Table of Contents
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Join Nicole and Justin as they teach you how to agriscape, what microclimates are, and how to use them for the best garden yet!
What You’ll Learn
- What is Agriscaping
- What are microclimates and why they matter
- How you can use microclimates to optimize your gardening
- How one family in Canada grows banana trees outdoors- year-round!
Justin Rohner the founder of Agriscaping Technologies, which started in 2001 as a hobby business that turned full time career.
Justin lives in a strict HOW in Gilbert, AZ with his wife, 4 kids, a dog named Sadie, a guinea pig named Brownie, a dozen “ornamental jungle fowl”, 8 runner ducks, 6″ goldfish, and gardens, front and back, full of food.
Agriscaping is leading the way to a Greener, more Elegantly Edible, and Sustainable Future with new Micro-Climate Technologies, Community-integrated Landscaping techniques, and Professional Certifications.
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Welcome to the Backyard Bounty podcast from HeritageAcresMarket.com when we talk about all things backyard poultry, beekeeping, gardening, sustainable living, and more. And now here's your host, Nicole.
Hello, everybody. And thank you for joining us for another episode of Backyard Bounty. I'm your host Nicole and today we are joined by Justin Rohner with Agriscaping Technologies. And we're going to talk about some of our little gardening nuances here such as microclimates, and learn more about Agriscaping. So, Justin, thank you so much for joining me today.
You're welcome. Thanks for having me.
Of course. So you actually came highly recommended by some of our listeners, and there was definitely a request to have you on the show. So thank you so much. I'm excited that we were able to meet up and make this happen, but you kind of have a little bit of a different take on gardening. So can you kind of share with us what makes your system unique and what all it is that you do?
Well, I'm a big advocate of growing food, other than pretty much anything else. And so I tried to find a way to integrate those in it's all about elegant edible landscaping. So having an HOA, a homeowner's association, which is where my first home was when I bought my first house with my wife. And so we knew that we needed it and wanted to grow food. But we had all these restrictions caused by our municipality for the HOA. And so we had to find a way to get the food in without getting everybody angry at us. And so we had to invent some new processes, invent some new technologies, basically, and to be able to grow food in places that weren't ideal, according to the back of those seed packages, or any other farmer we'd talk to.
Yeah, you wouldn't think that an HOA would have a problem with something like that. But I assume that they just wanted everybody to have green lawns and kind of the cookie cutter sort of thing.
Yeah, no they'll have specific plants that they say "you have to have these ones and no mulberry plants of any variety" or you know, they just have all these "no"s and it's an interesting environment to jump into if you're coming from a farming kind of world and then you go to an In a world like that, it's it's quite alarming. But the more and more urban we go, the more and more of these types of restrictions are showing up and people are trying to grow food, it doesn't look pretty enough according to the aesthetics of even a municipality. And we've heard of many of our friends and families and others that across the globe that have had their gardens removed or forced to be removed or even bulldozed over, because they didn't meet the aesthetics despite their intentions to grow food.
I couldn't imagine how frustrating and disheartening that that would be.
Yeah, anytime you put into growing a plant, you know, if you don't get to eat it, and you grew it for that purpose, and someone comes over and says, "I'm sorry, you can't plant that here. That's a illegal plant. ask you to remove it." If you say no, they just do it anyway.
No. So I mean, in my world, I would move but I know that that's not really an option for everybody. So you mentioned that you come up with some solutions to this problem. And so what are some of the things that you developed?
Well, some of the things is I guess at first It goes back to the first house that I did it at, we realized that every package of seeds I had said, "must be grown in full sun". And I was looking at my yard and I maybe had a sliver of two feet that had full sun. And it was two foot by maybe six feet long. And I think that's just not enough space to grow anything. And so I had to figure out what do I need to do? And where can I grow this stuff, so that it will actually survive? Or are there varieties that work a little better in a different little microclimate or sub climate within my own backyard that might be able to accommodate it. I also have crazy hot temperatures in Phoenix area that get up to 122 degrees, and we just, it's not as easy to grow. And then we get our cold temperatures, it can get to freezing. But you know, we had all these weird scenarios that weren't your ideal farming scenarios. And so one of the first technologies was really starting to track how things grew in different microclimates. And what are the ranges? What happens in a microclimate what happens in a sub climate in different cities? What happens in these different city type climates and what's the variant that I have to pay attention to in my own little backyard garden for those corners, so I can still grow there and make it more predictable. Rather than just playing the game of hit and miss by planting a bunch of stuff. We did a lot of that. But then we started realizing there was some patterns. And in those patterns, we started dividing it up into six different backyard or front yard microclimates, that then we could then allocate relative to our own Zip Code and the weather and the sun orientation that happens in our area. So my engineering brain just geeked out about it, and so I started just creating databases and started just kind of setting stuff up and just tracking stuff to the point that we realized, hey, there's a lot of patterns. And at first I had 24 different microclimates that I was tracking. And then I realized there was really only six, and then there's some little sub parts based on how I like using the space. And so we made it kind of an A through F microclimate technology. We call it microclimate technologies, and it's become accepted in a variety of different avenues, especially for engineers and architects who are trying to build buildings and do rooftop gardens and above deck gardens and all these things inside of city environments that don't have ideal growing conditions. And they kept finding, hey, our plants aren't growing the same way. And we want them all to look beautiful. But they're not because we don't have full sun. And we don't have the ideal conditions. So what does work and so we started sharing that information. And it's kind of grown since then. But that's probably one of the more vital technologies just understanding microclimates to ensure consistent success so that you can have more options. And when you do implement it into your garden, it will look good enough that even an HOA or a crazy municipality are going to approve because it looks so good. It looks very intentional, rather than just farm rows and other things like that. You can actually grow even more food with microclimate technology, once you understand it, because you can create sub canopy plantings, you can layer your plantings from trees to bushes to ground covers. You can companion plant a lot easier once you understand microclimates.
So you mentioned that there's six months microclimates What are they? And how do we figure out which ones that we're working with? In our own personal situation?
Well, I guess wherever you live in the world, the first thing you need to know is really what's your, I guess your what's your core climate zone? So core climate zones, like in the US, we have the USDA climate zones. Which one are you in?
So I'm like the 5-B, 6-A, weird in between there.
Yeah. And those can be really complicated because you've got Are you in a kind of a hilly area then?
So we're considered the banana belt of Colorado. But we are kind of a sub arid desert. So we get extremely high heats, you know, in the 105-110 plus wind and it's very dry here. So we're kind of shielded by the mountains are aways back, but that means that storms come and they split around us. And so it's it's a unique little area.
And so you're gonna need to normalize your water with a watering system, probably anyway, is that correct?
Which I do? Yeah.
Yeah. It's like what that's like we live in a desert. But when we get rain, it's like three inches at a time. And it's everything floods.
And then we have nothing else for the rest of the year. We have seven inches total. It all comes in like two months. And we're done.
Yeah. So with that you and I both need to have irrigation systems. And so understanding kind of our core climate, it's really the USDA kind of climate zone that helps us understand what kind of rainfall we get that helps us understand what kind of temperatures we can expect in different times of the year when our frost starts and when our frosts end. And those two are really key dates. And so that's kind of what those USDA calendars give us. Unfortunately, they're not very accurate. And you've probably found this too, is that they're not very accurate. And what we found is there's some small print on the USDA climate thing it says it fails west of Laredo, Texas, really, yeah, it's literally it's in part of their their study guidelines and stuff like that, because it almost all their data is coming from the Midwest where everything's flat. And so as soon as you hit the mountain range, it's like everything gets all screwy.
And so it's not as predictable and even if you zoom in really close on it, you're going to find that it's not very accurate. And so now that's where our sub climates and microclimates start becoming more and more important. Our local weather stations become some of our most vital information. And so once we understand kind of what our major climates are or major climate zone is that USDA that gives us a ballpark for a lot of the fruit trees, our bigger canopy kind of stuff, but now when it comes to growing our smaller stuff, that's where we dial in these different microclimates. And we really want to ping off of existing local and very hyper local network of weather stations. But in my own backyard, it there's six, there's A through F microclimates. And basically those ones we look at an A microclimate to generalize it in an area that gets morning sun, and then it gets afternoon shade. And so for us in the Northern Hemisphere, it's like it's going to be likely the east side of my house, east side of any structure, east side of a tree that I might have, east side of any structure that would cast a shadow. And so that would be my A microclimate. And that side, when we get the crazy heat that actually is going to be a more temperate zone, it's not going to get as extreme hot. And so I can extend my cool season plants in an A microclimate zone.
That makes sense.
In our range, depending on where you live, and we built the database. I mean, you can go to Agriscaping.com, you can actually look at our garden planning software. We've been building this garden planning software, that's where it kind of helps narrow things down and help you identify exactly what to plant when to plant it. Which microclimate to put it in. That stuff is books and books of data, but to narrow it down to your area. Basically, that's what we do. You put in your Zip code, it pings off the nearest weather stations, to get some averages on your frost dates, and then it starts allocating out all the calendars for each of these different microclimates and our range between these different microclimates. It's basically a plus or minus 2 USDA climate zones. So you said you're kind of a 5-B, 6-A kind of thing. Is that what you're saying?
Yeah, that's correct.
So then you can go up to a plus two, so you can go up to a 7 plus climate zone in terms of what you can grow, and then you could go down to, you know, 3 or 4 if you really wanted to grow some other stuff just based on how microclimates work. And this is the variant that happens just in someone's yard, based on just how our structures relate to the soil, soil temperatures and all that stuff.
I could see how this would be immensely helpful just on like a personal note, we have two acres and our back, the back of our property kind of dips a little bit. And if you walk out the back door to where we have a peach orchard out there, so if you walk out the back door down to the orchard, I mean, there's a huge temperature difference. So I've always known that there's been some variance in in our own property, but then like you said, around the house, that's something I never really thought about, you know, being able to grow things on different sides of the house. And, of course, the USDA zones being not precise.
Yeah, so in your cold sink area, you're probably closer to a 4.
And so, and that's probably something you can even count on when it comes to your frost calendar you can kind of look at okay, well what things that you know, maybe I even get more chill hours so I can start doing some other things like some cherries, some some types of varieties of cherries or other peaches or even apples that need a lot more chill hours, you could probably even do them in your 5 zone where you wouldn't be able to do it closer to the house or that a little more warm that or might even be reacting more like a 7.
Mm hmm. Do you think that these microclimates are kind of one of the reasons that a lot of gardeners fail?
I think it's a huge reason because we've It's crazy, because people are like, Well, I have too much shade. My yard is like, I've got 300 things that can grow in the shade. Would you like to know a few, you know, like the 300 things, it's like, yeah, it's you just, we got to know what kind of shade you've got. And then let's start growing some cool stuff. You know, there's a lot of really neat things. And then they're trying to get something like we'll have people come from all over the country, they end up coming and retiring here to Arizona. And when they do so, they're all messed up and how they normally plant stuff. You know, like, Why are these tomatoes... these tomatoes, I've used them for 50 years, you know, in Iowa and they're not working and they're all dying in June. And it says yeah, it's more of a winter crop here for that particular variety so there's it's it's getting to know that that's the major climate but then the microclimate is like, but if you want to grow them all the way through the summer, they just need to put it into an A or an E microclimate. Because it would still work here in Arizona, the same stuff they're growing in Iowa, even through the summer months, but it's got to be a totally different microclimate. And an E microclimate is one that we call an E, it's based on, if you can visualize it, we've got a lot of this online that you can, you can see our visuals and stuff, you could sign up for some of the free classes or whatever. But if you imagine an H, if you just drew a letter H in front of you, and on the bottom part of that H, you just go A, B, C, that goes between the two uprights at the bottom part of that H. And then on the top part, you go F, E, D would be the letters and the H basically represents any structure that's on your home. Okay, on top of that H is the north side of your property. The bottom of that H is the south side of the property basically. And then that left wing of that H is basically any wall that is creating a shade of any sort or reflective surface. And so on the bottom right hand corner of that left side of H, that's a microclimate. And then B is your full sun, which is the traditional thing that everybody grows in. And then C is a morning shade, but then afternoon sun and not only afternoon sun, whatever that structure is also can radiate heat back through the evening. And what it does is it extends the heat that that space basically can receive, especially in the colder months, which is that's the C zone that then we then extend our summer harvest stuff, we can extend that a little bit longer up to up to a full month we can extend it without any greenhouse or anything just by how we grow in that particular zone. And that's also a zone that here in the Phoenix area, I can get into a 11 I'm I'm kind of a nine, but I can get all the way up to an 11 in terms of my USDA zone and grow bananas and all these tropicals. Because of how I use my C microclimate. We even have people up in Canada, growing bananas because of how we manage microclimates.
So I assume that for the people in Canada growing bananas, those are something that they're not outside your round, though, correct. They're just put outside during the growing months.
Oh, no, they're actually outside year around.
The winter months though, and it starts snowing it gets it gets frosty, they have to do a lot in order to get it to work, but they get it to work, they actually wrap them in bubble wrap. So they'll put a it's like a filter fabric. So it's a kind of a woolen fabric they'll put around them first and then all the way to the tips. And then they wrap them in bubble wrap on top of that, and then they put twinkle lights around them and then they put red ribbons so they look like candy canes when people are you know it's a Christmas display you know? It doesn't just look like weird cane looking things you know it's it's a Christmas display.
You don't bubble wrap all your trees?
Right! And so there's there's obviously tactful ways to do, you know, cool stuff like that that they could get away with. And that's what they did. And they were able to then produce bananas because you need 18 months of growing time now there's ended up more like 24 to 30 months, because they're not really growing through the winter months. And so that's one of the tricks too, they just have to be a lot more patient. But once you get a good stand, there's always going to be at least one plant one stalk that's producing bananas for you that year. And so get a good four foot stand with about 12 different stalks going then you're gonna always have bananas,
How neat! And I can even as my mind just kind of fires away rapidly as I listen to you talking. I can imagine that there's other useful applications for this, obviously, in the gardening, but for people that have chickens, maybe if they live somewhere that's really hot and they want to put their chicken coop somewhere that kind of avoids them that he or also gets some of the winter warmth, or people that have their beehives, they want to place their beehives strategically based on their climate and everything. So...
There's I can imagine lots of uses for this.
Exactly. Once we kind of normalized it, so we have at least some predictability of these things and we know how it relates to different major climate zones. Now it's a lot more predictable people can have a lot more success and what happens to with the use of the microclimate tech, you basically have a lot more options in every part of your yard. It's everywhere, that you can grow something that's productive and food producing. And so when you can do that, now all of a sudden, each square foot is worth something, there's an opportunity cost. If I'm going to plant anything, I should be planting some type of food and I can also increase the amount of seasons I get. So with microclimates, traditional farmers here in Arizona can get basically they get four, maybe five seasons of production that they can get in a vege farming kind of scenario, which is a lot of seasons, but we can boost that to seven just by how we can plant within microclimates. We can get seven full seasons of production by microclimates, and rotation and companion planting. There's a lot of different things so we can maximize that, where a normal farmer ran here averages about 40 cents per square foot in production value, were at an average of $7.82 per square foot per year.
So huge difference in just how we do in annuals. It's like I was teaching up at a big Small Farm Conference up in Spokane, Washington that and buy them small farm was like 900 acres. At least that was some of the guys I was talking to. They were like 900 acres. Okay, that's a small farm. It's like, Oh, well, some of these guys are millions of acres... With that, you know, they were they're averaging about 17 cents per square foot per year. And that's all the production they get. So we're like, well, let's look at microclimating. Let's look at what you're doing with this other stuff, and how you can work your rotations a little bit different. And you can increase your production a lot. I mean, just like you can see there 40 cents, up to $7.82. I mean, that's a huge difference in what you can create, which means a backyard can actually produce enough to then create revenue and that's something we've done a lot of that's been a lot of fun for us. It's helping people create income from their own yard that still looks pretty enough that an HOA is not going to get manage you know, I My yard still has a bunch of grass. And I'm not an anti grass guy because kids grow really good on grass, I noticed.
They really do. And they don't trample all my other stuff.
There you go.
It's, it's useful, there's a use for that. And I still can produce just not even a quarter acre, around 3000 bucks a month in revenue. So I can average around 36,000 a year that can pay for my mortgage that can pay for a lot of different things, all my utilities, just off the area around my little quarter acre of plot that still has some grass.
Yeah, I mean, obviously, like you said, for those folks that either want to or actually do rely on the income from farmers markets and things and obviously, they can expand their profits or I know there's some people around here that want to grow 100% of their food, and then you know, some food preservation and stuff, which can be a challenge if you're not able to optimize your space. And you know, like I said, this tends to be a challenging growing area. Yeah, but this sounds like the answer to a lot of the problems when it comes to gardening.
Indeed, I mean, we've got a student, she's becoming an ace and Agriscaping certified educator for our area. She's actually in Minnesota and her growing seasons, like maybe three months. I mean, it's really short. But she runs her own CSA, she actually sells produce to neighbors and stuff like that. And she can produce quite a bit off of her little land, enough for herself and for neighbors and others. And so she creates an income out of it. It's pretty cool.
Yeah. And then on a philanthropic level, like around here, we have a food desert. So then you could raise enough food for yourself and then share your extras with those that need it.
Exactly. It's really a lot of fun to do that kind of thing, too. And then when it looks pretty, you'll find you get a lot more free help.
Oh, there you go!
And that's one of the side effects we didn't anticipate. But we got people calling all the time. Hey, can I just come help in your garden? I'm like, you just want to come help. Because it was so pretty. And I know it's got all the food in it. So I'd love to just Can I just come help. And so we have a list of interns. We have waiting lists. I mean, it's it's fun.
Most of the time you have too big it's like moving
Yeah, but we get we get people from all over the world now are starting to get excited and want to come here. And just you know, we've now qualified for the WWOOFs the Willing Workers on Organic Farms. Have you heard of that organization?
I have not.
It's pretty cool organization. But it's it's people can, they can basically sign up, they'll stay for 90 days, if you give them room and board and that's it. So we give them a place to stay. We feed them basically from the gardens and stuff, and then they'll help out. And you have to qualify your location for that. But it's a really wonderful way to get some labor during your peak seasons, of setting things up. And for anybody, no matter where you live, your peak season is usually the best time to live in your area. Right? That's when we get our garden started. It's just before the rains. It's not too hot. It's not too cold, it's the time when people would love to come and visit. And so that's what you can do. It's kind of an exchange service. And we're running two of them right now. It looks like we've got a long list of people that want to come to our location. So we may open up a couple more spots.
And so what else do you have in the works? I mean, not that that's not enough. But do you have anything else that's coming down the pipes?
Well, we we've been working on this. It's the world's first all edible botanical garden. And we've got that it's in Queen Creek, Arizona. And that's actually a fun international draw. So if you're ever want to be in the Phoenix area when it's nice and it's really terrible, wherever you live, come on over and check it out. You can go to qcgardens.org to find out more information, and there's a lot of free stuff we do. And then there's other things. I mean, we've got a CSA right there. We've got a 4 million gallon aquaponic system, but it's a beautiful lake, and we've got 16 themed gardens, we're kind of releasing one garden at a time and these different themed gardens are based on we've got an English garden, we've got an Italian garden, we've got a French garden, we've got a production, it's a big, big spaces for really contemporary design. We've got a big hill, which we call the mill creek garden. So we got a mill creek and we've actually a waterwheel and we crack pecans there. And we've got a couple of other implements. They're all 1880s old industrial age stuff that we had refurbished so people can come and experience a true waterwheel.
It's a really neat system but that that whole system, the waterwheel was an idea of how we could recapture some of the energy that we were kind of losing from the water flowing in order to create the aeration for our aquaponic system, which is this big lake and how we do all the watering there, all the watering from the system comes also off the lake. And so we have this really cool recirculating system that taps into the aquifers and taps into the rainwater and a lot of cool things we're doing sustainability wise. But a lot of different gardens, we've got Mediterranean, Vietnamese, Japanese, so all these different themed gardens, but each of them are growing food in an elegant way, that's from that region. Southwest garden, some tropical gardens that we've got there and it's right next to a big Equestrian Center. So if you're into going to rodeos and stuff like that best season to be here, there's always a rodeo going on next door. So you a really fun place to come and hang out.
Yeah, I'm gonna have to put that on my list of things for this fall. That sounds really exciting.
And it's a place you can experience all the stuff we're talking about because we have actual sample gardens that identify the microclimates. We have a year round fruit orchard, actually, it's on site. So for the varieties that work in the Phoenix area, you can literally just wander around and you can actually see for every month of the year, which ones are producing, and how do they grow different pruning techniques, because there's so many different pruning techniques. I'm not a big fan of saying no, this is the only way to prune if you want production to remember, because if you're doing backyard gardening espaliering might be your only option if you even want to get fruit trees or bonsaiing or pot growing or you know, a lot of different varieties. But you can do all that and we'll show you the different trees and how we prune them for different options so that you can really maximize your productivity relative to the space and availability of sun that you might have.
Yeah, that all makes a lot of sense how everything's just intertwined like that and it sounds like a really neat combination of not only a gorgeous space, but an example of what you can do with what you've got. And then, like you said, the demonstration of the different educational opportunities.
Yeah. And I think we're really on the precipice of a major shift in how agriculture is going to have to work because we continue to become more urbanized. And the all the best land is being turned into more and more housing, and everything's kind of consolidating. And so food is traveling further and further away. And so the demand for more locally grown is just there's even a new term called hyper local now, so there's hyper local, and there's local, and hyper local would be something within 15 miles of where it was grown, and that's where it's being eaten. And so that's, that's a new thing. And that's a big deal. That's a really key market sector that we're we're catering to and there's just so many ways, we're going to have to find a way to grow the food right where we live, it also helps with you know, rainwater harvesting, and flood control and so many sustainable options. You know, growing roofs, you know, that definitely decreases your your heating or your air conditioning bill, depending on what you're dealing with in your extremes. And you can deal with that just by using plants and plant material.
Yeah, one of my dreams when I developed my chicken coop was I was gonna put a green roof on it. That's not as easy as it sounds like. So I would definitely love to learn more about that.
Yeah, we call it above deck gardening. And we take a lot of the engineering that I learned from my years when I was a drafter, doing structural reinforcing and stuff as we do these above deck systems. And we realized, hey, we can actually grow on this stuff. If we create the right drainage systems. And that's kind of thing you have to provide the right drainage process, you have to get the soil composition, right. And if you're wanting to grow trees, or bigger things, you got to find a way to then contain the root balls as well as locked them in so you don't end up having them. You know, a plant tipped over. It's like we did some in Utah where we literally had to put steel cages that were connected to the sides because we're about 18 inches of soil space, but they wanted pine trees. Oh wow. And we can still do a pine trees. But we're dealing with a different type of tap rooting, because normally a pine tree he's got that deep tap roots. So how do we bend the tap root or work with the root ball in a way that can still allow it to stand up and hold up against all the wind since it's on top of a roof. And we have to build a cage basically around the whole thing and nurture it and feed it in a different way to compensate for the lack of a major taproot.
I think it's so exciting that there's really no limit to what you can do once you have a better understanding of whatever it is that you're trying to grow on or in or, you know, climate or surface or anything like that.
I'm trying to remember the guy who said this, but "what the mind of man can conceive and believe it can achieve".
Is very true.
Because if you can believe it, and belief comes down to your mind understands the concept, now that it's been described, and then all of a sudden, okay, I can believe it now. Now I can achieve it. And so if we can conceive it, and then really formulate a plan that makes sense to the mind, you know, makes sense to the heart, physically, it makes sense then all of a sudden, okay, you can do this. And that's what a lot of this that we're talking about is really opening up for people. A lot of opportunity, a lot more options. And again, with more options, you can actually make it look pretty. You don't have to just force feed your yard with a bunch of plants in rows to get it to grow, because from our experience, rows aren't actually the most productive, especially not the rows they recommend on the back of the seat packet, but they may have you experienced that as well?
Well, I guess I can't say that I've tried anything else. So I can't really compare but um, I know that for the raised bed setup that we have, we have four raised beds that are about four or five foot square. And the row planting leaves a lot to be desired. You can only put two or three tomatoes in each one and you're like, well, I've got all this space and I only have two tomatoes and I want to grow 80 of them. So it's I know that the rows have not been the most fruitful.
There you go. Well, it's like the packets that have the seed distance and then the row distance, we only pay attention to the seed distance.
And do that in every direction. Because the row distance where that originated from on the majority of seed packets, the row distance between rows was the width of the tires needed in order to cultivate that land and still be able to then weed and hoe. And so it's, you're really that that dimension is really only there for purposes that are not in a raised bed. Unless you're bringing a tractor out to just roll over your little four foot bed. I don't know I can. I can imagine that. But I'm sure that you would also agree that wouldn't be very useful.
Yeah, going on the spacings yeah, you can only put the four tomatoes in your garden bed and it's yeah, discouraging.
Yeah, now maxed out. And then we start using that extra space even in between and we can kind of look at that we say, Okay, well I can plant something else, a complimentary plant, you know, something that could be a compliment to it. So with my tomatoes, I may be doing some bush beans in between them to really help add more nitrogen. They're kind of complementing each other. So we have these, you know, these companion plants, and now we're improving even more production per square foot. Like I'm going to put four heads of lettuce in a square foot, that's what I'll do, I'll be able to put four in a square foot when I'm doing it this way. Whereas if I did it any other way, it'd be this long row and it would take me four feet to get four heads.
Yeah, I've definitely experienced that too.
Or carrots, that's another huge one. It's like carrots. It's like you can just plant them in a mat and, and you get the baby carrots at the beginning as you're thinning them out. And then you let the other ones continue to grow and eventually end up with a really long carrots.
That's what I started doing with beets. I just said you know what, I'm just gonna spread some seeds in here and I'll thin them out later.
There you go. So you've got that and a lot of people they believe that there's another way you can be more efficient and it won't take so much weeding it's like I don't I don't weed anymore.
And the reason I don't weed is because there aren't any. It's like all the plants that grew or were intentional and the fun part I did even today it's like I went out and did a little video earlier and it was about a naturally occurring weed that is a very edible weed. It's like chickweed and some of you probably get that stuff, I love that stuff that is super nutritional stuff and then use that as a ground cover underneath some of my fruit trees. But it's also something I can just harvest and make a base to my salads or use as an alternative to my spinach. You know, it's it's wonderful stuff.
I feel like we should have started this episode with how to garden without weeding.
Oh, there we go. That could be a topic all in its own right. And maybe the way to do it is understanding microclimates. Don't fight against nature, don't fight against your house, its orientation, any of that stuff. Or even fighting with your HOA or fighting with your municipality to get something approved or your neighbor because they don't like the way your garden looks. You know, you're producing weeds for me. It's like okay, well, we'll get rid of the weed issue. I'm going to just grow food. How's that? I'll bring you a basket. You know, different conversation right?
Right. Now that seems like it would help neighbor relations.
It does. It really does unless you have too much zucchini. Then we found they start locking doors and they won't accept it anymore when they start getting baseball bat size. That might not be as enticing.
Yes, that's what chickens are there for.
Yeah, exactly. Well that's the other cool part about microclimates is that you can now succession plant. You don't have to plant everything all at once. I mean, one of the biggest and maybe the worst habit that I learned as a kid growing up, which is what we learned is we binge gardened and what that basically was is spring break, we basically use the whole week of spring break to plant the entire garden all at once and then we ended up with so much zucchini we had zucchini breads, pancakes, zucchini cookies, zucchini, you know, zucchini, you know, noodles, you know, everything was zucchini, we're tired of zucchini, giving them to the neighbors, the neighbors are tired of zucchini, you know, and we just had way too much. And that's when we started realizing, well, if once as we understand microclimates, we can actually succession plant, we can start a few weeks in advance in certain areas, get some zucchini and then we can start in another area and then we can even rotate zucchini out with something else a little bit later because that first season is already done with the first group and now we can actually work in even some watermelon or something like that that's already started growing underneath it to get it started and then we cut it out, it creates more sun and then let it keep cranking. So there's a lot of little fun stuff like that you can do once you understand how microclimates can work because then you don't overload yourself you don't binge garden now your routine gardening now you're doing it more like a natural meditative process. It's a fitness program, it's a daily gift to the soul in a sense, and it really is that and then you're out there and you're actually harvesting this stuff on time so you don't end up with a baseball bat size zucchini that all you can do is stuff full of meat and throw in a fire and hope it cooks it you know little tricks like that.
We did that. For real. We literally my dad's like what do we do with this thing? I mean, it's it's woody hard on the outside but still soft in the middle. But the seeds are terrible. So we carved out all the seeds, chopped it into chunks that were about a foot long and we made basically a meatloaf kind of stuff and stuffed it inside, put aluminum foil on the ends and throw it in the fire.
That sounds amazing. And I and I bet it worked.
It totally worked. It was it was awesome, you know, and then you just slice them in half and you got your meat and your vegetable. All right there. It's already seasoned. Yeah, everything's good.
And I bet it turned out moist too, because of it.
Yes. Well there and that became the bowl. It's like, you don't need you don't need any plates or anything. Just go grab your steel spoon, and let's eat!
That's great. Now that everybody wants to know about microclimates, I'm sure because I know that I do. And to be able to utilize my space a little bit better. What's the best way to go about figuring this out? You said that your website
Yeah, website Agriscaping.com, we've got a regular series of videos and stuff. I think the microclimate ones kind of a one that's on there that you can actually just kind of give us your email address, and we'll be able to send you a link to it. So you can actually watch it. And you can see the pictures, you can get your own little things there. You can even get free access to the garden planning software, if you wanted to check that out. You can actually jump into that and see how that works. And that that makes it easier. I mean, we've talked about three microclimates, and there's three other ones. Maybe I can just go through those with you quickly. Do we have time? Can we talk?
you know, it's you and I'm we got all the time in the world.
Oh man all the time in the world. So on the north side of a property, we look at the F, E and D. So the D microclimate is kind of a unique one, it's one that only gets late afternoon sun, and it's really only in the summertime in the winter, it's usually in the shade. And we all got that weird spot that in the wintertime, it's like it's always in the shade. It's totally dark. The sun doesn't even go on that part of my yard. But then in the summertime, it's like glaring afternoon heat. It's crazy hot and it doesn't work the same as any other microclimate. We call that a D microclimate. And it's unique. It really is. And there's certain things you can grow there and certain things you can't. And it's not the same as the C and it doesn't work the same as the B your full sun. It just it's different. And you have to treat it that way. I mean, in my zone, we can actually grow something called jabadecaba, which is this weird Jamaican tree that it basically grows grapes on the bark, and the flowers look like they were from Avatar that planet or whatever that whole camera what that plants called it just this weird sea anenome looking like little flower that's against the bark of the tree and it blooms and then it turns into this thing that tastes like a muscadine grape and about that same size. And when you pick it off, it literally takes a chunk of the bark with it. They're all along the bark of it. Anyway, I've got that growing in my D microclimate and it works. Weird, but it works. And then E microclimate is one that we talked about earlier. That's a great place to grow some of those Iowa tomatoes in Arizona, and an E microclimate, basically, it's got filtered light, and so it might be under a tree that's got some leaves on it, it might be a reflective surface. So an E microclimate is one that as you're in it, you can wave your hand around on the sunniest part of that day, and it casts a shadow, there's enough light to cast a shadow that means there's enough light to still grow some stuff. There's some great varieties of strawberries that grow really well in that kind of a space at the right time of year. My favorite is the Loran variety Loran if you can find that it's very low growing strawberry dark green, round leaves, and a wonderful flavored strawberry that grows in a more shady environment. And so that's one of the little caveat, you know, little things. So the E microclimate also grows a lot of cool stuff. Here in the Phoenix market where it gets crazy hot, I'm still able to grow a lot of my lettuces in an E microclimate, especially if I do them as like a baby green or a spring salad mix. You know, it could be 120 outside and I'm still harvesting sweet lettuce greens. So not a little trick.
But it's got to be in the E microclimate. It won't work any other way. And then when you plant in that space, you're going to plant at a higher density. And again, you're just focusing more on baby greens that only get about three inches and they're really tender. It's just wonderful. And then in the F, which is a full shade. So F is the full shade microclimate. And like I said earlier, I've got over 300 things that you can grow in a full shade environment that are edible, and they can look really pretty, I mean, this last summer, in one of our F climates, I actually grew Primrose, a variety of dwarf Primrose, which is an edible flower, one of the only edible flowers that grows here. You can even make Hawaiian leis with. You know pull the flower off, we can string it on a string and make a cool lei out of it. And it's edible.
Kind of fun. It was a lot of cool stuff that you can do. So those are the major six ones. And they do shift a little bit based on your climate, but and what goes in them might be a little bit different. I mean, you were talking about chickens. In Arizona, I put my chickens in a summer E that can convert just because of leaf drop into a B. And so in the summertime, I've got a big tree that shades it and then he leaves all drop and it's got full sun and then there we go. Best place for my chickens. They lay eggs a lot longer. And if you're having trouble in the cold months getting your chickens to lay, get ducks. They lay when there's snow outside.
Yep, that's what we do too.
Yep, our ducks, man there are we got some Indian Runner Ducks. Oh boy. They lay like crazy.
They do. We've got some Welsh Harlequins and I don't have too many ducks just because they're the lay so many eggs, I can't keep up with them.
Exactly. It's like my kids went out and we looked in the fridge and like there's no eggs. How could there be no eggs? Like I bet you there's a nest that there were 50 of them. And they go out there and sure enough there was a nest is loaded full about 50 eggs. We did float tests just to make sure that we didn't have any rotten eggs.
There you go. That's never a good find.
No, yeah, because ducks are a little sloppier with their stuff.
Yes, they are. Yeah, I've been trying to utilize kind of that natural shade technique. Our winds out here so challenging with the shade cloths. So last year, I started growing hops on the run to kind of create shade. And then we also planted some they're not an edible plant, but the sand cherries grow really well out here. And some we just call it Giant Reed. I don't know very specifically what it is. It's just kind of a local thing that grows really well here. Just anything to try to create shade for them. I feel so bad when it gets scorching hot out here.
Yeah, now they're panting. If you didn't know what chicken pants, put it out in the sun and you'll see
Yeah, with their little down jackets in the summer I always say.
Yeah, but microclimates It's key to success in a backyard gardening scenario or front yard gardening scenario. And certainly, it just creates a lot more options for you in everything that you can grow. I mean, your whole community will benefit from this type of knowledge. This is just a, it's, it's great. And if you're online, we can do a microclimate mapping of your entire yard, we do it remotely, we can do it remotely, or we might have a pro, that might be where you live. And that's another thing to check out. So if you want to just look it up and see if we've got some pros where you live, we certify people to be able to do this type of stuff in different parts of the country. I think we've got people in 17 states and that continues to grow, and a few different countries that are learning the techniques, and we're dialing in the systems for their different areas as that network grows.
You know, I meant to ask you about that. That's something that I think would be really interesting is to have the mapping of your own actual property instead of I guess, taking the guesswork or the thought process out of it and just say here, you tell me, but this all just sounds like it is really, really useful information.
And thanks to modern technology, we can really To get to know your yard and help you map it out, we have some pretty cool tech that allows us to then interact with you on your computer at your home or even through your phone. So we can really get that view from the ground where you're at, satellite imagery and other things like that, that allows us to map out your garden pretty much to a T based on the microclimates that are in your space.
And that would take into account things like we talked about earlier, with the elevation change, and how the temperature drops.
Wow. Well, that's gonna go on my to do list.
And if you want to learn how to do it, I mean, we have a mastery program, it's all online, we can actually teach you how to do it. And it's custom tailored for your zone because you'd have access to all of our garden planning software. It's just kind of like some of the supportive stuff for any of our online students. And then you interact with other aces and people that are in different parts of the country that can help you dial in your area by going through that mastery course and it teaches all this stuff that we've been talking about, and a lot of other cool stuff. There's 36 skills of Agrascaping to make an elegant edible landscape that really produces more than it consumes.
That sounds like a really good class too. Does that give you the certification that you mentioned, there's people in in 17 states or is that something different?
Well, the the mastery course is kinda the DIY. And then you could add on specific certifications for like consulting certification called the act training, Agriscaping consult training. And we teach them the three acts of garden consultations, and how to set these up and help people really help themselves, as well as those people are trained to then transition to a certified designer and Agriscaping Certified Designer. If they wanted to get a full design on it. We can actually do those remotely now as well, as well as we have pros in different states. And we've got certified designers in Texas and we've got some I think, in Kansas City, but it continues to grow. It's a network of people that it's a lot of fun, but it's really cool to see how it's growing. It just it grows naturally. Sure, kind of like things do and you understand microclimates you can start dialing it in yourself, right?
And then so with your certification classes, then people can use this information, share it with others and then generate it additional income?
Correct. And it's free to apply on any of the programs. So if you're not sure if there's a program that might be a good fit for you, I'd recommend just going to the get certified page on Agriscaping.com and just look at those and apply for the ones that seem to make sense to you. It'll have some questionnaire in there, it'll have some questions that help you get clarity as well as us get clarity on what might be a best next step for you. If you wanted to generate revenue for yourself or a new job, or creating opportunities for yourself that are beyond a job, you know, it's your own business, your own network, your own your own system of things. We do the application process to really help us help you and really understand also how to align you with the community that might already exist to help things move a little faster. Because when we started this here in the Phoenix market, obviously there was no one else doing it. And so we had to kind of build it from scratch. But we've found some cool networks and ways that we work like one good example is Ewing Irrigation Products. Early on when I was starting this I got to know the owners that own that it's a nationwide they have over 200 stores nationwide, and I actually trained all the managers of each of the stores nationwide with Agriscaping. So they understood different ways to apply a lot of the Agriscaping principles to the irrigation methods and all these other things that they sell as products. And so it's it's growing. And we have those connections pretty much all over the place. We just need to know where you're coming from.
There you go. I'm a little inundated with information because there's so many different layers to this and so many amazing applications. I think that it's really interesting what you're doing, and you've got just so much amazing information. And obviously, the knowledge that you have, it just makes so much sense and seems like there's so many ways that it can help people.
Well, it's something I've always noticed in relationships, and we all have relationships with knowledge, and relationships in your own personal life. We find that when you love someone, or when you love something, it tells you its secrets.
And when you understand those secrets, when it comes to knowledge, you can now create a lot of good, not just for the knowledge base, but for everybody around it. And for those that you love in your own life, the more that you know about their secrets, what you can do is create a lot of good for them and others you don't use it against them, you use it on behalf of them. You have the insight knowledge on how to create a gift for someone else. And the same is true with this type of knowledge. If you're interested, if you love this kind of stuff, we can share some of those secrets with you that you can then share with others and make it a gift to their garden and everything that they're doing in their life.
Yeah, I think that's an amazing and very deep statement.
Yeah it's not it's not unheard of to retire off of your yard. We had a gal do that she's got a smaller lot than I got, and she's now retired from her her yard that we designed for her a few years ago. Because of how much she's able to produce. She ended up even being able to buy the neighboring house, knock down the wall, Airbnb the house, and then she continued to expand her gardens into the backyard of the other house that she Airbnb the front house.
And she worked for FedEx and she ended up retiring off of her yard from FedEx. You know, just To work her gardens. Cecilia's garden and on Farmdale road in Mesa, Arizona,.
It's always worthwhile to invest in something that's going to pay you back and in ways other than money but especially if the return on investment is good.
Indeed, we love this kind of stuff. Well, we got ways you can connect and other can connect to me. Obviously, with this, our Queen Creek Botanical Gardens, any of you are welcome to come come and check it out. It is a fully functional botanical garden. And it's all edible. So it's got some unique features. We're building some restaurants in this next year. That'll be on site. I think we'll have the juice shop up. It should be even this summer. So there's a lot of cool stuff that's happening out there. Obviously, you'll be able to buy food there if you want to buy food so
Great. And do you guys have a social media as well either for the Agriscaping or for the garden?
Any of the things just look up Agriscaping on Facebook or on Twitter or Instagram, Pinterest, you can find us in all those spaces, even LinkedIn, if you want to look for us at those spaces you'll find on YouTube, you can even just Google Agriscaping.
And you'll find more videos and more crazy videos probably for me out there on TV or whatnot, because for some reason they keep bringing me back.
Well, you must be doing something right then.
Well, I have fun with it. Maybe it's just the entertainment value sometimes, but it's, it's fun.
Well, Justin, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. And I know that I'm incredibly inspired and motivated on this very snowy blustery day in February, which is when we're in right now. And now I just want to look and spend all my time in learning about my personal microclimate and how to make this year's garden better. So thank you so much, Justin. I appreciate it.
You're welcome, Nicole. great talking to you.
And for those of you listening, thank you so much for joining us for another episode and we'll see you again next week.
Thank you for listening to Backyard Bounty, a podcast by HeritageAcresMarket.com. Don't forget to subscribe and leave us a review. If you have a question you'd like us to answer on the show. please email us at [email protected] Also find us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube at Heritage Acres Market. All the links mentioned in this podcast will be included in the description. See you again next week!
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