You too can make your vegetable and herb gardening seasons longer

For many years, we have successfully extended our growing seasons for vegetables and herbs. We do not have a greenhouse and we do not spend much time or money creating effective cold weather protection.

Need some inspiration (and proof) that you can grow edibles well into December? Check out this video to see what we have growing right now. Notice the real snow on the ground!

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!

 

Your Guide to Heirloom Seeds and Where to Buy Them

Just a few more days until spring. If you do not have your edible gardening seeds yet then it is time to get cracking.

Maybe you are still trying to figure out if buying heirloom seeds is the way to go?

Check out this cool infographic from Organic Lesson and then buy your heirloom seeds here

Heirloom Seeds Infographic

Heirloom Seeds Infographic

Seed Starting Is a Family Affair

Started a tray of kale, swiss chard, beets and cilantro seeds tonight. We used one of the garden planning worksheets from my new book to map out our seed starting trays. No more unidentified plantlings because of lost plant markers or stakes!

Make this a family affair to teach life long skills like living sustainable, self-reliance and even math, geometry and spelling!

What You Can Do Now to Satisfy Your Gardening “Bug”

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I have been spending a lot of time thinking (and blogging) about ways to keep my gardening interests alive in this cold, “Arctic” winter. It is kind of like watering the dormant fig tree I keep in the garage during the winter. The picture above is a sure sign desperation has set in. I bought tomatoes from the store! Yes, they were from sunny Florida. No, they did not taste anything like what we grow here on the DIY Backyard Farm.

I took this as a warning sign that I needed to do something garden related ASAP. As a result, I broke out my SeedKeeper and did a seed inventory. The family is close to having our 2015 seed needs finalized, but I want to avoid ordering seeds we already have. I am amazed how quickly I forgot what seeds we had left!

The Seed Keeper,Seeds

My next step was to pot some additonal herb plants for the indoors. A small task, but it feels good to see living green things clamoring for the thin rays of sunlight that penetrate our cold winter air like hot knives through freshly churned butter.

herbs

Ah, I am feeling a bit better now. Seeds are organized, herbs are ready for culinary action and the last of those store bought tomatoes are now gone.

What are you doing to stay “garden sane” this winter?

Getting More From Your Edible Garden

Edible gardening does not have to be a 2-season endeavor. Sure, spring and summer are the traditional seasons most people thing of when they decide to grow fruits, vegetables and herbs. However, the fall is a great time to extend the usefulness of your edible gardens.

Unfortunately, most gardeners I speak with close up shop after the last tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are picked. Here in NJ that is late September to early October. In fact, when I show people my fall gardens they look at me like I am the all mighty and powerful Magic Plant Whisperer or someone like that. I often hear things like, “How do you do it? or “That is amazing!”

Growing your own produce is easy to do if you plan ahead and choose plants that grow well in your zone during the fall months (early winter too). I agree growing your own in the “off months” is amazing, but for different reasons. Fall & even early winter home-grown produce is amazingly delicious, amazingly healthy, amazingly cost-effective and amazingly beautiful.

Enough words! Check out the DIY Backyard Farm Fall Garden Tour Video below. In a few minutes you will be intrigued enough to start planning next years gardens today! Plan your gardens and garden your plan!

 

Seeding in the Rain

We have had 5 straight days of rain here in the Northeastern USA. The DIY Backyard Farm is clearly showing signs of sun deprivation and over hydration! Leaves are rotting, plant growth has slowed, and strawberries are bitter.

Little can be done to control Mother Nature. It is not like we are going to run out and tarp our entire garden (not that hat would help much). However, you can do you best to make lemonade from lemons, or in our case salad from beets, radishes and lettuce!

I am referring to seed planting. By now you may have harvested some of your edibles, but forgot or did not have the time to plant a second crop. Take advantage of the wet soil and get some seeds in the ground. We have a saying on the DIY Backyard Farm, “pick a plant, plant a seed”. This technique is most effective for edible plants with shorter growing cycles. We use it for our lettuces, greens, radishes, beets and many herbs (cilantro for sure).

Newly seeded soil needs to stay moist to allow for proper seed sprouting and seedling development. Light, frequent rains provide a steady supply of moisture. Heavy downpours are a different story as the fierce rain may displace seeds and/or expose them to birds and other critters looking for a nutritious meal.

Below is a video depicting just how easy it is to make “pick a plant, plant a seed” part of your edible gardening practices too. Hint – having a Seed Keeper Deluxe like ours keeps your seed collection dry and organized as you venture out into the elements. We highly recommend you get one of these!

Our New Book Is Available!

If you or someone you know is looking for tips and tools to start or improve their edible garden then check out our new book. It is a simple, easy and fast read with just enough information to get you started on the path to edible gardening success. Use our “8 Simple Tips” and edible garden planning worksheets to help you grow your best produce ever!

The book is available on Amazon.com and also in our E-Store. A more complete description can be found there as well.

Let us know what you think!

book cover

Book Front Cover

#15 of 31 Ways to Eat Healthier in the New Year

herbs,upcycle,recycle,organic

using an empty Hershey’s Cocoa container to grow herbs

#15 is meant to brighten your days and your recipes. Greenery is the first thing we notice whenever we travel to warmer climates in the Winter. It is amazing how fast we forget the importance of seeing things growing. By December we feel something missing from our lives, but are just not sure what it is. Then we walk into a store and see live plants or go on a trip and experience palm trees and it hits us. We need to see, feel, and touch things that are growing. For much of the world, Winter can be such a dull, depressing time of year. This goes double for DIY Backyard Farmers!

With tip #15 we propose growing your own herbs indoors. Fresh, organic, edible herbs are healthy, welcomed additions to many recipes and diets. They can also be used for teas and other natural preparations. They are also virtually calorie free! After cooking with fresh herbs you may find yourself reaching for the salt or sodium laden condiments less often. That would be a great New Year health move.

You may have watched our video on planting herbs in attractive wooden wine crates. However, that video showed how we wheel herbs in and out of the garage to protect them from cold nights. Tip #15 is all about windowsill grown herbs. Sure they will grow more slowly than what you experience outdoors in the warmer months, but you should still have enough to provide superior flavor to your home cuisine.

We like planting ours in upcycled containers that were destined for the trash, recycling center, or garage sales. We used a plastic Hershey’s Cocoa container in our video tutorial on this topic. Picking the right container is part of the fun and enjoyment of this project. Great fun for the kids too!

You want to be sure the container you choice has drainage. For our plastic container we poked small holes all around the bottom of the container. We then used the lid as a drip tray. You never want to have these containers sitting directly on your nice windowsills. Such images may look great in magazines or on websites, but they are not practical. We have stained or bubbled the paint on a couple of our windowsills this way. That created a DIY project we did not like.

Next you simply fill (80% full) the container with an organic potting mix, poke some shallow (1/4″) holes into the potting mix, drop one seed into each hole, cover the seeds with 1/2″ of the potting mix, and water well. Be careful to water slowly as new potting mix will float a bit and your seeds could shift or float away. Be sure the soil stays moist and warm to allow for germination. Then find your most sunny windowsill and let nature do its thing. Of course you should water enough to keep the soil moist. More watering is needed until the herbs sprout. Then you can back off just a bit on watering, but never let the soil get too dry. Read the seed packets for exact care instructions on each herb and do some internet searching for more detailed information if you desire.

We are all about DIY, living sustainably, and saving money. However, we have tried the Aerogarden and found it to be a good device. We owned one quite a few years ago when they were first introduced and used it for two growing cycles. The device had a pump that broke and we never replaced it. We got some very good, fast growing crops of herbs from it and enjoyed the ease of use. We may even purchase one again and review it for the website. Aerogardens are much more expensive than our DIY method above, but they are effective and the grow lights really ramp up plant growth.

We hope you are excited to start planting some indoor herbs. Try upcycling with some cool, unique containers and send us comments, pictures, or your own videos of the project. Be sure the containers you chose are safe and suitable for growing edible plants. Happy planting!

#13 of 31 Ways to Eat Healthier in the New Year

In honor of Winter we make #13 a chilling example of how to make the most of your fresh, edible plants.

Freezing your extra edible plants is a great way to save them for use on another day. It is also a step in the right direction towards better health because having a freezer full of your wonderful, home-grown produce leaves few excuses for eating processed junk foods. It is also usually way less expensive to freeze fresh produce than it is to buy the packaged frozen varieties.

You do not even have to grow the produce yourself to take advantage of this tip. Go to the farmer’s market and buy a bunch of what is fresh and in-season. Use what you can right away and freeze the rest.

Some herbs are great for this too. Below is a picture of our own frozen basil ready to be deployed at a moments notice. On the left are frozen basil leaves that we washed, dried very well, and then froze immediately on a tray. Once frozen we put them in a package that will protect them from getting broken. They are super fragile when frozen! We also have pesto we made fresh at the end of the season and then froze in ice-cube trays. These little cubes are amazing additions to pan sauces, pasta, or even thawed and spread over sliced, fresh mozzarella cheese.

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Left are frozen basil leaves and right are pesto basil ice cubes

We do similar freezing with cilantro, mint, dill and parsley with great results. However, with these three we just food process them with a very small amount of extra virgin olive oil. Then we freeze them in ice-cube trays just like we did with the basil above.

We have found most edible plants freeze really well. A quick internet search can yield many ideas and how to tips for freezing various types of edible plants.