Showing posts with label Organic Gardening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Organic Gardening. Show all posts

Friday, 25 November 2011

Making Leaf Mold

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
I was out riding my bicycle around a quiet neighborhood of one-acre lots. As I rode past one house, with lots of lawn surrounded by big trees, an elderly couple was tossing puffy-full trash bags over their fence onto a huge pile on the side of the road. That looked like something I could use. I turned around and pedaled back to them.

"Are those leaves by any chance?" I asked. "May I have them?"

"Either you or the trash pickup, whichever gets here first," they replied.

"I'll be back with the truck. Oh, did you spray your trees with anything this year?"

Assured that the bags held only leaves, and that I'd be bringing no noxious chemicals back to my garden, I rode home smiling. Returning with the truck, I managed to get the entire pile, at least 25 big black trash bags, into the truck bed, piling them up, mashing and wedging bags in against the sides so as not to lose any as I drove home. What a treasure!

leaf mold bin in foreground, Aries & compost bin beyond
We're already making compost with our garden cleanup, the leaves from our trees, and the manure from cleaning out the chicken coop. I had something else in mind for these leaves - a batch of leaf mold.

Leaf mold is just leaves - piled up and left to decompose. To help them break down faster, we ran them through the shredder first. I made a round bin, about 3' tall and 3' across (it's best to have a pile at least 3' x 3'), with a length of wire fencing, lining it with some of the trash bags to keep the bits of leaves from falling through. First raking, then closing up the circle and shoveling, we filled the bin to the top. Using a small step ladder, I got into the bin, stomping round and round, packing the leaves down as Aries kept shoveling. With a bit of work, we got an entire piled-high truckload of leaves packed into the bin.

I got the hose, and soaked it all down, until water just started to run out the bottom. I live in the high desert, so to keep the leaves from drying out I covered them with more of the trash bags weighed down with bit of carpet and a slab of wood (winter storms can come through here with 60 mph winds). Last item was then to use a pitchfork to poke small holes in the plastic lining the bin. Some oxygen is necessary for the decomposition process.

Unlike the pathogen and weed seed killing heat of a properly made compost pile, making leaf mold is a cold process. Even so, a week later, the contents of my bin, six inches below the surface, pegged out a 125F thermometer. Left alone, leaf mold bins can take up to three years to break down to a dark, crumbly texture - a much slower process than composting. But by shredding the leaves and wetting them down well this bin might be ready by next summer.. And leaf mold, being made of only leaves, doesn't have the multitude of minerals and plant nutrients of compost either. But dug into a garden bed or used as mulch, it's great at retaining water. That's a necessity for my sandy soil and hot, dry growing season, but it can also soak up and hold the water in too-wet soils as well. It's also a great additive to a container potting mix. If you have or can get the leaves, have the room for a bin or two, and the time to let it break down, leaf mold can be a valuable addition to any garden.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Portuguese onion braids

by Francesca @ FuoriBorgo

share braids

This week, Natércia from Portugal shared her photos of onion braids (see here for details).

Aren't they gorgeous? The photos were taken in the municipality of Vila de Rei - in the heart of Portugal - where Natércia is from. As you can see, these braids were made with regular-sized onions, not the small onions I chose to braid with, worrying that the larger ones would be too heavy to braid! Hence, you can braid all onions, up to an impressive 20 or so in length (from what I can see from the images), and store them conveniently out of the way by hanging them from wooden beams ... if you have them!

Thank you so much Natércia for sharing your photos with us, and for the Portuguese lesson in onion braiding.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Diversity through blossoms

by Francesca @ FuoriBorgo

flowers in my garden1

Do you grow flowers in your vegetable garden? I always vaguely meant to, but in the past, when spring came I was so busy planning my vegetable garden and sowing vegetables that I forgot all about the flowers.

But since moving my garden closer to the house (here) - one of the best gardening decisions I ever made - I've actually seen my garden more often, and now think of it more in terms of aesthetics, design and overall scope, and not just about what vegetables I want to grow there for my family.

I realized, in fact, that I was growing dissatisfied with the usual concept of the garden plot arranged in long, tidy rows of single crops. Instead, I became more and more attracted by the general principles of biodynamic agriculture and permaculture. And following these principles, since last year I've started to create a garden that's becoming a diverse little ecosystem, harmoniously integrated with the surrounding nature. As part of this strategy, I finally started planting flowers among the vegetables.

flowers in my garden

flowers in my garden

flowers in my garden

I started small, sowing one of three types of flowers: edible (it's a vegetable garden after all!), medicinal (you've got to love flowers with a purpose!) and purely ornamental (because flowers make me happy, and a happy gardener is the best kind of gardener, right?).

As edible flowers, I sowed borage, which grows in the wild around here. I planted it close to my tomatoes, green beans, and basil, because I'd read it's a good companion plant for these vegetables, which so far has proven correct, especially in the case of basil: my basil has never been so lush!

filling 7

Besides the cobalt blue edible flowers, which we add to salads (they make such a pretty addition to a green salad, here), we also harvest borage leaves, which make good cooking greens. Last year, I used both the borage flowers and the leaves to make "floral ravioli" (see here), a recipe that I whipped up as I went along, and which made me feel like a very creative Italian cook - if only for a day.

flowers in my garden

In the medicinal category, I choose Calendula. They're a little behind, still at the budding stage, which is actually fine, since I need a little time to research how they can be used - any suggestions?

flowers in my garden

And for the pure visual joy, I planted a variety of Dahlias in different shades of pink and purple. Yes, a harvest of flowers in my diverse and colorful garden makes me very happy indeed!


share braids

Don't forget to share your photos of onion and garlic braids (read my previous post here) by emailing them to me: fuoriborgo @ gmail dot com

Thank you!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Braiding small onions

by Francesca @ FuoriBorgo


Recently Sadge wrote a very informative post about how to make garlic braids for long-term storage (here). I used her tips, and made braids with some of the smaller onions that I harvested a couple of weeks ago. (I stored the larger onions, which would be too heavy to braid, in a crate in a cool spot of the house, after I'd removed the dirt, stems and dried roots - the method my neighbors have taught me to help delay sprouting.)

Braiding my small onions this way worked very well, creating a couple of beautifully decorative edible braids.

How do you store your onions or garlic? I'd love to hear, and if anyone has photos, please send them, and we'll share them with Co-op readers!

Please email your photos to me at: fuoriborgo at gmail dot com

Friday, 15 July 2011

cucumbers in a small garden

by Francesca @ FuoriBorgo

Last time I wrote about how I failed to grow chickpeas this year (here). As is always the case for a gardener, a crop that fails is a disappointment, but a good potential learning experience too. This time I learned that chickpea plants aren't very productive, and that, in order to harvest enough chickpeas for our family of five, I would need far more garden space than I currently have. Which brings me to my subject today: growing cucumbers in a small garden. Unlike my chickpeas, cucumbers are my pride and joy this year.

cucumbers in a small garden

Don't you love cucumbers in the summer? We do! Crispy, fresh, and juicy, cucumbers have the perfect texture and flavor for light and cool summer dishes. But I hadn't grown cucumbers for the last few years, due to a lack of space.

This year though I decided to experiment a little with new growing methods: because of space constraints I can't let cucumber plants trail across the ground, and because a trellis for them would be in the way and shade other crops, I planted cucumbers by the back wall of the garden. This is dry-wall masonry covered by thick ivy which is impossible to remove, though I suspect snails and slugs hang out here, keeping cool while waiting for the right time to pop out and devour my lettuces and leafy vegetables. It was time to find a good use for this pesky ivy.

(Of course, had I fenced my garden in against wild boars and deer, as I'd intended, I would now be using that fence as trellis. Instead, I put off building a fence, made a scarecrow (here), and thanked my lucky stars that the boars and deer haven't found my garden ... yet...)



Turns out that the ivy works great as a support for my cucumber plants, which trail happily up the ivy stems as they grow, and are thriving - I now feel ever so much better about that ivy! When you garden in a small space, it's great when you can get everything working harmoniously together - even the snail motels.

For specific technicalities on growing cucumbers, check out the excellent BBC Gardening Guide here.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Chickpeas below subsistence

by Francesca @ FuoriBorgo

When I wrote about my intention to grow chickpeas in the spring (here), a reader of this blog suggested that instead of buying them from a garden catalog, I simply use chickpeas from the grocery store. Duh! That thought had not crossed my mind at all, even though we've often germinated chickpeas and beans as part of the science experiments with our kids. True, those seedlings never survived, but that was part of the mystery of science - our home-grown science, at any rate.


In the end, I didn't buy chickpeas for planting from a catalog, but I didn't buy them from a grocery store either. I went to a street market with a stall where legumes are sold by weight, in big sacks. There I talked to the stall-keeper, and she assured me that the 2 kilos of chickpeas I was buying were from the last harvest. Those chickpeas seemed especially tasty, and made wonderful soup and great hummus. Some I soaked for several days, and then sowed them in a corner of the garden, as a test. We probably sowed 40-60 chickpeas on that cool day in February.


By mid-May, my chickpea plants, which surprised me with their pretty little oval feathery leaves, were about 30 cm high, and beginning to produce pods.


The cutest pods ever! Small, fluffy, rounded pods, each cradling one or two chickpeas.


I harvested them this week, now that the plants and pods were dry.


The result was a handful of chickpeas.

Because although my chickpea plants were among the plants I cherished and photographed the most, there were only five of them. Five very healthy plants, that thrived in the optimal weather conditions we've been enjoying this year. Alas, only five chickpea out of the 40-60 we planted grew into plants - whatever happened to the others? I guess it's one of the mysteries of gardening ... of our gardening, at any rate!

Have you ever had a crop fail so catastrophically?

Friday, 17 June 2011

Pinching off tomato shoots

by Francesca @ FuoriBorgo

I grow indeterminate tomatoes, which are the vining variety, rather than the determinate, bushy tomato plants. Indeterminate tomatoes require staking, which I do by building A-frame supports with canes, a very simple and effective technique which I wrote about last year (here). This also has the advantage of leaving the plants easily accessible for tending and harvesting.

Indeterminate vining tomatoes, in fact, need a little more care than the determinate varieties. You have to pinch off the little side shoots (also called "suckers") that grow in the V between leaf stems and the main vine, and sometimes also at the base of the vine. This practice will ensure that the main vine grows strong and produces as many tomatoes as possible.

Sometimes you'll miss a side shoot, and you'll notice it only when it's already grown into a bigger branch. I still go ahead an pinch it off, unless it's grown blossoms in the meantime.

Pinching off side shoots is an easy task, though it can take a surprising long time when you have lots of plants. Besides making the main vine stronger, it will also give you the opportunity to inspect your plants, and check them for signs of disease or pests.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Accidentally growing radicchio lettuce

by Francesca @ FuoriBorgo

Somehow last year I grew radicchio. I must have accidentally picked a bag of Radicchio di Treviso (or trevisano) seeds or decided that I'd give radicchio a try while I was at the garden center, and then forgotten about it. Fact is that last spring, as I was starting my garden, I found this bag of radicchio seeds in my gardening basket. I sowed it, and waited to see what would happen.


It grew pretty fast: thick, hairy green oblong leaves, very bitter in taste (or "toxic", as my children say).

It kept growing during the summer, impervious to the neglect my garden suffered while my family and I were on the road (here), and to disease and bugs (even the snails that happily feed on my lettuce did not seem to have a taste for its "toxic" leaves).

Note: there are milder varieties of radicchio, such as the rounder radicchio di Chioggia


Towards the end of August, my radicchio di Treviso started turning red, as the night temperatures began to drop, and thereafter it thrived in the cooler weather: the leaves became thinner and more palatable, and the taste milder.

harvest 3

And it continued to do well during the winter, which was long but not terribly cold, with only two hard frosts and a couple of snowstorms.

finding food 2

After the snow melted, I just removed the spoiled outer leaves, and the healthy heads kept on growing and producing radicchio red lettuce leaves.



So, we had fresh radicchio throughout the winter. Thinly sliced in salads (balsamic vinegar does wonders to mellow out its pungent taste), or sliced length-wise and grilled or roasted.


As the temperatures rose again in April, our radicchio started turning greener and becoming more bitter in flavor, and I pulled it up: during a one-year cycle, it had produced impressively deep, strong roots, considering it was lettuce.

It was great to have fresh radicchio from the garden during the winter, and I'd recommend it to anyone who has enough garden space, especially those who live in less favorable climates.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Natural supports for climbing legumes

by Francesca, FuoriBorgo

A year ago, I wrote about using bamboo canes for staking tomatoes (here). In my corner of the world, in fact, all supports and trellises, including those for climbing and vining plants, are built with natural materials that come from the immediate area. Even the strings used to tie the grape vines to their chestnut trellis are made with fibers from broom and other shrubs.

natural supports

Some of the most clever natural supports, though, are the stakes used for climbing peas and pole beans. Over here, we sow peas and beans in winter at the beginning of the year, and the plants are big enough to need support by springtime, when the fruit trees have blossomed, and are pruned before they leaf.

natural supports

These fruit tree prunings are saved - especially from the peach and apricot trees - and people use them to stake the climbing varieties of beans and peas.

natural supports

This way there's no need to build or buy trellises at all!

natural supports

It's a simple way of life where nothing is wasted, and everything is re-used - even the prunings - in the cycling of seasons that determines the rhythm of the traditional agricultural cycle.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Italian parsley & strawberries: companion plants?

by Francesca @ FuoriBorgo

Italian parsley

Last week I finished clearing out my garden of all the annual and winter crops - a task I do each year around Easter time, following the local tradition connected to the agricultural cycle (here). I had already pulled up the winter cabbages and leeks (here), and the radicchio (which I'm going to write about next time), while leaving the chard and the parsley for last.

Italian parsley

Although parsley is a biannual herb, I sow it each spring because it tends to produce more during its first year. I use a lot of fresh parsley in my cooking, and I like to have an ample supply all year around: parsley, in fact, overwinters quite well in my climate, and because last winter we only had two hard frosts and one snowfall (thank you winter!), I was able to harvest an impressive amount of parsley.

Italian parsley

Even in the harshest winters, parsley always survives - the plants just grow low to the ground, and the leaves are much smaller in size. Not this year, though: my parsley plants were about 50 cms tall, and produced a full colander's worth of parsley leaves.

Italian parsley

Besides the mild winter, I'm thinking that the success of my parsley this year may have something to do with the fact that it got accidentally intercropped with strawberries: parsley and strawberries, does anyone have any feedback on this?

In June last year, in fact, one of my kids came home with one single strawberry plant, that we just randomly planted in the garden. This single plant must have liked its new home, because it propagated impressively, sending many runners, each and every one in the direction of the nearby parsley, with which it spontaneously intercropped itself. Both the strawberries and the parsley did very well, and I'll experiment some more with growing them as companion plans this year.

And my colander full of freshly harvested parsley leaves? If you'd like to know how I use a large quantity of fresh parsley, here are some ideas:

Italian parsley

I made an Almond and parsley spread.

Italian parsley

And a Chopped parsley and garlic mixture for freezing.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Reaping the Rewards

by Chiot's Run

If you've been reading here for a while you've heard me talk about my experimentation with winter gardening. This past winter I covered 3 of my hoop houses in the back garden with greenhouse plastic. They were filled with all sorts of greens, onions, leeks, and celery. I've been checking on them all winter, just waiting for the chance to harvest my first salad. Eating the first salad from the garden in the spring is kind of like kicking off the season. Once your body tastes the fresh healthy greens it starts to crave green in earnest.

The First Harvest

Last week I finally enjoyed a salad of greens that I planted last fall. If I had planted the seeds in the spring this year, I'd still have at least another month until I could harvest anything. Truth be told, I could have harvested a salad a few weeks ago, but I've been too busy and it's been to rainy to get out into the garden.

First Harvest of 2011

There's nothing quite like the first salad of spring. It's amazing how your body craves what it needs. I harvested spinach from the garden that contains: vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, E, K, manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, and many more. In addition to homegrown spinach, I also harvested some bitter cress and dandelion greens. These are also full of health benefits including tons of vitamins and they are said to have detoxing benefits for your body. Just what we need after a winter of being cooped up in the house eating too many baked goods.

First Harvest of 2011

Not only is it healthy for the body to grow some of your own food it's healthy for the soul as well. There's something extremely satisfying about producing some of your own food and foraging for some of it in the wild. Perhaps it harkens back to our hunter gather nature.

What are you harvesting from your garden right now?

Monday, 14 March 2011

List of International Seed Catalogs, 2011

by Francesca

Below is the final list of International Seed Catalogs for 2011 with links to the sites, that I have compiled with your input and help. It's subdivided by country, in no particular order. Some of these catalogs don't ship abroad because of customs restrictions on importing seeds, but the aim of this list is to be a useful reference tool for gardeners around the world, primarily to find good and reliable seed supplies in their own area.

If you have more recommendations, please leave them in the comments, and I'll include them in the 2012 edition of this list.

Thank you very much again!


ABSeeds (large selection of chilli seeds)
The Real Seed Catalogue


Seed Savers Exchange
Sustainable Seed Co (large selection of organic and heirloom seeds)
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Burpee Gardening
Seeds from Italy
Territorial Seed Company
Eden Organic Nursery (seeds from around the world)
Seeds of Change
Fedco Seeds
Abundant Life Seeds
Peaceful Valley Farm
Horizon Herbs
High Mowing Organic Seeds
Pinetree Garden Seeds
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Victory Seeds
Wood Prairie Farm
Johnny's Selected Seeds
Gourmet Seed


Kings Seeds
New Zealand Tree Seeds


Heritage Harvest Seeds
Salt Spring Seeds
The Cottage Gardener
Stellar Seeds
Sunshine Farm (certified organic)


Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Swapping Seeds

by Chiot's Run

This is the time of year when most gardeners (at least us northerners) start going through our seeds and planning our spring/summer/fall gardens. I usually order my seeds in January and organize them into my seed stash when they arrive. I also have a spreadsheet that they get entered in to that contains dates for sowing, harvest, and notes about each variety after I've grown them in my garden.

Garden Planning

While organizing all of my new seeds I always come across varieties I didn't like, didn't do well in climate, or for which I just have too many seeds. Some packets come with so many seeds you'll never be able to eat all the cabbage if you sowed every seed. All of these get set aside for seed swapping. I also set aside seeds that I save from my favorite varieties of tomatoes that I've saved seeds from, after all you don't want to just give away things you didn't like.

Saving Tomato Seeds

Seed swaps can be local or global. I just traded seeds with a friend from the Netherlands. This past Saturday there was a seed swap at my local farmer's market with all the local gardeners. If you have a blog you could set up a mailing seed swap and send around a big envelope of seeds that people can take from and add too, kind of like a chain letter of sorts.

Seed Swapping

Swapping seeds is a wonderful way to find varieties that that do well in your local climate or new varieties you've never heard of. Any way you end up doing it whether local or global, I'd highly recommend swapping a few seeds. It's a great way to get rid of seeds you don't want and you make may a few new friends through the process. You may be surprised at who you meet and what you end up with.

Have you ever participated in seed swap?

I can also be found at Chiot's Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Ethel Gloves and Not Dabbling in Normal, and you can follow me on Twitter.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Food Security

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

This is related to my recent post about an impending Food Crisis... Not a new topic by any means, but something that I feel is worth bringing to everyone's attention again right now.

The only two suggestions I offered to this global issue were to eat local (grow your own if you can) and eat less meat. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it?

Our local LETS group has been running a series of Simply Living Workshops, and last weekend we hosted an afternoon to share methods of growing food. With a group of around 30 people we created salad boxes, no-dig beds and raised beds. These are just three basic styles of food gardens which have been explained here on the Co-op blog as well as numerous other places on the web. All gardening methods can be learned online, through books and magazines, and from your neighbours, family, friends or community organisations. But it's one thing to learn about a garden, and start a garden... Right now is the time to follow through. And after that garden is started, tend it like crazy! I am reminded of a term I first read here in a post by Throwback at Trapper Creek, "Garden like you can't go to the store." Wow! That really hit home to me. Imagine having to eat only from my garden from tomorrow, for a long time! What was once a hobby is looking more and more like a necessity.

Image from technabob

In response to the many comments I received on the Food Crisis post, I'd like to summarise...
  • Identify local sources of food and support these producers now. Don't wait until crisis hits and you need them.
  • Eating less mass-produced meat is one way to make the available food go further. It generally takes more than 10 kilograms of grain to raise 1kg of meat for our consumption. Pasture-fed and wild meat of course have much less impact.
  • Grow nutrient-dense foods, not just what you like to eat. Sure, plant what you like to eat, but make room for foods which I call 'survival foods'. Depending on your location and circumstances these could include, but would not be limited to: sprouts (indoors), high-protein leafy greens, perennial tubers, high-yielding beans to dry and berries. Reconsider edible "weeds" and local wild foods. Get (at least) a couple of chickens, if you can.
  • Stockpile basic food, but don't rely on a stockpile alone. And please invest in stockpiling basic grains/flour, oil, dried legumes etc before you stock up on snacks or any other luxuries. In the event of any emergency, it's pertinent to have non-electric ways to prepare these basic stockpiled ingredients... A manual grain mill, an alternative cooking method and appropriate pot, recipes, salt/herbs/spices, etc.
This is the way we live our lives, except for gardening like there is no store. And that's my mission for this season. We've been tackling a huge To Do List out in the garden after our recent cyclones and torrential rain, and we're looking forward to expanding upon our ever-faithful perennial plants over the coming weeks. For me, this is no longer about saving a few dollars, learning a new skill, getting some mental-health time or exercise...

Are you feeling like it's time for action? What Simple, Green or Frugal changes seem more urgent to you in this current situation? Is this reflected in your local community too?

Monday, 28 February 2011

Blithe Tomato

by Francesca @ Fuoriborgo

In response to a number of requests, I'll be posting one final updated version of the List of International Seed Catalogs in a couple of weeks. If you have more suggestions, please leave them in the comments here.

Picture 15

In winter time, when I don't garden, I like to read about gardening. I especially enjoy books written by gardeners who describe and muse about their life as growers. Blithe Tomato by Mike Madison is the most recent such book I've read. It's a wonderful collection of short, essay-like chapters in which the author, who lives in the Sacramento Valley, shares his views and insights on his life as a small farmer, his rural community, and the farmers' markets in the Sacramento Valley.

Madison's experience as a grower in a land so far away from me was very interesting to read: under clear California skies, he sun-dries small Italian paste tomatoes, Principe Borghese, in just a few days, whereas my experiments with sun-drying Pepolino date tomatoes here in Northern Italy resulted in a tray of shriveled tomatoe halves covered in gray mold. His soil is very fertile, but he has his share of problems, too. His area is plagued by gophers, a ubiquitous burrowing rodent that I'd never heard of, and whose damage to his crops and orchards made my loud complaints about our deer and wild boars sound rather wimpy: at least my garden-gobbling pests are large, above-ground creatures that you can't miss!

Woven throughout the book are the author's thought-provoking observations, which go well beyond his work and community, and touch on his personal philosophy. For instance, he discusses trends in fruit and vegetable breeding, and the fact that the most popular varieties of certain crops, most notably corn, but also carrots, apples, beets and grapes, are hybrids containing the sh-2 supersweet gene, which boosts their sugar content, resulting in level of sweetness that drowns out the vegetable's or fruit's original flavor. Does our society really need food that's been artificially or genetically or even naturally sweetened (think of the sugar that often is added to canned vegetables)?

But what struck me most was the chapter where Madison talks about methods of tilling soil in organic farming. Around this time of year, as gardening season approaches, I always suffer from a bad case of rototiller envy, directed at all those farmers out there in their fields with their rototillers and tractors and weed-busters and other mechanical devices, effortlessly ploughing, turning, aerating, fertilizing, and otherwise manipulating their soil, while the only things I have to work my vegetable garden are a few simple hand tools, my two hands, and my back (and these days, not a particularly good back, either...).

I'm a good enough gardener, but I've always tried to make my garden as biodynamic as possible. So I was amused, and encouraged, to see Mike Madison write this:

I've always been skeptical of those organic farmers who are so insufferably self-righteous about not using synthetic chemicals but who drive up and down the place in a tractor spewing carcinogenic diesel smoke all over their crops.
(Blithe Tomato, Mike Madison, p. 94)

Organic gardening starts with the soil, in ways that go beyond the type of manure or fertilizer we use. Madison's words eased my end-of-winter rototiller envy. Though it didn't help my back pain much.