extending the season

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.

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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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5 Ways to Handle Upcoming Light Frost

green tomatoes

Ready to ripen indoors.

Well, the weather forecasters are saying the F-word again.
Last year frost didn’t hit until the end of October, but we can’t always be that lucky.

Here are a few ways to handle your veggies with the cold temps coming:

1. Harvest them.

All of the heat loving crops, such as tomatoes, peppers, summer squashes and eggplant cannot handle the cold. Let them ripen indoors, use them up or preserve what you can for the winter.

2. Bring them indoors.

Potted plants can come inside and you get a wee bit more life from them. We have heard of people overwintering pepper plants and having them live for years.

We’re going to give it a try with one pepper plant and a transplanted eggplant.

We also have 3 tomato plants in the greenhouse, just to keep that fresh taste going longer. May as well, right?

jones gardening system

Inserting the plastic panels for frost protection.

3. Cover them.

You can use something as simple as a sheet, or more elaborate like our garden system. This picture is of the sweet potato bed in the original test system. The longer we can keep them alive, the better the harvest will be.

4. Let them be.

Many veggies can handle the cold. All of the cold weather crops will survive a light frost. These include peas, most greens, carrots, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, scorzonera and parsley.

If you’re not sure weather they will survive or not, one frost will answer that question. Just don’t allow the lettuce to fool you. It may look like it is dead in the morning, and then perk back up when the sun comes out.

5. Water them in.

This is something we have never tried, but it makes sense and is often recommended. Water your garden at ground level thoroughly before a frost is predicted. Presumably the wet soil will hold the warm temperatures longer, and release heat at the base of the plant, offering them some protection.

We have also heard, but have not tried, watering the garden again before the sun hits the plants, in effect washing the frost droplets off and helping the plants survive.

We have had sufficient success with the first four methods, so have not had to try the fifth.

Well, got to go harvest the grapes and make some juice.
Happy gardening!

Categories: extending the season, harvesting, techniques

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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: dear journal, extending the season

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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

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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

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Dear Journal -Early July 2013

What a difference a few weeks can make in a garden.
The Fava beans are producing in abundance, the greens have bolted, and every seedling that has been in the ground more than a week has sprouted.

The tip of the fava iceburg.

The tip of the fava iceberg.

Some of the corn really is ‘knee-high by the fourth of July’ as the farmers say, so that is right on track.

Three sisters.

Three sisters.

The squashes are beginning to flower, and we may have our first zucchini soon.
Beans are climbing and flowering, we already have a lot of yellow dry beans. Too early to pick yet, but happy to see them there.

Pole beans doing their thing.

Pole beans doing their thing.

The tomatoes have suffered a bit with the excessive rain we have had, but they are still flowering and the fruit that is already growing seems to be doing well. That first slice of a tomato always seems to be the best. This year it looks like it will be a Pink Oxheart that’s the earliest to ripen.

Ready to ripen?

Ready to ripen?

The succession planting has begun, with beets following some early onions and beans going in where the first of the greens went to seed.
The red potatoes have finished flowering. When those beds open up there will be plenty of room for some fall crops.
Cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli seeds are germinating and should be ready to transplant right about the time the garlic comes in.

There's taters under there.

There’s taters under there.

Do you think the peas have seen their best days? Yep, looks like time to pull, replenish, and replant.

The leaning tower of peas.

The leaning tower of peas.

Not all has been good though.
The voles got all the cantaloupe seedlings. The rabbits found a hole in the fence, and they chewed off the tops of the edaname and chick peas.
Of course they picked the plants that take the longest to grow, so although they are recovering (the plants, not the rabbits) we may not get a crop.

Chick peas on the rebound.

Chick peas on the rebound.

We’ll see Dear Journal, we’ll see… where there’s a gardener, there’s a way.

Categories: Addiction, dear journal, extending the season, gardening

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13 Do’s & Do Not’s of Growing Tomatoes

Don’t
Purchase seedlings that have flowers on them. You may think you are getting a head start, but really what the plants need to do first is establish their roots, not produce babies. Let them get settled in.

Do
If you started your own plants and they are budding, pinch those flowers off. Really, you’ll get more fruit in the long run.

The tomatoes are ready, is the soil?

The tomatoes are ready, is the soil?

Don’t
Over fertilize. It’s fine to give your plants some good healthy compost, but take it easy on the fertilizer. Too much will grow wonderful bushy and green, albeit unproductive, plants. Same goes for your peppers by the way.

Do
Give them a bit of Epsom salts. They love that stuff. If they don’t need it, it won’t hurt. It is good to have it as a preventative measure to help grow healthier plants.

Do
Plant your transplants very deep. ‘Up to their necks’ is what the farmers say. This way they will grow a great root system, as mentioned above. The better the roots, the more productive the plants will then be.

Ready to rumble.

Ready to rumble.

Don’t
Water from above, if you can help it. This can cause soil to splash up on the stems, making them more prone to disease. Try to use a soaker hose whenever possible with tomatoes.

Do
Mulch, especially if you are watering from above. This helps prevent that soil splash just mentioned, as well as holds the moisture your tomatoes may need.

Do
Put in the stakes you are going to use for support at the same time you plant. You don’t want to go back later and start damaging those roots you both worked so hard for.

Do
Know what type of tomato you are growing. If it’s a ‘determinate’ type, it may suddenly stop producing. Learn more by following the link at the end of this post.

Don’t
Stress it. Are you feeling over run with tomatoes? Are you concerned about fruit flies in your kitchen? Simply wash some of those tomatoes off and toss them in the freezer. When you have time, thaw to use. A bonus: the skins will slip right off after defrosting.

Happy in their cloched bed.

Happy in their cloched bed.

Do
Enjoy a variety if you have the room. Roma and plum tomatoes are best for preserving, slicing types for fresh eating, and of course cherry tomatoes for snacking. Plant tomatoes based on how you intend to use them.

Don’t
plant them outside before the soil temperature is 50F. How warm the soil has become is a function of how close the sun is, the depth, and how much sunshine the area gets. Surface soil can feel warm but 6 inches down it can still be quite cold. Some gardeners plant their tomatoes out when the overnight lows are consistently above 50F. Not the same thing, but close.

Tomatoes under glass.

Tomatoes under glass.

Do
speed up the process by covering the area with black plastic, and turning the soil over every so often. If you plant early, keep those heat loving tomatoes warm through the use of cloches.
In a pinch, canning jars will do the trick, just don’t let the plants get fried. That’s for the green fruit.

Learn more about growing tomatoes here. Scroll down for all previous posts.

Categories: extending the season, How to Grow, tomatoes

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