Thursday, April 30, 2009
This time of year inspires all of us to want to get our hands in the dirt and get something growing. You can't even go to the grocery store anymore without passing pots, soil, & plants for sale. But for those who have little time, a tiny yard, or no yard at all - a terrarium might be the perfect fit. The kids love them and they look totally chic on your coffee table. Terrariums require little care but bring the green indoors and add a little sunshine to any space. I love looking at my terrariums imagining they are little worlds of happiness and wonder. And adding a pretty rock or garden troll increases their charm.
1. For starters you'll need a container. I had so much fun looking through some of the glass containers I had already and perusing the local thrift store for more. The containers can be tiny or large - just choose something that fits your style and your space. Mason jars, fish bowls, & potpourri containers work perfectly.2. Next you 'll need some plants. Depending on the container you choose - ground covers, succulents, and many types of moss will work and each brings a different feeling to your little world. But remember that all of the plants you put in must require the same conditions for moisture and light since they will all be sharing a small space. 3. It's time to plant! We found this great video from eHow that leads you step by step through the process of planting. Check it out:
I started with a dry climate since the succulents were so darn pretty but those instructions will work for any plant. Once I finished that I went on to make three others. They are all pictured below except my favorite which is the first image in this post. Happy planting!
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Spinach, Arugula, Forellenschuss Lettuce, Green Oakleaf Lettuce, Sunset Lettuce
Golden Beets, St. Valery Carrots, Russet Potatoes
Waltham Butternut Squash, Black Beauty Zucchini, Anna Swartz Hubbard Squash, Summer Crookneck Squash
Beam's Yellow Pear, Gold Meadow Tomato, Cherokee Purple Tomato, Mexico Midgets, Red Brandywine, Sudduths Brandywine
Orange Bell Peppers, Double Yield Cucumber, Sweet Peas
Strawberries, Blackberries, Golden Raspberries, Charantais Melon
Thursday, April 23, 2009
When my friend Meghan suggested we have a whole section dedicated to heirlooms on this blog I thought she might be placing a little too much emphasis on them. To me, an heirloom was a pretty tomato - a vegetable grown by mega-serious gardeners who wanted to impress their neighbors with rare produce. How wrong I was! After a lot of reading I am a changed (and educated) woman. I can now say that in the future I may not plant anything BUT heirlooms. Want to know why? Well first let's define what an heirloom vegetable is...
1. Old - Usually associated with plants dating from the 1920's and older. It's hard to date them but some American heirlooms varieties are believed to be Pre-Columbian (meaning before Columbus came to America). Many heirloom seeds may have been carried by your ancestors across the ocean to America hundreds of years ago! There were reasons people held onto these seeds...
2. Open-pollinating - meaning if you gather seeds from your plants you'll get the same plant next year. You might not know this but if you tried to gather seeds from your garden center tomato plants and grow them the next year you wouldn't get the same plant from it. These plants are not able to reproduce and are often sterile. (Unless of course it's an heirloom) Over hundreds of years these seeds were gathered from the best plants of the harvest and continue to produce that same quality. Think of the savings!
3. High quality - The best of the heirlooms really are wonderful. They have it all. They taste wonderful, look beautiful, and are easy to grow. The vegetables and fruits you buy in the grocery store were not bred for flavor or quality - but for uniformity and ease of transporting. Which means that many pale in comparison when it comes to taste. Many people say that once you taste an heirloom vegetable you'll realize you have been eating the cardboard version of this veggie all your life. How exciting to taste flavors that mother nature intended you to have - unadulterated pleasure! At least as much as food can give you - which is a lot to a foodie like me!
Heirlooms were cultivated for many years to produce strong, disease fighting, climate hardy plants. In fact, some heirlooms were very locale specific - sometimes as much as a small valley with very specific weather patterns. The plants you purchase from the garden supply may tolerate your climate but they aren't complex creatures ready to thrive in your climate - but your heirlooms just may be.
Diversity and variety are good not only for our taste buds but also for our gardens. Another vital reason to maintain heirlooms is to keep their genetic traits for future use. When old varieties of food crops are not maintained, the gene pool grows smaller and smaller. This may lead to increased disease and pest problems. You may have pest or disease problems in your garden but with many different varieties the likelihood of all of your plants being affected is very low.
While this is just the tip of the iceberg(lettuce?) when it comes to heirlooms and their distinction, I hope you feel as inspired as I do to try out these treasured plants. So, this year when planning for your garden why not try some heirlooms? You may feel you are connecting to the past and sharing a heritage with your forebears in the planting of these wonderful vegetables and fruits. (There are also heirloom status livestock - animals that are better suited for the free range instead of the factory.) You can order heirloom seeds from several different companies including the Seed Savers Exchange. This company has a free seed catalog - order one even if you're not ready to plant heirlooms - just to acquaint yourself with these treasured plants!
More seed links:
Victory Heirloom Seeds
Amishland Heirloom Seeds
Heirloom Vegetable Gardener's Source
A lot of my information came from this wonderful site and this amazing book
Images from Mike Donk & Scott Bauer
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Growing your own garden not only helps individuals and families to be healthier but also mother earth. When we grow more of our own food we are significantly reducing the toll that huge monoculture farms take on our planet and often aiding in keeping diverse fruit and vegetable strains around. Every day we practice sustainable gardening in our local spaces we are celebrating the gift of this beautiful world we live in. So, next time you enjoy some of your tasty crops - remember the importance of these backyard farms!
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Sunday, April 19, 2009
I love literature for how it plants the seeds of ideas. Here, then, are some of my favorite gardening story books for sharing with the children in my life. I’d love to hear your recommendations, too. (Book cover images are courtesy of www.amazon.com.)
How Groundhog’s Garden Grew
By Lynne Cherry
Elementary ages. The author writes in her dedication, “In loving memory of my father, who taught me to grown my own.” So sets the tone of this delightful story about a squirrel who teaches a groundhog how to grow his own garden instead of mooching food from his neighbors. This book is highly educational about the growing process, complete with meticulously detailed illustrations of seeds, plants and insects.
Busy in the Garden
Poems by George Shannon
Pictures by Sam Williams
All ages – although children who can understand puns will enjoy it the most. These poems are a hoot! This one, called “Blue Ribbon,” demonstrates:
To grow the size
that wins a prize,
it’s always wise
By Ruth Brown
For the very young. With sparse words and vivid illustrations, this book takes a mathematical look at the journey of a packet of sunflower seeds from planting to harvest, and all the surprising hazards in between.
A Garden Alphabet
By Isabel Wilner
Pictures by Ashley Wolff
Preschool and up. A dog and a frog are hard at work in their garden while sneaky rabbits lurk on nearly every page. The verse is crisp and fun. “Ff is for frog, a gardener’s friend. For unwelcome insects, his tongue snaps The End.”
We Love the Dirt
By Tony Johnston and Alexa Brandenberg
Early readers. Although not a gardening story, per se, this book cleverly describes all the relationships different objects and people have to the dirt, reinforcing its very important role on the farm.
Planting a Rainbow
By Lois Ehlert
Preschool and up. This book showcases Ehlert’s signature style in bold, solid color collage cut-outs, and is a great way for children to learn to identify different plants. Similar books by the same author are Eating the Alphabet and Growing Vegetable Soup. We cooked the soup recipe in the latter book, and it was tasty.
The Secret Garden
By Frances Hodgson Burnett
Older grades to adult -- although quite suitable and engaging to read aloud to younger children.
I absolutely love this book. I like to pull it off the bookshelf when I am just so sick of winter, I think it will never end. Mary Lennox is a cold, hardened orphan transplanted from India to England. Watching her transform as she finds and cultivates a secret garden is a tonic indeed. Consider this passage: “Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow.”
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Monday, April 13, 2009
Tricia, I have personal experience with turkeys but I am not an expert. I will answer the following questions but I would certainly defer if you found better information.
We have several backyard chickens as well and we only live on 1 acre. I know that chicken diseases can be very harmful to turkeys – if we keep them housed separately and assure that they don’t roam the same parts of the land, will they be ok to share the yard?
We have never had a problem with putting our chickens and turkeys together. We have actually put the poults in a sectioned off area of the chicken coop. If you house them separately and let them roam in a differ area of the yard, I don’t see a problem. I think if there is any problem, it will manifest itself when the poults are young and you haven’t got much invested in them.
2. I keep reading mixed reviews on the friendliness of turkeys. I have three children, will they be ok to work with the turkeys or are the birds too aggressive for kids?
We get the large white hybrid turkeys. They are very friendly. They often approach us and sometime strut but they have never pecked. Heirloom turkeys which are more natural may be more aggressive. I don’t know. We are going to get heirloom turkeys for the first time this year so I will find out.
3. In your article, you mentioned getting large white birds. My personal preference is not white – but I thought you might have some wisdom on why you suggested white as opposed to any of the darker colors.
We get the large white turkey because they grow the biggest and that is what we have wanted in the past. They are also more economical feed converters, but that doesn’t matter quite so much because when we feed out turkeys out to such heavy weights, they are not economical anyhow. The last ten pound to get them up to 40+ pounds takes a lot of feed.
4. How long did you keep your birds before slaughter to get those astronomical weights that you reported?
I think we feed them about 16 -20 weeks. That is a long time.
5. Our plan is to keep the birds in an 8 x 10 metal shed and let them roam our fenced yard during the days. Firstly, will this shed be suitable for 4 birds and secondly, will they fly away or up into our trees if we let them free roam the yard during the day?
The shed is big enough. White hybrids will not fly. I think heirloom turkeys will. You can always wing them – cut the feathers off the trailing edge of one wing with a pair of scissors. As I mentioned one of my articles, you will cut the feathers off the left wing if you are a republican off the right wing if you are a democrat. We are going with heirloom turkeys this year because I am interested in them, they are more colorful and I have heard that they have more interesting taste. I expect it to be more of a wild or gamey taste. We will deep fat fry them. So of course we don’t expect to raise very big turkeys this year. The only reason to dress out a 40+ pound white hybrid is to impress your company which they will. But they are not economical (Over $2.00 a pound to grow) and they are not particularly young and tender. I fix that by drizzling drippings over the meat after I have carved it. That really fixes dry or tough poultry meat. Beware of foxes and raccoons. I will soon have an article up on Backyard Farming about our turkey disaster. Two years ago a fox got three of our four turkeys. I think you will find turkeys fun and fascinating! If you have any other questions, email me and I will blunder my way through them.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
If you are in the market for some backyard chickens, here is an option for a pre-made coup. It is sleek, sophisticated, and has everything you need to start raising a small flock.
Here is what I liked about it. First, like I said, it has it all, a roost, run, and a hen house. It also includes some free extras like a waterer, feeder, shade provider and 10 egg cartons. It has a great modern look and modern colors, there is no way those pesky neighbors would complain about the look of this baby. It seems like it would be easy to clean and collect the eggs. It has a skirt around the bottom to keep predators out.
- You can order the omlet with or without chickens.
- They deliver anywhere in US.
- It houses up to 4 medium sized chickens/6 bantams (bantams are a very small breed chicken)
- $495 without chickens, $20 more get 2 chickens with it, additional chickens $10
My economist husband wouldn't go for it, he had a spread sheet charting how many eggs we needed to produce to pay for our recycled coop!
But for ease, looks, and space, for some this product may be worth the cost.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
This isn't my first time trying a container garden - but hopefully it will be my most successful attempt. I have tried to grow things in pots before but always found that I was over or under watering, burning my plants, or just forgetting about them. Having your plants in the real ground affords a little more complacency than a pot. But I'm determined to make it work this year - with all of you as my witnesses!
Every spring I pour over my seed catalog and dream of what I will plant and even though I knew we weren't going to have a garden - this year was no different. So a few days ago when I decided to try growing my little garden in pots I knew I needed to resist the urge to have an elaborate array of heirlooms and instead keep it simple. We went with an Italian herb garden with Basil, Rosemary, Oregano & Sage. I bought one of those seed starting kits at the store to keep it simple and sowed every single one. I promised my 7 year old he could sell the extra ready to plant herbs in the parking lot of the local grocery store.
So we no have 72 little pellets of peat holding our herb seeds - 12 of each type. Since I decided slightly last minute to do this, I did not put together one of the ingenious seed starting shelves and instead am opting for a southern facing window with a bench placed in front of it.
My kids are ecstatic and I feel much more at peace. And if all goes according to plan, midsummer we should be up to our elbows in homemade tasty pesto! I'll keep you posted!
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Thursday, April 2, 2009
The broiler chicks are here!