Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Here is the link to our clip on 11 Alive news story!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Why Won't My Garden Grow?

Sometimes it seems you are doing all the right things and your garden just won't produce.  If you have properly placed your plants, amended your soil, watered consistently, and fertilized and are still not seeing an abundant harvest, you need to consider other factors.  Soil testing is available to determine the pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium balance of your soil. The nutrient levels in your soil greatly effect plant growth and crop production. 

You can get a good soil testing kit at Gardener's Supply Company.

Garden's Alive also has a good kit. They will analyze the soil and give specific recommendations.$20 FREE off your first order at Gardens Alive!
There is another, often overlooked factor that might be affecting your crop production. This is the absence of bees and other pollinators.  Usually if someone is reporting poor production from their garden, they also report an absence of bees.  Bees are vital.  Without them, fruit and vegetable production will be very limited.  A way to address this is to provide bees with a reason to visit your garden.  Bees are looking for nectar and pollen.  The plants that are often purchased today are hybridized.  This is done to make plants more disease resistant and to alter flower color and size.  The problem is that frequently when a plant has been hybridized the production of nectar and pollen are reduced and often leaved the plant sterile.  At this point, the plant is useless to bees and other pollinators, such as butterflies.  Temperature, humidity and soil moisture can also impact the production of nectar.

A simple way to address this problem is to plant with the idea attracting bees and other pollinators to your garden. 

To attract pollinators, you want to plant different plants that will bloom at different times throughout your growing season.  Seek out indigenous plants, such as aster, blackeyed susans, purple coneflower, to attract native bees.  Many garden plants are good sources of nectar or pollen.  It is good to seek out older, heirloom varieties.  Perennials, such as strawberries (yes, they are perennials and will be more prolific every year) and herbs, such as bee balm, boneset, basil, rosemary, and English lavender attract pollinators.

Here are other tips that will increase your bee and butterfly visits:

    * Don't use pesticides.  When you use pesticides, you kill beneficial bugs as well as pests.  Seek out nontoxic pest solutions.
    * Plant flowers of different colors and shapes.  Bees have different sizes and tongue lengths so they feed on different flowers.  Different flowers will increase the range of bees that you will attract.  The colors blue, purple, violet, white, and yellow are particularly attractive to bees.
    * Grow plants that flower at different times.
    * Grow native plants.  Research shows that bees are four times more attracted to native plants than exotic varieties.
    * Plant where bees visit, such as sunny spots and places sheltered from strong winds.

For more information, visit The Backyard Farm and Heaven on Earth Mini Farm.

The Backyard Farm is on the local news!!

We were on 11 Alive News in Atlanta last night and this morning!!  The Backyard Farm was the featured segment on Valerie Hoff's Ways to Save.  I will post the link when it is online.
Heaven on Earth Mini Farm is getting famous.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

More Raised Bed Gardens and Backyard Chickens

I am thrilled with the response to my mamapedia ad.  How exciting to see more people enjoying backyard farming!  I wonder if they will get only raised bed gardens, or if they will also raise backyard chickens.  I would love to assist some of them in establishing an urban chicken flock.

$29 for One-Hour Gardening Consultation from the Backyard Farm ($60 Value)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

More People Are Moving Towards a More Sustainable Life!

I am getting a great response to the deal on mamapedia!  How exciting that more and more people are embracing the truth that they CAN live a more sustainable life right where they are!!!  Raised bed gardens and backyard chickens really do make a difference!  

If you haven't checked out our mamapedia sweet deal, use the link below:

More People Are Moving Towards a More Sustainable Life!

I am getting a great response to the deal on mamapedia!  How exciting that more and more people are embracing the truth that they CAN live a more sustainable life right where they are!!!  Raised bed gardens and backyard chickens really do make a difference!  

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Backyard Farm makes the news!!

Today I am meeting Valerie Hoff from WXIA at a client's house to film a news segment showing the cost savings associated with backyard farming.  A very exciting day!!  I will follow up with air time and a link to the story.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Natural Pest Control That Works!!!

Mom just called to tell me that she is thrilled with the results that she is getting with the Whitefly Traps that she purchased from Gardener's Supply.  These sticky insect traps will attract and capture whiteflies, fungus gnats, thrips and other pests in gardens, greenhouses and potted plants. These are one of the peskiest gardening problems in the South.  They can destroy your plants.  Mom already has her garden planted and put them in her garden two days ago.  She was amazed at how many whiteflies had already been captured.  Once the card is covered with insects, replace it with a fresh one. 

They are only $6 a box and nine come in a box.  I am ordering mine today.  

Gardener's Supply Company

Monday, March 21, 2011

Flea and Tick Control

It is the time of year to address fleas and ticks. is the best place to get flea and tick control. I have six dogs so I have to shop wisely.

What to Plant? Seed or Young Plant?

It's the middle of March.  Today I am going to the local feed store with my friend, Betsy.  I am asking myself whether I will plant seeds or purchase young plants which are already established.  Of course, starting from seed is very satisfying and is a skill worth developing.  But, some plants are easier to start from seed than others.  Many plants, such as tomatoes, must be started indoors.  If you don't have a greenhouse, this can be messy and takes a lot of space.  For the first time gardener, I would suggest that you do most of your planting with established seedlings.  I have aways found it helpful to conquer one thing at a time.

Gardening can be the most satisfying hobby in the world, resulting in beauty, food, and a keen sense of satisfaction. Plug a seed in some dirt and nature performs a miracle. In the beginning, a gardener can feel overwhelmed by the complexities of gardening manuals, so it’s best to start simply and learn by trial and error.

There are vegetables which even the novice gardener will want to start from seed.  Most root vegetables (potatoes, beets, turnips, parsnips, and carrots) can be started off relatively early outdoors.  I really encourage growing my own root vegetables.  Since they grow in the soil and are the most prone to absorb chemicals from the soil, it is important that they grow organically.  "Seed potatoes" (potatoes which have sprouted) can be found now in local feed stores.  Vegetables like beans, peas and corn grow very easily from seed and come up very easily.  These plants also do not like to be transplanted.  So, you will have greater success if you start from seed.

One of the benefits of living in the South is that we naturally have a longer growing season.  But, anyone who has lived in the South knows that the weather changes as frequently as a teenager's moods.  Today's mid 70s weather might be followed by tomorrow's freeze.  It will be important to protect young plants from the effects of a freeze.  Plants in containers should be moved indoors when the temperature drops.  Plants in beds will have to be covered, being careful that your cover doesn't touch the plant itself.  A milk carton cut in half or a box can work well.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Critical Element in Raised Bed Gardening - Soil

Yesterday I amended the soil in my raised bed garden.  Fortunately, since I started the bed with a good soil mix and have added compost throughout the year, I did not have to go to alot of expense to amend it.

Healthy soil is a critical component of any successful garden.  Soil needs air and water to function, and compaction from foot traffic robs it of both.  Raised beds are a good idea for sites with clay soil or areas with poor drainage.  This makes them ideal for Georgia.

You can purchase great raised beds for about the cost of building them yourself at Gardener's Supply.
Use this link for additional savings Gardener's Supply Company
A rule of thumb is to fill the raised planting bed with sixty percent topsoil, thirty percent of an organic matter such as compost and ten percent Miracle Gro Organic (or a comparable product).   Mix some sand throughout for drainage. It actually requires a lot of soil to fill a raised bed, but it is a worthwhile investment. You will reap the benefits in a more productive garden.  Determine the cubic measurement of your  bed to determine how much you need: width x length x depth.  Those new to raised bed gardening will find it simpler to purchase in bags from a hardware store or feed store.  For a 3x6 raised bed, I would recommend starting with ten 40lb bags of topsoil (about $12) one 48 lb bags of Miracle Gro Organic ($8),  two bags of mushroom compost (about $9), and two bags of peat moss (about $10).  This will make your soil start up costs around $40.  If you are composting already, mix it in as well.  This might seem like alot, but remember that next year you will use the same soil, only needing to amend it with our own compost, some topsoil, peat moss, and mushroom compost to replace lost nutrients.  You would also save by not buying organic soil, but it is my preference when growing my food.  You might also find a savings by buying in bulk.  This might be a good option if you are developing several beds or have neighbors doing the same.

Please don't try to go a cheaper route by filling with dirt from your own yard.  The weeds will show up in your bed and the soil will not produce the same amount or quality of food.  When you realize that you will not be tilling and  weeding, it doesn't seem like such a large investment.  It really does pay off.

For more on Raised Bed Gardening visit The Backyard Farm.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Flea and Tick Control

I am already seeing the return of fleas and ticks. I love 1-800-Petmeds. Use the link below to save up to 25% and get free shipping.

1-800-PetMeds Fetch/468x60.gif

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Invitation to connect on LinkedIn

I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

- Donna

Donna Byers
Backyard Farmer at The Backyard Farm

Confirm that you know Donna
© 2011, LinkedIn Corporation

My First Posterous Post

The Backyard Farm is ready for Spring!  New chicks are in the brooder and we are planning our raised bed.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tomatoes on Your Deck

I can't believe the price I found for a great tomato planter at for $39.99, no shipping and no sales tax. I have seen them in local chain stores for $55. I am going to use one on our patio, maybe another by the pool.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Moving towards a Sustainable Lifestyle - Backyard Farming

Our farm began simply enough. I love a good tomato. That is what caused me to dig my first hole. Through the years, I witnessed the joy that my mother and grandmother found in growing vegetables and I enjoyed the fruits of their labors. I readily accepted the vegetables that they offered at the end of every visit. But, they were always gone long before the next visit. So, one spring I decided to grow tomatoes. I quickly discovered the satisfaction of growing my own vegetables. Under the mentorship of my mother and grandmother, I began to learn and experiment with methods which would bring the highest yield while reducing the amount of unpleasant tasks, such as tilling and weeding, and reducing or alleviating the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

It wasn't long before we established our own small flock of chickens. We didn't know anyone else raising chickens. So, we made quite a few mistakes and unnecessary expenditures. But, our mistakes have resulted in gain for others. We have learned how to make tending a small flock very easy and affordable. We have also enjoyed the relationship that has developed between us and these lovely ladies who regularly provide us with such wonderful protein.

Although our farm has been in place for awhile, I still have not gotten over the thrill of gathering beautiful eggs daily, making a yummy salad or stir fry from just picked vegetables, or making an omelet from all of these ingredients. I cannot put into words how satisfying it is to be able to go through a complete day only eating off of our land.

When moving towards a more sustainable lifestyle, it is important to remember that you don't have to do it all at one time. One small step quickly led to the realization that I could do even more. My mind frequently goes back to what my mother says when I ask her if she thinks that I can grow a certain vegetable. She says, "I don't know. Put in the dirt and see what happens. If it doesn't work out, you're only out a couple of dollars." She always points out to me that even though she has gardened for over 50 years, every season she always learns something new. There is always a new method to try. I have found that that aspect of gardening and farming has been one of the most pleasurable. I remain in awe of the results because I have never be able to have it mastered. Every year, every season has it own unique challenges and victories. I get to participate in the miracle of life, but I don't control it. I believe that you also will find that you can do more than you ever thought possible, sooner than you ever thought possible.

With the proper equipment and soil, you can grow all of your own produce on your deck or in your yard. If you would like fresh eggs daily, we will assist you in acquiring your flock of hens and providing food and housing for them. Within a month, you can dramatically increase your sustainable lifestyle.
We will gladly give whatever assistance you need to establish your own mini farm. You can find all your resources on our site or we will come to you and walk you through every step. You determine how involved you would like us to be.
Home consultations are available in the Metro Atlanta area. Contact me at

Gardener's Supply Company