pH and Plants

IMG_0500.jpg

If you've ever had a garden and wondered why certain crops did well while others never seemed to reach their potential, you aren't alone. An easy fix is to check the pH levels of your soil. Choosing fruits and vegetables that work well in your soil is the simplest way to ensure a great crop. 

Acidic (pH of 4 to 5.5)

  • Peanut (5.0-7.5)
  • Potato (4.5-6.0)
  • Raspberry (5.5-6.5)
  • Sweet potato (5.5-6.0)
  • Blackberry (5.0-6.0)
  • Blueberry (4.5-5.0)
  • Cranberry (4.0-5.5)
  • Parsley (5.0-7.0)

Somewhat Acidic (pH of 5.5 to 6.5)

  • Parsley (5.0-7.0)
  • Pepper (5.5-7.0)
  • Pumpkin (6.0-6.5)
  • Radicchio (6.0-6.7)
  • Radish (6.0-7.0)
  • Rhubarb (5.5-7.0)
  • Sorrel (5.5-6.0)
  • Squash, winter (5.5-7.0)
  • Sweet potato (5.5-6.0)
  • Tomato (5.5-7.5)
  • Turnip (5.5-7.0)
  • Apple (5.0-6.5)
  • Basil (5.5-6.5)
  • Carrot (5.5-7.0)
  • Cauliflower (5.5-7.5)
  • Chervil (6.0-6.7)
  • Corn (5.5-7.5.)
  • Cucumber (5.5-7.0)
  • Dill (5.5-6.5)
  • Eggplant (5.5-6.5)
  • Garlic (5.5-7.5)
  • Melon (5.5-6.5)

Moderately Alkaline (pH of 6.0 to 7.0)

  • Kale (6.0-7.5)
  • Kohlrabi (6.0-7.5)
  • Leek (6.0-8.0)
  • Lettuce (6.0-7.0)
  • Marjoram (6.0-8.0)
  • Mizuna (6.5-7.0)
  • Mustard (6.0-7.5)
  • Okra (6.0-7.5)
  • Onion (6.0-7.0)
  • Oregano (6.0-7.0)
  • Pak choi (6.5-7.0)
  • Parsnip (5.5-7.5)
  • Pea (6.0-7.5)
  • Radicchio (6.0-6.7)
  • Radish (6.0-7.0)
  • Rhubarb (6.5-7.0)
  • Sage (6.0-6.7)
  • Salsify (6.0-7.5)
  • Spinach (6.0-7.5)
  • Squash, summer (6.0-7.0)
  • Sunflower (6.0-7.5)
  • Sunflower (6.0-7.5)
  • Swiss chard (6.0-7.5)
  • Tarragon (6.0-7.5)
  • Tomatillo (6.7-7.3)
  • Watermelon (6.0-7.0)
  • Artichoke (6.5-7.5)
  • Arugula (6.5-7.5)
  • Asparagus (6.0-8.0)
  • Bean, pole (6.0-7.5)
  • Bean, lima (6.0-7.0)
  • Beet (6.0-7.5)
  • Broccoli (6.0-7.0)
  • Broccoli rabe (6.5-7.5)
  • Brussels sprouts (6.0-7.5)
  • Cabbage (6.0-7.5)
  • Cantaloupe (6.0-7.5)
  • Cauliflower (6.0-7.5)
  • Celery (6.0-7.0)
  • Chinese cabbage (6.0-7.5)
  • Celeriac (6.0-7.0)
  • Celery (6.0-7.0)
  • Chinese cabbage (6.0-7.5)
  • Chive (6.0-7.0)
  • Cilantro (6.0-6.7)
  • Claytonia (6.5-7.0)
  • Collard (6.5-7.5)
  • Cress (6.0-7.0)
  • Endive/escarole (6.0-7.0)
  • Fennel (6.0-6.7)
  • Gourd (6.5-7.5)
  • Horseradish (6.0-7.0)
  • Jerusalem Artichoke/Sunchoke (6.7-7.0)

Soil Test Solutions

IMG_0381.jpg

Living in the city has its plethora of pluses, but if you are an urban gardener, there is definitely a downside. The soil in our yards is often laced with varying degrees of contaminants; planting a gorgeous vegetable garden in contaminated soil leads to a crop of less than appetizing food that has absorbed many of these toxins. Our first recommendation is to create a raised bed which will allow you to start your garden without getting a soil test. However, if you want to garden in your existing yard, we have a few solutions for you.

Quick pH Test

If you want to grow certain vegetables in your garden, you should know the pH of your soil to create the best outcomes. Testing your pH levels at home is pretty easy and you most likely have the two ingredients you need in your kitchen: vinegar and baking soda. Take a few samples from your yard, making sure to dig 6"-8" deep and place each sample in 2 separate bowls. For the vinegar test, simply add equal amounts of soil to vinegar and if the mixture fizzes, your soil is alkaline between 7 or 8. For the baking soda test, you will need to wet the soil with distilled water until it is a cake batter consistency and add an equal amount of baking soda to the container. If this mixture fixes, your soil is acidic between a 5 or 6. 

At Home Kits Versus Professional Testing

To be totally honest, at home kits will cost you about the same as professional testing and will give you less reliable results. The main difference is the wait time since you need to mail in your samples. We are advocates of having your soil tested professionally because it can identify more variables in your soil and give you an accurate account of your soil's health.

Here are our favorite labs that include heavy metal testing in Illinois:

GMS Laboratories
23877 E. 00 North Road
Cropsey, IL 61731
Phone: (309) 377-2851
Fax: (309) 377-2017
www.gmslab.com
Email: office@gmslab.com

SGS Hamel
( H I C M )
375 N. Old Rte 66, PO Box 531
Hamel, IL 62046
Phone: (618) 633-1995
www.sgsgroup.us.com

SGS Toulon
( H I C M )
117 E. Main Street, PO Box 540
Toulon, IL 61483
Phone: (309) 286-2761
Fax: (309) 286-6251
www.sgsgroup.us.com
Email: soilservices@sgs.com

Waypoint Analytical Illinois, Inc.
( H I C M )
2906 W. Clark Rd.
Champaign, IL 61822
Phone: (217) 359-7680
Fax: (217) 359-7605
http://www.waypointanalytical.com/
Email: supportil@waypointanalytical.com

 

Soil Selection

Finding The Right Soil For The Job

There are a lot of bagged soils on the market but they aren't all created equal. If your head is spinning while looking at the selection, you aren't alone. Let us help guide you through the maze that is the garden soil section.

To find the perfect soil for your planting project it's best to ask yourself a few questions: What are you planting? Are you planting in a pot, in a raised bed, or in the ground? Will this be an indoor our outdoor setup? These questions will help you navigate what your soil needs are.

Choose Organic

It may seem like a pricier option, but organic soil has the same strict standards as organic food, which prevent companies from adding filler products to the soil you choose. Organic soil is also loaded with nutrients from composted materials such as leaves, bark and plants. This added nutrition is a great way to get your plants started on the right foot without an additional food source. So maybe organic can save you a few dollars?

Organic soil companies will often add additional food source items, such as berries, shellfish, seaweed and added nutrients. Be sure to double check the ingredient list incase of allergies.

Remember, if you are growing your own food for your family, organic soil and food ensures your produce to be the healthiest it can be.

Container Planting

Plants in a container have a very different drainage process than those in the ground. Very often the top layer of soil is completely dry, while the bottom few inches are still extremely wet. This often leads to root rot, which is essentially, the roots drowning. Luckily, there is a large selection of potting soils available on the market that help to prevent this. 

Potting soil is made to create more airflow through the roots of the plants, which also allows the water to be more evenly distributed and prevent the soil from compacting around the roots. Potting soil isn't actually soil, it is usually a mix of peat moss, vermiculite, perlite and added nutrition. 

Raised Bed Planting

We are big advocates of raised beds when you live in the city. We love it because you have the ability to choose your own soil to begin with and start organic farming. The fact that they are raised also makes gardening less of a back breaking job. 

When choosing soil for a raised bed, we again suggest to start organic. We also prefer to create our own mixture based on the items we are choosing to plant.

For vegetables and flowers, which tend to be heavy feeders, we like mixing a 50/50 blend of potting mix and varying compost. This gives the plants the much needed nutrition they need to thrive.

For non-flowering plants and shrubs we suggest mixing 50% topsoil, 30% compost and 20% potting mix.

Ground Planting

Before planting a vegetable garden, make sure to get your soil tested for contaminants and overall health. There are varying ideas about the best way to plant in the ground, whether to feed the soil while planting or not. We believe in always feeding the soil and reincorporating the removed soil with compost and peat moss in equal proportions for the best results. 

Do you feel more equipped to start your soil selection?

 

 

5 Tips For Raised Bed Gardens

eco-warrior-princess-624211-unsplash.jpg

Starting a raised bed garden often seems pretty simple until you really get into the nitty gritty of it. With a little bit of planning and a few tips from us, you can have a successful garden growing in no time with minimal maintenance.

Make a plan. 

It's so exciting to start gardening after waiting so long for the winter to finally fade. Often times in our haste, we forget to make time to create a plan, which tends to result in less than optimal results. This is the best time to make a list of the produce you would like to grow and establish where their home will be in the garden. Don't forget trellises for beans, tomatoes and other climbers and place them towards the back of your garden so they don't throw too much shade at the other plants.

Leave enough room around the perimeter of each box. 

Allow enough space to move from bed to bed with ease. Multiple smaller beds work well and naturally prevent weeds and pests from accumulating. Square or rectangular beds are ideal when beginning. Measure out 2-3 feet between beds for easy access. Properly arranging the beds allows for convenient maintenance and harvesting. Your garden should be a pleasure to be in, not a pain!

Consider your materials.

Wood is most commonly used for raised beds due to it's inexpensive price, but if you plan on keeping the gardens for a while, it may benefit you to look into more durable materials. Overall, wood boxes will last 2-6 years depending on the variety. Stone is an excellent long term choice due to its durability and refined look but can lead to a bit of sticker shock when in the planning stage. 

Prep the ground.

Level the soil in the area you plan to place your raised beds. You can do this pretty quickly with a rototiller and a level. Land that is on a slope isn't a deal breaker, you will just need to make adjustments to the construction of the bed and add more height to the low side of the slope.

Plant companions.

Space is often limited in raised beds, so being efficient in planning your layout is important! Don't be afraid to plant your items close together, this helps discourage weed growth and maximizes water usage. Planting companion plants is critical in your garden to account for adequate root space and feeding requirements. Create a back up of seedlings ready to be planted as you harvest your crop. 

Donate now to help families learn how to grow their own sustainable food to feed their families and build urban neighborhoods through urban farm productivity.

Microgreens

photo-1507727910967-9be3fdf9a009.jpeg

Microgreens have become a hot product for health due to their nutritional density and their ability to be easily digestible. These miniature greens are not to be confused with sprouts - seeds soaked in water in order to germinate.

Remember Chia Pets? Those funny little planters actually grow microgreens, which goes to show that anyone really can be a master grower of these tender tendrils. If you have a windowsill and access to water, you can easily grow microgreens in your own home. These greens can come from just about any type of vegetable or herb, making them an incredibly versatile dietary addition.

Here is a list of some of our favorites:

  • Radish
  • Chives
  • Mint
  • Cilantro
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Fennel
  • Chard
  • Beets
  • Sunflower
  • Kale
  • Chia
  • Mustard Greens
  • Arugula

How to Grow Microgreens Indoors

Growing microgreens is easy and requires no experience and minimal tools. 

  1. Spread about an inch of potting soil in a shallow tray. 
  2. Choose whether you want to mix your various seeds together or grow individually.
  3. Sprinkle seeds evenly over soil leaving little space between the seeds since they will be harvested while small.
  4. Gently cover seeds with soil and lightly mist the top of the soil with water.
  5. Place your tray by a window with natural light or underneath a grow light. 
  6. It's best to lightly mist your seeds a few times per day instead of poring water, as to not disturb the seeds. 
  7. Once your microgreens have reached the desired height (one to three inches tall), they can be harvested by cutting the stems just above the soil line. We recommend cutting them the day of use for maximum flavor and freshness.

 

Best Community Gardens in Chicago

photo-1507484467459-0c01be16726e.jpeg

Spring is slowly starting to peak its way through this elongated winter season in Chicago, which means its a perfect time to gear yourself up for growing season. Since the majority of us within the city limits live in either a condo or apartment, yards to plant in are merely a dream. Luckily, there are quite a few top notch community gardens scattered throughout the city where you can buy a reasonably priced lot for the growing season. Here are our top places to check out, or better yet - take a walk around your neighborhood to see if there are smaller gardens you can participate in.

McKinley Park Community Garden 

1900 W Pershing Road

If you love being surrounded by a community with varied events from potlucks to classes, McKinley Park is for you! This organic garden offers raised beds that are 4'x8' which is perfect growing for a family of 4. The garden has on site rain barrels that are consistently filled in order to make watering a breeze. No matter your level of gardening skills, McKinley Park offers a varied group of enthusiasts and newbies to help you grow along your gardening path. Added bonus: if your crops are overly plentiful, they will even offer your surplus to those in need.

The Gateway Garden + Bowmanville Garden

5386 N. Ravenswood + 5410 N. Bowmanville

Are you longing for a smaller gardening community? Gateway and Bowmanville Garden will be a perfect fit. These gardens often have a waiting list, but don't be deterred. The cost of renting a plot is $40 per season, which includes their membership fee for a 4′ X 6′ or 4′ X 8′ plot at the Bowmanville Garden, or 5′ X 10′ plots at the Gateway Garden. Participants are also required to commit to 12 hours of volunteering to help maintain the grounds. 

65th & Woodlawn Community Garden

6500 S Woodlawn Ave

Need a larger plot? 65th & Woodlawn offer 10'x10' organic plots that surround a community area that features grills and a picnic area. The garden also has an irrigation system, tool shed, and even a sand box perfect for your kids. Another huge plus to this community garden is their vermiculture (worm) compost bins! 

Peterson Garden Project

With 8 different gardens to currently choose from, the Peterson Garden Project will most likely have a gardening space close to you. This project creates "pop-up" gardens, especially on the northside of the city, and establish short term gardens so they can "focus on long-term gardeners vs. long-term gardens." They offer organic 4'x8' raised beds, shared tools and in-garden classes. 

Did we miss a community garden you love? Tell us your favorites on Instagram or Facebook!

Planter Box Pairings

wooden-planter-boxes-perth.jpg

Urban living requires a bit of finesse when it comes to growing your own food. For the majority of us city dwellers, the window sill planter box is our only hope. However, the excitement for starting a planter box usually sends us into a buying frenzy of all the foods we want to eat, which leads us to pairing items together that need conflicting water or sun requirements or no opportunity to pollinate properly. We are here to help you to grow the best planter box possible!

Here are our recommendations for successful planter box pairings.

Lettuce box:

Perfect for salad lovers, this easy to grow box needs no pollination. Ideal lettuces to grow at home are: red leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, frissee, spinach and arugula. Although romaine is easy to grow, they require more real estate in your box versus the suggested varieties. One caution is to take out the arugula if you don't like the inherent spiciness since it can sometimes cross over to the other lettuces.

Hearty greens box:

Who isn't obsessed with kale? Lacinato, also known a dinosaur kale, is a hearty variety of kale that is flavorful and dense with chlorophyl, and a pretty healthy grower. Collard greens and chard are perfect pairs to plant in a kale box. Opting for rainbow chard will add a bit of color to this heavily green box.

Bean box:

If you like the option of building a trellis, beans and peas are a perfect fit. Pole beans and sweet peas pair well together when growing and will provide you an ever renewing crop to last through the summer. When choosing a bean plant, make sure to opt for the pole variety versus bush so you can grow upwards.

Pollinated box:

Although the Chicago wind will pollinate your box pretty well, it's best to have a draw for butterflies and bees to come do the hard work for you. We always recommend opting to plant 2 boxes needing pollination. Squash, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and berries need pollen to produce edible products. Bees love, love, love sunflowers! Plant a couple sunflowers in the back corners of your planter box and you'll not only have a successful crop, you'll also end up with a batch of tasty sunflower seeds.

Root veg box:

The key to a great root vegetable box is either planting smaller root vegetables or understanding that your carrots won't be full sized. We love planting radishes, carrots, beets and parsnips especially since you can eat the green tops.

Herb box:

Herb boxes are one of the more common and successful planter boxes. For the best possible growth, group leafy herbs like cilantro, parsley, mint, basil and chives together and their woody cousins, thyme, sage, lavender and rosemary move to a separate box since these herbs form into larger bushes.

We would love to see your boxes in their varying stages! Tag us on social media and we might just feature you on our page as well.

The Secret Of Starting Seeds

(2-14-18) (29).JPG

Do you walk past beautiful gardens filled with fresh vegetables and tell yourself you wish you could have your own garden? Growing your own food isn't as hard as you may think. Here at Genesis Agriculture, we love teaching people how they can do the most with the space that they have, to create a plentiful food garden.

It's always best to start at the beginning, the seed. We recommend getting your hands on a seed catalog for the best varieties to choose from. Even if it's your first time trying to grow, it helps to be excited by your potential crop. Now, how do you properly start a seed?

Materials:

-seeds

-small containers (seed catalogs often carry these, or a compostable egg carton will do)

-bucket for large bowl for mixing soil

-peat moss

-vermiculite

-perlite

-spray bottle

-labels (we don't want to forget which seed is which)

(2-14-18) (43).JPG
  • In a bucket or a large bowl, mix together 2 parts peat moss to 1 part vermiculite and 1 part perlite. Vermiculite and perlite allow water and oxygen to flow easily through the peat moss.
  • Moisten your soil mixture with warm water and mix evenly until the mixture feels hydrated but not overly wet.
  • Spoon your soil mixture into your potting containers to just below the rim. Do not pack the soil down.
  • Each seed has it's own needs before planting, so read the back of the packet and follow the directions whether it is soaking, scoring or chilling.
  • Separate your seeds and use the largest seeds for optimum germination.
  • Plant 8-10 seeds per container for optimal results. Label variety as you go.
  • Most seeds can be gently pressed into the soil with your finger.
  • Cover containers loosely with plastic (a dry cleaner bag works well) and poke a few holes in the plastic to allow air to flow through. 
  • Place the seedling tray on top of the refrigerator to provide gentle heat.
  • Seeds sprout best at temperatures of 65 to 75°F (18 to 24°C).
  • Seedlings need to be watered with extreme care. Opt for a clean spray bottle to mist the seeds or gently spoon water over them. Again refer to the individual seed's directions for water requirements.
  • When seedlings burst through the soil, remove the plastic and place containers into bright light until they sprout their second pair of leaves.
(2-14-18) (25).JPG

Building Neighborhoods through Urban Farm Productivity.

GA

With the New Year finally in full swing, we here at Genesis Agriculture have been reminiscing about the projects we worked on in 2017, and we would love to share them with you. We are dedicated to providing schools with education on farming and how to integrate that education into the daily curriculum. Sometimes this all starts with a helping hand in a facelift.

Hope Academy, located on Chicago’s near west side, is amidst a neighborhood rich in diversity and a community clamoring for more opportunities for change. The overall spirit of Hope Academy is one based on building community and broadening the horizons of the youth. Their commitment to creating programs such as the Near West Little League, summer camps, mentor programs and scholarships for deserving youth, made them a perfect fit for Genesis Agriculture.

20171007_085032.jpg

We gathered together, staff and some students, on a sunny early fall afternoon to revamp their 9/11 Memorial. This, once a garden, was now littered with debris and housed quite a few dead or dying plants. This memorial needed a facelift to properly showcase the moment in time. We chose flowering perennials along with hearty decorative cabbages for their longevity and easy maintenance. After a day of tilling the soil, the staff and students went to work planting the selection of foliage and placing the mulch.

We look forward to the future possibilities of working with Hope Academy on a butterfly garden, which will lure both butterflies and bees to the neighborhood, and a student participation project greenhouse, where students can learn the science of farming and build the hands-on knowledge of the field. 

20171007_085128 (1).jpg

 

We work with local and national families, communities, organizations, to help educate families to grow their own food, feed their own families and build urban neighborhoods through urban farm productivity.

Donate now to help families learn how to grow their own sustainable food to feed their families and build urban neighborhoods through urban farm productivity.

20171007_103917.jpg

 

 

Sustainable farming gets $1B to incentivize farmers

caroline-attwood-225496.jpg

People want to know how their food is being made these days. Interest for food transparency has also picked up recently. As a result, sustainable farming gets more spotlight now more than ever.

Rabobank and the United Nations have entered a deal worth $1 billion to support sustainable farming. The focus is on food practices and how food travels from the farm to the kitchen to our kitchen and dining table. Rabobank and the United Nations had to split the bill to finance sustainable farming but in the end, decided it was worth it.

There are risks involved. Sustainable practices are not cheap and the yield could potentially be lower but in the long run, it would help boost food security. Changing the mindset of farmers to adopt new methods prove to be a bigger challenge. The $1 billion fund would hopefully ease the transition from conventional farming to sustainable farming.

“We have to incentivize farmers to change their practices,” claims Rabobank’s Berry Marttin. Rabobank plans to spread the budget to include grants, affordable loans, and insurance products. The bank started a project in Brazil about soil productivity, and it successfully convinced farmers to stop deforestation.

Meanwhile, food giants Mars Inc. and Mondelez International Inc. have pledged more transparency in their supply chains and to provide healthier options than traditional packaged food.

The three-year program called the Kickstart Food initiative will focus on four areas: Earth, waste, stability, and nutrition. The Earth area involves setting up facilities which will boost environmentally sound food production. On the other hand, the waste program will feature waste reduction in the food chain to make it more efficient. Stability will handle resilient food and agricultural sector while nutrition program will make sure of a balanced diet for everyone.

read more