How has your growing season been going? Did you learn anything new, discover a new vegetable, fruit or herb that you want to grow again or find a new technique to trellis that you do not want to forget?
Each growing season offers new lessons. That is what makes edible gardening so darn fun (and addicting).
Things are beginning to slow down in the DIY Backyard Farm. As the days get shorter the plants grow slower. The weeds go slower too! That means there is less to do and more time to enjoy the amazing harvest. We still have tomatoes, peppers and some other all-star summer vegetables. There are even some golden raspberries showing up for a curtain call. It is like we have worked hard all spring and summer cycling to the top of a steep mountain. Now it is time to coast down the other side.
The extra time allows for reflection and some preliminary planning. The image below is of a real garden notes sheet for one of our tomato gardens. I included it here as an example of how we catalog our experiences and ideas. These notes will be a huge help once we begin planning for the next season’s crops.
If you take notes like these you will be a better backyard farmer and grow superior produce year after year. My book contains garden planning worksheets and garden notes pages like the one below. I hope you will buy a copy today.
DO let this information “leek” out. Leeks are an amazing vegetable to grow yourself and super easy to care for too.
I know local prices vary, but I live in one of the most expensive markets in the USA. So, chances are you’ll pay less than the $4 I paid for two small packs of baby leek plants. I wound up getting about 30 full-grown and amazing leeks.
What’s the secret you ask???
I wish there was more to it, but these babies are simple as can be to grow. Actually, I am so happy there is not more to it. Simple is perfection!
The main thing that I did to get such healthy-sized leeks is water frequently. This was especially important during the hot, dry summer that we experienced this year in my neck of the woods.
Some days that extra watering was a pain in the overalls. However, now we have the bounty of the harvest to remind us how much the effort is worth it.
Lastly, I noticed that my home-grown leeks are so much cleaner than the ones I buy in the store. Washing them is a snap compared to their store bought friends. I credit this to the less sandy soil that we have here on the DIY backyard farm.
Traditionally, leeks are grown on very sandy soil which makes cleaning them difficult and time-consuming. As you can see from the top photo, we did not experience any difference in quality. I believe this is because our soil is so loose and drains well.
Leeks have made it to our list of must have vegetables for the 2017 growing season. Do you grow leeks? If not, are you planning on growing them now that you have read this post?
It’s July and nearly 100° here on the DIY Backyard Farm. Lots of people who stop by ask how we still have lettuce, arugula, spinach and other heat sensitive greens.
Our secret is all about choosing the right neighbors. True, we do have great neighbors living near our DIY Backyard Farm, but in this case I am talking about plant neighbors!
As you can see in the picture above, we have our own living adjustable umbrella shading a new crop of lettuce. The large kale plant is acting as a sun shade for the very heat sensitive lettuce below it. The really cool part (no pun intended) is you can pick off some of the kale leaves in case there is not enough sun. Conversely, if you need more shade the kale plant grows so fast it won’t be long before the umbrella opens up wider.
This is not exactly an example of companion planting in the more traditional sense that you might read about in gardening books. However, it works for us!
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!
Garlic scapes are an amazingly tasty gift from the garlic gods who deemed the waiting period for garlic bulbs to be too long. Enough with the edible gardening mythology. Let’s move on to the tips.
The video below offers up the basics on how and when to harvest garlic scapes.
Scarecrows have been used for years to deter birds and other animals from eating farm crops. Here on the DIY Backyard Farm, hungry robins are particularly damaging hunters of freshly planted seeds and young seedlings.
This season we upcycled some broken garden hose into our own version of a scarecrow. Actually, we made many versions! As you can see in the picture below, a broken garden hose can quickly be made to look like a snake. My kids loved decorating these and I have loved the results.
I am even using these around the lawn to keep the birds on their toes and away from the grass seed I just planted.
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!
2016 will be the best cilantro season ever!
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
In years past we lost many zucchini plants to various types of rot. I believe the rot was often caused by wilting and rotting leaves that created an environment of wet, mushy mess. Wet, mushy mess is a breeding ground for plant ailments. A couple of years ago I began to carefully experiment with trimming off single leaves and their stems from the main stem of the plant. This can be a risky move because pruning a zucchini plant leaves the plant vulnerable at the spot where you made a cut.
In my experience the risk was worth taking. The video below shows how I prune my zucchini and what they look like in late September.
Check out my boy, “The Tomato Shark” and his tip for extending tomato growing season. His efforts have resulted in a nice second crop of tasty tomatoes for the DIY Backyard Farm!