulch, renewing it every year. The few weeds that do sprout will be easy to pull and the decomposing mulch improves your soil.

What may work well on the Oregon coast may not be good for the Treasure Valley. Have your soil tested periodically and consult with Extension agents on how to make any needed adjustments. This will go a long way and ensure a successful growing season.

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Gardening jobs for the weekend: Spring feed your vegetable garden and stay on top of weeds

At this time of year you can plant tender vegetables such as aubergines, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes

Thursday, 14th May 2020, 8:00 am

Updated Thursday, 14th May 2020, 8:02 am

Dahlias are nectar-rich bedding plants (Photo: RHS)

Warm weather means surging weeds, unless steps are taken, and hungry plants that need feeding, but also the opportunity to plant pizza-topping containers and sow sweetcorn and other sensitive crops.

1 — Peak weed

In early summer, gardeners brace themselves for the worst of weed growth. Strategic use of mulches can prevent weeds while frequent hoeing of small weeds is very effective at preventing later problems. Noxious perennial weeds such as ground elder and couch grass can be carefully dug out before they become large and resistant clumps. As garden plants grow and expand, they shade out the weeds so weeding becomes much less irksome as summer goes on.

Fun ideas for containers include growing pizza toppings – tomatoes, oregano or basil

2 — Planting tender veg

Now that summer is here, plant out tender vegetables such as aubergines, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and sweetcorn. They have much growing to do before September but adding fertiliser to where they are to grow – and watering the ground the day before planting – gets them well started. Covering with cloche or fleece helps them grow well, at least initially until they outgrow their protection. Until the end of June, the nights can be quite chilly.

3 — Pizza topping

Fun ideas for containers include growing pizza toppings. Tomatoes, oregano or marjoram plants, basil seeds and garlic bulbs, using large supermarket bulbs, can be planted. Other plants you could add include chard, sweet or chilli peppers, rocket and spinach. Choose a container 45 to 60cm wide filled with multi-purpose peat-free potting compost. Water well after planting and place in a sunny spot. By late summer you should be able to gather the ingredients to top your pizza.

20 ways to improve your garden in lockdown from making bunting with coloured material to cherishing your lawn weeds

4 — Wildlife

With so much gardening going on in May, it is easy to neglect wildlife. Sow nectar-rich plants including wild flowers and quick growing garden annuals in any bare spots. Include nectar-rich bedding plants such as cosmos and single-flowered dahlias. Provide water for birds and also food as they are still feeding their fledglings. Unfortunately, soft fruit requires protection from birds. Consider using insect-proof mesh, which is much safer for birds than netting.

5 — Spring feeding

Plant growth accelerates in June and plants can benefit from extra feeding. In the vegetable garden; sprinkle fertiliser around plants that need feeding such as beetroot, cabbages and runner beans. Be ready to feed asparagus when cropping finishes in a week or two’s time. Most importantly, containers appreciate liquid fertiliser every fortnight in the summer as do houseplants. Use balanced feed until mid-summer, then switch to potassium-rich tomato fertiliser. Seaweed fertiliser is an effective organic feed.

Guy Barter is chief horticultural adviser for the Royal Horticultural Society (@GuyBarter).

The Royal Horticultural Society is a charity working to share the best in gardening and make the UK a greener place. Find out more at

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Home composting and gardening pushed as PH prepares for post-COVID world » Manila Bulletin News


By Chito Chavez

Environmental groups on Monday have cited the urgency of home composting and gardening as the country continues to reel from the adverse effects of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

At a webinar organized by the Quezon City based EcoWaste Coalition, environmentalist Noli Abinales and urban container gardening (UCG) pioneer Perfecto “Jojo” Rom, Jr. drew attention to the tremendous benefits of home composting and farming in preventing and reducing waste, restoring soil nutrients, and ensuring nutritious and safe food on the table.

As communities and families are on quarantine with the COVID-19 outbreak, Abinales and Rom stressed that home composting and farming are worthwhile practices that should form part of the sustainable “new normal” following the pandemic.

“We need to separate household waste materials at source instead of mixing them up. The non-biodegradable waste can be reused, repurposed, or recycled while the bio-degradable waste can be processed into a natural fertilizer or soil amendment through composting,” said Abinales, founder of Buklod Tao, who also reminded the public to separate and safely manage household hazardous waste.

“Turning food waste and other organic waste into compost should be the norm in our post-COVID society as this will hugely reduce the volume of waste we produce and dispose of,” he pointed out.

Abinales also noted that biodegradables account for over 50 percent of the country’s solid waste composition.

“Composting is as simple as ABC,” Abinales said.

He said that there are various composting methods to choose from that will suit one’s living conditions and needs.

An avid gardener from Davao City and founder of Home Farmers Club, Rom saw UCG as “the foundation of democratized agriculture” where available containers and spaces are used to grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs for family consumption.

Rom is the author of “UCG: The Home Farming Manual.”

UCG, a blend of ecological sanitation philosophy and natural farming system, is an “emerging advocacy to simplify agriculture. It involves all who are interested to grow what they eat and eat what they grow,” he explained.
“It is the technology of home farming that is used to grow food in limited spaces in urban areas.”

As the “nutrition garden of the household,” UCG addresses the food and nutrition security issues and needs of a family while reducing food expenditures, Rom said.

“It is the cheapest and healthiest way of food production as it utilizes bio-wastes as sources of fertilizers in gardening,” he added.

Rom also viewed home-based UCG as “an effective and doable climate change adaptation measure” that should be promoted and supported.

“We don’t need to become an environmentalist, a forester, or an agriculturist to care for and make this planet and its inhabitants healthy. Just make gardening a way of life starting with a single pot,” he added.

For his part, Jove Benosa, Zero Waste campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition, stated that “home composting and farming are down-to-earth solutions to our nation’s swelling garbage production and our families’ lack of access to adequate and nutritious food, especially during emergency situations like the coronavirus outbreak.”

“Our post-COVID roadmap will be incomplete if the promotion of home composting and farming, along with other sustainable practices, will be left out,” Benosa concluded.

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Take the Hassle Out of Watering Container Gardens

Growing flowers and vegetables in containers will allow you to expand planting space, grow plants right outside your door and elevate them for easier access and maintenance.  Unlike growing in the ground, the smaller volume of soil in containers is exposed to heat and wind, so requires frequent, often daily, watering.

Don’t let this watering schedule discourage you from growing in pots. Enlist one or more of these strategies to eliminate the daily burden of watering while still maintaining beautiful and productive gardens.

Grow plants in large plastic, glazed or other less breathable material to extend the time between watering. The larger the pot and less breathable the container material, the longer the soil stays moist. Small pots made of breathable materials, like unglazed terra cotta, dry out more quickly.

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No matter the size and type container used, monitor and adjust your watering schedule based on weather, number of plants in the pot and size of the plants.  The more plants used and the larger the plants grow the more water needed; so, frequency will increase over time.

Use self-watering pots to extend the time between watering. Fill the reservoir in these containers as needed.  The water moves from the reservoir to the soil where it is needed. This extends the time between watering. As your new plantings grow, you will need to fill the reservoir more frequently.

Use a quality potting mix that holds moisture and is well draining to avoid waterlogged soils that can lead to root rot. Most potting mixes contain peat moss, compost or bark to hold moisture. Vermiculite, perlite or rice hulls are used to provide drainage.

Add a long-lasting sustainable, water saving product, like wool pellets (, to your potting mix. This organic product is made from belly wool and tags that cannot be used for clothing. The pellets promote healthier growth, increase soil aeration and reduce watering frequency by as much as 25%.

Mulch the soil surface in newly planted container gardens. This common garden practice is often overlooked when growing in containers.  Cover the soil surface with shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other organic material. This helps conserve moisture until plants grow and shade the soil.

Automate watering with one of the many commercial or DIY container irrigation systems. These are designed to provide water to each individual pot with the turn of the faucet. Attach the irrigation system to the faucet, attach a timer and watering becomes a breeze. Regularly check the system to make sure the lines that deliver water to the pot are intact and the watering frequency is adjusted throughout the growing season as needed.

Enlist one or more of these strategies to make container gardening a manageable growing system. Once you eliminate the inconvenience of daily watering you may just find yourself planting more container gardens each season.

Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Wild Valley Farms for her expertise to write this article. Her web site is

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