Saturday, 5 October 2013

4 Gardening Apps We're Digging Right Now

4 Gardening Apps We're Digging Right Now

Darla Antoine
Indian Country Today Media Network

From black-thumbed beginners to green-thumbed experts, there are gardening apps that help you keep track of your garden, troubleshoot problems and push your gardening skills to the next level. Here are four of my favorites. All of these apps are compatible with both the iPhone and the iPad and none of them are free. Why? I haven’t found a free gardening app worth using. Let me know if you have.

Everything You Want To Know About Composting — $0.99

From the benefits of composting to where, what and how to compost, this app is very comprehensive. There is even a section on how to buy a compost bin and a step-by-step guide to making your own bin. There’s a quiz for the knowledge thirsty (or the nerdy) built-in to the app as well as a couple of video guides, general advice about composting and a section dedicated to busting the myths around composting. Think you need to turn a compost pile regularly? Think again.

Gardening Toolkit — copy.99

This app is amazing. Hundreds of plants make up the reference guide, complete with a chart on when to sow, when to expect blooms or harvest, common and scientific names, a watering guide, and ideal growing conditions. You can sync the app with your location for easy growing zone information and you can also add the plants to up to 12 different gardens. This is a great feature to help you either plan a garden or keep track of what is in a particular garden. The advice section has a monthly garden-maintenance tip, a “what to plant now” guide, a gardening glossary and an index for finding plants based on your need (to attract bees, butterflies, for hanging baskets, etc). Finally, keep track of all of your gardening to-do’s with the check-list/reminder. Well worth the price.

Moon Gardening — copy.99

Planting by the moon is an agricultural practice that is as old as agriculture itself. With this app you can keep track of the phases of the moon while also having access to daily zodiac information—horoscopes not included. Add your plants to the app to set up a watering schedule. The app also guides you through learning to plant according to the moon phases and which zodiac signs are conducive to certain gardening tasks (planting, irrigation, pest control, etc.)

Pickin’ Chicken — $2.99

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a gardening app, but many gardeners also have (or are interested in having) chickens. And I’m too delighted with this app not to share.

Pickin’ Chicken allows you to narrow down the breed of chickens you should have based on whether or not you want these chickens for eggs, meat, or both. From there you can narrow it down even further based on the color of the eggs you’re interested in, the size of the eggs and how frequently the chicken lays the eggs. Click on a specific breed of chicken and you’ll get all of their specs: weight, egg color and size, a photo, their temperament, preferred climates, etc.

Want a meat chicken? Choose your breed based on how quickly they mature and their ideal weight at butchering time. For example, chickens that lay medium-sized brown eggs at a “good” rate include the Faverolle breed and the Dominique. They both also make good meat chickens and are calm, docile and likely to allow holding and interaction with people (kids). However, the Faverolle may go broody and is a threatened species—meaning it’s a good idea to try to husband and grow this breed.

This app is definitely coming along with my family the next time we go to the feed store for some chickens.

Darla Antoine is an enrolled member of the Okanagan Indian Band in British Columbia and grew up in Eastern Washington State. For three years, she worked as a newspaper reporter in the Midwest, reporting on issues relevant to the Native and Hispanic communities, and most recently served as a producer for Native America Calling. In 2011, she moved to Costa Rica, where she currently lives with her husband and their infant son. She lives on an organic and sustainable farm in the “cloud forest”—the highlands of Costa Rica, 9,000 feet above sea level. Due to the high elevation, the conditions for farming and gardening are similar to that of the Pacific Northwest—cold and rainy for most of the year with a short growing season. Antoine has an herb garden, green house, a beehive, cows, a goat, and two trout ponds stocked with hundreds of rainbow trout.

Quail farming is good for meat production

Quail farming is good for meat production

Quail farming can offer numerous benefits in terms of meat production, nutrition, and eggs. Salient features of quail farming with nutritive composition of its meat and eggs can be summed as:

• Lesser market age 4-5 weeks
• Less initial investment
• May be started as cottage industry
• Easily manageable by household ladies
• A better tool to alleviate poverty

Meat qualities:

• Tastier than chicken
• Promotes body and brain development in children
• Best balanced food for pregnant and nursing mothers
• Less fat and cholesterol content

Japanese quail (Coturnix coturnix Japonica) was first described as a research model by and was used as a pilot animal for more expensive experiments in 1960. During 1970, research with Japanese quail expanded from avian-science related topics to biology and medicine, as bird could be kept easily relatively in large number in a small facility and be used as model animal for wide variety of works, from embryology to space related sciences. At the event of World Poultry Congress, 2004, the quail has been declared as the model avian species for future research. Quails are now commonly used as an experimental animal for biological research and vaccine production, especially Newcastle disease vaccine to which disease quails are resistant.

In Pakistan quail farming was started in early 1970, with the introduction of exotic breeding stock of Japanese quails. However, quail production has remained as one of the neglected components of poultry sector in the country. Very little research work has been conducted on its breeding, incubation, housing, nutritional requirements, feeding, management and disease control aspects in Pakistan.

About four decades back a breeding stock of hybrid Japanese quails was imported in Pakistan with good genetic potential having better egg production performance, egg quality parameters and hatching traits compared to local quail called “Betair”.

But unfortunately, due to continuous inbreeding, genetic potential of the imported quail might have deteriorated. Simultaneously no serious attempt has been made to improve genetic potential of our native quail.

Although public and private sectors made efforts for the development of quail farming, but the measures were not adequate and fall short of expectations for producing high yield of quail meat at a reasonable low cost.

The private sector was not given adequate monetary and technical incentives. Even public sector organizations dealing in quail and allied industries faced enormous hurdles due to bureaucracy and lack of application of modern quail production technology.

These together with many other problems including poor quail management, low live body weight and meat yield, late ready to market age and lack of quail processing are some of the important reasons for slow development of quail farming in the country.

The low live body weight and meat yield appears to be a great hurdle for development of commercial quail farming. The situation therefore calls to take immediate concrete steps to improve genetic potential of our local quail.

Avian Research and Training (ART) Centre, of the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Lahore has been working on this thing for sometime now. The main aims and objectives of this centre are as under:

• Human resource development in the field of quail/avian production.

• Technical guidance and advice to the stake holders, small farmers and house-hold women in avian production.

• Research for enhancing genetic potential to improve performance and meat yield in local quail strains.


UVAS, Lahore

Friday, 4 October 2013

The secret to making your own cheese

The secret to making your own cheese

  • If you want to make your own, make sure to use the finest ingredients possible, says Catalina Stogdon.

By Catalina Stogdon

Everything starts with the milk. Good cheese cannot be made from bad milk," says Dudley Martin, "so our story begins with Ed our herdsman. Fresh from the cow, we take the milk and siphon it into our churns; add cultures and rennets to form the curds and whey, before salting, greasing and storing for over a year for maximum flavour."

Dudley takes his cheese very seriously. And so he should. Along with Paul Bedford, they are the cheese men in the food operation at the Ludlow Food Centre in Bromfield, Ludlow, who have 33 years' combined cheesemaking experience. They hand-churn their cheeses, including an award-winning soft variety, Croft Gold, which is doused every three days in cider brandy, stinks to high heaven and is as packed with as much pungent flavour as it is fragrance.

The farm shop, which exhibited recently at the renowned Ludlow Food Festival, relies on its 180 Holstein-Friesian cows which make up their High Walton herd, with each cow producing 25-28 litres a day. The cows are fed on grass for seven months of the year from the meadows of the Onny and silage, including brewer's grain, for the remainder, which affects its flavour and gives the cheese its seasonality.

"The quality of the pasture, the plants the animals graze on, even the chemistry of the soil itself will have a bearing on the composition of the milk," says Dudley. "If we were making wine, this would be called its terroir.
A summer-produced cheddar will have less fat, a "grassier" taste, and a flakier texture. "Christmas cheddars, when the cows will have eaten more brewer's yeast in their feed and have higher levels of butterfat, will be creamier," says Dudley.

His cheeses are allowed to mature for 14 months at least; 18 months makes for a vintage cheddar. "A giveaway, if cheddar is properly mature, is that it will have crunch, caused by the crystals of calcium lactate." A lot of the more commercial cheese relies on a culture to make them sweeter; a traditional cheddar has much more tang, bite and acidity. "It's how a cheese like cheddar should taste," he says.

In the hunt for "real taste" and tradition, many are now joining the growing number of cheesemaking courses, which are spreading all over the country, to learn how to make their favourite variety at home. The Cheesemaking Workshop, based in Arundel, takes you through the process of six different cheeses in a six-hour course, including Camembert and Brie, feta and ricotta, from working with starter cultures to learning about the ageing process.

Mandy Nolan, who learnt to make cheese on a course in Australia, runs her "very hands-on" course from her home in West Sussex, and says that "once you have eaten your own feta, you will never want to buy ready made again".

There is no need for expensive equipment; all you require is an insulation box, culture and "everything else you will already have in your kitchen. It is much easier than baking a cake," says Mandy. The groups of three work together heating and stirring the milk, adding the rennet and going through the whole process from theory to finished cheese, taking away their hand-crafted creations at the end of the day.

Another company catering to cheese fanatics, Cutting the Curd, explores the early history of cheese and teaches the basics of soft-cheese making, including halloumi and mozzarella. They also sell starter kits and supplies to take away.

Lakeland's soft-cheese making kit has proved so popular that the kitchenware supplier has just launched its hard-cheese making version for cheddars, Cheshire and Wensleydales, including culture, press, rennet and measuring devices.

Not one to boast of at Christmas, perhaps, and certainly not one to rival the cheeses of Ludlow, but a good place to start experimenting in your own kitchen.

The Telegraph

Grass-fed vs grain-fed Beef

Grass-fed vs grain-fed beef

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Egypt aims for revolution in desert farming

Egypt aims for revolution in desert farming

Water scarcity prompts farmers to use an ancient technique in pursuit of sustainable agriculture.
Leyland Cecco and Michael Fox

Cairo, Egypt -The hazy desert that extends from the outskirts of Cairo has become the unlikely scene of another revolution that has the potential to transform Egypt - and it is green.

Inhospitable, yellowed wasteland is now yielding up ripe red tomatoes, fresh kale and schools of fish in a bold experiment fuelled by the country's most precious resource: water.

This surprising harvest illustrates how Egypt is witnessing a slow transformation in attitudes towards the environment driven by groups such as Greenpeace and Nawaya alongside an innovative young sustainability movement.

In the vanguard of this movement is Faris Farrag, an Egyptian banker inspired by a love of growing plants and fishing, who has embraced the revolutionary technique of aquaponics at his unassuming farm outside Cairo called "Bustan" (Arabic for orchard).

"As the price of water soars, as the price of petrol soars, and when the subsidies on farming disappear, this model makes sense," says Farrag.


Reviving ancient techniques

Aquaponics, an ancient form of cultivation that originated with the Aztecs, enables farmers to increase yields by growing plants and farming fish in the same closed freshwater system.

Farrag studied the technique under Dr James Rakocy at the University of the Virgin Islands, whose sustainable farming method grew in popularity in the 1980s and is now gaining mainstream acceptance in developing nations.

Enterprising farmers have implemented the system in countries as diverse as Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen to save water and increase output.

At Bustan, the first commercial aquaponics farm in Egypt, olive trees flank the growing areas sprouting from what seems to be sandy ground, and dusty mesh screens are the only barriers protecting delicate young plants from the expansive tracts of sand.

Water circulates from tanks hosting schools of fleshy Nile tilapia through hydroponic trays which grow vegetables including cucumber, basil, lettuce, kale, peppers and tomatoes on floating foam beds with run-off flushed out to irrigate the trees.

It is an ingenious solution to an old problem in a country dominated by unforgiving deserts where access to fresh water is a luxury in many areas.

The Nile supplies Egypt with almost all its water, 85 percent of which goes to agriculture - but the country has long outgrown agreements with neighbours on its share of this resource as its population has soared to 85 million, and is pressing to renegotiate terms.

Earlier this year the most populous Arab nation made global headlines in an angry disagreement over plans to dam the Blue Nile, denouncing Ethiopia's attempts to reroute the river.

Need for environmental policies

Compounding problems of access to water is pollution, and visitors only have to peer at the Nile's swirling eddies and water catchments to notice the gunk and assorted rubbish that confirm the low priority afforded environmentalism.

Most of the population lives on the 2.9 percent of land that is arable and use the only source of fresh water as an industrial, human and agricultural dump, undeterred by laws that prohibit the throwing of waste into the Nile.

Compounding water pollution, Egypt's annual "black cloud" caused by the burning of agricultural waste costs an estimated $6bn in damage to natural resources and a further $2bn in associated health effects, according to date compiled by the American University in Cairo.

These challenges are a bleak reminder of how desperately Egypt needs environmental policies to protect its fragile agricultural resources.

From Cairo's unremitting expansion into fertile areas to the mountains of garbage strewn on the city's streets, incessant congestion, and misuse of the water supply, there are precious few examples of sustainability.

Which is where Farrag believes aquaponics comes in - Bustan uses 90 percent less water than traditional farming methods in Egypt.

He argues that his model is economically viable and scalable, producing between 6-8 tonnes of fish per year and potentially yielding 45,000 heads of lettuce if it were to grow just a single type of vegetable.

Sustainability underpins the whole operation, he says. Bustan is not land-intensive and Farrag also uses biological pest control methods, such as ladybirds to kill aphids, in order to avoid chemical inputs.

The project also employs two locals, Abdul Rasul Hassanain and his wife Amal, who live on a nearby plot of land and have dramatically increased their role in running the farm.

Dr Ashraf Ghanem, a professor of water engineering at Cairo University, is a strong advocate of the system.

He recently told journalists about the potential benefits of these farms in the Middle East, saying they: "Could serve as a means of income generation for unemployed women, as well as a means of education for children of the household on principles of water saving, plant and fish biology, nutrient cycle, fluid mechanics, hydraulics, microbiology and renewable energies."

A local non-governmental organisation, Nawaya, is taking a leading role in supporting sustainable farming and has brought locals to visit Farrag's farm in a bid to help them swap traditional irrigation techniques for sustainable methods.

But that transition does not come cheap. Inside Bustan, the hum of pumps to ensure the fish are raised in pools with properly filtered water is constant, raising concerns about costs - and posing questions about whether sustainable farming can only be a novelty for the wealthy.

Farrag has invested more than 300,000 Egyptian pounds ($43,500) in his dreamover the last two years - a daunting sum compared to the modest incomes of most rural Egyptians.

But the green entrepreneur is quick to point out that the project could be set up with half that sum, and notes that Bustan was built with locally sourced construction material.

"This is all Egyptian made or stuff that's easy to find in Egypt. Anyone could do it," he says.

With the late afternoon sun hanging low in the sky and the desert wind brushing over olive branches, the hangar-like structure of the farm rests like an oasis.

"The beauty of this system is that you can go to a piece of land that is non-plantable, that is not viable for agriculture, because you build the system"” adds Farrag.

"You can take a rock and build on it. And then you have tomatoes and fish in the desert."

Source: Al Jazeera

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Classification of Greenhouses

Classification of Greenhouses

Greenhouse structure  of various types are used for crop production. Although there are advantages in each type for a particular application, in general there is no single type greenhouse, which can be constituted as the best. Different types of greenhouses are designed to meet the specific needs. 

The different types of greenhouses based on shape, utility, material and construction are briefly given below: 

1.  Greenhouse type based on shape:

For the purpose of classification, the uniqueness of cross section of the greenhouses can be considered as a factor. The commonly followed types of greenhouses based on shape are:

  • Lean to type greenhouse.
  • Even span type greenhouse.
  • Uneven span type greenhouse.
  • Ridge and furrow type.
  • Saw tooth type.
  • Quonset greenhouse.
  • Interlocking ridges and furrow type Quonset greenhouse.
  • Ground to ground greenhouse.

2.  Greenhouse type based on Utility

Classification can be made depending on the functions or utilities. 
Of the different utilities, artificial cooling and heating are more expensive 
and elaborate. Hence based on this, they are classified in to two types.
a)  Greenhouses for active heating.
b)  Greenhouses for active cooling.

3.  Greenhouse type based on construction

The type of construction predominantly is influenced by structural material, though the covering material also influence the type. Higher the span, stronger should be the material and more structural members are used to make sturdy tissues. For smaller spans, simple designs like 
hoops can be followed. So based on construction, greenhouses can be classified as 
  • Wooden framed structure.
  • Pipe framed structure.
  • Truss framed structure. 

4.  Greenhouse type based on covering material

Covering materials are the important component of the greenhouse structure. They have direct influence on greenhouse effect, inside the structure and they alter the air temperature inside. The types of frames and method of fixing also varies with covering material. Hence based on 
the type of covering material they may be classified as

  • Glass glazing.
  • Fibre glass reinforced plastic (FRP) glazing
    • i.  Plain sheet
    • ii.  Corrugated sheet.
  • Plastic film
    • i.  UV stabilized LDPE film.
    • ii.  Silpaulin type sheet.
    • iii.  Net house.
  • Based on the cost of construction involved ( which includes various factors mentioned from above)
    • i  High cost Green House
    • ii  Medium cost Green House
    • iii  Low cost Green House
The structural requirements and the cost per unit area for different models of low cost green houses for cultivation of vegetables are detailed below with diagrams to enable an interested entrepreneur to construct a low cost green house on his own accord. 

However, the local weather conditions and the individuals necessity play a major role in the selection of the model.  

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Virtual fencing the future of farming: US expert

Virtual fencing the future of farming: US expert

The man considered the father of virtual fencing says the concept is the future of Australian production farming.

Virtual fencing confines livestock to boundaries without the need for an actual fence, instead using coordinates, wireless technologies and sensors to control where the animals can graze.

Dean Anderson from the United States Department of Agriculture has been speaking at a symposium at the University of Sydney Centre for Carbon, Water and Food at Camden about the opportunities virtual fencing provides.

Dr Anderson also joined the precision grazing management tour in Armidale in northern NSW in the lead up to the symposium.

He says he's impressed with some of the technology being piloted in Australia.

"It's some fantastic gadgetry that I think has some fantastic potential and I think that virtual fencing, tied into the type of things I've seen this week will make it an even more productive and meaningful way to manage free ranging animals," he said.

Dr Anderson says his involvement with virtual fencing spans over thirty years.

"One of the biggest challenges world over is distribution, and I came to the conclusion of virtual fencing in managing free ranging animals," he said.

"Internal fencing, in my opinion, is at many times built in the wrong place after the year in which it's built.

"It's static, and when you think about it we're trying to manage two dynamic resources, that is the plant community and the animal community."

Dr Anderson says virtual fencing enables a person to "control animals in real time" without requiring any fences on the landscape.

The polygons work both to confine animals inside of them, as well as to exclude animals from areas, such as endangered species.

Because of the dynamic nature of virtual fencing, Dr Anderson says boundaries are not exactly cut and dry, as with traditional physical fences.

"You must be able to accept leaky boundaries, because virtual fencing is based upon modifying animal behaviour," he said.

Zachary Economou is an honours student at the University of New England at Armidale, who had the opportunity to share his research with Mr Anderson this week.

He says it's been great getting feedback on his studies from a world leader in the field.

"He's been the person that I've referred to through my whole assignment and literature review," he said.

Mr Economou is studying how changing camp locations can influence sheep behaviour.

"I wanted to see how sheep behaved when you removed their primary camp site, typically at the top of the hill," he said.

"A few interesting things have come out of this, in terms of where sheep want to move when you remove that camp site, and how they've intensified their urge to get to the top of the paddock, which is pretty natural."

Monday, 30 September 2013

What is grafting?

What is grafting?

  • Grafting is the process of combining two different plants to create a single one
  • It requires lots of skill and practice, but has been successfully achieved by providing a clean cut on the two plants and taping the ends together until they heal
  • The purpose is to combine one plant's qualities of flowering or fruiting with the roots of another that offers vigour and resilience
  • Most plants need to be grafted within their own genus - such as potatoes and tomatoes - but it is sometimes possible to graft those of a differing makeup

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Pallets for raised bed gardening! .. low cost, high yield and simply done

Pallets for raised bed gardening! .. low cost, high yield and simply done

Pallets for raised bed gardening! .. low cost, high yield and simply done

Gardening to Distraction: Composting with worms

The Rolla Daily News
Gardening to Distraction: Composting with worms

There are a number of ways to compost. The easiest way, by far, is with worms. Vermacomposting is basically building a safe place where red wriggler worms can live and collect their poop.

Worms are part of nature's recycling, turning most edibles into nutrient-rich byproducts that, mixed in with soil, add minerals and nutrients that feed soil micro-organisms.

Soil is an amazing ecosystem, although it's not surprising we don't quite appreciate it in mid-Missouri since we have so little of it.

Enter red wriggler worms, the kind you find under piles of dead leaves or dried grass. Red wrigglers can consume about half their weight in food every day.

When composting with worms, it's best to start with one pound of worms for around $20, not including shipping. To figure out how many worms you need, you need twice the weight of your worms in kitchen scraps a week.

Composting with worms has several advantages. If I have a plant that is starting to look sick, I gather a few tablespoons of vermacompost and mix it in the potted soil.  Within days, the plant perks up and, in most cases, loses whatever was ailing it.

Vermacompost is also handy to add to raised beds that need an extra boost to finish out the growing season.

There are a couple of ways you can easily keep worms.

Most experts talk about starting inexpensively with a couple of plastic containers that fit inside of one another. Add holes in the bottom of one, as well as the sides and lid, and put that container inside the other one.

The magic comes after you add water-soaked torn newspaper for bedding and kitchen scraps in the corners. Add a handful of red wrigglers, place in a cool, dark spot and wait for the worms to eat through the scraps. That works well unless you feed them watermelon rinds. Then the main container ends up sitting in a lot of water. Use the water, diluted, to feed potted plants.

The other challenge is making sure you keep worms fed. If the worms run out of food - yep, they'll start crawling out of the container.

There's a third consideration in how big to go with your worm bin - smaller is better. I ended up with a container that, once full of paper and scraps, I could barely lift.

To keep my worms healthy, I splurged on a several-tiered "worm farm" with holes in the bottom of stacked trays. Worms can easily move among the trays and, more importantly, I can easily lift the trays to harvest composted materials.

I also discovered that if I mimic the worms natural environment and give them leaves and cardboard as cover, they tend to stay put.

he stacked container fits nicely in the furnace room corner so worms can spend winter inside and I can keep composting through cold weather.

If you're interested in learning how to vermacompost, or any other forms of composting, come by the Saturday, Sept. 14, Rolla Farmers Market off Highway 63 North from 9-11 a.m. I'll be there with other experienced gardeners demonstrating the various kinds of composting as well as recycling with rain barrels.

Did I mention red wrigglers also make great fishing bait?

Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a certified gardener sharing gardening tips in a changing climate at http://www.
 Copyright 2013