Week 11: Fruit Trees

Fruit trees are among the hardest plants to grow since they need so much care and attention. However, you can make this easier on yourself if you simply learn the importance of NPK values and know what trees can be grown in Texas. At the Microfarm we have lemon, grapefruit, loquat, olive, pear, fig, and pomegranate among many others! To determine how much fertilizer you need to be adding to you soil, follow this formula: the numbers on the fertilizer can be used to be applied to equal 1 pound. Therefore, if the numbers were 10-10-10, you would add 100/10 = 10 pounds of fertilizer to add one pound. The higher the numbers on the fertilizer, the more concentrated the nutrient is in the fertilizer. If this is confusing, refer to this link: Gardening Know How: Fertilizer Numbers – What Is NPK 

Week 10: Coffee Beans

Coffee is a huge part of our drinks industry, covering the entirety of globe in its various forms. However the recent drastic changes to our climate are impacting the availability of coffee beans, especially that of arabica and robusta beans. To reduce the impact we make as a responsible citizen of the world, it is important that we put our ground coffee beans to good use, through composting or simply buying fewer disposable coffee pods. Doing so can reduce the hold climate change has on coffee and get back our delicious drink back. To learn more about coffee beans and its environmental impacts, check out these amazing links:

Week 9: Square Foot Gardening

Square foot gardening is the best approach for the amateur backyard gardener. This perennial method of growing food has lots of benefits and saves your money while also being able to source your own food! Due to the tight space, you can competitively produce as much food as you might in a larger space that was planted using less-space efficient row crop methods. To learn more about square foot gardening, check out these links: The Ultimate Guide to Square Foot Gardening and The Pros and Cons of SF Gardening.

Week 8: History of Tea

Tea is not only is a term to share the tastiest gossip, but one of the many things it does is increase our productivity during the day (and possibly the night). Tea has a long history and one that incorporates many countries around the world and its many cultures. From Japan to Europe, tea has traveled across half the world making a mark on the history of each country it reaches. In fact, North America has strong relations to tea, though it didn’t make the cut to be on the graphic above, there is more information about tea’s history in North America and around the world in this link: History of Tea!

Week 7: Mushrooms

Mushrooms are one of the Earth’s most interesting organisms. They are so unique in their own way and contribute to the environment in the most essential aspects. They need to be grown and harvested in specific methods and require time and attention for the best products. Fun fact: mushrooms can also be used to make beer and wines! To learn more about mushrooms and the processes that go into growing mushrooms, click on this link: Organic Mushroom Farming Book. To get to know more about Central Texas’s Mycological Society and possibly get your own mushroom block, check out this website: Mycological Society.

Week 6: Flowers

Flowers are super helpful both in the environment and for humans. In fact, studies have shown that flowers make people feel more relaxed and increase positive energy. It’s impossible to be angry while looking at flowers, so it might be a good idea to grow them at home! If you want to grow them at home or in your garden you can grow them from seeds or mature plants. If you plant perennials they will last several years! Some tips to grow flowers at home include:

  • Talking to your plants! Though this may seem silly, sharing your positive affirmations and energies is both helpful for you and the flower.
  • Buying a lamp to give the flowers more “sunlight” if you are living in a light less area.

Trivia Question: Where are most flowers grown? Answer at the bottom of the page.

Week 5: Aquaponics

Aquaponics has been a growing term in the farming and sustainability community, alongside hydroponics. While hydroponics focuses on growing plants without using any soil, aquaponics is the agricultural practice that involves fish and plants being grown in the same environment. It benefits the fish by cleaning their tank of their feces and it benefits the plants by providing nitrite and oxygen at no expense of the soil. Traces of aquaponics have been found in historical civilizations, even dating back to 2000 BC. There have been many variants of aquaponic practices, but the Aztecs (with chinampas) were some of the first with the most modernized practices. Aquaponics leads to higher crop yields (30-40% more), faster crop growth (30-50% more), less negative environmental impact, immediate organic crops, lengthy growing seasons, and 90% less water use.

Week 4: Cooking Sustainably

Cooking sustainably is something that can be accomplished in many ways. You can shop locally, eat less meat, reduce your food waste, eat seasonally, and consider new seafood. Something that students at UT Microfarm can really implement is both shopping locally and storing food scraps for compost. By buying from the UT Farmstand or other farmer’s markets, we make our own local contribution to reducing our ecological impact. Food sustainability works toward a better environmental, social, and economic community for everyone. So both as a student and a contributor to the world, being sustainable in our food choices is really important.

Week 3: Legumes

Legumes are quite well-known in the consumer and agricultural worlds. It can be used all types of cuisines while benefitting the environment. This is because legumes use nitrogen fixation – any natural or industrial process that causes free nitrogen (N2) – to generate the plant proteins they so known for. Ironically, crop rotation (from week 2) is heavily utilized for legume production! When the old legume plant dies, all of its remaining nitrogen inside the plants parts gets released back into the soil which then provides fertilizer for the next crop being planted. If you want to learn more about how legumes are planted, grown, or harvested, check out this link to an amazing video discussing these processes: https://www.lentils.org/foodservice/sustainability/.

Week 2: Crop Rotation

Crop rotation has a long history, it has been around since Medieval Europe, ever since agriculture started, around 6000 BC. It has various benefits both for humans and the environment, as it is good for our health and the health of the soil. At our microfarm, we try our best to promote topics that are in action at the farm. In the “rows” we have two halves of the field which are used for different crops, separated by the berm; one half is used for fall and winter and the other is used for summer and spring. This allows to improve our system and experiment with farming techniques.

Week 1: Food Waste

Food waste is one of the biggest environmental problems in the US and around the world. This food waste is created by the lack of field labor for full harvests, poor storage and care, and unnecessarily large orders, just to name a few. The consequences of food waste are vast, both environmentally and socially. In terms of environmental negatives, food waste generates GHG emissions equivalent to more than 37 million cars. We can take step to reducing and preventing food waste by utilizing the imperfect foods or composting food scraps or sending the food scraps to agricultural partners. In fact, at the Microfarm, we accept food scraps that we use in making our compost that goes into planting all the vegetables we grow!

Answer to Trivia Question: The flowers at the supermarket mostly come from Colombia, then Ecuador and Mexico.