Announcement!!!!


Breaking Urban Ground

is thrilled to announce our first issue of

Breaking Urban Ground magazine.

It is currently available on iPads everywhere in the Newsstand app. We have interviews from Paul Gautschi on his amazing Back to Eden garden. Larry Hall talks to us about the Rain Gutter Automatic Watering System he created. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds comes to you via the voice of Jere Gettle. A personality local to me, Gretchen Anderson answers some of our questions about starting backyard chickens. If chickens are not for you maybe our discussion with Vice President of Mann Lake Ltd may interest you. Jack Thomas gives us great advice on the topic of becoming a bee keeper. If you want to know anything about real world emergency preparedness then you will want to catch Steven Harris‘ interview. He tells us what every home can do to take a first (and easy) step toward counting on yourself in a power outage or if you lose a regular water supply. We even have a special article contributed to us from Pepper Miller. Her 3 part blog article “The Chicken Plan” is an example for you to see how one person put her wish to keep chickens into practice.

We are thrilled about the launch of the magazine but we are always looking forward to new issues. We are building June’s magazine right now and would love your participation. It can be as simple as a picture. You can send us pictures of your Breaking Urban Ground Projects. They can fall into these major categories.

Animals:

Show us your chickens, bees, rabbits, worms(worm compost projects) goats and others.

Alternate power:

Battery storage, home wind generator, solar projects, rain storage. Any utility you provide for yourself.

Food Production:

Canning successes, canning failures, dehydrated foods, cheese making, syrup, yogurt. What food did you make?

Gardening:

Your urban garden, community gardens you participate in, Veggies you grew or are growing, unusual crops, your first plant. If it is growing for food we want to see pictures.

Household Stuff:

Planter projects, a trellis you made, detergent, candles, beeswax lip balm, a bat house. This is the “construction zone”.

Preparedness:

This is more of an action than a “thing” so let’s see first aid kits, group pictures of your CPR certification class, your 72 hour kit. Send photos related to “being” ready for lives turbulent situations.

Storage:

How do you maximize your space. Lets see creative ways to manage what you have. Shelves you built, basement root cellars, serious spice cabinets.

Don’t forget to tell us about the picture. A picture of canned carrots is nice but information on who made them and a little background is better.

With all of this be sure to include the kids. Breaking Urban Ground includes all people learning to provide for themselves as they have interest. The entire family can be included. My kids don’t like gardening but love to make cheese. If your kids like doing something send pictures of their projects too.

We are all about learning. Learning includes mess-ups and failures. Send pictures of these and some info on what you learned from the experience and what you will do differently next time.

Sending your photos to Ideas@BreakingUrbanGround.com constitutes permission to use or not use the photos in future issue and articles and on the Breaking Urban Ground website and social media affiliations. Don’t send us pictures if they are not your own or you do not have authorization to distribute them.

Our first issue was so much fun to make. Lets make the next one better.

Joe Gore

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Repurposed Wire Mesh Shelf into a Hanging Garden Trellis


This project was born last summer when we went to the local consignment auction.  At about 2:00 am them auctioned off a wire mesh cube shelf set that was in a box.  No idea how many pieces were there or what we would do with it, but no one was bidding for a dollar…so we jumped in and bid.  Seemed like we could find a use for it somewhere.  Originally it probably looked like this:

Wire mesh shelving unit.

Wire mesh cube shelf that we bought at auction last summer for a dollar.

Wire mesh cube shelf that we bought at auction last summer for a dollar.  There were 25 pieces in the box.  

Fast forward to last weekend.  My wife, Margo, and my dad were talking about a trellis for the front yard vegetable garden.  We like to have veggies in the front yard because our kitchen window overlooks it and it makes it really easy to pick side dishes to go with dinner.  Just look outside and see what’s ripe.  Last year we had three different trellises and it looked a bit junky.  Given that this is our front yard, Margo wanted something that was sturdy, aesthetically pleasing, and cheap.  Cheap being the word that makes her smile with glee.

Tiny little trellis from last year couldn't keep up with our cucies.  This is the wall we need to cover.

Tiny little trellis from last year couldn’t keep up with our cucies. This is the wall we need to cover.

My dad saw the shelving and they started hashing out a plan.  The plan went from a stake-in-the-ground trellis to a hanging trellis.  They perused the garage and found a piece of conduit about 8 feet long for the top bar that we could suspend under the eave.

It took us a few tries laying it out in a pattern that we liked.  We were confined to the garage as stormy weather was on the way.   Margo comes from a family of quilters so she liked how the squares took on a geometric design.  We also made sure the gaps were big enough we could reach between the squares to pick our produce.

Laying out the shelving pieces to get the pattern we wanted.

Laying out the shelving pieces to get the pattern we wanted.

We decided to connect it with hog rings since they are cheap, sturdy, and we could probably find uses for the extras.  We made a trip to the local farm and garden store for supplies.

Purchased supplies.  Cost was 2.59 for the hog rings, and 1.29 each for the hooks.  I bought three of them.

Purchased supplies. Cost was 2.59 for the hog rings, and 1.29 each for the hooks. I bought three of them.

We gathered up tools:

Tools for the project.  Drill with drill bit slightly smaller than the hooks, tiny drill bit for metal screws at the end of the conduit.  Pliers or hog pliers, wire cutters in case you need to remove one, screwdriver.

Tools for the project. Drill with drill bit slightly smaller than the hooks, tiny drill bit for metal screws at the end of the conduit. Pliers or hog pliers, wire cutters in case you need to remove one, screwdriver.

Hog ringing without the proper pliers is easiest as a two person job.  Margo got the hog ring held in the pliers, then I held the wires squares so she could fasten them.  Real hog pliers have little dimples on the sides to hold the rounded ends.  Our farm store sold them for about $14.  We figured we could make do with regular pliers.

In the absence of hog ring pliers, we used regular pliers and  put the hog ring in sideways.

In the absence of hog ring pliers, we used regular pliers and put the hog ring in sideways.

How we held the screens together to hog ring them.

How we held the screens together to hog ring them.

 

Hog ringing is a two handed job.

Hog ringing is a two-handed job.

 

Hog ring in place.  Makes a nice triangle.

Hog ring in place. Makes a nice triangle.

 

We did 4 vertical rows point to point, and one set of horizontal squares between them.  Then we decided it would be easiest to hang what we had so far, and hog ring the rest of the squares in place.

We drilled three holes into studs under the eave and screwed in our hooks.  We had them alternate direction so there is no way it can come out of the hooks.  We slid it in place from the end.  We found 4 cheap carabiners in the kids rooms to use to hold the wire mesh on the conduit.  Sorry, didn’t get a picture of that.

Conduit hanging under the eave.

Conduit hanging under the eave.

We also drilled holes in the end of the conduit and put some metal screws in the end so the carabiners can’t slide off.  Because we used a scrap piece of conduit, the carabiners are right at the edge of the conduit.  If we had conduit a few inches longer than the span of the hanging trellis, we could have skipped this step.

Drilling screws in the end of the conduit

Drilling screws in the end of the conduit as a stop.

The finished project doesn’t quite touch the ground.  Our plan is to use some temporary stakes when we put our plants in with string so they can climb to the first part of the trellis.  This will also limit the amount of sway that the trellis might have in the wind.  We don’t want our wee plants getting ripped out of the ground in a harsh wind.

Side view to show how far it is from the wall.

Side view to show how far it is from the wall.

 

Angle view so you can see the pattern.  From the road it's not very visible.

Angle view so you can see the pattern. From the road it’s not very visible. It has gaps big enough for us to reach behind the mesh grid pieces and pick our produce.  This view shows the diagonal grid pieces best   

 

Another view, still hard to see against the grey wall.

Another view, still hard to see against the grey wall. This angle shows the horizontal grids better.  Impending storm didn’t allow for very good lighting. 

Now the lemon cucumbers and peas have a place to call home.  Just as soon as it’s warm enough to put them outside.

 

 

 

The Dandelion. If you hate them, maybe you misunderstand them.


WOOOHOOO! The Dandelion is here!!!!

We just came home from the store and I have 4 beautiful yellow flowers in my yard. Now many who read this might think I am out of my ever lovin’ mind. And 4 years ago I would have agreed with you.

They are a tenacious weed (term used loosely) that exist almost universally across the United States in the city and in the country and many other places around the world. In fact the name Dandelion comes from the  French “Dent de Lion” meaning teeth of the lion. If you view the edge of the flower petals very closely they resemble a row of teeth with canines and incisors.

Teeth of the lion.

Teeth of the lion.

I’m guessing that if you dislike Dandelions you don’t raise bees, you don’t have a garden, you don’t eat (or know how to eat) them or you are not fondly familiar with Dandelion wine.

This little plant is usually the first naturally occurring ground flower of spring and therefore is a very important source of nectar and pollen for our hungry bees coming out of the hives after consuming honey all winter. The food the Dandelions supply the bees is very important. We do have blossoming trees at this time but in areas with few flowering trees the Dandelion makes its annual appearance to save the season.

A happy bee feasting and gathering pollen.

A happy bee feasting and gathering pollen.

There are many culinary opportunities to consume the plant as well. Almost everyone has heard that Dandelion leaves are good in salad but very few people have tried it before forming an opinion on whether they like it or not. I found a rather extensive list of recipes that include Dandelion. I encourage you to peruse the list and pick one to try. See what you think about this free crop.

dandelion fritters pancakes

A word of caution: Roadside Dandelions are filthy from dirt and car exhaust and other debris. Dandelions in parks, schools and many privately owned areas get sprayed with herbicide. If you don’t know if they are clean and safe

DON’T EAT THEM.

I have never made or even tried Dandelion Wine or Dandelion Mead (honey wine) but it is something I am going to try if I can find a place or two to harvest a few pounds of Dandelion flowers in a one or two-day period. I am a big fan of homemade pear mead and I’m hoping to make a gallon of Dandelion mead to compare it with. I’m thinking for my first batch I am going to try a subtle flavor. If It proves tasty I will go for a stronger flavor next year.

dandelion20wine2037_5cl

I’m hoping a few of you reading this will find a place in your heart for the durable little flower. We have come to dislike it by default because it wrecks our lawn. But really, when viewed objectively, it does way more than we give it credit for and it never asks for help. If by some chance you hate gardening but are reading this gardening blog, learn to use Dandelions and you will never have to plant, water, hoe, weed, cultivate, rake or shovel and you will always have a free springtime crop.

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Seattle Gets It!!! Do you?


It’s not a fairytale. Seattle to build nations first food forest.

http://www.takepart.com/article/2012/02/21/its-not-fairytale-seattle-build-nations-first-food-forest

7 Acres in Seattle to become    a "Food Forrest"

7 Acres in Seattle to become a “Food Forrest”

Are you planting food in your yard? Are you sharing it with your neighbors? If not, why? What ideas can we help you with so you can grow or make or raise something?

Growing a garden. Where do I start?


You start where you are with what you’ve got! Everyone is somewhere and even if you have nothing for starting a garden, everyone reading this can make the first thing they need: A PLAN.

Even if your desire it to grow  a single tomato plant or basil or a handful of strawberries you could benefit by learning about where you are and putting some sort of plan on paper. Do you need to know which tomato plant is “best” for your area? NOPE. Buy plants from local nurseries and garden shops. They usually have plants in stock that do well in your area. Do you need to know what amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) the plant likes? NOPE. Almost any dirt mixed with almost any soil from a bag will get you started with almost any edible plant. What really helps is knowing where in the world you are when it comes to climate and season length. Planting a pepper plant in the ground or a balcony pot too soon can result in sending the plant into a tizzy that takes weeks to recover from or worse, causes the death of the plant. Planting a melon in June that needs 120 days in the ground may result in getting no ripe fruit  because you planted it too late. I’m speaking from experience here.

Learning your last average frost date of spring and your first average frost date of fall and your “hardiness zone” can be informative for mapping out your plan and can greatly increase your plant options by helping you make an informed choice if ordering plants or seeds from another part of the country. Here are two links that help you find that information.

http://davesgarden.com/guides/freeze-frost-dates/

http://www.americanmeadows.com/usda-zone-map

That helps us learn about where we are. Now we need a plan.

For the purpose of this discussion we will assume that you have a sunny place in mind for where the plant will reside. The particulars of how the garden is laid out can depend on what you plant. What you plant can depend on the space you have in mind. I like to put my wish list of plants together then worry about what goes where later. It is an important part of the plan but once I discover what my planting schedule is I might discover that I can put buckwheat in the garden after my letuce is done growing due to summer heat.

Most plants and seed packets tell us when to start seeds and when to transplant into the ground or when to begin “hardening off” our young plants to be placed outside. I personally like to write a list of the plants I hope to grow and then next to the plant name I like to write something easy to compare with as I scan my list, for example:

Tomatoes      Seed I 8-6 BLF  H 1-0 BLF T ALF

This means (to me) My tomato seeds get started Indoors 8-6 weeks Before Last (spring) Frost, Hardening off begins around 1 week Before Last Frost and Transplant to ground After Last Frost (for my area).

Some people like to make a chart or get a dedicated calendar where the steps for each plant are written on the projected dates. Whatever works best for you is fine but to be able to plan what goes in in which order will help with making a garden that has a strong start and ample time to reach maturity. If you save this plan until next year you can correct schedules and overall plans for a better subsequent garden. This should be getting better all the time.

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For help making a plan here is a planting calendar to check out.

Seed starting calendar help.

Jerusalem Artichokes. If you can grow weeds you can grow these.


Jerusalem Artichokes, also known as Sunchokes  (or fartichokes) are not artichokes and they are not from Jerusalem. They are a root that tastes like an artichoke heart but they are in the sunflower family. The moniker “Jerusalem” has most likely evolved from the Italian word Girasol meaning flower of the sun. They are a very hearty plant growing in any soil with almost any amount of water in any level of sun. I know this because I tried it. I planted about 14 of the tubers in the part of my yard that gets the least sun. I made no amendments to the dirt that is there. I gave them no water other than some over spray from a near-by part of my lawn (keep in mind that this section of lawn is also shaded and gets little water as it is). I literally placed them in a 4 inch deep hole, packed dirt over them and let them be. For months. And months.

Buried alive in neglected dirt.

Buried alive in neglected dirt.

What I got was a long thin plant that grew like Jacks bean stalk up the side of my house. When it grew into the crux of my wall and roof I pulled them around the edge of the roof and let them continue up. They grew small (for a sunflower family plant) flowers and ended the season at about 12 feet tall. Then fall came and they turned brown. Then just before winter I cut them off about 1 foot tall and left them there through the snow and freezing weather. When I went out the other day and lifted one out of the dirt I was able to harvest what you see in the picture below. They are edible and quite tasty and recipes abound ranging from eating them raw to delicately prepared dishes that are fit for royalty. They are so easy to grow that there is no excuse not to if your typical excuse is time or skill. Even the most herbacidal maniac with a square foot of earth can grow one.

 

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It is time to start planning your garden.


We are approaching the end of January and in Northern areas it will be time to start seeds soon. Some areas may already be well on their way to having healthy little seedlings. Either way we should be cruising seed catalogs, placing orders, planning where things will be planted and how they will be watered. Here are a few links to get you going.

We should avoid fighting a losing battle. Try to choose plants that will grow well in your climate.

Click here for info on choosing the right vegetable varieties for your area.

Click here to look up your first and last freeze dates by zip code.

Click here to get ideas for some easy to grow varieties.

And here is a short list of seed companies that can help you choose.

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Great Info on Lettuce!


Wow this was pretty great! Check them out I just now discovered “Our Green Acre”

Our Green Acre Blog

I don’t know what’s going on here on the farm, but the lettuce is off the charts.  It is growing to the point that I had to remove the seedlings from the starting trays way earlier than I expected.   I transplanted as many as possible to the lettuce bed in the greenhouse, but that only held about 1/3 of the tray.  (I use plug trays for my starters)  I decided to utilize my unused herb garden that is located on our back deck for a cold frame.  I have never used a cold frame before, but I really didn’t have any other options.  I had one large piece of the greenhouse covering left over for a cold frame, so I dug it out and cut it to fit the herb bed.  The existing bed was already framed up and full of good dirt, so all I had to add…

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