Perfect Garden or Productive Garden???

radish picker

imperfect rows of baby radishes ready for salad!

There’s a saying entrepreneurs use that goes a little something like this, “perfect is the enemy of done”. They are referring to the relationship between trying to craft the perfect product or solution and actually getting that product or solution to market. Don’t fret about perfect!

Edible gardeners would be wise to follow the same advice. Forgot about magazine perfect gardens, don’t fantasize over idealistic visions of vegetable rows lined up like soldiers ready for a salad bowl battle.

In my experience, things will go wrong in the garden. Seeds will get washed away or will fail to germinate. Animals and other pests will eat crops. Mother nature will do her best to both support your efforts and frustrate you into near submission. However, the wise and persistent edible gardener will always persevere if they don’t worry about being perfect.

Relax, keep expectations in check, enjoy the imperfect beauty of nature and just get gardening. Seeds will sprout, plants will grow (mostly) and you will have food to enjoy. Takes notes along the way and get better and better at the process each season.

Enjoy that imperfect garden!

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?

 

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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!

Do This to Grow Better Produce Next Season

How has your growing season been going? Did you learn anything new, discover a new vegetable, fruit or herb that you want to grow again or find a new technique to trellis that you do not want to forget?

Each growing season offers new lessons. That is what makes edible gardening so darn fun (and addicting).

Things are beginning to slow down in the DIY Backyard Farm. As the days get shorter the plants grow slower. The weeds go slower too! That means there is less to do and more time to enjoy the amazing harvest. We still have tomatoes, peppers and some other all-star summer vegetables. There are even some golden raspberries showing up for a curtain call. It is like we have worked hard all spring and summer cycling to the top of a steep mountain. Now it is time to coast down the other side.

The extra time allows for reflection and some preliminary planning. The image below is of a real garden notes sheet for one of our tomato gardens. I included it here as an example of how we catalog our experiences and ideas. These notes will be a huge help once we begin planning for the next season’s crops.

If you take notes like these you will be a better backyard farmer and grow superior produce year after year. My book contains garden planning worksheets and garden notes pages like the one below. I hope you will buy a copy today.

Garden Notes

Garden Notes 

Growing Your Own Leeks

DO let this information “leek” out. Leeks are an amazing vegetable to grow yourself and super easy to care for too. 

I know local prices vary, but I live in one of the most expensive markets in the USA. So, chances are you’ll pay less than the $4 I paid for two small packs of baby leek plants. I wound up getting about 30 full-grown and amazing leeks. 

What’s the secret you ask???

I wish there was more to it, but these babies are simple as can be to grow. Actually, I am so happy there is not more to it. Simple is perfection!

The main thing that I did to get such healthy-sized leeks is water frequently. This was especially important during the hot, dry summer that we experienced this year in my neck of the woods.

Some days that extra watering was a pain in the overalls. However, now we have the bounty of the harvest to remind us how much the effort is worth it. 

Lastly, I noticed that my home-grown leeks are so much cleaner than the ones I buy in the store. Washing them is a snap compared to their store bought friends. I credit this to the less sandy soil that we have here on the DIY backyard farm. 

Traditionally, leeks are grown on very sandy soil which makes cleaning them difficult and time-consuming. As you can see from the top photo, we did not experience any difference in quality. I believe this is because our soil is so loose and drains well. 

Leeks  have made it to our list of must have vegetables for the 2017 growing season. Do you grow leeks? If not, are you planning on growing them now that you have read this post?

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!

 

 

The Trick to Growing Better Peas & Beans

Check out the video below for a can’t miss tip that will work for peas, beans, cucumbers and other “climbers”.

No pea left behind…everyone of them can now climb!

 

A Tip For My Container Gardening Friends

fishnure tomato experiment

Give your container garden soil a refreshing “mix”

Someone asked me a great question at a recent edible gardening seminar I was speaking at. She was a container gardener who asked what she should be doing with her soil at the beginning of the season. The woman was referring to how to prep the soil before planting the new season’s crop.

Containers do not benefit from the same natural changes our garden soils go through. For example, contaners will have less or even no earth worms patroling the soil on “doody” Containers certainly don’t cooperate when you’re trying to turn their soil over either.

Wait, maybe there is a better way to prep container garden soil…

When I prepare my container gardens I usually group them all together and dump them into a large wheelbarrow or onto a tarp. My goal is to break up the soil, remove the larger roots that are left over from previous crops and amend the soil. I will usually add some soil blend, compost and/or organic vegetable garden fertilizer.

If you are adding any soils or fertilizers be sure you are using ones designed specifically for edible gardening. Lastly, more DOES NOT equal better when it comes to fertilizer. Follow product instructions.

After I get the soil pile nice and mixed and free of clumps I add it all back into the containers. I usually have some left over because the soil gets nice and airated from breaking up the clumps and gentle mixing in of the aforementioned ammendments. A nice excuse to start a new container!

 

Keep Birds Away From Your Seeds and Seedlings

Scarecrows have been used for years to deter birds and other animals from eating farm crops. Here on the DIY Backyard Farm, hungry robins are particularly damaging hunters of freshly planted seeds and young seedlings.

This season we upcycled some broken garden hose into our own version of a scarecrow. Actually, we made many versions! As you can see in the picture below, a broken garden hose can quickly be made to look like a snake. My kids loved decorating these and I have loved the results.

I am even using these around the lawn to keep the birds on their toes and away from the grass seed I just planted.

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Don’t “Mess” With Me

Are you suffering from spontaneous bursts of flavor across your taste buds? Having dreams of being engulfed by the smell of freshly picked tomatoes? Maybe you can’t stop thinking about the satisfying crunch of the season’s first asparagus?

Relax, unless you have a greenhouse or geodesic dome you’re likely just suffering from edible gardening withdrawal. I know we are! Why else would we take turns dutifully carting out our remaining boxes of culinary herbs each day?

 

herbs,wagon

Herbs On Wheels

Depending on where you live, you might have experienced a recent warming in the weather. The soil might even look workable. Stop!

The whole point of this message just hit home! Your soil is trying to trick you into playing with it. Resist young grasshopper. For if you don’t you might be toiling in the mud and setting yourself and your garden back by days and maybe weeks.

Your soil is lonely. Little to nothing has been actively growing in weeks. It wants to play! However, just like a young child, it needs a little guidance. In this case gardener guidance. If you start playing with the soil too soon in the season you will likely just turn over a top inch or two of brownie mix-looking mud. The next few inches down might be frozen solid or totally water logged from rain and snow melt. Trying to work the soil too soon will potentially disturb the structure of your soil and create more work for you later on.

Wait unti the soil is defrosted enough to be worked. An easy test is to grab a handful of soil and form it into a ball with your hand. Next, try breaking the soil ball apart with your hand or dropping it to the ground from a few feet up. Does the ball break up into small pieces when dropped or tapped with your hand? If your soil ball remains intact or only breaks into a few large clumps than it is probably too wet to work with. The soil should be more crumbly. Is crumbly a word?

So, be patient while you wait for your soil to be ready. It will come along soon enough. Spend the extra time and newly found gardening energy planning your garden, organizing your seeds, buying seeds, starting seeds and cleaning your tools. You could also read our book!

You see, there is plenty to do right now!

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