More Gardening- Just Do It!

Me in the TruckOne gardening season is coming to a close and I really just wanted to keep it going.  Then after tapping into books by Elliot Coleman and others, I see that it doesn’t have to end. But being a novice, I am not even sure what all this means– seems I can extend the season or over winter garden or use cold frames or frost blankets or plant stuff now for spring.

Well, I don’t really know about all these things, but then again I knew nothing in the spring either when we started gardening either, so once again I am just going to for it!  And that means, I am reading as much as I can, calling people with questions but bottom line is I am JUST DOING IT and we will see what happens.

Two of the summer beds are almost completely cleaned up now.  But the peppers…oh the peppers.  Most are pulled up but there are 6 that are still producing.  Some of these will hit the dehydrator.

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The basil is beautiful.  One plant is pulled and dehydrator.  The others will continue to dress our meals until I pull them right before frost and make a bunch of pesto to freeze.DSCN3490

We picked our last tomatoes this weekend and ate the last yesterday (except for the canned ones). It was bittersweet eating the last of them.  They were still so so yummy.  I do not believe I will be able to do grocery store tomatoes during the winter.  I will just wait until I can pick them again next summer.  There was nothing like it!

last tomatoes

The little yellow pear tomatoes just kept on going even after pulled for compost!  So I sat on the ground for a bit and picked out the flawless little guys.  They are still so yummy.  Who knew they would just keep on going even after pulled and tossed aside.

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Bed 3 still has some carrots in it.  They are yellow and red and orange and so, so pretty.  I fixed them for my mom and dad this weekend and they were amazed at the colors.  They tasted incredible too!  Bed 3 also has some late summer things in it that I planted in August.  Lettuce, spinach, kale, collards.  Those are looking good right now and we have started to eat from this bed again.

The other bed (#2) still has pumpkins which are about ready to come off.  These two beds will get cover crop.  It is a mix of seeds that will help condition our soil which we are in need of since we are the first to work this land. I love that I did not even know what the term cover crop was 6 months ago and now I am buying it and planting it!

SO, we need more!  More garden beds!

We prepped 5 new beds for fall, winter, next spring… for whatever.  They are now prepped and ready to go. Beds 4 & 5 were planted about a month ago.  Spinach, Corn Salad and Kale  are in there.  They are smaller than the others as they are 7×12 but perfect for these greens. The little plants here are about 2 -3 inches now. They are looking happy growing in these brand new beds.

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We really want to expand our tomatoes next year and try corn and give the squash some more room.  So with that in mind we prepped 3 more beds.  One bed which is 25 x 33 is done and is planted with cover crop.  This will help prepped the soil for the tomatoes in the spring.  The bed is also in mostly sunshine and I think that will be good for the tomatoes as well.  I am also trying to rotate stuff since I understand that is good for the soil. The others are fairly large also and have arugula, onions, spinach,  and fava beans.

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I planted some garlic also, following MJF great instructions. We use so much garlic, I am excited to have our own next year.  I planted 40 cloves.  It is now covered with straw like a little hiding present.  I can’t wait to uncover it next year to see what I have in there!

I love, love, love Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  Their catalog is more than a means to purchase seeds.  There is so much info about the seeds, varieties and planting info.  There staff is great too and has spent some time with me in helping me decipher much of what I don’t understand! So I ordered my stuff based on things that were supposed to be cold tolerant. I was so thrilled when my box came!

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I also got frost blankets.  The maternal side of me is going to love tucking my babies in at night when frost is in the forecast. 🙂

So how long will I be able to eat from my gardens?  What will come up?  What will fail?  What will be a major success?  The answer is simply “I don’t know”.  It is the same answer I had in the spring.  But there really are not failures, only learnings. I am learning a lot from the successes and challenges.

I am really thrilled to have gone for it and continued planting.  I love it so much.  It is not all about the outcome but the journey.  And that is already a success!

Happy unleashing today!

 

Compost Tea 101

I made compost tea for the first time this week. And in the process learned what it is, why I would want to make this and how beneficial it is to the plants and soil.

I took a workshop at Fresh Start in Louisville last Saturday. The workshop was on Fall planting, but of course we all arrive with questions and there is much discussion in the workshop.  I truly love going there!  At a break I was chatting with Steve and telling him about our first time gardening experience.  He told me the best thing I could do is to get the soil conditions right–specifically the biology of the soil.  He said the best way to the do that and the cheapest and the most organic way to do this is to make compost tea.  It is a simple concoction of worm castings, a sugar like molasses, water and air bubbles.  The benefits are many as the process activates the microorganisms in the compost and multiplies them.  In simple terms it throws these little guys into a major party and they just begin to ROCK!

You can buy fancy set ups for this if you would like.  OR you can DIY.  Here’s what I did based on Steve’s instructions at Fresh Start.

I grabbed my 5 gallon bucket and put about 4 gallons of water in it.  Since I was using tap water, I let it sit for 24 hours.  After all, if you are making this organically pure stuff you don’t want the added chemicals in tap water like chlorine and fluoride.  So that was an easy first step! 🙂

After 24 hours, the chemistry part begins.  You grab a bunch of worm castings.  Honestly I do not know how they measured out, but after wrapping them in cheesecloth it was about the size of an Indiana cantaloupe and those are pretty darn big!

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Then I tied it onto my bucket and dropped it in (this was all so very exciting actually!).  I added about 5-6 tablespoons of Molasses (they get the party going).

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Now you need to get some oxygen in here and that means bubbles.  You can accomplish this with a simple fish aquarium bubbler.  I got mine for 6.99 at Meiers.  Hook it up and let this bubble and do its thing for 24 – 48 hours.

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In the end you will have bubbles on top or foam and it is ready to put in your sprayer. ( I was so excited to spray that I forgot to take final pictures!) I sprayed in on all my garden plants and into my soil.  This is so good for everything that I will do this frequently.  It is immediately absorbed since it is in liquid state and it was so easy to do. I am sure my plants and soil are loving it; I know for certain that I got a kick out of doing it!

Have you used Compost Tea?

Food From Seeds

I am the first to admit that I am a novice at gardening.  I have grown a few things in my life, but at a small scale.  Herbs in pots on the deck I am definitely good at.  Gardening food that we are going to eat at mealtime is a new, exciting experience.

We built some raised bed gardens last year following the Square Food Gardening methodology.  I loved it and it was just the right start.  We are committed to growing organically, so learning the best ways to fight weeds, add nutrition to the plants and keep bugs away has been a real learning experience and will continue to be for years to come.

This winter, we started some seeds inside.  In a short period of time we had so many starters that we felt like it was overtaking us in our basement under the florescent lights that we set up for the little guys! 🙂

In April, we set our new babies outside and we are now reaping the benefits.  We are eating from our garden and what a thrill that is.  Here are some pictures of our beautiful food!

Red Romaine    Berry      Chard     Kale

  Red Romaine             Strawberry (look close)        Rainbow Chard                    Kale

We intend to begin gardening into the ground this year with our new tiller and our acreage.  I will share more pics and experiences as we move forward.

Do you garden?  What is your favorite to plant and eat?  Do you have tips for growing organically?