Mar 10, 2014
Why? Because photographers want the gardens to look lush and full...which means the gardener must put off harvesting her crops until after the photo shoot. And putting off harvesting is the #1 Biggest Mistake you can make when growing vegetables.
Last year, I explained that not harvesting herbs often leads to declining harvests. The same is true with vegetables. Often, gardeners get a few peas or cucumbers on, for example, and think, "I'll wait to harvest those until I have enough to serve for lunch." Or enough to freeze. Or to can. But when vegetables sit on the plant, ripe and ready to harvest, the plant thinks it should start going to seed - so it stops producing food and focuses its energy on making seeds. This naturally results in small crops and plants that go to seed early. (Besides, vegetables that sit on the plant for very long quickly loose their flavor and nutrition.)
But the fix is easy: Pick veggies as soon as they are ripe! Instead of letting those peas or cucumbers stay on the vine, pick them. (Eat 'em fresh, or add them to a salad.) If you do this, you will get the most from your plants.
Dec 30, 2013
So if you want to get the most from your garden this year, please check out these archived posts. They will teach you how to sow seeds earlier than you ever imagined, and how to get growing as soon as possible in 2014, and how to solve some problems you may have had with last year's garden.
* How to Winter Sow (aka, get your seeds started even if it's snowing!) You can also learn how to winter sow, start seeds indoors, and start seeds directly in your garden soil in my Starting Seeds ebook. It's free in .PDF format, or you can buy it in Kindle format for only 99 cents.
* Total Beginner's Guide to Growing Vegetables.
* All about types of seeds - including heirloom, hybrid, and GMO.
* How to Plan a Small Vegetable Garden. Planning makes a huge difference in garden productivity.
* Easiest Vegetables & Fruits to Grow. If you're a new gardener, it's usually wise to stick to the easier-to-grow stuff.
* How to Start Your Garden as Early as Possible - it's all about soil temperature and how to manipulate it.
* How Many Vegetables to Plant?
* Storing, Sorting, and Testing Seeds. Last year's seeds, that is.
* How I Choose my Garden Seeds. Sound advice on picking seeds that will grow well in YOUR garden.
* The Vegetable Garden: Location, Location, Location.
* Conserving Water in the Garden. For many of you, the high cost of tap water is a big concern; here are some ideas on using less water in the garden.
* Growing Your Own Kitchen Herbs. As you can see from my breakdown of money saved by growing my family's food, one of the easiest ways to save money at the grocery store is to grow your own herbs. And the best part is, you need very little space to have a productive herb garden!
* The #1 Biggest Mistaken When Growing Herbs. Herbs are very easy to grow, but here is a common mistake to avoid.
* The Organic, Pest Free Garden - Part I: Bugs.
* The Organic, Pest Free Garden - Part II: Critters.
* The World's Easiest, Safest, and Best DIY Weed Killers.
See all the Proverbs 31 Woman's gardening posts here.
Dec 11, 2013
But before you read on, you should know:
* My estimates are conservative. Quite conservative. Although the food we produce is organic and ultra-fresh, whenever possible, I compared the cost of our produce with prices at our local chain grocery store. Yes, it would be more accurate to compare what we produce with farm fresh, organic produce (or even grocery store organic produce), but frankly, we can't afford to buy organic. But if I did use farm fresh organic or grocery store organic with what we produce, this would greatly increase the value of our home grown food.
* When I couldn't find a particular food locally, I looked for a price online - always trying to choose the lowest price I could find. I did not include the cost of shipping I would have to pay if I chose to buy these items online.
* My garden is small: The main bed is 12 x 14 ft. with wide pathways; I also have a bed about 33 x 3 ft.) (To see how I laid out the garden this year, click here.)
* My garden is still producing! I still have carrots, parsnips, collards, kale, Jerusalem artichokes, in the ground. And, of course, the chickens are still laying eggs. I used totals from December 8, 2013 for my calculations.
* I didn't harvest as much of certain things (like herbs) as I could have, simply because I couldn't use as much as I grew.
* I had to exclude the value of certain items that I can't buy locally and couldn't find online.
Total Estimated Cost of Purchasing that Food: $1,770.89
Total Cost of Producing our Food: $278.00
Money Saved: $1,492.89
BREAKDOWN OF COSTS:
Seed starting containers: free
Seed starting soil: $10
Chicken Bedding: $10
Chicken Feed: $84
BREAKDOWN OF PRODUCE:
This post featured at Crafty Garden Mama.
Jul 17, 2013
First, Know This
All commercially sold fertilizer is analyzed for the stuff it brings to the soil, which is expressed with an NPK rating. For example, Miracle Grow's all purpose (non-organic) fertilizer has an NPK rating of 24-8-16. The first number represents the amount of nitrogen in the fertilizer; the second number, the phosphorus; and the third, the potassium.
Nitrogen helps leaves and stems develop and is ideal for leafy vegetables like cabbage, lettuce, kale, and collards. Too much nitrogen inhibits flower and fruit growth, however. Phosphorus helps develop root systems, flowers, and fruit. Potassium increases plant health, making the roots more hardy and helping the plant fight disease. It also helps develop fruit.
Manure also has NPK ratings, which you'll learn below, but know that because you're dealing with an organic product, actual numbers may vary.
Many people consider the gold standard in manure is horse manure. In the old days, horse manure was carefully collected and rarely was wasted. Even city families without horses swept the street in front of their home in order to collect this valuable stuff. Today, if you don't have horses of your own, you might be able to get some horse manure for free just by asking friends who own horses. Otherwise, you can purchase manure from nearby stables and truck it back to your house.
Horse manure, however, must be aged before it can be placed in the garden. As with most manures, applying it in the garden before it's sat around and decomposed will "burn" your plants, probably killing them. Fresh manure may also contain E.coli, making it a threat to your health.
If you're buying horse manure, only buy "aged manure." If you're getting the manure for free, you might have to take it while it's still "hot;" if that's the case, you'll need an out of the way corner to mound the manure until it ages. Just how long does it need to age? That depends upon how it's composted. (Is the pile turned or not? How hot is the weather? How large is the pile?) You'll know it's done when it's "crumbly, evenly textured, earthy-smelling, dark material that looks like a commercial potting soil mixture. It will probably take about one to three months for each pile to compost during the summer and about three to six months in the winter...[horse manure] compost should 'cure' for at least a couple of weeks before use," according to WSU Cooperative Extension.
Horse manure has a 1.5–1.0–1.5 N-P-K rating.
Caution: Recently, some gardeners have reported some horse manure as toxic. Apparently, horses who eat hay or grass sprayed with herbicides are producing manure that still has enough herbicide in it that - once it's applied to the garden - kills plants. So before you bring manure home, it pays to bring up this topic with the horse owner. (Learn more here.)
Now that many people are raising backyard hens, chicken manure is gaining in popularity. Chickens poop a lot. Why not use that poop to improve your garden? If you don't have chickens, some industrious homesteaders now sell the manure at farmer's markets and feed stores - or you can buy commercially bagged chicken manure at many gardening centers.
Again, chicken manure must be aged before you put it into your garden. Putting fresh manure in the soil may harm plants - and it might make you sick, too. Expert advice varies on how long to age chicken manure; some say 6 months, others say a year. I would err on the side of caution and age it for a year...although I have used 6 month old chicken manure in the garden, but only in autumn garden beds that will remain inactive until spring.
How to compost your own chicken's manure is a matter of preference. If you have enough land, you can just make a pile somewhere out of the way. But if you live in the suburbs, this can get pretty stinky. Dedicating a compost bin to chicken manure is a non-smelly, safe way to go.
Chicken manure rates at about 1.7-2.4-1.7. If it's mixed with bedding materials, it's more like 2.8-2.3-1.7
Turkey manure is about 1.4-1.0-0.9. Pigeon: 4.2-3-1.4. Duck: 5-23-17. All must be composted before being used in the garden.
As you may remember, last month we brought home a pet rabbit. He's a miniature, and not full grown, but oh my, is he a manure-making machine! I don't mind, though, because rabbit manure is a valuable fertilizer. And, unlike other manures, rabbit manure can go directly into the garden without aging. (That's because rabbits are herbivores.)
To give you an idea of how much manure one rabbit produces, our little bunny produces enough pellets to fertilize about 4 plants each week. (By the by, I figure that our rabbit more than pays for himself. I would be hard pressed to purchase as good an organic fertilizer for the cost of his feed.)
If you don't have rabbits (learn more here about raising them for meat on your homestead) but know someone else who does, they may be willing to give you pellets for free. Otherwise, you may begin to see rabbit manure sold by enterprising homesteaders at farmer's markets and feed stores.
Rabbit manure comes in at about 3.5-1.0–1.8.
Cow manure isn't as great as many other manures, but it's still good enough you may find it at gardening centers. If you know a local farmer, you may be able to buy cow manure from him, too. It does have to be aged for about a year, however, and is only 0.5-0.5-0.5.
Sheep and goats produce better manure for the garden, coming in at about 1.5–1.0–1.8. Because these animals are herbivores, their manure doesn't have to age before going into the garden.
Manures You Should Never Use
Cat and dog manure should never be used in the garden because they can contain parasites and pathogens that attack humans. Most modern sources recommend avoiding pig manure for the same reason.
Yes, that's right. Manure from humans can go into the garden, too. In fact, it's done all around the world; even here in the U.S., farmers often get "sludge" (dried up human poop) from local cities. I won't go into the details of safely using human manure, since I'm pretty sure most of us would only resort to it if we had no other fertilizers to use, but you can learn all about it in the The Humanure Handbook, a free .PDF book.
What About Weeds?
Manure may contain weed seeds, especially if it's not composted using a "hot system" (where the pile reaches at least 155 degrees F.). But according to Cornell University, even hot composted manure may contain persistent weed seeds, so it's smart to plan ahead and know how you're going to deal with weeds in the garden. (Two easy methods are laying cardboard down on top of the soil and using thick organic mulches.)
How to Use Manure in the Garden
For added safety, the University of Main's Cooperative Extension says manure should be added to the garden at least 120 days before harvesting crops that may touch the soil. This includes root crops and leafy greens. Otherwise, apply 90 days before harvest. Very often, gardeners and farmers apply manure in the fall, after harvest - but if you'll have a winter garden, you may have to rotate areas of your garden for active growing and for "active feeding" (or manure-ing) the soil.
To get the most from manure, it's best to dig it into the soil. The general recommendation is to use about 40 lbs. of manure per 100 square feet, dug down 6 to 9 inches. With herbivore manure, I'm not quite so exacting. For example, when I empty out the rabbit's manure tray (which is located directly under his wire-bottomed hutch), I simply dig a trench around a plant I want to fertilize, sprinkle his manure pellets in pretty liberally, cover, and then water well.
Always water deeply after applying any manure.
Also remember it's true you can have too much of a good thing. Over-applying manure of any type can actually throw the balance of nutrients in the soil way off, making it impossible to grow anything. To avoid this, most manures should be applied just once a year - usually in the fall or early spring. It's also wise to do a soil test once a year. You can buy inexpensive soil test kits at a gardening center - or online. For best results, conduct the test in the fall, before digging in any manure. The test will reveal if your soil is imbalanced - and what to apply to the garden to correct that imbalance.
May 20, 2013
That's right. Rather than waiting patiently for the herb to grow "big enough" to harvest, you really should begin harvesting as soon as the herb has several leaves. That's because cutting away herb stems and leaves stimulates the plant to grow more stems and leaves.
Many herb growers also fuss over how to harvest their plants - but you really don't need to. There are only two basic rules:
* Let 3 or 4 leaves stay on the plant/stem.
* Ideally, cut off each stem just above some leaves.
Honestly, I don't always follow these rules. For example, when I harvest sage, I cut the mass of leaves haphazardly, sometimes leaving leaves behind on stems and sometimes not. And my sage plant is still vigorous and productive.
So quit being so nice to your herbs. Hack away at them! They actually appreciate a good haircut!
(Need tips for preserving herbs? Click here!)
* To prevent herbs from taking over the garden, plant them in pots.
Jan 27, 2013
I encourage you to check out your local information. I discovered my gardening zone had dropped a number - that's HUGE when it comes to having a successful garden!
UPDATE 1/28/13: One reader has written to tell me PlantMaps has completely incorrect temperatures for her area; for my area, it looks accurate. So do look at the specific temperatures the site claims for your area before deciding whether the information is reliable for your gardening zone.
Jan 7, 2013
|Vegetable gardens don't need to be huge.|
What a Vegetable Bed Needs:
1. Lots of sun. At least 6 hours a day is required if you want a productive garden.
2. Decent soil. If your soil isn't ideal, however, there are ways to get around that. (Read this post for more information.)
3. Water. The garden will need easy access to a faucet or other water source. Even if you get a considerable amount of rain during the summer, raised beds and container gardens will probably need more water than what they get naturally. And if there's a drought, a faucet will save your garden.
|Front yard gardens don't work for everyone.|
If you have children, you'll also want to carefully consider their outdoor play area. If your front yard is fenced and large enough for the children to run around, then there's no reason not to take up part (or all) of the backyard. But don't use up your yard space, expecting to rely on the park as a place for children to run free; children who can play in their own yards get more outdoor time than those who must wait to go to the park. And remember: Children in the midst of play are often forgetful. No one wants their kids trampling freshly-planted seedlings while they play kick-ball, for example.
Other things to consider:
* Getting rid of little used play equipment can free up a lot of space.
* It may be tempting set aside shady areas for kid-play, while using up sunny spots for gardening. Do consider that your children will long to play in the sun, too.
* If your children are quite young, consider some sort of barrier to protect the back yard garden. This could be a fence - although it’s important to remember a fence will cast shade onto the garden. Or it could be a bit of decorative metal lawn edging, there only to remind the kids where the barrier is.
|Espalier fruit trees grow flat against walls or fences.|
It's very common to see homesteading blogs, books, and videos touting the benefits of front yard veggie beds. Lawns use too much water and are useless, they say. But before you use a sunny front yard for your vegetable garden, consider two things:
1. Is there plenty of open (ideally, grassy) space for the children to play elsewhere?
2. Will your front yard garden be subject to theft?
If you can entirely fence in your front yard, then you won't have too worry too much about theft, but in many urban and suburban locations, tall fences are not allowed in front yards.
In my experience, front yard gardens (especially those close to the sidewalk) invite stealing - and few of us want to work hard on a garden only to have someone steal the fruits of our labor.
The Side Yard
If you have a side yard that gets plenty of sun, count yourself fortunate. Often, side yards are wasted space, so putting a sunny side yard to use for growing food is an excellent improvement!
|Attach planters to walls, fences, or railings.|
If you have sunny fences or walls anywhere in your yard, consider them prime planting areas, no matter how narrow the space may be. Espalier fruit trees (which are carefully pruned so they grow flat against a wall or fence) are the traditional way to use up this space, but vines are also a good choice. You can even make or buy planters that hang flat against the fence or wall (or attach to the railings of a deck or balcony); these are most appropriate for plants with shallow roots, like herbs.
For many families, use of the back, side, and front yard is the best option. For example, we have our main vegetable bed in the backyard. It's not huge; there is still plenty of space for children to play - and for chickens to scratch. Our side yards are both too shady to grow food, but I do maintain a lovely dandelion crop there. (Don't laugh! We eat dandelion greens in the spring and I harvest some of the roots year round for use as medicine.)
We have a front lawn because we know from past experiences (and our neighbor's experiences) that if we plant a veggie bed there, most of our food will be stolen. However, I do have some less obvious edibles in the front yard - mostly right near the house where it would take some guts to come and steal them.
|Green roofs are neat looking, but not necessarily practical.|
A Note on Rooftop Gardens
Urban homesteading blogs and magazines frequently endorse rooftop gardens, but such an undertaking requires a considerable amount of planning and money. Before you take any other steps toward creating a rooftop garden, check with your city and county to make sure they are legal in your vicinity. Because a poorly done green roof can cause major damage to buildings (possibly even causing the roof to collapse), many local governments that do allow them have very strict rules on their construction.
You'll also need a licensed contractor to inspect your building to ensure it can physically support a rooftop garden. A contractor or landscaper with experience working on rooftop gardens is a real boon, because he or she can also suggest what sort of materials would work best with your current building. For example, you might need windbreaks, even if you wouldn't need them for a garden in the ground. In all cases, a contractor will want to add as little weight to the roof as possible; for example, he or she might suggest using foam instead of pebbles.
|Plans or kit for this green roof hen house are available at greenroofchickencoop.com.|
Finally, remember that rooftop gardens only work for plants with shallow root systems. When it comes to edibles, good choices include most herbs and lettuces.
NOTE: A more viable option for most people is a backyard hen house with a green roof. Most online tutorials for this sort of thing seem questionable to me; I think they will lead to early rot of the hen house roof. That said, a living hen house roof is do-able. Just remember that if the hens can get up to the roof, the plants you grow there are not suitable for human consumption and should be reserved for chicken food.
Sep 17, 2012
|Source: Wikipedia Commons; Ham House Estate|
1. Cover the area with three layers of corrugated cardboard, weighed down by stones or bricks or anything heavy. Water it down, then let the weather do it's thing. (If you live in an area without much rain, go ahead and water it once a week.) Do it now, and by spring, the weeds and grass will be dead and the cardboard, by then rotted mostly away, will have improved the soil.
If you have the time, you can also add layers of other organic material, such as kitchen scraps (only from produce, please), aged manure, and so on. (I don't recommend straw or hay, since it can contain many, many weed seeds that can survive this treatment.) Cover the organic matter (cut into small pieces) with the cardboard.
|Cardboard is a gardener's helper.|
1. Follow the steps above.
To Improve Existing Garden Soil:
1. If you can't do a soil test kit (see below) or the soil test shows your soil has no imbalances, add organic matter such as produce scraps, aged manure, shredded newspaper, brown leaves, grass clippings, etc. to the garden. For best results, either bury the organic matter several inches down, or cover it with good garden soil, compost, or weighed down cardboard. By spring, the organic matter will be decomposed and the soil rich and improved.
1. Test the soil using a soil test kit. Do this as soon as possible, since the wet conditions in fall can skew the results.
2. Follow the amendment instructions that come with the test kit. Add amendments to imbalanced soil now, and the soil will be ready for planting by spring. If you wait until spring, the amendments won't really "kick in" until months have passed.
Jun 20, 2012
|Root crops require different fertilizers than leafy crops.|
Easy Does It
First, let's talk about why fertilizer - organic or synthetic - can be a bad thing: Fertilizers contain salt. Just as too much salt is bad for humans, too much is deadly for plants, also. Salt kills fruits and vegetables by blocking their ability to absorb the water and nutrients they need to survive. The first sign of salt death is slow growth. Then the plants begin to wilt and turn yellow. Finally, they die an untimely death. So remember: Too much fertilizer = plant death.
Soil type plays a huge role in how often fertilizer is needed. If, when you irrigate, the water disappears quickly, you'll need to fertilize more frequently than if the water sits in the soil for a long time. In addition, adding nutrients to the soil that are not needed causes a soil imbalance, which can lead to serious gardening difficulties - so testing your soil is vital before fertilizing. Finally, vegetables and fruits grown in pots will need more frequent fertilization than those grown directly in the earth.
|Corn and tomatoes require more fertilizing than most other crops.|
What sort of plants you are growing also determines how often you'll need to fertilize. Some plants are "heavy feeders," consuming more nutrients than others. Tomatoes and corn, for example, are very heavy feeders and therefore need more frequent fertilizing than, say, lettuce or peas.
All commercially sold fertilizers are labeled with a ratio telling gardeners how much nitrogen (often abbreviated "N"), phosphate ("P"), and potash ("K") are in it. For example, for every 100 pounds of a 5-10-5 fertilizer you purchase, you get 5 pounds of nitrogen (the first number), 10 pounds of phosphorus (the middle number), and 5 pounds of potassium (the last number).
|The wrong kind of fertilizer will make tomato plants fruitless.|
Probably the most misused fertilizer is nitrogen. Many gardeners lavish it on their vegetables and fruit, but it can easily result in lots of leaves - and not much else. For example, potatoes over-fertilizes with nitrogen have lots of leaves, but not many potatoes, and tomatoes, too, can end up with tons of leaves but no fruit.
One of the reasons for the over-use of nitrogen (and other fertilizers) is that many gardeners expect instant results. However, it takes about three or four weeks for fertilization to "kick in."
Finally, consider whether you want to use organic or synthetic fertilizers. The choice may seem obvious, especially once you know that organic fertilizers help create the microbiological growth that supports good soil structure and helps retain water and nutrients in the soil. (Synthetic fertilizers do not.) However, organic fertilizers vary widely in what nutrients they provide, especially if they are not commercially packaged. Certain organic fertilizers (especially manure) are also higher in salt.
Fertilizing the Vegetable Bed
If your garden bed is imbalanced, fertilize according to the missing nutrients. For example, if your soil test revealed your garden is low in potash, you'll want to mix a fertilizer high in potash into the soil before planting. For the rest of the gardening season, use a fertilizer that's high in potash.
If a soil test reveals your soil isn't lacking in any area and you still want to fertilize, here's a good way to proceed, according to the Colorado State University Extension Office:
|Leafy vegetables like lots of nitrogen.|
2. "Every four to six weeks, apply a nitrogen fertilizer such as ammonium sulfate (20-0-0) or bloodmeal (15-1-1) at the rate of no more than 1/10th pound of nitrogen per 100 linear feet of row."
Other Extension Offices (like the University of Connecticut Extension Office) recommend using a balanced fertilizer - that is, one that has equal amounts of N-P-K. For example, a fertilizer marked 8-8-8. A fertilizer that is nearly balanced (like 8-10-8) works, too.
Make Your Own
Now that you know how to fertilize, you may run to the gardening center and...experience sticker shock. So here's a how to on how to make your own fertilizer.
Feb 1, 2012
Happily, a great many edibles are easy to grow - as long as you have decent soil, have chosen seed that grows well in your area, and are giving the plant the correct amount of sun. Here are a few to try:
Lettuces. It's ridiculously easy to have fresh salad fixings available all spring, fall, and (in milder regions) winter. Lettuces don't even need full sun; in fact, they tend to do better in a little bit of shade, which makes them a great thing to grow under vining crops like cucumbers or green beans. And if you grow your own, you can experiment with a vast variety of lettuces of all kinds of colors, shapes, and tastes. Supermarket lettuce will soon seem a bland food, at best. To keep lettuces growing for the longest amount of time, remove the outer leaves first and always keep at least three inner leaves in tact.
Collards. Again, these couldn't be easier going and they also don't mind a little shade. They grow like weeds and if you harvest only the outer leaves, they will produce for a long time. I suggest not waiting until the leaves are as huge as supermarket collards; the older, bigger leaves are more bitter and tough.
Green Beans. There's a reason school teachers often use beans for classroom lessons on seed sprouting! Plop 'em directly into the ground and they will thrive. Warning: You may have a tough time getting any green beans to the table once your family learns how fabulous they taste picked fresh off the vine. Heirloom varieties are usually pole beans, which require a trellis to climb. Bush beans are usually hybrids, but take up less space.
Cucumbers. Whether you like them fresh in salads, want to dehydrate them to make "chips," or want to pickle them, cucumbers are a vining crop that's easy to grow. Choose smaller varieties for pickling.
Tomatoes. Although tomatoes have a "difficult-to-grow" reputation in some circles, if you just give them what they need, they will produce abundant crops of tomatoes that make grocery store tomatoes seem like outright garbage. Start by giving them excellent soil. If you pot them, put them in a huge pot - they need plenty of room for their roots. Make sure the pot has excellent drainage. Place them in full sun. And feed them regularly with a fertilizer designed for tomatoes. (For more details on growing tomatoes, read "Dare to Grow ONE.") Tomatoes come in two basic types: Determinate and Indeterminate. Determinate varieties are bushy. Indeterminate types vine.
Radishes. Plant the seeds in the soil in early spring and radishes can be your first crop of the year. In addition to eating them raw, you can cook them like any other root vegetable.
Summer Squash/Winter Squash/Zucchini. Squash need full sun and take up quite a bit of room, but they produce like mad. (One way to make them work in a small garden is to train them up a trellis, as shown in the photo to the left.) Zucchini takes up less space, but is still an easy, abundant plant.
Peas. Like green beans, just plant pea seeds directly in the soil and watch the grow! They'll produce pretty flowers first, then superb food. Some varieties have better tasting pods than others.
Kale. Like collards and lettuce, this is an easy keeper that doesn't mind some shade.
Carrots and Parsnips. If you don't mind carrots and parsnips that aren't perfectly shaped, you'll find these vegetables easy to grow and so much more delicious than store bought. Perfectly shaped carrots and parsnips are more difficult to grow, but if you want to try for them, get a huge Rubbermaid style box, drill tons of holes in the bottom, and fill it with excellent, fine soil. It is twigs, rocks, and clay soil that deform carrots and parsnips.
Garlic and Onions. Both of these are best started from bulbs or cloves, and require next to no attention while they are growing.
Herbs. Pretty much all herbs grow like weeds. Grow them in pots, or they may overtake your garden.
Strawberries & Blueberries. Strawberries are easy to grow from runners or plants, as long as they get full sun. I suggest buying the ever-bearing kind. I've even had luck growing them in part shade. You can also try wild or Alpine strawberries in shadier locations. Blueberries are other good choice. Purchase young plants from a local nursery. They like acidic soil, so if yours is not (or you're not sure if it is), grow them in huge pots and feed them acidic fertilizer.
Jan 18, 2012
Just in time for preparing spring vegetable gardens, I'm offering The Proverbs 31 Woman Guide to Starting Seeds - a FREE resource for learning about the three main methods of seed starting.
This illustrated, full color guide includes complete information on:
* How to choose a seed starting method
* How to winter sow
* How to indoor sow
* How to direct sow
* How to transplant seedlings
* How to save seeds for years
* How to make your own seed starting pots from recycled
* How to make your own durable plant markers from recycled materials
Click here to download your FREE copy today!
If you prefer to read the book in Kindle format, you can download it from Amazon for just .99 cents.
Jan 2, 2012
Often newbies purchase their seeds cheaply from stores like Walmart or Home Depot, never realizing they are inferior and less likely to grow well. As Steve Solomon, former owner of a successful seed company, once wrote, most seed companies consider home gardeners gullible. "You can sell the gardener the sweepings off the seedroom floor," a salesman once told Solomon. When seeds "germinate badly or fail to yield uniformly and productively...[home gardeners] wonder if it was their watering, their soil preparation, the depth they sowed at, or any of a handful of factors they are uncertain about. Almost never does the home gardener blame the seed," Solomon writes in Gardening When it Counts.
Many other gardeners purchase their seeds from a well known, national seed company, like Burpee's." That might be a slightly better choice, but I'd like to suggest there's an even better place to purchase your veggie seeds: From a regional seed supplier. Such companies grow and sell seeds that are most likely to thrive in your climate. For example, if you live in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, a good place to shop is Territorial Seed. All their seeds are grown in the Willamette Valley - and therefore are well suited to that region. If you live in that area, you might also consider purchasing your seeds from a company located in the Northwest, where the climate is similar to the Northwest. (And if you're feeling really adventuresome, you could purchase seeds from England or parts of Canada, where weather is also similar to the Pacific Northwest.)
How do you find such regional seed sources? A Google search will usually do the trick. Or, to find seed sources listed by state, check out Mother Earth News' Best Garden Companies. You can see how reliable a seed company is by reading the reviews over at Dave's Garden. Steve Solomon recommends the following:
For short season climates ("This area comprises the northern tier of the...United States and that part of southern Canada within a few hundred miles of the U.S. border."): Stoke Seeds, Johnny's Select Seeds, Veseys Seeds, William Dam Seeds
For modern climates ("The middle American states...this is where the summer gets hot and steamy...and the winter is severe enough to actually freeze the soil solid at least 12 inches deep."): Stoke Seeds, Johnny's Select Seeds, Harris Seeds, King Seeds
For warm climates ("This includes the southern American states...The soil here never freezes solid; the summers are long and hot. The climate may be humid or arid."): Park Seed
For maritime climates ("...This bioregion is sometimes called Cascadia. It includes the redwoods of northern California, extends into Oregon, Washington, and the Lower Mainland and islands of British Columbia, always west of the Cascade Mountains. England, Ireland, Wales...have about the same climate...These regions usually have relatively cool summers. Rarely does the soil freeze solid in winter except at higher elevations and where is it isolated from the ocean's moderating influence."): Territorial Seed, West Coast Seeds, New Gippsland Seeds
Once you've selected a handful of potential seed sources, take your time browsing their catalogs or online stores. Consider:
1. Does it grow in my gardening zone? If you purchase from a seed company specializing in your region, the answer should always be yes. But if you choose to purchase from a seed company trying to sell seeds throughout the United States or North America, you’ll need to know your USDA gardening zone; every seed catalog should list the zones the vegetable is most suited to.
2. How many days does it take the vegetable to mature? Any time you choose short season vegetables, you’re probably going to get more food from them. They take fewer days to mature into a harvestable state, so you can replant and get additional harvests from more of their seeds. Also, if you live in an area where the warm season is only a few short months, short season veggies are an important key to getting any harvest at all.
3. Is it early season, mid-season, or late season? Some vegetables will only grow well when it's cool out, in the early spring or fall. Others require the heat of summer.
4. What are the growing requirements? Most vegetables need "full sun" - at least 6 hours of full sunlight daily, but there are a few that can tolerate more shade. Also, some food plants have special growing requirements like acidic soil or soil heavily enriched with nutrients.
Organic seeds: These come from plants that received little or nothing in the way of pesticide and chemical fertilizers. Unless seeds are specifically marked organic, gardeners should assume they are grown with chemicals.
Hybrids: These are seeds made by purposefully crossing two varieties of plants. They often are more disease-resistant and higher-producing than non-hybrids - but the food grown on them is much more bland and often less nutritious. If you save the seeds from hybrids, the resulting plants will not be disease-resistant, higher-producing hybrids; they will revert back to be one of the original parent plants. Also, some hybrid seeds are sterile, meaning they will not germinate and grow new plants at all.
Open pollinated: Non-hybrids that may or may not be heirlooms. These are excellent candidates for seed saving.
Heirloom: Old varieties that have been preserved for their great flavor or other good qualities. Most date to the 1930s or 40s. Heirlooms are open pollinated, and you can save their seeds.
Safe seed pledge: This indicates the seed seller will never knowingly purchase GMO or genetically modified seed.
GMO: Patented seeds created by removing or adding DNA genes to the plant. Most plants grown by home gardeners won’t be GMO, although corn, wheat, and squash could be. In recent news, farmers who claim GMO seeds blew onto their land and grew like weeds have been sued by the creators of GMO seeds for using that seed without permission.
Dec 14, 2011
But one of the most common questions from beginning vegetable gardeners is "How much of everything should I plant?" I've always advised gardeners to plant a little of everything they think they want the first year, then adjust to their particular needs every year after. However, most people want a more concrete answer - so that's what I'm going to attempt.
There are many things that make it extremely difficult to predict how many vegetable plants a person or family should grow. These include:
* Personal tastes. (For example, you might cook with tomatoes several times a week, but another family only cooks with them once a week.)
* Variety. (Generally speaking, hybrids produce more food than heirlooms, but among every variety of vegetable, the amount of food produced can vary widely.)
* Nutrition concerns. (For example, some people prefer to grow heirlooms because evidence suggests hybrids may offer less nutrition.)
* Garden conditions. (Your soil, your region, your micro-climate, and the weather that particular year, all have a huge affect on how much food your plants produce.)
* Growing methods. (If you fertilize, you'll get more food than someone who does not. Intensive gardening can, depending upon the plants grown and just how closely the plants are set together, also reduce production. Et cetera.)
* Storage. (Whether or not you store your harvest makes a big difference in how much you should grow. If you don't can, freeze, dehydrate, or root cellar food, you'll need to grow much less.)
So do bear in mind that all the information provided in this post is designed only as a guideline.
One of my favorite gardening books is The New Garden Encyclopedia, published in the 1940s; it includes an entire section on planting Victory Gardens - vegetable gardens designed to feed civilians during World War II, when food was more scarce. I think it's worth quoting.
To begin with, the Encyclopedia covers how much space the garden should consume, bearing in mind that a large garden may be too much for a single gardener to handle. Still, strictly looking at it from a produce point of view, writer E.L.D. Seymour suggests, "The usual size is 1,000 sq. ft. of garden area for each person in the family. Thus a family of five would have a garden 50 by 100 or 5,000 sq. ft. - which would keep one person rather busy during spare time."
In England, where food was much more scarce, Seymour writes that a garden 2,500 sq. ft. was typical, and required three or four hours of work per week.
The New Garden Encyclopedia had other recommendations, too. They recommend, for example:
* 13 lbs. of leafy green vegetables per week per person, and say this is provided by 3,330 sq. ft. of earth.
* 11 lbs. of "other vegetables" are recommended per week, requiring 1,600 sq. ft.
* Just 4 lbs. of tomatoes are called for per week, requiring 500 sq. ft.
* 42 lbs. of potatoes are suggested per week, needing 2,500 sq. ft. of soil.
Following these guidelines, the garden would need to be 7,930 sq. ft!
Below is another chart the Encyclopedia offered, detailing how much space each crop should take up in a Victory Garden.
Bear in mind the focus here was on a pretty bare-bones, basic garden of vegetables, often of heirloom varieties.
Now fast forward to my very first canning book, the Ball Blue Book from 1984. Perhaps surprisingly, this reference includes a "Garden Planning Guide" chart, suggesting how much of each fruit or vegetable should be planted in order to obtain a certain number of canned goods. I could not reproduce this handy chart without violating copyright laws, but I've done the next best thing: I've created my own chart, using Ball's figures. You can download the .PDF here.
So there you have it. It's not very definitive - but you should be wary of anyone offering a concrete answer to this question. But I hope it will help you make an educated guess of how many vegetables you'll grow in your garden.