Salads are such an easy meal for summer time and a great way to get all our greens (7 cups a day!). Some people are intimidated by growing lettuce and shy away from it but there's no need, it easy!. Today I'm going to give you my best tips for growing lettuce so that you can have a continuous supply for quick and easy summer time meals that don't heat up the house.
Our Terraced Pollinator Garden
You guys I am loving our terraced pollinator garden! It still has a way to go but it has been so much fun and we are making a lot of progress.
I love to garden. I always have and always will I'm sure. I've done it since I was a small child with my mother and sometimes my dad as well. I can't think of a time when I didn't garden. Even in high school I helped here and there. My first apartment balcony was filled with flower pots, and as soon as spring hit, the side of the steps of my first house was adorned with flowers.
It started with flowers then I incorporated garden vegetables and now I have the best of both worlds in this little paradise of a farm we are so blessed to live on! The best part about it is that my kids are right there next to me. And they actually enjoy it! They are just as excited about growing as me! Even about eating all those tasty vegetables!
I'm telling ya people, garden with your children. It can bring them a lifetime of healthy eating habits and endless memories of spending quality time learning something new with YOU!
To get you started I have made a list of the best plants for gardening with kids. The criteria to make this list includes ease of planting, ease of care, kids preference to the flavor, and the abundance of fun it is to grow. This is just a starting point. I hope that once you get going you venture into new things.
*I've included links to the varieties we use. I am in no way affiliated with rareseeds.com or Baker Creek (same company). I just truly love the variety and quality of their seeds! I know they are just as much against GMO's as me which gives me a piece of mind when ordering from them. I'm sure you will love them too!
The Best Plants for Gardening with Kids
Gardening season is upon us and we are here to guide you! Many of you may know that I've been working on a gardening book, "Everything You Need to Know to Start Your Garden." It's done! It will be released on Tuesday May 14th and available for purchase here on our website and on Amazon
To kick off it's launch I thought I would do book giveaway! Yeah! To be entered into the giveaway is all you have to do is leave a comment below telling me what excites you most about gardening. Simple! That's how we like it and that theme carries through to my book. A simple guide that won't confuse you or give you a bunch of unnecessary tasks. Yuck! My book outlines everything you need to do so you can have a garden THIS YEAR! Yes please!
There are numerous book on the market about grading-so many that it can be overwhelming for someone who is just starting out. Where are you to begin?
Wow! I thought my son was playing some trick on me when he brought this worm in. I looked it over and as you can tell from the video and pictures, this is the real thing. It looks so strange moving about, curling itself around. Once we took some pictures and the video we let it go in the yard.
We are so grateful to be able to share fresh organically raised heirloom produce with our customers. It is truly a blessing. In doing so we pray that more people will learn about the importance of "clean" food, going non-GMO, and knowing where your food comes from. But it all began to provide our family with all that aforementioned good food, so we would know exactly what we are eating and what went into it. So our children can learn how to raise their own food and the difference between homegrown heirloom produce and commercially raised GMO counterfeit food. So far it looks like we have succeed (thank you LORD). Our kids love gardening and eating the vegetables. Heck, they don't even bother washing the dirt off. A few swipes of the hand is sufficient enough for them. Oh, it's great!
So with this comes canning, drying, freezing and fermenting. That is a lot of work but once again my kids love being a part of it and that helps tremendously. It takes a lot of food to feed this big ol' family!
Most likely your great grandparents did it, maybe even you grandparents. They saved seeds. Why? Well there weren't as many options back then for one but more importantly they knew the value in it.
Saved seeds are not the same as purchased seeds. All seeds grow- well, except for the GMO terminator seeds that produce sterile offspring. You know just a little insurance that the farmers have to go to the big ag/chemical companies to buy their seed. Sorry side tracked, but I couldn't help it. Anyways, most seeds grow so what is the difference? Each seed has a genetic make up that helps determine how well it will grow, how much fruit it will produce, and how well it will cope with the pressures of the environment that it is in. Lets take a Rainbow tomato for example. All the seeds collected from a rainbow tomato will produce a rainbow tomato but there are slight differences in each plant. You can capitalize on this with just a little effort.
Did you have several plants that did better than the others? This is where it all begins. In a year of drought like the one we just had there are going to be some plants that do better than others. Some that tolerated the drought better. If you save seeds from these plants and plant them the following year then save seeds from the plants that tolerate less water that year and so on you will soon have a drought tolerant variety.
Maybe it isn't drought tolerance you are after. Perhaps you get plenty of rain where you are but your tomatoes are prone to blight. Then you would select those that are most tolerant to blight. And the same goes for any plant that you grow. Isn't that awesome! You do not need a seed company to plant a garden. Most seeds are very easy to harvest. As simple as letting the plant go to seeds, collecting the seed, then letting them dry and storing them. (I've included a mini seed saving guide below)
Some varieties take a little more but nothing that you can't handle. Lets start with tomatoes. If you slice open a tomato and take a look at the seeds you will see that they are surrounded by a gelatinous sack. We don't want this gelatinous sack but it is very easy to get rid of. First slice your tomatoes down the middle horizontally. Now squeeze the seeds into a small bowl. Do this with all the tomatoes you are wanting to save seeds from being sure not to mix the seeds of different varieties and label each kind. Next add a little water to the bowl and place it somewhere that you will not be able to smell it. It gets a little stinky but it is only for a few days. This is where we get rid of that gelatinous sack around the seeds. Leave the bowl with the added water to sit for about three days. It will ferment and grow a thin layer of mold on top. This is what would happen to the tomato if it were to be left outside. The tomato would rot freeing the seeds and then come spring they would sprout. Once they have grown the mold add a little more water then use your finger or spoon to swirl the contents around. Carefully pour out the floating contents. The fertile seeds will sink to the bottom. You may have to do this several times and you will loose some good seeds so be sure to account for that when you are determining how much to save.
Now all that is left to do is let the seeds dry-make sure they are completely dry, then place them in a plastic zip-lock bag or mini manila envelope and label with the variety and year. You did it and you are on your way to tomatoes that are perfectly accustomed to your growing conditions! Pretty easy right?
*Please not that you can only save seeds from open pollinated varieties. Hybrids will not produce a true to type seeds and may not even be fertile at all. I suggest using heirloom varieties.
Here's a little recap-video form:
Saving other seeds
Beans- let them fully mature on the plant then pick them, let them dry completely, take out the beans and store.
Cucumbers- let the cucumbers grow until they are overly large and turn yellow. Bring them inside and let sit for an additional two weeks. This give a higher fertile rate. Cucumbers general don't produce a lot of fertile seeds so save plenty of cucumbers. Once the two weeks are over scoop out the seeds and process the same as tomato seeds.
Peas- let them grow to full maturity then bring them into dry. Harvest the seeds from the pod then store.
Spinach- allow plant to go to seeds then wait for the seeds to mature and dry. Once it has turned brown pull off the seeds and let it dry completely then store.
Peppers- choose fully ripe peppers. Slice down the middle, extract the seeds then allow to dry before storing. If you are working with spicy peppers be sure to wear gloves or you will have burning hands.
Swiss chard- Much like spinach, allow seeds to turn brown before collecting then bring them in to finish drying before storing.
Squash- Allow the squash to grow until the skin is hard and can't be easily puncture with a finger nail, cut it open, extract the seeds, clean the flesh from them then allow to dry completely before storing.
Herbs- For most herbs is all you need to do is allow the plant to flower and go to seed, wait for the seed to turn brown then carefully remove the seed. Bring it inside and allow the seed to finish drying before storing.
Carrots- Carrots are biennials meaning they only go to seed every other year. That means they have to overwinter then come back up to produce seed. I have had plenty of carrots go to seed the first year which can be handy for the seed saver in zone three where carrots do not regularly overwinter. When the carrot does go to seed collect in the same way as herbs.
Onions- Onions are biennials as well but they don't usually have any problem overwintering. Just leave a few in the ground and the following year they will come up and bloom. Once they have bloomed and begin to dry it might be a good idea to put a paper bag over the bloom to catch the seeds. because they will start to fall while you are waiting for them to dry.
May this encourage you to start saving your seeds and help you grow many successful gardens!
Happy, healthy, clean living,
I'm so excited to finally be doing this project! It has been over a year in the making and now the beginning stages are done!
We would like to get bees. Better pollination rates for our garden and orchard as well as honey!. But I do not wantGMO honey. So that means I need to have enough flowers throughout the bees active season to feed them or they might go down the street to some GMO crop and bring that back into the hive. They will travel miles to collect food. It will also be great to be helping the declining population of bees and pollinators in general. They are so important to our food supply. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, bees alone are responsible for pollinating 1/3 of our food supply. A great reason for anyone, including you, to start a pollinator garden.
No, I am not counting on this little hillside to contain all of their food it is just another site to add to the gardens (including all the herb gardens) and flowers we already have. We are also making a pollinator border around our newest garden. It is important that we have something blooming throughout the entire season-from early spring to fall and that is where we need to do some work. There needs to be more early and late bloomers. We will be accomplishing this with perennial and annual flowers (this works great for our bouquets in theCSA baskets), trees and bushes, And on top of that they will have everything in the gardens (we're nearing two acres now with plans to turn the front yard into a perennial food forest).
Favorite Plants For Pollinators
We already grow everything with a *. A good start but we still have a ways to go. It can be tricky to coordinate blooms for each part of the season, which ones will grow in your climate, and if they are perennial or if they need to be re-planted every year. That is why I'm working on a reading list for this winter. Next spring I want to be prepared. Here is my list and why I chose each book.
In The Bee Friendly Garden you get instruction from both a garden designer and a bee expert. They both believe in organic gardening and apply this to their techniques and instruction. They also go into attracting other beneficial insects. We knowhow important that is too.
Then there is Pollinators of Native Plants. I really like this one because it goes into the importance of genetic diversity of native plants and their benefit to the bees and other pollinators. It is kind of like growing heirloom vegetables. You don't want to loose so many great traits to hybridization.
Pollinator Friendly Gardening takes things a step further and brings less talked about pollinators into the discussion such as ants, wasps and beetles. Although we want bees and honey we think these other pollinators are just as important.
100 Plants To Feed The Bees focuses more on native plants, trees and shrubs of the US. Each plants lists which pollinators will visit the plant and what kind of honey it will produce. It uses annuals, perennials, herbs, trees, and shrubs. I really like the variety as this is key to great garden design.
It took me, with the help of my two oldest, about a day and a half to get all the rocks in place and the steps formed. We aren't sure how we want to finish of the steps yet-another thing to research this winter.
There was one trouble spot. We knew about it before starting but I wasn't quite sure what to do with it. There was a cement something about halfway up the hill. We were not sure what it was. It didn't seem reasonable that it was anything for the house because of it's location. So after doing some digging and finding out the it didn't go very deep (at least on the edges) we decided that perhaps when the retaining wall to the right of the beds was poured they had extra cement they needed to get out of the cement truck and thus dumped it there. So we took a sledge hammer to it. Well, mostly my son. He loves stuff like that. We broke off the outside edges to find that the middle was quite deep and decided they filled in an old fence post hole. After taking off the edges it became something that I could work with, i.e. hide under the dirt and no longer have it in the way of my path. I really didn't want a cement slab in the middle of my path.
I've planted some Echinacea, Anise Hyssop starts, chive starts, fall crops of spinach, lettuce, basil , and cilantro, Sedum and Rock Rose along the edge and some wild flowers. Even though the perennial wildflowers won't have time to get much of any size this year, they will come back next year. It is a Non-gmo mix for pollinators. I just couldn't wait.
Things are starting to come up. The cooler weather has been perfect for the lettuce and spinach. Don't the little black flowers on the corner look cute. That was my daughter's idea.
Next year we will finish the steps and tackle the section you can see in the upper left of the picture with the plastic. The grass will be dead by then and I should have decided if I want to add a couple of fruit trees there or make more terraced beds. It would be nice to have the fruit trees close and would be a great entry into the perennial food forest we are planning for the front yard. They wouldn't shade the garden because that is the north side but they would provide some shade for the animals in that pasture. So many decisions. I have to see what my husband, who hauled home all these rocks from a job site that didn't want them (thank you!) thinks. I'm leaning towards the trees. Do you think I can convince him?
I hope this inspires you to start a pollinator garden. The bees do too. Or maybe you already have one. Please share your experiences and any tips. Thank you!
Happy, healthy, clean eating,
Cutworms and How to Control Them Organically
Cut worms (they are actually more like a caterpillar) can reek all sort of havoc on a garden. Most commonly they kill seedlings by chewing their way through the stem or just eating the entire top of the seedling off, leaving only a stem. A stem that will no longer grow. Sad.
We have had problems with cut worms in the past eating our freshly planted starts and our newly emerged seedlings. A simple fix we found to work well is to plant your seeds and starts in a ring of un-perforated drain tile pipe. We use 4" drain tile cut into rings about 4-5" tall. Make sure they are set into the ground about 1". At night, when the cut worms crawl out of the ground looking for something to eat, they run into these rings and find they are not edible and move on leaving your seedlings alone. Cut worms don't seem to bother carrots but they do like peas Cole crops and squash. Another way to battle them is with beneficial nematodes. They actually eat the cut worms. We find the rings to be more effective. Beneficial nematodes have a short life and it would require a whole lot of nematodes to cover all of our gardens. They have to be reapplied every year.
Besides eating seedlings, cutworms also like to chow down on mature plants. And that is what happened in one of our tunnels of cabbage this year. They ate some of the leaves for an appetizer then gorged themselves on the center or heads of the cabbage.
Thankfully we caught it in time and applied diatomaceous earth (DE) to kill the cutworms. DE comes from the fossils of diatoms, a type of hard shelled algae. The remains are ground into a fine powder and is used in multiple applications and it is approved by OMRI for use in organic farming.
Watch our video below to find out how we used it to stop the cutworms from eating our cabbage and how DE works.
No more cutworms in our cabbage. Oh, so looking forward to eating these beautiful cabbages!
Always check your local store first for DE but it can be difficult to find. You do not want the kind that they use in swimming pools. Try one of these if that is all you can find. I do use this brand when I can't get it locally. Like I said early earlier is just sprinkle it on with my hands or some panty hose, but is that seems too messy for you, and it is, you may like to try the duster.
I hope this helps you with any cut worm problems. May your garden be blessed.
Happy, healthy, clean eating,
Hello, I'm Jaci. I love wandering around in my gardens admiring God's creation. I'm passionate about whole foods and clean eating. I look forward to sharing my farming and homestead adventures and helping you reach your gardening goals! If you have any questions then don't be shy, I'd love to hear from you. Send me a message and I will be glad to help!