4 Strategies for Improving Soil Health: Garden, Farm, or Homestead

soil is more than just dirt

Growers have 4 key strategies for improving soil health in the garden, on the farm or at their homestead. Old-school growers may balk at the concept, yet studies show that focusing on soil health can increase the efficiency and profitability of a garden or crop-field, and provides an ecological benefit at the same time. What’s more, the health of the soil determines the health of the entire ecosystem, so by improving the soil, growers can provide an ecological benefit to the world around them.

Note: This is Part 2 in a series of articles and posts about Soil here on the Runamuk blog. Follow this link to read Part 1: Cultivating Soil Health.

soil is more than just dirt
Soil is so much more than just “dirt”! Photo via Food Tank─non-profit organization seeking solutions to nourish ourselves and protect the planet.

Try using these 4 strategies to begin improving soil health in your garden, or on your farm or homestead:

1. Reduce tillage:

the organic no-till farming revolution
Andrew Mefferd’s new book, which we will be giving away in the next few weeks!

Improving soil health is largely a matter of maintaining suitable habitat for the myriad creatures that comprise the soil food web. Every time we til the soil, we break up the soil aggregates and the life that exists within the soil is forced to start all over, re-building their homes and their population. Because organic residues decompose more slowly under a reduced tillage system, it lowers the soil temperature so that organic matter can accumulate. Simply by tilling less, we can increase our soil’s organic diversity and activity.

 

More and more, farmers are taking it a step further and turning to a no-til operation. Andrew Mefferd of One Drop Farm, for example, who recently published: “The Organic No-Till Farming Revolution: High-Production Methods for Small-Scale Farmers“.

Note: Check back soon for an upcoming book-review and giveaway!

2. Keep the soil covered:

cover cropping for soil health
Cover-crop of oats, field peas, and dwarf essex rape at Runamuk Acres.

Most people are thinking about erosion when they think about cover crops, but cover cropping does so much more than just “hold the soil”. Cover cropping decreases the breakdown of soil aggregates and increases the organic matter within the soil.

Soil microbes prefer a temperature somewhere around 75 degrees. Any colder and they tend to slow down; a little warmer and they’re on vacation─if the soil temperature gets too hot, you can even kill the microbes who live there. In a bare soil tillage system the soil temperatures can easily get up over 100 degrees!

In turn, this leads to an improvement in the soil structure and stability, increasing the soil’s moisture and nutrient holding capacity. Cover crops offers exactly the kind of habitat soil organisms are looking for.

3. Maximize plant diversity:

New research shows that plant diversity is the key to healthy soils.

A Lancaster University-led team of scientists produced new evidence that increasing plant species diversity can protect soil in grasslands by improving soil structure, thus maintaining the soil’s overall health.

In a series of experiments at field sites in the UK and Germany, scientist tested the soil’s structural stability when planted with a variety of grasses, herbs, and legumes. The researchers found that soil structure improved with higher plant diversity, and the diverse properties of different plant roots were the key factor in keeping soil healthy.

The reason for this is that plants’ roots excel at different things. Legumes are better at getting water into the soil and maintaining root-soil strength, while grasses have fine rooting systems that enhance the stability of soil─making it more resistant to erosion.

What’s more, different plants and their roots offer different habitats for microorganisms in the soil. By increasing the diversity of plant species in the garden or field, you’re inviting a broader spectrum of microorganisms to your soil, which increases your soil’s ability to ward off pests and diseases.

4. Manage Nutrients:

soil healthThe cooler soil temperatures found in a no-till or minimal tillage system promotes organic matter to accumulate, thereby increasing the soil’s microbial life. Yet, the activity of those microbes tends to be a little slower than when organic material is incorporated into the soil through conventional tillage. Surface mulch in conservation tillage systems takes longer to break down, and also impacts the mobility of certain nutrients─Nitrogen in particular.

Nutrients are usually stratified in conservation tillage systems because of the lack of substantial mechanical soil mixing. Stratification refers to the accumulation of soil nutrients in certain areas more than others. Nutrient levels tend to be higher near the soil surface where amendments are applied and where crop residues decay. This stratification can further influence rooting patterns, the availability of nutrients, and the effectiveness of herbicides (should you choose to use them).

It’s important to note, however, that studies have not found significant differences in the nutrient uptake of plants in these stratified no-till systems. Most issues associated with no-till and minimum tillage fertilizer efficiency can be overcome with good fertilizer management and a top-notch soil testing program (including taking more soil samples and getting an analysis annually) to accurately determine fertilizer rates.

Again, I encourage you to reach out to your local cooperative extension for a soil test kit. Spring soil tests provide a better indication of available Nitrogen than fall tests.

Work With Nature

It is important to remember that as gardeners, farmers, and homesteaders, we are actively participating in, and cultivating the natural processes at work around us. This farmer believes that─as growers─we have a responsibility to work with those natural processes, rather than against them. I believe that humanity has an obligation to care for, and look out for the other lifeforms we share this planet with. We have an obligation, too, to ensure the livelihoods of generations that come after us. Environmentally-conscious farming practices are how we do that.

Check back soon for the next article in this soil series! Subscribe by email to have the latest articles and posts from Runamuk delivered directly to your in-box! OR follow @RunamukAcres on Instagram for a glimpse into the day-to-day goings-ons at this Maine conservation farm!

strategies for improving soil health

Garden Cover-Cropping at Runamuk

garden cover cropping

Last week was all about cover-cropping the garden here at Runamuk. The chickens had completed their work and I had my new broadfork, along with some seed to put down; there’s something particularly intimate and romantic about working soil, so I was especially jacked up for the project.

garden cover cropAside from the continued focus on the Runamuk apiary, getting the chickens established and prepping the garden for next year are my main goals this first season at the Hive House. Above all else, I’m concerned with the long-term agroecology of my new farm. Because we are all connected on this planet, and because healthy soils are fundamental to the overall profitability and sustainability of my farm, I’ve made it my priority to start with the soil and work my way up.

A Word About “Agroecology”

Agroecology is the science of applying ecological concepts and principles to the design, development, and management of sustainable agriculture systems.

The agroecologist views any farming system primarily with an ecologist’s eye; that is, it is not firstly economic (created for commodity and profit), nor industrial (modeled after a factory). Agroecologists do not unanimously oppose technology or inputs in agriculture, but instead they assess how, when, and if technology can be used in conjunction with the natural, social and human assets.

This method of agriculture requires a deeper understanding of the complex long-term interactions among resources, people and the environment. Since a love for nature and my fellow man is at the heart of Runamuk, this is how I choose to run my farm.

Prepping the Soil for a Cover-Crop

While there is indeed an existing garden─approximately 25 feet by 80─it was only growing weeds when we arrived at the end of June. I put the chickens on the plot to let them do the work for me, and in 5 short weeks they managed to eliminate the weeds entirely, exposing bare ground for cultivation. They really did an amazing job, and─as an added benefit, the patch got fertilized.

garden when we arrived
This is what the garden looked like when we first arrived at our new #foreverfarm.
chickens working the garden
Here are the chickens at work on the garden.
chicken prepped garden
Once the ground was exposed I moved the chickens over and the soil could be prepped for cover-cropping.

Up til this point I’d only shuffled the fencing along; moving the chicken tractors and the fencing to an entirely new spot while still keeping the birds inside was a little challenging, but I got it all in the end─without any shenanigans, I might add. I’ve put them on a section of earth just next door to the original plot, which I’ve dubbed “The Garden Adjacent”, with the intention of expanding the garden to double the size.

Once I had the chickens off the garden, I eagerly took up my new broadfork and set to work.

broadforkI’ve always loved digging in the dirt. Love love LOVE it! The manual labor, the smell of the earth, the glimpse of microbial life beneath the soil-surface. And I’ve always been particularly partial to my spading fork. The broadfork is simply a larger version─with TWO handles─and easier on my back and body to use. Even still, it took a bit to really get the hang of using the broadfork, and to develop a rhythm with it.

Now─I’m in pretty decent shape for my (nearly) 38 years, but the broadfork offers a really great full-body workout and it turns out that I just couldn’t fork that garden continuously for the 10 hours it took me to complete the job. On Sunday I did 4 hours, then I had to take time off from Johnny’s to get the forking done before the rain that was forecasted for Wednesday. I left the office early on Monday, forked the garden til it was too dark to see, and then was back at it come sun-up Tuesday morning and went to work late that day. Thankfully this is a slow time of year in the Call Center, and my supervisor and colleagues there can allow me some flexibility.

Peas-and-Oats

johnny's peas and oats mix
The peas-and-oats cover-crop mix from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

Once the cultivation with the broadfork was complete, I happily I brought out the seed I’d bought to cover the garden with. I went with Johnny’s peas-and-oats mix because it’s a super easy to manage cover-crop. The peas─like any legume─help to fix nitrogen in the soil, and the oats serve as a nurse crop, sheltering the seed during germination and then offering crop support for the pea plants. Both are annuals and will be killed this fall by the first hard frost we get, and if I leave the plant residue on the plot it will provide a great mulch layer for my new garden.

I followed Johnny’s recommended sowing rate of 5lbs/1000sq.ft. for the peas-and-oats and bought (2) 5-pound sacks to do that 2,000sq.ft section of earth, along with a package of inoculant.

Question: What is inoculant? and do you really need it?

garden combination incoluant
Garden Combination Inoculant─good for ALL legume-family crops.

This is something we are frequently asked in the Call Center at Johnny’s Selected Seeds. What I tell folks is that it’s not the end of the world if you don’t inoculate your legumes; you’ll still get a crop of peas or beans, or whatever it is. Inoculant is simply a packet full of microorganisms that are specific to legume-family plants, which aid in the legume’s nitrogen-fixing abilities. Personally however, I’ve always felt that anything I could do to help the little guys in the soil do their work of facilitating the availability of nutrients and water for my plants is worth the extra $5 and an extra step. But that’s just me; you’ll have to make that call for yourself.

To apply the inoculant I simply took a pail, dumped the first 5-pound sack of seed into it and added half the contents from the package of inoculant. I stirred the seed around with my hand (it’s not harmful in the least), seeking to ensure that all of the seed was evenly coated with the dark powdery inoculant.

Seeding the Garden for a Cover-Crop

It just happened to take 16 passes up and down the garden with the broadfork to complete this first half of our new garden, so it was easy to plan how I would walk down through the plot with the seed and hopefully ration it so that I had enough to do the entire space. I knew Johnny’s said I’d bought enough to do the job, but I also know from experience that when sowing by hand it’s easy to sow too heavy, and then you run out of seed before you cover the whole plot.

And even with my experience and careful planning, I was still too heavy-handed with the first half of the peas-and-oats mix. I found myself rifling through my seed-stash looking for something I could mix with the second half to stretch it out so that I could get the rest of the garden cover-cropped. Lucky for me I work at a seed-company and have access to “up-for-grabs” seeds; my “seed-stash” is sick…no, seriously─I have a problem, lol.

dwarf essex rape via johnnys selected seeds
Dwarf Essex Rape cover-crop; photo courtesy Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

I found a 10-pound sack of Dwarf Essex Rape seed; score! Rape is a member of the brassica-family and somewhat cold-tolerant, which is really ideal because sometimes we can have several more weeks of growing season after that initial killing frost, so this plant will linger into the fall, but still won’t survive our Maine winter so I won’t have to worry about tilling anything under next spring. I mixed some of this with my remaining peas-and-oats, added the rest of the inoculant, and then managed to finish seeding the garden.

Why Not Just Till it Under?

One of Runamuk’s Instagram followers has asked why I’ve done all this work by hand rather than simply taking a rototiller and tilling the plot under? Perhaps you were wondering too?

Certainly that would have been a quicker alternative and I wouldn’t have been so sore afterwards, lol. However, as an agroecologist I’m concerned for the organisms living in the soil and the impact that tilling would have on them. Tilling destroys their homes and populations. I want to encourage their numbers, help them thrive and aid them in their work so they will in turn aid me in my work: building a farm that not only supports it’s farmer, but which also works in tandem with nature, even helping nature.

That being said, I’m not necessarily opposed to tilling; it has it’s place. If I were facing heavily compacted clay soil I would have brought in a tiller, but as it is, the soil here is a nice sandy loam and this spot has been cultivated for years so I didn’t feel the plot really warranted tilling. The soil was workable with the broadfork, and I am strong and capable. I enjoy the work, and I take pride in knowing I’m doing my best to work with the natural forces in play all around me. So I did it by hand and I feel really good about that.

So Satisfying

broadforking at sunset long shadowBy the time I was on my second cup of coffee Wednesday morning, it was drizzling outside and my cover-crop was being watered in. The whole project was so immensely satisfying: clearing the garden with just the chickens, investing in the broadfork, using it to work the soil, and laying down that precious cover-crop seed─the whole experience was really very intrinsically rewarding to me. And that’s why I’m a farmer: because its fulfilling, because I enjoy it, and because I feel called to do this work and live this life. Thanks for following along!

What are your thoughts on cover-cropping? Have you ever tried it? Or, how do you feel about the notion of agroecology??? Leave a comment below to share with the readership so we can all learn together!

The Dirt on Broadforks

broadfork

What’s the dirt on broadforks anyway? Have you heard of these tools? Have you used one yourself? What if I told you that there’s a tool out there which reduces the need for tilling? What if I said that─when used in tandem with other practices aimed at promoting agrodiversity─this tool promotes soil health, encourages wildlife and ecological diversity, as well as increases or improves production of your farm or homestead operation? What if I told you this miracle tool doesn’t even require gasoline or electricity?

the dirt on broadforks

As a conservationist I naturally align with the concept of soil preservation as the key to a sustainable farm or homestead: afterall, it is our soil’s ability to function as a vital, living ecosytem that sustains the plants, animals and humans upon it. There’s already a fabulous amount of wildlife and biodiversity here at our new location, but the soil is a little on the poor side. The grasses grow sparsely, and the back pasture has only been minimally managed to provide an annual hay crop, so improving the health of the soil is one of the first things I want to focus on. I’ve known about broadforks for years, but it’s only now that Runamuk has a permanent location that I can really begin to dig deep and build upon the soil for the long-term viability of my farm. The time has finally come: I bought a broadfork─and I am so stoked.

Why use a broadfork?

broadforkIf you’re at all concerned about preserving or promoting soil health, the broadfork is a great tool to have in your gardening arsenal. Using a broadfork the grower can preserve soil life by reducing tillage or avoiding it all together.

This is a simple, yet powerful tool which efficiently loosens the soil without flipping it upside down. The vertical tines penetrate the soil, leaving it’s profile still upright, allowing water and air to penetrate. This creates an ideal environment for root-growth and makes it possible to build soil levels and a rich humus.

Healthy soil is comprised of varying layers, each serving a different purpose. Bacteria, fungi, earthworms and other invertebrates take up residence in the different stories, each layer offering conditions that are just the right level of moisture and aeration for it’s particular inhabitants. When you til or double dig you disrupt this ecology, destroying your soil’s population and causing them to divert their attention from doing their work to rebuilding their homes.

Reducing tillage to encourage soil health can allow you to grow more intensively, and produce better-looking crops in your loose and well-aerated soil. Many market-growers are siting this as the key to their success─check out Eliot Coleman, Curtis Stone, Jean-Martin Fortier, and Richard Perkins! And even if you’re not trying to go to market with your crops, you can still maximize yields by promoting healthier soil in your garden.

History

The broadfork was introduced and popularized in the United States in the early 1990’s by Eliot Coleman, author of the New Organic Grower, which has become something of a bible for many market growers today. Coleman discovered a tool called the “grelinette” in use in France, where it had been invented by Andre Grelinin in the 1960s.

How to use

Firstly, it’s important to realize that a broadfork does not completely eliminate the need for tilling. If you’re attempting to cultivate an entirely new patch of ground, I’d encourage you to look at it as a long-term project: do an initial tilling in order to break up the sod and loosen the soil. Also, if the soil becomes too compacted over the years, you might consider bringing the tiller out again. However, if you are able to maintain rich, healthy soils in your gardens and avoid compaction, the broadfork may very well be the only tool you’ll ever need for bed preparation.

It’s really simple to use, with the added benefit of providing a great work-out. The grower simply sinks the tips of the tines into the garden bed, then steps onto the crossbar with his/her full body weight to sink them in deeper. Using the leverage of the handlebars, the soil is loosened by working the handles back and forth with a rowing motion.

Check out this video featuring my colleague, Adam Lemieux (the JSS “Tool-Dude”), to see this tool in action:

There are many different makes and models of the same tool out there, produced by a myriad of different companies. By all means, I encourage you to do your homework and find the one that meets your particular needs. I went with Johnny’s 727 broadfork: 27-inches wide, with 7 tines because I intend to adopt the industry standard of 30-inch beds in the gardens here at Runamuk’s #foreverfarm. Also, I get a pretty sweet discount as an employee.

Starting With the Soil

I’ve waited years for the chance to steward my own piece of Earth─for the chance to try the practices and methods for agroecology that I’ve so long studied. Now that Runamuk finally has a permanent location, I can focus more on the long-term health of the land I’m working─starting with the soil. You can expect to see more articles forthcoming about soil health, agroecology and conservation-agriculture.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to subscribe by email to receive the latest directly to your in-box; OR follow us on Instagram for a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the day-to-day activities of this bee-friendly farm & apiary!

Strawberries on the GreenStalk

greenstalk project

This season my 11 year old son is growing strawberries on the GreenStalk garden planter for our family. It’s important to me to teach my children how to produce their own food, and the GreenStalk tower planter is a fun, and easy to use introduction to growing.

greenstalk projectFood Production is Essential

My boys are 15 and 11 now. They’ve been around the garden their entire lives, and I’ve made it a point to include them  in food-related chores to expose them to real food and where that food comes from─how it’s grown, prepared and cooked. Now that they’re getting older though, I want food production to be a bigger part of their lives─a necessary part of every-day life, like brushing your teeth─but more rewarding.

I believe that feeding ourselves and the people we care about is an essential component to life and living. Food and cooking makes us who we are: feeding families, traditions and every culture on the face of the planet. And yet studies show that many people don’t even know how to cook the variety of foods available to them; in America people spend just 6.5 hours per week prepping meals─compared to 13.2 and 13.1 hours spent on the task in India and the Ukraine.

Since the advent of the industrialized food system, we’ve increasingly allowed food production to be outsourced and as a result we’ve witnessed a tragic loss of skills, tradition and community, that goes hand in hand with food. I want to nurture those skills, preserve traditions and support the community I love and serve, and so I start with myself and with my own home. Be the change you want to see in the world, right?

Note: To learn more about our food system check out this article I wrote a while back: Vote With Your Fork to Save our Broken Food System.

The GreenStalk Strawberry Project

To step-up the level of responsibility I’m asking from my sons William (15) and BraeTek (11 – pronounced: Bray-tek), I decided to give them more authority over the food production. This year they each have a garden project geared toward their own individual interests. William loves to eat dill pickles, so he’ll be growing a “Pickle Garden” and learning to make pickled foods: dill pickles, dilly beans, pickled beets, etc. while BraeTek wanted to grow raspberries and blackberries to make into smoothies.

With Runamuk’s impending #foreverfarm purchase and the #GreatFarmMove #finalchapter just weeks away, I initially thought I would have to steer BraeTek in another direction─putting in perennial berry plants is not on the list for this year. However, when Ashley Skeen with GreenStalk Gardens invited me to trial their vertical garden planter and participate in their affiliate program, I saw it as an opportunity for BraeTek to be able to grow berries even in the face of the upcoming transition. I told Ashley I was “in” and ordered 25 units of Seascape bare-root strawberry plants from Johnny’s Selected Seeds─a variety that performs well in containers.

The GreenStalk is a series of 4 or 5 planters that are stackable, so it doesn’t take up much space. It has a unique system designed to conserve water, with a slow-drip method that applies the water directly to the roots of your plants. The planters are made of BPA-free plastic right here in the USA, and are very rugged, gauranteed to last at least 5 years.

Note: Did I mention GreenStalk has issued me a coupon code to share with Runamuk readers??? Get $10 off your very own GreenStalk! Click on the GreenStalk image in the sidebar to learn more!

Preparing the GreenStalk

Using the GreenStalk is super easy. Together BraeTek and I filled the 4 tiers with potting mix─as a rule I use “ProMix”, which I buy annually as a bale at my local Campbell’s True Value hardware and garden center in Madison, Maine. It’s a mix of peat moss, vermiculite and mycorrhyzae that has always served me well.

growing with greenstalk
BraeTek and I filled the four tiers with potting soil.

Add Fertilizer

Because the ProMix does not contain any added fertilizers we added our own to the planters. I have rabbit manure on hand, so I filled a bucket with that and let BraeTek apply a thick layer over the potting mix, and then mixed it into the top six inches of soil.

rabbit poop
Add a healthy helping of rabbit-poop fertilizer!

Make it Fun!

Life is hard enough. I’m a big advocate for looking for the light, and for sharing love and positivity whenever and wherever you can. Make it fun and savor the moment because ultimately this is your life and you only get one. Make it a good one.

greenstalk project with braetek
Crack some jokes along the way!

Planting!

GreenStalk sent a guide along with the planter offering recommendations on how many plants to put in each pocket. I helped BraeTek put one strawberry plant in each of the 6 pockets on all 4 tiers.

greenstalk planting
Then add the strawberry plants!

Stack ’em Up!

Once we had the 4 tiers filled, fertilized and planted I stacked them up. The individual tiers were not super heavy, and they lock easily into place, with a reservoir in between each level, and a reservoir on top. These reservoirs are what make watering the GreenStalk so easy! Check out this page on the GreenStalk website to see a fun animation of how their unique watering system works!

greenstalk easy watering
BraeTek liked watering the tower!

Strawberries Outside the Front Door

That’s all there was to it, folks─I now have a tower of strawberry plants growing outside the front door. I had hoped to be moved before BraeTek’s strawberries came, but with the delay in Closing that wasn’t possible; Ashley at GreenStalk however, was kind enough to send along one of their custom “GreenStalk Movers” to help with the transition. I’ll be sure to take a couple pictures of that in-use during the #GreatFarmMove and post them to Runamuk’s Instagram feed, but there will be subsequent updates on our GreenStalk Strawberry Project as well, so check back over the course of the summer for more about this unique vertical growing system!

Food Adds Spice to Life

I totally believe that there are certain things that are the “Spice of Life”. I imagine them in little glass spice jars, neatly labeled on a rack in the proverbial kitchen of your life, and you can add these “spices” to your life to add flavor, value and meaning to your existence. Spices like music, friendship, family, experiences, nature…and food.

Food not only has the power to feed us, but also to connect us. Food draws us together─it fosters love and a sense of community. Through food we are able to nurture ourselves and those we care about. We all have powerful memories of being cooked for, and those acts of generosity and love run deep within us.

Personally, even though it’s more work to do it myself, I don’t want to allow the Industry to provide all of my food for me. I don’t like the ingredients they have to use to be able to keep their food products on the shelves at the store. I don’t agree with the values the industry supports and I oppose many of their methods. It’s a small act of resistance, but I’d rather give the Food Industry as little of my money as possible, and I choose to vote with my fork for food that doesn’t make me feel guilty to eat.

What’s more, growing and cooking my own food adds meaning and spice to my life that I might otherwise miss out on. Food allows me to express my love─I can express my love for nature by growing food using methods that are friendly to the Earth. By cooking real, wholesome food I can shower my family with love, and nurture relationships and traditions, even honor loved ones who have passed on. And food is universal, it can extend beyond the home and I can express my love for extended family, friends, and even my community by sharing food.

Food is a powerful ingredient in the “Spice of Life” cabinet. Don’t outsource it to Industry, because ultimately it’s your life that loses flavor. It’s never to late to learn to cook a new dish, or to learn how to grow your own strawberries. Join me and start today!

Feel free to share your thoughts, questions and feedback regarding the GreenStalk and food as a “Spice of Life” in the Comments section below! We can all learn together! Be sure to follow Runamuk on Instagram and Twitter for daily behind-the-scenes updates from the farm!

Grow Your Own Potatoes With the Trench & Hill Method

potatoes

Potatoes are one of the easiest crops to produce and gardeners can grow their own potatoes using the trench and hill method, even in a first-year garden.

grow your own potatoes
Potatoes growing at Runamuk!

I don’t know about your household, but for ours potatoes are a staple in the pantry, and we go through a LOT of potatoes! Thankfully they’re easy to grow, mercifully reliable, and they keep well through the winter. Every year I make sure to dedicate a fair amount of space to potato production. If you’ve never tried it, I’d strongly encourage you to grow your own potatoes and see for yourself!

Step 1: Purchase “Seed Potatoes”

potato eyes
The eyes of a potato grow up to be potato plants!

Potatoes are grown from potatoes, not from seed as with most other crops in the garden. The spuds intended for growing are kept in a state of dormancy until the planting season draws nigh, then they are brought out of refrigeration and allowed to start sprouting. Those eyes you pick and peel away from your taters when preparing dinner? Those are what become your potato plants.

If you’ve only ever seen the selection of potatoes offered by your local grocery store you’ve been missing out on some really fantastic varieties of potato. Seed companies like Johnny’s Selected Seeds and The Maine Potato Lady offer all the traditional varieties you’d find at the supermarket: the Yukon Gold and Red Norland, but also purple taters, fingerling taters, and many more. And if you don’t want to pay to have them shipped, most local garden centers offer at least a couple of basic varieties of seed potato─go see what they’ve got available.

Some varieties mature earlier, and other mature later. The early varieties such as the Red Norland and the fingerling varieties are great for fresh-eating through the summer, while the later maturing varieties like the Kennebec and the Russets tend to be better for storing through the winter.

Step 2: Chit Your Potatoes

Essentially chitting is pre-sprouting your seed potatoes. In my experience this has already happened by the time you receive your seed-potatoes, so you shouldn’t have to worry about it. However, on the off chance that you were to get your hands on some un-sprouted spuds, all you would need to do is lay the tubers out in a spot that is 50-degrees and sunny. The eyes will begin to sprout, and once they have reached 3/4 to and inch long they are ready.

Note: Avoid planting leftover potatoes brought home from the grocery store. Usually these have been sprayed with some kind of retardant to prevent them from sprouting eyes, and you will not have the best of luck trying to grow a crop with them.

Step 3: Cut and Cure

curing seed potatoes
I cut my seed potatoes a few days prior to planting.

Not everyone does this, but cutting the potatoes a few days prior to planting allows the potato flesh to cure─effectively drying the skin─which helps to prevent rot or fungal issues. Cut them into pieces so that there are at least 1-2 eyes per piece, and then spread them out to cure for 2-3 days.

I’ve always cut and cured my taters in advance and have had good luck with it; but if time is short and you need to get this crop in the ground, it’s not the end of the world if you skip the curing.

Step 4: Site Preparation

Potatoes prefer a sandy loam soil, but are a forgiving crop and will produce a harvest in just about any type of soil. The trenching, hoeing and digging involved in potato production is especially helpful in a first-year garden. To prepare for planting of your seed potatoes, hoe a trench 6-12 inches deep, mounding the soil on either side of the trench.

Step 5: Planting

planting seed potatoes
We measured a stick to 12-inches and used it as a guide when planting our seed potatoes.

 

Lay your cut and cured potato pieces in the trench about 12-inches apart, with the eyes pointing up to the sky. These will grow up through the soil to become your potato plants.

Standing on one side of your trench, use your hoe to pull the mounded soil from the opposite side of the trench onto the seed potatoes. Ideally you’ll be covering them with about 6-inches of material. For now, leave the mounded soil on the second side of the trench for hilling later on.

Step 6: Hill the Potato Plants

When the potato plants have grown to be 8-12 inches tall take your hoe and pull the remaining mounded soil onto the potato plants, covering the lower 4-6 inches of the plant and creating a rounded hill all the way down the potato bed.

Step 7: Watch Out for the Potato Beetles!

potato beetle larvae
Potato beetle larvae.

Potatoes can suffer from leafhoppers and aphids, but mostly it’s the Colorado potato beetle that you need to watch out for. These are yellow and black striped beetles that lay their eggs on the underside of your potato leaves, and when the larvae hatches a few days later it begins to feed upon the leaves. Depending upon the degree of infestation, the larvae can cause significant damage to your crop if left unchecked.

Vigilant home gardeners can watch for the beetles and handpick them, drowning them in soapy water. Watch for yellow-orange eggs on the underside of potato leaves─usually laid in batches of 30. Eliminate the eggs by squishing them or scraping them away with your thumb-nail, or just tear that piece of the leaf off and crush it under the heel of your shoe. If you miss some eggs and find larvae eating your plants, pick these off and either feed them to your chickens or drown the larvae in soapy water.

Commercial growers hoping for a crop to sell at market may want to consider using some kind of pesticide for heavy infestations. Johnny’s Selected Seeds carries several products that are approved for use in organic production, such as the Monterey Garden Insect Spray. I’ve used this product myself in the past to knock-down an infestation and save my plants and crop. Just keep in mind that the beetles can develop a tolerance to it and reserve it for emergencies only.

Growers can also use Agribon (also known as row-cover) to keep insects off their plants and avoid the need for pesticides altogether. If you’re not familiar with Agribon or the concept of covering your rows, check out this article I wrote about using Agribon in the Garden.

Step 8: Harvest

fresh-dug-potatoes
Freshly dug spuds at Runamuk.

Potatoes are ready to harvest once they reach a usable size─about 50 days for the earlier maturing varieties. Scratch at the side of the bed, and remove a few tubers without disturbing the plant. Be sure to replace the soil when you’re done, so that the potatoes can continue to grow.

potatoes
Red Norland and Adirondak Blue potatoes, fresh from the garden!

Those first spuds of the season will be crisp and juicy; their skin so tender that it tears easily. I like nothing better than to cut the fresh taters into chunks, boil them up, and when they’re done cooking I drain them and toss them with plenty of butter and fresh chopped parsley (another staple in my garden). It’s a favorite summer dish that I learned from Linda, my farming mentor, and I think of her whenever I make it.

Typically mature potatoes are harvested in the fall. The plants will begin to brown and die back. Wait a couple of weeks once the plants have died before harvesting, in order to allow the tuber to develop their skins.

Harvest your crop using a spading fork and lifting the entire root system out of the soil. Try to avoid spearing too many of your spuds, and handle the fresh potatoes carefully to avoid tearing their skins, which are delicate at this stage. Potatoes that accidentally get pierced or cut in the harvesting should be eaten first.

Don’t wash the potatoes─simply brush loose soil off and set them in a well-ventilated spot out of the sun for a couple of days to allow the skins to dry and firm up before you trundle them off to storage.

Grow Your Own!

If your family eats potatoes you should definitely consider growing some. They really are one of the easiest crops to produce, and if the trench and hill method doesn’t sound like the right approach for you and the property where you live, there are many other methods you can try to grow your own potatoes.

Be sure to subscribe to the Runamuk blog by email to receive all the latest updates directly in your in-box! Or follow us on social media for behind-the-scenes peeks at the goings-ons at the  Runamuk Acres Farm & Apiary!

grow your own potatoes

Introducing GreenStalk Vertical Gardens! Our New Affiliate Partner!

greenstalk affiliate

I’m excited to introduce Runamuk’s new affiliate partner: GreenStalk Vertical Gardens and you should be too because they’ve given Runamuk a coupon code worth $10 off their stackable garden planters. Check out the new button in my sidebar on the left-hand side of the Runamuk website─pretty sharp right?

greenstalk affiliate
GreenStalk Vertical Garden Planters─pretty nifty right?

Honestly, I don’t make much money off my writing, but then─that’s not really the purpose of this blog. The purpose is to express myself through the telling of my story as a farmer, and to share what I’ve learned in the hopes of helping others live a more self-sufficient and sustainable lifestyle as well.

Yet this blog and website, along with the resources offered here, are a service provided by Runamuk that make up part of my business model. The funds generated here through sponsorships and affiliate partnerships go directly to Runamuk, helping me to continue farming─helping me to pay for things like chicken feed, supplies for the apiary, or even the farm’s liability insurance.

I’m humble enough and realistic enough to know that most writers never make it big. I’ll never be the next JK Rowling, but it’s a skill I possess and I can use it to generate at least part of my income. And I do make some money writing. You can be sure I included those figures in my financials when I approached the FSA with my loan request. Runamuk is a diverse operation; this blog and my talent as a writer are part of my business model. I hope to expand this aspect of my operation once Runamuk is settled at our new forever-farm home. Stay tuned for more on that in upcoming posts.

greenstalk_zucchini
Use them to grow flowers or herbs, or even as a means of small-scale food production!

The GreenStalk affiliate program is by invitation only, so I was lucky that Ashley Skeen stumbled upon my website. She’s the marketing manager at GreenStalk and she reached out to me to invite me to partner with them, and offered to send me a GreenStalk and the Mover to try for myself and review for them! How cool is that!?

greenstalk_herbs
BPA Free and UV Resistant!

I told her she’d better wait to send the GreenStalk til after the move lol, but I wanted to introduce them to you now. I think they’re offering an innovative approach to food-production in small spaces; with another growing season upon us I believe there are folks out there who will be able to put the GreenStalk to good use.

These are stackable planters with a unique watering system that allows the gardener to grow a lot in just 2 square feet of space. You could use it to grow flowers, herbs, and even vegetables. They’re BPA free and UV-resistant too, so they’ll last for years. I really like the fact that GreenStalk is a small family owned business out of Tennessee, and I love that their products are made 100% in the USA. Go to their website to see how the GreenStalk works!

greenstalk_mover
This Mover makes relocating the GreenStalk easy-peasy!

Without a doubt I’m looking forward to trying the GreenStalk. Initially I was thinking I would use it to produce a tower of herbs that I could position just outside the front door to keep them handy to the kitchen for cooking; then at the end of the season I could simply use the Mover to wheel the tower inside for the winter and still have fresh herbs. However, as I poured over the photo album on their website I came up with an even better idea, which I’m really excited about.

My son BraeTek had expressed some interest in growing blackberries and raspberries at the new farm and was disappointed when I told him we’d have to wait til next year to really start putting in perennials like that. BraeTek has been involved in the farmers’ market with me off and on over these last 5 years; he’s quite the entrepreneur actually─selling lemonade, iced tea and dog biscuits. Now he wants to grow berries so that he can make frozen smoothie pops to sell to kids at the farmers’ market. Naturally I want to encourage him, but the realities of moving a farm and family and getting everyone settled again makes me reluctant to get too carried away with planting much in the way of perennials this first year. This will be a transition year.

greenstalk_kale
Look at all the kale you can grow with the GreenStalk Vertical Garden!

It occurred to me though, as I looked through the photos shared by the GreenStalk community, that we could use the GreenStalk to raise strawberries. Johnny’s has some varieties that perform very well in containers and I knew I still had time to order bare-root plants for this season. When I showed BraeTek the pictures of what I had in mind he gave me an enthusiastic “Okay!”

Later that same day I placed my order for 25 of the Seascape strawberry variety offered by Johnny’s Selected Seeds. There are 30 planting pockets on the GreenStalk, so I thought we could fill in the remaining 5 pockets with a few herbs or flowers and the tower will look great standing in the front yard at the Hive House!

greenstalk_zucchiniIt’s going to be fantastic having our own fresh strawberries. I admit I am strongly biased against buying strawberries. Strawberries are #1 on the list of “Dirty Dozen”, with the highest concentrations of pesticides. Even when washed and rinsed they are still likely to be contaminated─they’re like a sponge─they just soak up the chemicals. If I do buy strawberries I always buy Organic, but as a farmer I know that even some approved organic pesticides can be harmful. Growing your own is really the safest way to get strawberries.

Note: Check out this report from the Environmental Working Group to learn more about the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen.

I’m especially looking forward to working on this project with my son. I want my children to be producers in this world. I want them to know how to make things, grow food, and do things for themselves. Some day they might need those skills, and also, I feel a certain level of production is essential for a full and satisfying life. Check back soon to see updates on BraeTek’s strawberry production project using the GreenStalk planter.

Be sure to click on the new GreenStalk button in the sidebar to check out our new affiliate partner! Use promo code RUNAMUK to get $10 off yours!

Winter Growing Challenge!

pea shoot salad_winter growing cahllenge

Announcing Runamuk’s Winter Growing Challenge 2017!

winter growing challenge
Eat your greens all winter long by growing your own shoots and sprouts! Photo credit to: Backyardfarm.co

The further I travel along this road toward an increasingly sustainable lifestyle, the more I learn about food and good health. I want to provide my family with healthy fare so they can reach their full potential─that was the reason I started gardening in the first place. I’ve learned to feed my children from the garden during the summer, to store and preserve the harvest for the winter, and we’ve learned to eat less meat, and less processed foods. But nothing beats the health benefits of eating fresh greens, so I’ve been working to increase our family’s access to those nutrient-dense greens all year.

winter growing at runamuk
Crops growing under row-cover.

Those who have been following along with Runamuk’s story know that I’ve extended my growing season by using row-cover and greenhouse film on a couple of my garden beds. The plan is to be able to harvest from that all winter this year, and so we’ve sown a variety of cold-hardy greens including kale, tatsoi, radishes, spinach, mizuna and a lettuce mix for good measure.

In addition to that I’ve decided to take up the Winter Growing Challenge and I’m planning on growing shoots and sprouts this winter to further supplement our family’s available greens. I’m inviting you to follow along with our progress as we make space in our kitchen this winter for trays of green veg and jars of tender sprouts. Learn how easy it can be to grow your own food; then gather your courage to try it too. We can do this together.

Note: To learn more about our food system and the immediate impact each and every one of us can have on it, read this article I wrote: Vote With Your Fork to Save our Broken Food System.

What is the Winter Growing Challenge?

I, Sam(antha) Burns─farmer, beekeeper, gardener, blogger, and Mom to 2 rowdy young men-to-be─challenge myself to grow more food this winter. I am challenging myself to  grow shoots and sprouts in order to provide the most healthful and nutrient-dense diet I can, on my limited budget, and in tight quarters.

Join me in taking up the Winter Growing Challenge, grow more food this winter to feed your family fresh veg for a healthier and more sustainable, self-sufficient life.

Who Can Play?

winter growing challenge_pea shoots
Pea shoots grown by Magic Valley Greens n Things.

Anyone!!! From the homesteader or the home gardener, to the individual who has never grown anything before─I’m inviting you to follow along with my Winter Growing Challenge, learn from my adventures (and misadventures) and give it a go. Grow your own shoots and sprouts this winter, share pictures of your tender green shoots to Instagram to share your excitement. Post to Facebook your recipes for creative new ways to use your fresh greens; share your experiences and encourage others around you to take up the Winter Growing Challenge too!

When & Where?

For 3 months, beginning the first week of December and running through February, I will be posting that story once a week for you to follow here on the Runamuk blog. There will be new how-to articles that I hope will inspire you to give growing shoots a try, as well as recipes, and links to resources to help you grow your own fresh greens this winter. I’d recommend you subscribe to receive new posts from Runamuk directly in your in-box so that you don’t miss a thing!

Up-coming giveaway???

I see another giveaway in our future! To help other home gardeners get started with growing your own greens this winter, I want to give a few of you the gift of a pound of pea seed for shoots from Johnny’s Selected Seeds! Check back soon for the details on that!

Let’s Do This!

pea shoot salad_winter growing cahllenge
Delicious pea shoot salad grown and prepared by BackyardFarm.co

Nearly 80% of Americans say that sustainability is a priority to them. People are waking up to the pervasive financialization of the food system and the dangers of a diet made up of processed foods. We are increasingly opting to purchase organic or locally grown or grass-fed. More and more households are choosing to cultivate gardens in their backyards, and urban farming is on the rise. Growing our own shoots and sprouts during the winter is just one more way we can improve our own self-sufficiency. It’s one more way we can take a stand against the corporate consumer-based system, and one more way we can eat healthier for a long and happy life.

Join me! Follow along with my Winter Growing Challenge 2017! Leave a comment below if you want to play along!

winter growing challenge

Know Your Persephone Period

persephone days

There were 9.5 hours of daylight yesterday. Here in Maine the Persephone Period has begun. If Halloween festivities and the celebration of Samhain weren’t enough to indicate the turning of the Wheel of the Year, day light savings really drives the message home. Darkness descends upon the landscape right now at 4:30 in the afternoon, cutting the days dramatically short, and they will continue to get shorter and shorter until we reach the Winter Solstice, when the days start to grow in length once more.

persephone days
At Runamuk Acres, located in central Maine, our Persephone Days begin around November 5th.

The Story of Persephone

In his books “The New Organic Grower” and “The Winter Harvest Handbook” Eliot Coleman reminded us that before humanity had science to explain how the world works we made up stories like that of the Greecian myth of Persephone. She was the Goddess of Spring Growth, beautiful and lovely. She was also the daughter of Demeter, who was the Goddess of Corn, Grain, and the Harvest.

One day while Persephone was playing in a flowery meadow Hades, Lord of the Underworld, came and abducted her to be his bride. Demeter was so enraged that she laid a curse upon the Earth that caused the crops to wither and die, and the land became barren.

Zeus has no choice but to intervene, seeking the return of Persephone, but because the maiden had eaten 6 pomegranate seeds (the food of the dead) while in captivity Hades had a claim on her. It was decreed that Persephone would forever spend four months of the year in the Underworld with her husband.

During these months Demeter grieves for her daughter, withdrawing her gifts from the world, creating winter. Persephone’s annual return to the Earth in the spring was marked by the greening of meadows and the budding of new leaves of the trees.

Why does it matter?

As a grower it’s important to know when your Persephone period because most plants won’t grow when there are less than 10 hours of daylight. Sure, we can manipulate it a bit, using cold-frames, low-tunnels and high-tunnels, and selecting cold-hardy varieties. However, these are natural forces that we ultimately have no control over; the sun comes up when it comes up, and sets when it sets.

If we want to harvest during this time we need to plant the seeds in advance, so that the crop has enough time to reach at least 75% maturity. There will be some growth during the Persephone Days, but it will be very slow.

To determine the Persephone Period where you are try the Duration of Daylight site offered by the US Navy’s Astronomical Applications Department.

Learn more about growing through the winter by checking out this great Winter Growing Guide offered by Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Whether you’re growing for market or to feed your own family, knowing your Persephone Period is key.

Living Refrigerators

winter growing
The 2 beds we designated for winter growing.

Here in Maine the days will not be long enough for significant growth to occur again until February. In the meanwhile I have 3 beds under row-cover in the garden: 2 beds hold kale and a variety of greens, and the 3rd contains carrots. These beds are something like living-refrigerators, where we laughingly go to “shop” once a day.

During the winter it can be difficult to access fresh vegetables locally, but thanks to our own dedication, we’ve managed to grow our own, reducing the food budget and providing our family with more nutritious food. What’s more, there’s a way to grow even more fresh greens this winter! Check back soon to learn more about Runamuk’s Winter Growing Challenge!

When does your Persephone Period begin? Share your comments below so we can all learn from your experiences! And thanks for following along!

know your persephone days

Sowing Seeds Mid-August For A Winter Harvest

de cicco broccoli

It’s mid-August already, but there’s still time to sow a number of different vegetables for a winter harvest. If you’re growing your own food for your family or for market, you’ll want to take advantage of the remaining season and get these crops in the ground right away. If you haven’t tried it yet, seize the opportunity and overwinter a bed of vegetables for fresh harvesting all winter. If I can do it, you certainly can!

sowing mid-august for a winter harvestKnow your Persephone Period

Aside from temperature, the most important thing to consider when planning your winter garden is day-length. Most plants need at least 10 hours of daylight for active growth to occur. Eliot Coleman dubbed this the “Persephone Days” after the Greek vegetation goddess.

mid-august sowing for winter harvest

The key is to schedule your plantings so that your crops will be 75% mature by the time the Persephone Period begins. Your day-length will vary depending on where you are, so the point at which your Persephone Period begins will likely be different from mine.

Note: To determine your own Persephone Period check out Johnny’s Winter Growing Guide, where they walk you through how to figure it all out.

Plan Ahead

First you have to decide where you’re going to put these crops. Are they for harvesting throughout the winter? Or are you trying to overwinter them for an early spring harvest? Do you now have empty beds where your spring crops formerly sat? Which beds could be freed up? and which ones will be available once the summer crops have been harvested?

Think about how you’ll protect them from the cold. Do you have a high-tunnel or hoop-house, or are you using low-tunnels? Do you have all the supplies you’ll need? You don’t want to be scrambling for row-cover in the event of an unexpected frost-warning; take advantage of the fall season-extension sale going on right now at Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

If you don’t have a high-tunnel or hoop-house, the low-tunnels are a super easy and affordable option for gardeners and commercial growers. Learn more about using Agribon in the Garden in this article I wrote!

9 crops you can sow mid-August

Now you’re gung-ho to grow! Boo-yeah! But what can you plant this late in the season?

Quite a lot as it turns out.

From Seed:

  1. Beets
  2. Turnips
  3. Carrots
  4. Leeks
  5. Broccoli raab (this is a little different from your typical heading broccoli)
  6. Radishes
  7. Parsley
  8. GREENS: spinach, pac choi, mache, lettuces, mustards, etc.

From Transplants:

de cicco broccoli
This is De Cicco broccoli I direct-sowed in July, followed by another sowing mid-August.

I can’t get fall transplants in my area because most folks still garden primarily through the summer around here. If I had started these myself back in July I could have put them in, but by mid-August it’s just too late to try growing these crops from seed. However if you can get them where you are, or if you know a local farmer who grows fall transplants you should totally jump on that and get these crops in the ground. Often people have less trouble with them in the fall because the pest pressure is all but gone and these plants really do like the cool temperatures.

  1. BRASSICAS: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage (brussel sprouts have a 110 day maturity, so even from a transplant there’s just not time to produce a crop).

Just sow it!

At this point in the season we’re beginning to get worn out, tired from long days toiling in the sun and late evenings in the kitchen preserving the harvest. Yet I know that if you make the effort to get these crops in─come January when you’re harvesting fresh greens for salad or a side of fresh steamed greens─you’ll be glad you did.

Whatever the reason for growing your own food─whether it’s to save money, eat better (as in fewer preservatives, less sugar, less salt, and to avoid cancer-causing pesticides), or to promote a more sustainable food system─you can extend your growing season to extend into the fall and even through the winter with a little strategic planning, and some initiative. So get out there and get those seeds in the ground!

Have you tried growing for winter harvest? Share your insights with us! Leave a comment below; together we can grow better!

What to Do When Your Tree Is Dying: 6 Things You Need To Know

dying tree

The trees and plants in the surroundings are living things that need to be taken care of. The trees and plants provide a lot of benefits not only to mother earth but also to us, human beings. Trees add life as well as color to the environment.

For some, trees can be a great addition to enhance your garden and home facade. Thus, in this article, I am going to share with you six efficient tips on how to save a dying tree in your backyard.

Note: This is a guest-post by Lucy Clark of GardenAmbition.com. Please join me in welcoming her to the Runamuk blog!

Ready? Here are the six things you need to know about how to save a dying tree:

what to do when your tree is dying

what to do when your tree is dying1. IDENTIFY THE SIGNS OF A DYING TREE

Not all people can classify a dying tree from an already dead tree. They are completely two different things. The confusion starts because both look lifeless, dried up, and without any trace of green leaves. So, before you go ahead and save a dying tree, know first if it is dying or already dead. Nourishing a dead tree back to life would be pointless and time-consuming.

dying tree
A dying tree usually has a bent structure, cracks, decay and dried-up.

A dying tree may have the following signs:

  • Bent structure – The tree is not upright because the root is losing its strength.
  • Cracks – There is a continuous crack on the trunk of the tree.
  • Decay – There are fungi or mushrooms on the surface of the tree.
  • Dried Up Wood – Extreme dryness is a sign of a dying tree. The branches look lifeless and can easily crack when you put pressure in it.
  • Light to No Leaves – Dying trees often have fewer leaves than healthy trees. Leaves can be found in a few branches.

2. IDENTIFYING THE PROBLEM

cutting dying tree
An arborist has the necessary training and knowledge to analyze and treat any tree problem.

Since you already know the signs of a dying tree, the next thing you need to do is to determine the cause of why it is dying. Determining the exact cause is quite tricky; hence, you might need to consult an arborist for proper guidance. This will increase the chance of saving your tree.

3. CORRECT WATERING ISSUES

watering
Watering can be detrimental to the health of some trees.

Moisture issues are commonly the reasons why a tree is prone to dying. Mature trees can be adversely affected by too much or too little water. Dehydration can kill all living beings – humans, animals, and trees. To ensure your trees grow healthy and sturdy, make sure that they are properly nourished. You have to check and make sure that the area where the tree is located has a good drainage system. Using your garden hose, set it on high stream and water the tree from 0.5 to 2 minutes. Control the nozzle and avoid drowning the soil with too much water. If you do not have enough time to water the tree, setup an automated sprinklers instead.

4. PROPER MULCHING TECHNIQUE

How does using a mulch save a tree? Mulching is one way to nourish the soil surrounding your tree. However, when not done correctly, it can be harmful to the trees. Be sure not to put too much mulch around the base. Just place enough mulch to allow the roots to breathe. Dig the ground so that the mulch has direct contact with the roots. Make it at least 5 inches deep. Using your rake, spread the mulch, only apply 1.5 inches of mulch. In doing so, it helps prevent a host of other tree problems like bacteria and fungi infections.

mulching
Organic Mulch can save dying trees. It contains compost, tree bark chips, wheat straw and others.

5. USE FERTILIZERS ACCORDINGLY

organic fertilizers
Soils with organic fertilizers remain loose and airy which can help a dying tree.

Fertilizers are another item that can help your dilemma on how to save a dying tree. When using fertilizers, avoid sprinkling or spraying it too much to the trees. Before jumping to the conclusion that a sick or dying tree needs fertilizer, test the soil first to make sure you are saving the tree and correcting the problem. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to get the full benefits of the fertilizers. When you are unsure, consult it first with an arborist. Perhaps, it is not the soil nourishment that causes your tree to die. There could be other factors involved like pests or dehydration.

6. PROPER PRUNING TECHNIQUE

If you want to learn about how to save a dying tree, it is helpful if you research on appropriate pruning techniques. Know the kind of tree and the disease because there is a proper pruning for each, and it should be adjusted accordingly. If there are unhealthy areas noticeable on a tree, correctly removing the diseased sections could save a tree’s life. Be sure to get rid of the unhealthy branches to prevent the problem from spreading. Use sanitized shears, knives, or saw to remove unwanted branches.

pruning
Pruning can help your tree retain its nourishment.

GO SAVE SOME TREES!

There are so many ways on how to save a dying tree, but these six steps are the forerunner. In some cases, the reason why a tree is dying could be more than just about nourishment and diseases. Weather conditions and expected lifespan could also play a role. Trees have saved us so many times, and it is now our turn to save them. So, go ahead and look around your garden for some trees to save!

Thank you for reading and don’t hesitate to share your tree-story below! Happy gardening!