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!

Do this now to be healthier instantly

I was inspired to write this post after seeing my Word Press Daily Prompt email today. The one word prompt was, “artificial”. The minute my brain sorted out those 10 letters it clicked! One of the reasons my family and I stay so healthy is because we have nearly eliminated artificial ingredients from our diets.

So how can this tidbit of information help you get healthier instantly?

Right now at this very minute you can make the decision to limit or eliminate artificial ingredients from your diets. While you are at it, keep the ingredient lists short for any meals or snacks you are planning.

How many ingredients can you see in the picture below?

 

image

What did you guess? If you guessed one you are wrong. The answer is actually two. Two fresh, delisious and organic goldren raspberries grown right in our backyard.

It might not be raspberry season for much of the world, but most people can grow their own food for many months of the year. When you have a farmer’s market outside your door it is easy to eat natural and keep ingredient lists to a minimum. Check out some scenes from our DIY Backyard Farm.

Winter, spring summer and fall. In our garden we have something for all!

Even if you live in an apartment on the 44th floor you can still keep artificial ingredients to a minimum. Shop carefully, buy fresh, local produce whenever possible and order simply prepared foods when eating out. Are you going to start being healthier in this very instant? Are you inspired to plan a bountiful, edible garden of your own?

Nothing artificial, keep it real and get healthier today!

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!

How to Plant Onions

If you have never tasted the crisp, fresh flavor of a home-grown onion than you are just not living the good life yet. Fear not, for much of the USA this is a great time of year to plant onions. I prefer to plant onions from “sets” and show you how to do it in this short, informative video.

Do you need more convincing? I’ve heard anecdotal evidence that onions and garlic keep away unwanted pests. I believe this trick works too and have lined the perimeter of some of my gardens with them!

What types of onions do you prefer?

Gardening Activities to Do With Your Children in Winter

Kale,tent

Kale Tent

It’s January and in much of the county it is cold. Too cold to grow most fruits, vegetables and herbs. The next 2-3 months can be really dull and difficult for many edible gardeners. Having young children at home can make wintertime cabin fever more difficult. What can one do to inspire their inner edible gardener while keeping the kids entertained? Easy, plan next season’s edible garden! Just be sure to include the kids.

Recently I posted about fighting back against winter’s dreary grip. It contains a recommendation to browse seed catalogs as one way to brighten up otherwise dull, grey days. Why not invite the kids along to thumb through the seed catalogs with you? After all, seed catalogs are usually filled with wonderfully colorful images of amszing produce!

Winter months are some really tough times for parents, especially those with younger children. The holidays are over and parents have exhausted all the usual options. It just so happens these are the months when seed catalogs arrive in the mail. I call them colorful messengers of joy! Plus, seed catalogs remind us all that spring will in fact come again one day. So, break out the seed catalogs and start dreaming about the growing season to come!

Over the past couple of years we have made seed selecting and edible garden planning family activities. It is so much fun and very interesting to watch the children’s’ eyes light up as they see images of beautiful and often unique fruits, vegetables and herbs. Selecting seeds and garden planning do not have to be quick activities either. It usually takes us a few sit downs before we get our seed orders and edible garden plans just right.

Here is how to do it:

1) Have a bunch of small pieces of paper and some tape handy to allow each person to bookmark their seed pages of interest and write down their thoughts on particular seeds.

2) Place all your seed catalogs around a table and let each person take one. Some catalogs are more visual than others. Be sure the kids get the most visual ones. If they are old enough to read then encourage them to learn about the seeds. Take time to read to them if the reading is too advanced. You will likely learn something as well!

3) Begin to develop a garden plan once most of the seeds have been selected. This step is best done at a different seating. It is nice to sleep on seed buying decisions before investing time to plan a garden or order seeds. Plus, the kids will not want to do marathon garden planning sessions!

4) Sketch out edible garden beds on graph paper or use the garden planning worksheets in the back of my edible garden planning guide book. Does your seed selection make sense now that it is on paper? Remember, less is often more when it comes to edible gardening. Also be sure the edible plant selections will grow well in your location (consider variables like climate, sun exposure, watering needs and companion planting).

Let kids get creative (example in the picture below) by allowing them to use colored pencils or crayons to draw the edible plants they want to grow. I bet they surprise you with how well they can draw carrots, strawberries and other tasty produce. Be sure to help them understand how many of each plant can grow in a specified area. If you do not have this information then check the plant descriptions in seed catalogs.

5) Once you are satisfied with your seed selection and checked that plants will do well in your garden it is time to order or buy seeds from your local garden center. I buy some seeds from local garden centers, swap seeds with gardening friends and order from a few catalog retailers. Click here for a list of mail order seed suppliers.

When the seeds arrive you can keep the kids engaged by reviewing each seed packet with them. Remember to keep it simple and do not try to become expert on too many plant types at once. You and your children will benefit more from growing a few plants and knowing a lot about each one.

I find the process of seed selection and garden planning is helpful for getting through the winter. Before long it will be time to start seeds under grow lights or plant the first seeds of the season in your garden soils!

The Tastiest Tomatoes

March on into your garden to tend tomato plants daily. A little work each day keeps your plants from overwhelming you and makes growing them feel a lot less like work. A little tying here, some pruning there and of course some picking! An ounce of prevention is worth pounds of amazing, fresh globes of goodness!

 

DIY Backyard Farm Video Tour

Have you ever wondered what our backyard, edible gardens look like? I often find myself trying to visualize the people, places and things I read about. Using your imagination is fine, but seeing is believing! Come along on  brief video tour of our gardens.

Happy Viewing!

 

 

 

End of Asparagus Season Tips

Asparagus season is over for most of the USA. Sure you may see a few spears pushing up here and there, but not in the numbers you see in spring. The video above has some tips for keeping your asparagus investment in top shape for many years to come.

Here are some highlights:

  • Asparagus are lone soldiers. They do not like competition from other edible plants or even the smallest weeds. Your beds must be kept clear of weeds and other plants at all times. Our asparagus beds often get invaded by purslane. We love purslane, but it cannot be allowed to grow in the asparagus beds. Be sure to weed the beds often.
  • Let some spears grow. I know it is tough, but the underground roots (crowns) of the asparagus need to be nourished. As you recall from high school biology, plants get much of their energy from the sun. The spears you do not harvest are like solar panels that collect energy and send it down into the rot system of the crowns. If you picked every spear you would likely not see much production in future years.

How was your asparagus growing season? If you want to start an asparagus bed next year then check out this video.

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…

 

#30 of 30 Tips For a Better Edible Garden in the New Year

Posting 30 tips for a better edible garden in the new year was a lot of fun and the exercise helped remind us of some best practices too. After all, it is important to practice what you preach.

Tip #30 is one we have been waiting to unveil since the beginning. In fact, growing organic is so important we even thought about posting it 2 or 3 times throughout this tip series. However, saving it for last is a nice way to wrap up this series of tips. Plus, having it at the end may just boost the importance of growing organic edibles.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive instructional on how to grow organically. There’s plenty of information out there on the topic already. Our goal here is to make sure the option of growing organic is strongly considered.

Furthermore, it is important to know that growing organic can be more work and take more time than simply applying non organic fertilizers and harsh chemical pesticides. We feel the control over what is on/in your foods is well worth the extra effort!