Monday, August 25, 2014

Grow Your Own! A Wicking Bed Tutorial

Recently our friend Kate needed some worms for a worm farm she helped start with Todd at the Binkley Healing Center.  She messaged Ventura Cooperative on facebook, we connected, and we set up a time for her to come pick up a box of red wrigglers.  While she was with us, she talked about her project with Todd growing food on the balcony.  Sweet news!  More folks growing their own!  Even the news about how they're doing it.  They built and planted three wicking beds.

Wicking beds are a great way to save water and grow your own food! Check out the video above from activists feeding their community with food and knowledge.

Kate then invited us to a presentation Todd was doing the next day for his custom designed, handmade, water saving new raised beds.  Of course I went and was pleasantly surprised to see how intensely involved Kate and Todd are with growing their own food-- with sustainable and organic means.  They did a great job documenting the process.  The presentation was informative and inspiring.  Plus I like the color purple!  (they painted the beds purple ;-)

Our friend Jim Mangis came to the meet-up as well.  Come to find out, he helped Kate and Todd get started with plants and soil from his local business Good Tilth Organic Nursery.  Jim makes his own excellent compost mix.  He spoke about soil, I got the chance to practice a 30sec pitch for our Actively Aerated Compost Tea, and Todd talked about wicking beds.  Win-win-win!

So thanks to Kate and Todd for stepping up and implementing a program to grow their own food in a way that fits their needs and lifestyle.  Anybody can do it, and at Ventura Cooperative, we're here to help you out!

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Add Purslane to Your Edible Landscape

One of the best gifts of gardening is discovering that a plant you once thought was a weed, is really a integral part of your edible landscape.  Purslane is at the top of this list when it come to garden uses, nutritional value and culinary versatility. 

Purslane's growing habit makes it a good alternative to lawns or other ground covers.  A study conducted by the University of Connecticut concluded that the plant is effective at organically controlling weeds.  Purslane acts as a "living mulch." In the category of nutrition, the University of Texas at San Antonio finds Purslane contains 10 to 20 times more melatonin, an antioxidant, than any other fruit or vegetable they tested. more omega 3 fatty acids than any other plant source in the solar system, and an extraordinary amount for a plant, some 8.5 mg for every gram of weight.  Purslane also contians:
  • vitamin A, B, C 
  • six times more E than spinach
  • beta carotene, seven times more of that than carrots
  • magnesium, calcium, potassium, folate, lithium, and iron 
  • and has 2.5% protein per serving.
What about flavor?  Purslanes's taste has a subtle green flair of vitality, so it’s a great addition to many recipes.  We've been eating it raw with Green Zebra tomatoes, goat cheese in pita bread!  Tossed in salads with a cucumber yogurt dressing, it's a crowd pleaser.  Really, it's difficult to understate Purslane's attributes.

This fantastic “weed” is virtually underfoot everywhere, from Ventura to NYC, but most US residents don't know it's there.  So keep an eye out for it.  We're cultivating in our gardens from volunteers we found, and from a few cuttings Ron at Rincon Vitova gave us.  By this time next year, we'll have a living mulch cover crop that sustains many levels of the Soil Food Web, humans included!