Extending the Season

Beat Those Winter Blues by Growing Some Green

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There are a number of edible plants that are easy to grow indoors, and help make the winter go by just a little faster. Here are a few we suggest:

1. Micro Tom Tomatoes are the smallest growing tomato plant, only getting to a height of about 8 inches. In just less than 3 months they will go from planting the seed to providing tiny pea sized fresh tomatoes. They can be grown on a window sill or in a hanging basket, need no pollination, and will provide you with the fresh flavor of homegrown tomatoes all year.

2. Carrots such as Short and Sassy, Caracas or Parisienne are perfect for a small pot indoors. Be sure to keep them moist until they sprout. Just seeing the fern like leaves is enough to bring a smile to your face, but tasting a fresh carrot straight from the soil can’t be beat.

3. Most varieties of leaf lettuce can be grown indoors. They have a shallow root system, so a small planter is all you need. Of course, like all these plants, be sure they have good drainage and sufficient light. Just trim off the lower leaves as you need them, and your lettuce will provide for many months.

4. Your cat can get in on the action too. Indoor cats, and all cats in winter, can use catgrass as a supplement to their diet. It aids in their digestion. Of course, it is for cats only; but it is super easy to grow and good for your pet.

5. Cucumbers indoors? Yes, if you have a large pot with a tomato cage or other support. You will need to find a hybrid labeled as parthenocarpic, which simply means that the flowers do not need bees to pollinate them. These plants are bred for greenhouses, but do well in a warm sunny room.

6. Baby watermelon plants, such as Sugar Baby, do not need as large a pot to grow as you might think. Their root systems are comparatively shallow, and their vines only grow to about 4 feet. Of course, here you will need to hand pollinate by gently rubbing a small paintbrush on the male flower and then on a female flower. It is easy to tell the difference, the females have what looks like a tiny melon behind the flower. Again, give the plant support and plenty of sun.

7. Fruit trees, such as Meyer lemons, clementines and avocados can all be grown indoors. Just tending to them as the fruit grows provides smiles. We suggest you place the pots on plant stands with wheels, so you can bring them outdoors when the weather warms. This is also the time the fruit gets the attention it needs from bees and other bugs.

8. Most herbs can easily be grown on a windowsill in the winter. Adding homegrown fresh basil or cilantro to a recipe is so much better than dried or store bought. Greek recipes benefit from a pinch of oregano, as do Indian dishes with a little fenugreek.

There are other fruits and vegetables that can be grown indoors, depending on how much light and room you have. We’re going to be trying a small grape developed for indoor growing this winter. Just experiment and have fun, that’s the most important part of growing indoors.

The winter may still be cold, but it will be spring inside.

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Categories: Container Gardening, Extending the Season

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Fresh Food Year Round – You Can Grow That!

The shovel helps make a path to the greenhouse.

The shovel helps make a path to the greenhouse.

In some regions of the country they can grow fresh food year round because the weather is well suited for it.

For the majority of us though, as you can see from the picture of our yard, it’s a challenge.
And in some areas, it is for opposite reasons- it just becomes too dang hot.

So what’s a gardener to do?

For those of you with the issues of cold, I would recommend two books:

Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman
The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour

The first was my gardening bible when we were just starting out. We dabbled in cold frames, and later in high and low tunnels, and were able to easily add at least 6 weeks and then more on to a season that is basically only 4 months long.

The second book was the kick in the pants we needed to take it even further. With the recent addition of a small greenhouse, and by using our own gardening system, we have been able to grow fresh food even longer into the season.

I must admit though as we get older, the idea of shoveling a path to the greenhouse or even going out into the cold to harvest becomes a little less appealing. So, what we are looking at primarily this winter is growing food indoors.

If you have an area that you are heating anyway, this is a great way to get fresh food throughout the winter.

We are still harvesting basil from last fall, and our cucumber, tomatoes, baby belle pepper and watermelon plants are up and soon to be transplanted.

The cucumber is a variety that does not need pollination, known as parthenocarpic. Peppers contain both the male and female close enough together, as do tomatoes and eggplant, that with just a wee bit of help they will produce fruit. The watermelon will need some hand pollination from us. We’re also trying a container variety of butternut squash.

All of these are doable things, and we will be posting throughout the experiment how things go.

In the meantime, know that snow falling or cold temps, or even the opposite of blistering heat, does not mean you must stop growing fresh food, because the truth is:

you can grow that

You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to help others learn to grow.
Click on the link above for more.

For more info on Extending the Harvest read here.

Categories: Extending the Season, You Can Grow That!

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13 Items to Upcycle for Indoor Growing

a very tiny greenhouse

There are a number of items you may be recycling that can save you some money when it comes to indoor growing.

You can start seeds in a lot of clean containers, such as:

1) Yogurt Cups
2) Plastic produce containers
3) Empty toilet paper rolls
4) Likewise, scaled down paper towel rolls
5) Aluminum cans, be careful cutting these
6) Tin cans from canned soup or veggies
7) Milk cartons
8) Wax cartons such as for orange juice
9) Disposable cups such as solo cups
10) Other food grade plastic containers such as tofu tubs, guacamole, and ready to eat food trays

The main thing to remember is that you need some form of drainage holes. This is easy enough to do in plastic with a scissors or sharp knife. Use caution of course.

For metal containers hammering a nail through them in a few places should do the trick.

Keep in mind you need enough room for the plants to be able to establish their root systems. We would say no less than 3 inches.

You can aid germination by covering containers with (11) recycled plastic sandwich type bags, as shown above. You can see a tiny seedling just sprouting, surrounded by water droplets. This creates a green house effect, keeping your seeds moist until they sprout.

And when that happens, there is one more way to upcycle using a sharpie marker. (12)

plastic ware make great plant markers

Don’t tell me you’ve been getting rid of free plant markers. ;-)

13.) When you transplant, you can still use some of the larger food containers, 5 gallon buckets, as well as reuse pots from plants you have purchased. Again, be sure all containers are clean and have drainage.

Categories: All About Seeds, Extending the Season, How to Grow

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12 Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs to Grow Indoors

growing food indoors

And so it begins

When it comes to larger financial decisions, my husband and I hold off unless we both agree. Usually, when one person doesn’t want to spend the money, the other one finds creative ways to talk him into it. ;-)

And so it was with an unheated room that would be a great place to not only start seedlings, but also to grow food through the winter.

“You would have to make it worth it,” he said, not really wanting an increase in a utility bill.

To a gardening addict, just the activity itself is worth it.

“Like how?” I asked.
“Well, if you grew tomato plants and sold them, that would be good.”

Hmmm, that was part of the plan but that would be months away yet.
“How about having fresh tomatoes and herbs all year?” I suggested, appealing to the cook in him.

“And hot peppers?” he asked.

Let the growing commence.

Here are some of the best veggies to grow indoors:
1. Carrots- small round types such as Parisienne.
2. Tomatoes- romas, Tiny Tom or patio
3. Parsley
4. Basil
5. Hot peppers
6. Scallions
7. Garlic chives
8. Meyer lemons
9. Snow peas
10. Beans
11. Watermelon- small types such as sugar baby
12. Fruit trees on dwarf tree stock

Note there are a number of fruiting trees that are available grafted to dwarf root tree stock, far too many to list.

Categories: Container Gardening, Extending the Season, Garden Projects, The Experiments

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5 Types of Season Extenders

season extenders

The only snow that got in was when I lifted the cover.

There are a number of ways you can get more growing time for your garden. Which you choose will depend on your budget, the size of your garden, and the extent to which you want to grow in the cold weather.

Here are a few to consider:

1. Cold Frames
Not only good for starting seedlings, cold frames can also house veggies and keep them protected enough to go farther into the winter. They are basically boxes, higher on one side that the opposite side, with glass or plastic hinged tops. The clear panels let light into to warm up the interior. Tops can be kept ajar when the day temperatures are still warm. Cold frames can get buried in snow; but if it isn’t too deep, it can actually help insulate the boxes.

2. Low tunnels
These can be made by bending PVC pipe or heavy wire into an inverted U-shape. This is then covered in plastic, again protecting the plants while letting the light through. To ventilate, the plastic must be pulled back and clipped.
Low tunnels are by design used only for shorter types of plants.
In large gardens, using portable low tunnels can help you protect different areas each year. This helps when you are rotating crops.

3. The Jones’ Garden System
Our favorite of course, the system acts similar to both a cold frame and low & high tunnels, allowing you to start seedlings as well as protect all sizes of plants in place.
It also grows more food in less space than a high tunnel, and is easier on the back than a cold frame. You can go farther into the cold with the help of heat tape.

The design makes it user friendly and we think the best solution for smaller gardens. To ventilate, simply move the top frame to the side.

4 & 5. High Tunnels and Greenhouses
Similar in that you can walk into them, these season extenders can help protect taller plants. They don’t hold the heat overnight as well as you might think, but do warm up fast during the day. They both do have the advantage that they can house a heating unit, and that you can be out of the cold weather while gardening.

High tunnels are usually ventilated by opening the door flaps. Greenhouse have ventilating panels as part of the design.

Read here about a high tunnel in Holland.

Do you use season extenders to get more from your garden?

Categories: Extending the Season, Gardening, Keeping up with the Joneses

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How to Plan a Fall Garden

Fall peas

Peas Round #2

In the southern states a fall garden means starting tomatoes and such indoors, as the fall is the best growing time for them.

To our neighbors far north, planning for the fall would involve at least low tunnels and cold frames.

This post is for everyone in between.

Succession planting, or following one plant with another, is a great way to make the most of the space you have.

At this time of year, your peas have probably started to die off. You cold weather crops are either in or beginning to bolt. And anything over-wintered is likely going to seed.

This means some space will be available for crops that can take cooler temperatures.

Here in the zone 5/6 Jones’ garden we have already sown our second crop of peas. Early maturing garlic was followed by plantings of winter squash.

fall squash

Squash catching up.

In between the rows of onions, which are starting to show signs they are ready to harvest, we have direct sown seeds of cabbage for a fall crock of sauerkraut.

As the potatoes are harvested, turnips and rutabaga seeds will go in. Where the spinach bolted, more carrot seeds were planted.

These are all veggies that can take the cold; and that is the main piece of information you need to know about following one crop with another.

The other things are what ‘days to maturity‘ actually means, and when your first frost in the fall is expected.

That way you can better time what you are planting to mature in the fall or even into winter.

When we first started gardening we used to think we could only grow food from the end of May until the frost in the fall.

Now we know we can garden pretty much all year ’round.
Experience really is the best teacher.

Categories: Extending the Season, Gardening

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5 Plants You Can Easily Grow Indoors

Fresh salad all winter.

Fresh salad all winter.

You don’t need a hydroponic growing system to have fresh homegrown food even as the snow falls.

Some vegetables need less light than others, some do not need to be pollinated, and others don’t need the heat of summer.

1. Greens
Pretty versatile and undemanding, greens are easy to grow indoors and do not require much space or light. Since they are a ‘cut and come again’ crop, you can harvest what you need all winter long.

2. Herbs
A kitchen window sill is a common place to find a few herbs growing. Since many grow like weeds, they are tough enough to have indoors.
Basil may be a little finicky, but others herbs like parsley are easy to have fresh all winter. Note that although dill can grow indoors, it can get pretty tall. Be sure to keep it pinched back for a more compact, bushier plant.

3. Radishes

Add a few radishes.

Add a few radishes.

Talk about fast and easy and radishes come straight to mind. The more compact varieties need very little room, and can be ready to enjoy in just a few weeks.

4. Garlic

You can tuck a few garlic cloves in with your houseplants and use the tops for a fresh garlic taste throughout the off season. Keep them moist until they sprout, then just harvest the tops sparingly as they grow.

5. Peas

As another cool-weather crop, peas don’t need long warm days to grow. They pollinate themselves, so that is also not an issue.
Vining or pole type peas, as many varieties are, can be problematic indoors. Unless of course you have room for an 8 ft. tall plant.

Instead choose a bush variety, or as is the case with this cultivar from Agway, a pole type that only gets to be about 3 ft. high.

The final touch.

The final touch.

These are just a few of the plants that you can grow indoors because they do not need to be pollinated and require less light and heat.
Take a look at any seed catalog for more ideas, depending on how much room and time you have to dedicate to an indoor garden.

Now I must admit that other than the garlic greens, we have gotten away from growing indoors over the last few years.
Not for any particular reason.

After writing this post by request, our interest has been renewed.

So all we need to do is head out to the shed for a few planters and potting soil and we’ll be good to go.

After we put on our snow boots, that is.

snow 2013

Categories: Extending the Season, Gardening, How to Grow

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Dear Journal – Fall in the Garden

It’s fall in the garden and the much anticipated growing season is coming to a close.
To be honest Dear Journal, I am somewhat glad.

We may still get a few red ones yet.

We may still get a few red ones yet.

As much as I love gardening and being outside in the warm weather, there are so many things that need to be done indoors.
It takes cold temperatures and even snow to make me slow down.

Carrots, beets and kohlrabi.

Carrots, beets and kohlrabi.

Every weekend now focuses more on canning and dehydrating, and our menu is dictated by what is still coming in fresh.

Parsnips and sweet potatoes.

Parsnips and sweet potatoes.

Don’t get me wrong Dear Journal, I’ve been looking forward to sweet roasted root veggies since this time last year. Mmmm!

And Mandolin is happy to have more choices for his stir frys. I swear he can eat them everyday.

Oriental cabbages, turnips and rutabagas.

Oriental cabbages, turnips and rutabagas.

I must admit I am a bit tired of beans, but that is my own fault for over planting.
Between what we have canned, pickled and dehydrated, we won’t need to grow many plants next summer. That’s for sure.

Pole beans still producing.

Pole beans still producing.

The cold holding closet is beginning to fill up as much as the pantry shelves, a good feeling to have when the snow arrives.

Dinner come January.

Dinner come January.

Winter storage crops.

Winter storage crops.

Even the zucchini experiment proved to be successful. These two plants are going strong long after their counterparts have slacked off.
Oh, the enthusiasm of youth.

The late planted zucchini.

The late planted zucchini.

But we have been fortunate to have a few warmer than average days, so today at least I will still be in the garden.

Time to start cleaning up.

Time to start cleaning up.

Oh and one other benefit of fall Dear Journal… we can enjoy all the squash flowers we want.

Breakfast.

Breakfast.

Categories: Extending the Season, Jonesen'

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Planting a Fall Garden

Mid-summer planting of seeds and transplants to produce in the cooler months, also known as succession planting, is a great way to extend the harvest and get more from your garden space.

Carrots with beets and kohlrabi.

Carrots with beets and kohlrabi.

Most gardeners will tell you to not follow one crop with one from the same family.
I say Hogwash.
Partly because I like to say Hogwash but mostly because it’s true.

Where the taters were.

Where the taters were, now fall leaf cabbages and rutabagas.

If you have unlimited garden space, go ahead and rotate what you plant.
If you don’t, there’s just a few things you need to know.

The reasons gardeners recommend rotation in planting are:
1. diseases
2. pests
3. nutrient loss to the soil

If the plants you pulled out were healthy, and you did not have a problem with pests, crop rotation isn’t needed.
Likewise, if you replenish the soil with fertilizer and a good compost, it will be a perfectly healthy environment to replant in.

The Kale bed.

The Kale bed.

Three simple words sum it up:
Remove – Replenish – Replant

You do need to learn what can be planted in the garden mid-summer. Here’s a good guide to help.

Peas replace peas mid-summer.

Peas replace peas mid-summer.

So we have peas coming up where the peas were before, and kale where there were other cole crops. No harm done.
The other crops were chosen based on what can be planted this time of year, and where there was room.

If we had to depend on crop rotation, a fall garden would be much more difficult than it needs to be.

Categories: Extending the Season, Gardening, How to Grow, Techniques & Issues

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I Pollinated a Squash, and I Liked It

Two is good, for now.

The first are always the best.

Mandolin Jones jokes that two zucchini plants are “at least one too many.”
It’s true, there have been years where we have been inundated with zucchini. This year probably won’t be any different.

I tried to restrain myself, really.
So we only have three plants of Cashflow Zucchini in the garden, and three more of an heirloom type called Tatume.

What’s interesting about squash is that they usually produce male flowers for a while before they start producing females.
What’s odd is that the Cashflow did the opposite.

And since I want to save the heirloom seeds, the two types are nowhere near each other.

So when there were male blossoms on the Tatume and no females, and females on the Cashflow but no males, what needed to be done was obvious.

Now you see, we are trying to avoid GMO foods, and since much of the store zucchini is just that, we don’t buy it.
From fall until the garden produces, we don’t eat fresh summer squash.

It really makes you want it all the more…
never thought we’d be jonesin’ for zucchini.

So those male blossoms were plucked, and brought to the females.
Now we have two really good looking squash soon to be ready to harvest.
And thoroughly enjoyed.

While I have no intention of mentioning this to Mandolin, I will admit that if need be, I’d do it again.

Categories: Extending the Season, How to Grow, Squash, Techniques & Issues

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