Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Bees Need Our Help

For every three bites of food you take, one was pollinated by honey bees. Last winter, beekeepers reported losing over 40% of their hives. Bees are more than just the “canaries in the coal mine”, warning us of a frightening threat to our food. Bees are a critical link to the future of our food production.

You may have heard that pests, disease, and climate change are the main causes of the bee die off. A growing body of evidence points to one of the world’s most popular class of pesticides neonicotinoids. These “neonics” are designed to kill pest, but they don’t distinguish between harmful insects and beneficial ones, like bees. Neonics are used on over 140 commercial crops! As a result the bees that are needed to pollinate organic crops are on the brink of extinction.

Bees are responsible for pollinating many of the crops making up our food supply. Today multinational companies have come up with a plan to do away with the need for a pollinator by having farmers buy new GMO seed every year from these large companies. The touted advantages of using GMO seed: 1. guaranteeing identical herbicide resistant crops year after year, 2. reduce crop damage from weeds, pest, and insects by using this herbicide resistant seed, 3. increased yields on the same acreage. These claims are debatable.

This increased application rate of herbicides has affected the ability of the honey bees to survive. Without honey bees organic gardeners and farmers are seeing decreasing yields from their heirloom seed crops. Here are some ideas of what you can do to help the plight of the honey bees.

1. Plant any of the flowers below in your garden using organic starts or heirloom seed to provide a good food source and a safe haven for bees. Plant at least three different types of flowers to ensure blooms through as many seasons as possible.
• Summer time: cosmos, echinacea, and snapdragons
• Spring time: Crocus, hyancinth, and calendula are great for providing the bees with great blooms to  feast on.
• Fall time: asters, zinnias, and goldenrod are late bloomers.

2. Use alternative pest control methods like landscaping with certain plants to attract beneficial insects.
• Basil will help repel thrips, flies, and mosquitos
• Artemisia repels most insects and even some small animals
• Garlic when planted near roses will help repel aphids
• Marigolds are the most known plant for repelling insects

3. Use natural organic pest control products.

4. Read the labels on products (herbicides and pesticides) and steer clear of ones containing neonicotinoids.

5. Tell your friends and fellow gardeners about the importance of bees and what they can plant to help them.

If you appreciate organic food products, steer clear of processed foods, and buy ingredients that are clearly labeled “USDA Certified Organic”, or buy from a local grower that doesn’t use herbicides.
Grow as much food as you can without the use of chemicals and your efforts to keep you and your family healthy will pay off. You don’t have to use chemicals in your garden to control weeds. It is an ongoing process however that can be done successfully by hand weeding, hoeing, and then applying a thick layer of organic mulch (seed free hay, grass clippings, or leaves work well) will help you avoid using any kind of chemical weed control product. Larger plants such as tomatoes, peppers, melons, squash, chard, and kale will shade weeds once they are 6-8 weeks old. Happy Gardening!

Monday, November 7, 2016

5 Great Veggies to grow in the winter

Don’t let your garden stand empty this winter. With a little help, most of us can grow the vegetables mentioned below. In the northernmost states, a greenhouse, a high tunnel, a row cover or a small hot frame might be needed. Most southern areas of the US are well suited for growing winter crops outdoors if a thick layer of mulch (hay, dry leaves, straw, compost, or grass clippings) or a row cover is used. There are advantages of planting at this time of the year: less weeds, fewer insects, very little irrigation needed, and most of all, fresh vegetables.

 Late fall or early winter are prime time to plant onions as long as the ground has not become solid yet. Winter onions are hardy enough to grow in a variety of conditions, but they prefer to soak in full sun. Onions do best in loose, well-drained soil. Mix some organic matter to the soil. Plant each set a few inches deep, and gently pack the soil around the set. Plant each set 4-6 inches apart. Cover your sets with a heavy layer of mulch. Water the onions three of four times the first two weeks and weed regularly if necessary.

Garlic is best planted from the first day of autumn through November and is ready for harvest by the end of June. Ensure that your planting area is in full sun and the soil is well drained. Garlic does best in well amended soil using compost and manure. Clay soil is not good. All you need to get is some fresh garlic from a local nursery or there are many good sources online.  Plant only the large cloves from each head. The cloves should be planted 6-8 inched apart for best results. Cover them with mulch. Water them deeply once a week the first few months.  
Choose a kale variety that bests suits your growing climate. Most kale varieties are ready to harvest in 45-75 days. An area of full sun is best to grow kale. When planting kale for a winter crop, I always get kale starts from a nursery. It’s too late to start kale from seed. Dig a hole 12” deep and wide and add fresh compost. Keep the soil around your plants moist for the first month and add some fertilizer each month to produce a fast growing, healthy, and sweet tasting crop. Pick off any discolored or withered leaves when they appear. You can start harvesting the leaves once the plant is a few feet tall to use in stir fry dishes, omelets, or to add with other fruits or veggies for smoothies. 

Do you love asparagus and have plenty of space in your garden for a permanent bed of asparagus, now is a good time to start. It takes a few years to establish, but the reward will be getting about 25 tender spears from each plant for a lifetime (25 years) of harvests. Sometimes, asparagus is planted in rows by digging a 1’ deep and 1’ wide row as long as your space allows. Fill it with good soil and compost. Asparagus is available a nurseries at this time of year in bunches of 25 and should come with planting instructions.

Pak Choi
Also called Bok Choy, is a mild flavored oriental vegetable, can be eaten raw but is usually stir fried or steamed and served with soy sauce. It can be grown in partial shade in warm regions or in full sun in northern zones. It can be planted in early autumn or late winter for a spring harvest. Buy starts from a nursery for planting in October to get a harvest before the first hard frost. A fairly rich soil or just soil from last summer’s garden would be fine. Use a row cover for late fall harvest.
Remember, some thick mulch or row cover will “baby” your late fall plantings. Give them good south exposure and plant in an area away from the strong north winds. The fresh veggies in late autumn and early winter will be a nice addition to your meals.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

6 Tips to Winterize Your System

The time to put most gardens to bed is drawing closer as the days get shorter and the temperature drops. As we savor our garden’s bounty by canning, drying, freezing, and eating the wonderful fruits and vegetables, we must keep in mind that an unexpected frost might be on its way.

In most parts of the country there is a real concern about freezing and frost damage to a drip system during winter. There are two areas of concern: the beginning of the system (timer, valves, and filter) and low spots in the system where water may settle.
  1. Battery timers, filters, and regulators should be brought indoors with the batteries removed from the timers.
  2. When the battery timer is removed from the faucet and system, use the HPLUG to plug the beginning of the mainline tubing or use a plastic bag over the opening. Do not leave the lines open.
  3. After the main water supply is shut off, open all manual valves and set automatic valves to manual open. Remove all end fittings, drain any water, and then loosely replace the ends.
  4. In flat areas elevate the mainline to make sure all water drains out of the fittings.
  5. For low spots in the mainline tubing, either use a flush valve or insert a basic emitter at the lowest point.
  6. Another practice is to blow compressed air through the lines after opening the end cap.
To protect your late summer garden and extend your growing season, a protective lightweight row cover material such as Agribon protects early and late season crops from both wind and frost. It can be placed over your veggies and weighted down with wood or metal stakes. Heavyweight galvanized loop hoops are available to help support the row cover fabric.

Cody is an employee and used the produce which we grow for employees to make this tasty salsa.
Here is one of his salsa recipes to spice up your harvest. The tomatoes, tomatillos, and peppers are from the Dripworks demonstration garden.

For a chance of all year gardening Dripworks offers hoop houses and Solexx greenhouses. Check them out at

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The World's Pure Food Fair

The National Heirloom Expo                                   
September 6, 7, & 8
Santa Rosa, California
  • 4000 Varieties
  • 75 Speakers
  • 300 Vendors
  • 3 Fun Days
  • Demo Gardens
  • Seed Swaps

Dripworks is a proud sponsor of the 6th annual “World’s Fair” of the heirloom seed industry.  The Heirloom Expo is taking place at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds in northern California Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday September 6th, 7th, and 8th.  You’ll be able to walk the aisles along with home growers, farmers, school groups, and others like you seeing and tasting over 4,000 varieties of fruits and vegetables. What will be showcased is the diversity of plants that our planet has to offer, and the incredible farmers that grow them.

Amazing Speakers!

Over 75 nationally and internationally acclaimed on-topic speakers will talk about the secrets and the challenges of sustainable farming practices. Some of the people who will educate everyone include Jeffery Smith, Dr William Woys Weaver, Kate Frey, Vani Hari, Jere Gettle, Sara Patterson, John Jeavons, Dr. Vandana Shiva, and 70 other world renowned speakers who will concurrently be in three separate buildings for all three days.

The Mission is to reconnect us to our food heritage. What is needed is getting people with a passion for gardening and growing food educated on how to grow quality organic food.  The food industry and all of its major players are rightfully concerned with their bottom line. GMO food seed has been developed to raise the productivity of crops, to enable plants to be shipped long distances more easily, and to help provide the world with enough food to stave off hunger. All of these claims are coming under question by the general public and many in the scientific community. The National Heirloom Expo examines these issues thoroughly.

Enjoy the many garden based companies showing off their cutting edge, quality products. You’ll find many colorful,  trend setting businesses from all over the United States that offer quality tools and information, books, plants, and products that will compliment your gardening skills. A large variety of delicious food is also available. You’ll have the opportunity to broaden your awareness of what you can grow with heirloom seeds. Stop by the Dripworks booth.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Save on Water, Money and Time - How To Transform Your Sprinkler System to Drip Today

As water becomes more precious and our lives get busier, it’s becoming increasingly important to have an efficient irrigation system. Many gardeners and growers are converting their sprinkler systems to drip irrigation because it is more precise, efficient, and easier to maintain. In fact, drip systems are known to use up to 70% less water than the sprinkler systems we’re all used to dealing with. Drip systems are also incredibly diverse in their ability to water any terrain, from gardens around your home to hillsides, vineyards, orchards, or row crops.

Beyond the initial investment, converting your water-guzzling sprinklers into a drip irrigation system is a no-brainer. Your plants will be healthier. Weeds will be fewer. And your water bills will be lower. The amount of money saved will pay you back for the expense of buying a starter drip kit the first season. Follow this step-by-step guide to attain the most seamless means for trading up. You’ll end up saving time, water, and money.

Outline Your Plan of Attack

The first step to converting your sprinkler setup into a drip system is to take an audit of your current layout and space. Where is your main water source? What’s your system’s water pressure? How many sprinklers do you have and how are they laid out? As soon as you have a clear grasp on what your plan looks like, you can grab all of the parts you’ll need in an easy to assemble kit. The best way to do this is to purchase one of our pre-made kits.

Get the Pressure Regulation and Filtration Right

The recommended working pressure of drip irrigation systems is often lower than your actual water pressure. If this is so, you will need a pressure regulator to control (reduce) incoming water pressure. Install the regulator near the start of your system, ideally right after your control valve or faucet.

Drip emitters have small orifices and pathways that can clog. To prevent this from occurring, you should install a filter. If the water is relatively clean (e.g. city water or a clean well) you can simply install a screen washer or tee filter on each riser. If you are dealing with something more like a live body of water (pond, river, or creek) or runoff you will want to install a larger heavy duty filter on the main supply line.

Install Your Drip System

Turn Off Your Water Supply

As many gardeners have learned the hard way, it’s a best practice to start each project by turning your irrigation system off at the main valve of your water supply. Neglecting to do so may cause flooding and a little something we like to call #IrrigationFail.

Drip Line

It’s possible to install the mainline of your drip irrigation system either underground or above ground, although it’s more difficult to spot leaks if tubing is below ground. We recommend mulching over the tubing, because it looks better, lasts longer, prevents people from tripping, protects the tubing from environmental hazards, and increases the overall lifespan of your system. You will probably find covering the mainline to be aesthetically pleasing too.

Cap Off Old Sprinklers

After your drip irrigation system is installed, seal off unneeded sprinkler heads with a threaded cap.

Update Your Watering Practices

Congratulations. Your drip irrigation system is almost complete. Now it’s time to start reaping the rewards. Go ahead and update that watering schedule to take into account the fact that your plants will sip water much more effectively than before.

Use a bluetooth timer like the one explained in the video above to increase efficiency and water your new system automatically.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Bokashi Fermentation: The Practice That Will Finally Change The Naysayers’ Minds on Composting

Trump, The Dallas Cowboys, Miracle Whip, composting. These topics tend to bring people into fits of polarized passion, but Bokashi fermentation may very well change the cynics’ views on composting. The process is faster, simpler and more predictable than traditional composting. Here are the reasons you should choose Bokashi fermentation for composting and how to get started.

Bokashi is a Japanese term that means “fermented organic matter.” Bokashi fermentation is the process of turning food scraps and kitchen waste into compost. The anaerobic process, in its most basic form, is all about fermenting organic matter in an acidic environment so it can be quickly assimilated into the soil again. Usually anaerobic composting has negative by-products, but Bokashi is a closed bucket system that allows composters to reap the benefits without the negative side effects.

For example, the process all occurs in a system so there are no insect or rodent issues, no putrid odors, and minimal (if any) greenhouse gasses produced. Bokashi is also beneficial because you can add all types of food waste including meat, cheese, dairy and bread. Unlike traditional composting, you don’t have to worry about mixing greens and browns in any specific ratio. Perhaps best of all, it’s affordable and the entire process takes weeks instead of months.

Getting Started with Bokashi - The Complete How To Guide

Bokashi is one of the most affordable composting systems. To get started, order one or two of our Bokashi composting kits. As you will see from the process below, after a Bokashi bucket is full, it must sit for two or so weeks while the fermentation process is occurring. Two buckets makes it possible to add food scraps and kitchen waste to a bucket while the other is fermenting.

To get started, sprinkle a layer of the included Bio Blend™ Bokashi Mix on the bottom of the bucket. Then add chopped food scraps and kitchen waste on top, remembering to add a thin coat of Bio Blend™ Bokashi Mix on top of the waste before sealing the container. Because Bokashi is an anaerobic process, it’s best to keep the bucket free from oxygen. To minimize exposure to oxygen some people recommend packing the previous day’s waste down with a plate. Also, be sure not to mix up the previous day’s waste as this will create oxygen pockets.

When the bucket is full, seal it tightly and place it out of direct sunlight. During the fermentation process a liquid fertilizer concentrate will form. This liquid contains beneficial nutrients and microbes that can be used as a fertilizer. Draw the liquid off with the bucket spigot every three to four days to keep the environment in the Bokashi bucket optimized for fermentation. Then dilute the fertilizer concentrate (25:1 for soil applications and 50:1 for foliar applications) and use it within a couple days.

After two to four weeks the fermentation process in the Bokashi bucket will be complete. Take the remaining solids out of the bucket and bury them in the soil or place them in a traditional composting pile. After the decomposition process is complete you have a rich, dark compost that can be used as a soil amendment in your garden.

Share Your Compost Adventures

Do you use Bokashi fermentation? If so, tell us what you think. We’d love to hear your insights, as well as tips you have for others just starting the process for the first time.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Smart Irrigation Month and the Garden Bloggers That Inspire Us All To Do Better

Smart Irrigation Month sneaks up on us every July, and with the fireworks, scorching summer heat and #smartselfies, we’re reminded to take a beat to think about what’s really important. Irrigation has been around for hundreds of years and as technology advances and our world changes, it’s on us to be conscientious of how we approach irrigation. Each and every one of us can get smarter, but at the end of the day it takes an entire community to create a movement. That’s why this year, in honor of Smart Irrigation Month, we’ve taken the time to recognize some of the smartest garden bloggers we know. These are the people who are already saving water, gardening smarter, and thinking about sustainability. Check them out and let us know if there’s anyone who inspires you to be smarter as well.

Shawna Coronado

Why We Love It: Shawna shows us that one person can make a difference for the world.
What It’s About: Shawna dropped her office job in exchange for a life full of happiness, health and intention. Now she shares her tips for wellness and sustainable living on her blog. Get on board and learn about everything from drip irrigation for elevated garden beds to perennials and organic pest control.

The Real Gardener

Why We Love It: Most garden blogs will tell you what to do, but The Real Gardener also tells you why so you can apply your knowledge smarter.
What It’s About: Cristina da Silva, the voice behind The Real Gardener, has decades of extensive gardening knowledge in her bucket caddy. She started gardening professionally 30 years ago and does a great job of sharing an information in an approachable way. She shares tips for saving water, talks about healthy soil, and writes enough great book recommendations to require at least one new line item in your budget. Read through the entire blog and want more? You can also find Cristina on Twitter at the #groundchat tweetup every Friday.

Pass the Pistil

Why We Love It: Pass the Pistil is a no-nonsense blog about cultivating your garden and your soul.
What It’s About: Pass the Pistil’s Emily Murphy is a dedicated gardener who knows how to get to the root of everything. Her planting tips are useful, matter of fact and beautifully presented, but she doesn’t stop there. Emily also travels often and writes a lot about how gardening can inspire us to see the world in a bigger, greater way.

Garden Matter

Why We Love It: Garden Matter reminds us to slow down and tend to our environment, loved ones, and ourselves.
What It’s About: “There’s something about growing, creating and giving, that for me, is incredibly satisfying and fulfilling,” writes Patti about her blog. Garden Matter combines gardening with crafts, cooking and decorating, resulting in a website that flourishes with ideas and instructionals for home and garden related projects. Follow through with the projects on Patti’s blog and you’ll have everything from fruit tea to floral water -- all the makings for a more peaceful and complete home.

Garden Therapy

Why We Love It: Garden Therapy is a home sanctuary for those of us who know how healing it is to grow plants.
What It’s About: Gardening rescued Garden Therapy’s founder, Stephanie, from a debilitating illness. Now she shares her passion and experience with anyone who wants to dig in and DIY with therapeutic projects from the garden. You’ll love Stephanie’s inviting and thoughtful approach to writing. Not only does she take care to make projects accessible to gardeners of all skill levels, she also shares tips for saving water and caring about this Earth that houses us all.

Garden Design Magazine

Why We Love It: When it comes to dreaming about the future of your home garden and outdoor spaces, Garden Design Magazine is the ultimate in aspirational.
What It’s About: Planning your outdoor space or just constantly improving? Garden Design Magazine is the authority for all things gardening. Check out their awesome collection of design ideas, dig deep into their encyclopedic information on plants, and add travel destinations to your list with their incredibly enticing destination imagery.

Savvy Gardening

Why We Love It: From edibles to bugs, Savvy Gardening could very well be the most clever guides for sustainable gardening.
What It’s About: The authors behind Savvy Gardening are smart. They share an incredible amount of knowledge, from beneficial insects to how to cultivate a garden you can eat from. If it were the apocalypse and we suddenly had to grow our own food we would want an internet connection so we could refer to Savvy Gardening. Their tips and tricks would feed us, and their approachable writing style would remind us to stay lighthearted, friendly, approachable, but also serious in our pursuit of gardening.

The Redneck Rosarian

Why We Love It: The Redneck Rosarian reminds us the garden is a place of peace and elegance.
What It’s About: Chris VanCleave, aka The Redneck Rosarian, is a full-time Alabama-based banker with a knack for making a garden radiate. His blog is chock-full of useful tips, interesting stories and history, and knock-you-over stunning images of Chris’ roses. If you’re looking for inspiration for the garden, The Redneck Rosarian is a perfect place to start. Chris is a gentleman of true elegance. He responds to most of the comments on his blog (and there are a lot), but if you can’t get enough of him you can also join him on Twitter for #rosechat.

Share Your Favorite Blogs

Did we miss any of your favorite garden bloggers? Is there someone who inspires you to grow a smarter, most sustainable garden? Let us know in the comments so we can add to them to our reading list.