Gardening

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We love our pollinators in the SFC Teaching Garden. To see them busy at work in the squash blossoms, on the sunflowers and buzzing all over the cilantro and oregano flowers is a practice in gratitude. They really are instrumental in feeding us, and we’re happy to help educate visitors on their...

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Through our programs and community outreach work in food access, Sustainable Food Center creates opportunities for individuals and families to make healthier food choices. When you grow what you eat, and eat what you grow, healthy and affordable food is much more accessible. Growing what you eat...

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At SFC, we have the privilege of seeing school gardens flourish over many seasons. We want to share the story of Graham Elementary’s vibrant and active garden to applaud their success and inspire...

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Spread the Harvest is a project of our Grow Local gardening program that helps Central Texas residents, community gardens and school gardens grow and share healthy food by providing them with free gardening resources. As part of Spread the...

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Honeybees work tirelessly, collecting nectar and pollen from flowers to create honey to feed their colonies. But did you know that these industrious creatures make an assortment of products besides honey—and that these are useful to humans, too? Honey, wax, propolis, royal jelly, pollen, and...

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One of the most unique and immensely gratifying results of school food gardens is that students can harvest and eat what they grow. Once a child has been exposed to growing their own food, there is no end to the benefits that will last a lifetime. Research shows that school gardens lead to...

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SFC’s mission is to cultivate a healthy community by strengthening the local food system and improving access to nutritious, affordable food. SFC envisions a food-secure community where all children and adults grow, share, and prepare healthy, local food. As you see, sharing with our community...

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Anyone with young kids will tell you that jokes, especially bee jokes, are always in season. So, when 12-year old Mikaila Ulmer, CEO of Me and the Bees Lemonade, opened her speech with a joke about sushi and bees, I knew it was going to be a good day. On...

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One day, early this September, I found myself sweating in the beating sun, attempting to shade the cabbage and broccoli transplants that had just made their way into the garden. These cool weather crops were struggling to adapt to their new home under the Austin sun, so keeping them wet and...

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The Austin Independent School District (AISD) is starting off the school year with an exciting policy change that will impact students’ connection to healthy, local food. With the leadership of the AISD Nutrition and Food Services Director, Anneliese Tanner, and the input of the Austin Area...

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Every night, just before dark, two empty, tandem axel, rear load trucks leave the yards of Organics “By Gosh,” a bulk compost, soil and mulch supplier located in East Austin. Over the next six to eight hours,...

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Throughout most of the country, summer is prime gardening time with warm temperatures and long daylight hours. Here in Central Texas, however, many people consider it the dormant season. With little rainfall and scorching temperatures, it is just too difficult for many plants to thrive. So,...

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At the end of this bustling school year, our Grow Local team reflects on the Austin Area school gardens we’ve supported through our programming. SFC’s Grow Local program offers School Garden Leadership and Classroom Trainings,...

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Last month, honeybees were introduced to their new homes in SFC’s Teaching Garden. Before they arrived, I worked with volunteers from Trinity Episcopal School to assemble two Langstroth hives, which we ordered from Bee Thinking, a business located in Portland, Oregon. In the meantime, I...

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Joseph de Leon wasn’t always a gardener, but ever since he was a small child, he has understood the power gardening has to make a place feel special. “My earliest memories are of my grandmother’s awesome garden: she had roses, chickens, nopales, yerba buena. We were in the...

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We have Bees! We are thrilled to announce the addition of a Teaching Apiary to the Sustainable Food Center Teaching Garden to bring pollinator awareness to the community. In conjunction with Earth Week, we want to celebrate the pollinators that provide us with the bounty of food crop varieties...

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It is said that bees are responsible for one of every three bites of food we eat. Nature’s preeminent pollinators, these four-winged creatures eat only pollen and nectar, so when they are not tending to nests and larvae, they are flying from flower to flower in search of food. Individual bees...

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This week, I interviewed my Grow Local teammate Liz Cardinal to find out more about the exciting changes in the SFC Teaching Garden happening this spring, what she is excited about, and some ways you can get involved!

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March brings a decidedly spring vibe to Central Texas, and gardeners usually breathe a sigh of relief when the last chance of frost passes in early March. It is now time to take advantage of the warmer weather and plant our favorite late spring and summer fruits and vegetables. An astonishing...

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Experiential learning is learning through the reflection of doing. Some of the many great things about school and home gardens are the endless possibilities of learning through doing. The Sustainable Food Center (SFC) Teaching Garden hosts hundreds of children a year through school field trips,...

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Over the long-term, food gardening is a great way to save money, particularly when food growers produce their own compost, capture rainwater and save seeds; however, starting a food garden can be costly. Often, potential garden sites have little if any soil, and what soil there is has few if any...

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Are you new to gardening or to gardening in Central Texas? Would you benefit from a holistic introduction to organic, sustainable food gardening? If yes, then Grow Local's Introduction to Food Gardening classes are just for you! These two-part series provide participants with the knowledge and...

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One element of United States food heritage that largely slipped out of public awareness but in recent years is being celebrated once again is the cornucopia of fruit tree varieties that were developed and cultivated in this country. As with other types of produce, the fruit varieties we now find...

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To give or receive a cheerful bouquet of flowers is delightful. But perhaps this Valentine’s Day, you’d like to give a gift that is a bit less common. We may be a bit biased as SFC’s Grow Local gardening team, but we think that it would be much more exciting to give your loved one a...

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Because we care about healthy hearts, we at Grow Local want to shine the spotlight on gardening, a fantastic activity for heart health. We are in the last stretch of our Central Texas winter, and it is time for spring planting, which means finding time for physical activity outdoors. Consider...

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Here in Grow Local, we talk a lot about edible plants for cooking, but many of the plants that are easily grown in Central Texas also have beneficial health properties. Below is a list of easy-to-grow, medicinal plants, all of which you can find growing in SFC’s Teaching Garden or Herb Garden....

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As you anticipate the arrival of spring, remember that you can start many of your favorite warm-weather seeds now. Starting seeds indoors extends the growing season by up to two months by allowing plants that need warm soil and weather, such as tomatoes, peppers, and basil, to safely mature into...

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When January hits, there is often a push for making changes – usually, to our diets. Gyms offer monthly deals, and the salad bars are suddenly more crowded. Many of us are torn between cravings for the rich comfort foods that accompanied the holidays and a desire to incorporate more fresh local...

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Though the civil rights movement is best known for dismantling legal segregation, it had a close relationship with food, for civil rights activists believed that access to healthy food was a human necessity and right. In a 1964 speech, MLK said, “I have the audacity to believe that peoples...

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Visitors to the SFC Teaching Garden in 2016 will see some significant changes as we are wrapping up four new grant-funded projects. The Susan Vaughn Foundation awarded SFC with a grant to enhance the Teaching Garden with water conservation methods, a children’s garden, and a production...

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January is a busy planting and garden preparation time in Central Texas. While our friends in the North are still in the thick of snowfalls, in Central Texas it is an ideal time to plant cool season vegetables to harvest in April and May.

Choose from the following varieties of vegetables...

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A food secure world is a world in which all people can easily access sufficient amounts of nutritious food to live long and healthy lives. In order to turn food security from a dream into a reality, we must make a number of changes to our economic and social policies and behaviors. For one, in...

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Fruit trees as well as many shrubs and vines go dormant in the winter. Because they are not growing, they experience less transplant and pruning shock, making winter the best time of year to plant, transplant and prune fruit trees, shrubs and vines.

If you are just getting started with...

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Winter is a bountiful time for Central Texas gardens--especially this year, with the plentiful rain we have received. If you’re excited to taste the fruits and veggies of your labor but don’t know how to tell when it’s time to snip, pick, or pull your crops, read on. These tips will help you...

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In Central Texas, we can garden all winter. We do not face the same weather challenges that our neighbors in the North contend with – our region’s first frost is typically in late November, and we tend to have only soft freezes. Some gardeners plant a cover crop for the winter, but if you choose...

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Gift giving does not have to be an expensive, consumer-driven activity. Many people find that creative, thoughtful presents are more meaningful and valuable than store-bought things. There are many ways to give without contributing to the problem of over-consumption—here are a few!

Donate...

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Our program empowers children and adults to grow their own healthy food, and we could not do this without the wisdom, insights, and best practices that farmers have gathered over time. Farmers inspire us as we endeavor to teach and motivate others to garden at home, school, or in their...

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Thanksgiving is just a week away, and many of us are feeling excited and nostalgic about family food traditions. I’m looking forward to baking rum-pecan pies with my dad, tasting my mom’s perfectly cooked green beans with crushed red pepper, and enjoying her incredible meat dressing, which...

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Temperatures are finally dropping, making November a perfect time to work in your garden. While most fall and winter crops should be sown in September and October, due to Central Texas’ mild winters, there are still many plants you can start throughout the month. These include a number of plants...

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Unlike the northern United States, where snow and hard freezes make winter gardening difficult if not impossible, winter gardening in Central Texas is relatively easy and enjoyable. There are many cold-hardy vegetables that, if cared for properly, survive our soft freezes and even benefit from...

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Pumpkins are an iconic fall fruit: they’re what we use to carve our jack-o-lanterns, bake our pies, and cook our soups. But pumpkins are only one of a broad and colorful array of winter squashes. There are a few--perhaps surprising--reasons to branch out from your usual pumpkin and try new...

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In the U.S., pumpkins are a beloved fall and winter staple that are central to celebrations. Native to Central and South America, pumpkins are a key ingredient for traditional Thanksgiving dishes such as pies, soups, and breads. They are also widely used to carve jack-o’lanterns for Halloween,...

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As Austin becomes denser, you may ask yourself, is it possible to grow food in small places? Yes it is! With some considerations, it’s possible to successfully grow a food garden on an apartment balcony or patio. A container herb garden is an excellent place to start.

First, ensure that...

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Intergenerational Gardening is the practice of gardening with a diverse age group. Young and old come together and make use of the energy and imagination of young people and the experience and maturity of senior citizens. It allows youth to interact with the elderly on a personal, individual...

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Increasingly, food growers around the world are recognizing that modern agricultural systems are unsustainable. Practices such as monocultures and excessive tilling degrade the soil and encourage pests and diseases. The artificial fertilizers and pesticides that farmers use to address these...

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It’s October! Not only does that mean we can finally venture outdoors without squinting and sweating in the blazing sun--it also means it’s the absolute best time of the year for gardening in Central Texas. Our fall planting season started in September, but October is still a great time to your...

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Community gardens are well known for providing space for neighbors to grow fresh, healthy food close to home. But beyond improving food access, community gardens provide the space for powerful neighborhood-level social change. When a group of neighbors joins together to organize, build, and...

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School lunches have dramatically evolved since they were first introduced in schools as early as the 1890s. However, lunch programs only existed then in select schools and were mostly a for-profit endeavor. Lunch programs evolved to focus on providing nutritionally sound meals and low prices to...

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Are you staring at the weeds in your garden, feeling pinched for time? Does the maintenance of the garden feel like yet another chore to add to your routine? It’s time to view garden care through a new lens and embrace one of its biggest benefits: healthy exercise! Gardening can be a part of...

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September is one of our favorite times of the year – the excitement of clearing and preparing plots, adding compost to soil, choosing seeds and transplants, and enjoying cooler mornings and evenings. September is the start of the fall planting season in Central Texas. We have a semi-arid climate...

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Organic gardeners know that healthy, living soil is the foundation of a successful garden. We also know that adding compost--a soil-like material rich in organic matter and teeming with microbial life--is an excellent way to promote soil health. But compost isn’t the only way to build healthy...

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A mild, nutty tasting vegetable, sometimes resembling fresh corn, yellow squash is a summer squash, a subset of squashes harvested when immature, while the rind is tender. Unlike winter squashes, which grow in a rambling fashion, yellow...

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We are firm believers that school gardens are an amazing classroom tool with endless benefits for students that will extend beyond the classroom and long into their adult lives. Here are five reasons we love school gardens:

1. Education – School gardens...

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Last week, Sustainable Food Center and Creative Action teamed up to create a week-long food-themed summer camp for Creative Action campers. We had a blast hosting kids ages 5-9 for fun food system activities in our kitchen, garden, and community space. SFC activities followed our “Grow, Share,...

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Starting this fall, you’ll notice some changes to SFC's Grow Local gardening class offerings.

Our Introduction to Food Gardening class – formerly known as Citizen Gardener - will continue to offer new gardeners and...

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We love having sweet, ripe, refreshing watermelons as part of summer meals and celebrations, and we know we’re not alone. Texas is one of the largest producers of watermelon in the U.S. and has a long history of growing and eating watermelons. In Luling, Texas, the watermelon is so popular that...

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Scorching temperatures in August may be daunting, but during this toasty month, you can start preparing the ground for fall planting and also plant several fruits and vegetables for your fall season.

  • Snap and Lima Beans – mid-to-late August
  • Collards (seeds or...
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Did you miss the opportunity to plant tomatoes this spring? Not to worry! In Central Texas, we get a second chance to plant. The goal of planting tomatoes in the summer heat is to nurse plants until temperatures drop in the fall, at which point the plants will be ready to produce a crop....

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These days, companion planting and intercropping (or polycultures) are buzz words for organic gardeners. Intercropping refers to the practice of growing two or more crops close to one another in order to produce a greater yield on a given piece of land by using resources that would otherwise not...

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This past June, parents and community members joined forces with Pease Adventures in Wildlife Sciences (PAWS) to construct a rain garden at Pease Elementary School. A collaborative effort between the school and community supporters, PAWS (http://www.peasepta.org/paws/) works to transform the...

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This week, SFC's Grow Local program spoke with Cameron Allen of The SEED Adult and Family Learning Community at Mendez Middle School to find out more about this unique school and community garden project that has unfolded over the last year. Cameron attended SFC's Grow Local School Garden...

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Each planting season, experienced Austin gardeners join forces with SFC’s Grow Local program to teach free introductory food gardening classes at schools, shelters, apartment complexes, recreation centers, and places of worship. They bring decades of experience as well as passion, patience and...

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These days, we are all familiar with the word, “organic,” but what exactly does it mean? This term can be confusing because, depending on the context, its definition can be quite different. In the context of growing food, here are a few definitions to help bring things into focus and clarify...

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Even with a rainy start to the summer, the heat is here. There is a limited amount of fruits and vegetable that you can plant now that can stand the climbing temperatures; however, if you play your cards right, you can plant a new batch of eggplants, peppers, and even tomatoes in late July for...

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All of the rain this early summer season has provided a perfect environment for garden weeds to grow out of control. But before you clear cut your vegetable garden of any intruders, be sure you’re not uprooting lambsquarters – a seemingly weedy plant that is actually packed full of nutrients and...

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Healthy soil is the foundation of a successful garden. Thriving gardens grow in soils that are rich in nutrients, organic matter, and microbial life. Beyond soil health, however, soil safety is also an important consideration.

This year, Christine Whitney of the City of Austin Brownfields...

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Gardens often serve as a green oasis in urban areas. They provide rest and recreation for gardeners and passersby. Food gardens supply fresh, healthy fruits, vegetables, and herbs. We know that gardens directly impact our health, but how? Numerous studies prove that the health benefits related...

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In the U.S., pumpkins are a beloved fall and winter staple. Native to Central and South America, pumpkins are a key ingredient for traditional Thanksgiving dishes such as pies, soups, and breads. They are also widely used to carve jack-o’lanterns for Halloween, a tradition that originated in...

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For some of us, okra is associated with a slippery, slimy mouthfeel that isn’t all that desirable. For others, who have had it prepared or pickled properly, okra has a taste that reminds of us soulful, Southern cooking. Okra is a beautiful, edible, flowering plant that is part of the mallow...

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Summer is here! School is out, and kids are looking for their next adventure! Here at SFC, we are hosting fourteen different summer camp field trips in our Teaching Garden and Teaching Kitchen. Grow Local wants to share some of the activities that children will experience in the Teaching Garden...

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Small Middle School is an AISD “Green-Tech” campus that offers students a wide variety of classes in both the environmental studies and technology areas of study. Students can choose one program or both within the Academy. Small Green Tech Academy is the first school in Texas to receive the Eco...

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Austin is blessed with a number of talented gardeners who regularly volunteer their time at and share their knowledge with school and community gardens. This Sunday, June 7th, from 11am-2pm, SFC’s Grow Local gardening program will celebrate three of these gardeners at its Spring Local Food Fair...

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There’s not much left to plant in the garden as the summer months approach. Check out what you can plant in June below:

  • Cantaloupe (June 1-30, from seeds)
  • Greens, Warm Season (June 1-30, from seeds)
  • Okra (June 1-30, from seeds)
  • Peas,...
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Did you know that now is the time to plant pumpkins for a fall harvest? That’s right, all those childhood pumpkin patches for fall festivals and Halloween were carefully planned out by farmers typically during early summer in Central Texas. June is the prime pumpkin planting time in order to...

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The summer heat is right around the corner, and while many of us will be comfortably sleeping under the gentle breeze of our air-conditioners with bellies full of summer treats, many other people this summer will not have enough to eat and may visit local food banks to fill their stomachs. Did...

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By now, all of the baby tomato transplants that we put in the ground earlier this spring are starting to grow and produce fruit! Be sure that you have healthy tomato plants by pruning them occasionally throughout their production season.

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The end of the school year is a time to celebrate and get ready for SUMMER! With school gardens, it’s the perfect time to have a harvest party to celebrate the year’s work. The spring vegetables you grew are just waiting to be picked and sampled, and hopefully this rain has made your plants grow...

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Sweet potatoes often go through an identity crisis; are they a type of potato? Are they the same as a yam? Some sweet potatoes are advertised as yams, but true yams aren’t even grown in the continental United States! To add to the confusion, the oca plant (Oxalis tuberosa) is called a “yam” in...

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...and to support community gardening in Austin

Sustainable Food Center celebrates our 40th birthday this year. With roots as a community gardening organization, we would like to celebrate SFC’s birthday by recognizing the incredible value community gardens bring to our city.

A...

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Some of the most active, thriving school gardens are those that include the community. Partnerships can truly benefit a school garden, and in the case of Lanier High School and the Multicultural Refugee Coalition (MRC), prove to be a tremendous shared learning experience On May 5, the Lanier...

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It just takes one step outside to be reminded that the full-fledged summer heat has finally arrived in Austin! These sweaty temperatures make the cucumbers, melons, and tomatoes filling up harvest baskets a refreshing and welcome treat, but are you missing garden-fresh salad greens? Malabar...

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May is the beginning of the slow, summer season for vegetable gardeners in Central Texas. There are still a couple things that you can plant right now, but you should be focusing on mulching your pepper transplants, babying your melons, and pruning your tomatoes. Check out what you can plant in...

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Even with the recent rains, Central Texas is still in the middle of a serious drought. Climatologists who have studied both the history and the computer models on Texas rainfall have concluded that the state is headed for a very long period – possibly marked in hundreds of years – wherein...

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The temperature is heating up outside, so it’s time to get some of our (few) summer-loving plants in the ground, including Southern peas. Southern peas include black-eyed peas and crowder peas, and are often referred to as cowpeas (by Northerners) or field peas. Named after their distinct...

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Make sure that you aren’t wasting water in the garden this summer, and be sure to set up a drip irrigation system! Drip irrigation systems have become the go-to watering method for farmers and gardeners interested in water conservation. Very small laser-cut slits in the irrigation tubing allows...

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Do you know your beneficial bugs in ALL their life stages? Try matching the 4 life stages of the ladybug, lacewing, and Black Swallowtail butterfly!

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What’s the difference between summer and winter squash? It’s that you plant summer squash in summer and winter squash in winter, right? Nope. In Central Texas, both types of squash can be planted in either spring or fall. The actual difference is that summer squash, which is harvested when it’s...

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In celebration of Earth Day yesterday, we want to say Happy Earth Week! We also want to share ideas for celebrating the environment through gardens: school gardens, community gardens, or home gardens. We encourage good stewardship of the natural resources that sustain our planet and contribute...

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Start thinking about watermelon as weather heats up

With the warm weather finally here to stay, our minds wander toward summer’s tasty treats of buttery corn on the cob, smoky brisket and mouth-watering, juicy watermelon. Watermelons were grown in ancient Egyptian and Indian civilizations...

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This month is the perfect time to get all of those spring and summer fruits and veggies in the ground – tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squashes, and melons. But it’s also the time to get your backyard composting system started as well. In addition to creating nutrient rich compost to add to your...

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There is nothing that I like more than to nerd out about the science of gardening. This week, we’re looking at something we actually can’t see at all: microbes. The microbial world is complex, expansive, and impressive. Read on for some mind-boggling facts about microbes, how they help our food...

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We live in an era when children and adults spend less time in nature and know little about the source of their food. At the same time, an unprecedented number of children are suffering from diet-related disease caused by unhealthy diets high in processed food and low in fresh fruits and...

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When asked to describe an eggplant, some Americans might be at a complete loss while most others would describe an elongated vegetable with shiny, vibrant, purple skin. But why in the world is it called an “eggplant?” There’s nothing really that egg-y about it at all!

The name “eggplant”...

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Austin, Texas is located in the heart of Mexican free-tailed bats’ summer range. Indeed, the world’s largest Mexican free-tailed roost, estimated to contain over 20 million bats, is less than sixty miles away, in Bracken Cave. The largest urban free-tailed colony is located here in the capital...

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Growing herbs has been widely promoted as a way for beginner gardeners to test out their green thumb, and, as we wrote about last month, herbs are a great option for indoor growing if you lack outdoor space. The benefits to growing your own herbs are endless. Herbs are wonderful to cook with....

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April marks the end of the spring planting season in Central Texas for many fruits and veggies. Make sure you get your seeds and transplants in the ground now! Check out what you can plant in April below:

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It’s the season for fruits in the garden! In Central Texas, warm weather is the time to plant tomatoes, peppers, melons, squash, cucumber, okra, and eggplant, among other fruit crops.

In order for most of our garden plants to provide us with a successful crop, they (and we!) need help...

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Beans are one of the longest-cultivated plants across the world, being cultivated for thousands of years for their flavor, texture, and nutrients. Evidence of their cultivation has been found in the royal tombs of Egypt to classical Greece to the earliest Mexican and Peruvian civilizations....

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Tomatoes are the quintessential springtime veggie to plant in our gardens. Thousands of varieties exist in just about every size, shape, and color of the rainbow, and gardeners have been growing heirloom tomatoes for hundreds of years that boast tantalizing flavors. However, despite its current...

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Spring has arrived in Central Texas, and with warmer weather comes a flurry of preparations for spring planting. However, not everyone has a garden bed or yard to plant in. Don’t worry; it’s possible to have a spring garden indoors. Grow your own indoor herbs to add flavor to your meals and a...

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Schools are transient places. Students graduate, taking active parents with them. Teachers and staff also move on to different schools or careers. As folks come and go, so too does gardening knowledge and enthusiasm, and once thriving gardens can rapidly turn into beds of Bermuda grass...

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Many of us may not be familiar with the term “muskmelon” even though you’ve probably eaten quite a few. Muskmelon is the species of melon that includes several popular varieties such as cantaloupe, honeydew, crenshaw, and casaba. The species is characterized by its smooth but thick skin and...

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Drive around rural Texas and you most likely find fields of corn growing tall and happy in the summer sun. In fact, over 2 million acres of corn is planted annually in Texas, producing over 276 million bushels (1 bushel is equivalent to 8 gallons) every year. The US is ranked first in corn...

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The SFC Grow Local team has heard a lot of claims about magical garden remedies or extreme garden myths when it comes to garden pests. “Sprinkle ground cinnamon powder on the soil to prevent fungus” or “add aspirin to water to help the plant absorb the water and grow stronger roots.” Many of...

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March is a great time to plant many of our favorite fruits and veggies in the garden! Check out below what can be planted this month!

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In a contest of “most striking vegetable,” artichoke would be a top contender. This plant’s formidable size (3 to 4 feet high by 2 to 3 feet wide), spiky leaves, and tall stalks topped by enormous, edible flower buds give it a decidedly prehistoric appearance. The leaf-like brachts and center...

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The potato is a relatively underappreciated as a vegetable – seemingly bland, associated with one of the largest famines in history, and not usually seen in high-end culinary cuisine. However, Americans consume about 140 pounds of potatoes every year, and the potato is the world’s fourth largest...

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Don’t let garden pests bug you! With the onset of warmer weather, gardeners are starting to notice the arrival of more and more bugs to their vegetable gardens. Don’t fret! In reality, 95% of bugs aren’t actually pests – in fact, attracting beneficial insects to your garden can help regulate or...

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Since last Monday was President’s Day, our Grow Local team wants to share some of the famous presidential food gardens throughout history. From the establishment of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello vegetable gardens, to First Lady Michelle Obama’s efforts in the White House vegetable garden,...

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Our Grow Local team is thrilled to share the wonders of the natural world with kids through our SFC Teaching Garden. This year, we have hosted several exciting field trips to the Teaching Garden for school groups in the Austin area. Students of all ages have explored the garden beds, smelling...

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Kohlrabi catches the eye with its whimsical shape – octopus-like stems and leaves extending from a hardy, round stem. White and purple varieties exist, with hues of pale green and violet. Its unique name comes from the German word meaning “cabbage turnip,” and it is often called a German turnip....

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It’s February in the garden, and I’m swooning. Why? Because February is the time to plant some of the veggies that I most adore. With enticing textures, bold colors, and frost-kissed sweet flavors, who could resist these garden delights?

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To give or receive a cheerful bouquet of flowers is delightful. But perhaps this Valentine’s Day, you’d like to give a gift that is a bit less common. We may be a bit biased as SFC’s gardening team, but we Grow Local program staff think that it would be much more exciting to give your loved one...

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With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, many of you might be thinking of how to show your sweethearts just how much you care about them. Many lovers will receive chocolates, flowers, or jewelry for the holiday, and many couples might find themselves splitting a romantic dinner or even...

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Most conversations about climate change focus on fossil fuels and rightly so, for the combustion of coal, oil, and natural gas are responsible for two thirds of carbon emissions. Increasingly, however, scientists, environmentalists, and policy makers are linking climate change to the health of...

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February in Central Texas means comfortable temperatures in the 60s and some precipitation – perfect conditions to start planning out your spring garden and planting some fruits and vegetables that like to be planted in February!

· Artichokes (plant crowns, Feb 1-28)

·...

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In the Grow Local program, we have the privilege of supporting school gardens in Austin, from providing School Garden Leadership Trainings to offering Spread the Harvest resources. We love seeing the ways that school gardens move classroom learning outdoors and offer students a chance to see...

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Seeds are an integral part of our national and local food system, and nothing is more impressive in the natural world than tiny seeds that create entire plants from almost nothing. I have always had a fascination for seeds ever since I started gardening, and especially since I started to grow...

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Gardeners who are excited about planting veggies this spring but have less than ideal soil in their backyards should consider constructing raised garden beds for their vegetable garden. Raised beds are great for increased accessibility, improved drainage, limiting soil compaction, and pest and...

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To increase awareness and understanding of just how important soil is to the health of humans and ecosystems, the U.N. General Assembly declared 2015 the International Year of Soils (IYS). And over at SFC, we couldn’t agree more! Healthy soil is...

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Jenni Lafferty is a homeschooling mom with five years of experience growing food in East Austin. For the past three years, she has acted as a Grow Local facilitator, teaching SFC’s Citizen Gardener classes. Recently, Grow Local asked Jenni to share some tips for how to engage children in food...

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We look forward to a bright beginning for 2015! To kick off the new year, the members of the Grow Local team want to share with you 10 “garden goals” for 2015. We hope these inspire you and provide ideas to help you grow a thriving, prolific, and sustainable garden in the year to...

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Despite its sunny disposition, Central Texas has short growing seasons. The region straddles multiple climate zones and has few forests, no natural lakes, and only small rivers to modulate temperatures. Summers are hot and long, and as late as mid-September, temperatures can soar above 100...

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This past Saturday, we had more than 25 eager gardeners attend our Container Gardening class, a part of the Grow Local Classes in the Teaching Garden series. Many of the participants live in apartment complexes or other housing situations where they have limited access to in-ground garden space...

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What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of garlic? Warding off vampires? To-die-for pizza topping? Bad breath? This diminutive bulb holds a prominent place in our cultural and culinary imagination, and for centuries, people across the globe have regarded it with a similar...

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With the holidays quickly approaching and the cold weather rolling in, most of our stomachs are grumbling in anticipation for pies, cookies, cakes, and other sweets this winter season. Some of even have visions of sugar-plums dancing in our heads. But of course, the sweetest food of them all is...

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Community gardens are more than just gardens. They are transformative spaces where neighbors grow food, collaborate on projects with people they might not otherwise have met, and benefit from time in nature in the middle of the city.

But what makes a community garden thrive? Here are four...

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There is nothing more frustrating than putting love, sweat, and tears into your vegetable garden… only to watch your plants be gobbled up by pesky pests. Many fall bugs like to chomp on broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, or collards leaves this time of the year, and some gardens are visited by...

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Gardens can answer some of kids’ biggest questions, such as “Where does my food come from?” “Is nature important?” Growing food has been proven to be an effective way to change behavior and attitude towards healthy food choices and the environment. There are demonstrated connections between...

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Our current view of onions has been shaped by their effect on our tear ducts, their supposed similarity to ogres (Shrek: “We both have layers”), and their unfortunate ability to ward off possible mates via breath odor. However, ancient Egyptians once worshipped the modest onion for its...

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Grow Local is spreading the word about the mighty seed! Seeds are an integral part of our national and local food systems, as well as our cultures and traditions, and nothing is more impressive in the natural world than tiny seeds that create entire plants from almost nothing. We want you to...

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Here in Central Texas, we have two seasons: hot and not. Gardening in a hot, semi-arid region that has extended dry periods punctuated by heavy rain makes it hard to consistently provide plants with the water they need to grow. Most food growers rely on tap water to keep their plants alive...

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The weather is changing and so is your garden! Now’s the time to wander through the aisles of your favorite, organic plant nursery and pick out some fall vegetable transplants. Transplanting can cut down on the time from planting to harvest as compared to planting from seeds, but can be...

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As temperatures cool off in Central Texas, it’s time to get planting in the garden again! As you decide what veggies you’d enjoy growing and eating this fall, you’ll also want to think about how to arrange them in your garden. Here are a couple of tips to guide you:

  • Which way is...
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Color and texture are key elements of lettuce, an often overlooked component of our salads and sandwiches. However, lettuce should not be limited to the few varieties sold in most grocery stores. There are many types of lettuce (Lactuca sativa) varying in color and texture that grow well in our...

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This fall, raise your spirits and get that garden off the ground! Raised garden beds, or garden boxes, can be a great addition to your backyard, school, or community garden. Constructed from non-treated, naturally rot-resistant, long-lasting wood, these beds can offer gardeners a variety of...

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Giles Smith is a teacher in a SBS (Social Behavioral Skills) unit in an Elementary School in the East side of Austin. He has participated in three courses offered at SFC-Citizen Gardener, Community Garden Leadership and School Garden Leadership. This week, he visits the SFC blog to share why he...

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Dirt is dead. Soil is different . . . soil is alive! Inhabited by millions and millions of microorganisms that bind clay, sand and silt together, soil forms a crumbly structure that holds water like a sponge and provides a perfect growing medium for plants. Read on for important-to-know facts...

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originally published in the Austin American Statesman

As we head into the heat of August in Austin, the saying “cool as a cucumber” takes on a whole new meaning in the garden. Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus), part of the Cucurbitaceae family that includes melons and squashes, are a refreshing...

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As Americans, we are fortunate to have easy access to a wide variety of meat, grain, fruit, and vegetables at our local grocery store. For exotic and rare items, there are a plethora of gourmet specialty stores that stock all that one could ask for—from dragon fruit to langoustine, galangal root...

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It just takes one step outside to be reminded that the full-fledged summer heat has finally arrived in Austin! These sweaty temperatures make the cucumbers, melons, and tomatoes filling up harvest baskets a refreshing and welcome treat, but are you missing garden-fresh salad greens? Malabar...

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You know about the birds and the bees, right? When planning a garden, it's important to think of the entire ecosystem that you'll be creating. You want to provide food for the top of the food chain (that's you), but also support the many players that give life to the whole, from plants that...

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What's so special about heirloom tomatoes? In a world where flavor and color are sacrificed for uniform, homogenous tomatoes bred for their ability to withstand the rigors of long-distance shipping, locally-grown, proudly diverse, and shockingly flavorful tomatoes are a precious rarity. And...

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Grow some happiness! Community gardeners in our St. David's Foundation community garden have been turning on the smiles with the bright and cheerful sunflowers they've planted. Standing tall, faces turned towards the sun, they bring more than just a good vibe to the garden. Come see us and start...

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Every heirloom tomato you buy at the SFC Farmers' Market comes with a fairy-tale prize inside: generation after generation of tomato plants, neatly packed away within each one! Heirloom tomatoes are treasured for their flavor and variety, and, like the keys to a kingdom, their seeds are shared...

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The days are definitely heating up, but don't let that stop you from getting out in the garden--summer veggies need lots of love and care, and the weeds will take over if you don't make inroads daily. There are lots of tricks for keeping cool when the mercury rises--here are our top five tactics...

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It won't be long before we bid adieu to greens--our summers are just too hot for most of these tender leaf crops. Creative cooks and gardeners can compensate though, with a few varieties that withstand high temperatures (Malabar spinach, chard, arugula) and big-leaf, colorful basil! Basil...

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When the cat's away . . . the birds, squirrels, deer and armadillos will wreak havoc on your carefully-tended garden. Unfortunately, wildlife finds juicy summer fruit as enticing as we do, and there's no simple way to keep animals from sharing in your bounty. There are a few tricks that might...

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Julio Perez wears a kerchief tied around his head and a wide, welcoming smile. Almost any time of day, you'll find him weeding or planting at Festival Beach Community Garden, and if you meet him there, he might tell you about the strange gourd growing along the fence (“It’s a loofah. You can eat...

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Hey . . . what's that wet stuff on the weather report? Spring is here, and that means perfect gardening weather and occasionally a little rain, too. For those of us growing food here in community and backyard gardens and farms here in Central Texas, water is a precious commodity. When it falls...

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Plants have one primary goal: to reproduce themselves. As much as we'd like to think their whole M.O. is to find themselves on our dinner plate, if we don't interrupt them, they'll flower and then make seeds. Sometimes these seeds are inside the fruit and vegetables we eat (think tomatoes,...

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Whether you call it an eggplant or an aubergine, the typically purple Solanum Melongena is a tasty vegetable that has long been misunderstood. Early Europeans called eggplants “mad apples,” certain that the eater would turn insane; alternatively, they were called “apples of love” for their...

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Big, fat, juicy homegrown melons are intensely fragrant and flavorful, and quite satisfying to grow from seed. Plant seeds in rich soil, make sure they get lots of sun and water, and give them plenty of room to grow! Here are some of our favorite heirloom varieties--these are unlike anything...

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"One man's trash is another man's treasure." Especially if that other man (or woman) is a gardener. Growing things, especially food, takes nutrients--you get out what you put in. Industrial agriculture relies on bad-for-the-earth and bad-for-us chemical fertilizers, but one of the great joys of...

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Tony Martinez and Susan Johnke captured the hearts of Grow Local staff with their passion for cultivating gardening knowledge. After attending Citizen Gardener classes, a seed saving workshop, and stakeholder meetings, the couple’s inspiration became abundantly clear: their quest for healthy...

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Juicy, tart, sweet, and still warm from the sun: if there was ever something worth growing in the home garden, tomatoes are certainly at the top of the list. And the time to plant is now. Whether you are growing in the ground, in containers, or in a raised bed, ready your soil,...

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Spring might not officially start until March 20, but here in Central Texas, the emergence of cheerful fuchsia redbud blossoms and the appearance of butterflies — including the elegant black swallowtail — tell us that it’s well on its way. And now that early spring is here, it’s the perfect time...

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Sweet potatoes often go through an identity crisis; are they a type of potato? Are they the same as a yam? Some sweet potatoes are advertised as yams, but true yams aren’t even grown in the continental United States! To add to the confusion, the oca plant (Oxalis tuberosa) is called a “yam” in...

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To some, peas are a reminder of Gregor Mendel, father of modern genetics, who used pea plants for his breeding experiments. To others, fresh green peas simply bring a pop of color to dishes that reassures us spring is near. The world's first sweet tasting pea was developed in the 18th century by...

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