Monday, January 27, 2020

A spring garden

Early spring garden
Sunday, January 26, 2020

Spring is such a wondrous time for me.  It reflects renewal and hope as the grass turns green, the leaves reappear on trees and flowers bloom once again.  There is really nothing like the smell of fresh cut grass.  It is this time of year that I can't wait to get out and dig in the dirt and prepare the garden bed for another year of fresh herbs, greens, veggies and summer bouquets.

It is important to renew the garden and potting soil each spring.  Healthy and vibrant soil gives plants what they need to be healthy and vibrant food for the family and friends.  Each spring, I like to add an organic fertilizer, minerals, a layer of compost and top with mulch.  I like to have this done in mid-March, ready for planting at the end of March.  Adding mulch too soon in the season can keep the soil temperatures down.  I time adding mulch when temperatures are on the upswing so the fresh mulch helps warm the soil.   Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds  

For potting soil, I remove at least the top half from the pot and mix the potting soil with compost at about a 50/50 mix and then mix in fertilizer and minerals like Azomite at the rate recommended.  Re-energize your potting soil!  I use Espoma's fertilizers as it is for organic gardening and available in my rural area.  You can also make your own to save money and it works just as well.  Make your own all natural, complete fertilizer

Most people think of the heat lovers when it comes to an edible garden.  Spring is the time for the crops that love it on the cool side.  Lettuce, strawberries, peas, fava beans, spinach, Asian greens, chicories, leeks, turnips, carrots, beets, arugula, onions, radishes, garlic and onions are in their prime in the springtime.  
Mid spring garden

Garlic, fava beans, winter peas, carrots, leeks and onions may have overwintered if you planted them in the fall.  Peas, radishes, leafy greens can be planted in early spring.  Followed shortly by carrots, beets and potatoes.

As you are laying out your garden, be sure to not plant from the same family in the same spot.  Crop rotation will help keep down pests and different types of crops need different nutrients.  Moving them around the garden helps to keep spots from getting depleted in nutrients.  It helps to either take pictures or capture in your garden log book the layout for each season so you don't forget what you planted where.  Crop rotation made easy for small gardens

I like planting snow peas because you can eat the whole pod.  Pea leaves and flowers are tasty in salads, too.  Spring is when you get the best salads of the year!  Lettuces are sweet and crunchy.  There are chives, redbud blossoms, chickweed, purslane, sorrel, leek, new onions and many other springtime goodies to add to your salads, or smoothies.  Later in spring, you can add radishes, carrots, arugula and garlic scapes.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

2020 Edible Garden Plan

Early spring garden
Sunday, January 26, 2020

Now is when I lay out my edible garden plan for spring and summer.  This year is going to be a little different than past edible and ornamental gardens.  We are putting on an addition to the house which is right where my garden has been for the last 9 years.  This year's garden will be in a temporary location and much smaller than in year's past.

We have recently moved as many of the perennial flowers and veggies as we could find.  I'll keep an eye out for any that come up before construction starts in March to replant to their temporary home.  With the garden being much smaller, I will have to be much more choiceful about what annuals to plant.  Veggies for small spaces  Fruit for small spaces  How to know what to grow

We have transplanted many perennial herbs like lavendar, rosemary, thyme, sage, chives, tarragon, oregano, garlic and Egyptian walking onions that should come back every year.  Rosemary can be dicey.  I always buy the hardiest available like Arp or Barbeque, hardy to Zone 5 and 6, respectively.  I order from Territorial Seed as plants.  Our rosemary did survive last winter.  Won't be able to tell until April or so if it has survived another winter.  The sage got shaded out by a healthy zinnia so not sure if it will come back or not.  

I always plant parsley, basil, chervil and cilantro every year, growing from seed indoors.  My favorite basil varieties are Vanilla for pot pourri and adding to homemade cleaning products, Cardinal for its beautiful maroon flowers, and sweet leafy type like Genovese or Lettuce Leaf.  I grow chervil to add to my body oil with lavender; these are great for the skin and smell wonderful.  I'll likely plant only Slo Bolt cilantro to give it the longest growing before bolting in warm weather.

I have volunteer parsley and cilantro growing.  Seems like the hardest time of the year for survival is now until mid-March.  We have such extremes in temperature that the prolonged warmth followed by a drop to the deep freeze kills many semi hardy herbs.  If they don't make it to spring, I will include them in my scaled down garden.  

I will also plant a couple of the culinary basils in the garden bed and skip the pretty and fun basils this year due to space constraints.  Parsley and cilantro I'll grow in the ground and chervil I will grow in pots.  Start a kitchen herb garden!

This year, I will need to maximize my pots.  I haven't been as diligent with keeping my edibles in pots under control and well maintained.  I have such a hard time pulling out growing edibles even when there are other varieties that would give more to the table.  I'll need to really leverage the pots for growing greens and herbs this year.  There are so many new compact varieties out there today that you can grow just about anything in a pot.  

Cool Season Crops
This year, I am going to skip any from the broccoli family as I have had pests problems over the last few years.  Giving it a rest for a year will take away this pest's food supply and next year we shouldn't have the same problem.

Peas can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked.  I'll plant snow peas in all my pots. It's warm enough right now to plant the seeds.  The leaves, flowers and pods are all edible and taste like peas.  Legumes-peas for spring, beans for summer

Spinach, lettuce, chard, and perhaps kale will be in the garden this spring.  Kale is a close relation to broccoli so I may skip it until fall.  I'll plant the most heat hardy spinach type.  For the initial plantings of lettuce, I'll plant whatever takes my fancy.  For my April planting, I'll switch over to the most heat hardy varieties.  I always have Simpson Elite, Red Sails, Grand Rapids, Oakleaf, and Romaine in the garden.  Growing fabulous lettuce and greens

We also have blue potatoes from last year that we will replant this year in the potato boxes my hubby made.  Many potato types will survive year to year in the ground without replanting.  When we went to move the potato boxes out of the way of the new construction, we found we had many potatoes still viable.  I took them inside until we get the potato boxes situated in their temporary home.  Time to plant potatoes, even if you only have a patio
Warm Season Crops
Tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, green beans, and cucumbers are my typical standbys.  This year I will skip the green beans, sweet peppers and hot peppers because I have plenty in the freezer.  I may grow one sweet pepper just for snacking on.  Peppers are for every taste and garden

I'll likely grow a Bush zucchini.  The other types of zucchinis get huge and without a lot of space, I'll go with one that keeps to a smaller footprint.  Growing zucchini and summer squash

For the eggplant, I'm going to grow one or two in pots.  We like the white eggplants as their skins don't get tough in our hot summers.  May also try a rose colored eggplant.  Eggplant-add this native from India to your garden

Most of the tomatoes will be the ones I saved seeds from past gardens.  I'm going to try to limit myself to 3 or 4.  The ones that do well in our garden are Cherokee Purple, Italian Paste, and Black Krim.  I'll may add a smaller chocolate type.  Tomatoes 101, everything you need to know to grow great tomatoes

I'll pick one cucumber to grow on a trellis so it grows up instead of out, keeping it's footprint small.  How to grow cucumbers-in pots or in the garden      Quick tip-Grow Up!

I add flowers to the garden every year, interplanted with the edibles.  I don't have as much room so the number of flowers will be much less.  The flowers I am planning to add this year-marigolds around the perimeter and Hollyhocks in the center.  Flowers are great for repelling bad bugs and deer (marigolds) and attracting beneficial bugs like bees.  You can also plant flowers that are edible.  Flowers that are edible

There are a few more to varieties I will add to the list.  I'll get all my seeds out and look through them one last time to finalize the garden plan.  One thing I have to do is to make a max that I will plant of each type.  The hardest thing for me to do is not over-plant!  There are just so many interesting kinds of veggies out there, it is tough to make a plan and stick with it!  planHowMany

For different garden ideas, here are some to choose from:  
Heirloom Sicilian kitchen garden
Small space French kitchen garden
Start a kitchen herb garden!  
Children's edible garden
Grow your own smoothie and juice garden
Decorative container gardening for edibles
Easy kitchen garden
Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds

Saturday, January 25, 2020

January is indoor seed starting time! Here is a seed starting calendar........

Starting seeds in a biodegradable pot
Saturday, January 25, 2020

I know it seems spring is a long way away this time of year.  Luckily for us gardeners, we get to start spring early!  End of January into February is prime seed starting time indoors.  I have outlined by month the plant seeds to start indoors between now and April for our Zone 7 garden.  It is wonderful to see the little green sprouts shooting up with promise of a bountiful gardening season right around the corner!  Our daffodils are up with flower buds.  It won't be long now.

Many big box stores begin getting in their seeds as soon as the end of December these days.  The variety available in big box stores continues to expand as more and more of us are growing our own food.  If you are wanting something unique, try on line seed companies. Some of my favorites with a good selection of organic vegetables, garden fruits, and herbs-Abundant Life Seeds, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, High Mowing Seeds, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Renee’s Garden, Seeds of Change, Territorial Seed Company, Cook’s Garden, Seeds from Italy, Botanical Interest.  

Using indoor seed starting is a great way to accelerate your harvest by up to two months.  Seed packets tell you how far in advance of your last frost date to start your seeds indoors or when to plant outdoors for "direct sowing" in the garden.  Just look on the back. Here is a web page to look up your last frost date: Frost date look up

January and February are cold season crops seed starting time.  Cold season crops include your greens, broccoli, cabbage, strawberries and peas.  What is a four season garden?

March and April is the time for warm season veggie and herbs to get their indoor start.  Summer veggies include beans, tomatoes, beans, basil, eggplant, peppers and squash.

10-12 weeks prior (end Jan/beginning of Feb in our Zone 7 garden)
Leek, if starting from seed
Onions, if starting from seed
Shallots, if starting from seed
Summer savory

8-10 weeks prior (mid-February in our Zone 7 garden)
Bee balm
Scallions, if starting from seed

Seedlings started in an Aerogarden hydroponic system

Lemon verbena
Summer squash

Winter squash

You can find more crops seed starting times in this blog  Indoor sowing/outdoor planting dates

Another trick is to do succession seed starting.  For continuous harvests of veggies like broccoli, spinach and lettuce, start new seedlings every 3 weeks and plant out every three weeks in the garden.  For the early seedlings, use varieties that are described as cold hardy.  When you get to April, start seedlings that are heat tolerant.  Heat tolerant varieties will resist bolting and bitterness at the first sign of summer.  Get the most from your space-plant intensively!

You can also start perennial flowers and veggies indoors as well.  For any plant, look at the seed packet for when to plant outdoors according to your frost date.  Then back up the time from there on when to start indoors.  Typical seed starting is 6-8 weeks prior to the plant out date.  For more on perennial fruits and veggie gardens, Perennial veggies in the Midwest garden

For tips on seed starting: 

Trying to decide what to plant for this year's garden?  Here are some garden ideas:

Don't be worried about the work of putting in an edible garden.  You can simply grow veggies right along with your flowers in the ground or pots!  

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Surprising veggies that can be grown in pots

Zucchini and petunias in a pot
Sunday, January 19, 2020

There are so many new varieties out every year.  There are ones that are more resistant to disease.  Ones that have higher nutritional value.  Ones that produce more.  Ones that have improved taste.  Ones that are developed for their small size and big harvests for those of us who have limited space or just want to get more for the effort.  It is amazing what can now be grown in pots!

We hear a lot about Monsanto and GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) and crop breeding can seem a bad thing.  The difference between GMO’s and other types of crop breeding is that GMO’s bring in genetic material from other organisms in a lab, like bacteria and even viruses.  The plants are engineered so that they kill insects that try to eat it.

That is only one side of the plant breeding story.  There are many other natural, with a little help, breeding of crops today.  It can be as simple as saving of seeds from the best producer of last year.  There are also hybrids which take the best traits of two different parents into seeds.  These hybrids will not produce seed that you can reuse next year and get the same vegetable as the parent.

Heirlooms and open pollinated vegetables will produce “true” to seed.  The offspring will be like its parent.  What do the terms GMO, natural, heirloom, organic, hybrid really mean?

Through the centuries, farmers have chosen the traits they like and have built on them from season to season.  This has given us Brandywine tomatoes, Vidalia onions and JalapeƱo peppers.  Yum!

Today there is much interest in urban and small space gardening.  There are many new varieties every year.  Here are some I have run across that I had not expected:
Watermelon-Bush Sugar Baby, Sugar Pot
Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil
Blueberry-Top Hat
Bush Bean-Any, Pole Bean-Any with stake in pot 
Growing beans
Cantaloupe-Honey Rock, Minnesota Midget
Corn-On Deck Sweet Corn
Cabbage-45 Day Golden Cross, Parel, Caraflex 
Cabbage is nutritious and easy to grow
Cilantro-Calypso is one of the most heat tolerant
Corn-On Deck Hybrid
Cucumbers-Bush Champion, Spacemaster, Salad Bush, Miniature White, Picklebush, Mexican Sour Gherkin, Patio Snacker  
How to grow cucumbers-in pots or in the garden
Eggplant-Patio Baby, Black Beauty 
Eggplant-add this native from India to your garden
Kale-Dwarf Blue Curled Vates
Grow one of the super greens this year-kale
Parsley-Single Italian, Extra Curled dwarf
Peas-Easy Peasy, Half Pint, Any bush types
Time to plant peas!
Pepper-Any, hot peppers thrive in pots
Peppers are for every taste and garden
Tomatoes-BushSteak, Patio Princess, Bush Early Girl, Tumbler, Bush Big Boy, Baxter’s Bush Cherry, Lizzano, Sweetheart of the Patio, Tumbling Tom Yellow, Bush Better Bush, Balcony, Fresh Salsa Hybrid (look for bush/patio/container types)
Tomatoes 101, everything you need to know to grow great tomatoes
Carrots-Caracas, Short ‘n Sweet, Little Finger, Tonda di Parigi, Parisian, Thumbelina, Touchon, Parmex, Mignon (look for short types)
All you need to know about growing carrots
Radish-Cherry Belle
Easy to grow crispy, peppery radishes
Zucchini-Bush Baby, Yellow Crookneck, Eight Ball, Cue Ball, Golden Delight, Anton, Patio Star, Giambo, Astia, Raven, Patio Star, Cosmos Hybrid (look for bush types versus vining types)
Growing zucchini and summer squash
Decorative container gardening for edibles

This is just a few of the many compact varieties available today to grow in small spaces and containers.  Just look for terms like "compact", "dwarf", "container" in the descriptors.  Many on line seed companies also have a section dedicated to container varieties.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Seed catalogs in full swing

Sunday, January 12, 2020

It is that time of year as the winter wind is blowing (or tornadoes this year) and the dreary days seem endless; the time to dream of warm weather, spring breezes, and green things sprouting once again.  Can't you almost smell the fresh cut grass and turned earth?  

Every gardener looks forward to the new year’s bounty of seed catalogs.  You can spend long hours browsing the possibilities for the coming season, imagining what you want to plant where.  What looks interesting to try this year, to reminisce on what worked well last year.
The biggest challenge is controlling the urge to go a little wild on the seed and plant ordering!  Every fall, I did as I always do, make myself a list of what I want to grow the following spring and summer.  If I could only just stick to it.............

The definitions used in seed catalogs can be a little confusing.  Organic means the plant it was taken from was grown using only natural inputs and is certified to be organically grown.  Hybrid is a plant that has been bred to have characteristics that are helpful like being resistant to different diseases.  These are not ones you want to grow if you want to save seed because the plants grown from the seed saved from it will not grow up like the mother plant.  OP means open pollinated.  Organic and OP are types you want to buy if you think you may want to save the seed to use next season.  Heirlooms are plants that have been in a family for generations.  They are all OP.  They may or may not also have been grown organically.  What do the terms GMO, natural, heirloom, organic, hybrid really mean?
Vintage WW2 poster
For seed catalogues, the best to order from are those that do their trials in your region of the country.  The seeds and plants they carry are the ones that have performed the best for them in their trial gardens.  Two of my favorites to order from are Baker Creek Heirloom Baker Creek Heirloom and Territorial Seed Company Territorial Seed.  I love Baker Creek because they specialize heirlooms and rare seeds from around the world.  It is just fun!  Territorial Seeds has a good summary in each section of growing tips.  

Catalogs I love are the ones with the links are on the right.  I have ordered from them all and been happy with their selection and how well the plants did.  They are all reputable seed companies that have a good selection of organic and heirlooms.

If you are a beginner, start with the a kitchen herb garden Start a kitchen herb garden! and a tomato plant or two Tomatoes 101, everything you need to know to grow great tomatoes.  

The biggest mistake new gardeners make is starting with too much and it becomes overwhelming instead of relaxing and fun.  If you have a small space or just want a small garden, here are some tips  How to decide what to plant for small spaces?

When do edibles start growing again?

Sunday, January 12, 2020

If you have noticed that plants stop growing in the winter, whether indoors or out, you would be right.  It is not just the temperatures that affect this slow down.  It is the amount of sunlight.

Basically, plants go dormant when receiving less than 10 hours of daylight.  For my latitude, this is from November 22-January 19.  You can look on this site to see when your daylight hits 10 hours.  daylight calendar

When planting in the fall for winter crops, you need to plan that they are at full, harvestable size by November 22nd.  They will remain this size until the end of January, when they begin regrowing.  edible winter garden

Growth starts back up at the end of January, for indoor and outdoor plants.  The lettuce, chard, sorrel, cabbage, kale, celery, and herbs that have overwintered will start growing with vigor again after this time with clear days and warmer temperatures.  Start your edible spring garden now

You can scatter sow seeds now of cold hardy crops and they will be primed for the longer days.  It is surprising to see the little greens popping their heads out in February.  

End of January is also when you start indoor seeds for a jump on spring and summer harvests.  January is indoor seed starting time! Here is a s...

The force of life is amazing!

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Eat well, be healthy

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Contemplating what to have for your New Year’s resolution?  How about adopting a new way of eating that will slow signs of aging, help prevent cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue syndrome, MS, you name it!

This is what Dr. Weston Price found when he went around the world in the 1940's looking at the diets of the last indigenous people left in the world because they had no tooth decay and no degenerative diseases (like cancer).  If you want to learn more, here is a web page

All studies today show the same thing as Dr. Weston Price found when studying indigenous people.  Eating a low carb, organic diet with lots of leafy greens, multi colored veggies and natural fats is the best diet in the world for slowing signs of aging, avoiding cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue syndrome, MS, you name it.  Get rid of processed foods and anything with sugar added is a great step in the right direction for your health and how you feel and look.

Eat food grown the way God intended, without chemicals, with great soil (to get your vitamins and minerals), and absolutely no GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms).  To know for sure this is how it is grown, grow it yourself or buy from a farmer you have visited and trust.  Join a CSA (to find one near you, visit  Local and organic at the store is the next best thing.  Difference between organic and all natural?

With a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), you pay the farmer before the growing season starts so she can buy all her seeds and supplies she needs.  Then, when she starts harvesting in May/June, you get a share of what is harvested each week through October.  If you calculate how much you are spending on produce each week, it is likely more than you are now.  What we found is that our overall grocery bill went down dramatically as we planned all our meals around the produce we were getting each week.  A CSA is a great deal as well as motivator to eat really well!

You can grow in small spaces and pots.  You don’t need much room.  It is amazing how much you can grow in a small amount of space.  How to decide what to plant for small spaces?  It doesn’t take more time than grocery shopping or eating out to grow your own.  Seeds are cheap (you can even get them for free from friends, neighbors or the veggies and fruits you get from the store).  You can make containers out of almost anything, too.  A 6’ by 6’ plot, planted right, will grow most of what you need for produce for most of the year.  This small of an area will grow $500 worth of produce if only doing a traditional 2 season garden.  Mediterranean diet garden  Stretch it to a 4 season garden and the benefit goes up.  You can garden year round in small space

Eat "as close to the root as possible".  As soon as you pick a vegetable, it begins to die.  Some vegetables lose 90% of their nutritional value in a week, about the time it takes for produce to be picked, washed, packaged, shipped across the country and put on the store shelf.  Cooking also destroys the enzymes in food.  The most nutritious will be that which is just picked, grown in soil that is rich in organic matter and minerals.  Fresh is best!

Here is what "organic" means in raising and growing food Basics of organic gardening  If you want to go a step further, What is biodynamic farming?   Permaculture-companion planting on steroids Biodynamic and permaculture promote a closed loop system where no outside inputs are used.  You do things like make your own fertilizer.   When choosing seeds and plants to buy, this blog explains the different terms of heirloom, hybrid, and GMO  What do the terms GMO, natural, heirloom, organic, hybrid really mean?

Truly, God created the heavens, the earth and all living plants and creatures perfectly.  He created the plants and animals to sustain us and give us everything we need.  We should remember that and eat a variety of foods that are as close to its natural, fresh state as possible to feed our bodies the perfect nutrition.