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‘Vegetable Gardening’ Category

  1. Organic Gardening: Part 2 – Garden Planning

    March 18, 2013 by Jocelyn

    This is Part 2 of my Organic Gardening Series, Garden Planning.

    I’ve included a link to my garden plan, as well as a nifty seed starting timeline for folks in my hardiness zone!

    Today I’ll go over my earliest phases of garden planning, which I do before I even start my seeds. The level of planning that you do can vary, but after a few years of winging it, I’ve decided to try planning things out a bit more.

    I’ve got my seeds, and I’ll be ready to start some of them this week. As you can see, I have a good mix of flowers, fruits and veggies. Now that I’m going to be getting a CSA share, I’m planting fewer fruits and veggies, but more flowers.

    Heirloom Seeds

    It’s always difficult to get an exact estimate of how many seeds to start. Last year I went a little crazy with seed starting, and my seedlings did really well; there were a LOT of extra plants. I crammed more transplants into my garden than I had planned for, and even then, I still had leftovers. But after the flood, many of my community garden friends needed to replace some of their tomatoes and other vegetables, so I was able to give all of my extras away.

    Garden Planning 101: Things to consider:

    • How much food do you have space for? Not just in your garden, but in your home as well.
    • How many people are you trying to feed?
    • What will you eat or use the most (try to be realistic).

    First, you should calculate the square footage of your garden. I have 175 square feet of garden space. Then I like to get an idea of how much will fit into my garden. If you’re like me, and tend to plant things fairly close together, you could refer to a Square Foot Gardening resource. You can also choose to focus on a few important plants, and give them lots of room to grow.

    Next, take a quick survey of your pantry and/or freezer at home. If you have a lot of space, and aren’t afraid to jump into a canning, dehydrating, or freezing project, then by all means- plant as much as you can! If you’re like me, and have a limited amount of space and experience with canning, then you need to put a bit more thought into your plan.

    Second, think about how many people you will be feeding with your garden. Also, what do they like to eat?  If only one person really likes beets, it’s probably not a good idea to plant a lot of them.

    Reality Check
    Lastly, be realistic. Think about the vegetables you want to plant, and how much of each you’re likely to use. I like to try out new and interesting vegetables, but if it’s your first time growing something it’s probably best to only plant a few. Remember that harvest time is usually pretty busy, and you will likely have a huge amount of veggies to put up all around the same time (this is especially true in Minnesota where we have such a short growing season). I grew Quinoa last year, and I was really excited about it at first. Then I didn’t have time for threshing and winnowing the grain.  Oops.

    My Plan
    I used the Mother Earth News Garden Planner to get an idea of how much I can fit into my garden. It’s a great piece of software, and anyone can sign up for a free 30 day trial. Here’s my plan, complete with a list of my vegetables and a handy timeline for when to start, transplant, and harvest each thing! Awesome, right?

    Keep in mind, this is NOT my final garden plan. I still have to take companion planting and crop rotation into account. I will probably do this in a few weeks, once it’s closer to the time I will be starting to plant cool weather crops in my garden.

    Most cold climate gardeners are gearing up to start their seeds, so I’ve attached a handy Seed Starting Timeline that I created for anyone living in between zones 3b to 4b. The dates were calculated using an average last frost date around May 31st.

    Free Printable Seed Starting Guide

    Free Printable Guide for Seed Starting

    We’ll get down to the nitty gritty of seed starting next time! I recommend reading some of my previous posts to get ready! You can order your seeds if you haven’t done so already, and find some quality seed starting soil. Both are very important to having healthy seedlings to put in your garden!

    Thanks for reading, and see you next time!

  2. Organic Gardening: Part 1 – Ordering Seeds

    February 12, 2013 by Jocelyn

    This post is Part 1 in my new Organic Gardening Series.

    The days are getting longer, and hopefully warmer, which means it’s time to start ordering seeds for your garden. When looking for seeds, you will find that seed companies can vary greatly in quality. After starting seeds from many different companies, I can honestly say that I’ve had the very best luck with seeds from smaller companies. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is absolutely wonderful; they are a small family owned farm in Missouri.

    So, if you’re planning to have a garden this year, your first step should be to order seeds. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to order at least a couple good seed catalogs to look at during the gloomiest months of winter. Here are the two I got this year:

    Organic Gardening Seed Catalogs

    Request Your Own Seed Catalogs
    Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
    Seed Savers Exchange
    Territorial Seed Company
    Johnny’s Selected Seeds

    On Choosing Seeds

    So, you’ve got your catalogs, and you’re ready to decide what to order. It’s important to know what can easily be started from seed in your area, or if it would be best to purchase transplants. This is something that I always have to consider, being in zone 4 with a short growing season. It’s important to know how long your growing season is, and to consider how long each plant will take to produce.

    If you’d rather not start seeds indoors, then make sure you’re only ordering seeds that will do well to direct sow in your garden. In Minnesota, there are certain things that I cannot grow by direct sowing. Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are a few examples. If I didn’t start these plants from seed myself, I would have to go to my farmer’s market and purchase transplants for them because our growing season is too short.

    Tip #1: Know your Terminology: Heirloom, Hybrid, Genetically Modified (GMO), Determinate, Indeterminate, etc. etc.
    Heirloom seeds have been around for generations, and are the most reliable if you intend on saving seeds from your garden. They are the most likely to give you viable seeds that will produce plants that are the most genetically similar to the parent plants.
    Hybrid seeds will give you child plants produced from the cross pollination of two different plants. Often times these hybrids are purposefully bred to gain the most beneficial characteristics from the two parent plants; disease resistance, better productivity, etc.
    Genetically Modified seeds are seeds that have been genetically engineered in a lab to have specific properties. This is very different from hybridization because they can combine genes from two completely different plants that could never naturally crossbreed. Doing this can actually damage the DNA of the plant, and create unwanted (and potentially harmful) genetic mutations. This means that the genes of the original plant may change the way they function, possibly activating genes that can trigger allergies, or even create specific biological toxins. Moral of the story: try to avoid GMO seeds.
    Determinate and Indeterminate are terms that you will most likely come across when looking for tomatoes. So, which type of tomato plants should you get? Determinate or indeterminate? Well, that depends on your garden, and the answer could easily be both! So what’s the difference? Determinate tomato plants are generally more compact. The plant will stay more bush-like, and will bear it’s crop all at once. Determinate varieties are better suited to containers, so they would be the best choice if you’re garden is on your patio. Another thing to note with determinate varieties is that you should NOT cut off the suckers of the plant, as doing so could stunt it’s growth. As for indeterminate varieties, they are pretty much the exact opposite. They will grow large and vine-like, while producing fruit throughout the entire season. Because they get so big, they will likely need more staking than determinate varieties, and also do well when the suckers are cut off.

    Tip #2: Have a (Basic) Garden Plan
    At this point, you should have a very general plan for what you want to plant in your garden. It’s important to know how much you can expect to fit in your garden, and how much of each plant you’ll have space for. If you’re an experienced gardener, this will be fairly easy, since you’ll already have an idea of what will go where, etc. If this is your first time gardening in a specific space, I would recommend staying tuned in for the next post in this series, which is going to be all about Garden Planning!

    Tip #3: Try Something New
    Last year I tried Quinoa, and this year I’m trying out several new things. Chinese Noodle Beans, for instance. I’m pretty excited about those, and I also plan to grow Bok Choy and Kale for the first time. I also found a variety of Canteloupe called the Minnesota Midget, that I’m going to try growing, as they are a small, shorter season variety. I found a fantastic pin on Pinterest about how to grow melons in cool climates.

    With these tips, you should be ready to order your seeds. I almost never use all of my seeds in a year, so don’t be afraid to ask a friend to go in on your seed order with you! Also, don’t forget to read reviews and do a bit of Googling if you’re unsure of a certain seed type. Or comment here, and I’ll do my best to help you out!

    Thanks for reading!

  3. The Importance of Dirt: Seed Starting Soil

    May 25, 2012 by Jocelyn

    I originally put my veggie seeds in cheap seed starting soil, and while it was advertised as organic, it just wasn’t high quality. My seedlings sprouted and after a couple weeks they started to die. I knew I had to do something fast if I didn’t want to lose all of my baby tomato plants, so I did a bit of research about seed starting soil.

    The photo below was taken right before re-potting. The sad looking little plants you see below were that size for at least 2 weeks. They had sprouted, grown a few inches, and then started to die. I was really bumming out, because I’ve been plagued with poor seed starting results for years. This year is the first year that I’ve used a Grow Light System for my seedlings, and I thought that it would miraculously make my plants invincible. I was wrong.

    Another shot of the dying seedlings
    Sad little plants 🙁

    If you look at the photo above, you’ll notice a difference in the soils. The one nearest the camera is darker, and is the new and improved dirt. The rest are all still in the older, crappy seed starting soil.

    Believe it or not, the healthy looking plants below are the same plants! And this second photo was taken only 10 days after I repotted them. (They’ve since doubled in size again, and are nearly ready to go outside).

    Healthy tomatoes in new seed starting soil
    Happy, healthy seedlings

    So, you may be asking what this magical seed starting soil is. Fox Farm (click HERE to see a retailer near you) is the creator, and the soil is Ocean Forest. It’s all organic (yippee!) and has plenty of nutrients for your little seedlings. The nice thing about this soil is that it holds moisture! My first seed starting soil was really bad at holding moisture and always seemed dry; water would either sit on top of the dirt or go right through. Boo.

    If you don’t have a Fox Farm retailer near you, you can get a 12 quart bag of Ocean Forest Organic Soil here. (The two Amazon links in this post are through my affiliate account. If you make a purchase, I will receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you. If you use either of them, I’d like to thank you for your support!) Any seed starting soil will be a bit more expensive to buy online, but well worth it if you’ve had troubles with starting seeds. With a quality soil, you should have strong and healthy plants!

    I’m still waiting to put a lot of mine out in my garden, but they’re quickly getting too big to keep in the house! Our weather forecast for this weekend is not great for tiny plants; we’re supposed to have temps in the low 50’s, rain, and winds gusting up to 30 mph. Yikes. I think I’m going to have to wait and plant them next week on one of my lunch breaks. It’s tough to wait when I’m feeling so impatient to get my garden started, but I know it’ll be more beneficial to wait at this point.

    So how are everyone else’s gardens doing? I realize I’m usually planting my garden much later than most of you, seeing as I’m in chilly zone 3b. But if you’ve already started your garden, I’d love to see photos! Feel free to comment with links to your blogs, especially if you have jealousy-inducing garden photos!

    Have a great weekend everyone!

  4. DIY Friday – Re-Growing Green Onions

    March 9, 2012 by Jocelyn

    Most people don’t realize that green onions can be easily re-grown; all you have to pay for is the first bunch! It’s a great way to be frugal while still using your green thumb (at least a little).
    Green Onions in a Jar
    Just stick them in a jar with water covering the white part of the ends. Place them in the fridge, or on a bright area in your kitchen- both will work.
    Re-Growing Green Onions
    Within a week or so, they’ll be ready again!
    Green Onions
    You can see in the last image where the onions were last cut. The new growth comes from the center of the onion; what you see here was grown in about a week. I’m a huge fan of doing this, especially in the winters when I don’t have an easy way of growing fresh onions.

  5. My Summer Garden Experience in Retrospect

    November 23, 2011 by Jocelyn

    Vegetable Garden with Flowers

    No matter how many lovely, sun-shiny days we have in Minnesota, the summer always seems to fly by.  I’m always anxious to get my seeds and plants in the ground come May, and inevitably end up killing a few because I put them out too soon.  Before long, I’m willing my tomatoes to ripen faster, in the hopes that they’ll turn red before the first frost hits.

    This summer was no exception.  I managed to snag an awesome community garden plot on the rooftop of our county building, which is conveniently located across the street from my workplace.  There are about 20 raised beds on the rooftop, alongside their new “green roof” and solar panel.  Oh, I’m so proud of them for investing in green energy!  Anyway, this plot was exactly 7 feet by by 25 feet.  I filled it with veggies, and was strangely the only person who added flowers to their garden.  Gardening is always more fun with bright flowers!

    To start with, I ordered a TON of seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds.  This included arugula, leeks, basil, squash, and nasturtiums, just to name a few.  As usual, I learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t in the garden!  My biggest victories this year were my successes with growing eggplants, cauliflower, and broccoli!  The biggest OOPS moment I had was with my cucumber plant that got powdery mildew and eventually died, as well as starting my squash seeds way too late!

    Now that this summer’s growing season has passed us, what have you learned this year?  Don’t forget to mention which zone you’re in!