Posts Tagged ‘Organic Gardening’

The summer has been a busy one with many new and exciting projects around here on our very young evolving farm, and yes, I said “farm”….

For many years our CaMp TuRloCk homestead has been a place for family celebrations, a respite for friends to recharge with some country-time & a menagerie of well loved animals and of course home to Local Choices.

Today it feels good to say our homestead has added a new venue:  A farm!

A farm that grows our own food organically, a farm that provides a pastured haven for chickens of  Shady Oak Organic Eggs, a farm that feeds our family and beyond!

So stay tuned as we look forward to sharing with you our growth, new projects & this amazing gift of nature that is right out our back door.

In the meantime, enjoy some photos from our garden. See, we have been working hard!

(Check back soon for the sound of  happy chickens)

Growing Corn

Lavender at Local Choices

A day's berry harvestPhotos taken by Alexandria Araiza

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Happy planting, harvesting and eating!

by Neal & Marie Curran


Spring is coming and so is our garden! Here at Nine Acre Farm, we are incredibly busy planting our spring/summer garden. Most of this work as of yet is indoors. Our plants go through quite a journey to make it from seed packet to the field. We are trying our hardest to keep conservation-intensive methods in mind even as we work indoors. We hope our process will be helpful to you as you begin your 2011 garden.

1)  A garden-ready greenhouse

Our greenhouse is small, but can fit many plants. We built tables for our plants. On two of our tables we have plastic tubing (a waste material) arched over the tables to support insulating plastic at night.  To warm the greenhouse when it’s cold and at night, we have use an old wood stove and a homemade chimney. Discarded fencing posts from the property fit perfectly in the stove. When it gets too warm in the greenhouse, the walls double as windows that lift open from the bottom.
Also, we make our own potting soil in our greenhouse. It is a mixture of homemade compost, peat, and perlite (available at most Lowes).

2)  Seed packet to greenhouse

In late December and throughout January we started plants such as broccoli, artichokes, celery, kohlrabi, beets, lettuce, leeks, brussels sprouts, and many more. Instead of using plastic trays, which aren’t always space efficient and are wasteful when they fall apart, we use soil blocks. We use the soil blocks to punch out a mold of soil. Each block mold contains 20 1-inch spaces: one for each seed. After seeding, we sprinkle our homemade potting soil over the block and water.

Currently we have begun seeding our tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Because these members of the Nightshade family require higher germinating temperatures than our winter crops would find agreeable, we start them on soil blocks on an electric heat mat. This is an excellent way to get a jump start on summer crops!

3)  Greenhouse rotation

When our seedlings begin to grow out of their one-inch cubes, we move them to two-inch cubes made with a larger soil blocker. The two-inch blocks remain on the tables to be covered with plastic at night, just as the one-inch blocks. After a couple of weeks, we move them to our uncovered table. Here they begin the process of hardening off. The lack of plastic covering at night exposes them to lower temperatures.

4) The Cold Frame

After plants have spent a week or two on the uncovered table, they are moved to the cold frame outside our greenhouse. The cold frame is a wood frame on the ground with a tarp covering the soil. At night, the plants are covered with plexiglass (a waste material available to us). They are uncovered during the day but sheltered with sheet when it gets to warm/sunny. Plants spend about one or two weeks in here.

4) Greenhouse to field

I’m not going to talk much about this part, but I will tell you that once plants leave the nursery and go into the great adult garden, they still receive a little help. They are sheltered nightly with a light row cover. So far we have a few rows of transplants and additional direct-seeded vegetables (snap peas, carrots, turnips, beets, leaf lettuce, radishes, etc.) growing in our garden.

~ For more information about our farm or to join our CSA (starting in mid-March!) check our our website at www.nineacrefarm.com and email us at neal@nineacrefarm.com.

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Musings by blogger Lydia of “Through the Screen Door”….

I don’t know about you, but I am ready for Spring.  After so many months of cold, rain, frost, and fog, the sun has finally decided to grace us with its presence!  Don’t get me wrong, I love Wintertime too.  Warm fires, fresh bread, rich hot chocolate, savory stews, and holidays with family are all delightful.  But, by this time of year, I’m usually ready for a change.  As soon as we get a sunny day or two, I start fantasizing about warm dirt between my bare toes, and the tangy burst of sun-ripened tomatoes in my mouth!

Last weekend was gorgeous.  My Dad brought over some baby fruit trees and boysenberry starts for me.  I have begged for his assistance in my quest for the ultimate garden, as he is the master, and I cannot yet snatch the pebble from his hand.  I remember, while I was growing up, he always had a garden.  Unfortunately for me, watching him garden back then, and managing my own wayward piece of heaven by myself, are two very different things….


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What is a Community Garden?

Any piece of land gardened by a group of people

A few months ago I visited a community garden and met an inspiring woman who is truly in love with dirt, gardening and the well being of her community. This kind preserver of nature is an ER nurse that admitted playing in the dirt was a great stress reliever. I applaud her for taking this passion one step further by following her dreams and bringing her community together to successfully build 4 community gardens in Riverbank, in just one year!

Her name is Dotty Nygard, she is president of the Riverbank Community Garden Coalition. Partnered with the school district, the city and the community this amazing hands on team have created a wonderful opportunity and educational environment for all, their goal and belief ….” creating consciousness for our earth, our community and ourselves”.

As I strolled through the first garden across from California Avenue School, with my camera in tow, Dotty sat with a group of children and read “Our Generous Garden”, a lovely children’s story about gardening. Quietly listening I could feel the profound respect and connection between Dotty, children and the dirt they learned to love and nurture together.

If Riverbank is your community don’t miss out, become a part of this experience and get dirty!

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Well, life has been busy here at Local Choices and consequently it has put me behind on my local favorite finds, so I’m catching up by putting together a not so short blip of all I wanted to share with you!

Make sure to right click on the photos to see more and remember…be a locavore & support local!

  • Local Choices on Facebook… for quick updates on what’s going on here in the Central Valley don’t be left in the dark, get yourself a facebook page, become our fan and connect with others!
  • Pure Valley Honey Bees… Frankie and Evelyn by far have the yummiest honey products I have ever tasted! This bee team comes from Le Grande and can be found at Merced, Mariposa and Los Banos Farmers Markets. Visit their website to see what they have & what they are up to!
    Pure Valley honey Bees
  • Xiong & Silva Farms…. a while back I discovered this small corner produce stand in Turlock on Tully & Canal, it is family farmed and diversified with fruits and vegetables, the selection was abundant and super fresh!
Xiong ~ Silva Farms
  • Green Leaf BBQ Shop & Catering…. is a new BBQ Shop located in Village Market Corner on Canal St. in Turlock. Owners Tim & Carrie take pride in offering unique bbq’n supplies that are earth friendly, from Treager bbq’s to wine infused wood chunks for a sweet smoked flavor. Need good quick advice on your techniques check out Tims blog & facebook for fun facts!
Green Leaf BBQ Shop
  • Pageo Farms…. from the road you can see the rows of sweet beautiful lavender but when you drive in there is a whole lot more going on. This charming Turlock farm has a stand with organic fruits & veggies, a large variety of peppers & tomatoes grown by Josh, bath salts, lavender lemonade, lavender cookies and what ever treats they feel like baking up for the day. In the back a courtyard surrounded by lush greenery, renovated barns and silo make for a perfect wedding or party setting. Look for them on 11573 Golf Link Rd. Become their friend on facebook for updates!
Pageo Farms
  • Merced Shares…. all I can say is genious, a group of urban women who love to grow their own foods found they had so much extra they decided to create a “food exchange”, they get together and bring what ever they have left over from their harvest, divide it up and everyone is happy! Learn more about these progressive backyard farmers on their blog!
Merced Share’s
  • Heifer International & UC Cooperative Extension… these two organizations have collaborated to help promote and support community and school gardens teaching organic sustainable agriculture here in the Central Valley. A valuable quest that needs community involvement, want to volunteer? Check out the learning farm in Ceres.
Heifer International & U C Cooperative Extension School Communituy Garden Seminar
  • Cynthia Flesher’s Pink Papaya Spa Parties….Inner Balance and Outer Beauty is her mantra, she is a Certified Massage Therapist in Turlock offering home spa parties with her luscious Pink Papaya skin & body line loaded with 100% pure essential oils. Treat yourself and friends to an “all about me time” and book a party!
Theraputic Body Works by Cynthia Flesher

Check back again for my next Central Valley updates!

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Young sustainable farmers in the making…

Thanks to Heifer International and University of California Cooperative Extension, who have partnered to help schools and communities start vegetable gardens, and with the collaboration among local non-profits a garden was grown and nurtured by local teens who have learned to farm organic seasonal produce and sell at the West Modesto Farmers Market!

Your are invited to tour this organic youth farm!

August 11

9 am ~ 2 pm

3906 Don Pedro Rd. Ceres

There will be…

  • free seasonal farm grown lunch
  • free seeds
  • educational workshops & resources for teachers and the community
  • fall & winter planting ideas
  • land preparation education
  • drip irrigation instrucion

Enjoy a day of learning, sharing and how to participate

in your local community and school gardens!

Please RSVP to

Anne Schellman ~ aschellman@ucdavis.edu ~

(209) 525.6800

more info here!

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This my locavores is a must see…..a good step in supporting local!

This is my second post about this documentary and after seeing it my emotional reaction confirmed the importance of  my blog…to share what I feel is important with my community….good whole food & how to find it, I am one small effort to support local and this film is the reason why.

Mark your calendars & take a friend to the beautiful restored  State Theater in Modesto. Food, Inc. is a powerful documentary that will affect the way you eat no doubt, or at least plant a seed in that direction.

The film runs August 14 – August 22…..if you see it, we want some feed back here!

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The Pick and Gather at Riverdance Farms

and Merced River Fair

A Farm Festival that is really On-a-Farm

May 30 – 31, 2009

12230 Livingston Cressey Road

Livingston, CA 95334

Saturday: May 30th 9 am till 5 pm
Adults: $ 10.00: Children (3 to 12): $ 5.00

Come Pick Organic Blueberries and Cherries. Listen to live music and vivid storytelling. Experience the Merced River, its fish, wildlife, plants and the stars and planets overhead. Workshops highlight home gardening, farming with nature, alternative energy, local food and how to prepare and preserve it. Take a hay ride or climb a hay mountain. Enjoy fun and educational kids’ activities and local artists’ demos and exhibitions. Food is available; mostly local, organic and healthy. Saturday night camping. Evening astronomy program, great for families or adults!

Saturday night campsites $ 10.00

Taste of the River Valley: Food and Wine Event: Sat 4 pm to 7 pm
Author Mark Arax is the featured speaker, plus live music
$ 20.00 for Day Participants: $ 25.00 at the Gate.

Laid Back Sunday: 8 am till 2 pm
Adults: $ 5.00, Children (3 to 12): $ 2.50.
More U-pick fruit, farm tours, live music. Enjoy the river.


For more info contact Cindy  Lashbrook at (209) 761-0081 ~ riverdancefarms@clearwire.net~

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April 29th ~ May 3rd, 2009

“The Magic of Ag” is the theme, bringing awareness and appreciation of our large agricultural valley loaded with big and small farms & ranches. Kat and her hard working crew have been preparing for the Henry Miller Farm here at the fair for some time, to educate the community just how much impact animals have in the agriculture cycle.

The hands on petting zoo is filled with a variety of critters from baby calfs and goats to a very large Belgium Blue. A steady flow has passed through this huge venue in awe, most visitors for the first time experiencing new born chickens, goat & cow milking and the importance of feed and care, lot’s of learning going on here!100_4941


As popular buzz words have hit main stream media here in the central valley such as eating local, recycle, sustainability, green, grow your own foods…we thought it was a good time to actually put our own twist on this movement. So Kat and I have put together a simple back yard garden display in the middle of this farm, showing just how easy it is to do. We used all recycled materials from fence posts to old tires and planted a vegetable & herb garden that looks eco-friendly, relaxing and like you want to hang out for awhile!

Come check us out, see our “Organic Oasis” and we’ll show you how you can create this in your backyard!


If you don’t make it to this fair not to worry

you can catch up with us and our “Organic Oasis” at the Merced County Fair in july!

Merced County Fair 2009 logo: Catch The Buzz

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To take a small, dormant capsule of life
and unlock its culinary and/or aesthetic
potential is glorious indeed!

Check out these helpful seed starting tips for your garden from Botanical Interests:


  • Varieties such as tomatoes, peppers, onions, perennials and some annual flowers really benefit from an early start indoors.
  • Light: Insufficient light is the biggest mistake people make starting seeds indoors. Long, tall, skinny seedlings which eventually fall over and die are the result of not enough light. Use fluorescent lights, preferably a 4-tube ballast. Tubes must be placed 1″ — 2″ above seedlings. Ballasts can be hung on chains and hooked into ceiling hooks for easy adjustment as seedlings grow. Seedlings must receive 14 — 16 hours of light per day.
  • Soil: Purchase high quality seed starting mix. Don’t use outside soil. Buying inexpensive, poor quality soil will only cause problems.
  • Water: Seedlings must be kept moist but not soggy. If they completely dry out just once, seedlings will die. If soggy, fungal problems can occur.
  • Containers: Almost any container can be used to start seeds including old milk containers or egg cartons. Seed starting trays and larger pots to transplant seedlings into are available. If you reuse containers year after year, soak containers in a 1:9 bleach/water solution to kill potential seedling pathogens. To retain soil moisture until seed germinates, cover container with a clear lid or wrap in clear plastic wrap. Remove cover immediately when you see the first seedling. Moving to larger containers: Once the roots of a seedling have hit the side of the container and started curling around the pot, it’s time to transplant to a larger container. Put soil in bottom of larger container, carefully spread apart the roots and place plant in the larger container (twice the size of original container). Fill container with soil and water to settle soil around the roots.
  • Visit Earthfirst.com for more container ideas!
  • Before moving outside: Harden the seedlings off for about a week by taking containers outside and placing in a filtered sun/shade location away from harsh winds during the day. Gradually increase time outdoors.


  • Inside: Generally, tomatoes are started inside 6 — 8 weeks before the average last frost, peppers 8 — 10 weeks, onions 8 — 12 weeks.
  • Outside: Warm season crops, crops that are frost sensitive such as beans, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, squash and watermelons should be sown AFTER the average last day of frost in your geographic region. Cool season crops such as carrots, lettuce, peas, radish, chard and many leafy greens can be sown as early as 8 — 10 weeks before the average last frost for a spring harvest and in late summer for a fall crop (see specific variety information on the front and back of each packet). Most annual flowers are generally sown around the average last frost date even though some can be sown earlier. Perennial flower seed Flower seed can vary from 4 — 12 weeks before the average last frost depending on the variety. For specific variety in can be sown almost anytime – early spring through late summer – as long as they have enough time to germinate and get a root system established. Even a late fall sowing works – seeds stay in the ground dormant until conditions in early spring permit the seeds to germinate.


  • Your knowledge of the average last day of frost in your region is crucial when planting a garden. To find out your last day of frost, call your county Cooperative Extension Service. Also inquire about the average date of the first fall frost.


  • GMO: (Genetically Modified Organism) Botanical Interests does not carry genetically modified varieties. Genetically modified varieties have had their DNA scientifically altered to make them more pest, disease, or chemical resistant. GMO seeds are controversial because no one is sure of their long term effects on the environment and humans.
  • Hybrid: A variety created by crossing two separate varieties to achieve desirable characteristics. A hybrid tomato, for example, may have been created to have excellent disease resistance, produce uniform, prolific fruit, or have superior flavor. If you save the seeds from a hybrid, though, the resulting fruit next year may revert back to the characteristics of one of its parents.
  • Open-pollinated: Varieties that are pollinated naturally by wind or insects without human intervention. Saved seed will be true to the original variety.
  • Heirloom: An open-pollinated seed variety that has been passed down through the generations for at least 50 years.
  • Organic: Organic refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. Organic seed, much like organic food production, is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic pesticides and inorganic fertilizers. This ecological management system promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. Botanical Interests’ organic seed is “Certified Organic” which means that our seed and our packaging facility have been inspected and meet strict standards set forth by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture).


  • A perennial is a variety that regrows from the root system every year. The advantage of a perennial is that it doesn’t need to be replanted every year; a disadvantage is that perennials have a shorter bloom period than most annuals. When choosing perennials for your garden, mix varieties with different bloom periods so that you have color in your garden over a longer period of time. Annuals do not regrow from their roots every year. However, they may produce seed that will germinate and regrow the following year. There is no guarantee that those plants will be identical to the original plants. Annuals usually bloom for a longer time period than perennials – in many cases, they bloom most of the growing season (spring to late fall).


  • Seed Germination Problems: Botanical Interests, Inc. seeds are extremely high quality. Seeds may not sprout if a) unusually cool or wet weather occurs, b) if planted too early when soil temperatures haven’t warmed up sufficiently, c) if seeds are not sown at the recommended depths and/or d) if seeds are not kept consistently moist. Extensive sowing information is included on the inside of the seed packet!
  • Soil: Don’t over fertilize your vegetable garden. Excess nitrogen can sometimes cause excessive foliage growth and few flowers or vegetables. Usually adding ample organic material to your garden soil at season’s end will supply sufficient nutrients.
  • Diseases: Many plant diseases can be prevented by starting with high quality seeds and good gardening practices such as rotating your crops to different locations within your vegetable garden and cleaning your gardening tools regularly with a 10% bleach/water solution.
  • Pests: Old-fashioned, low tech, and chemical free options should always be the first line of defense against insects and are usually effective. Contact your local County Extension Agent for specific solutions to specific problems. More information is also available in books and on the web.
  • Sunlight: Vegetable plants and most flowers CRAVE sunlight. Without enough of it, they get leggy and don’t produce vegetables or flowers. Most vegetables need AT LEAST 8 — 10 hours of DIRECT (not shade) sunlight. Some root crops (carrots, beets) and leaf crops (lettuce, kale) can manage with 6 hours of direct sun. See flower packets for individual recommendations.
  • Weeds: Weeds compete with seedlings and desirable plants for water, light, and nutrients. They can also harbor harmful insects and disease. Keep flower & vegetable beds weeded all season, particularly during initial seedling emergence. To identify WHICH emerging seedlings are from the seed you have sown, see the seedling drawing on the inside of the packet (back of the plant tag). Mulch: Mulch is a layer of almost anything – grass clipping, leaves, artificial materials such as landscape fabric – which is placed on the surface of the soil to keep soil moisture in and prevent weeds from coming up. Mulch should be applied thickly enough, several inches if possible, to keep weed seedlings from emerging. Some perennial weeds will still make it through the mulch, but because the soil below is moist (because of the protective layer of mulch), these weeds will be easier to pull.

We would like to hear your favorite gardening tips!

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