Gardening inspiration

Oya Giveaways For The Holidays!

Dear Oya Lovers,

We are SO excited to announce our weekly holiday giveaway! Every Saturday until Christmas this year, one of you will win a FREE OYA! This is a great way to celebrate sustainable gardening with your loved ones.

Here’s how to enter:

On Instagram, post gardening photos using the #Growoya hashtag! That’s ALL you have to do.

On Twitter, Tweet your favorite gardening stories (multiple tweets allowed) OR favorite ways to save water in the garden. Use the hashtag #Growoya to be entered!

On Facebook, comment to share your gardening stories. That’s it! We want to hear about all the love you put into your vegetable bounty. It helps us feel good, and helps inspire all our fellow gardeners to get our hands dirty more often.

We will announce the winner of the week every Saturday morning at 10:00 am PST. Also, you must live in the USA to be eligible (for now).

Can you enter more than once? Yes! We’d love to hear from you on all social media channels! Why just share a story when you could also share a photo? Not everyone has all three, so more people will see it!

Will the post with the most likes win? Any post can win! We like to give everyone a fair chance.

How can I increase my chances of winning? We’re so glad you asked! If you want to be entered twice, there are a few things you can do: On Instagram, comment on friends’ photos about the competition. On Twitter, Tweet at gardening lovers you know. On Facebook, tag friends in your comments! Tag us using @Growoya so that we know you’ve been sharing the love!

Starting To Grow Worms

I found out some really terrible news today. It turns out that worms, when you cut them in half, do not in fact grow both parts back. If this isn’t devastating to you, maybe you never cut a worm in half accidentally as a kid? Or, your parents were better informed than mine and you felt the appropriate sorrow in the moment. Either way, I live with new knowledge that I am a murderer with my shovel. I found this out in a book, on worms.

This book said that depending on where the worm was cut, the tail end can sometimes grow back. The tail, though, cannot grow a new head. This makes a lot more sense when you think about it for half a second. Sometimes, it’s possible to find a worm with two tails, like a fork. This is usually caused by some injury to the worm’s tail end where it had to grow a new one, I imagine, just in case.

Worms As a Trend

Worms are especially fascinating to me because, growing up in a 12 foot wide townhouse in the middle of the city, I distinctly remember discovering a big red bin full of red wrigglers in my parents basement when I was about three years old. At three, I thought it was super gross. Now, years later, I think it’s totally awesome, and interviewed my parents about their worm habits this afternoon. My favorite question was “so… dad… was this like, a thing? Like, was there some sort of worm trend that you were on to? Or were you and mum just totally wacky?

It turns out, that they were definitely wacky, but they were also on to something! Reading gardening manuals from the late 1980’s, worm composting inside the home was kind of a thing, maybe. Please, people who were adults during that time, confirm or deny for us?

Vermicomposting, I’ve found, has a whole subculture to it. After interviewing my parents I went and bought a second hand book called Worms Eat My Garbage: How to set up and maintain a composting system by Mary Appelhof. Written in 1982, it tells you how to recycle kitchen food waste, save energy, produce fertilizer for house plants and gardens, grow fishing worms, and reduce waste disposal cost. It sold hundreds of thousands of copies.

Doing It!

Making up for my earlier years of brutal murderous ways, I’ve immediately and unequivocally decided to start a vermicomposting system in our urban apartment at home. Will my boyfriend appreciate it? Maybe. Will the four year old? Yes.

Looking in to some resources now, this one seems like a pretty good starting point, along with Worms Eat My Garbage. I’m also wary of what can go wrong, especially after reading about this atrocity. We’d love to hear about any experiences you’ve had with vermicomposting! Please let us know in the comments whether this has worked for you or not.

Food Diversity Is Decreasing. Grow Something Rare!

Grocery stores today carry on average forty thousand items. This sounds like a big number, but when you look at groceries, it’s actually nothing compared to what nature has to offer. According Jennifer Cockrall-King, author of Food and The City, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization believes that over 75% of the world’s biodiversity of foods has vanished as a result of industrial agriculture. These days, despite economic and scientific expansion in the agricultural industry, we actually eat fewer diverse vegetables and fruit than our grandparents did!

Seasonality of fruit and vegetables is obscured within the walls of the grocery store. Often, while winds howl outside in February, we find the same exact vegetables in grocery stores as we do in the peak of summer. Imagine a time traveller arriving to the interior of a grocery store. The uniform temperature, humidity, and stocked shelves full of the same things all year would make it hard to guess what season it was outside!

We actually eat fewer diverse vegetables and fruit than our grandparents did! – Jennifer Cockrall-King

Often, too, grocery stores have the same things inside each one of them. Whether you go to one company or the other, very often you’ll be buying the same things. And beyond the diversity of actual foods available, according to food activists just a handful of corporations are behind 90% of the food supply in America.

All this to say that diversity is important. Diverse nutrients help our bodies grow and maintain health and wellness, and diverse fruit and vegetables help to maintain biodiversity and resilience in natural ecosystems. And rare varieties are nothing but interesting to grow.

What are your favorite veggies? Are you curious about rare heirloom varieties of broccoli? What about a digital museum dedicated to carrots? Whatever the garden good of your choice, it’s worth some quick research into resources on rare varieties. You never know what you might find on RareSeeds.com or the Smart Seed Store.

Where are your resources for rare seeds? Do you seed swap or head to the local nursery? Where do you get inspiration to grow diverse and interesting vegetables? Write in the comments or visit us on Instagram at @Growoya to let us know!

How Often Should You Weed, Really?

When my family has busy years, work and sports and caring for each other takes precedence over garden activities. My mother hates this, because there is nothing she loves more than to be amongst her plants and in the soil. Some years, though, there is little we can do to spend the time with our garden that it needs. If this sounds like you, and you have years here and there that you just feel like giving up, fear not! Breaks are actually really good for your soil. Edward H. Faulkner years ago wrote Plowman’s Folly. According the the Reader’s Digest in the 1940’s, “probably no book on an agricultural subject has ever prompted so much discussion in this country.”

Here is a favorite paragraph of mine. It dismisses all anxiety we may have about leaving our garden beds to lay around and do nothing:

All through the South, farmers have for generations “rested” their land for a number of years between periods of cropping. This practice used to be criticized severely as an evidence of laziness, but agriculturists have discovered that it really has merit, and that soil so treated is considerably rejuvenated and will again produce satisfactory crops. The benefits to be derived from allowing land to lie idle are directly proportionate to the abundance of wild plants that spring up. Southern farmers of the old school never kept their crops so free from weeds that there would not be plenty of seed to germinate on any land that was left to itself for a season or two. The second and third seasons’ growth of weeds registered, by their increased height and vigor, the benefit the new plants received from the decaying material produced the previous year. The longer the fields lay idle, the more completely they were restored to normal productiveness.
Weeds are not so bad, it turns out! And having the soil rest and be covered by weeds does an incredibly important job: it helps to keep the minerals and the vital nutrients in the soil. And our favorite bonus: it saves water when you do get back to planting:
Such processes of soil renewal really should not be construed as idleness for the soil. In reality the so-called idle soil is working vigorously to re-establish a non-erosive surface. If there are enough weed seeds in the soil when it is abandoned, only a few years will be required for the surface to be properly “nailed down” again, so that runoff water will not be so plentiful or so effective in moving the soil minerals.
There you have it. If you’re beating yourself up not gardening enough and leaving behind weeds, maybe that’s life telling you that, well, it’s just what your garden wants!

Gardening Libraries are Beautiful

Cleaning out my parents’ bookshelves, I came across the most beautiful set of gardening books. Rodale Press, Rockwell and Grayson, the BBC – these are the gardening greats! I dove in, eager for tips and tricks on the best tomatoes, the most delicious carrots, and the biggest pumpkins (Halloween is a big deal in this house).

What I found, though, was not lists of best practices, or graphs and charts. There were not even that many illustrations. Instead, I found pure and inspirational prose dedicated to the love of gardening. These authors are fearless in their battlecry for everyone to pick up a spade, specifically for organic gardening. In this excerpt, from a chapter called Life After Picking, if feels very much like the fruits of the garden are characters in a novel:

If it seems odd to you to talk about how vegetables breath, you probably have plenty of company. It’s commonly assumed, after all, that fruits and vegetables are no longer alive when they’re removed from the plant that produced them. Vegetables and fruits continue to live, however, even after they’re picked. The foods you bring in from the garden are still breathing while you hold them in your hands. If you’re counting on those foods to nourish you over the winter, then, it might be a good idea to consider how their continued respiration affects their keeping and eating qualities, and what you can do to control their life processes. – Mike and Nancy Bubel, Root Cellaring, 1979

Others are more direct, willing every gardener in the country to abide by the organic way of gardening. Here, from 1955, is an except from Rodale. Feel his enthusiasm as he writes!

Organiculture is a vigorous and growing movement, in that is destined to alter our concepts of the garden and the farm and to revolutionize our methods of operating them in order to secure for ourselves more abundant and more perfect food. The seed sown by Sir Albert Howard, the great pioneer in organic farming, is beginning to bloom lustily and with such vim that it is already thriving and propagating by its own strength. J.I. Rodale, Organic Gardening, 1953

Reading these books, they read like stories. Each vegetable, each garden plot, even the tools, are given names and character traits. I can see when so many of the paragraphs are underlined – my parents must have read these books before they went to bed at night, flipping each page enthusiastically instead of going to sleep. And they are inspiring! We have had thriving organic gardens since I can remember. No wonder, with these magnificent tomes!

Rodale, in his book Organic Gardening, closed by saying “there are infinite pleasures awaiting you if you have never gardened organically.” I would add to this: there are infinite pleasures in reading about it too!