4 Things You Can Do Now For a Great Edible Garden in 2017

It’s the time of year for lists. In the last 7 days I have seen lists about:

  • top ways to lose weight
  • saving money
  • getting organized
  • etc.

Seeing such lists got me thinking about the top things an edible gardener can do today to prepare for their best vegetable, fruit and herb gardening season. Come to think of it, if you have a productive edible garden then you will eat healthier, probably lose weight, surely save money and maybe even learn some new recipes. Talk about a life hack!

OK, without further delay, here you go:

  1. Review your notes from the previous season(s). What would you improve upon? What went right in the past? Did you jot down any ideas for new plantings in upcoming seasons? That brings me to #2…
  2. Get inspired. Start browsing those seed catalogs and find some new and exciting plants to grow this season. Before you know it the time will be right to begin starting indoor seeds.
  3. Do an inventory of your seeds and other supplies. It helps to do this before ordering any seeds because we gardeners tend to forget about that end of season discount purchase of seeds and potting mix.
  4. Start sketching out your garden plans.Have some fun here and don’t be too rigid. Your first sketch likely will not be the final one. It helps to see your mental garden plan on paper to ensure it makes sense for your space. I have included garden planning worksheets in the back of my latest book on getting started in edible gardening. I hope you will check it out and maybe purchase it too.

Before starting these activities be sure to include anyone who will be a part of your gardening endeavors. Your group will be more engaged if they had a hand in the planning of the garden.

garden plot sketch

Grandma’s garden sketch

 

 

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!

Choosing The Right Seeds

IMG_0582If you are into growing your own produce than this time of year your mailbox is probably flooded with seed catalogs. If you’re really into edible gardening you might be sneaking some peaks at online seed catalogs while you are at work. Excitement is building for the edible gardening season to come. You almost smell the tomatoes!

Speaking of tomatoes…

I find descriptions of tomato seeds and plants to be packed with exciting descriptives and amazing amounts of hyperbole. Yesterday a gardening friend and self-confessed tomato addict gave me a description for a unique “chocolate” style hybrid. After reading the description I was ready to sell all my Hershey stock and race to the store to buy every Ghiradelli bar I could find. I was certain no one would eat chocolate again. Why would anyone eat chocolate when they can grow their own?

Now back to reality, at least for a minute. I have grown some of these chocolate varieties of tomatoes. Some are tasty with great texture and unique flavor profiles. Others are rather boring and do not come close to their seed catalog descriptions. In any case, none have ever made me think I was tasting chocolate.

The moral to this story is to mostly grow what you like and are familiar with. Pick fruits, vegetables and herbs you enjoy and would normally buy in the store. Of course you should make sure they will grow in your zone and specific garden conditions. Then, each season you can throw in one or two exciting new edibles to see if they appeal to you. Just do not get carried away. I have seen many edible gardens suffer from overcrowding created by an overzealous, but good intentioned gardener.

What new fruit, vegetable or herb are you going to try growing this year?

edible garden collage

Some of our recent favorites

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”

2015/01/img_1717.jpg

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?

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!

Fight Back Against Winter’s Dreary Grip

seed saver exchange catalog, 2014, seeds

2014 Seed Savers Exchange Catalog Cover

The seed catalogs are coming! Thumbing through the pages of these vibrant catalogs of cheer is a great way to push back against the cold, grey clutches of Old Man Winter.

Don’t forget our very own Edible Garden Planning Guide to help get your garden planning off on the right path. It includes garden planning worksheets for sketching out garden planting diagrams. Plan your garden, garden your plan!

book cover

Book Front Cover

What are you planning to grow in 2015?

Stay tuned for The DIY Backyard Farm’s top seed picks for gardening with kids.

raspberries

part of the daily golden raspberry harvest

Edible Gardeners Take “Note”

The title of this post says it all. Taking notes throughout the year is a great way to make sure you are learning from your edible gardening experiences. In fact, garden note pages are a key component of my book, “The DIY Backyard Farm Edible Garden Planning Guide“.

garden notes photo

Example of my 2014 edible garden notes

As you can see in the picture, I practice what I preach! Plus, taking notes is a great way to engage my kids even further with their foods. We take turns noting garden observations and writing reminders on what to grow next year.

We use the notes when planning future gardens, deciding on seeds/plants to order and for troubleshooting.

How has your edible garden done this year? Have you been taking notes?