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"In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt." - Novelist Margaret Atwood 
Enjoy the snow, it won't last long...
it's time to welcome the arrival of spring!
Your seasonal favorites are arriving now  
Spring has sprung... get your fresh locally grown asparagus from Milberger Farm!  

Try this recipe for
Ham Stuffed Baked Potatoes

1 cup diced ham;
4 medium russet potatoes;
½ bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut;
½ cup sour cream;
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese;
½ cup chopped fresh chives;
salt and pepper 
Bake potatoes until soft. While they bake, steam (or stir-fry) asparagus. Combine asparagus in a bowl with ham, sour cream, ½ cup Swiss cheese, 6 tablespoons chives, and ½ tsp. of sal
t and dash pepper. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut off the top third, then gently scoop out the flesh; add to the ham mixture and gently mash together. Stuff mixture inside potato shells; top each with 2 tbsp cheese. Heat in oven until cheese melts, then serve.
Magical char products help recharge soil

On April 22, when the Manitou Springs gardening club hosts the southern district conference of the Colorado Federation of Garden Clubs, local permaculturalist Becky Elder plans to use the occasion to introduce her fellow gardeners to bio- and bone-char. Attendees will each receive a small sample as part of their "swag bag." April 22 is Earth Day - appropriately enough - and part of Becky's mission is to get out the word about a soil booster that is totally natural, environmentally sustainable and a responsible use of natural resources.
"To me, bone-char is part of a 'whole-cow' process, that is, it's part of using the entire animal for a positive purpose," she says.
Becky is a life-long gardener, well-regarded landscape designer and garden educator as well as a Manitou Springs city council member, who uses her various platforms to promote environmental responsibility, healthy living and the benefits of urban farming.
"We're always talking about growth, growth, growth. What about the economy of enough ? What about self-employed in-home businesses? Let's grow that! I feel like a lot of the time I'm just planting seeds, since the concepts I talk about are often new to people," she explains.
The Manitou Springs Garden Club is one of several local gardening clubs that are active around the city and across Colorado. A list of the various clubs is available online. The upcoming regional meeting is open to the public. (For details, CLICK HERE.) The club also hosts a plant sale in May. Being involved in a gardening group is a great way to learn more about well adapted plants, principles of design and techniques to enhance gardening success.
Becky first read about biochar in the pages of National Geographic magazine years ago and has been eager to explore its benefits ever since. She started incorporating Callicrate char products into her gardening projects last year, seeking a natural spark plug to invigorate plant health and growth. With this year starting out especially warm and dry, having the proper starter supplement could prove even more valuable.
"I used it all over in my business last year, and while we had a lot of moisture, I think the biochar did help us," she sa
ys. "I've been taking biochar into every class I do, including a recent class on forest gardening, just to share it with people and make them more aware of it." 

Want to use char? Here's how   
Don't be intimidated! Using bio-char and bone char in your garden or pots is easy, Becky says. "I take my supply of char and soak it in a simple manure tea, stirring it a bit and allowing it to steep with the manure for an hour or more. This charges the char with biota, those little microbes that will live in the soil and create beneficial biological soil communities - communities that improve the soil for the plants. I mix the strained biochar into the soil of my pots or whatever I'm using as a backfill in my beds. The remaining manure tea is diluted in just the right ratio to put directly on the plants, and they really respond to it." Adding char to soil has the additional benefit of helping the environment, she adds. It effectively sequesters carbon because of how stable and long-lasting it is, a simple step to help fight climate change.

Local Master Gardener continues to advocate for char enhancers 
Results from the 2016 growing season indicate char soil enhancers perform well in gardening beds   
Master garden Scott Wilson is another local advocate for bio-char and bone-char. 

He finished his first full season of using bio-char amendments at the Galileo school gardens in 2016. "Last summer we observed a noticeable difference in the squash plants; those in bio-char beds were bigger and a richer green than the ones in non-amended beds," he recounts. "Flowers and fruit appeared sooner and we began harvesting squash from the bio-char beds almost two weeks earlier than the others. We observed slightly less visual differentiation in our tomato plants, but during a difficult season for many tomato growers, our harvests from the bio-char plants exceeded the harvest from non-bio-char by a factor of 10. Yes, we got 10 times more tomatoes from the bio-char beds! For the most part, bio-char plants in general finished producing before non-bio-char ones. This is beneficial in that it allows earlier summer sowing for fall crops once the initial plants are removed."

Scott recommends applying char at a rate of 10 to 20 pounds of char per 32 square-foot raised bed, or roughly 3% by volume. Be sure to inoculate the char before applying.
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Coming soon: a wider selection of prepared items    

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