Tag Archives: garden

  • Your Drought-Year Garden

    If you’re like me, a sunny afternoon in March finds you tearing through your Territorial seed catalogue and poring over cryptic drawings of garden plots. It’s like I can hear my backyard’s biological clock ticking and I can’t wait another minute to get outside!

    As part of your preparations for your 2014 garden, you’re probably checking out seed calendars and companion planting charts. Here’s one more graphic you might want to consider from the U.S. Drought Monitor:

    How will your garden do in your area during this drought?

    Experts are calling the current western dry spell one of the “worst droughts in 500 years”, severely affecting the supply of drinking water, as well as that for crop irrigation. In fact, one of the most far-reaching effects of even a localized drought in an agricultural state like California is rising produce prices across the country (read about food storage and drought here).

    In that light, gardening may seem like a smart way to beat the heat. However, if you live in any of the highlighted areas on the map above, there are some serious considerations for the home gardener. Some Californians have already been required to restrict water use. Your neighborhood may not be in quite such dire straights, but there are ways all of us can garden a little more conservatively in a dry year.

    Check out these tips and tricks for gardening in lean times:

    Water conservation is a good idea any time, but this year seems to be providing us a compelling reason to conserve. Read about California’s challenges and some solutions you can implement at home and in the garden. Then get outside and get those peas in the ground!

    Sources:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/02/us/severe-drought-has-us-west-fearing-worst.html

    Photo Courtesy of U.S. Drought Monitor

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: food storage, preparedness, water, Emergency, Survival, water storage, garden, gardening, emergency preparedness, drought, produce

  • Flowers in an old boot

    “If you feel guilty throwing aluminum cans or paper in the trash,” the Internet recently told me, “you live in Washington.” As a native Northwesterner, I can personally vouch for this. Yes, we wear sandals with socks; yes, we assume you’re a tourist if you’re carrying an umbrella; and yes, we can be a little fanatical when it comes to the environment. Which is why this Seattle times article from a few years ago, titled “Turn your old junk into garden treasures,” struck a chord in my rainy little heart. Recycling? Gardening?! And DIY?! Swoon!

    Of course, the trend of repurposing rubbish for use in container gardening is hardly brand new. Home and garden magazines have been telling us for years how cute our herbs would look peeking out of old bathtubs and galvanized watering cans. And using containers you already have on hand both reduces waste and saves money. But before you go ransacking the woodshed, here are a few points to consider.

    Materials. Growing food in containers requires some extra diligence. According to the University of Louisville’s Center for Environmental Policy & Management, one major consideration in safe container gardening is chemical leaching. Fantastic flea market furniture could contain lead paint; galvanized metals may contain zinc or cadmium; and even salvaged lumber has sometimes been treated with creosote or asbestos. Additionally, the container’s color can affect soil temperature (darker = hotter), which might harm small shoots. And materials not meant for outdoor use could break, rot, or dry out.

    Succulents growing in rusty oil can

    Size. Yes, your husband’s collection of Scooby Doo lunch boxes could be put to better use than taking up space in the coat closet. However, a tall tomato or deep carrot won’t really thrive in something so shallow. Consider the size and depth of the container in relation to plants’ needs. The University of Maryland’s Home & Garden Information Center offers a handy set of recommendations by plant. (P.S. They also have an ingenious how-to for a self-watering container out of a five gallon bucket!)

    Drainage. No matter what container you find, be sure it will stand up to a quarter inch drill bit. Proper drainage is crucial and can get tricky with containers not originally meant for garden use. Drill, poke, or punch enough holes to allow for quick drainage; consider lining the bottom of the container with gravel; and, if possible, mount the container on blocks—even one or two inches is better than setting it flush on flat ground.

    So, even if you’re not the sock-with-sandals, guilt-ridden-because-you-threw-paper-away type, think carefully before making that next dump run. And if you think that “reduce, reuse, recycle” needs to be your new gardening mantra, here are a few other ideas to make your greens even greener. Look for later posts on these!

    • Seed harvesting
    • Natural pest deterrents
    • Foraging for mushrooms and edible weeds
    • Sprouting beans and seeds
    • Re-growing from kitchen scraps

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: skills, garden, gardening, recycling, DIY

  • Preparing the Soil in Your Garden

    Now that spring is in the air and the days are longer, I’m getting the itch to start working on my garden. Now is the perfect time to go over some garden preparation basics.

    The main reasons we grow gardens are to provide our families with healthy food, become more self-sufficient, and maybe even to store some of our harvest for future use. Sometimes beginning gardeners fear their inexperience will cause them to be disappointed by poor crop performance. Not to worry, even someone with the worst “brown thumb” can grow a productive garden. So where is the best place to start?  A little patience and good soil preparation will help assure a bountiful harvest from a healthy garden. Here are some baby steps to help you along:

    Placement

    The first order of business would be to decide where to place your garden. Choose an area that receives sun for most or all of the day. You also want to orient your garden from North to South so that the sun reaches through the rows to all of your plants.  Most of us have heard that you should start preparing your garden “as soon as the ground can be worked”.  But what does that really mean? You don’t want to start too early.

    Soil Moisture Content

    If the ground still has melting snow or is soggy then it’s definitely too soon to begin. I use the very reliable “old farmer’s” trick to test the moisture content in my soil and it has never let me down. I just pick up a handful of soil and squeeze it into a ball. If it breaks apart easily when tapped or dropped then your soil is ready. If it dents or stays mostly in a lump when dropped it is too wet to be worked.

    Soil Density

    Garden plants grow best in loose soil that retains small pockets of air. Large clumps or clods of dirt will trap large pockets of air around plant roots and prevent them from getting nutrients. Large air pockets will also allow water to pool and drown seeds and small plants. I use the “double digging” method to get good loose soil down to about 1 foot. Remove about 6 inches of topsoil and loosen the soil underneath then return the topsoil and turn or till again.

    Nutrients and pH Balance

    Once you have the soil to the right consistency, it’s time to amend the soil, which simply means to add nutrients such as compost and/or PH balancing components, and till again. Now your soil should be fine, loose and healthy enough for planting seeds or seedlings.

    Basket of Garden Vegetables

    Baby Steps, Remember?

    You don’t have to do this all at once. I usually plan to prepare my garden over a couple of weekends. Planting a garden, watching it grow, and producing healthy food for my family has become one of the most rewarding and comforting projects I undertake each year. With these simple steps I know that you will also be able to enjoy the benefits and pleasures of your own garden.

    --Dawn

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: baby steps, garden, gardening, emergency preparedness, home food production

  • This week’s baby steps are in the same vein as last week: getting your garden ready to plant. Here are three more things you’ll want to know before you start planting. 

    1. Know when to start planting.This great page from Mother Earth News will give you a list of vegetables you can start in April (and other months), and separated by region. What a great resource! First select your region, the month, and then scroll down to see the lists of what to plant. 
    2. Learn a little bit about soil. Knowing what kind of soil you have is important because you may need to “tweak” the soil to provide your plants the most fertile growing possible. Read this article to learn about 10 types of soil and when to use each. Here’s a brief article with photos from HGTV about soil types and soil acidity. 
    3. Observe how much sunlight falls on your growing area. Knowing which areas get the most light (or the most shade) will help you know where to put specific plants. That’ll guarantee your vegetables are situated to grow their best. Read slides 7 and 8 of this article Here’s a general tip about sunlight. “Vegetables that produce fruit (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash) need full sun.” Leaf and root veggies are ok in the shade. Click here to read more.  

    Take these three baby steps and soon your garden will be off to a great start! In case you missed last week’s Baby Steps, click here to read about finding your climate zone, knowing what to grow, and buying seeds. 

    More articles:

    Preparing a New Garden 

    Three Basic Soils 

    10 Types of Soil and When to Use Each

     

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: baby steps, garden, sun, soil

  • Peas

    My husband and I were bound and determined to create a garden for our family this year. In years past we'd try, but only half heartedly, and end up with practically no crop. This year, we made garden boxes and filled them with compost and then sat and wondered what to plant.

    Then my husband remembered something tucked away on a shelf in the basement food storage closet. A can of Canned Garden Seeds we had purchased from Emergency Essentials at least 6 years ago. I was skeptical.

    Cucumber

     

    "Are you serious?" I complained while staring him down as he read the back of the can and reached for the can opener.

    "Of course I'm serious, why not try them out?" he explained. "And," he added, "We don't have to go anywhere, they are here and ready to go!"

    Humph. I did not just put all that effort into creating the perfect haven for my precious little plants only to have it foiled by old, withered, "canned" seeds. It seemed ridiculous and impossible from my viewpoint.

    Continuing to assert my case, I suggested "Honey, how about we go to the home store and pick out some little plants that have already come up that we are certain will grow. I don't want to waste a few weeks of good springtime on some old seeds from a can!"

    He was unwavering. He was determined. He was nuts.

    Zucchini

    Or so I thought. He was right. Here it is, several weeks later and these are the adorable little sprouts that have come from our can of Garden Seeds...the very can which sat on a shelf in the basement for 6 years! The seeds were obviously potent, and I find myself trekking out to the garden every afternoon to check on my little miracles.

    So, for those of you who are skeptics about the can of Garden Seeds, as I was, here is living, growing, and I'm sure soon to be producing, proof of the magic contained in a seed. Even one that is canned!

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: food insurance, food storage, preparedness, garden, emergency preparedness, garden seeds, food

  • We have encountered a lot of recent discussions about Heirloom and non-hybrid garden seeds. One of the most important characteristics of Heirloom seeds is that they are open-pollinating non-hybrid seeds. What does this mean, and why is this so important in relation to emergency preparedness?

    Typical seeds you purchase in local stores are generally a hybrid of different plants. This is done to produce higher yields, to help the plants be more resistant to disease, to create specific tastes and colors, etc. The downside to hybrid seeds is that the seeds of the grown vegetables generally cannot be harvested and replanted the next year. Conversely, open-pollinating non-hybrid seeds can be harvested and planted year after year, making them an important addition to any food storage plan!

    After researching various suppliers of non-hybrid open-pollinating seeds, Emergency Essentials, Inc. settled on a great product called "Canned Garden Seeds." The can includes 16 popular and easy to grow non-hybrid garden vegetables that are hermetically sealed in E-Z lock reusable bags. The bags are triple-layered foil packets that are sealed in the can. A very helpful Gardening-Made-Easy Instructional Guide is also included.

    One tip we would recommend is storing the seeds as cool as possible - your refrigerator or freezer would work best if you have the room. According to the manufacturer, the seeds can be safely stored for 4 years at 65-70 degrees and much longer at lower temperatures. Each 6 degree drop in storage temperature may double the storage life of most seeds. Good planting!

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: food storage, Emergency plan, heirloom seeds, non-hybrid seeds, garden, gardening, emergency preparedness