Reader’s Digest has quite a few articles about growing food this month! I was pleasantly surprised to see a page about edible flowers, one of my favourite things. It often comes as a surprise to people that they can eat the violets that grow in their lawn (if they are lucky enough to have such a thing). Pansies are also edible, and Johnny Jump-Ups, which is why I’m growing them, along with Nasturtiums and Sunflowers and Calendula and Bergamot.
Something I didn’t know, that the article taught me, is that the older rugosa varieties of roses are more tasty than the newer hybrids. I’ve been wondering about rosehips, too, and I have a feeling that if the older types are better tasting they probably also have better rosehips. So I’ll be checking out rugosa varieties, if it ever comes to the point where I’m planting a rosebush!
Because landscaping should be as edible as possible.
In another article Sara Alway writes about ‘Soil Mates’, beneficial pairings of veggies and herbs. I’d heard of growing Tomatoes and Basil together, but it wasn’t actually mentioned here. Some odder pairings were mentioned, like Spinach and Pepper, Brussels Sprouts and Thyme, and, in keeping with the edible flowers theme, Zucchini and Nasturtiums.
The article is actually condensed from her book, which looks like a fun and informative read. I might have to get me a copy, or see if the library has it.
It’s definitely starting to get way more exciting around here, with all the seedlings taking over the place and ruling my life! Today is moving day for quite a few of them. More peppers have sprouted, so I need to make space under the grow lights upstairs, so the seedlings that have finished germinating and are more hardy will be moved out to the greenhouse. I’m sure I’ll be taking photos, for those who love the baby pics.
Happy sunny day today!
My girls had to start some seeds last week, when they saw that my kits were all ready!
They both started flowers. No flower seeds come with the kits, though – they raided my stash to choose their own seeds.
The morning glories have come up already! They were quick. They’re annuals, which is perhaps why they germinated so quickly. I’ve never tried them before, so I’m hoping they survive to see the real outside sunshine and grow tall along some twine or a trellis. Someone was telling me about growing morning glories mixed in with pole beans – beautiful and edible, growing together and looking pretty too.
If you want a Seed Starting Kit, let me know! $35 for 17 different kinds of seeds, plus a tray to start them in, and the potting soil, and compost to plant them out with, and little label tags, instructions, and dried chamomile flowers to make a disease-preventing potion for your wee seedlings. It’s a deal.
Here’s the seed list. Those that are not indicated organic, are at the very least untreated and non-GMO.
Indoor-Starting Seed Types:
Organic Beefsteak Tomatoes
Green to Red Sweet Peppers
Organic Brandywine Tomatoes
Green Bunching Onions
Organic Genovese Basil
Organic Pie/Carving Pumpkin
And for seeding outdoors:
Sugar Snap Peas
The Seed Starting Kit is new, too. It will hopefully be ready in the next few weeks.
Here’s the general idea: I want to provide a great start to a backyard garden. Maybe I should call them “Garden Starting Kits”. So the kit has a seedling tray, soil, seeds, tags, some dried chamomile flowers, and an instruction manual.
The seedling tray is a smaller size, and the seed amounts are also small – only enough to plant the tray for this year. With a few extras just in case. Usually seed packets have way too many seeds for the average home gardener, so I thought I’d help solve the problem of excess seeds by reducing the amount in the packages.
The dried chamomile flowers are included so that you can brew your own disease preventative. There’s a fungal disease called ‘damping off’ that kills tiny seedlings very easily. Spraying with chamomile tea helps prevent this.
Here’s a list of seeds included:
-green to red pepper (can harvest at green or red stage)
-green bunching onions
-pumpkin (2 seeds)
-zucchini (2 seeds)
Outdoor starting seeds:
The instruction manual will be fully loaded with clear instructions and information about the plants. I say ‘will be’ because I haven’t written it yet.
If anyone has any suggestions for this kit, please let me know! There’s still time to affect what the final product will offer.
I stood and watched them for a bit, wondering if I would need to give them a gentle nudge. They really did stay up there for a good amount of time. I watched, and then I poured some feed into their feeder. Even then, they stayed. Usually the sound of food makes them come running – they are teenage boys after all – but this time they were still not sure what they would be getting themselves into if they left the safety of their perch.
And here you can see them fighting over the food as usual. No problem! They’re all doing really well. I’m surprised, actually, because my laying hens from last winter had colds by now. Well, I think it was one that usually was more sneezy than the others, but still. I haven’t heard a single sneeze from these ones yet!
And they’re maturing so nicely. The black in their tails and around their necks is really starting to come out. I even heard a few honks from a couple of them, which is the noise they make before they are actually old enough to crow. They definitely don’t make the little baby cheepy noises anymore. Sniff sniff.
And here’s one more winter photo for you on this rainy day: a bell pepper plant, very much dead. You can see I haven’t done any tilling yet. I might pull out a few of the larger plants, so they don’t interfere too much with snowman building, but everything else will stay unless we get some crazy mild weather and the time to do something about it.
It doesn’t hurt to leave things. If you haven’t yet ‘cleaned up the garden’, don’t worry about it. By the time winter is through with your garden, the cleanup is much easier. I like to leave things for spring when they’re easier to pull out or hoe or rake. Plus, at that point I have way more energy because I’m excited about the new season AND the days are getting longer and longer! Many more daylight hours to get things done, and new life is all around. I can hardly wait.
A few more weeks of decreasing light, though. We can do it!
Living in the city, I often ask myself how much more I can grow. I have a large garden by most city standards, at around 25′x80′. Huge, I know. You’d think I’d be growing enough to feed a small village. Sadly, though, that is not the case. Long rows of plants leave lots of extra space around them, and this extra space needs to be weeded. Add to that the fact that all the nutrition I mixed into the soil is equally blended across good growing space and pathways. Not very efficient.
The reason I like this All New Square Foot Gardening book so much is that it deals with the inefficiencies and presents a better way. Sure, if you live in the country and you’ve got space to spare and want to grow food for all your neighbors, this may not make a whole lot of sense for you. But city folk, who are increasingly becoming more and more interested in growing their own food, do not have the luxury (or burden?) of space.
Mel Bartholomew, who wrote this book, suggests that 80% of the space in a traditional garden is wasted. He popularized 4′x4′ garden boxes that are marked with a square foot grid. Some plants will take a whole square foot, such as tomato or pepper plants. These each get their own square. Smaller plants like radishes don’t need that much space, so they get planted 16 to a square foot. Lettuce will grow 4 to a square foot. Essentially, in the whole garden box you are not wasting any space. And because it’s 4′x4′, you can reach to the middle of the garden without stepping in it.
This is key – don’t compact the soil. Start with amazing soil – not soil dug out of the ground, but a nice potting soil plus composted manure and other blends of compost. If it stays nice and fluffy, the roots of the plants will have the three things they need – air, water, and nutrition – and will grow very well. If you are not gardening in raised boxes but do have a garden, try to designate areas that are ‘no-walk zones’ – never ever step in them. When you add nutrition, add it only there, and not in the pathways.
Other reasons for gardening in smaller and more intensive space include saving water and growing what you can eat. Large gardens with long rows of cabbage just might produce more cabbage than an average city family can eat. And who needs 10-20 zucchini plants? One is usually more than enough, as those with gardening friends can tell you.
I like this idea so much that I’m basing my product line on this reasoning. I will have 4′x4′ garden kits for sale, as well as smaller 4′x1′ planters with bottoms for those growing food on balconies.
If you’d like to read more about Square Foot Gardening, you can check out the official website. I will also be posting more about this in the future.
Everybody should grow food in their backyard. Or on their balcony. Or in a window, like my brother and his wife did for a year or two. Even if it’s only enough for a snack. There are many reasons why I say this, and one of the most important has to do with our children. How will they know where their food comes from, unless we show them?
Here’s a story for you: picture my cute little nephew, one and a half years old. Says a few words, communicates well regardless of how many words he uses. Hefty boy, tough as nails – he has to be, he has an older brother – and very adventurous. My sister has a garden in her backyard – she has to, we have the same genes – and in it she has a chili pepper plant, pictured above. It’s a big beautiful plant, because her soil is good and so is the weather where she lives. Don’t those peppers look tasty? Bright red, they just call you to come and have a taste. So, that’s what my nephew does. Every time he gets into the garden. Takes a bite, spits it out, and says “hot”. Every time. He’s learning about chili peppers, hands-on!
So where does our food come from? Carrots don’t grow on trees and peppers don’t grow underground. Oranges don’t grow in our climate so they have to be shipped from somewhere warm, far away. Broccoli takes up way more space in the garden than the head you buy in the grocery store. Parsnips are not white carrots, apple trees take at least 5 years to produce fruit, lettuce likes growing in cool weather, and sugar snap peas are pure candy when eaten off the vine. If you sat and watched a pumpkin vine for a few hours, you would swear you saw it grow an inch. There are thousands of tomato varieties, but for some reason the ones you buy in a grocery store are tasteless. I think the next generation needs to know these things and more.
My children eat beans raw from the garden, but if I buy frozen ones they put up a big fight about eating them cooked. In the summer they snack on the cherry tomatoes and beans and peas and ground cherries in the garden, sometimes playing restaurant outside, or playing that they’re orphans (gasp) and need to scavenge for food. Such imagination, such healthy food entering their growing bodies, I love it.
It doesn’t matter the size of the garden, or what is grown, but everyone needs to grow something edible. At least once. And share it with someone younger.
A few years ago something about honeybees sparked my interest. I can’t pinpoint exactly the event or moment that started my passionate research, but here I am: entering my second winter season as a beekeeper. I just put the bee escapes on my hives yesterday – you can read about it here – in order to clear the bees out of the honey supers so I can come back to collect this year’s honey.
The honey was probably what started it all: DIY honey. How sweet is that? Mmmm. Very sweet, as it turns out – but I had to wait two summers to get it! My honeybee blog is an adventure story: a record of my good and worse moments, my learning moments, and all the help I’ve had along the way.
Before I bought my bees, I spent a good year researching and learning hands-on. I wanted to be sure that I really wanted to do it. Turns out, bees are incredibly fascinating. It’s beyond honey now. I like bees for bees. And honey. But bees are cool too. Only 5% of bees make honey. The rest still pollinate and are very important to the well-being of humankind on the planet; without bees we would only have about 1/3 of our food choices left to us.
Not everyone needs to be a beekeeper in order to help the bees; plant some flowers, or veggies that are actually fruits – like squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers – and you will be providing a food source for wild bees. They will pollinate your crops and you will have food to eat. Some of the nectar and pollen they collect will be used to grow the next generation of bees, and the cycle continues.
If you plant flowers and fruity veggies, thank you!!