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5 Steps To Fixing Fair Trade Coffee

5 Steps To Fixing Fair Trade Coffee

Coffee farmers are some of the hardest working people on the planet. Typically one tree produces one pound of coffee per year. That’s 2,000 beans. That means a farmer needs to pick over 1,000 coffee cherries to produce one pound of coffee. And that doesn’t include the labor involved in processing the beans after picking. In spite of the fair trade movement coffee farmers only receive pennies for every pound you buy. This is because of the unintended fair trade coffee problems. There is a better way — fixing fair trade coffee.

Fixing Fair Trade Coffee Step #1:

Buy Coffee That Gives a Hand Up Not a Hand Out

If we will give coffee farmers a hand up instead of a hand out, they will work their way out of poverty. A hand up can take many forms. A hand up can be loans, education, and support. A hand up is supporting farmers in a way that enables them to work themselves out of poverty. If we simply provide hand outs in the form of food, materials for shelter, or medicine, we make ourselves the savior of the rural poor. By enabling coffee farmers to provide for themselves we allow them to have dignity and independence. At Camano Island Coffee Roasters the idea of a hand up instead of a hand out is a crucial tenet in helping coffee farmers eradicate poverty in their countries. It is an important first step in fixing fair trade coffee.

Fixing Fair Trade Coffee Step #2:

Buy Coffee That Promotes Land Ownership

Fair Trade International and Fair Trade USA require farmers to own land to participate. So many farmers, however, merely work for a larger coffee plantation. So before we can begin discussing, education or improved agronomy techniques, the coffee farmers need land to call their own.

One nonprofit that helps with this is Agros. Agros helps the rural poor in Central America to purchase their own land. Agros will work with the local community to buy a large tract of land. Then they divide the land into parcels for individual families based on the type of land, and the type of agricultural business the family plans to build. These families then work their business on their land and repay the loan to Agros in 7 – 10 years. Agros can then take these repaid funds and invest in another village further propagating the system.

Fixing Fair Trade Coffee Step #3:

Buy Coffee That Partners With Farmers In Utilizing Modern Agronomy Techniques

The next step in the journey to end poverty is education. Agros also helps farmers to improve their crop yields, through education. Agros employs a team of Agronomists who help their farmers improve their yields and also diversify their crops.

Fixing Fair Trade Coffee Step #4:

Buy Coffee That Helps Farmers Diversify Their Crops.

Agros also encourages farmers to diversify their crops — from chili pepper farming to tilapia fish farming. This diversification of their crops on their land ensures they always have something to eat or sell.

Another nonprofit we consistently support, Food 4 Farmers, also helps coffee farmers diversify their crops. Food 4 Farmers provides education and mentorship in diversifying crops and expanding businesses. One of the best examples of this is bee-keeping. To learn more about bee-keeping and the impact it had on one coffee farming family, click here. Even if pests or monsoons tear apart their coffee crop, these farmers have another way of providing for themselves.

Fixing Fair Trade Coffee Step #5:

Buy Coffee That Rewards Best Practices

One of the fair trade coffee problems is the unintended consequence of selling inferior beans as fair trade. A better approach is to reward farmers for cultivating the very best beans. Paying for excellence incentivizes farmers to do their best work and also gives them an opportunity to make much more per pound than lower quality coffees.

Organic coffee is a great example of the right incentive. The coffee tree is one of the most absorbent crops on the planet. It drives its flavor from the mix of minerals and type of soil in which it is grown. And, then consider that most coffee grows in the developing world. This results in a lack of pesticide regulation. Years ago here in the US we banned many of the same pesticides readily available in the developing world. Farming using dangerous, unregulated pesticides results in harmful exposure to carcinogens and also birth defects for farmers and their families. Also, what effect can these unregulated pesticides have on the coffee drinker?

Encouraging Shade Grown coffee is also very important to farmers due to the impact environmentally on their farms and their local environment. When big coffee moves into a region and clear cuts the forest to increase the total yield per acre, the unintended consequences can be soil erosion. Additionally, when the rainforest is removed, lasting damage is done to the environment and specifically bird habitat further damaging the ecosystem.

Farmers earn a higher price per pound for excellence. Encouraging farmers to cultivate the best tasting coffees ensures farmers receive the best price per pound possible. In addition to organic and shade grown coffee, Arabica beans help farmers earn more — simply because they taste amazing. The alternative Robusta contains twice the acidity and caffeine of Arabica. The easiest coffee beans to grow are robusta, but they also contain twice the caffeine and acidity. Robusta coffee gives very bitter flavor. Due to the better coffee experience, the market dictates a higher price per pound for Arabica. Why not reward farmers for providing a superior coffee experience.

Summary: Fixing Fair Trade

Buy coffee that gives a hand up not a hand out. Empower farmers to work themselves out of poverty sustainably.

Buy coffee that promotes land ownership. This gives farmers the foundation to work their way out of poverty.

Buy coffee that partners with farmers in utilizing modern agronomy techniques.

Buy coffee that helps farmers diversify their crops.

Buy coffee that rewards farmers for producing the highest quality coffees.

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What the heck is cascara?

What the Heck is Cascara?

We have a special post from our friends at Triple Bar Coffee. Here is a informative piece by Tyler on Cascara Tea– made from the fruit of the coffee cherry:

In the last few years, a new buzzword has gained popularity in coffee/tea culture: cascara. You may be wondering, “What is this mystical sounding thing and how do I drink it?” Cascara, which means “shell” in Spanish is the outer skin of the coffee fruit.

While most of the stuff we drink tends to be brown, coffee actually begins as a red or yellow berry. This berry, often referred to as the coffee cherry or coffee fruit, grows on the coffee tree. Inside of these cherries is a pit that we know as the coffee “bean.” We call these “beans” because, when they are halved, each seed resembles a bean in size and shape.

The Makeup of the Coffee Fruit

Each coffee cherry is made up of the outer skin, pulp, mucilage, parchment, silver skin, and the coffee bean.

How Coffee is Processed

A lot of processing is involved before a coffee roaster can roast their beans to perfection. When the coffee cherry is ripe, it will turn a red or purple shade. Farmers pick the cherries and then remove the beans from the fruit. This usually involves using a machine to separate the beans by force, but sometimes farmers will leave the cherries out in the sun to dry the fruit off of the bean.

Using the Coffee Fruit

In the past, the coffee cherry has long been considered a byproduct of the coffee growing process. Historically, everything except the bean was discarded or composted and considered to be of little value. Recently, with the surge of environmentalism, savvy farmers and coffee processors began harvesting and processing the fruit with the intention of keeping both the coffee bean and the fruit.

Caffeine Content

Although cascara comes directly from the coffee fruit, it has nowhere near the amount of caffeine that a coffee bean has. Think more along the lines of black tea. The coffee experts at Square Mile Coffee Roasters did a study of the contents and found that cascara only had around 110 mg of caffeine per liter, while a cup of brewed coffee can range from 400 to 800 mg of caffeine.

Uses of Cascara

The main use for cascara is as tea. I’ve found that when it is steeped like a traditional tea, it produces a wonderfully tart and aromatic drink. If you’re a fan of herbal tea, the scent and flavor of cascara will feel familiar.

Historically, cascara has been used in combination with cinnamon and ginger in a drink called qishir, and though I haven’t tried this variation, it sounds like a great way to literally spice up your drink.

Since cascara is so trendy at the moment, other, more creative uses for cascara like — cascara beer and cascara toddy — are popping all the time.

Aside: Do note that some people vehemently oppose using the word “tea” to describe cascara, and while they might be technically right, nobody should want to be that guy. If you’re expecting anything like coffee when you go to drink your cascara brew, you’ll probably be disappointed.

Brewing instructions

With cascara being so new to the coffee and tea scene, there aren’t many tried and true recipes for brewing it to perfection. Square Mile coffee suggests using 5 to 7 grams of coffee for every 8-ounce cup of water. Be sure to let the water boil, then remove it from the heat and let the boil reduce before pouring the cup. As with teas, the longer you steep it, the stronger the flavor profile will be.

Other coffee shops suggest using the cold brew method and serving the cascara tea iced. If you decide on this method, be sure to use 6 tablespoons of cascara per 10 ounces of water. You’ll want to let this brew in your refrigerator for at least 24 hours. Once the waiting period is over, just strain the brew to remove the cascara. Then pour it over ice, and enjoy.

Why You Should Try It

The production of cascara is an intelligent blend of environmentalism and capitalism. In the past, the coffee fruit was considered to be a waste stream in coffee processing. By farmers developing a niche around the byproduct, they were able to cut down on waste and improve their bottom line.

Cascara is also great for tea drinkers who want to feel like coffee drinkers. We all have that friend who hates coffee, but whenever it comes up interjects, “But, I like tea!” Now that person can have a guilt-free seat at the coffee table.

An additional benefit to drinking cascara tea is the amount of antioxidants it has. It also is low in caffeine, which is great for those of us who prefer half-caf or decaf beverages.

Want to Try it?

If you’re interested in trying out tea made from the coffee fruit, odds are a specialty coffee shop in your area is selling it. If not, you can purchase dried coffee fruit from a variety of online sources. Here at Triple Bar Coffee we’re partial to Sweet Maria’s because we often source green coffee beans from them, but you should be able to find cascara from most green coffee importers.

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Everything You Need to Know About Making Cold Brew Coffee

Everything You Need to Know About Making Cold Brew

Making Cold-brew coffee may finally have become mainstream, but it is far from new. Think of making cold brew coffee as the grown-up and more sophisticated version of iced coffee. Like regular hot coffee, cold brew is pretty easy to make. What keeps its popularity escalating is the number of health benefits that come with every sip. Cool, silky, and caffeinated—cold brew coffee is an awesome beverage you should totally be drinking.

Why Making Cold Brew Coffee Deserves the Attention
There are a couple of reasons why making cold brew coffee should be getting its time in the coffee shop limelight:

No More Diluted Coffee. Pouring hot coffee over ice (or even putting cubes into your steaming cup of joe) is just asking for diluted coffee. Watery coffee is sad coffee, and it makes drinking it seem almost like a chore. Making cold brew coffee requires only the water needed to steep the grounds. If you want to dilute it afterwards, that is up to you.

Lower Acidity. Since the coffee grounds are subjected to boiling water, the chemical profile of the product is very different from what a conventional cup of hot coffee would be. The lower levels of acidity actually make cold-brewed coffee easier on the stomach. Since the acid levels are low, cold brew coffee even brings out the sweeter notes of coffee.

More Caffeine. Now isn’t that some glorious news? Cold brew coffee has a higher bean-to-water ratio than hot brewed coffee, and since it takes longer to steep, the caffeine content is naturally higher.

A Heap of Antioxidants. Since high temperatures are known to destroy antioxidants in almost anything, the longer coffee is exposed to high heat, the less health benefits it has. Cold brew coffee therefore has a higher concentration of several antioxidants, including chlorogenic acid. When coffee beans are roasted, a light roast will reduce the amount of chlorogenic acid in the beans by 60%. A dark roast has no chlorogenic acid left at all.

The only trade-off is that cold brew lacks the same amount of aromatic oils that a cup of hot brewed coffee has. For that reason, if you like your coffee with a kick, cold brew may take some getting used to.

Making Cold Brew Coffee Yourself

Sure, making cold brew coffee may sound like some fancy process that requires a lot of barista-based knowledge. In reality, making cold brew coffee is super easy and perfect for people who aren’t totally hyped to be up in the morning.

You can either choose a cold brew coffee maker or try another home method, like the ones listed below.

If you are grinding your own beans, grind the beans coarsely. You don’t want a fine grind, because that will result in cloudy unsavory coffee.

Two Methods

1. The Jar and Cheesecloth
This method requires two things: a jar or bowl that is deep enough to hold enough water and a piece of cheesecloth or a coffee filter. The ratio between coffee grounds and water is dependent on your own personal taste. It is recommended to start your grind with a ¾ cup of ground beans and 4 cups of cold water. Should you want to make a bigger batch, you can double that to 1.5 cups of beans and 8 cups of water.

Put the grounds in the bowl with water and slide it into the refrigerator overnight. Some people do like to leave the coffee steep at room temperature for about 12 hours then add it to the refrigerator later. The choice is yours. In the morning (or after time has passed), strain the liquid through a coffee filter or cheesecloth then enjoy.

2. The French Press
If you own a 32 oz. French Press, you are going to want ¾ cup ground beans and 4 cups of cold water. Once you have the everything add to the press, put it in the refrigerator to chill overnight. Leave the plunger up. When you are ready to have your cup of cold brew coffee in the morning, push that plunger down, pour, and enjoy!

When it comes to cold-brewing your coffee, the key is not to rush it. You want to make sure the grounds have long enough to soak so that you get a satisfying and luscious cup of coffee.

Cold brewed or hot brewed coffee is delicious. But knowing how to make a cup at any temperature to savour is sure to excite any coffee addict or caffeine connoisseur. There are health benefits and a different taste profile to discover when you drink cold brew. If you have tried making cold brew coffee before, what did you think?

Guest Post by David from bestpatrols.com

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13 Reasons Why Your Brain Craves Coffee

13 Reasons Your Brain Craves Coffee

Each and every one of us has our own excuse for drinking coffee. Some do it for social purposes, for an extra dose of energy, or because they simply like the taste. However, there are very few people who admit that they need the coffee, not just want it. Or more precisely, it’s your brain that needs it.

In these cases, our brain knows better than us. It knows what it needs to clear that annoying fog resting around it at the same time every day. And here are a few quick reasons why you should give in to that urge, according to Dripped Coffee’s infographic:

Summary:

  1. It gives you an energy boost
  2. It reduces the risk of depression
  3. It reduces cravings and helps you burn calories
  4. It strengthens your DNA
  5. It improves your focus and stimulates your central nervous system
  6. It improves your short term memory
  7. It protects against diseases such as Alzheimer’s, gout or type 2 diabetes.

Your brain sees coffee as humans see a hug: it’s soothing, its helpful, and it’s one of the best addictions to have. We know we are coffee addicts; we just don’t care. And if we are to be completely honest, neither does our brain.

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The Good, The OK, and Ugly of Grinding Coffee

best-coffee-grind

The Good, The OK, and Ugly of Grinding Coffee

Getting the best coffee grind for your morning brew is easy when you know your options. Here is a really fast breakdown of how to get the best coffee grind for your coffee maker.

The Ugly — Using a Blade Grinder

This may be the worst grinding option, but it sure beats the way cowboys used to do it — with the butt of their gun!

Why it’s the worst

The reason a blade grinder is just about the worst option is because of how it works. The blade grinder has one or two blades that spin very fast — essentially chopping the beans. This “chopping” of the beans creates an uneven grind. Then during brewing your ground will not extract properly. It’s kind of like trying to brew espresso with french press coarse grinds and at the same time mixing that brew with a french press using espresso grind. It’s going to be messy and it won’t taste right.

If You’re a Glutton for Punishment

If you’re going to use the blade grinder anyway here’s some tips. To get the best coffee grind from a Blade grinder make sure to keep the grinder upright on the counter. A common mistake is made in twisting and turning the grinder to “assist” in the grinding process. This actually makes the chopping of the beans by the grinder worse. Just make sure the grinder is level.

Follow Our Handy Time-limit for Grinding by Brew Method

  • 20 seconds (finest) – Turkish
  • 16 seconds – Fine Espresso
  • 14 seconds – Standard Espresso
  • 12 seconds – Cone Filter Drip
  • 11 seconds (middle grind) – Universal Drip
  • 10 seconds – Flat/Basket Filter Drip
  • 9 seconds – Percolator
  • 8 seconds – Stovetop Percolator
  • 6 seconds (coarsest) – French Press

The OK — Letting the Pros do it for You

A better option is to let the pros grind your coffee for you. Here at Camano Island Coffee Roasters we give all of our Club members the option to have their coffee ground by the experts. Just let us know how you plan to brew your coffee and we will give you the best coffee grind possible.

Why It’s Only Ok

As soon as we grind your beans, they start to lose some of the amazing fresh taste. The beans in whole form hold in the oils and flavors better enabling your coffee to last longer. Receiving the beans in whole bean and grinding them correctly yourself will give you the best flavor possible! But if convenience is more important to you, than leaving the mess of grinding to us!

The Best Coffee Grind Option: Grinding with a Burr Grinder

The very best coffee grind option is to grind your beans yourself with a burr grinder. A burr grinder contains two discs that essentially grind against each other. It’s this motion of crushing and grinding that enables you to receive the most uniform grind possible.

Why It’s the Absolute Best Coffee Grind


Your beans will be fresher, better tasting, and more versatile. Your beans will hold in their flavor for the longest possible time if they are stored whole. You will also get the best flavor extraction with a consistent and accurate coarseness for your grounds. Remember it’s the uneven grinding of a blade grinder that will mess up your flavor. Lastly, when you receive your beans as whole and grind them yourself with a burr grinder then you can choose different brewing methods with the same bag of beans. Want the strong, thick flavor of a french press in the morning? Want a more nuanced, smoother mouthfeel of a pourover in the afternoon? You can do both if you use a Burr grinder.
Below is a list of the standard grind settings by brew method — from finest to coarsest.

  1. Turkish
  2. Fine Espresso
  3. Standard Espresso
  4. Cone Filter Drip
  5. Universal Drip
  6. Flat/Basket Filter Drip
  7. Percolator
  8. Stovetop Percolator
  9. French Press (coarsest)

You’ll notice that Turkish and then espresso is the most fine grind and the french press is the most coarse. Each brewing method requires a specific coarseness.

Now that you’ve seen The Good, The OK, and The Ugly of Coffee Grinding why don’t you tell us how you grind your beans. Comment below!

— Bonus —

See more photos of a “coffee grinder” rifle from the Civil War

Getting the best coffee grind for your morning brew is easy when you know your options. Here is a really fast breakdown of how to get the best coffee grind for your coffee maker.

The Ugly — Using a Blade Grinder

This may be the worst grinding option, but it sure beats the way cowboys used to do it — with the butt of their gun!

 

Why it’s the worst.


The reason a blade grinder is just about the worst option is because of how it works. The blade grinder has one or two blades that spin very fast — essentially chopping the beans. This “chopping” of the beans creates an uneven grind. Then during brewing your ground will not extract properly. It’s kind of like trying to brew espresso with french press coarse grinds and at the same time mixing that brew with a french press using espresso grind. It’s going to be messy and it won’t taste right.

 

If you’re a glutton for punishment.

If you’re going to use the blade grinder anyway here’s some tips.
To get the best coffee grind from a Blade grinder make sure to keep the grinder upright on the counter.
A common mistake is made in twisting and turn the grinder to “assist” in the grinding process. This actually makes the chopping of the beans by the grinder worse. Just make sure the grinder is level.

 

Follow our handy time-limit for grinding by brew method

  • 20 seconds (finest) – Turkish
  • 16 seconds – Fine Espresso
  • 14 seconds – Standard Espresso
  • 12 seconds – Cone Filter Drip
  • 11 seconds (middle grind) – Universal Drip
  • 10 seconds – Flat/Basket Filter Drip
  • 9 seconds – Percolator
  • 8 seconds – Stovetop Percolator
  • 6 seconds (coarsest) – French Press

 

The OK — Letting the pros do it for you.

A better option is to let the pros grind your coffee for you. Here at Camano Island Coffee Roasters we give all of our Club members the option to have their coffee ground by the experts. Just let us know how you plan to brew your coffee and we will give you the best coffee grind possible.

 

Why it’s only ok.

As soon as we grind your beans, they start to lose some of the amazing fresh taste. The beans in whole form hold in the oils and flavors better enabling your coffee to last longer. Receiving the beans in whole bean and grinding them correctly yourself will give you the best flavor possible! But if convenience is more important to you, then leaving the mess of grinding to us!

The Best Coffee Grind Option: Grinding with a Burr Grinder.

The very best coffee grind option is to grind your beans yourself with a burr grinder. A burr grinder contains two discs that essentially grind against each other. It’s this motion of crushing and grinding that enables you to receive the most uniform grind possible.

 

Why it’s the absolute best coffee grind.


Your beans will be fresher, better tasting, and more versatile. Your beans will hold in their flavor for the longest possible time if they are stored whole. You will also get the best flavor extraction with a consistent and accurate coarseness for your grounds. Remember it’s the uneven grinding of a blade grinder that will mess up your flavor. Lastly, when you receive your beans as whole and grind them yourself with a burr grinder then you can choose different brewing methods with the same bag of beans. Want the strong, thick flavor of a french press in the morning? Want a more nuanced, smoother mouthfeel of a pourover in the afternoon? You can do both if you use a Burr grinder.
Below is a list of the standard grind settings by brew method — from finest to coarsest.

  1. Turkish
  2. Fine Espresso
  3. Standard Espresso
  4. Cone Filter Drip
  5. Universal Drip
  6. Flat/Basket Filter Drip
  7. Percolator
  8. Stovetop Percolator
  9. (coarsest) – French Press

You’ll notice that Turkish and then espresso is the most fine grind and the french press is the most coarse. Each brewing method requires a specific coarseness.

Here’s an example of Turkish grind.

And here’s an example of French Press

Now that you’ve seen The Good, The OK, and The Ugly of Coffee Grinding why don’t you tell us what *ahem* how you grind your beans. Comment below!

**BONUS**


See more photos of a coffee grinder rifle from the Civil War

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Top Reasons to buy organic coffee

Top Reasons to Buy Organic Coffee

Waking up with a fresh cup of coffee each morning is a great way to charge your energy levels and invigorate your senses so you’re ready to take on the tasks and responsibilities of the day. And while there are plenty of reasons to make sure that your coffee is organic and not made using conventional methods, our friends at Modernize have put together a list of some of the most important.

Avoid Pesticides

Unfortunately, coffee that is not grown organically is commonly treated with herbicides and pesticides such as endosulfan, diazinon, and triadimefon. But when you stick with organic coffee, you don’t have to worry about sucking up any dangerous chemicals that can produce serious side effects such as breathing problems, inflammation, and heightened blood pressure.

Enjoy Better Flavor

Because organic coffee is not produced using pesticides and chemicals, you can expect every sip to taste significantly better than its conventional counterpart. Whether you enjoy drinking your coffee black or with some milk and sugar, choosing organic is sure to eliminate any strange aftertastes or flavor inconsistencies.

Improve Your Nutrition

Organic coffee is full of antioxidants that help to keep the body strong, improve the immune system, and increase energy levels without having to experience a drop in energy once the afternoon comes around.

Take Part in Fair Trade

Many organic coffees happen to be fair-trade certified, which means that everyone who plays a role in their production is paid a fair wage and does not face dangerous working conditions of any kind. You can feel good about knowing that people in Colombia, Papua New Guinea, and Ethiopia where much of the coffee is grown won’t suffer just so you can enjoy your daily cup. Also, Camano Island Coffee Roasters contributes above paying fair trade prices. 4% of revenue received from the Coffee Lovers Club go back to support nonprofit organizations helping farmers build sustainable businesses at origin. Learn more here.

With these considerations in mind, it’s easy to see why buying organic coffee is so important. And the best part is, you’ll likely find that buying organic isn’t much more expensive than buying conventional overall. If you would like to give Organic coffee a try, feel free to get a free pound of organic Camano Island Coffee when you join the Coffee Lover’s Club. Click here to learn more.

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Yvonne’s Garden Corner: Gardening with Burlap Bags

Yvonn’s Garden Corner: Gardening with Burlap Bags

The gardening season is in full swing, and with it, we look for the best way to curb the growth of those persistent weeds while continuing to nourish our soil — gardening with burlap bags can be extra helpful. Burlap bags are made of biodegradable, natural fibers, which break down in the soil and provide a rich layer of nutrients for your plants. If you haven’t thought gardening with burlap bags, now is your chance to learn a little bit about it and see if it’s a possibility for you!

Burlap bags are usually made out of several different ingredients, with the two most common being Jute and Hemp. Jute is a small, soft plant which is grown mostly in Bangladesh and some parts of India. It thrives in wet/monsoon climates and is the second largest natural fiber grown around the world after cotton. Jute leaves are rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, beta-carotene, iron, calcium and vitamin E. The leaves of the Jute plant historically were eaten to restore youth and good health.  Jute is woven into burlap bags, along with hemp, agave, and vegetable fibers, and is then exported all over the world.

Follow these easy steps for gardening with burlap bags!

  1. Choose the right location for gardening with burlap bags. I usually place mine in areas with tough weeds or along garden paths.
  2. Place the burlap directly over the weeds and layer if necessary. If you have time, you can choose to dig up the weeds before covering them with burlap. This can lead to stronger weed prevention!
  3. After placing the burlap in your garden, cover with sand, soil, bark, or rocks. This simple step before planting will fortify your garden soil with rich vitamins and will keep weeds at a minimum.

Tip: If the weeds in your garden are extra persistent, first place newspaper or cardboard beneath the burlap to create a stronger wall between the weeds and your plants.

Let us know how gardening with burlap bags has helped you show off your garden in the comments below!