Potatoes

After taking two hours to put my toddler down for a nap, I’m finally able to get this post out! She’s in the beginning stages of switching from a crib to a bed, so it’s been all sorts of fun. But I’ve been thinking about how wonderful spring is. Children are outside more, stretching their legs and running full speed on the play ground. It seems Mother Nature is cleaning the earth of the dark cold layers of snow and ice, with heavy rain falls interspersed with warm sunny days. Worms are making there way towards the surface and the flowers are starting to bloom. It’s just hard to be sad when the earth is so alive!

This past week we’ve been working really hard to expand our garden and get things planted. We should be about doubling the space, which will be especially nice since I’v been wanting to grow corn, potatoes, Hubbard squash and cantaloupe this year, and those things take up so much space! We put down probably about an inch of compost over the entire area along with some peat moss and vermiculite. We got our lettuces, spinach, kale, cilantro starts, and soon our beets, peas and carrots planted.

 

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I also just got my *very first* shipment of potatoes today. I decided to grow La Ratte and Yellow Finn. They look beautiful, if you’re into tubers 😉 I set them out to get a bit of heat and light, so hopefully they will be ready to go into the ground in about a week or two.

 

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Seed Savers has some great tips on growing potatoes! This was taken straight from their Blog and the flyer they sent me with my shipment:

TIPS FOR GROWING POTATOES

General Advice

Potatoes always do best in full sun. They are aggressively rooting plants, and we find that they will produce the best crop when planted in a light, loose, well-drained soil. Potatoes prefer a slightly acid soil with a PH of 5.0 to 7.0. Fortunately potatoes are very adaptable and will almost always produce a respectable crop, even when the soil conditions and growing seasons are less than perfect. Always keep your potato patch weed-free for best results. Potatoes should be rotated in the garden, never being grown in the same spot until there has been a 3-4 year absence of potatoes. If you are new at growing potatoes, ask around; chances are there are many older gardeners in your area who have years of gardening experience.

Planting Times

Potatoes may be planted as soon as the ground can be worked in the early spring, but keep soil temperatures in mind. Potato plants will not begin to grow until the soil temperature has reached 45 degrees F. The soil should be moist, but not water-logged. Potatoes can tolerate a light frost, but you should provide some frost protection for the plants if you know that a hard, late season freeze is coming. If you want to extend storage times, and have a long growing season, you can plant a second crop as late as June 15 and harvest the potatoes as late as possible.

Cutting Potatoes Before Planting

A week or two before your planting date, set your seed potatoes in an area where they will be exposed to light and temperatures between 60-70 degrees F. This will begin the sprouting process. A day or two before planting, use a sharp, clean knife to slice the larger seed potatoes into smaller pieces. Each piece should be approximately 2 inches square, and must contain at least 1 or 2 eyes or buds. Plant smaller potatoes whole. A good rule of thumb is to plant potatoes whole if they are smaller in size than a golf ball. In a day or so your seed will form a thick callous over the cuts, which will help prevent rotting.

Planting in the Garden

We find that potatoes are best grown in rows. To begin with, dig a trench that is 6-8 inches deep. Plant each piece of potato (cut side down, with the eyes pointing up) every 12-15 inches, with the rows spaced 3 feet apart. If your space is limited or if you would like to grow only baby potatoes, you can decrease the spacing between plants. To begin with only fill the trench in with 4 inches of soil. Let the plants start to grow and then continue to fill in the trench and even mound the soil around the plants as they continue to grow. Prior to planting, always make sure to cultivate the soil one last time. This will remove any weeds and will loosen the soil and allow the plants to become established more quickly.

Water Supply

Keep your potato vines well watered throughout the summer, especially during the period when the plants are flowering and immediately following the flowering stage. During this flowering period the plants are creating their tubers and a steady water supply is crucial to good crop outcome. Potatoes do well with 1-2 inches of water or rain per week. When the foliage turns yellow and begins to die back, discontinue watering. This will help start curing the potatoes for harvest time.

Harvesting Your Potatoes

Baby potatoes typically can be harvested 2-3 weeks after the plants have finished flowering. Gently dig around the plants to remove potatoes for fresh eating, being careful not to be too intrusive. Try to remove the biggest new potatoes and leave the smaller ones in place so they can continue to grow. Only take what you need for immediate eating. Homegrown new potatoes are a luxury and should be used the same day that they are dug. Potatoes that are going to be kept for storage should not be dug until 2-3 weeks after the foliage dies back. Carefully dig potatoes with a sturdy fork and if the weather is dry, allow the potatoes to lay in the field, unwashed, for 2-3 days. This curing step allows the skins to mature and is essential for good storage. If the weather during harvest is wet and rainy, allow the potatoes to cure in a dry protected area like a garage or covered porch.


Storage Conditions

At Heritage Farm we are able to store potatoes well into the spring in our underground root cellar. Try to find a storage area that is well ventilated, dark, and cool. The ideal temperature is between 35 and 40 degrees F. Keep in mind that some varieties are better keepers than others. Varieties like Red Gold and Rose Gold are best used in the fall, and others like Carola and Russets are exceptional keepers.

Saving Seed Stock

Home gardeners can save seed for several generations. Save the very best potatoes for planting. You may find that after several years the size begins to decrease; this is typical. Potatoes are very susceptible to viruses. If you are looking for maximum yields it is best to start with fresh, USDA Certified Seed Stock every year.

Browse SSE’s organic seed potato varieties in the online store

Is anyone else growing tubers this year? What varieties are you growing? 

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Smoothies

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Sunshine smoothie

2 oranges
6-8 strawberries
1/4 of a lime
1 cup of pineapple juice
1/4 cup of water
2 ice cubes

 

I’m sure that I’m not the only one who gets obsessed with something delicious, making it over and over until you’re completely sick of it. Well, this is one of them. I’ve been making it almost every morning. And for some reason, that little bit of lime really puts a pep in my step.

Enjoy!

Spring!

Whew. It’s been awhile. Sorry about that guys.

This year has been a tough year getting things going, I have a million things going on! It’s also an especially warm winter here in Utah so it’s been throwing my growing groove off.
Do people still say groove? groove.

Anywho… Anywho?

ANYWAYS.

I’ve had some up and downs. I tried soil blocking under the pretense that there was a good chance I would fail the first year. And I did. I got the blocks to form beautifully, and I even followed a recipe. I hate following recipes. But, I did anyways, and after the first few days in their little hut they started to smell STRONGLY of ammonia. Not a little ammonia. But like someone pee’d on it and stuck a plastic cover over it for a few weeks. I’ve read a few reviews on how you are supposed to let your soil blocking mix sit for a month to break down before you use it, so I’m going to try that and test it out. In the mean time, I’ve already gotten my seeds going in a pre-made seed starting potting mix, and they are chugging along quite nice.

Chugging…why do I keep saying weird things?

My tomatoes have formed true leaves and I’ve transplanted a few of the extra sprouts into their own container. Which, holy smokes, I thought I had lost them. With in 10 min they were flat on their backs and weaker than a candle in the wind. But with in a few hours they were back to their upright positions. Tip I learned: DO NOT GRAB BY THE STEM, only by the leaves. The stem is very sensitive and can be easily shocked.

Right after transplanting:

Shocked tomatoes, poor guys.

Shocked tomatoes, poor guys.

A few hours after transplanting:

Bouncing right on back!

Bouncing right on back!

And here they are now, a few weeks later. Lookin’ good ladies! (And gents..) I’ve also been giving them a few tablespoons of fish fertilizer once a week, and it’s been a great thing! Especially for the tomatoes that had some shock.

German PInk

German Pink

Bonny Best

Bonny Best

 

Sorry for the blinding light, but here are a few other things I’m growing so far: kale, oregano, chives, cilantro, broccoli, celery, parsley, basil, lavender and peppers. I definitely started the kale and broccoli a couple of weeks to early. So I’m going to try and transplant them outside and put covers over them till it’s a bit warmer out.

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I spent all yesterday working on our strawberry patch, removing the old mulch, weeding, and removing some of the strawberry plants that died. There are a few things that I’m going to do differently this year/next year. 1) Transplant some of the runners after the last harvest, that way that are in their semi-dormant phase. Yesterday, I removed some of the plants that were to close to each other and tried to replant them. I think they will be fine, but it took a tole on them. 2) Their roots are sensitive to moisture and light, so I’ll be more careful not to lay the bare roots out while I’m working on getting them replanted.  3) This year I want to fertilize them more. My strawberries did great last year, but I think they will really benefit from the fertilizer.  Tip: 1 lb of balanced fertilizer per 100 sq feet. With that water an inch per week throughout the growing season.

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Over the next 2 days I’ll be planting my lettuces, spinach, carrots, peas and potatoes! I’m a couple weeks behind on the peas, so we’ll see how well they do. Also, I’m growing potatoes for the first time this year. What is your preferred growing method? I’m short on space, so I was thinking about building some wire potato cages out of thick wire fencing. If you have a method that works, please share!

Overall, I think this is going to be a great growing season and I can’t wait to see what everyone else is doing and growing!

And to end, here’s a cute picture of my daughter 🙂

 

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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! 

Seed Starting

It’s February!

Doesn’t it feels like the end of winter? It’s still cold, it still snows, but you can see the flowers, and the tree buds in the distance. The birds have started chirping more and the days just don’t seem as gloomy. And just because it’s 45 days until spring doesn’t mean you will be waiting until then to start planting!

Before you get started on all your glorious gardening plans, check to see what gardening zone you are in. The zone you are in will highly affect when you plant all your vegetables and fruit. For instance, if you lived in zones 7-8 you can start planting your gardening pea’s in January, whereas if you lived in Zones 5-6 you can’t start planting them until March! Planting zones really do matter! No one wants to have frost bitten peas, I can tell you that!

So for all you folks that live in Zones 5-6, seed starting is coming up! Here is a few tips for starting your seeds indoors.

1- GOOD Potting soil. I really like this company because it’s organic and has no artificial polyacrylamide.

Ecoscraps

2-Seedling containers. You can use anything from clay pots, plastic containers divided into cells, rolled newspaper, paper cups or even egg cartons. Although, I wouldn’t really recommend the egg shell/carton one, the cells are usually too small for most seed germination and long term growth. I think this year I want to try out the rolled newspaper method, it’s free and they compost well. But with any of these methods just make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom, or a way for excess water to escape.

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3-Light and warmth. There are a couple different ways you can successfully do this. You can use the window sill on a sunny side of the house, although you want to make sure the windows aren’t too drafty. If you are starting your seeds in late winter/early spring, make sure that they get enough strong sunlight. You can put them outside in a green house. Or, what we do, you can get one of those plastic or metal shelving stands and tie shop lights under each shelf with wire, and even have heating pads under them (No need to buy the specialty heating pads, just a normal one that has low settings). This specific method works beautifully for us.

4-Growth. Once your seedlings have sprouted make sure they get between 12-14 hours of light a day, keeping the light as close to the sprouts as possible, with out actually touching the leaves. Make sure you take off any sort of dome or plastic covering so the plants get enough air and don’t succumb to fungi. During this growth period trim off any additional seedling sprouts that appear in each sell or pot with a small pare of scissors. Pulling on the excess sprouts can traumatize the root system and weaken your main plant.

5-Transplant. If you started out using small cells or eggshells for your germination process, you’ll need to transplant them into bigger pots once they start to outgrow their environment. Simply peal the outside of the paper off if using newspaper, lift with a utensil or turn to its side if using plastic, or break off the shells if using eggs. Be very careful and gentle during this process, you don’t want to traumatize the plant and send it into shock.

6-Feedings. After about 3-4 weeks, the nutrients in the potting mix will be gone, so you will need to supplement the seedlings to make sure they get all the nutrients they need. Up until this year I have yet to use any type of liquid fertilizer, and always got decent results. But I’ve realized that certain plants never did that well from seeds, especially tomatoes and peppers, and it’s because I didn’t supplement the soil. All gardening stores will offer liquid fertilizers, but if you aren’t into spending the extra money there are ways to make your own: Homemade liquid fertilizer. Just remember, if using liquid fertilizers, double the dilution to water ratio. Seedlings are small and don’t need as much nutrients as full grown plants.

7-Patience. This is sometimes the hardest part. Waiting. But growing plants from seed is one of the most rewarding experiences. Take care of these little seeds and plants in every stage of growth and you will be rewarded with beautiful juicy produce all summer long.

What are you growing this year?

I’m not going to lie. My husband and I haven’t always liked vegetables. Shoot, there are still some that we’re scared of. But that is one of the reasons we got into gardening. I wanted to enjoy eating them more. I hated buying produce that was over priced, under ripe, tasteless and less nutritious than the vegetables our grandparents grew. So I got to thinking, why not have a garden? I loved the idea of expanding our taste buds on vegetables our family enjoyed, plus having the entire family outside digging and picking produce was a simple joy.

SO.

Have you thought about having a garden? If you already have a garden, have you started thinking about what you want to grow this year? Is there anything you are growing that you didn’t last year? We are expanding our garden this year, and putting in a few boxes in the front yard (probably should talk to our landlord first), we just didn’t have enough last year!

Here are some of the things we will be growing this year:
(If it says maybe, that’s because I’m not sure if we will have enough room.)

Cantare Beans
Detroit Dark Red Beets
Calabrese Green Sprouting Broccoli (maybe-fall)
Long Island Improved Brussels Sprouts (maybe)
Amarillo Carrots
Berlicum Carrots
Jaune Obtuse Du Doubs Carrots (maybe)
Country Gentlemen Corn (maybe)
Muncher Cucumber
Blue De Solaise Leeks
Georgia Southern Kale
Butter King Buttercrunch
De Morges Braun Romain
Flashy Butter Oak
Lolla Bionda Lettuce (maybe)
Pear Melon (maybe)
Bianca Di Maggio Onions (maybe)
Red of Florence Onions (maybe-fall)
Corne De Belier Snow Pea’s
Ring of Fire Cayenne Peppers
Purple Jalapeno Peppers (maybe)
Amsterdam Prickly Seeded Spinach (maybe)
Blue Hubbard Squash (maybe)
German Pink Tomatoes
Missouri Pink Love Apple Tomatoes (maybe)
Amish Paste Tomatoes
Ali Baba Watermelon (maybe)
Genovese Basil
Basil Emily
Cilantro
Chives
Marshmallow (maybe)
Tarragon
Lavender
Parsley
Yarrow

If you have any suggestions on things to grow that YOU can’t live with out let me know! I love trying new varieties!

Granola

Warm.

Soft.

Crunchy.

Chewy.

Healthy.

Versatile.

Hints of coconut.

Bites of nuts and fruit (optional)

Want to put raisins in? Go Ahead!. Want to put dried apples in? GO AHEAD! Want to put nothing but oats in? Yup, that’s right, GO AHEAD!

Granola is just so wonderful. There’s no wrong way to make it. It’s pretty much full proof! And I like recipes like that. No brainers, because sometimes, with babies running around I really don’t have any. (…Actually even without babies running around, I still sometimes don’t have any.)

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Pour all those beautiful oats into a big bowl

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Then add all your coconut, nuts, seeds, oat bran and wheat germ.

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Get your honey, molasses, salt, brown sugar, oils, cinnamon and vanilla and stir together, bringing it to a soft boil. Is it bad to drink that stuff? It smells so good.

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Pour onto the dry stuff and stir together. Wow, that just looks great.

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Beautiful

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Spread it on a baking sheet, and sneak a bite of two..if you’re a weirdo like me and enjoy raw oats. Then bake it for 20 min, stirring halfway through.

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Pull it out of the oven, (eating a bite or two while severely burning your tongue) and let it cool to room temperature. Then enjoy!

My favorite granola recipe

8 cups of rolled oats
1 1/2 c wheat germ
1 1/2 c oat bran
1 cup of almonds
1 c pecans
1 – 1 1/2 cups of coconut
1 1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup of molasses
3/4 cup of honey
1 cup coconut oil
1 tbl cinnamon
1 tbl vanilla
1 cup of dried fruit

1) Line baking sheet with foil

2) Combine oats, wheat germ, oat brean, seeds, and nuts into a bowl

3) Stir together salt, brown sugar, molasses, honey, oil, cinnamon, and vanilla. Bring to a bowl.

4) Pour over oat mixture and stir to coat. (I like to drizzle more honey over the entire thing, stir, and do it once more)

5) Spread evenly on baking sheet and bake for 20 min, stirring half way through

6) Cool, then stir in dried fruit

Update

The ground is frozen and has about 10 inches of snow on it, with more still coming. I couldn’t pretend to garden even if I wanted to! I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with my blog until February (when I get my seeds going again.) The winter months here in Utah can be a little blue. The pollution settles in and the sun is often foggy, not to mention feet of snow covering everything. We try and get out and do things like cross country skiing and snow shoeing, but it’s just been so much colder than the last few winters! Plus it seems with it getting darker and colder all we ever want to do is eat soup and stay curled up in blankets!

I’ve also been looking into getting chickens this coming spring instead of expanding my garden area. I love the thought of not buying eggs that are being trucked thousands of miles just to get to my plate. And also  knowing that my chickens are being taken care of and loved with free room to roam and eat. My only real concern, and I know this shouldn’t be a HUGE issue, but I’m worried with the cold temperatures in the winter that I’ll wake up and all my chickens will be frozen to death! Talk about traumatizing. So, if anyone has recommendations of great books about raising chickens let me know!

We’re also working on opening a store through Etsy selling gardening baskets and possibly some other tools! They will be great for harvesting all your produce, carrying your weeds and scraps to the compost, and hopefully some baskets for your trips to the farmers market. We’ll start working on them in January and hopefully have some up for sale towards the middle of February.

Hope everyone is surviving the winter so far! I’ll post a few more updates on our store progress after Christmas 🙂

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 disappearing, National 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!

Horseradish

There’s a surprising number of people who are scared of Horseradish. Don’t get me wrong, it’s weird stuff and smells funky. But when you put it on a warm roast beef sandwich, *mouth salivating*, it’s just about the best thing the world has to offer.

Just give it a try, if you haven’t already.

Seriously. Right now.

….

It’s also SO EASY TO GROW! It grows everywhere and in almost any climate, (up until Zone 3.) People often grow it separately from their main garden plot because it’s pretty much impossible to get rid of. Every tiny piece that breaks off in the soil when harvested WILL turn into a new plant. Talk about fertile 😉 So consider planting your horseradish in containers.

Unfortunately, I didn’t plant my horseradish in a container and I totally broke up a ton of pieces in the soil…good thing we’re living in a rental!

Growing Horseradish:

In the spring find a very sunny spot in your garden for your horseradish. They can flourish in almost any type of soil but waterlogged soil. So if you are using a drip system in your garden for your water loving greens consider planting them in a separate part of the garden OR in a container.  There, I’ve said it twice. I’m going to listen to my own advice next year.

Once you’ve found your spot, add all your compost and manure and work it in about a foot deep.  Place your root (with the buds facing up towards the surface) at a 45 degree angle or straight down. Cover with 2-3 inches of soil and give it a good water. After that you only need to water during really long dry spells.

Harvesting Horseradish:

Horseradish needs about 12-18 months to reach full maturity, but if you live in Zones 4-6 and you planted it in the spring you can harvest a decent root for your fall dishes. Make sure you harvest the roots when they aren’t actively growing! That means in the fall  after the first hard frost or early spring.  Examine all your horseradish and use a garden fork to loosen the soil around the plants that are at least 1 inch in diameter. Once you remove the roots cut off the tops and side shoots and replant in the same spot, adding in compost along the way.

Eating Horseradish:

Scrub all your roots and peel with a potato peeler. Cut into small chunks and toss into a food processor or blender and grind up to the consistency you like. Add 2-3 TBL of vinegar to every cup of horseradish. To have a milder horseradish, add the vinegar in immediately, and for a stronger horseradish wait 3-4 min and then add in the vinegar.  Then, ENJOY!

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