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?

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!


Watering Basics

Water our edible garden sounds easy. However, over and/or under-watering are some of the biggest mistakes I see people make. Some folks fall into the “more is better” camp. Their gardens can be identified by the sick looking plants with stunted growth and the masses of mushrooms growing all over the place.

Other people do not water enough. Their barren soils and fragile plants are just begging for a sip!

Different plants have different hydration needs. So, it is best to read up on the edible plants you are growing. You will likely have some plants that demand frequent watering like beets, lettuces, etc. Other plants in your garden will require much less. Tomatoes and peppers tend to prefer less frequent, but deep watering.

Our solution is to practice “Targeted Watering”. We try not to use our sprinklers. Instead, our team takes turns spot watering the plants. Spot watering allows us to give each plant the amount of water it needs. This technique also keeps the water off the leaves which helps prevent disease and other plant problems.

Recruiting the kids for watering tasks is key. As long as they are old enough they usually love doing it. The video below is proof!

Even we have to use our sprinklers sometimes. When we do we try to water early in the morning or in the later part of the afternoon. The idea being that the sun will have time to dry the plants before night sets in. Remember, leaving your plants soaking wet at night often causes problems in the edible garden.

Watering needs will vary through the season. More water is typically required during the long, hot days of summer. Less water is needed in cooler spring and fall months. Get to know your garden and plants so you learn what watering regimen works best for your garden.


Why I Love My Backyard Edible Garden…

Actually, there are many reasons I love my organic, backyard edible garden. The obvious ones are:

  • Having an abundant supply of organic produce nearly year round
  • Being closer to nature. Just open the door, harvest, and enjoy!
  • Knowing more about the foods my family eats. No chemicals, non GMO, just tasty goodness!
  • It looks fantastic!

Those are all great reasons to have an organic, backyard edible garden. However, just yesterday I was reminded by my kids and their little neighborhood friends about what really gets me charged up. They were playing children’s games in the yard and having a blast. Then, all of a sudden the garden gate swings open and in comes a trio of 6 – 8-year-old girls. The youngest was my daughter. She was leading the other two over to see her personal plot of vegetables.

Next, she explained to the other two girls that they can pick some radishes if they like. She showed them which ones are ready and how to pull them from the ground. She also bragged about her soon to be ready “candy of the garden”, AKA beets. She said those were her favorite because they tasted like candy.

I observed this action with such joy. Every ounce of thought, planning and physical effort I put into the edible garden had paid off in a way I could not quantify. The experience was topped off when they started asking me questions about the radishes and other plants they saw. I could count two new disciples of backyard edible gardening goodness!

Yes, the just picked radishes tasted amazing too!

How to Keep Your Seedlings Standing Tall

This time of year is a challenge for people starting seeds. It is hard to time the seedling growth with the outdoor weather. This year is especially challenging because spring seems to not have sprung in many parts of the country.

Our zucchini plants have been a particular challenge. They are growing so darn fast under our grow light set-up, but the main stems are not able to support the tops of the plants. We are using toothpicks that came with our Seed Keeper Deluxe to prop up the future veggie stars until they can venture outside into the garden. This has worked well so far and we wanted to pass along the tip.

However, if you read the comments section of this post you will learn this technique may not always work. One of our readers has pointed out that our seedlings may be too weak to survive a transplant to our outdoor garden beds. We are concerned plant parents, but hopeful some, if not all of the plants will make it. If not it is off to the local garden center for veggie plants! We will report back with our results.

seedling, toothpick

using toothpicks to prop up seedlings


Spring Gardening Savings

Here’s a quick tip for those folks who are planning their spring gardens. Many stores and websites offer early spring discounts if you shop now. Check your favorite supplier, local garden centers or online retailer for deals. One final hint, if you join email lists you often get special offers like coupons and free shipping.

For example, the Cook’s Garden sent me a free shipping offer just today and I have received five dollar off coupons for being a member of their email list.

The Cook’s Garden

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

Garlic! Yes, that pungent, vampire slaying and healthy edible garden super star. We made garlic #7 because we use tons of it, it grows well for us, and it’s really healthy. There are a lot of health claims for garlic and we are not sure exactly which ones are true. What we do know is much of the garlic in our local supermarkets come from far off places like China. Kind of odd since “the garlic capital of the world” is Gilroy, Ca.

Why is locally grown garlic healthier than the supermarket varieties? In our opinion it is a matter of trust.  China has not proven to be a great trading partner to the rest of the world. Google “China and food exports” and read for yourselves. Tainted or fake honey, chemically laden fish, false claims around organics, the list can go on and on. We are not saying every food from China is bad for you, but why take a chance?

In the case of garlic we have options. First, with some planning it is easy to grow your own. Here is a quick, easy video we made to help first timers learn the basics of planting garlic. The bad news is you are too late to plant garlic for the 2014 growing season. Garlic is planted in the Fall of the following year. Do not worry, you have options (beyond moving to the Southern Hemisphere).

There are many local farms growing garlic these days. Sure, it may cost a bit more to buy local, but what a difference in quality and taste. In addition, we think it is nice to know where your foods are grown.

Another option is to trade with someone who grows garlic in their backyard edible garden. Garlic is picked around June in NJ. We do not need a calendar to know this because each June and July we see signs declaring “garlic for sale” all around our area. Maybe you have an abundance of early summer squash or greens to trade with your local garlic grower?

Finally, it is a treat to see the green shoots of garlic popping up from the soil as Winter sets in. Our garlic shoots are covered in mulch right now, but a quick peak beneath the mulch reveals the vibrant, green garlic tops. A nice signal of Spring life to come!

Leaves of Joy

We often photograph the images of experiences we have in our edible garden so we can remember them and share with our family and our friends here on DIY Backyard Farm.  Today we toured our edible garden to see what is still growing, what needs TLC, and what we will plan for next year.  While we strolled, our kids enjoyed the leaf piles scattered along the paths.

As they romped the smells of Fall came swirling up around us.  The familiar crunch of the leaves blended with laughter was yet another joy delivered to us from Mother Nature.  Cameras in hands we were ready to start clicking.  Suddenly I began to recall mental images of my sister and I doing the very same thing some 30 years ago.  The sights and smells triggered my mental “Kodak Moments” album.  It was like deja vu!

I shared the memories with my wife and we decided to stop taking pictures with our devices and instead take mental snapshots of our little ones.  We were not scared of forgetting the memories or worried about sharing the moment with others.  This moment belonged to us…forever.

This post was inspired by a cool daily post challenge.