Gardening update

I love Sundays, especially early in the morning, when no one is really awake. They’re so peaceful and simple.

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Noli and I went out this morning to check on the garden and make sure everything was going well, here’s an update on everything we are growing!

Basil: I wasn’t thinking and didn’t harden it off. Dummy. Soooo, it’s growing still, but it’s looking a little rough. But I think it’ll be fine. I might pick up a few plants just to be on the safe side. You can never have too much basil!

Beets: Attacked by the Spanish Leaf Miners. *insert crazy gardening lady with clippers and a spray bottle filled with soapy water*. Good news, although the leaves might look a little rough, the roots themselves are good and growing strong!

Cantaloupe: Still no sign..I didn’t keep track of when I planted it, although it was the same time as corn. (2 weeks ago?) I’ll give it a few more days and replant it.

Carrots: Carrots, you never fail me. You are delicious. I love you. (They are growing amazingly well, of course).

Celery: I’m not sure how this is going. It’s growing. It’s small..there’s no guarantees it’ll make it. I’m not placing any bets.

Cilantro: Harvested 3 HUGE bunches of this. We cut back the plants to the base and are waiting for more to sprout before it gets to hot and bolts.

Corn: It has started to pop up! Thank goodness! I felt like that took forever! Something about growing corn makes me feel like a real farmer.

Garlic: Everything is looking good so far. This is definitely one of the harvests I’m looking forward to most. Unfortunately we had to harvest one a little early (someone, or some furry black dog named Charlie, stepped on it).

Green Beans: I started these outdoors last-minute, in a spot that wasn’t even intended for anything. But they are growing great and I’ll be glad I planted them.

Horseradish: My one regret, NEVER GROW HORSERADISH IN ANYTHING BUT A CONTAINER. They will take over and conquer. The good news is, horseradish is delicious.

Hubbard squash: This beautiful plant has popped up and is looking strong and handsome. Has anyone else grown it? If you like pumpkin pie, grow this. Pumpkin doesn’t hold a candle to Hubbard.

Kale: Kale is doing beautifully, already harvested 3 HUGE bunches.

Potatoes: Wowee. These guys. They sure know how to grow. Handsome little taters.

Snow Peas: Growing STRONG, but….it’s getting hot. Like really hot. So I don’t think they’re going to be very tasty. But we’ll see!

Spinach: Damn Spanish Leaf Miners.. but overall it’s been a good harvest so far. Probably about 2 big bunches/or 3 salad bowls full (I’m going to get a better system down this week).

Strawberries: I’m so glad we have strawberries. If you don’t have berries in your garden, you need to get some. Your gardening life will never be the same. I think next year I’m going to double and/or triple our strawberry plants.

Tomatoes: This year I started my tomatoes indoors, and although they did great in the beginning, they became spindly from lack of strong light (we were using shop lights). Next year I’ll definitely build a mini green house, just for the tomatoes and peppers. I think they will do fine since we re-planted some of them sideways to give them more roots. A few we left as is to see if it made any difference. (8 in total). AND they are flowering which is a good sign!

Zucchini: I bought an heirloom plant of this about a week or so ago. I didn’t think I wanted zucchini this year, but when I went to the store and had to pay .69 cents for ONE zucchini squas. I about died, and immediately put a plant in the ground.

Things I wish I had room for: Cucumbers, broccoli and raspberries. And about a billion other plants. But these were the top 3.

Is anyone keeping track of their harvest this year? I decided to see how much money I’m saving this growing season and I’m keeping track of the number and weight of my produce! So far I’ve harvested: 1 lb of organic spinach ($4.12 per lb), 10 oz of organic garlic scapes ($7 per 1/2 lb), 1 lb 8 oz of organic cilantro ($1.46 a bunch), 3 lb of organic kale ($1.97 a bunch), 1 German Red organic garlic head ($3.50 ea), and 3 organic strawberries!
Estimate savings price for May: Est. $27.91
Total savings to date: Est. $27.91

So far so good.

And…I’ll end with a few pictures!

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Hey tomato flowers, lookin’ goood!

 

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My daughter already ate all the partially ripe berries. She knows what’s up.

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Bouquet of cilantro.

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Potatoes aren’t wasting anytime!

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Had to harvest this guy early, got trampled. Not sad one bit!

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Gardening Trays

Every year in my garden I weed, I pick, I pull, I trim and I harvest. I end up with handfulls, armloads, bucketloads of plants and produce. How do I move it? I use my hands, I use my shirt, I use bowls from the kitchen, I use the baskets that normally hold the throw blankets in the living room. Really anything that could hold something.

None of these things were really working well for me. I’d leave my kitchen bowls outside for a few days, my good shirt would now become another…gardening shirt. (Why do I always forget to put on the ratty shirts when gardening?!) My hands could never hold enough, and a few delicate tomatoes would go tumbling down the steps, and my basket used for blankets would eventually be covered in dirt and leaves because I would forget to clean it out before returning it to it’s rightful place. But the gardening stores around here never really had anything I liked. They had totes and cute baskets for holding fancy tea towels in..but nothing I wanted to fork out 30+ dollars for that was practical.

We’ve been tossing around a few ideas for gardening trays that would be useful in the garden. You could rinse your produce in them, shake off dirt, use them to hold your weeds or carry gardening pots outside with them (and whatever else you could imagine using them for.) Here’s our first draft.

Sketching out the ideas

Sketching out different ideas and measurements

Picking out different woods. Poplar and Oak.

Picking out different woods. Poplar and Oak.

Beautiful oak

Beautiful oak

Sawing sawing sawing

Sawing sawing sawing

Oak box and a poplar box

Oak box and a Poplar box

So there they are! This is definitely the rough draft, things weren’t quite even in some places, and we are still working with what type of screws/nails to use on the boxes, especially the Oak boxes. I like the idea of using Poplar, they are easy to put together and affordable. We will definitely need to put a linseed finish on both of them (or something similar.) The Oak boxes are very sturdy and they just feel good in your hands. They are a bit heavier than the Poplar, but will withstand weather and use for a very long time. They aren’t as affordable as the Poplar, but I think they will be worth their weight in gold once finished. Also, I think we’ll do a couple different varieties and sizes. Make the Oak one with a mesh bottom and the Poplar one with wooden slats, maybe do a few smaller varieties for those that mostly have berries and herbs. Let me know what you all think! 

So what’s with heirloom?

So let’s talk about HEIRLOOM. I started growing heirloom varieties of my favorite fruits and vegetables this year and I fell in love. Everything just felt, tasted and looked better. I swear my garden was fuller and greener this year than it ever has been before. Some might call that chance, but I call it heirloom seeds and a good soaker hose.

I asked a few skeptics why they doubted heirloom seeds and gardening. Here were their top questions they had, and here are my answers!

What does “heirloom” really mean anyway?
What does GMO mean?
What does Hybrid mean?
What’s so good about Heirloom plants?
Is it worth spending the extra .50 cents-1 dollar on each package?
What’s all the hype about?
Is production going to be higher or lower?
How do I even know that the seed I’m buying is actually heirloom?
What are the negative affects of GMO’s?
What are the negative affects of Hybrids?
Are heirloom plants harder to grow, will the average number of seeds grow better?
What’s the difference between organic and heirloom?


What does “heirloom” really mean anyway?
There are many definitions of heirloom, but generally it’s a type of fruit, flower, or vegetable that was being grown before WW2 era. Before WW2 big agriculture hadn’t taken over, so the demand to produce more, faster and bigger wasn’t an issue.

Ethne Clarke, editor of Organic Gardening magazine gave a perfect visual about what heirloom means. He said: “I think a lot of it has to do with the romance of history, growing something that perhaps grew in your grandmother’s garden or came from your native country. I just planted some peas that came from Ireland, they’re native to Ireland. My grandfather was an Irish farmer.

Heirloom seeds and plants are not hybrids and have not been genetically modified. When you plant heirloom seeds, you’re planting something that will work well in a natural ecosystem, that will give you usable seeds for next year, and that will give you the healthiest produce available.


What does GMO mean?
Short answer: It’s an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.

Long answer: GMO’s stands for Genetically Modified Organism. Scientist take any foods that can be changed at a gene level, and alter them for various reason. They take the little seed and genetically alter and change it so it can withstand all the chemicals and pesticides they are putting on it. They also alter it so it can do other things like repel certain bugs, make produce look bigger, and or stay on the market shelf for a whole lot longer than is normal. By doing so they risk  permanently changing the blue print of the plants. And with that they are affecting not only the soil but the nutrition of the plants, the health of the soil, and the ecosystem as a whole.


What does Hybrid mean?
A hybrid is a cross between two different plant varieties to get the best of each variety.


What’s so good about Heirloom Plants?
It’s the old school variety. Which means, they haven’t been genetically modified yet.

Tom Torgrimson said, “We say that with heirlooms, every seed has a story to tell. This variety was created somewhere by someone and was maintained over time, so there must be a reason. I think the most common reason is it was saved because this is a tomato somebody liked, and it was saved by a family.”

Here are the three different types of seeds a gardener or farmer might use:

  1. First Generation (F1) is a hybridized, patented, often sterile line of crop which can’t propagate further seasons on its own (that means you can’t save the seeds from your plants and plant them the next year).
  2. Genetically Modified (GM) seeds have been fiddled with in a lab to allow combinations of genes not possible through breeding — some lines of corn use information from cold-water fish to make themselves more frost-hardy, for example.
  3. Heirloom seeds are where it’s at. These varieties are allowed to pollinate naturally, with traits only selected for by generations of breeding. They might have been developed quickly in the last 50 years, or proudly tended and passed from generation to generation since the Civil War.

Original source


Is it worth spending the extra .50 cents-1 dollar on each package?
YES! Since heirloom varieties are open pollinated, you can save the seeds from your plants. So if you are careful all you need is to buy heirloom seeds once and you are set for a really long time, if not for life!


What’s all the hype about?
More and more people are starting to realize that the cleaner and more whole our food is, the healthier it is to eat. GMO’s have been found to increase all kinds of things you don’t want, including (but not limited to) the following:

  1. Allergies
  2. Toxins in the foods
  3. Contaminations between GMO’s and non-GMO’s
  4. Antibiotic resistance
  5. Changes in the nutrient levels of the food (in a bad way) (And this is just for corn!)
  6. Environmental damage along with the creation of the ‘super weed’.

Here are some other great links on environmental damage that has or could happen because of GMO’s: ISB News Report, Seed varieties disappearingNational Geographic’s Food Altered and Better Nutrition’s Say NO to GMO.


Is production going to be higher or lower?
I like what Rebsie of Daughter of the Soil said:

“When two dissimilar varieties are crossed, the result is a hybrid which will often be bigger, brighter, faster-growing or higher-yielding than either of its parents, which makes for a great selling point. But it’s a one-hit wonder. Subsequent generations don’t have the same vigour or uniformity, and the idea is that you don’t save seed from it, you just throw it away and buy some more. This is bad for the plants, bad for the garden and bad for you, but the seed companies make a packet out of it and gain increasing control of what we buy and grow.”

So to answer the question, growing heirloom might not give you as big of a yield as growing hybrid or GMO’s, but in the end it is worth losing a few tomatoes to grow a plant that is healthier for you and the soil. Also, when growing heirloom you will get the same type of plant every year after (using the seeds you collect) compared to hybrid varieties that may or may not grow the same after the first generation.

Ethne Clark, editor of Organic Magazine, said “The same reasons people are driven to conserve the rainforest, we need to think about conserving the biodiversity of plants that grow in our gardens. One of the best ways is growing heirloom varieties.”


How do I even know that the seed I’m buying is actually heirloom?
All companies that sell heirloom seeds are 100% heirloom, guaranteed. You will also find out the year after when you plant your harvested seeds.


What are the negative affects of GMO’s?
Scroll back up to the question ‘What’s all the hype about’ to find your answer.


What are the negative affects of Hybrids?
The biggest problem with growing hybrid is they don’t reproduce true in the second generation, making it near impossible to save your seeds. Making you rely on seed companies.

Dawn from Small Footprint Families said it best: “When the peasant farmers grew these new hybrids, they were indeed more productive, even though they required more fertilizer and water. But when they collected and saved the seed for replanting the next season—as they had done for generations and generations—none of it grew true to the parent crop, little food grew, and these poor farmers, having none of their open-pollenated traditional varieties left viable, had no choice but to go back to the big companies to purchase the hybrid seeds again for planting year after year.

U.S. companies like Cargill intentionally disrupted the traditional cycle of open-pollinated seed saving and self-sufficiency to essentially force entire nations to purchase their seeds, and the agricultural chemicals required to grow them.

Most of these poor subsistence farmers never had to pay for seed before, and could not afford the new hybrid seeds, or the new petrochemical fertilizers they required, and were forced to sell their farms and migrate to the cities for work. This is how the massive, infamous slums of India, Latin America, and other developing countries were created.

By the 1990s an estimated 95% of all farmers in the First World and 40% of all farmers in the Third World were using Green Revolution hybrid seeds, with the greatest use found in Asia, followed by Mexico and Latin America.

The world lost an estimated 75 percent of its food biodiversity, and control over seeds shifted from farming communities to a handful of multinational corporations.”


Are heirloom plants harder to grow? Will the seeds sprout as easily as GMO’s?
Heirloom seeds sprout and grow just as easily as hybrid or GMO seeds. That being said, because heirloom varieties haven’t been developed in science labs to withstand sprays and extreme weather conditions, heirloom seeds can be more vulnerable sometimes.

But that makes you a better gardener, a more natural gardener. You have to learn about the actual vegetable/fruit, like your grandparents and their parents did. You have to weed them, water them, and care for them, just how nature intended. Additionally, after harvesting, you can keep the seeds from your heirloom plants and plant them the next year without any problems. Good luck doing that with your GMO or hybrid plants!


What’s the difference between organic and heirloom?
Organic means living things grown with out pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Heirloom is just the description of the plant. So you can grow heirloom plants and still use pesticides and such.

WHEW. Long post. Hope that answered any of the questions my skeptics had. If anyone has anything else to add don’t be shy!