Garden Check-In

Sustainability

One of my resolutions this year was to become more sustainable by growing some of my own food. I started mostly everything from seed and I am finally starting to see some of the fruits and vegetables of my labor! Here’s a quick recap of my process: I germinated most of the seeds to start. The only ones I started straight from seed were the sunflowers and the green beans. After germinating I started the seeds inside the house to make sure the weather didn’t beat them up. The beans were the only seeds sown directly outdoors. I did have a few plants die which I replaced with organic seedlings from Green Acres Nursery & Supply. The ones I replaced were the yellow squash and one of the cucumbers (only one of mine survived). I also ended up purchasing a butternut squash plant and an eggplant along with some herbs. The herbs I bought were basil, sage and oregano. I even ended up planting some green onions in a garden bed that were from the grocery store. I think I had a very successful turnout overall and am so happy that things went so well with my first season starting from seed.

Enough recap, let’s show you how everything is looking!

Here is one of three sunflowers. The first image is what the sunflower looked like when it first bloomed. The second shows the seeds forming inside of the sunflower. Stay tuned for a post on how to harvest the seeds.

There are green beans galore in the garden right now! I picked this handful last night and have many, many others waiting to ripen. I can’t wait to use these as a side dish or in a salad. I ate a couple of them raw while I was picking and they are so delicious. Even the ladybugs love them!

Since I bought the squash plants and eggplant later in the season they haven’t produced yet, but the zucchini has not disappointed. This is one of two zucchs I’ve harvested so far, and they are so delicious! And even though only one of the original cucumber plants survived it already has a baby cucumber hiding in the trellis. I can’t wait for the other to start producing too!

The tomatoes haven’t ripened yet, but the plants are loaded with babies! I just know they are all going to ripen at the same time and I am going to be overloaded with tomatoes. I am going to use this as an opportunity to learn to can them into fresh tomatoes and sauces so stay tuned for that! I have cherry tomatoes and larger tomatoes that are coming in – 6 plants total – which is going to yield me a huge crop!

The only fruit items we were looking forward to this year have either already produced or have been taken by the heat. The apricots survived and were delectable. Unfortunately, the peaches seemed like they may have gotten too hot and started falling off the tree while they were still green. I didn’t expect our trees to produce this year at all since it was their first year, but happy that at least the apricot gave us some fruit. What will be sort of cool is picking our neighbors fruit off the limbs overhanging into our yard – figs, plums and grapes oh my!

I’m so thrilled with how everything has been going and can’t wait to see more growth. Stay tuned for more posts on sunflower seed harvesting, canning, pruning and more! Until then, happy gardening!

MelissaRose

Hardening Off Seedlings

Sustainability

This year, I decided to start my vegetable garden from seeds. I wanted to save some money versus buying plants from the store, but I also wanted the experience of growing my own food from start to finish. There were a couple of steps I didn’t know about until doing further research – how to harden off my seedlings was one of those steps. Hardening off seedlings is basically preparing your seedlings for life outside. It makes perfect sense when you think about it. They have been growing and living in a stable and controlled environment inside where there is no real exposure to the elements. Hardening them off gives them a transition period to get acclimated to some of the new things they’ll experience without just throwing them out to fend for themselves. In this post, I’ll explain how I’ve been doing this with my own seedlings and also provide some further in depth information you can check out on your own from people who are far more experienced than I am.

The first and probably most important thing to consider when getting ready to harden off your seedlings is the weather outside. You don’t want the conditions to be so extreme that the seedlings become shocked or die because they’ve been exposed too quickly. For my first day of this process, I waited for a day that was slightly cloudy, not too windy, and definitely not raining. I placed the seedlings under my covered patio, away from direct sunlight, and let them sit outside for about an hour. Afterwards, I brought them back inside, and made sure nobody got too tousled by the wind. We did have some light winds that day, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You want your seedlings to grow strong roots to be able to withstand wind since they will likely be exposed to it outside at some point. The early exposure to the light wind helps trigger their roots to grow nice and strong so they can keep themselves upright even with a breeze. Luckily, everything went smoothly the first day.

The second day, the weather was about the same as before. This time, I placed them outside in the same spot, but left them out for two hours instead of just one. You want to gradually increase the exposure. On the third day, I placed them outside in the same spot for several hours. The several hours was a bit more by accident on my part than intentionally, but no seedlings were damaged. I sighed a breath of relief and was proud of the little seedlings for seeming to transition so quickly. If you’re looking for a more structured set of instructions, check out the Homestead and Chill blog post about hardening off seedlings. She gives great day by day instructions. I am more winging it and learning by my own experience, but did use this blog as somewhat of a guide. So far, my less than perfect process has worked for me, but I live in a fairly forgiving climate in California. If you live in a more extreme weather zone I’d definitely recommend checking out their post.

Yesterday was my fourth day of hardening off my seedlings. I left them out almost all day. The first half of the day they were under my covered patio, but then we had some people over and needed the table, so they went out into the direct sun. I was a little nervous about this at first with it being the warmest part of the day but the seedlings did great! I was outside all day as well (it was like 72 degrees outside!) so I was able to keep an eye on them and make sure they didn’t start drooping, burning or doing anything that looked bad. I’m happy to say that they did great, and I think with a few more days of transition, they’ll be ready to be planted outside! I can’t wait!

Once the seedlings are ready to be planted outside I’m also going to install my new soaker hose irrigation system. I will be sure to document it so that I can create a post here. I’m excited to have a system set up as I’ve always watered my plants myself and it wasn’t always the best outcome. I think having an irrigation system will help me save time, money and hopefully keep my plants more luscious and alive longer too! Are you working on a garden this year? Are you to the point of hardening off seedlings yet or just getting ready to seed?

Until next time!

MelissaRose

Gardening in January

Sustainability

Part of my fourth New Year’s Resolution for 2019 is to become more self-sustainable by increasing the size of my garden. As stated in a previous post, I already have two good sized raised garden beds I plan on using as well as an in-ground bed on the side of my house. Last year, I only used the two raised beds and was able to get a decent crop of tomatoes, squash and zucchini, but this year I want to ramp it up a bit by using my side yard bed to incorporate some other crops into my garden. Now you may be thinking, “Gardening in January? What in the world can you get done in January?” Well, that’s what this post is all about.

I’m the kind of person who loves planning ahead. Whether it be groceries, outings or gardening I find great satisfaction in having a plan in place. When it comes to gardening, January is a great time to lay out what I want to accomplish. This gives me plenty of time to figure out what I will need to buy, what will go where and if there are any larger projects I need to finish before being able to move forward. The first thing I like to do is outline my space. Where am I going to plant? Do I have enough room? Do the beds need to be prepared? And lastly, what am I going to plant? The last question is the most fun and can sometimes take the most time depending on how much space you have. I have pretty limited room if I’m sticking to good spatial requirements between plants, so I have to be a little picky about which plants I choose. I also look at planting calendars for my zone (I’m in 9b – northern-ish California) to determine if there are certain items I can cycle in and out of my garden beds. A good place to check for your zone is Garden.org. You can then use your zone to figure out what your planting  calendar is. I’m using this planting guide from Urban Farmer. Their entire site is filled with great tips and tricks.

I know I have three garden beds I want to use for vegetables. From there, I can pretty much determine how many plants per bed I will be able to fit, of course depending on what the plant is. I am probably going to follow a similar structure to what I did last year, since the plants seemed to have enough room to provide a decent crop. The only difference is that I will not do as many tomato plants as I did last year – I had two normal size varieties and two cherry varieties. This year, I’d like to cut back and maybe do one of each in order to make more room for a different vegetable. The larger plants can only fit a couple per bed, so I will be doing a squash and a zucchini plant in one bed together. I’d also like to have a cucumber plant, which I believe is fairly large also, so I’m planning on leaving room in the side yard bed for that. So far that makes for the following plant list: 1 tomato plant, 1 cherry tomato plant, 1 zucchini plant, 1 summer squash plant and 1 cucumber. The other items I’d like to plant, and may have to cycle, are spinach, carrots, green beans and broccoli. A couple of these are colder weather plants (spinach, carrots, broccoli), so I am going to try and cycle these out of the beds as the warmer crops seeds become ready for transplanting.

The next step I’ve been working on is collecting my items for growing my own seeds. This year I want to grow my own seeds because it will cut down on costs but will also ensure that I’m harvesting fully organic produce. I also love the idea of having extra plants that I can give away to family and friends. Originally, I strayed away from wanting to do seeds because I thought it would cost more than just buying the plants, but I have learned that there are several items that I can repurpose to get started. I am going to use old egg cartons to start my seeds, old food trays (like from vegetable party and cheese trays) to hold them together and catch excess water, and I’ve already starting purchasing small terra cotta pots from the thrift store at a fraction of the cost of the home supply stores. This is already saving me a ton of money and makes me feel better about being able to reuse things that otherwise may have just been thrown away. I’ll be sure to document these steps as I go.

Soon, it will be time to start some seeds. In my zone, I can start planting some of my seeds as early as the end of this month, so that’s what I plan on doing. I haven’t purchased any of my seeds yet since I’m still just in the planning phase, but according to my planting calendar, I can get started on my tomatoes, spinach and broccoli seeds this month. I am going to buy all of my seeds at one time once I’m ready (and figure out where I want to buy them), and then start planting them indoors according to my zone’s calendar. I cannot wait to start this process and see how well I’m able to do. This will be my first time starting a garden from seeds and I’m hoping that with enough determination and research that I will have a flourishing garden that I can feed myself and my husband with all year long.

Do you enjoy gardening at home? What are some of your favorite vegetables to grow? And what are some of your favorite vegetables to eat?

MelissaRose