Posts Tagged Garden

Choose the Right Vegetables for Your Garden in 5 Easy Steps

Whether you are a beginner or advanced gardener this step by step guide will help you grow a well-rounded vegetable garden. Your family will love the variety and you can feel confident that you picked the best vegetables for your garden.

As I write this there is about two feet of snow on the ground and we are hibernating by the fire. We have had night time temps below zero and day time temps below freezing. It would seem that gardening would be the farthest thing from my mind. In reality, it is the best time to start planning the garden and getting prepared for growing season.

Gather ideas

I start by making a dream list of all of the yummy things I want to grow. Don’t get ahead of yourself and be logical at this point, just jot down all of your ideas. It is very easy to get bogged down in the details of timing, spacing, and companions and not get things planned. Don’t worry, the list will narrow down as we continue to plan.

Prioritize

Now, mark the items on your list that are non-negotiable. These are foods that your family loves to eat. You don’t want to get swept away by all of the colors and rare foods in the seed catalogs and end up with a harvest your family doesn’t enjoy.

A couple years ago we planted blue potatoes – a whole row of blue potatoes. We didn’t try eating them first; we just planted. They grew really well but we struggled to eat them and ended up wasting a bunch. We have blue volunteer potato plants that come back every year, all on their own. It is the gift that keeps giving.

Homegrown potatoes

Now that you have marked your favorites, go back through your list and mark the foods that you could save a lot of money on, by growing yourself. Cucumbers are a great example. They often cost $2 for a single organic cucumber. A typical cucumber plant will produce approximately 5 pounds of cucumbers.

Narrow down the list

It is time to pull out the seed catalogs. We will look up each item that you have marked. Maybe tomatoes are something you eat a lot of and you want to can some as well. Start by looking at the days to maturation – how long it takes for the plant to grow, fruit and the fruit to ripen.

Our growing season is typically 90 days but that can include a freeze or two near the beginning or the end of the season. I try to only grow 55-75 day vegetables. That gives me enough time to harvest more than just the first fruit.

Our short growing season makes tomatoes very hard to grow, especially if I want something substantial enough to can. So I will weigh that information against the space I have in my garden. Is the space that tomatoes would occupy worth the risk of having a non-productive crop?

green beans, yellow wax beans

Green beans, on the other hand, thrive here and will produce enough for us to enjoy through the summer and freeze for eating in the winter. Until I have a greenhouse they will get higher priority than tomatoes.

But not too narrow

If you are new to gardening don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. It is so easy to get dreamy when you are planning your garden. You start thinking about canning and dehydrating and all of the money you will save. Your priority for the first couple years should be to keep your plants alive and enjoy some fresh veggies during the summer. Which is easier than you think when you set yourself up for success. As you become a more seasoned gardener you can expand your garden and plan for a big enough crop to preserve.

Our garden two years ago overflowed with cucumbers. We literally carried in bucket after bucket. However, last year we grew about three. It was a very cool summer and we just couldn’t get the plants to come up. It is so important to have enough diversity that you are not banking on one crop. Not to mention that it is easier to keep disease and pests at bay with lots of diversity.

cucumbers

Fill in the missing pieces

Use your list to choose at least one variety for each type of vegetable (as garden space permits). Don’t be limited by my suggestions. Choose what your family will enjoy eating!

sage herb

  • Leafy greens – Spinach and butter lettuce are favorites at our house.
  • Root veggies – We love how potatoes and carrots are so versatile and delicious.
  • Salad veggies – Cucumbers and sweet peas are so refreshing in the heat of summer. It is easy to find us munching these down while in the garden.
  • Stir fry veggies – Green beans, summer squash, and broccoli are the staples of our summer menu and can be frozen for winter meals as well.
  • Winter storage – Butternut squash and sweet potatoes are filling, add a lot of variety, and store long into the winter.
  • Herbs – Basil and sage are very prolific and add a punch to your meals.
  • Now choose one experimental, just-for-the-fun-of-it plant. Every garden needs a wild card!

By methodically working through your list, you will have a great variety of vegetables that will ripen during your growing season.

Your Turn!

  • What is your favorite vegetable to eat straight out of the garden?
  • Have you grown a vegetable your family didn’t want to eat?

Starting Seeds

Many of you who have been around a while remember I am into gardening, things are ramping up, so will the garden posts.  So this year I am a bit later than I’d like, but I have been busy, so oh well.  Last night I set my seeds in the pots, got my setup running and here it is.  First off here is what you need.  Starting mix is preferable, so pots, and seeds.  Depending on how far you want to go you can get a heating mat, lights, thermostat control, etc.

seed mix

Next I filled my pots with the potting soil (I should note that I pre-moistened the soil before I put them in the pots) and got them into them into my tray

pots ready for seeds

Next I put in the seeds.  I put 3-4 seeds per pot because each seed isn’t guaranteed to come up, it will also let me choose the strongest plant and focus on that one.  I will later “thin” with a pair of fine scissors.   I then take soil and gently cover the seeds;  in this case 3 variety of heirloom tomatoes and a variety of cukes ideal for pickling.  The packets often tell you how deep to bury the seeds, but a rule of them is 3 times the length of the seed, so a tomato seed is very shallow, a cuke is slightly deeper.

post watered

added seeds

Next up is to move the tray to my setup. Here I have my grow lights above, a plastic cover to keep the moisture in, below -it is hard to see – there is a heating pad and a piece of foam.  The cable sneeking in from the right is temperature probe that goes into the dirt to measure soil temp.  I have another thermometer to verify the temp and moisture.  Note: the temperature is too low as shown here, I just turned the whole thing on.

seedlings

seeds under lights

Here is the thermostat control, it will turn the heating pad on and off as needed, I set this to 80 F for proper germination to occur.  This unit is where the probe goes to.

seed heater mat

Here is the heating mat

seed mat for heat

Global Buckets

So as the gardening season comes to a halt (I don’t do stuff over winter) I ramp up my efforts on learning and planning.  Many people take this time to plan for next year, flush out ideas, do research and start getting excited for the spring.  In my time online I have found a pretty neat idea, that isn’t new, but the guys that have put these together have flushed out the idea pretty well and I thought I’d share.

Basically this is two 5 gallon buckets, one inside the other, with a tray and a bottom reservoir.  I have seen this in practice at a local community garden: the Johnson & Wales University Community Garden.  When I first heard about this garden, it was described to me as a garden, on a cement slab….  I was pretty curious, how could they be gardening on a slab?  They use these buckets and it’s ingenious!  The best part is that if push comes to shove and they had to move, a few hours with a pickup and they could do it pretty easily.  See their garden below.


I really like this idea because it bring in the potential for using much more spaces, it is flexible and semi-mobile.  The kicker came when I saw a video on how you can use simple atmospheric pressure to auto water the entire group of buckets, weather 1 or 10,000, all without power or any special equipment!  The other thing they did that I hadn’t see was adding black plastic, this allowed them to reduce the water needed by 70% because it prevented evaporation.

How to make a Global Bucket

Automatic Watering System

Backyard Sufficiency

Found this great video about growing 100% of your own food and how difficult it is.  An interesting point that he talks about is how to achieve this, you cannot do it independently, you must work with a community to be successful.  I will warn you that at certain points he starts talking in a very “new age” type of vernacular, running from point to point, but I gleaned some interesting things regardless.

 

Veg Gardens

I found this video and it got me thinking, what if we here in America had laws and the politicians thinking this way.  The other really good point this video brings up is with all the concerns about being eco-friendly, sustainable and peak oil, it can get overwhelming.  In a way it doesn’t matter whether or not peak oil is happening, whether there is such thing as global warming, we should be taking on the goals of sustainability for a plethora of reasons.