Gardening by Moon Signs – Understanding Principles of the Farmer’s Almanac: Part I

moon_gardenHumans have been gardening by natural patterns for eons.  These patterns were established by mere observation and became the basis for planning a garden.  This connection was even noted by Thoreau when he stated, “Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”

Gardening by moon signs resurfaced in the 1920s when an Austrian philosopher Mr. Rudolf Steiner gave a lecture on biodynamic farming.  This farming technique utilizes no pesticides or chemical fertilizers.  Planting and harvesting is on a time schedule established by the phases of the moon.

To understand the principles of gardening by the cycle of the moon, one must first understand the lunar cycle.  The lunar month takes 29 days and this constitutes the amount of time it takes the moon to revolve around the earth.  Each lunar month starts off with the new moon phase.  Native Americans believed that this time of the lunar cycle was when a new moon was being born.  Today, we recognize a new moon as a darkened sky with no moon present.  This is the beginning of the waxing phase of the moon.

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Grills and their Rotisseries

fire_magic_rotisserieRotisserie – spinning meat in circles over a fire in order to make the juiciest tenderest meat you’ve ever tasted. This definition for “rotisserie” comes straight out of the Ivan Stewart Book of Barbeque Definitions. Okay, I don’t have a Book of Barbeque Definitions, but maybe someday. Using a rotisserie is one of the oldest methods of cooking. Centuries ago using a rotisserie was the preferred method of cooking for a large family. A person would crank the rotisserie slowly by hand to cook large pieces of meat or whole animals. Using a rotisserie to cook your meat is one of the easiest ways to cook with mind-blowing results if you have the right tools. It really comes in handy around the holidays because it allows you to cook the main entrée outside so you can free up the oven for all those delicious side dishes.

In this article I will mention a few different manufactures such as Lynx, Twin Eagles, and Fire Magic. I mention these companies because they will be able to satisfy all your rotisserie habits. By the end of this article my hope is that you will be able to determine which set up works best for you. I mention these manufactures because I don’t want you telling me your chicken was burnt because you have a cheap motor that can’t keep the meat balanced, or worse the motor burnt out because a Cornish game hen was too heavy and fried the gears.

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Landscape Design – Gardening with Garden Plaques

garden_plaqueGarden plaques can add interest and create a personality for any garden space.  They can be used as an alternative to a welcome mat for visitors and as an accessory for a planter or garden bed.  A more unique use for garden plaques is in the creation of an inspirational path or cove.

This type of garden design allows the gardener to reflect on the day as they stroll down through the garden space.  Certain points of interest are created in the garden space where the plaques are placed for reflection.  These points of interest utilize the natural beauty of the garden.

When deciding on these stops or points of interest, do not limit oneself to plant material.  Points of interests incorporate all the senses.  To aid in this selection, you must take time to know your garden as a stranger.  Sometimes this is very hard to do and the beauty of our surroundings becomes commonplace.  We have a hard time appreciating what is in front of us and in doing so we have to see it in a different light and/or angle.  To do this, plan a visit to your garden during a time you normally do not see it.  When you do this, bring along with you a comfy chair, a cup of coffee, and a book or journal.  Take the path the way you normally travel and observe the environment not only from a standing viewpoint but also from a sitting position.  Consider the sounds that surround you in the garden space along with the smells.

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Grill Yourself to Better Health with Better Grilled Fish

grilled-fishWhen it comes to cooking fish a lot of people don’t even consider their grill as an option. As with any other food that you want to grill, there is a method to grilling fish. It is not hard, and once you learn the basic approach you will see that there is no need to shy away from preparing your next pescatarian plate on your grill.

The first thing you want to do is select the type of fish you are going to grill.  Certain types of fish are a lot easier than others to work with on the grill. A thicker meatier type of fish such as tuna, swordfish, salmon, or mahi mahi work the best if you are going to use a fillet.  Whole fish like mackerel, bluefish, trout, and red snapper also hold up pretty well on a grill.  Tender flaky types of fish like haddock, flounder, or catfish can be cooked on a grill using a tinfoil pouch or a fish grill grate. Foil pouches, wires baskets, and fish grills are a good alternative to a conventional oven if you want to incorporate a smoke flavor into your fish or simply to keep the heat and mess outside.

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Garden like Royalty – Create a Knot Garden

tabletop-knot-gardenKnot gardens were a status symbol for the royalty in Renaissance England and France.  During this time period, every grand home had a knot garden and every garden had a wide variety of workers that took care of the garden.  While knot gardens do require daily maintenance, today’s knot garden can be designed to reduce some of that work.

A knot garden is a wonderful lesson in geometry and illusion.  The concept of a knot garden is to utilize the different textures and shades of plant material to create “threads.”  These “threads” are then interwoven to give the illusion that one thread is passing under another in the form of a knot.

Traditional Knot Garden Design

During the 14th-15th century, two different styles of knot gardens were created.  An open design knot garden, which is one where soil paths can be seen, and closed, which is a design that is completely filled in with plants.  The design you choose will depend on your budget, space and the amount of time you are willing to spend on the garden.

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Urban Homesteading with Plants Part IV – Gardening at Work

vertical_planterGardening at work may sound like an unusual occurrence but more employers are allowing fresh food to be grown at their business.  Some businesses are allowing gardens to be created on rooftops while others are planting gardens on the ground between the sidewalk and the road.  Those who have no space to garden are finding ways of growing fresh food in their cubicles, on walls, and even their business’s kitchen.

Rooftop Gardens

Rooftop gardens are popping up in many cities.  Some of these have completely redone the roof surface to incorporate plant material in beds and traditional garden spaces.  This requires making the roof stronger to hold drainage material, soil-free growing medium and an irrigation system.  Using planters, such as whiskey barrels to grow your food, can create a simpler rooftop garden.

Keep in mind though; this type garden requires monitoring the soil moisture daily since it is so close to the sun.  Also, get permission to garden on the roof before starting and limit the number and size of planters.  A large planter filled with soil and plants can weight a considerable amount and can cause roof damage if too heavy.

Since this type of garden is exposed to stronger solar radiation, make sure to plant vegetables that are sun loving.  Those who require shade can still be planted but use greenhouse shade cloth or plant under taller plants.  Both of these techniques will create the shade needed for shade loving plants.

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Gardening for Wildlife Part II-Creating a Natural Habitat for Wildlife

Humming_Bird_1Regardless of what you may call home, wildlife can be attracted to your living space and can turn into a very enjoyable hobby.  Before rolling out the welcome mat to wildlife, one must first do a little homework and consider whom you want to invite.  Butterflies and birds are the most common animals attracted to a wildlife habitat, but do not forget the less commonly attracted insects.  These include ladybugs, walking sticks, moths, and bees including honey and bumble.  Once you have decided the guests you would like to invite, you will then need to find out the living requirements of each species.

Despite the species you plan to attract, you will need to keep in mind that your “new scape” needs to please both you and your new guests.  If your garden space is a more traditional design, attracting wildlife can be a challenge because most wildlife habitats are created in a loose fitting design.  To compensate for this design paradox, simply search your local nursery for native plants that will fit into your present landscape style.

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Grow a Little History Through Cotton and Flax

cottonNot many plants have played such an important role as cotton and flax in history. This history has spanned the centuries through Egypt and the United States. Both plants have been used to make clothing and paper. In some situations, these plants made or broke history. No war proves this fact more than the Civil War. With the 150th anniversary of the Civil War being celebrated this year, it is time to grow a little history and understanding of the past.


Cotton (Malvaceae Gossypium) is a tropical perennial that is grown as an annual. It grows in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 10 and beyond and likes full sun. This plant is also known as “White Gold.”

Before planting cottonseeds, a lot of soil preparation needs to occur. If you are starting a bed in an area where lawn is presently located, the first step in the process is to remove the turf. Once that is done, add two inches of compost to the soil and till the soil six inches down. After this has been done, place a soil temperature gauge in the ground and monitor the temperature. Once the soil temperature has reached 60 F degrees for three consecutive days, it is time to plant.

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Urban Homesteading with Plants – Part III Traditional Gardening

community_gardenTraditional gardening has changed as more and more farmland is eaten up.  Today, traditional gardening can be tied into the local food movement.  This movement has its own terminology that describes many modern day urban homesteaders.  These terms include hyperlocal, Locavore, edible landscaping, yard sharing, and community gardens.

Location of Food Source

The hyperlocal and Locavore concept is very important to the urban homesteader.  Both terms simply mean that the products you use only come from your local environment.  Hyperlocal typically indicates products that one has grown while Locavore can be loosely defined as an individual that only uses products grown in their local environment.  This environment can be as small as a local gardener’s yard to a 100-mile radius such as in the 100-mile diet.

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Urban Homesteading with Plants – Part II Raising Fruits in a Container

lemon_treeMany gardeners feel that growing fruit is out of the question if you do not have land.  This is not true.  Countless fruits can be grown successfully in a container.  The only thing that limits the gardener is the container size and the outdoor space.

Some of the more common fruits that can be found growing in containers include strawberries, and blueberries.  Other fruits that are common to many areas but are not thought of as container plants include grapes, and dwarf fruit trees.


When considering growing strawberries, one must decide when they want to harvest their berry crop.  Strawberries come in three different types.  Ever bearing strawberries produce two crops, one in the spring and one in the late summer to early fall.  June bearing strawberries produce one large crop in June.  The last variety is day neutral and produces fruit continuously form June to September.

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