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Showing posts from July, 2011

Collecting Seed (Peas)

As I sat in the morning sun with ants crawling over my bare feet and insects snapping by my head nestled under the corn stalks I told my oldest daughter that I think this may in fact be my favorite time of year in the garden. I love the simple, time consuming process of collecting seed from my heirlooms.

Both varieties of peas have made a strong push toward settling into seed. The British Wonder Pea, which we are growing for the first time this year, is nothing to write home about just about, 20 seeds if we are lucky. But the yellow snap pea is an entirely different story. We will be heading into our 4th generation of this particular pea. When we bought our start up pack from Seed Savers Exchange I think there were around 25 seeds or so, don't quote me but you get the idea. So far today we have easily taken in about 200 seeds and it is safe to say we are barely half way done.

If you are new to saving your own seeds I would recommend beans (which we will talk about at a later d…

Entering the next phase

The last couple of weeks in the garden have been very busy. About two weeks ago we started with the onions, I ended up passing on writing specifically about our bulbs but did want to mention them briefly because we had such a great harvest this year.

I have been keeping an eye on the bush beans, spinach, lettuce, yellow snap peas and radish as they go to seed. The British Wonder Pea, which we grew for the sole purpose of adding nitrogen to a weak spot in the garden already went to seed, in fact a few of the seeds that fell from the pods are sprouting in the damp soil beneath.

We went on a monstrous weeding campaign and the garden looks significantly better. I went and I cut the Swiss chard down so that it could grow some young and tender leaves before the weather sets in a few weeks. Chard is such an underrated plant in the garden. It is so healthy for you, stands up to all sorts of weather and if prepared properly so delicious.

The popcorn has also started to display its tassel…

Garlic

"I'm happy now." 3 year old Liam Riley

This has by far been the best year of gardening we have had since we have moved in. The garlic has been no exception. We recently harvested three different varieties of the cloves from our raised bed and from our son's little side garden. It may be worth adding that his plants were huge and put ours to shame, he is a natural and just like his father it makes him happy being in the garden.

One of the goals we are aiming for next growing season is to make a solid transfer of the whole garden to raised beds, we will have to wait and see how well that works out. Part of the reason is that you are able to produce such large, healthy plants. Last year we grew lettuce in the raised bed and then at the end of the year we fed the soil with compost and in the fall put in the garlic bulbs that we just finished harvesting.

The health benefits of garlic are numerous and well documented, for example, it is a natural anti-biotic. For one rea…

shallots

I have never grown onion from seed. One of our local farmers markets, Frog Pond Farms, has always sold bulbs that produced a delicious onion so in the past I have always waited until I was ready to plant onions and picked up a bag of white or yellow and a bag of red onion bulbs for the garden. Initially this year was not going to be any different but when I got there I discovered they had a huge selection of shallot bulbs and if the truth be told I have never knowingly eaten a shallot so I thought I would give them a try with the onions. I have to admit I was/am blown away! This year we grew 3 ten foot rows of onions and about 15 feet of shallots, next year I am going to plant a ridiculous amount of these delicious and healthy bulbs.

I decided to do a little research on the shallot since it was my first time around with this veggie. I planted mine in early spring when the soil could first be worked and just harvested the last of it today. I am going to set aside some of the best bul…

Book Review (Step by Step Organic Vegetable Gardening by Shepherd Ogden)

I just finished reading Organic Vegetable Gardening by Shepherd Ogden. Normally I tear through gardening books but I have to admit that this 288 page book took me awhile. On one hand there is a lot of personal information that happen to be specific tales of his own gardening experience in Vermont, which of course is completely understandable, one writes about their own experiences. The catch is though while the reader plugs away through Ogden's script you uncover a treasure of wealth and knowledge. This is a resource book, not a quick weekend read. He goes over the specifics of gardening in extreme detail from previous season garden prep to harvest. Then again I suppose the title of the book, "Step by Step", should have given that away to me.

It is interesting though how certain information can be so timely. The particular copy of the book that I am reading is from 1992. In it while talking about the environmental impact we play as gardeners he mentions natural gas and …

Broccoli

"Last night I was dreaming about broccoli,
I had only broccoli for my dinner,
It was funny in my tummy filled with broccoli and nothing else."
~Sophia, the 5 year old poetess~

My daughter's favorite vegetable is broccoli so this year we grew plenty. We have been on a regular streak of raw broccoli with our dinner at night. Normally we have a little side of good dressing to dip this cruciferous veggie in and we are ready to dig in.

In the past I have written about the numerous health benefits of this green flower head so I thought I would go with a different angle on this post. I did a bit of research on the plant and found out some interesting history, interesting in the sense that I am way too curious about plants.

The Italians are normally credited with the cultivation of broccoli but it goes a little further back, though my children's ancestors do play an interesting role in the appearance of the veggie in the States. In Asia Minor, what is now Turkey, they beg…

Of Like Mind

Recently I have had the opportunity to visit with some friends that I have not seen in quite some time. One, is a leader in the local art scene and simply put drawn to the calming effects of nature. We ended up getting involved in an interesting dialogue concerning heirlooms food, indoor and outdoor growing techniques and the pros/cons of both techniques and the quality of water in our area. It's always nice to bump into someone of like mind and eventually the conversation naturally, no pun intended, took a turn into the subjects of permaculture, biodynamic gardening and even harvesting the foods growing all around us that most people never even think about such as plantain and pine, wild raspberries and strawberries as well as attracting pollinators to your gardens by introducing indigenous flowers to your gardens. Though slightly brief, I really enjoyed our chance to talk and pass information along to one another.

My other friend is a musician living in New York City and it wa…

Bush Beans and Cucumbers

In a very short span of time alot of different veggies are beginning to make a dash to full bloom, of those the bush bean plants may currently be the most prolific of the group. Over the course of 3 years or so we have mainly grown the Danish heirloom, dragon tongue, and the beautiful royalty purple pod bean and the yellow wax or pencil pod bean. All three of these are now a solid part of our own private seed stock. I have found the yellow wax bean to be the easiest to grow and harvest, plus it taste delicious. It has an onyx black seed that just falls right out of the dried shell when it is ready for storage. The other two beans are a bit of a different story. They tend to have a very fleshy case which makes for a delicious bean but in our region of the world it is difficult not to loose a substantial portion of your seed stock to mold and rot if you do not pay close attention to your patch. These particular beans need a lot of help out of their casing if you are to have a successful…

A Walk In The Garden

"If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in." Rachel Carson

Recently I have been spending a lot of time just sitting among the plants in the gardens with the kids. It is a blast to sit inches away from a honey bee while he works over a flower, his legs heavy with pollen. We have also noticed new members of the bird community around our home, most notably a few gnat catchers and a female hummingbird. Everything from lime green spiders in the apple trees to dragon flies sunning themselves by the garlic beds, butterflies flirting in a dizzy spiral flight above the bush beans and robins guarding their nest in the gnarled branches of shade trees,it is a curious and beautiful world taking place all around us if we only take a moment to notice it all.

Tobias Whitaker blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. Click on the …