Posts Tagged With: organic garden

Seed Shopping with Seed Savers Exchange

Tom and I have decided to try to have a totally Heirloom garden this year. We want to join the Seed Savers Exchange to save Heirloom , untreated, Non hybrid, Non- GMO seeds. So with a new garden and new seeds comes new challenges. We do raise our garden in an organic way so saving heirloom seed just makes sense. This is the process that my aunt, uncle and grand  parents  used to raise their gardens.They raised a crop, saved the best seeds and planted again, simple, direct and generally easy if the crop was healthy. This process does not work very well  with Hybrids. Have you ever tried to grow a fruit tree from seed at the grocery store? Have you ever tried to grow an acorn squash and gotten some other kind of squash from the seeds you collected… I bet you have!

Carnival squash... maybe ? seeds from store bough acorn squash hybrid

Carnival squash… maybe ? seeds from store bough acorn squash hybrid

The above photo is of an experiment Christopher and I did two summers ago. If you find the most wonderful vegetable, and want to grow it from seeds that you save, will you eventually grow what the parent crop was? The answer is No in most cases… and this is proof that Hybrids are not reliable in self-sustaining gardening. This is the result of growing a seed from a Hybrid Acorn squash from a Kroger grocery store. I understand that in this case the “Squash” needs more water to grow to a bigger size but I am thinking that this is not growing an acorn squash at all but a pumpkin crossed with an acorn squash.

I am looking harder at what I want to accomplish with my garden. First, I want to feed my family healthier food. Second, I want to learn better ways to become a self-reliant person. Third, I want to be able to reseed my garden if that time comes that I need to or that I want to. Seriously, I think that it is really wonderful that if I save seeds I can share them with others who also like the plants I grow and they too will have their own means to feed them selves without ever having to go to a manufacture to get food seeds or be left with seeds that do not produce.I also like the idea of seed sharing and  the history around some seeds. At the Seed Savers Exchange you are able to get the history of every seed in the catalog. Really cool stuff here if you like to know about where you food really comes from.  Here is a typical page in the catalog.

Bean pages of Seed Savers Catalog

Bean pages of Seed Savers Catalog

So today I am in the process of making a list of the plants and seeds I want to grow in the new garden. I have Sweet potato roots ( from stock that is 40 years old) from last year stored away and ready to sprout for this years garden. I will start them in my window in about two weeks. I want acorn squash that actually grows acorn squash, lots of pole beans (snap and dry), cantaloupe, watermelon, tomatoes, peppers (hot and sweet), brussels sprouts,cabbage, pumpkin and parsnips. I think that will get me through this year with a small new garden.

My husband is the one who encourages all of this craziness and is the one who also thinks we should join in some of the seed conservation. So I will become a member and start to save mostly pepper and bean seeds this year. With help from Heritage Farm  and their seed saving tutorials and classes I will donate back some of my seeds and store some for our families future use. Then share them with my friends and family and hope to keep at least one seed alive for the future. (I think I am seeing a trend here look up My Brothers gift of Memories and see why)

Again for more information on the Seed Saver Exchange and how it all works visit their website and look at the large verity of flowers, vegetables and apple trees these people are trying to save and share for future generations.

Seed Savers Exchange.

Categories: family health, gardening, heirlooms, Non-GMO, organic food, Preserving, pumpkin, Seed Savers Exchange, seeds, Sweet Potato | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

My five year old learns about growing sweet potatoes and other garden plants

Tom tilling Christophers' Garden

Tom tilling Christopher’s  Garden

I have been a home gardener off and on for years. My gardens have ranged in size from a few feet to almost a quarter of an acre. This year we have a small plot that is more for my 5 years olds’ entertainment then to stock a pantry for the winter. It is a family garden that will help provide us with fresh organic food and really isn’t that whole the point. Family time with a 5-year-old does not need  fancy toys just plain out-door fun. The fun starts with digging in the dirt, looking for worms, counting plants, looking for blooms and watering with a tiny watering can. It is all part of the wonderful learning that happens in a garden. Lucky for me, I have good friends who like to share their love of gardening. This year they wanted to share their sweet potato slips with Christopher. I was not really planing to have a garden with sweet potatoes this year but boy am I glad that Tom took a look at these wonderful plants and said “Yea, we can make room.”

Sweet Potato slips ready to plant

Sweet Potato slips ready to plant

So without much of a plan this was what Christopher, Tom and I thought we wanted in a garden this year.We have planted 10 tomato plants, 13 pepper plants of 4 different verities, a bunch of beets, pickling cucumbers,  pumpkins, water melon, cantaloupe, parsnips, green beans and those surprise sweet potatoes. Every thing but the parsnips and green beans fit in our little space. We limited the number of seeds and plants so we could grow many things and not a lot of any one thing. Toms family is famous for growing a garden twice this size for just green beans and another three times this big for potatoes. We on the other hand want to not only freeze some of this fresh produce, but let Christopher learn about a lot of different plants so he will be able to grow some for himself in the future. The wonderful thing we will get to teach Christopher about sweet potatoes is that as long as you have one sweet potato you have the ability to raise at least 15 to 20 more plants the following spring. Like the eyes that grow on a russet or yukon gold potato you can reproduce many plants from one potato. My Friends Ken and Sylvia started a couple of sweet potatoes by saving nice healthy unblemished potatoes from the previous year. They then take the potatoes that they have stored in the cellar and run three nails about 1/2 way through the root to suspended in a jar of  rain water. As you can see the root is  half in the water and half out of the top of a canning jar. They let them sit in a sunny window for the next three months and this is what they get. This is a photo of what is left after they had removed about 15 shoots for Christopher and a few for another friend. The plant will continue to send out more shoots over the next month and they will plant them in their garden.

Photo of sprouted sweet potatoes in window

Photo of sprouted sweet potatoes in window

Sweet potatoes are wonderful for children to raise because they are super easy to grow, they are bug and disease resistant. They are a plant the roots and leave them alone kind of project. Then the fun really begins when he will be able to dig up his own sweet potato and eat it for dinner that evening. The wait is about 90 days or until the first frost. We planted our sweet potatoes in my opinion to close together. Ken recommends at least 12 inches apart and mine as you can see from the photo have been in the ground about 30 days and they are about 10 inches a part and I would have planted them more like 16 inches apart but they seem ok at this point. The vines will grow a couple of feet each way and get bushy as the summer passes. The time to harvest is when the leaves begin to yellow and or you have a good frost. Then dig away with a four tine garden fork and let the kids load up a wagon or several baskets.

young sweet potato plants

young sweet potato plants

Once you have the potatoes you have to make plans to store them. Most people store them in a root cellar or basement. I actually plan to can most of the extras we have but will store a few for fall use. Before storing the potatoes they need time to cure and get a leathery skin to protect them from the bumps and dings of storage, this takes about 10 to 14 days at about 75-80 degrees. I will place the unwashed roots in a cardboard box on our back porch for about a week and turn them so the air reaches all of the roots before wrapping them in news paper and putting them in our cool, dark basement for the winter. At the end of summer I am going to do a post about canning these wonderful nutritious vegetables  and how we make sweet potato casserole made from our own garden grown veggies . In the mean time Christopher and I will be tilling dirt around these guys as they grow. I am not sure if I should mulch them yet as we have had a very wet ( almost soggy) start to summer and I am afraid if I try to keep more moisture in the ground we will just kill the plants from too much water. Time will tell if we need more water or not.  Lets just see what Christopher learns when we get this little project finished up. sweet_potato

Categories: family fun, gardening, organic food, Sweet Potato | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Summer Container Gardens and Sewer Lines

     This spring Christopher and I decided that we would limit our garden planting this year to several small containers and a small garden spots. The problem is, at some point we are getting city sewer lines installed in our back yard and tied into our house. Tom and I are actually over joyed to have the sewer as we have lived about twenty years with three different septic systems, none of them modern ( aeration systems)  at three different locations. Some of them worked properly and some didn’t. The one we have now is around 80 years old… don’t ask… I am not sure how it works…. it just does.

new sewer pipe long our back yard

new sewer pipe along our back yard

      From those small garden spots I was able to really enjoy summer and just picked our last soft ball size tomato for dinner last night. We planned on planting items that would grow well in containers and learned a lot along the way.

I started my plans with a recycled container and about 150 lbs of soil and peat moss

I started my plans with a recycled container and about 150 lbs of soil and peat moss

small container and bird bath garden...tomatos, rubbarb, peppers, carrots and beets

small containers and bird bath garden with tomatoes, rhubarb, peppers, carrots and beets

    Things started of wonderful, the recycled container above  worked wonderfully and the location set up against our house with about 9 hours of sun was just perfect for the climbing beans, sunflowers and squash we planted in the tub.This will get used again next year and maybe full of green beans again. We had green beans for dinner at least three times and froze a few, all off of 6 bean seeds. The Kentucky Runners were well worth growing. The beans did eventually take over the porch hand rail that was at least ten feet high… they liked this location!

beans sunflowers and squash next to our rain barrel

beans sunflowers and squash next to our rain barrel

      The sun flowers bloomed but would have done better with more sun so they will get moved back into the tomato garden next year and as you can see the acorn squash was fine here but I only got two squashes. I may need to put summer squash here and the winter squash in a garden next year.

Tomato plants taking over my bird bath. rubbarb growing in back

Tomato plants taking over my bird bath. rhubarb growing in back

  As you can see the three tomato plants that I planted around my bird bath did very well and the rhubarb is trying to hold its own around the back of the plants. I planted some tomatoes here last year and added some wood shaving with rabbit droppings to the soil and as mulch this year. They seemed to love it. My only problems were the deer who came twice and eat the blooms off the tomatoes. I am positive that I caused  the problem by my love of feeding the birds. I learned a hard lesson…. if you do not want deer to eat your plants don’t put your bird feeder in the garden full of corn and seeds. The frist morning I found my destroyed plants I was upset but not sure why they had come so close to the road. The second time, I could have kicked myself in the rear-end for ever thinking that my bird feeders looked so nice in this small garden and removed them ASAP.

   As for the two containers that I planted  beets and carrots in, well the deer eat all of the beet tops twice. The carrots on the other hand did so-so. I had watched a video on container carrots on You Tube and though it worth a try. I think the gentlemen used a 70/30 mix of peat moss to soil and I think here in West Virginia where we get lots of rain the mix  is correct at 50/50 because the carrots just didn’t grow as deep and strong as I had hoped.  Will try again next year!

I also planted basil and cucumbers neither of them did well in the location on the far side of the porch. I will try to move those containers next year. I hope to find something to put in that location but the plant must grow with less than 8 hours of sun. 

Christophers frist harvest of the garden this year

Christopher’s frist harvest of the garden this year

    Christopher and I are rather happy with our experiment we learned a lot and we got to eat lots of fun food that he got to plant and harvest. Today will begin the process of cleaning up our tomato stakes and bean poles. I brought the only two carnival colored acron squashes into the house to cook over the weekend. I may get a few more cherry tomatoes before the frost comes. The only surprise is not really even a vegetable but a flower that I planted on a whim. Tom had made me a small raised bed for more vegetables but the season had gotten late and I had no idea what to plant in the box so I took some free seeds that came in the mail out to the new bed. This is what we got in a couple of months time.

Cosmos in bloom.. about 5 feet high and still blooming

Cosmos in bloom.. about 5 feet high and still blooming

singel cosmos bloom

single cosmos bloom

 Christopher loves them and I am sure to find more of these seeds next year. Even my older son commented on them and wants to try to plant them for my grand-daughter.

 So another summer is about gone and all I have left are hopes of having the sewer in over the next couple of months and a chance to have a bigger garden next year. After we are able to finally know that when we flush everything is headed to the correct location for treatment and no surprises are left behind.

Carnvil squash  on the vine

Carnival squash on the vine

Categories: container garden, gardening, organic food | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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