All posts by GreenSteaders

Seed Exchange

Our semi annual seed exchange brought together some veteran gardeners and newbies alike.  You can swap seeds for heirloom or simply open pollinated plants – those that will stay true to its type, once you save seeds.  Almost all of the yummy tomato varieties we grow and swap are open pollinated.

 We all had fun swapping seeds and gardening advice, and stories.

We provide coin envelopes for seed sharing and light snacks.  Everyone brings seeds, or at least appetite to learn and try growing some tasty food in their gardens.  Hope you join us next time!

Biochar Workshop at Veggielution

This was a very informative and fun event showcasing a 55 gal TLUD, cylindrical and pyramid kilns.

The below featured pyramid kiln is made from 4′ x 4′ metal sheets.  It produces 20 cubic feet (about 250lb) of biochar in one, continuous operation.  It has a draining hole in the bottom with a pipe and a ball valve ending that fits regular garden hose.  When bottom quenched it produces smoke water that’s beneficial for the plants, but specifically for germinating seeds.

Starting fire in this pyramid kiln needs to be done towards the top, otherwise there is air flow at the bottom of the kiln.  Hence we built a nice structure and put some kindling at the top.  Once first layer of wood started turning white, it was time to add another.  When burning fully, there was almost no smoke – pyramid kiln is designed to circulate smoke back into the fire, for drastic reduction in pollution.  Another clean burning device to produce biochar!

Starting fire in a cylindrical kiln.  This kiln is not designed for clean burning and produces quite a lot of smoke.

Another clean burning device – a TLUD cooking stove, designed by an American scientist and produced in India.  You can see there is no visible smoke coming from it.  It is used in India and other countries as an indoor cooking device, reducing smoke related health issues (lungs cancer).

End product form the pyramid kiln – beautiful char!

Singing Frogs Farm Tour

We got an opportunity to visit a cutting edge of sustainabilitty – Singing Frogs Farm! It took some persistence but it was soooo well worth it. I would recommend it to anyone on a small scale farm or to backyard gardeners serious about growing their own food.


Getting to know new farm animals… This is Charlie, an aged llama, surprised to see us. 😉


Now for the real matter: dense planting, no sprays of any kind, 4 to 7 harvests a year!!!
How is this possible?


Very rich soil that’s teaming with life! Currently about 1/4 inch of compost is applied before each planting. At the outset it was about 2 inches.


Soil is always covered – planting within hours of harvest. If not possible cover the soil with a breathable blanket. Also, the hedge of perennials was planted first on the farm – to keep the pests at bay.


Almost everything is started in flats, one seed per cell – creates strong plants that can outcompete weeds. Nothing is thinned – waste of time (even when in case of beets or allium they plant 3 seeds to a cell).


The potting mix is 1:2 potting soil to compost. This approach to planting creates strong, long roots.


Compost pile on site – nothing is chopped! Blanket over compost for keeping rats close to food source – this way you can easily find and trap them! Learn more about blankets they use from the horse’s mouth.


This blog is a short, short version – information was flowing constantly for the two hours we were there. We hope to be back some day to deepen our understanding.
For now, way good bye to Charlie and his master, Paul. We have learned a lot, thank you!

Heirloom Tomato Plant Sale and Swap

It by now our tradition to be part of the Cupertino’s Earth Day event every year. We were selling a variety of heirloom tomato plants and offering starts for swap with fellow gardeners.


Our booth.


Cupertino City Council member, Savita Vaidhyanathan, paid us a visit!


We like to see kids at our booth. They are always so curious…


And happy to learn. She is proudly holding a sheet on how to plant tomatoes!


What to choose, what to choose… Perhaps we have too many choices! 😉


Welcome young gardeners! See you again next year!

Winter Seed Exchange

Despite the inclement weather forecast for the day, many hard core gardeners came to our Seed Exchange, some from as far as Gilroy (!) and stayed long pass the usual 2 hours, still talking about gardening and swapping seeds. We invite you all next time!


It is wonderful to see both the familiar faces and the new alike!


Hmmm… what do you recommend?


Yet again we welcome the youngest gardeners – just a few months old baby!


Yes, I think I’ll try that!


This time we also had a fair amount of plants for the swapping.
Come and join us next time!

Eco-Farm Conference

We were promoting biochar at the 2015 Eco-Farm Conference held in Asilomar, Monterey, CA. Thank you all for stopping at our booth and don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions. See below for a few photos from the event.


Our booth at the Eco-Farm Conference.


Frankie enthusiastic about biochar!


This was by far the largest seed exchange I have ever attended. And scion exchange was happening in another room at the same time.


With lots of seeds, both common and exotic…


and crowds of attendees.


I mean, crowds of enthusiastic attendees. 😉


There was also fun: beer and cheese tasting.


Needless to say, this was a very popular event.


Come and join us next year!

Biochar Workshop

Biochar Stove Building at Veggielution – November 2014

We pulled our resurces and enrolled a few folk to build a biochar stove for Veggielution Community Farm in San Jose. We had two metal barrels to work with, plus a store purchased chimney, an old cookie can and a couple other odds and ends. The result: full barrel load TLUD biochar stove and a kiln! See below for details and make sure to join us next time!


Cutting metal drum 1/3 length wise, with the shorter end having the bottom of the barrel. The shorter end will be part of the TLUD stove, and the left over 2/3 barrel ring is the poor man’s kiln!


Assembled barrels making bulk of the TLUD (top lift up draft) stove, after one of the barrels is cut.


This TLUD will have handles for easier handling. These are attached at the bottom of the stove, for emptying the char out.


Lunch break – delicious food courtesy of Veggielution. Char talk never stops…


Making the sparc arrestor from an old cookie can – it was just the perfect size!


The chimney with stove arrestor assembled.


TLUD at work!


We made only a little bit of char – only partially loaded the stove due to time constraints.