Keeping up with the Joneses
4 March 2014, by gj
Did you ever stop to wonder just how self-sufficient your garden could make you? Sure you can grow great veggies, even a good protein source through dry beans.
But what about grains?
Although technically these are not all grains, we are listing them because they are used that way:
Most often thought of as a vegetable, corn is actually a grain. You can grow field or dry corn the same as you would sweet, but allow it to dry thoroughly on the cob before harvesting the kernels to grind.
Be sure to take preventative measures if you are also growing sweet corn nearby, as their pollen is carried on the wind and there can be cross pollination.
This summer we will be showing you ways to help prevent this; but for the meantime, keep them as far apart as possible preferably with a structure between them.
One of the best varieties for making your own corn meal, according to Baker Creek seed catalog, is Cherokee White Eagle. Just be sure to choose a variety that is meant to use for this purpose, they are less sugary and will dry more easily.
Grind, store and use the way you would store bought cornmeal.
Technically a vegetable, quinoa is a relative of spinach that is fast gaining popularity in restaurants as well as home kitchens. Part of the reason, other than the delightful taste, is that quinoa carries a protein not normally found in a vegetable. Especially for vegetarians, this is a wonderful thing.
What you harvest here are the seeds as well, dry, store and use like you would rice. You can also grind the seeds to use like flour.
Often grown for its use as a fiber, the seeds of flax are actually wonderfully nutritious. They are a good source of omega-3′s and high in fiber. The milled seeds can be added to many baked goods.
We are so excited to try our hand at growing flax this year.
Often listed under herbs, and even considered sometimes as a flower, Amaranth is a beautiful tall edible whose flower seeds can be used as a grain.
In some varieties you can also eat the leaves as a vegetable, bonus! The most common variety grown for the edible seeds is Love Lies Bleeding.
One definition of grains is that they are grasses that produce small edible seeds. Millet fits this description well. Its seeds can be ground for flours or gruel, but it is often also used as bird seed.
We are going to try one of the most common varieties used in the US, a Proso type; specifically Proso White.
Again, we will have more specifics on this as we actually grow and harvest it.
Dry or Field Corn
Generally speaking these crops grow quite tall, and the harvest you get for the space may not compare to vegetables you plant instead.
But if you have the room and want to be more independent, consider trying a grain crop.
We will let you know how we fare, what was worth it and maybe what was not over the course of the next year.
Hopefully it will all be rave reviews; but the idea of not being dependent on a store for our grains is already a win in our books!
You Can Grow It! is a monthly collaboration by gardeners around the world to promote the wonderful aspects of gardening.
For more posts, please click on the logo above.
Categories: How to Store, other, preparedness
23 February 2014, by gj
Shawn isn’t finished with college quite yet, but already he owns his own garden products business and has invented something we thought many of you might find interesting.
Along with his business partner Michelle Mendez, Shawn designed a way to make planters from cork. These lightweight pots are better than plastic because they allow air to get to the soil, and better than traditional clay since cork has natural antibacterial properties.
A local news station featured them, take a look at the video here on Besta Cork.
You can see just how the pots are made by hand, it is really neat.
The planters are also good for the cork trees, as removing their bark is akin to shearing sheep.
If you are looking for a unique gift, Corkit pots can also be purchased with a Sprout pencil. Plant the eraser end, and it degrades releasing seeds. How fun is that!
Note: No compensation was received for writing this post, we just thought we would share something pretty cool.
Categories: gardening people, places & things, sundays in the garden
14 February 2014, by gj
Gardening is an act of love.
Sure, you get fresh air, exercise, and food; but most gardeners grow plants because they love to.
So here’s a Happy Valentine’s Day to all you gardeners, and a few examples of growing we would love to share:
Love these beans.
1. Black Valentine Bean
This is one of our personal favorite bush beans to grow. As you can see from our notations on the packet, this bean can either be harvested as a green bean, or allowed to mature on the plant and dry. The seeds that you get as a dry bean are a beautiful purplish black and are wonderful tasting. Although we grow a variety of dry beans, we plant more of these than any other.
2. Love In A Mist
What a beautiful name for a gorgeous flower. And free seeds? Yep, you have got to love that! According to the packet description, this plant dates back to 1570′s English gardens, and has “wispy, feathery foliage surrounding the blooms”. Although we primarily plant edibles, we also grow some flowers to attract bees. These look to be a good choice for this year’s garden.
A mix of love.
3. Love Lies Bleeding
Not the most romantic name, but the red variety of amaranth grows vibrant seed pods that are an outstanding, and edible, addition to the garden. We grew these for years before we were taking pictures of the garden, and unfortunately before we knew they were edible. More to come on growing amaranth this summer.
Tall and tasty love.
Okay, we admit this one is pushing it a bit, but what isn’t to love about a perennial herb that grows 3 feet wide by 6 feet high and can be used in place of celery? We have yet to grow this but have tasted it, and the resemblance in flavor to celery was enough to convince us; another gorgeous edible for your garden.
A sweet honeymoon.
5. Honeymoon Melon
The picture above is of the accidental experiment; but the real Honeymoon Melon is a yellow skinned green fleshed delight. It is also an earlier maturing variety of honeydew, so you get to enjoy that sweetness sooner.
There are two additional ways you can grow love in your garden:
Mom loved blue.
6. Grow a Remembrance Plant:
This is the Sea Holly that was planted after my mom passed away last spring. In spite of the weather and only being a young plant, it bloomed the following fall, and after two frosts no less. It will always be a reminder of her, in the place we love to be.
Ready for little hands.
7. Spread the Love
The garden really is a good example of the circle of life. Plants sprout, they grow and reproduce; some die and some continue to return for many years.
Sharing the knowledge and the love of gardening is a wonderful way to keep that information alive through the generations.
Pass it on, whether it is your neighbor, your kids or grandkids, or a school or church garden.
The love of gardening really is the best thing you grow.
Categories: special posts
7 February 2014, by gj
Here comes the rhubarb.
Although many herbs and fruits will bear for many years, most gardeners grow vegetables as annuals. There are some exceptions that can, depending on your climate of course, be harvested for years to come.
Perennials are different than self-seeding annuals, but for the topic at hand we are grouping them together.
Here in Zone 5/6 we can count on:
1. Lovage is technically considered an herb, but we list it here because it is used as a vegetable. The leaves particularly and the stems as well can be used in place of celery. Be sure you have enough room before you plant it, as lovage can easily grow 3 ft. wide and over 6 ft. tall.
2. Good King Henry is a new plant for our garden this year. It is reputed to taste much like asparagus, but with a longer harvest period. Eat the leaves raw or steamed. Give it a space of its own, as it will reseed with abandon.
3. Horseradish can easily be grown from a root purchased at your local market. It can be quite invasive, so we recommend planting it in a pot that sits on top of a rock slate, as the tiny roots will do their best to get out. Be forewarned, fresh horseradish packs an amazing punch.
4. Jerusalem Artichokes aka Sunchokes are as delightful to see grow as they are to eat. A relative of sunflowers, their blooms are similar but smaller. Even better, they smell like chocolate. Harvest the roots after the flowers fall over. Enjoy like a water chestnut or as a potato substitute.
Mmm… smells like chocolate.
5. Radicchio aka Italian Dandelion is a relative of what many consider to be an invasive weed. “You’re planting what?” was my husband Mandolin Jones’ reaction when I mentioned ‘dandelion’ but he was okay with ‘radicchio’. According to Art, the master gardener from Baker Creek, we should get 2 years of harvest here in Zone 5/6. So we intend to replant again in year two and see what happens. Some perennials last longer than others.
6. Rhubarb is one of the first veggies to pop through the soil in spring. It will last basically forever, as long as it is cared for. When you see it is looking overcrowded, dig some of the roots up and share. We found out the hard way that the best thing to do with dug roots is to pot them up for a year before transplanting. Live, garden, and learn.
7. Asparagus is probably the best known perennial vegetable. Harvest lightly after the first year, a little more the second, then have at it afterwards. We have heard of asparagus beds still thriving after 20 years.
8. Walking Onions aka Perennial Onions have a few other common names as well. They reproduce themselves by ‘walking’, that is, bending a stem over and dropping little bulbules or topsets on the soil. Use like scallions.
9. New Zealand Spinach is not actually a spinach, but a wonderful self reseeding substitute. Be sure to plant it in a relatively weed free area and let it have fun.
10. Garlic is one plant we never thought of as a perennial. A coworker discovered this by accident, after neglecting her garden one year. Her garlic also produced little topsets and replanted itself. It has been 3 years now and she continues to get garlic without ever planting more. Not just greens, but normal sized cloves. You know we will be trying this!
Walking onion preparing to replant itself.
NOTE: Before planting any perennials, be sure they will grow in your area and not be invasive.
Specific growing information on many of these edibles can be found on the list to the right.
Categories: gardening, perennials
4 February 2014, by gj
You Can Grow That! is a wonderful group of garden writers led by C. L. Fornari whose mission is to take a few minutes each month to encourage others to garden.
Occasionally C. L. will have an optional topic suggestion, and I’m sure when she posted this one her intention was to have others actually insert the name of the town they live in.
But that’s where the snag came in. You see, we don’t live in a town, not even close.
We live in an Unincorporated Community of somewhere around 5000 people.
Small ‘town’ living doesn’t get much smaller than that.
We put in a roadside garden.
We have a grocery store, 2 churches and a post office. We even have a dollar store.
We have no sidewalks or street lights. We don’t even have a traffic light.
You could probably fit all the stop signs in the back of your truck.
Of course, the police would make you put them back.
The bank is in the same building as the farm & garden; you get the idea.
One neighbor grew a fence.
So how could we put up a post on this topic?
Then the idea struck… let’s turn this over to you.
Go ahead, insert the name of the town you live in.
How could you make where you live more beautiful?
Perhaps you can get other gardeners to Plant a Row for the Hungry, or start a community garden.
How about starting an annual Seed Swap Day or Plant Exchange.
Maybe form a Garden Club that will spruce up some of the local community areas.
(We don’t have those either.)
And another decorated theirs.
What do you say?
Where are you from, how’s the weather, & what are your thoughts on the subject?
We would love to hear what you think!
Click on the link to read more You Can Grow That! posts.
Categories: gardening people, places & things, you can grow that
31 January 2014, by gj
Even the Guardians of the Garden could not keep the polar vortex away.
So maybe the temperatures you are suffering through are the ones we would be happy to see, that’s not the point.
We’re pretty much all having a nasty winter; but as North-easterners, there are a few things we’ve learned that might help you:
1. Expect it to happen again. This winter isn’t over, and the weather tends to be cyclical. That being said-
2. Have at least 3 weeks of food on hand if you have room, including water. Even stock a few items you can eat right out of the can in case of power loss. Don’t forget a manual can opener.
3. Similarly, have a way to heat your house. If you already do, try to have a back-up. Be prepared to block off unused rooms in case of emergency. Hang a few quilts, er… maybe some beach towels (just kidding) in doorways to prevent heat loss and stay close to whatever heat source you have.
4. Protect the pipes. Did you know your water pipes can freeze and literally break if they get too cold? Heat wrapping them is a good back-up plan. Also, let them drip just a bit to keep the water flowing. In an emergency, it is better to turn them off and drain them; a bother that could save you a major headache in the long run.
5. Prepare adult and kid Blizzard Boxes. That’s what we call them anyway. For the kids, age appropriate games, toys and puzzles to keep them busy. Be sure at least some of them don’t require electricity. Add a few snacks they don’t otherwise get, those kind of things. These will keep your kids entertained on unexpected days off from school.
For the grown-ups maybe a few movies, a good book, and also snacks. Chocolate goes a long way during stressful times for both young and older.
If the winter ends and you didn’t need them, hooray! Have a little party!
6. Don’t forget the pets. Be sure to have enough food on hand for them. Also, since they sense stress in their loved ones, a little Blizzard Box for them would be wonderful too.
7. Preparedness doesn’t need to take up a lot of space. Thermal underwear and blankets go a long way to keep you warm, yet are quite thin. Bubble wrap on your windows will help keep the warm air in. A small camping stove will let you heat water if the power is out.
We in the north really do feel for you, our winter has been nasty as well.
But for us it is just a matter of colder, or more snow…
No pun intended, but its a matter of degree.
Stay warm and safe out there, and if ever our temps are going to go above 100F, we’ll call on you for help!
Categories: preparedness, special posts
26 January 2014, by gj
This is the final post in this series, as we come to the present.
It was in 2010 that we made the garden smile, with a simple truckload of mushroom soil. If ever we are asked to recommend one soil amendment, that would be it.
Every single part of the garden thrived and the larder was overflowing with filled canning jars. It was only recently that the last jar was opened.
2011, from memory.
Likewise the abundance continued into the following year. We were starting to see more of a problem with critters, though; attracted by all the food I guess.
This was part of the inspiration, along with the difficulties we know more urban gardeners face, that led to a design for a garden system.
The following winter was extremely mild with an early spring, and the squirrels in particular were everywhere. Mandolin Jones started referring to the garden as the ‘Squirrel Buffet‘.
Yeah, it was that bad.
As if that was not enough the weeds were also quite prolific.
This must be what it is like to live in a warmer region.
The first year.
We were armed though. With the garden design built, we were able to protect most of what we grew.
In the roadside garden 1 of every 5 tomatoes was being bitten by squirrels, in spite of the deterrents we used.
In the new system all were safe.
In 2013 the squirrels were not as bad but the weeds were worse in the roadside garden. The entire front row was covered in a think layer of newspaper and landscaping fabric, and filled with pots of herbs.
That worked very well to keep the weeds out, and container plants are easier to take care of when they are grouped together.
More perennials were added that year, including a number of fruit trees and berry canes. We got our first serious harvest of cranberries too.
The Jones’ Garden System
Most of the experimentation took place closer to the house.
With the garden design, now being referred to as the Jones’ Garden System, we were able to extend our harvest by 3 weeks on each end of the season.
It sported the first ripe tomato in the area, and didn’t lose a single one to critters. The beans were also producing sooner, and continued to be harvested longer into the fall.
The vertical aspect also did quite well, and was so much fun having squash and melons growing up and out the top. It was so neat to see the fruit hanging down and growing completely free of pests.
There were hardly any weeds to pull either.
It was so much easier in fact that we are now in the process of turning the roadside garden over primarily to perennials. We will still need to protect them from critters of course, but it won’t be as much of an issue.
I’m thinkin’ we’re going to have extra time on our hands; time well spent canning.
Categories: Addiction, gardening, Keeping up with the Joneses
24 January 2014, by gj
1. “The best way to plant peppers is too close together.” was a tip my father taught me. As long as they have enough air about them, planting them closer than normally recommended lets them help support each other. We plants ours 8-10″ apart for sweet bells, closer than the normally recommended 12-18″.
2. Contrary to what others may tell you, you can save the seeds from hybrid plants. What you get may be different than the parent plant, but in many cases it doesn’t matter. So go ahead and try a few tomato seeds from the one you got at the market. We got a delicious pink tomato that way one year.
3. The peak time to pick herbs is first thing in the morning. This is when they have the best flavor.
4. The best way to eat cherry tomatoes is straight from the garden while they are still warm. Yum! However, be careful eating any vegetable before washing it first, especially anything that developed on or close to the soil.
5. One of the best tips we’ve heard was about staking Tomatoes. Whereas wire can burn the stems, and twine can also cause damage, using pieces of old pantyhose is ideal. The hose ‘gives’ with the plant just enough, and heck the price is right! We have also tried it on pole beans and cucumbers and it worked well there too.
6. Ever hear of the Three Sisters of the Fields? They are corn, squash and beans growing together. The beans grow up the corn and the squash grows at the base of the corn, providing each other with necessary nutrients as well as discouraging little varmints (raccoons in particular) from nibblin’ the corn. Traditionally, dry beans, field or popcorn, and winter squash were planted together, as they are all harvested at the end of the season.
7. Basil plants do well when planted among tomatoes. They are slower to bolt because the tomatoes give them some shade, and the basil adds a nice flavor to the tomatoes.
8. Think twice before planting, or plant out of the way of the rest of your garden: Horseradish, Mints including oregano, sweet marjoram, balms; in many climates they can be very invasive. Likewise many other perennials.
9. Got Seeds? If you have them left over from last year you can still use them. Seeds do lose some of their potency over time, so the germination rate will drop a bit, but toss ‘em in anyway. You may be surprised at the results!
10. Compost: The ultimate recycling. Don’t throw any meat products into your compost, and Heaven forbid, don’t throw in any root ends of the perennials mentioned above.
11. It is nice throw a few earthworms into your compost heap every so often though. They love it and you will benefit.
12. A few flowers in the vegetable garden help attract bees which promote fertilization of your plants. Nasturtiums and sunflowers are especially good for attracting bees, plus they are edible.
13. If you wish to go the other way, and plant a few vegetables in the flower garden, we would recommend squashes and gourds. This family of vegetables gets beautiful flowers (mostly also edible) and are comparatively easy to grow. There are also some peas and beans that do well and are quite pretty when trellised, Purple Bean Hyacinth comes to mind, though I don’t think it is edible. Scarlet Runner Bean has pretty red flowers. Some gardeners plant okra as an ornamental, the flowers are just that gorgeous.
14. Don’t handle bean plants when they are wet, it can spread disease.
15. The well-rounded garden will want to sport at least a showing of herbs. Lavender and sage are easy to contain perennials and quite prolific. Dill plants are tall, with delicate looking leaves and a wonderful fragrance.
Do you have a good garden tip? We would love to hear it. Please share it in the comment section below and thanks!
Categories: gardening, How to Grow
17 January 2014, by gj
It is wonderful every year to get things just a little more organized and free up some wasted time that is better spent gardening.
Here are a few ideas we have found to help:
The garden notebook keeps growing.
- A garden notebook can keep a lot of the information from previous years as well as what is collected throughout the year for the upcoming season. Include a flash-drive for what you find online.
- Likewise a clipboard can not only keep you planting maps handy, it is an easy way to hold seed packets that are slated to go out to the garden for planting. Just use the clip to keep them safe from spilling or blowing away.
- A potting table allows for an area to organize your supply of soils, amendments and fertilizers.
Right at our fingertips.
- We use a free seed rack from the local farm & garden store to keep seeds organized. This year the stash has been reduced from 3 racks to one, to further simplify garden planning and seed ordering.
Oh… there you are!
One thing that eludes us is keeping track of tools.
It is as if the small ones intentionally hide, and the larger ones are like chameleons blending into their surroundings.
- Here is a solution we are going to use this upcoming spring: Use duct tape, now also called ‘duck’ tape or paint to brightly color the handles on your tools, making them easier to find. We have in the past used the wonderful idea of adding an old mailbox to your garden area to hold tools.
We did learn to be careful it is mounted level or pointing towards the ground, otherwise rain water can get in.
Some lessons are always learned the hard way.
What tips do you have for staying organized?
Categories: gardening, jonesen', saving money & time, techniques
12 January 2014, by gj
In 2005 we started naming names; that is, we really concentrated on trying different varieties of the same veggie. The idea was to see if we had a preference, and in most cases we really didn’t.
We do prefer white eggplant to the traditional dark purple, but only for the uniformity of the slices.
It was also the year we first planted Amaranth, but we did not know it was edible.
That would be a few years yet.
We learned the hard way that hot peppers and sweet peppers can cross pollinate in 2006. Of course this only affects the seeds, but hot peppers seeds have heat. A few of the sweet peppers picked up some of that heat, and it made eating them real interesting.
We also added a cherry tree that year, but that would not last long.
A birdhouse gourd grew up from the compost, and as it vined it’s way up a nearby pine, it grabbed the little cherry tree and pulled it right out of the ground.
Unfortunately it was too late by the time we noticed.
Another expansion took place in 2007.
It had been 3 growing seasons since we tried to limit the garden until we finally gave in.
Actually, we did better than expected.
That year we learned you can grow strawberries underneath dwarf peach trees if you keep the fruit trees pruned to give the berries enough sun.
We also learned that year how easily corn will cross pollinate, even if they are not down wind from each other.
An experimental ‘Compost Garden’ was planted in 2008. The idea was to see how many volunteers we could get if we didn’t put a single seed in the ground, and only used our own compost.
It certainly did show how easy growing food can be.
We didn’t get nearly as much of a harvest, a few potatoes made it and late in the season we had a nice supple of green tomatoes. None of the squash produced more than 1 or 2 fruit, mainly because they came up later than what we planted elsewhere by seed.
But experimenting is fun, so it was all good.
Finally in 2009 we expanded just a wee bit more. We added some kiwi vines, which always looked wonderful but never produced. We also got smart with the potted herbs, and put them all together in a shadier area, which also made keeping them watered easier.
Our experiment that year was with dry beans. we purchased a bag of 15 assorted dry soup beans at the local market and planted them.
To play it safe, we planted them in amongst the corn. That way if any were pole types, we were covered.
It was a bit of a madhouse in that bed, but it worked well.
For the most part, that was the last time we bought dry bean seeds.
It was in the late fall of 2009 that this blog began.
Since then every year has been a combination of trying new veggies and cultivars, and more experiments.
A lot of that has been documented here, but there is one more thing that hasn’t.
Not to leave you hanging, but that will be the final post of this series.
Categories: Addiction, gardening