Companion Planting For Longer Lettuce Season

image 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!



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.


Fall Flavorfest In The Garden

Fall is a time for reflection in the garden. What crops grew well, what would you do differently next year and more. After all, taking notes and learning from experiences are some major factors that lead to edible gardening success.

Fall is also a time that some crops really kick it up a notch. As temps drop tastiness goes up. Go ahead, try out some fresh fall kale. What do you taste? It is probably more flavorful and sweeter than it was just a couple of weeks prior. Beets are another vegetable that I notice more intense flavors in during fall months. I am not the only one who notices this flavor phenomenon.

Our littlest DIY Backyard Farmer gives a quick glimpse into our current crop of beets and kale as fall sets in and flavors rise. Take a look. If she doesn’t make you want to grow your own then no one will!

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?


31 Ways to Eat Healthier in the New Year

Starting today we will feature a different edible plant in our daily post. One plant per day for 31 days. The goal is to get our readers more familiar with edible plants and inspire folks to plan their 2014 edible gardens.

Today’s edible plant of the day is kale. Many of you probably already know kale well because it has become a nutrition superstar of late. However, there is more to kale than green juices and kale chips.

Just a few short years ago kale was a lonely fellow. It was often used as a garnish or decoration in fruit bowls and other food displays. Now it is not uncommon to find kale sold out at the market. Kale is now a green, leafy rock-star!

Kale is very easy to grow and can have a long growing season. Two great reasons to consider it for beginning or experienced gardeners. There are also enough varieties available to keep it interesting.

You can grow kale from seed fairly easily or buy it as a live plant. The decision can be made based on your experience with starting seeds, local availability of live plants, and the amount of space you plan to plant to kale. Kale gets large and needs room to flourish all season long.  As a result, you may only need a few plants.

Kale can grow well in gardens that lack long hours of direct sun. So, it may be a great choice for gardens that have partial shade. Just be sure the soil is nutrient dense and rich with compost to help keep the kale growing. It will pay dividends all season long and maybe into the winter. In fact, kale flavor intensifies and gets sweeter after the first frost it is exposed to.

Harvesting kale is easy and can be done by children. Just pick the outer leaves and leave the center ones alone to ensure the plant keeps growing. Large leaves are great for cooking and small, tender leaves are better for salads or juicing.

The number 1 reason we love to grow kale is because it is a member of the EWG’s (Environmental Working Group) “Dirty Dozen“.  It is a shame, but kale and collards are some of the most heavily pesticide sprayed vegetables we encounter.  Plus, the crinkled leaves can make it tough to rinse it well enough to remove some of the pesticides.  In our opinion, even a little pesticide residue is too much for our taste buds.  We either buy organic or grow our own.  The latter is much more fun and incredibly economical.

That brings us to our last part on kale. In 2013 we ate kale from our garden from April until yesterday (12/31/13).  It is going to take us right into the new year too.  During that time we estimate harvesting 75 pounds of the stuff!  Now, just imagine if we purchased all of that from our local Whole Foods at $2.99 a bunch?  A recent bunch of Lacinato kale that I weighed there was about 1.5 pounds.  That means we would be paying about $2 a pound!  So we grew $150 worth of kale alone in 2013!

Icy Edible Garden Anxiety


Anxiety is laying in bed at night as an ice storm coats the unprotected winter greens, beets, and other organic edibles in our garden. We just have not had the time to properly protect them. More to come on that in later posts…

The picture of our Tuscan (aka Dinosaur Kale) above speaks a thousand words. Though we are happy to report a nice sprinkle of warmish water helped defrost this beauty. It will be in our lentil soup tonight along with some organic, shredded collards.