Everyone Loves a 2-4-1 Deal!!!

blueberry bush,fall colors

blueberry bush in fall hues

We still have a garden full of wonderful edibles, but I am already thinking about what to grow next season. As I walk around our edible gardens I cannot help myself from stopping and staring at the blueberry bushes in their fall glory. These amazingly gorgeous bushes gave up their berries to us (and the birds) over the summer. However, their true beauty is revealed each fall in the form of their colorful foliage. The leaves are an impossible to imagine fire of reds and oranges! Herein lies the 2-4-1 deal…blueberries give you berries and beauty!

I would grow blueberry bushes even if they did not yield a single berry. In fact, I feel they are much more attractive than virtually any ornamental bush I have seen. Do you grow blueberries? If so, is it because of the berries or the beauty of the foliage???

blueberry bush,fall color

another example of the beautiful fall colors of blueberry bushes


Edible Gardening Word of the Day is “Beneficial”

This post will provide invaluable advice on keeping a thriving organic edible garden with minimal time. Of course, I prefer to wander the garden for hours, but I do not get such a chance very often.

For example,these past 3 days have been super busy here at the DIY Backyard Farm. My day job (the one that pays the bills) has crept into my evening hours. Couple that with the shorter days and I have had little time in the gardens. In the past 3 days I have strolled the gardens for a total of maybe 30 minutes.

Ten minutes per day is not much, but it is enough to keep the garden chugging along and turning out great produce. If I only have a few minutes to spend in the garden then I will use those precious minutes to observe. I check soil moisture, general condition of plants and I look for pests. Finding problems before they get out of control is one of the best ways to grow great produce without chemicals. If you catch a problem early you can seek natural remedies or remove a problem plant before the problem spreads. I try to imagine myself as a beneficial insect patrolling the garden. My radar is on and searching for plants in need of help!

In the photos below you can see an example of a young (and tender) broccoli plant. Such plants are really vulnerable to pests because they only have a few leaves. If those leave get eaten the plant usually dies. Remember, leaves are like solar panels for plants. The leaves soak up sun and allow for sufficient amounts of photosynthesis to occur.

baby broccoli

Hey Broccoli, What’s Eatin’ You?

So, I was patrolling the garden and noticed all the young broccoli had leaves that looked eaten. On first glance there were no signs of pests. However, closer examination revealed the worms you see in the picture below. I simply removed and killed the worms and did a final check to ensure the plant was free of pests. I found at least one worm on each of my baby broccoli plants. Had I waited another day the broccoli would have been gonzo!


The Pest In Action

I rely on helpers to watch over the gardens when I do not have the time to play “beneficial” backyard farmer. My kids are great at garden care, but beneficial insects are even better. Unlike the kids, beneficial insect never stop working!

praying mantis

Praying Mantis Patrolling The DIY Backyard Farm


The big fella below was seen guarding our Kale early this morning. He was doing a great job! Always try to attract as many of these helpers as possible. You can also buy lady bugs, praying mantis and other beneficial insects to release into your gardens. This is a cool, interesting way to garden organically.

I hope you spend some “beneficial” time with your edible plants each and every day. They will pay it back 10 fold!

A Tomato for the Ages (or next season at least)

Today a friend gave me a magnificent tomato called Purple Haze. I had them this evening and quickly wrote them into my list of tomatoes to grow next year.

tomato,purple haze

A perfect Purple Haze Tomato

As soon as I finished my meal I began searching the net for information on this variety. After reading a number of sites I was satisfied that I had enough information to confidently add Purple Haze to my very short list of tomatoes to grow next year.

I liked the summary offered by a website call Tomato Dirt. This site does a nice job of providing background info on how the variety was created. I especially liked how they noted that Purple Haze is not yet stabilized. That means it is not producing reliable, consistent results. For example, it is meant to produce large cherry-sized fruit. However, it sometimes produces oblong or larger tomatoes.

Stabilized or not, I want to grow them next year. As I always say, “plan your garden and then garden your plan!” Start planning now when the experiences are fresh in you mind.

Fall Into A Great Opportunity

Fall offers a whole new season to grow your own healthy, organic produce. Like spring, the onset of fall offers a noticeable change of season. Fall even offers predictability. Conversely, spring doesn’t always deliver what we expect spring to bring. Sometimes it feels like spring never comes at all. On the other hand, fall never seems to disappoint.

The leaves will change, the evenings will get cooler and harvest will be in full swing. As I think of fall I imagine pumpkins and wild-looking gourds gracing the steps of many suburban homes. Soon we will all rejoice in stinging, “trick or treat”!

Fall has so much to offer to edible gardeners. Here on the DIY Backyard Farm we grow many wonderful, organic edibles. Right now we are picking the final tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and cucumbers. At times it is sad to know we are tasting the final flavors of summer. Then we begin to think of our kale, broccoli, swiss chard and beets. These are getting tastier by the day and will take us right through to December and maybe even January. In the words of the immortal Bob Marley, “everything gonna be alright!”


National Kale Day (10/2)

Fall is also the time to plant garlic. There is something exciting about planting garlic in the fall. Our anticipation of tasty garlic scapes and bulbs build with each bulb we sink into the ground. Heck, it is just plain nice to plant something at a time when much of nature is maturing or already on the finished for the season.

Finally, there is a lot less to do in the garden this time of year. In the summer weeds pop up with each passing second. Not so in the fall. Watering is usually less of a chore too. Rest assured, there will be plenty of time to plan your Halloween costume!

Are you growing your own produce this fall? If so, what are you growing?


Secret To A Successful Garage Sale

My friend Dave recently shared a story with me about the power of Sungold tomatoes. Maybe I should put pictures of my tomatoes on the signs for our next garage sale???

Here is the story as told by Dave:

Thought you would get a kick out of this story….

A friend was having a garage/moving sale and a guy was looking at some golf clubs that were up for sale. He noticed the guy was standing in the same spot for a long time. Then my friend noticed the guy was picking SUNGOLD cherry tomatoes off his plants. After seeing him eat 5 or so tomatoes he walked over and said, “those tomatoes are pretty good huh?” The guy said he has never had a tomato this good and wanted to know what the name of them was. He proceeded to pick 10 or 15 more to go!

Never Yell “Eat Your Veggies!” again

In a world filled with processed foods and a constant barrage of fast food commercials…small groups of parents are fighting back in the war to get kids to “eat their veggies (fruits too)”. The current “crop” of children has largely lost touch with where their foods come from. Even “fresh” fruits often come encased in cellophane!

My take on this situation is that most of the last one or two generations of parents stopped growing their own produce. Food science captured the minds of the many more than Mother Nature. So sad, but don’t let it bum you out. Times are surely changing! There is a whole new interest in the origins of our foods. Better yet, that interest spans many generations.

cucumber, kids

Special Delivery

Just head to your local farmer’s market to see the “blooming” interest in quality, local foods. People, young and old are asking farmers the difference between Tuscan Kale & Curly Kale. Bakers are introducing consumers to breads made with ancient grains and baked in stone ovens. Meat and seafood purveyors are educating hungry families on the benefits of grass-fed meats or sustainable fish.

Even pizza has been swept up into the farm to table movement!

pizza, vegetables, garden

garden fresh pizza

Some families are taking things a bit further, yet staying closer to home at the same time. That’s right, backyard edible gardening has returned! Growing your own is even trendy and fashionable in some parts of the country.

Here on the DIY Backyard Farm we believe in making edible gardening a family affair. Our 6 & 8 year-old backyard farmers have their own little 4’ x 2’ raised garden beds to care for. Each child is responsible for selecting and taking care of the plants they wish to grow. Our son loves salad and grows lettuces and tomatoes exclusively. Our daughter calls beets “The Candy of the Garden”. She grew four different varieties of them this year. Both kids know where their foods come from and they sure do eat their fruits, veggies and fresh herbs.


part of the daily golden raspberry harvest

We are suburban parents with kids who are subject to the same advertising and peer pressure as the majority of our population experiences. However, our kids have a love and respect for their food that is far beyond their years. In fact, they often outwit many adults when discussing different types of edible plants. For example, my kids recently told one of my adult friends all about Cacuzza. This is a really interesting Italian squash that our Nonna prepares into a fabulous sauce.

We did not hypnotize our kids or force them to help us in our edible gardens. Their own curiosity drove them in just the way mine did 37 years ago. All we did was encourage them to explore(safely). Of course, they have to be old enough to grasp some basics and garden safely. Ours began exploring the gardens as early as age 4. Here is how we engaged our kids with edible gardening:

1) Explained the growing process: planting the seeds, watering, tending to young plants and harvesting
2) Allowed them to have their own edible gardens. They select the plants they want to grow (with some guidance to ensure success). This part includes allowing them to design their own garden plans (see below).

garden plan,kid

Our 6 year-old’s 2014 edible garden planning worksheet

3) Help them understand the basics of garden care
4) Get creative with cool plant identifiers, building trellises, etc
5) Let them select veggies, fruits and/or herbs for a meal
6) Select age appropriate books on fruits, vegetables and herbs

Of course we always make sure to Have Fun and watch them to ensure they are safe

It is hard to quantify the health benefits my kids are getting from their organic, produce heavy diets. However, it is generally well accepted that diets with sufficient amounts of fruits and vegetables are healthier than diets filled with processed foods. Just not having to fight with them at meal time is benefit enough!

If you want to start your own backyard edible garden and do not know where to start then I recommend my easy to follow DIY Backyard Farm Edible Garden Planning Guide. It even includes garden planning worksheets and sections to take down notes.

Top 3 Edible Gardening Myths

Time to dispel these!

Myth #1 – Edible gardening is too much work.

DIY Backyard Farm – sure, having a thriving edible garden is work. However, it’s good for you work. Working your edible garden is not like sitting at the computer all day or commuting in the car to a thankless job. Working your edible garden is healthy exercise too!


Working the soil!

Myth #2 – Our yard lacks sunlight.

DIY Backyard Farm – I hear this all the time. Someone may lack the sunlight to grow tomatoes or peppers, but there are many other edible plants that do well in part sun. My book has a section devoted to vegetables, herbs and even some berries that grow and produce fine in part sun. If you are not sure how much sunlight an area receives you can use a simple sunlight measuring device like the SunCalc we recently reviewed.

suncal,sunlight measuring, device

The SunCalc Sunlight Measuring Device

Myth #3 – It is less money and more convenient to buy your own produce from the store.

DIY Backyard Farm – No way! In 2014 we started to loosely track the amounts of vegetables, fruits and herbs our edible gardens produced. Consider our golden raspberry bush. One bush has produced roughly 7 pints of golden raspberries so far this season. One small harvest in early summer and one larger harvest in late summer/early fall. This type of raspberry is hard to find in the store. Plus, the few times I have seen them they are usually $5 – $7 for 1/2 of a pint! At those prices we grew $70 – $98 of golden raspberries alone!

How about tomatoes? We are unsure of the total harvest because our son, AKA “Tomato Shark”, eats many of them before we are aware of their existence. However, on a recent visit to a national gourmet market chain we saw heirloom tomatoes “on sale” for $4.99 a pound. Each tomato they sold was at or just under 1 pound! At that price our Cherokee Purples would be worth a small fortune.

Wait, there’s more! We forgot to discuss travel. We travel from our home to our backyard gardens to pick our organic, fresh produce. Just a few steps and we enter our own personal farmer’s market. How long do you spend driving to the market, selecting/paying for produce and driving home? Our carbon footprint is zero for this activity, what is yours?


Part of the daily golden raspberry harvest

heirloom tom prices

That is one expensive tomato salad!

Morado del Rincon de Ademuz- A Tomato Worth Growing

DIY Backyard Farmer:

An excellent post on some tomato varieties you should be aware of. Love the author’s dedication to saving heirloom seeds too!

Originally posted on That Bloomin' Garden:

Each year I grow different kinds of tomatoes from seed. Over time I am finding that I am becoming one picky tomato tester. Trust me, not all tomatoes are that great. Of course, we all have our personal preferences and most people will choose a cherry tomato for its ease of harvest and high productivity. I was given a challenge this summer. I was given some tomato seeds from a seed bank that were very low and need to be grown out. Growing for a seed bank means that I am saving seeds from my crop of  tomatoes and drying them and mailing them back to the seed bank. Last year was a great year with over 1000 seeds saved. You see I still get to eat the tomatoes, I just have to scoop the seeds out first. It’s a win, win situation.

Morado del rincon de ademuz

This year I have been testing out…

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