Rainwater Collection in the News

A man in Oregon found out what his city and state would do to him if he collected rain and snow melt run-off on three ponds on his property:

A rural Oregon man was sentenced Wednesday to 30 days in jail and over $1,500 in fines because he had three reservoirs on his property to collect and use rainwater.

“The government is bullying,” Harrington told in an interview Thursday.

“They’ve just gotten to be big bullies and if you just lay over and die and give up, that just makes them bigger bullies. So, we as Americans, we need to stand on our constitutional rights, on our rights as citizens and hang tough. This is a good country, we’ll prevail,” he said.

Harrington said he applied for three permits to legally house reservoirs for storm and snow water runoff on his property. One of the “reservoirs” had been on his property for 37 years, he said.

Though the state Water Resources Department initially approved his permits in 2003, the state – and a state court — ultimately reversed the decision.

Mistake number 1)Applying for a permit: A permit is permission to do something that would otherwise be illegal, a tort, or a tresspass. By applying for a permit, you are agreeing to the government conditions

Mistake number 2) Believing the state government would keep its approval valid. They want power over people and more importantly, over the available resources.

Recommendation to Mr. Harrington: Change the dam into a giant swale structure with the excess water following the normal path of water off of his property. He will not hold the water in a reservoir, he will hold it in the ground. There will be no visible water on his property after a rain.


Five Reasons to have a Pond in your Garden

Ponds are an incredible addition to any garden. They don’t just add beauty, but they add incredible life to your garden.


1. Attracts wildlife

Ponds attract a huge amound of wildlife that would otherwise not be in the garden. Birds, Frogs/Toads, Dragonflies, Raccoons, Possums, Deer (if they have access), Crawfish, and many others. The life that is in a pond will attract many others. Herons will see the water from miles away and come visit to appreciate (and eat) your fish.

2. Controls mosquitos

Yes, Ponds can reduce mosquitos in your garden. Any pond that you add to the garden should have fish. Some people just put in little “Mosquito Fish” which look like little Minnows. Other load up their ponds with beautiful Koi. One thing they all have in common is they love Mosquito larva. Your pond will actually reduce mosquitos!

3. Attracts birds

Birds are naturally attracted to water. When you add a pond to your garden, birds will seek out the water to drink and take a bath. Another great benefit is that the birds love to eat bugs.

 4. Pond Beauty

Ponds bring visual, auditory, and tactile experiences. A pond can add serenity to any garden landscape. You will want to spend more time in your garden just to enjoy the sound of moving water and to watch the fish glide effortlessly through the water.

5. A pond is a micro-climate

Ponds have many functions including to create an area where the climate can be quite different than elsewhere in your garden. You can plant different types of plants near the water which will enjoy additional sun due to the reflection from the water. The water acts also to stabilize temperature and, depending on the size of the pond, can help protect some of your plants from frost. The increase in humidity near a pond will also provide benefits to some of your plants close to the pond.

Ponds contribute what is called a stacking function. This means that a pond feature contributes more than one thing. This is also called an element with multiple functions. This means that a pond multiplies your benefits.

I have built many ponds and I would encourage you to start small and to build the beauty and variety in your garden!


Gardening in the News

There is lots of gardening news this week. Here are some of the more interesting stories:

Gardening in Church: Churches are introducing gardening all around the country and the world. In Virginia, this church started gardening for fellowship, teaching, and for learning life skils.

“I’d like to see churches all over the place do a little something with gardening,” said Anthony G. Hankins, an education support specialist at the cooperative extension’s Virginia State University office. “There’s great fellowship in gardening. There’s time to laugh and have fun and enjoy the food.”

I recently also saw pictures of a raised bed garden at a Dripping Springs church.

 – Heat Wave – Big parts of the USA are under a heat wave. Most people know about the cold zones across the US. Did you know there is a heat zone map as well. Days over 86 degrees are counted across different zone. Lesser known is the American Horticultural Society’s heat zone map, which delineates zones based on the annual number of “heat days,” those above 86 degrees.

 – Free class coming up in Austin on Rainwater Harvesting. I am crazy about rain water harvesting. Free water, fresh, natural, and ready for your thirsty garden. Come learn how!

Rainwater Harvesting in a Thirsty World
Saturday, August 11, 2012, 10am-12pm
Zilker Botanical Garden

Turn water scarcity into water abundance! New filtration and treatment technologies make rainwater harvesting relatively easy. Rainwater harvesting systems can be installed in existing buildings or incorporated into new construction. Master Gardener Ed Parken will discuss how to conceptualize, design, and implement sustainable water-harvesting systems for your home and landscape.

 – Healing in the garden – Trouble teens are finding rest and peace in a garden in Missouri!


Peppers are In!

We grow bell peppers in our square foot garden and they are maturing very well this year!

We live in the south and the weather has been cooler and wetter than normal. This only happens once in a decade and the plants love it.

Sweet Peppers

A Bell Pepper ready to harvest!

Pepper plants can take the heat but I have found that they grow best in the 75-85 degree F temperature range. When it gets above 95 or so, the plants don’t produce flowers and therefore no peppers. We get a flourish of production in the late spring and then again in the late fall. It usually gets in the mid 90s or so here by now so this has been great!

We plant bell peppers, also known as sweet peppers. My family eats these raw. just cut it open, remove the seeds, rinse, and it is ready to eat.

You too can produce your own food. It is not rocket science. It doesn’t even take very much time. These plants were planted as seedlings and now we get all of the food we want.


Information as Food

I saw this video today, a TED talk, with a gentleman who urges us to consider that our bodies need information just the same as the need food. He urges us to consider that we need to feed information nourish us, and that different people need to prepare the information for consumption in different ways.

Go here to see his speech…

Information is cheap now. The availability of information has now exceeded human capability to use it. The internet is a revolution for mankind in that one of the great limitations for the expression of the mind has been removed. Other limitations such as time, nourishment, willpower, and the economic environment to express the capabilities will always be with us. I believe that we are truly at a dawn where the most able minds now have access to the intellectual food that can make the expression of their mental gifts possible. We have just only started seeing the ramifications of this upon the world.

Unleash yourself. Feed yourself fresh food from your garden and fresh information. Keep you body and mind alive.

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Garlic is coming in!

Garlic is one of the easiest plants in the world to grow. Throw it in the ground in the fall, don’t do much, and in the spring, you get garlic everywhere!

Garlic Bulbils on the stalk in the garden

Garlic Bulbils in the Square Foot Garden

The bulbs are planted in the garden pointy side up. A green stalk forms and grows into a small 18inch-ish size plant.

The leaves are edible while it is growing, but you don’t want to harvest too many from any one plant.

The one clove that you plant grows and splits into multiple cloves.

Depending on the type you planted, you may get a hard stalk that grows in the spring and forms a bulbil. This is like a flower but instead of a bloom, you get a whole bunch of little garlic cloves. There is some debate on whether you want these or not. Some people cut the stalk off so that the energy of the plant if focused on growing the cloves/bulb and not the “flower”.  Some argue that the flower should be left and that this will result in better cloves in the ground for next year’s plantings. Both may be right.

The little Garlic Bulbils from the Garlic Flower in the square foot garden

Baby Garlic!

As you can see, the garlic looks good. I am going to leave most of it in the ground until the bottom 4-5 leaves turn brown while the top is still green.

At harvest time, you can dig up your garlic and put it in a dry place with some air circulation. The can be eaten anytime!


Garlic before drying in the square foot garden

Garlic Before Drying


Garlic is one of the simplist plants to grow, it take very little work, and just about everybody (except vampires of course) loves it.

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Garlic at Maturity in a Square Foot Garden

The picture below is of a square foot garden planted at the recommended density for Garlic.

9 garlic bulbs per 1 square foot

Densly planted garlic ready to be harvested

The density should be about 9 bulbs per 1 square foot, planted evenly. This gives enough room for each bulb to develop.

The picture shows it looking a bit crowded but actually it is perfect.

If you grow garlic longer, it will form what looks like a bulge in a stem and produce bulbils. I have written on this before

Much of the garlic produced now is done in China. Although there have been many food scandals coming out of China, I don’t know how they grow the garlic and what the spray on it. If it grows in my garden, I know exactly how it was grown!

I recommend that everybody grow and store their own garlic. It is easy to grow, undemanding, it is disease and pest resistant, and delicious.

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What happens when your food blooms?

The artichoke plant is one of the weirdest plants. When it is growing, it funnels all of the water to it’s base. It is a great design for this.

When it grows the artichoke, the one you see in the restaurant or store, it is harvested before it blooms. The flower itself is amazing.

I spotted this blooming artichoke and thought you might want to see it.

The petals open up and look like a Stegasaurus. The blooms erupts from the center and looks like a giant purple sunflower with wispy elements curling in on themselves.

Creation is amazing.

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This is what happens when an Artichoke blooms

An Artichoke in Bloom


Small Square Foot Gardens

I recently visited a beautiful site with small square foot gardens.

Small Square Foot Garden

3 foot by 5 foot Square Foot Garden

The gardens were either 4 feet by 4 feet or 3 feet by 5 feet. They are marked off by green string instead of wood like my garden.

Also, notice that the gardens have only a 4-6 inche border. This garden area is raised above a limestone base with probably about 6-12 inches of soil.  If you have read my earlier post on Design Rules for a Square Foot Garden, I recommend 12-18 inches of soil.

Another example fromt he same garden is shown below:


Basil Planted in Four Foot by Four Foot Square Foot Garden

Basil Planted in Four Foot by Four Foot Square Foot Garden


It is a four by four foot garden planted with Basil. The Basil is planted one per square.

What is the smallest square foot garden you have seen? Send me a picture and I’ll post it!

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Look Who Showed Up

I noticed these little ones at the front door the other day.

Birds nesting on basket on the front door

They were very quite until their mom showed up to feed them. As soon as she left, they would get very quite.

They are in a basket hanging on the front door. Every time you open the door, they swing inside the house.

Momma bird isn’t too happy about it but the babies always seem to return.