Posts Tagged "how-to"

First Chicken Coop: The Taj-MaHen

Posted on Nov 17, 2012

First Chicken Coop: The Taj-MaHen

I’ve posted that a good coop is THE KEY to happily keeping chickens. What I mean by that is a spot where your chickens roost at night and can be locked up safe when you need them to be.

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Good Link: How To Build a Worm Tower

Posted on Nov 9, 2012

Good Link:  How To Build a Worm Tower


Here’s a link to a great how-to and handout for building a worm tower from our friends at Midwest Permaculture. This is a way to do worm composting of food scraps directly in your garden. Enjoy!

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Farm Lessons: No new plastic buckets!

Posted on Aug 7, 2011

Farm Lessons: No new plastic buckets!

No plastic buckets!! That’s my personal version of the infamous “No wire hangers!” Luckily, my verision is usually silent,  to myself at the store, standing among the tempting rows buckets in pretty candy colors. On a farm, a plastic bucket, or plastic anything, is often just trash waiting to happen.

I hated plastic buckets long before my friends Diana & Elizabeth brought my attention to oxidation. Now, like a bad pop song, oxidation— in this case the weakening of plastic by sunlight—is stuck in my head. Don’t let the cowboy hat fool you, Diana takes care of her garden tools like a classic English gardener of yore. There is a paintbrush for specifically for brushing away grass from the mower deck as she demonstrates in the photo below. Oil and sandpaper make wooden tool handles glow. Things are hung in their place. She’s a shero of mine for this.

Tool maintenance was one of my garden resolutions this year. Thanks to Diana’s influence, and Mendy’s friendly reminders, I don’t blatantly leave my tools out in the rain all season anymore. Keeping tools dry has been an easy resolution since there’s been no rain to speak of during our two and half month bone-dry dustbowl. That was preceded by flooding during which it was too wet to dig anything and the tools were idled (but dry) in the shed.   (Don’t get me started on the weather…)

Last time I visited Diana & Elizabeth’s garden, Elizabeth drew my attention to putting plastic things out of the sun because the oxidation weakens the plastic. The next thing that happens is they end up in the trash bin faster than ever because let’s just say you cannot recycle most of this stuff.

So now I’m also obsessed with oxidation and the plastic I still have is often sitting out in the sun somewhere. Previously, I just hated plastic buckets because they bust at the first sign of ice and crack when it gets any age on it. By age I mean about twenty minutes it seems. No new plastic!

There are exceptions, of course. Like my wonderful heated chicken bucket for winter, which I bought  not knowing then the heaters are available for metal buckets too.  There are also the darned handy 5-gallon buckets from your friend the painter or dry-waller. Recycled and near-indestructible—barring dinner guests backing over them in their car—those still have a part to play on most every farm…  (If you have goats, remove the handles or they will get them stuck on their heads. Take it from me that is far more distressing than comical!)

Oh, and my beloved tree-watering plastic storage bins….I haven’t figured out a reasonable replacement for those yet and they’ve been the key to survival of every fruit tree at Larrapin this year….

As for farm buckets, make mine metal. Next time I buy a watering can, it’s going to be the old fashioned metal kind. Metal farm buckets look nice and blend into the farm landscape without any glaring plastic colors or without looking like you left your mop bucket out in the yard. No worries with oxidation or lack of recycling of plastic. They last years and years (even with the occational ice) without rust or holes and when they do get them, no problem—you have a lovely vintage planter you made yourself instead of having to buy it at that antique store!

And finally, if it’s beyond all use, you can always recycle metal! And while the upfront cost is much more, I can’t help but think it’s pays for itself quickly with long functional use and a use even after it’s not functional to hold water…So I’ll keep saying to mayself when faced with alluring colors: no new plastic buckets!

—A Larrapin Garden
Posts most wednesdays & weekends. Don’t miss any—you can subscribe by Email here.  You can also get bonus links and recipes by “liking” our Facebook fan page We’re even on Twitter at

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Book Review: The Edible Front Yard: The Mow-Less, Grow-More Plan for a Beautiful, Bountiful Garden by Ivette Soler

Posted on May 5, 2011

Book Review: The Edible Front Yard: The Mow-Less, Grow-More Plan for a Beautiful, Bountiful Garden by Ivette Soler

The Edible Front Yard by Ivette Soler

Our first garden book giveaway starts today and it is The Edible Front Yard: The Mow-Less, Grow-More Plan for a Beautiful, Bountiful Garden by Ivette Soler.  (How to win this book is at the end of this post.)

For those who have been snoozing since 2007: Edible is In. Whether it’s food prices, the appalling state of commercial food systems, or some deep instinctive turn toward self-sufficiency skills that we may need soon given the state of the world and the climate, lots of folks are starting to grow their own food. More urban dwellers in particular are venturing into growing edibles and there’s a bunch of new books on the particular challenges of growing food in the city, often in a very small space.

Usually, the next challenge is sunlight. Now why is it that more front yards are in full sun than backyards? Go figure. Since I compulsively assess the garden potential of any neighborhood I happen to be driving through, I can tell you it’s true. Home buyers take note: If you want to garden in your back yard, you are looking for a house with a front door facing North…and no neighbors who love shade trees.  For everyone else, Ivette Soler is going to show you what your front yard could be!

Front yard gardens do face additional challenges beyond the usual soil, critter and plant-based varieties. These may include neighbors, neighborhood associations, and the opinions of your family on having your dinner out there for everyone to see. The usual delight of harvesting your produce may also produce a big blank spot in your yard. What about passing children, dogs, or someone with boundary issues who feels free to harvest when you aren’t home? All this and more is covered quite handily in The Edible Front Yard, published by Timber Press.

Now let me say that many garden books by California authors are not that useful to those of us everywhere else. The plants and garden techniques that work great in the climate-of-paradise-to-most-fruits-and-vegetables are often a no-go if you deal with humidity, abundant/erratic rainfall, particular plant diseases & pests, high/low temp extremes, etc that pretty much the rest of the country faces.  I’m delighted to report that I found many ideas and tips in Soler’s book that are transferrable to most every gardening situation, even my own large, backyard and countryside spread in the Ozark hills.  Actually, the “removing concrete” how-to box rang some bells regarding bed prep on this rocky ground of mine!

I immediately loved the luscious photography and book design. The colors and textures make the book seem nearly edible. Luckily, the content is great too. I was pleased with how many she lists that will also grow in most regions. Soler brought my attention to several plants that I’ve neglected to explore, like passionflower and mints. Passionflowers grow wild in portions of the Ozarks, is beautiful, edible and beneficial to butterflies and I haven’t planted one yet!  This is soon to be remedied. I already fixed the mint shortage at the Fayetteville Farmers Market last weekend…

Soler  is generous with suggested plants and their profiles. I particularly like the ‘how to use’ sections on herbs. Some plants I have for wildlife-gardening reasons but hadn’t really thought of as edible to me—like juniper—were pleasant surprises.  There are also many how-to boxes, handy techniques for hardscaping & hellstrips, advice on dealing with neighbors and neighborhood associations (Really, just show them the pics in this book…), transforming a yard to garden, and maintaining your now productive and edible plot. I think new gardeners will find good advice and more advanced gardeners will find some very clever tips and ideas.

Finally, like Rosalind Creasy and several other edible pioneers, Soler goes a step further in breaking down the myth that edible gardens and beautiful gardens can’t be one and the same.  The photographs are the proof.  Readers of this blog will know I believe if you combine edibles with beauty, add some permaculture ideas, then cross it with generous wildlife & pollinator pantings then you have created one truly LARRAPIN Garden! Soler’s book is going to help more front yards get bountiful. And I like that a lot.

So, wanna win this gorgeous book? First, check out some of the wonderful titles at Timber Press. Then  tell me why you would like to win “The Edible Front Yard” in a comment below or on the Larrapin Garden Facebook Page. (Ok, ok, you can do it via twitter too. Just mention @LarrapinGarden in your tweet so I can find your entry. Follows are great, ‘natch, but not required.)  You can enter once by each method if you want to triple your chances to win this book! I’ll compile the entries then do the and announce the winner in the blog post next Wed, 5/11/11. Winner will have a week to claim the book or I’ll pick another lucky gardener.

P.S. About Larrapin Garden book reviews & giveaways:  I love to read garden books—particularly on edible landscapes, local food, cooking from the garden, permaculture, homesteading, chickens & backyard barnyards and other organic topics. I welcome titles to review. If I love it, I’ll write about it here on the garden blog. Disclaimer for readers: I receive no compensation for any endorsement I give in the posts on this blog, just so ya know if you read it here then I think it’s fab.

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Wednesday’s Walkabout (a day late): Spring Veggie Patch

Posted on Apr 21, 2011

Spring garden is going strong at Larrapin thanks to the wonderful light table! I’ve been able to start with seedling vs seeds and the immediate gratification factor has been exquisite. The pics above are a row by row walkabout a couple of days ago. (If you are reading on email and the pics don’t show up, click to the actual post here to see them…)

Starting with the top left and moving across is the most recently dug bed with little rock piles still nearby. Don’t be fooled, those handfuls represent about the third rock-clearing sweep. At least rocks don’t grow back right away….  Anyway there are potatoes under the soil in the trench, planted quite late…like, um, a few days ago vs the traditional St. Patrick’s day planting. The next two beds are peas, kale, broccoli and collards—yum. I’m crazy for cole crops, as you’ll soon be able to tell.  In the top-middle pic there is the happy accident of using large tomato cages turned on their sides as a makeshift pea trellis. Will use this again.

Second row, starting on the left: garlic!! I love garlic. Why did I plant so little last fall? What was I thinking? Note to self, plant about 3X that much this fall!  Middle pic: not done. Those beds have to be rearranged to run in wide rows so the irrigation t-tape will work. Oh, I love t-tape and it saves SO much time come summer, not to mention water and the plants just love it. Well, heck, spring too since there hasn’t been much rain. That’s a huge pluffy bed of chickweed going to seed in back. Don’t laugh, I love chickweed and make wonderful salve from it. It’s actually kind of rare on our rocky terrain so collect the seeds and plant little beds of it wherever there’s enough soil to support it. Also a great salad green, though I’ve never tried it. Finally, more cole crops. You can see the t-tape down in this bed..

Third row, starting on the left: Spinach and onions (red and texas super sweet). That’s my very favorite spinach “Monstreaux de Viroflay,” a heritage variety from Baker Creek that I LOVE since we can’t grow any faint-hearted spinach around here during Spring planting. The leaves of this will get as big as your head and it’s vigorous. Love it. Middle pic: that enormous green mass is what will happen if you don’t cut down your cover crop of Austrian Winter peas in time! But will make compost when I clear it and meanwhile it’s provided chicken greens for weeks now. Lastly, that bare looking row has cilantro, parsley, beets and other stuff. The blank spots are from the banty hen flying over the fence and eating the chard, which apparently was her favorite and she clearly doesn’t care for cilantro. Wing feathers clipped: check.

Fourth row, far left: new strawberry bed, all June-bearers so we can net them while the berries are green…otherwise the squirrels eat them green. In the middle, the old Ozark-beauty strawberry row, which I’ll be pulling out after they bear (which they will if I go out and put the net down!). They are ever-bearers which means they keep putting out berries a little at a time, which doesn’t work if you have to net them for squirrels! So I’ve switched to June-bearers which come off in one big burst. I refuse to grow more strawberries for the squirrels than we already have…  Lastly, the ‘bad’ row. Plants don’t like this row, haven’t figured out exactly why. Will probably just cover-crop it for the season (with bee forage of course) and see if it gets better…  As you see, the garden overall is not mulched yet, and it needs to be. See: to-do list.

Bottom row left: this is one way to kill bermuda grass: weighted tarps for many weeks. This is actually a wide path (made necessary by a tree stump) right beside the new asparagus bed. Asparagus hates weeds, hence grass killing in progress. Will mulch this in a few weeks with wet cardboard covered with straw.  Boards are nice way to walk over the tarp without disturbing the snakes beneath. (Just kidding, kind of!) Next is the new Asparagus bed in it’s second spring. Asparagus key: Year one-take none. Year two-take a few (but I don’t). Year three: W00-Hee!!  Made that last one up, but you get the point. If you can be disciplined those first two years, you’ll be rewarded with really strong plants that third year. We’ve eaten Asparagus all month from the three-year old bed (not shown here) and it’s nearly time to let it grow and recover too. MMMMMMM, it’s been delicious!

And finally, last pic on the bottom right — blackberries!  They have been covered with blooms and I’m nearly drooling at the thought of berries to come. The bees have been all over them too. Thanks for taking a walkabout in the veggie patch!  What’s going on in your garden about now??

—A Larrapin Garden
Posts most wednesdays & weekends…like this one on Why Eat Local Food? Don’t miss any posts— subscribe by Email here.   You can also get bonus links and recipes by “liking” our Facebook fan page at  Geesh, we’re even on Twitter at

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