Fall Gardening Class this Saturday at 2:00pm

Intensive Successive Companion Planting

Intensive Successive Companion Planting

Friends, join me for a “Fall Gardening Class” this Saturday, July 12, from 2:00pm to 3:30pm.  The class will be held at Coastal Bend Health Foods, 111 N. Austin Street, TX 78382.

Due to limited space you are encouraged to click on this form to register in advance.

Fall is a wonderful time of year to garden in South Texas. You can grow all of your favorite produce in the Fall, the pests are not so bad, and the weather is gorgeous. Your small garden can deliver a delicious harvest that will grace your table through Thanksgiving and beyond.

In this class, we will discuss what and when to plant for a bountiful Fall garden. By using successive companion planting, you can plant your garden in the Fall and keep it producing all the way into next summer. We will show how your garden design helps minimize pests, conserve water, and increase harvests. We will also discuss steps you can take now to prepare your garden for planting.

Attendees will receive a free copy of the CD from our radio program, “Your Wholesome Heritage Garden”. There is a $10 registration fee for this class.

Gardeners of all ages and skill levels are welcome!

What:  “Fall Gardening” with Justin Butts

When: Saturday, July 12, from 2:00pm to 3:30pm

Where:  Coastal Bend Health Foods, 111 N. Austin Street, TX 78382 (361) 729-4443

Who: All gardeners of all ages!

Chicken Class Today in Ingleside, 6:30pm to 7:30pm

Emma with cornish rock chick 4-13-14

Friends, join Kayla and me today for a class all about keeping backyard laying hens. The class will be held today, July 1, from 6:30pm to 7:30pm, at the Ingleside Garden Center, 2740 Mustang Drive, Ingleside, TX 78362.

Our presentation will cover: 1) tips on feeding and care of your chickens, 2) hen houses and fencing, 3) all about chicks, roosters, and eggs, and 4) how to incorporate chickens into your yard and garden.

We will answer all of your questions about chickens, and even if you don’t know the first thing about raising hens, you will leave with all the knowledge you need to start your own backyard program. Kids are definitely welcome!

This event is free and open to the public.  This class is sponsored by the Ingleside CQ organization.  The CQ is committed to sharing knowledge and increasing self-reliance.  We will also have copies available of our radio program, “Your Wholesome Heritage Garden”.

Join us for a fun and interesting discussion about chickens!

What:  Keeping Backyard Laying Hens, with Justin and Kayla Butts

When:  Today, July 1, from 6:30pm to 7:30pm

Where:  Ingleside Garden Center, 2740 Mustang Drive, Ingleside, TX 78362.

Who:  Everyone who loves delicious eggs from their own chickens!

The Blood-Soaked Grain of the Aztecs

Tenochtitlan,, the Aztec Capital, a City on a Lake (Image courtesy uncp.edu)

Tenochtitlan,, the Aztec Capital, a City on a Lake (Image courtesy uncp.edu)

When Cortez discovered the Aztec Empire in 1519, he found a spectacle of human sacrifice shocking to behold. Human captives were marched by the thousands up the stone steps of the pyramids, and at the top, their hearts were cut out and roasted in a fire. The heads were chopped off and flung with the bodies over the side.

Cortez saw women on the temple floor mixing amaranth grains with the rivers of blood. This bloody paste was shaped into statues of the sun god and eaten by the Aztecs as a delicacy.

Amaranth was a staple food crop of the Aztecs, as important to their civilization as corn or beans. Amaranth is a super food. It is easy to cultivate, and the grains contain more bio-available protein than soybeans or even milk, while the edible leaves are rich in iron and vitamin C.

Each year, Montezuma received more than 20,000 tons of amaranth grain from Aztec famers as tribute for the human sacrifices.

For Cortez, the ritual eating of amaranth and blood was a savage mockery of the Christian communion, the symbolic taking of the spirit of Christ. When Cortez seized control of Tenochtitlan, he outlawed the production of amaranth under penalty of death, and he promised to personally cut off the hands of anyone he found growing it.

A long list of globally important food crops flowed from the Spanish conquest of the New World: corn, tomatoes, potatoes, chocolate, and many other foods. Amaranth had the potential to be as great as any of these, but because of those blood-soaked statues of the Aztec sun god, Huitzilopochtli , a valuable food crop was nearly wiped out of existence. Cortez burned amaranth in the fields and ground the grains beneath his boot heel, to stamp out the seed forever.

But some of the seeds survived, and amaranth was kept alive by Native Americans in secret hidden gardens. Finally, 400 years later, amaranth emerged once again into great fields of purple, this time in far-away India and Africa.

Next week, we will explore the bright future of amaranth, five centuries after the Conquistadors faded into history.

Why Farmers Love Lightning

Tony Laubach Lightning Westminster

South Texas is a hot and dry land, and when a good rain comes, our plants rejoice. But rain brings more than water to replenish the countryside. Rain also contains fertilizer.

The air in the atmosphere is 78% nitrogen. Plants require nitrogen to grow, but they can’t process the inert nitrogen gas in the sky. It takes an enormous blast of energy to break apart those nitrogen molecules and convert them to a compound that plants can use.

This is where lightning comes into play. A lightning bolt is 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than the sun, and contains up to a billion volts of electricity. A single lightning bolt can stretch for miles as it tears apart the sky with its power.

The unbridled energy of lightning shatters the nitrogen molecules in the air. Some of the free nitrogen atoms combine with oxygen to form compounds called nitrates that mix with the rain.

These nitrates are a powerful natural fertilizer. Raindrops carry the nitrates to the ground in a soluble form that plants can absorb. This process is called atmospheric nitrogen fixation, where lightning creates fertilizer in the sky.

The falling raindrops also capture other particles in the air, such as dust and pollen. The rain delivers this biologically rich material to the soil while cleansing the grit and grime from the leaves of plants.

The rain gives its water to the thirsty land, but it is the lightning that adds fertilizer. We can water our gardens ten times and not do as much good as one lightning-charged rainstorm. Our lack of rain in South Texas costs us more than the loss of water—we also lose nitrogen in the soil.

A different method for fixing nitrogen into the soil is to plant beans in your garden. Beans use biological nitrogen fixation, which occurs in the roots, to quietly fertilize the soil. Planting beans to fix nitrogen is not as thrilling as lightning, but is more dependable in a land without rain.

But when the storms do come, we love the lightning for more than the show of lights. Farmers love lightning for all of those nitrogen-charged raindrops that fall from the sky as fertilizer for the plants in our gardens.

(All of these beautiful pictures of lightning are used courtesy of Tony Laubach, one of the premier storm chasers in the country.  Tony is the son of our friend and KEDT radio host Liz Laubach.  Please click here and like Tony’s Facebook page, and let him know his friends are wishing him the best at the beginning of this storm season!)

Tony Laubach Lightning Arizona Tony Laubach Lightning Childdress Tony Laubach Lightning Garden City Tony Laubach Lightning Littleton Tony Laubach Lightning Manhattan KS Tony Laubach Lightning Petrified Forest

The Real Johnny Appleseed

Johnny Appleseed from a Post Card

Johnny Appleseed from a Post Card

Jonny Appleseed comes down through history as a cartoon character—a mythical frontier figure with a burlap sack for a shirt and a tin cook pot for a hat.

But Jonny Appleseed was a real person. John Chapman was born in Leominster, MA, in 1774. He went west as a young man to plant apple trees in the wilderness of Ohio and to spread the gospel along the frontier.

He walked barefoot into wild country where no white man would go. He was fearless, generous, warm-hearted, and eccentric; the Indians thought he was touched. He lived to be 80 years old and he was already a legend in his own lifetime.

John Chapman would trek alone into the deepest wilderness, far ahead of the advancing frontier, and plant huge fields of apple trees from seed. When the first settlers caught up to him, years later, he would sell them well-grown apple tree saplings. John Chapman grew thousands of apple trees for the pioneers of Ohio.

The apples on his trees grew sour, and were not for eating, but for brewing cider. Cider was the wine of the frontier, but John Chapman was no backwoods Dionysus. Cider eased the earthly pain of the settlers, but the real comfort John Chapman offered was spiritual. Jonny Appleseed was a missionary.

He was the toughest man on the frontier, and the meekest. Indians and white men alike marveled at his courage. But he would not kill an animal, not a rattlesnake, a wasp, or even a mosquito. In a land where men strove to conquer the wilderness, he sought harmony with the forest.

John Chapman paid visits to countless families along the frontier, and his preaching was as welcome as his apple saplings. He captivated the lonely and isolated settlers with tales of adventure, and the moral of every story was salvation. He left the settlers with apple orchards to bear fruit, and with pages torn from his well-traveled Bible, to bear a different kind of fruit.

John Chapman died a wealthy man thanks to his apple trees, but didn’t care; he never even counted his money. The real Jonny Appleseed could not count his harvest until the hereafter, because the garden he hoped to plant is not of this world.

Backyard Chicken Basics Class, this Saturday, May 3rd!

Kayla, Nati, and friends in the hen house

Kayla, Nati, and friends in the hen house

Friends, join me for a class all about keeping backyard chickens tomorrow, Saturday, May 3, from 10:00am to noon. This presentation will be held indoors in the state of the art facility at the Aransas County Extension Office, 892 Airport Road, Rockport, TX 78382.

This class will be a dialogue, and we will listen to you and answer all your questions about chickens. Even if you don’t know the first thing about keeping chickens, you will leave with all the knowledge you need to start your own backyard program. Kids are definitely welcome!

Each family who attends the class will receive a free copy of the CD “Your Wholesome Heritage Garden, with Justin Butts”, from our radio program. Also, each family will receive two free chicks from our flock, to be picked up later at your convenience, when you are ready for them. Finally, there will be a delicious bar-be-que lunch following the class!

In this class, we will cover: 1) tips on feeding, housing, and care of your chickens, 2) solving and preventing problems, 3) all about chicks, roosters, eggs, and retired laying hens, 4) how to incorporate chickens into your yard and garden, and 5) all of your questions about chickens.

This class is sponsored by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office. Contact Dr. Kirsten Corda at 361-790-0103 for more information, or go to Texas Agri-Life Aransas County for details. There is a $20 registration fee for each family who attends.

Join us tomorrow for a fun and interesting discussion all about chickens!

What:  “Backyard Chicken Basics”with Justin Butts

When:  Saturday, May 3, from 10:00am to noon

Where:  Aransas County Extension Office, 892 Airport Road, Rockport, TX 78382. Contact Dr. Kirsten Corda at 361-790-0103 for details.

Who:  Everyone who loves delicious eggs from their own beautiful chickens!

The Best Pesticide in the World

Jefferson tomatoes

As the weather heats up in South Texas, the insect pests come alive in our gardens.  This is the time of year when we gardeners go looking for the perfect pesticide to protect our plants.

Thomas Jefferson received a letter along these lines from his daughter, Martha.  Martha Jefferson had grown up and gotten married, and she and her husband lived on a plantation not far from Jefferson’s farm at Monticello.

In her letter, Martha complained about the insect pests that were devastating her crops, and she hoped to get advice from her brilliant father.  Jefferson’s reply is illuminating.  He said, “I suspect that the insects which have harassed you have been encouraged by the feebleness of your plants, and that has been produced by the lean state of the soil.”

Jefferson, one of the great farmers of American history, knew every trick in the book for fighting pests.  But instead of prescribing an elixir for each insect attack, Jefferson advised her to apply a thick layer of fertilizer to her fields.

Jefferson’s advice is the cornerstone of organic agriculture.  In fact, the working definition of organic gardening is to treat the soil, and allow the nutrients in the soil to take care of the plants.  Healthy soil grows healthy plants, and strong plants resist disease and insect attacks.  As Jefferson saw it, the best pesticide in the world is healthy, humus-rich, well-balanced soil.

On the other hand, unhealthy soil grows weak plants, and weak plants are bait for bad insects. Insect pests are designed by nature to seek out unhealthy plants and cull them from the gene pool.  This is simply the law of natural selection at work in the garden.

All of nature conspires to destroy unhealthy plants, and disease and insects are the tools that nature uses to kill them.  If the soil in your garden is weak, pest attacks are most likely just a symptom of the real problem.

Thomas Jefferson told us through his writings exactly how he grew such rich and vibrant soil.  Next week, we will show how the animals on our farm in Rockport help us grow healthy soil for our crops–the same technique used by Thomas Jefferson in the gardens of Monticello.


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