First 2016 Bucket of Potatoes Harvest

It may have been a bit early, but our bucket of Red Norland potatoes was ready to harvest. Red Norland are an early maturing potato variety anyway, but this bucket was even earlier because of the type of pot or “bucket” that we used.

To make a long story short, we gave our last white potato bucket to a friend who wanted to grow his own bucket of potato goodness. As is usually the case when you give something away, we wound up needing it!

Some extra Red Norland seed potatoes needed a home and we were without the usual white bucket. Instead, we dropped them into a large black pot filled with our fabulous DIY Backyard Farm soil.

At first everything was going great. The spring did not bring hot temps at all and there was plenty of rain. Then Mother Nature turned up the heat. The days got longer and the sun got hotter. What do you think we learned???

Yes, the early days of science class came blasting back into our minds. Black colors absorb sun, white colors reflect it. Our black pot was turning our potatoes into french fries!!!

We moved the pot into a part sun area and watered it twice a day to help revive the greens. The plants started to turn around and then they suddenly browned out and went flat. Was all lost???

Watch the video below to find out!

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.


Watch This For Tastier Tomatoes

Your desire to taste one of the best fruits of summer may have you picking them at the wrong time. Let the resident 8 year-old DIY Backyard Farmer show you how it is done!

Note, he meant to explain that it is important to harvest tomatoes that are close to ready before a major rain. Often times those tomatoes will swell and split. If no major rains are expected than most tomatoes benefit from longer hang times. This is especially true for cherry-type tomatoes. Not sure if that was clear in the video, but that is what he meant to say.

Now go make some BLT’s!

Strawberry Picking Tips

After making great efforts to grow and protect your berries it makes sense to pick them at the peak of their tasty goodness. Here are a couple of quick tips and a brief video on strawberry picking.

  • Timing – the time of year depends on where you live and what types of strawberries you grow. However, the best time of the day to pick strawberries is in the morning. The berries are cooler in the morning and so are the air temperatures. Try to avoid picking during or just after a rain. Rain can “dilute” the flavor and make the berries taste sour. Once picked you should either consume them or get them into the refrigerator. *Only wash the berries right before using them. Once washed they will begin to degrade more quickly. We try to eat ours right when picked or within a day of harvest. Otherwise we will use them to make a jam or spread.
  • If you have bird netting in place pull it back gently. Sometimes the netting gets stuck on berries and pulls them off the plants. Not good if the berries are not ripe yet because strawberries do not ripen any further after they are picked.
  • Strawberries are ready to harvest when they turn red all the way around. It is a delicate balance of waiting too long or not waiting long enough. If you pick too soon the berries will taste sour. If you wait to long the berries can rot (rather fast). My 6 year-old daughter likes to smell the berries and swears she can tell when the berries are at peak ripeness. She is usually correct!
  • When picking I try to imagine holding a golf ball and tee in one hand. The “ball” is the berry and the tee is the stem. Be gentle when holding the berry in your palm as ripe berries are easy to damage. Secure the berry between your fingers and your hand and let the stem go up between the thumb and index finger or the index and middle fingers. I use my other hand to stabilize the plant and ensure I do not damage it. Finally, use your thumb to help snap the stem just above the berry. If this is too much reading then just watch the video below. It is easy!

My last tip is to share. Fresh strawberries are a real treat and everyone should taste them at least once per season. Your kids will love them and your neighbors will forever be grateful for a taste!

Growing Great Basil

Pesto anyone?

Basil is a versatile culinary herb that comes in many varieties. Most types of basil can add tremendous flavor and freshness to almost any meal.

Basil is easy to grow as long as the weather is warm and the soil is not too soggy. Just like the folks at DIY Backyard Farm, basil enjoys those long, 85+ degree days of summer. Sometimes the heat and sun can be too much. If your basil loses that dark, vibrant green color it is likely telling you it is too hot or dry. The leaves may begin to yellow a bit and even look more thin than they should. I have remedied this problem by planting companions that can shade my basil later in the day. I have also used small, kiddie beach umbrellas to offer some removable shade. Too much shade and the plants won’t grow well either.

Basil likes to have a moist soil, but never allow soil to become soggy as I have noticed the roots are very susceptible to rotting.

One of the biggest basil mistakes I see is also the easiest to fix. People often to not pick their basil frequently enough. Basil needs to be constantly harvested after it reaches a certain height/size. Beginning at around 6″ in height you will need to pinch or snip the top set(s) of leaves from the plant. I like to wait until the plant has at least 3 or even better, 4 full sets of leaves and then I take the top set. This process allows the plant to grow more full, helps prevent it from going to seed, and gives you an excuse to cook something great!

The video below offers a visual on basil harvest tips.

Plant plenty of basil and try some different varieties. I suggest Thai basil for an amazing “secret ingredient” in your next Asian recipe. Just be sure to add it near the end of the cooking process or as a final garnish.

Finally, harvested basil should not be stored in the fridge. The leaves will turn black and the flavor will be off. Basil can be washed, well dried and then frozen. We prefer to make huge batches of pesto and freeze them in small containers or ice-cube trays. Basil flavor on demand all year long!

Happy Gardening…


Picking Asparagus Spears

Asparagus wait for no one. We went away overnight and left he DIY Backyard Farm unattended. The next day we came back to a nice fresh bunch of asparagus spears waiting to be picked. They were like a little tribe of edibles! Elder spears, parent spears, and little baby spears.

The video below is a quick tutorial on what to look for when picking your asparagus spears. Hint – do not wait to long!