Water conservation is a crucial practice in home gardening, not only for environmental sustainability but also to reduce water bills and promote efficient plant growth. According to the Pew Research Center, “Over 2 billion people already lack access to safe drinking water at home, and by 2025 over half of the world’s population will reside in water-stressed areas. These numbers will increase significantly if climate change and population growth follow or exceed predicted trajectories.”
At Trellis for Tomorrow, we prioritize water conservation in all our garden sites, utilizing drip tape irrigation across all sites. In this blog post, we will discuss seven effective ways homeowners can water their gardens wisely by incorporating some water-saving techniques.
Install a Rainwater Collection System
One of the most effective ways to conserve water is by collecting rainwater. Set up a rain barrel or cistern to capture rainwater from your roof’s downspouts. We recommend using a mesh screen to filter debris and prevent mosquito breeding. You can then use this stored rainwater to irrigate your garden during dry spells, reducing reliance on potable water sources. You can find DIY instructions online or purchase ready-to-go rain barrels at a local garden supply center. Check out this locally made version that you can find at Colonial Gardens in Phoenixville or stop into the Eco Store on Bridge Street.
Embrace Drip Tape Irrigation
Drip tape irrigation is a highly efficient method that delivers water directly to the plants’ root zones, minimizing evaporation and runoff. Trellis for Tomorrow utilizes drip tape irrigation in all our garden sites, and homeowners can implement it too. Simply lay the drip tape along your garden rows and connect it to a water source. Drip tape conserves water by providing a slow and steady supply, ensuring plants receive precisely the amount they need. Check out this resource from Rain-Flo Irrigation.
Water Early in the Morning
To minimize water loss through evaporation, it’s best to water your garden early in the morning. By doing so, the water has time to soak into the soil before the sun’s heat intensifies, reducing waste and promoting efficient plant absorption. Watering in the evening can lead to prolonged leaf wetness, increasing the risk of disease.
Mulching around your plants provides several benefits, including water conservation. A layer of mulch helps retain soil moisture, reduces weed growth, and insulates the soil, preventing evaporation. We recommend using organic and undyed mulch such as wood chips, straw, or shredded leaves. Apply a 2–3-inch layer around your plants, leaving a small space near the stem to prevent rot.
Practice Smart Watering
Avoid overwatering your plants by practicing smart watering techniques. Before watering, check the soil moisture by inserting your finger into the soil. If it feels damp an inch below the surface, you can delay watering. Additionally, water deeply and infrequently encourages deeper root growth and drought tolerance. Shallow, frequent watering can lead to shallow roots and plant stress.
Group Plants by Water Needs
Efficiently manage water usage by grouping plants with similar water requirements together. Some plants require less water, while others, like leafy greens, need more. By arranging plants with similar water needs in the same area, you can avoid over or underwatering certain plants, ensuring optimal growth for all.
Capture and Reuse Household Water
In addition to rainwater collection, consider reusing household water to irrigate your garden. Collect water from abandoned cups and activities such as rinsing fruits and vegetables. This water can be used for watering plants or for irrigating with drip tape systems. Ensure the water does not contain harmful chemicals or contaminants.
Conserving water in home gardening is a responsibility we all share. By implementing these seven effective strategies, homeowners can contribute to a sustainable and efficient water management system. Trellis recommends using rainwater collection systems, drip tape irrigation, and other water-saving techniques to protect our environment and promote healthy, thriving gardens. Together we can make water conservation an integral part of gardening practices and pave the way for a greener future.
In the world of food systems, two connected yet separate concepts play crucial roles in shaping our relationship with food – food security and food sovereignty. While both aim to ensure access to nutritious food, they differ in their focus and principles.
Understanding Food Security
Food security is measured by indicators such as food production, distribution, affordability, and access to food. Organizations and individuals focused on food security are working to address immediate needs and aim to alleviate hunger and malnutrition by providing an adequate food supply to all.
Food security means that individuals and communities can meet their nutritional needs. It refers to the availability, access, utilization, and stability of a community’s food system. It focuses on ensuring that everyone has reliable access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food at all times.
Discovering Food Sovereignty
Food sovereignty is a more holistic approach to food systems that strives for social justice, environmental sustainability, and the preservation of local food systems. Coined by La Via Campesina, those seeking to create food sovereignty typically advocate for the rights of communities, farmers, and individuals to control their own food systems. Inextricably tied to this is the concept of increasing production and consumption of local, sustainable, and culturally appropriate food.
Going beyond food security, food sovereignty focuses on empowering local communities to have control over the agricultural practices (such as crop rotation, seed ownership, irrigation, etc.) and land and resources from which their food comes from. A focus on food sovereignty also highlights the importance of preserving area biodiversity, traditional agricultural knowledge, and local cultural practices related to food.
By prioritizing diverse and resilient methods and seeking to supply locally the foods that the local community wants and needs most, aiming to move past food security and more toward food sovereignty is an important part of creating a more equitable and sustainable future.
At Trellis for Tomorrow, we understand that addressing food security today is essential for fostering food sovereignty tomorrow and we actively work towards improving both concepts through our programs and initiatives.
Increasing Food Security
Trellis for Tomorrow improves food security in vulnerable communities by infusing those communities with fresh, organic, produce all growing season long. We help communities increase their food production and increase access to nutritious food. Through our Food for All program, partner organizations commit to donating at least half of their produce to food banks and pantries local to the garden site. Through these community gardens, and in partnership with food banks, Trellis for Tomorrow ensures that immediate food security needs are addressed.
Advancing Food Sovereignty
Trellis for Tomorrow focuses on empowering communities to reclaim control over their food systems. We support the community by supplying the materials, resources, and expertise to establish large, functional, and sustainable gardens. Then, we work in partnership with members of the community; teaching them how to maintain the space and supporting them through a nine-month garden season. We promote practices that preserve biodiversity and traditional knowledge by engaging with local stakeholders. Through our programs, we strive to create an environment where food sovereignty can thrive.
Building Collaborative Networks
We understand that fostering sustainable food systems requires collaboration and knowledge exchange. We actively build partnerships with local communities, farmers, educational institutions, and government agencies. One example of this is Trellis’s leadership role in the Pottstown Area Food Collaborative (PAFC). PAFC is a group of highly engaged, cross-sector entities with a shared vision for a localized food system in Pottstown that increases access to healthy, affordable, culturally appropriate, sustainably produced food. The Collaborative views food as not only a basic need and a human right, but also as a re-generator of the local economy. By creating platforms for dialogue and sharing best practices, Trellis for Tomorrow encourages the co-creation of innovative solutions for both food security and food sovereignty.
Become Part of the Solution
By promoting sustainable practices, empowering individuals, and fostering collaboration, Trellis for Tomorrow is making a significant impact on both food security and food sovereignty. Through our efforts, we are laying the foundation for a future where communities have control over their access to nutritious food and the ability to shape their own food systems.
To support Trellis for Tomorrow and work towards a more sustainable and just food future, you can donate, volunteer, or help spread the word.
With climate change becoming an increasingly more urgent issue, it’s crucial for us to adopt sustainable practices that can make a real difference. One practice that packs a punch is composting. It’s simple, effective, and has a range of environmental benefits. In this blog post, we’ll dive into:
How composting can help fight climate change.
Share some easy tips for homeowners to start their composting journey.
Share how we’re maximizing the benefits of composting across all 26 garden sites at Trellis for Tomorrow.
Feel free to join the conversation and ask questions in the comments or on social media!
Composting: A Climate Change Ally
With the world rapidly burning its remaining carbon, we need all the climate change solutions possible. You may be surprised that composting can be a game-changer in the fight against climate change. When you compost, you’re diverting organic waste from landfills, which is a big deal. Why? One reason is that when organic waste breaks down in landfills, it releases methane—a very powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to our warming climate. When waste is composted instead of added to a landfill, it can reduce the greenhouse gas emissions, particularly methane, by as much as 50%.
But the advantages don’t end there.
Composting is like a superhero for the environment. Here are a few more reasons why it’s awesome:
Carbon Capture: Composting helps us combat climate change by reducing harmful emissions. At home, you’re ensuring that organic waste breaks down in a controlled, aerobic environment, rather than a landfill. This means less methane, a potent greenhouse gas, being released into the atmosphere.
Soil, Oh Soil: Compost is like a magic potion for your soil. It enriches it with nutrients, improves its structure, and boosts its water-holding capacity. Plus, when you use compost in your garden or on your lawn, it helps capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, effectively reducing its concentration and mitigating climate change. Isn’t that amazing?
Less Chemicals, More Nature: Compost is a natural fertilizer, chock-full of essential nutrients for plants. By using compost, you can cut back on synthetic fertilizers, which require a lot of energy to produce. And less energy means fewer greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a win-win situation for both your garden and the environment.
Getting Started with Composting at Home
Now that we’ve piqued your interest, let’s talk about how you can kickstart your composting journey. It’s easier than you might think! Here’s what you need to do:
Choose Your Style: First, decide on the composting method that suits your needs and space. Whether it’s a traditional backyard compost pile, a worm-powered vermicomposting setup, or an indoor composting bin, pick the one that works best for you.
Bin There, Done That: Find or purchase a composting bin that allows for proper airflow and moisture control. Don’t worry if you can’t find one—creating a compost pile in a designated area of your yard works just fine.
Toss and Turn: When it comes to what you can compost, kitchen scraps like fruit and veggie peels, coffee grounds, and eggshells are all fair game. Yard waste, such as leaves, grass clippings, and small branches, can join the party too. Just remember to avoid meat, dairy, and oily foods, as they can attract pests.
Mix It Up: Layer your composting materials, alternating between wet (kitchen scraps) and dry (leaves or shredded newspaper) components. Give it a good mix every few weeks to add oxygen and speed up the decomposition process. Think of it as giving your compost a little workout!
Patience and Love: Composting takes time, usually several months to a year, depending on factors like temperature and the materials you use. So be patient and keep an eye on the moisture levels. Give your compost pile some love by turning it every now and then. It’ll pay off, we promise!
Trellis for Tomorrow’s Composting Systems
At Trellis for Tomorrow, our agricultural staff and volunteers are doing some fantastic work managing composting systems across our 26 garden sites. These composting systems efficiently transform garden waste into nutrient-rich compost. Not only does this reduce waste, but it also enriches the soil, making those gardens thrive. Talk about a win for the planet and our communities!
Join the Conversation
We hope this blog post has sparked your interest in composting and its potential to combat climate change. If you have any questions or want to share your composting journey, connect with us on social media or through our website. Let’s work together to create a greener, more sustainable future!
By February, gardeners are itching to get their hands back in the soil. Our muscles are well-rested after some hibernation, the days are beginning to lengthen, and a few warm days here and there tease that spring is around the corner. I’ll be honest; we’ve had such a mild winter that I never really stopped wanting to be out in the garden!
As our excitement builds, we can meet that eagerness with a well-thought-out plan for how to ensure we have a successful growing season. It can be tempting to jump right into starting all our seeds at once – the more the merrier, right? Well, sort of.
While we want our gardens to be teeming with diversity, we need to draw up a solid plan for how to guarantee that those plants are happy and healthy. The key to a well-designed garden plan (and a thriving garden) is timing.
In the short term, sowing all your seeds in the first couple weeks of February may bring joy – seeing the tiny tomatoes, eggplants, and other summer seedlings on your windowsill, foretelling the warm summer months to come. However, you’ll want to wait until the end of February or early March to sow crops that thrive in the height of summer. This is because, after eight weeks of living in their seedling pots, seedlings will be ready to be transplanted into their seasonal homes; but the weather may not be well suited for this step. So, unless you have a warm greenhouse to transplant them into, hold off for a few more weeks.
Tips for Spring Planting
Generally speaking, you can look at when a crop is recommended for transplantation into the ground, then count backwards six to eight weeks to determine when to start your seed indoors. At Trellis for Tomorrow, we’re planning our spring plantings to begin the week of March 27th. Using the 8-week rule, we will start our first round of seedlings in the first week of February. This year, we’ll be sowing broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Swiss chard, collards, kale, and lettuce. Then, when these crops are ready to be transplanted into the garden come late March/early April, you’ll have healthy six-to-eight-week-old seedlings that are eager to spread their roots.
If you’re a member of Trellis for Tomorrow’s GREEN |SPACE| and received our annual Gardening Guide, flip to the end where you’ll find a handy checklist of crops well suited for your spring, summer, and fall plantings. Become a member with a monthly donation of $10 or more. Have questions? Contact us.
Crops that are well-suited for spring are cold-hardy, meaning they can withstand light frost. Not only are they able to survive cold nights, but they thrive in the unpredictable spring weather. Nights that dip below freezing actually bring out some of their best flavors – lettuce sweetens, kale becomes nice and tender, broccoli and cauliflower form more flavorful heads.
Tips for Summer Planting
For those of you who love summer crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, zucchini, and cucumbers – fear not! You don’t have much longer to wait before starting your seed germination process. Trellis for Tomorrow’s summer plantings begin in early/mid May, which means we’ll be starting our summer seeding in early March.
Zucchini and cucumbers are an exception to the 8-week rule. Instead of counting backwards eight weeks, you only need to count back three to four weeks. This is due to the speed at which these crops grow – they will not be happy if they are confined to their pots for much longer than a few weeks.
For tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, you may want to “pot up” your seedlings once they are about four weeks old. To do this, you’ll start your seeds in a seed germination pot in early March. Then, after about three to four weeks, you’ll gently remove the seedling from its pot, place it into a larger pot size, and fill the empty space with soil. This promotes root growth and allows the plant to gain vigor.
We’ll update this post with a section on fall planning. For now, us gardeners have enough on our plates for the spring and summer! Hopefully, this post is useful for helping you map out your seeding schedule and gets you as excited for the upcoming growing season as we are!
Luke Carneal is the Agricultural Program Manager at Trellis for Tomorrow. He comes to us with over ten years of experience in organic farm management. When he’s not out ensuring that all of our network gardens are thriving, you can find him exploring hydroponic growing and roughhousing with his dog.
Recently, a participant of our SEED Skills youth program asked the question, “Where does our food come from?” Without missing a beat, another participant replied, “the store.” Asking them to dig a little deeper, we pressed, “but where does the store get their food?” Reflecting for a moment, she answered matter-of-factly, “from the back.” And that was where their thread of understanding ended.
Trellis is dedicated to creating learning experiences for youth of all ages to improve their relationship with themselves, their communities, and the world around them. A significant component of our work is taking a close look at the systems we interact with daily. Particularly when it comes to our food system, we’re asking questions about how those systems work (or don’t), and where we can take steps to effect positive change.
Before you bemoan the fate or state of “kids these days,” I would put the same question to you: Do you know where your food comes from? Not merely naming the many parts of the system that work together to keep you fed, but holistically – down at the level where roots spread their fingers in the soil. Do you know?
Do you know the fields that grow your wheat or corn, the groves and orchards the grow your nuts and fruit, the farms or factories that nurtured or confined the animals whose lives nurture ours? Do you know the hands that tended your sustenance, or the names of their owners? Does it matter?
For millennia, the answers to these questions came to us easily – backyards, neighboring farms, family members, small grocers bringing together locally produced food – people you encountered with frequency, whose names and faces you knew. In recent generations, we’ve moved away from this type of community-based food system and into a system that has created numerous, unseen realities that have both positive and negative impacts our world.
If you’re reading this, you are the beneficiary of this globalized food system in at least one, but more likely in many ways. Resolving to grow our understanding of where our food comes from holds the promise of benefits foreveryone and our planet.
When you begin with a determination to cultivate new understanding and a simple question, you will find yourself on a path to new questions – How far has my food traveled? How does that path impact the environment? Were the farmers treated fairly? Did the animals see sunlight and breathe fresh air? Further, how do the answers to these questions affect me, my family, and my community?
Because of our Core Values (learn more here), we believe that each of us has a role to play in the healing of our world, that we all can grow in new ways, and that working in partnership we can see things improve during our stewardship of our time together on this planet we all share. We hope you will join us!
David is a staff member of Trellis for Tomorrow. As Senior Programs Manager, he comes to us with 15 years of experience in community building, social justice work, and organic agriculture. When he’s not at Trellis, you might find him tending the crops for his local tea company or supporting other efforts for a more equitable and sustainable food system.