Perfect Garden or Productive Garden???

radish picker

imperfect rows of baby radishes ready for salad!

There’s a saying entrepreneurs use that goes a little something like this, “perfect is the enemy of done”. They are referring to the relationship between trying to craft the perfect product or solution and actually getting that product or solution to market. Don’t fret about perfect!

Edible gardeners would be wise to follow the same advice. Forgot about magazine perfect gardens, don’t fantasize over idealistic visions of vegetable rows lined up like soldiers ready for a salad bowl battle.

In my experience, things will go wrong in the garden. Seeds will get washed away or will fail to germinate. Animals and other pests will eat crops. Mother nature will do her best to both support your efforts and frustrate you into near submission. However, the wise and persistent edible gardener will always persevere if they don’t worry about being perfect.

Relax, keep expectations in check, enjoy the imperfect beauty of nature and just get gardening. Seeds will sprout, plants will grow (mostly) and you will have food to enjoy. Takes notes along the way and get better and better at the process each season.

Enjoy that imperfect garden!

4 Things You Can Do Now For a Great Edible Garden in 2017

It’s the time of year for lists. In the last 7 days I have seen lists about:

  • top ways to lose weight
  • saving money
  • getting organized
  • etc.

Seeing such lists got me thinking about the top things an edible gardener can do today to prepare for their best vegetable, fruit and herb gardening season. Come to think of it, if you have a productive edible garden then you will eat healthier, probably lose weight, surely save money and maybe even learn some new recipes. Talk about a life hack!

OK, without further delay, here you go:

  1. Review your notes from the previous season(s). What would you improve upon? What went right in the past? Did you jot down any ideas for new plantings in upcoming seasons? That brings me to #2…
  2. Get inspired. Start browsing those seed catalogs and find some new and exciting plants to grow this season. Before you know it the time will be right to begin starting indoor seeds.
  3. Do an inventory of your seeds and other supplies. It helps to do this before ordering any seeds because we gardeners tend to forget about that end of season discount purchase of seeds and potting mix.
  4. Start sketching out your garden plans.Have some fun here and don’t be too rigid. Your first sketch likely will not be the final one. It helps to see your mental garden plan on paper to ensure it makes sense for your space. I have included garden planning worksheets in the back of my latest book on getting started in edible gardening. I hope you will check it out and maybe purchase it too.

Before starting these activities be sure to include anyone who will be a part of your gardening endeavors. Your group will be more engaged if they had a hand in the planning of the garden.

garden plot sketch

Grandma’s garden sketch

 

 

The Trick to Growing Better Peas & Beans

Check out the video below for a can’t miss tip that will work for peas, beans, cucumbers and other “climbers”.

No pea left behind…everyone of them can now climb!

 

Don’t “Mess” With Me

Are you suffering from spontaneous bursts of flavor across your taste buds? Having dreams of being engulfed by the smell of freshly picked tomatoes? Maybe you can’t stop thinking about the satisfying crunch of the season’s first asparagus?

Relax, unless you have a greenhouse or geodesic dome you’re likely just suffering from edible gardening withdrawal. I know we are! Why else would we take turns dutifully carting out our remaining boxes of culinary herbs each day?

 

herbs,wagon

Herbs On Wheels

Depending on where you live, you might have experienced a recent warming in the weather. The soil might even look workable. Stop!

The whole point of this message just hit home! Your soil is trying to trick you into playing with it. Resist young grasshopper. For if you don’t you might be toiling in the mud and setting yourself and your garden back by days and maybe weeks.

Your soil is lonely. Little to nothing has been actively growing in weeks. It wants to play! However, just like a young child, it needs a little guidance. In this case gardener guidance. If you start playing with the soil too soon in the season you will likely just turn over a top inch or two of brownie mix-looking mud. The next few inches down might be frozen solid or totally water logged from rain and snow melt. Trying to work the soil too soon will potentially disturb the structure of your soil and create more work for you later on.

Wait unti the soil is defrosted enough to be worked. An easy test is to grab a handful of soil and form it into a ball with your hand. Next, try breaking the soil ball apart with your hand or dropping it to the ground from a few feet up. Does the ball break up into small pieces when dropped or tapped with your hand? If your soil ball remains intact or only breaks into a few large clumps than it is probably too wet to work with. The soil should be more crumbly. Is crumbly a word?

So, be patient while you wait for your soil to be ready. It will come along soon enough. Spend the extra time and newly found gardening energy planning your garden, organizing your seeds, buying seeds, starting seeds and cleaning your tools. You could also read our book!

You see, there is plenty to do right now!

Flavor of the week or maybe year?

I want to get a head start on my 2016 edible garden planning. Sure we still have gorgeous swiss chard and beets surrounded by armies of carrots, kale and herbs. However, our daily garden chores have diminished and we are starting to find ourselves indoors more. Perfect evening for planning the 2016 DIY Backyard Farm gardens.

Please share with me your favorite veggies, fruits and herbs from the 2015 growing season. Of course I will share my findings in some kind of top 10 list.

Thanks!

The Best Way To Improve at Edible Gardening

Even experienced farmers and edible gardeners need to take notes. Growing seasons can be long and the observations a gardener or farmer makes or the tips and tricks one learns can easily be forgotten.
I was reminded of this tip yet again as I reminisced on our 2015 cilantro season. Tomorrow is Taco Tuesday and there is no cilantro to be found! As a result, I headed to the local farmers market yesterday to pick some up. $3 a bunch! Ouch!

At that price I had to get some extra value out of my trip. I asked the local farmer for some tips on growing cilantro. He seemed to enjoy sharing his wealth of knowledge with me and spent a few minutes away from his busy market table explaining some of his best cilantro growing practices.

First, the wise farmer told me to harvest the whole plant instead of just picking off the sprigs the way I was doing it. Apparently, Cilantro is best harvested all at once for best results. I was doing it sprig by sprig and always wondered why the stubborn plants would still bolt!

Next, he explained that I need to be planting all season long on a weekly basis. I already knew this tip, but a few weeks into the spring I started to miss a week here and there.

Lastly, the farmer told me to make sure the plant is not getting too much heat in the summer months. Cilantro will bolt early and taste better if the soil gets too hot.

I have also heard that it sometimes helps germination if you split the seed husks and then soak them in water for a day before planting. I will be trying out that tip in 2016.
My edible garden planning guide is a great book for beginner and intermediate edible gardeners. The included notes pages are very valuable for even the most experienced edible gardeners!

garden planning, cilantro

2016 will be the best cilantro season ever!

 

Help Edible Gardens Survive Short Blasts of Frost

Backyard farmers don’t need pop-up greenhouses, expensive row covers (though they can be nice) or other costly crop protection. 

We are facing two early frosts and then a batch of more seasonal, above freezing weather. This situation calls for our “ghetto” style  frost protection. 

Simple to set up, inexpensive and effective for light frosts. You won’t save your tomatoes and peppers, but cold weather veggies will thrive on!

 

adding the sheets to our quick setup crop protection

  

next day…safe and sound easy to set up too

 

You Really Can Grow Buckets of Potatoes

Back in April we began an experiment to see if growing potatoes in buckets was as easy and foolproof as so many Pinterest pins and blog posts have made it sound.

The suspense was killing us all here on the DIY Backyard Farm!

After just 3 weeks the plants were looking green and vibrant. Every couple of weeks we added a few inches of soil to cover up more of the plants. In no time at all the bucket was filled to the top with soil and green plants were spilling out over the top.

Then it got boring. Yes boring! Plant growth slowed and we wondered when we would get to dump the bucket and see the results. Most articles I read said to wait until the plants turned yellow before picking the potatoes. Our plants did not begin to yellow until late July. They also did not yellow evenly.

By the second week of August the kids were bugging me to, “DUMP THE BUCKET!”. So we did!

The video below is proof that growing your own potatoes in a bucket is not only possible, but positively potato pleasing too! If we had waited a bit longer I am betting some of those “small fries” would have gotten much larger. No worries, we still have two pots full of our “ketchup and fries” potatoes to go!

I apologize for the shaky video work. My 9 year-old videographer was feeling a bit too energetic with all the anticipation of mini red potatoes slathered in homemade chive butter.

Thinning Your Seed Starts

lettuce

lettuce started from seed needs thinning

Ever feel remorse and near sadness for snipping bunched up seedlings like these? Many experts recommend thinning in that way. You simply select a strong seedling and snip off the neighboring plants to allow the strongest plant to grow. 

Here on the DIY Backyard Farm we have a “no snipping policy”! Instead, we invest a bit more time and a lot more care to gently uproot crowed seedlings and transplant them so they grow at desired spacings. 

lettuce,seedlings

lettuce seedlings in their new home

Our method requires a soft touch. In fact, tweezers come in handy for this job. Just be sure not to pick young plants up by their stems. We grab by the root tips instead.   

Transplanting crowded seedlings gives you a ton of bang for your buck!