My inspiring trip to Tennesee: Future garden ideas/operations

Earlier this summer I had the pleasure of meeting my girlfriends lovely older sister, Meredith. For years I’ve enjoyed stories from Fin of Meredith’s adventurous youth, I know it provided much influence in Fins developing ideas and overall appreciation for the natural world. I was glad to have finally met her and see how she built an ecological paradigm that help sculpt a sustainable adulthood. Meredith now 30 year young, lives on a beautiful 40 acre lot in Tennessee with her best friend Jen and her family of 4. I was impressed with operation and schedule that they were clearly thriving in. Chores started early around 6-7am and the long list included, tending to all the animals (chickens, goats, pigs, two children), rotating their fenced cages so they would have new grass, maintain their organic garden, composting, breakfast and long list of smaller duties that are essential for the family to remain well fed, healthy and happy. Their lifestyle was very inspiring, many people acknowledge the burden of a growing human population on the natural world and the necessities to “sustain” that, but here they were taking the most direct actions, their life is the epitome of sustainable living. Gardening certainly doesn’t come easy and with the produce grown being their main source of food, it was clear that their actions were handled carefully and well thought out. A variety of garden books were easily accessible to combat many variables to affect a garden; the current state of their garden during my visit certainly reflected their efforts. It was amazing to see the success and happiness that flowed so harmoniously through the family and their property, all credited to their ambitious work schedule and their trust in each other to get the assigned chores done. My favorite part of their whole operation is the bartering system that they use with some of their neighbors; Sometimes they would trade one type of meat for another, or some herbs and produce for some household commodities. For the most part it seemed that a majority of their needs were found right outside or down the street, trips to town weren’t always necessary. I’m not telling their story to imply that you should change the way you live, but getting to see their unique system, all the trial and errors that led to what they have today was really a beautiful thing. They replaced the convenience of a grocery stores with their own physical labor and for that they are gifted with more food, healthier food, at a cheaper price… and to top it off it’s grown right outside of their home. I aspire to have my own spin off of the sustainable life they live, I admire their path to success and I wish them many more happy fruitful years. Meredith and Jen, you both are awesome role models and I thank you for the lessons and hospitality during I stay, I know fin and I will make a trip back in the near future.

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Save the Bees!

Greetings fellow readers! I hope everyone’s July is going well! I am so happy to share some exciting news with all of you! For those of you that do not know, the EPA has recently given the Albright garden a grant that will allow us to create a pollinator garden using the grant money. A pollinator garden consists of plants that help attract pollinator species such as honeybees and butterflies. Some people might question why we would want to attract bees of any kind since there is always the risk of getting stung, but there is widespread concern about bees that more individuals should be educated about.

Before I get into any details, let’s go over what, exactly, a pollinator is. “A pollinator,” as described by the National Park Service, “is anything that helps carry pollen from the male part of the flower (stamen) to the female part of the same or another flower (stigma). The movement of pollen must occur for the plant to become fertilized and produce fruit, seeds, and young plants.” Most individuals do not even take into the consideration just how big of a job pollinators are serving us. Can you picture farmers and gardeners trying to pollinate their crops by hand? No, neither can I. Not only would it be a tedious process that would take hours on end to complete, but it would also be virtually impossible to feed 7 billion people using this method. The fear of losing these vital pollinators is becoming a reality when the rusty patched bumblebee was the first bee in the United States to be placed on the Endangered Species list on March 21 of this year. Of course, this problem did not just come about recently, but actually developed over the course of twenty years and accumulated until now, where the honeybee population has declined almost 90 percent.

Natural disasters are a large factor in the dwindling amount of honeybees. For instance, droughts in California and longer winters in the Mid-Western states have definitely affected bees in a negative way. Besides climate change, the bees have declined due to insecticides and fungicides. One extremely potent insecticide in particular, called neonicotinoids, poisons not just a single bee, but an entire colony. Farmers spray their crops with this chemical and the bees, unknowingly, collect the pollen from the plants and take it back to their colony where it therefore poisons the rest.

But what does all of this mean for us in the long run? It means food prices going up which I’m sure will affect some people, if not all. Approximately one-third of every bite we eat from food exists because of pollinators. That means a widespread food loss across the globe, and as stated before with the increasing population we cannot afford that. Already the United States is losing around 30 billion dollars a year just from a decrease in honey production. In addition, the National Park Service states that, “In the United States alone, pollination by honey bees contributed to over $19 billion crops in 2010, while pollination by other insect pollinators contributed to nearly $10 billion of crops.” I’m pretty sure everyone can agree that that is A LOT of money, and it is quickly dropping as time goes on.

If you are getting a little nervous reading this (like I am), you’re probably wondering how you can help. The easiest thing to do is plant a pollinator garden like we are! The great thing about these gardens is that most of the plants that attract pollinators are quite beautiful and smell very fragrant. These animals like bright colors and alluring odors, which also appeal to homeowners looking to brighten the appearance of their gardens and abodes. The next thing is to abandon the use of harmful chemical insecticides and fungicides that harm beneficial insects as well. The practice of organic growing and the use of natural insecticides will prove much more beneficial in the long run. So please everyone, it really is quite simple to create a new home for pollinator species and it is crucial that we do so! These little creatures end up having a huge say in not only our economy, but also our environment as well. We are ultimately the only ones that can help remove the rusty patched bumblebee off the Endangered Species list and prevent any others from going on.


Thanks for reading!


Image result for pollinator garden

Additional Information on pollinators and pollinator gardens:


Recipe of the Week: Honey Chia Seed Pudding


*makes 4 servings*

2 tablespoons – honey

∙2 cups – coconut milk

∙6 tablespoons – chia seeds

∙1/2 teaspoon – vanilla extract

∙Fresh berries


Combine the coconut milk, chia seeds, vanilla and honey in a medium bowl. Mix well until the honey has dissolved. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but preferable overnight.

Stir well and divide the pudding into individual portions.

Serve with fresh berries. Add granola, if desired.



Saying of the Week:

“Look deep into nature, then you will understand everything better.”

-Albert Einstein

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Help! Bugs have infested my crops

Hello friends,

My name is Gerald Ringgold, i’m fortunate enough  to be one of the interns taking care of the garden this summer. Due to a bug infestation (specifically on the potato plants) i have looked into a few ways to combat these unwanted creatures. I was pleased to see how many of the remedies provided additional benefits to the well being of the plants, as well as ward off these hungry insect species. As gardeners we put a lot of pressure on the garden, we strive to yield the highest most nutrient rich produce usually under some desired aesthetic look and on top of that they face the many environmental stressors. With that being said, effective but harmful chemical pesticides introduce foreign material that these plants will attempt to break down, in some cases causing more stress on the plant. These few, quick remedies provide a natural and environmentally safe alternative to facilitate a healthy growth in your produce.

-An effective way to push away pest is with odor. If you’re growing any peppers, they can be chopped and boiled into a water based solution that can be sprayed on your produce, odors such as peppers and mint have been known to keep away pests. A Garlic and cayenne pepper solution could also be used.

-Due to its composition of calcium carbonate, egg shells in either their cracked form or a blended powder are beneficial in both keeping slugs and snail off of produce and an effective additive to the soil.

-Banana peels can be buried in proximity to produce pressured by aphids. The decomposition of the peel is said to repel most unwanted species and offer a source of potassium to the stressed plants.

A few quick and easy natural remedies to assist our produce in a successful growth. Rather than visiting your local home depot to buy a man-made pesticide, you can look in your own kitchen or garden for your weapon of choice.

Thank you for reading!


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The Three Sisters

Hello everyone! My name is Shannon and I am a 2017 intern here at Albright’s community garden. Although I have only been here for a short amount of time, each day spent in the garden is a new experience for me. It is amazing to see just how much the garden can change within a couple of days. Before you know it, seeds that we have planted will soon begin to sprout and it is such a satisfying experience knowing that something we planted is growing and thriving. Although, we will have to work diligently and tirelessly before we can reap the benefits. Fellow gardeners alike will agree that most of their time is spent fighting weeds and keeping pesky insects away from their crops, and still more are looking for ways to create a garden with limited space. Along the way, I have found multiple methods of gardening that require minimal effort to upkeep and does not take up a lot of land, but the one that stuck out the most to me was the Three Sisters.


Image result for three sisters

We all know that Native Americans had a reputation for being excellent hunter-gatherers, but did you know about their popular farming technique called the Three Sisters that is still used today? The Three Sisters, otherwise known as corn, beans, and squash, were the staple food to the Natives. It was the Iroquois tribe that first coined the term, “Three Sisters.” When grown together in a small section, they form a symbiotic relationship with one another. The corn stalks allow the beans to climb and act as a trellis while the beans provide nitrogen for the soil and help ground the corn during severe storms or high winds. Squash plants assist in preventing weeds from growing due to their large leaves covering the ground. Not only do the plants grow well together, but a diet consisting of these is perfectly balanced which was important for the Native Americans since they had limited resources to work with that would provide the necessary nutrients they would need to survive. While corn is rich in carbohydrates, beans contain high protein and amino acids not found in corn. Finally, squash is chock full of vitamins and other nutrients that both corn and beans do not supply. Usually, the three types of seeds are planted in the same mound in the ground and each should be planted in different stages. Always plant the corn first and once after they have established a small stalk, the beans should be planted next. The corn should also be planted closer together depending how much you are planting because if they are far apart, they may not be able to pollinate. Squash should come last so their leaves do not cover the beans. Making a mound will aid in water drainage so the plants do not receive an overabundance of water.

I think it is interesting to see a farming practice that managed to survive hundreds of years still incorporated in gardens and farms. Even right now the Albright garden has planted the Three Sisters. With the grouping of these three plants, we are able to work on other tasks at hand since they do not require much maintenance besides basic needs that every plant has. The best part is not having to weed (gardeners you know the struggle!) Trust me when I say that you only need a small area to do the Three Sisters. We have only a small plot dedicated to this technique and we are still getting three different crops out of it! Overall, I believe this is a fantastic example of a symbiotic relationship with plants and shows that anyone can plant something healthy on a small area. If you put your heart and soul into planting, you will see the results!

Happy planting!

Additional information on the Three Sisters:

Recipe of the Week: Bean Salad with Lemon and Herbs


*makes 6 servings*

· 2 cups fresh cooked shell beans (such as cannellini or cranberry) or 1 14-oz. can cannellini beans or chickpeas, rinsed

· 6 oz. green beans, trimmed, cut into 1” pieces

· ¼ cup fresh parsley leaves with tender stems

· ¼ cup olive oil

· 3 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped

· 2 tablespoons capers, chopped

· 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

· 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

· ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper or ¼ crushed red pepper flakes

· Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Toss shell beans, green beans, parsley, oil, chives, capers, lemon zest, lemon juice, and Aleppo pepper in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.



Saying of the Week:

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

-John Muir

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Fish Emulsion

Good Afternoon!

Today I will be explaining the function and benefits of fish emulsion for organic gardening.

So… what is fish emulsion? Fish emulsion is an organic fertilizer made from leftover parts of fish.

Yes, the smell and/or thought is unsavory but, fish emulsion benefits your plants by providing them with nutrients, amino acids, proteins, and oils. Furthermore, it feeds the plants and microbes while also improving general soil structure.

When using fish emulsion in your garden, use 1 tablespoon per gallon of water. Make sure that you back the fertilization with a thorough soak to the soil around your plant(s); this will further allow your plant(s) to absorb the newly added nutrients.

Because fish emulsion is a better but, unfortunately, expensive alternative to organic fertilization, below is a link on how to make your own fish emulsion, as homemade fish emulsion has more nutrients through using whole fish rather than industries who only use fish scraps.

Fish Emulsion Fertilizer – Tips For Using Fish Emulsion On Plants

Thank you for your support!

Until next weekend,


Recipe of the week- Ratatouille:

-peel and slice 1-2 (depending on serving size) yellow zucchini/squash and eggplant-asian eggplant is slimmer thus making ideal slices

-use tomato base (or dice about 10 paste tomatoes mixing with 1 cup of flour)

– Season with thyme, oregano, parsley, salt, and pepper to your liking (I prefer about 3 medium sized branches of thyme and a decent amount of salt).

^ bring these items together in a large pot or large deep pan, cover, and simmer on low for about 2 hours

[Ratatouille makes a nice side dish- my good friend and intern Renee Gares and I added ground sausage to the stew which made it a heartier meal]


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Early Blight

Overall, Albright’s community garden is still healthy and producing plentiful produce. Lately, we have been harvesting cucumbers, swiss chard, a number of different and scentful herbs, as well as other crops, and just the beginnings of different varieties of tomatoes.
These past few weeks, as the heat has increased, we have noticed some problems with some of our tomato plants. The bottom leaves are beginning to become yellow and brown spots also have become obvious to us. We’ve learned that this is because of a very common disease among gardeners alike. The disease is aptly named early blight.
Early blight is caused by the fungus Alternaria solani. The fungus usually begins attacking the tomato plant’s leaves closest to the ground because of the higher amount of moisture there (fungi love moisture). The disease typically begins as it forms round brown spots on the leaves and as is spreads, the whole leaf will turn yellow and eventually die. Sometimes early blight can affect the stems as well as the fruit.
Early blight spreads by water and soil coming into contact with tomato plants and can attack plants throughout the growing season, especially when conditions are humid.
Now don’t completely freak out because there are remedial measures that can be taken. For one, it is important to keep the lower leaves of the tomato plants off the ground by snipping them before the disease gets to them. Another remedy is to snip off any affected leaves. This will slow the spread of early blight. Another way to keep early blight out of the garden is to put a layer of something between the soil and the plants. Some gardeners use newspaper or a thick mulch. This will prevent the fungus spores in the soil from splashing onto the leaves. Also, good air circulation among the plants can keep the leaves dry and less susceptible.
If these methods fail to keep early blight from potentially ruining your tomato plot, there are organic fungicides that can be used. We have been using a copper fungicide over the past week to attempt to keep the early blight at bay.
Early blight typically doesn’t affect the fruits. But the disease must be kept under control in order to have a fully optimal garden.


Recipe of the Week:

Fast and Simple Salsa

6 large tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3/4 cup green chile peppers, chopped
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
Add all ingredients to list

Combine the tomatoes, onion, and green chile peppers in a bowl; drain briefly. Return the mixture to the bowl; stir the vinegar and salt into the tomato mixture.

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Weeds that Benefit the World

Hi All,


Our garden here at Albright is home to a special plant that many consider a weed and oftentimes remove. Milkweed! Milkweed is home to the monarch butterfly as they are quite picky with where they will lay eggs. During their larval stage as a monarch caterpillar, plants in the milkweed family are the only plants that they will feast upon after consuming their own eggshell. Fun fact, milkweed has a poisonous toxin in it that is stored inside of the caterpillar’s body upon consumption which gives monarch butterflies a foul taste, warding away predators. Also, monarchs are known for their incredible migration pattern; they leave from North America in large groups in early fall to mate, lay eggs, and die in Mexico. That generation then migrates north and repeats the process that the generation before them had done in the spring. Unfortunately, with people removing milkweed because it is a “weed”, monarchs have less area to lay their eggs.

If any of you have a yard or garden plot, plant some milkweed seeds in the fall, they’ll experience winter, and then they’ll come up in the spring. You can also go to your local plant nursery to find milkweed. For more information on how to care for your own milkweed to help out the monarch population, check out this site Hopefully we can harvest some milkweed seeds soon! Here’s a helpful video on how to collect your own milkweed seeds


Happy Gardening,



Recipe of the Week

Creamy Mashed Potatoes with Chives



  • 3 large potatoes, washed
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 ¼ cups pouring cream
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chives, chopped
  • Salt and pepper



  1. Preheat oven to 200 C.
  2. Boil potatoes till tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Drain, cut in half, place in baking dish cut side up.
  4. Whisk together sour cream, cream, cheeses, chives, salt and pepper.
  5. Pour over potatoes.
  6. Cook 20 – 30 minutes until top is golden.






Sources Used:

Additional Facts on Milkweed:



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