Things I don’t buy at the store anymore…
1. Tomato Sauce & Salsa - pasta sauce, pizza sauce, diced tomatoes for chili… it’s all from the garden now.
2. Canned Beans - I can my own at home now and I still get the convenience of opening a jar, but it’s way cheaper.
3. Pickles - we make a variety of pickles from sweet to sour to spicy. So we no longer need to buy these.
4. Jams and Jellies - we make our own with local fruit! 👏🏻
5. Canned Veggies - from garden to canner… we eat #homegrown all year.
6. Broths and Stocks - I can my own broth and stock. And it’s way easier and cheaper than I ever really thought it could be.
7. Canned Soup - I make and can my own!
I’m not sharing any of this to brag. I’m sharing it because I’m realizing that small changes add up to BIG results over time. I might not be farming hundreds of acres, but I’m stewarding 3 acres well. I’m learning to work with the land to feed my family. I’m learning something new everyday.
What’s one skill you really want to focus on learning or improving in 2022?
Growing medicinal herbs in the home garden can unlock a whole new world of benefits for your mental and physical health. Adding herbs to the home garden is easy and many of them are perennial so you don’t have to replant them year after year. Some of the most popular medicinal herbs for home use include:
When you first begin learning about herbs, it can be overwhelming. There are so many websites and books about medicinal herbs available today, but in my experience, very few of them are aimed at total beginners. So today, I want to break down some simple herb preparation methods you can use in your home garden to take advantage of the healing properties of herbs … no experience needed!
Method #1 - Brew Your Own Herbal Tea
Making tea is the easiest method to start using your homegrown medicinal herbs. A strong brewed tea can be helpful to treat a variety of health concerns. Peppermint leaves can be used to make a tea that boosts your mood and eases a headache. Lemon balm is an excellent plant to use for tea brewing and it can level out your mood and calm anxiety.
You can make DIY herbal tea with both fresh and dried leaves. If you are using fresh herbs, you’ll need around 3 or 4 large leaves for a cup of tea. Rinse your herbs off gently in cold water and then put them in your mug of choice. Pour hot water on top and let the herbs steep in the water for 5-7 minutes, depending how strong you like your tea.
If you’re working with dried leaves, you will need an infuser or a tea ball. This is the tea ball that I use regularly (bonus - it’s pretty inexpensive!). Fill the tea ball with your dried leaves and then place it in the mug and pour in hot water. Let it steep for 5-7 minutes, or until it is the strength you prefer.
Just a quick word of caution - some home brewed herbal teas can be bitter. You can counteract this by adding a spoonful of raw honey, which contains numerous health benefits of its own.
Method #2 - Make a Poultice
Using medicinal herbs in a poultice allows you to directly apply the herbs topically. To try this method, crush the herbs up and mash them into a paste and then spread it directly onto the skin. Cover the area with gauze or muslin to hold the poultice in place. You can adjust the temperature of the poultice depending on how you are using it. A warm poultice will boost circulation while a cold poultice is best if you are trying to soothe inflammation. While most people reach for salves for topical applications, a poultice is actually more beneficial because you are using fresh herbs with the fullest benefits.
Method #3 - Make an Infusion
To create your own herbal infusion, you follow the same steps as if you were making tea, but allow it to steep for a much longer amount of time. Instead of 5-7 minutes, you might let the herbs steep for a full 24 hours to get maximum concentration of medicinal herb benefits from your homemade brew.
Method #4 - Create a Medicinal Syrup
You’ve probably heard of elderberry syrup, which has a near cult following for its healing benefits for the immune system. Medicinal syrups are a great way to use herbs when you have kids who aren’t likely to drink a typical herbal tea or infusion. Making syrups starts by boiling your herbs down in a decoction and then adding a sweetener. Here’s a great tutorial on how to make elderberry syrup.
Method #5 - Make a Tincture
Did you know you might already have a tincture hiding in your spice cabinet? Vanilla extract is very common tincture that many home cooks keep on hand. Tinctures are made by steeping herbs in alcohol or vinegar. I’ve found that the shelf life is superior if you use alcohol - a cheap vodka works perfectly. Tinctures are shelf stable and you can take them as a shot or add them into syrups.
Method #7 - Make an Herbal Steam Pot
One of the easiest ways to use medicinal herbs is through steam. Add herbs to a pot of water and bring it to a simmer on the stove. As it simmers, the steam will be infused with all the wonderful benefits of your herbs and your house will smell amazing. This is one of my favorite methods for using peppermint to combat sinus congestion. Stand over the steam and breathe deeply for a quick sinus cleanse.
These 7 ways to use medicinal herbs from the home garden will get you started on the journey of herbalism. If you would like to learn more, make sure you sign up for my newsletter to get monthly tips sent straight to your inbox (and no spam - I promise!).
I just came in from checking on the chickens and I noticed a chill in the air. It was that first little nip of cold that means fall is really here and winter is coming soon. Fall is critical time in your garden, so don’t pack up your garden gear quite yet. By investing a little time to prepare your garden for winter, you will have peace of mind that your soil is protected. Plus, you will enjoy a head start on spring’s garden chores.
Evaluate Your Garden Layout and Design
Take a little time to think about your current garden design and layout. What worked well for you in the garden this year? Is there something you would like to change? Maybe you had a vegetable that didn’t grow well this year and you want to place it in a different area of the garden next year. Now is the time to write down those observations and ideas. That way you can refer to it when you plant next spring. Fall is a good time to think about crop rotation too. If you want to rotate your crops, make sure you have drawn a garden map that you can refer to so you remember your previous year’s layout.
Clean Out the Garden
As the growing seasons starts to end, clean out the annual plants. Pull up the vegetable plants that are finished producing or damaged from the frost. Remove any weeds that have grown into your garden beds over the summer. Give yourself a fresh start in spring by removing weeds now. You’ll be glad you took this tip when it’s time to start planting next year.
Plant Cover Crops
Leaving your soil bare for any length of time is never a good idea. Uncovered, empty soil will quickly fill up with weeds and it can lose vital nutrients. You can avoid this by planting a cover crop for winter. There are a variety of cover crops you can use, ranging from wheat to rye to clover. You can also use cold hearty greens as a cover crop and have a harvestable vegetable in your garden even through the winter, depending on how cold it gets in your area.
Here in Zone 7B, we have successfully used collard greens, romaine lettuce, carrots, and cabbages as cover crops. They stop growing in the coldest part of winter, but when the temperatures warm and the days get longer, they will reawaken and start growing again. Keep in mind that this may not work in your climate so always check your growing zone or the farmer’s almanac for specific tips!
Mulch Your Garden
If you don’t want to plant cover crops, you can place a thick layer of mulch on your garden. I mulch all of my garden beds heavily before winter, including the beds where I have cover crops. You can mulch with any organic material - straw, wood chips, or my favorite free option - leaves! Put those piles of leaves to good use after you rake. Just dump the leaves on top of your garden. They will break down and enrich your soil!
Clean Your Pots, Trays, and Garden Tools
In just a few months, it will be time to start seeds for next year’s garden. Get a head start by cleaning all of your pots, trays, and tools now. Garden tools can actually carry diseases and spread pathogens from one plant to the next. Wash your pruners, your hand shovel, spade, hoe, and other tools in hot, soapy water. Dry them well to prevent rusting and then store them in a dry, covered place.
Make a List of Supplies to Restock
What supplies will you need when spring rolls around? Take time to make a list of what supplies you will need to purchase. Maybe you need more pots or trays for seed starting. Will you need new zip ties or string for tying up plants? Do you need more trellises or stakes or cages? Is there a garden tool you really want for next year? Make a list now and then you can purchase these items incrementally through the winter. These small purchases will help you avoid a major garden expense in the spring, plus you’ll have everything on hand and ready when it’s time to start spring gardening.
Take these small steps this now to prepare your garden for winter. The chill of fall will soon give way to freezing nights, so don’t miss your window of time to finish the garden season well and get everything in order for next year. Happy Gardening!
It’s time to start planting a fall garden. If you want to enjoy some fresh vegetables as the weather turns cooler, it’s time to start putting seeds and plants into the garden that will thrive in cooler weather. Everyone knows that spring and summer is prime garden season, but you might be surprised to learn that you can keep your garden production going in the fall, perhaps even into the winter depending on where you live. Here in zone 7B, we can grow a handful of crops year-round, but fall is one of the best times for gardening in our area.
What Can I Grow in the Fall Garden?
The easiest way to think about fall gardening is to imagine it as Spring 2.0. Those cool weather crops that you planted in spring can all be planted again. It’s a good opportunity to try again if your peas or lettuce didn’t quite turn out the way you had hoped earlier this year.
Fast-growing crops like salad mixes, greens, kale, and chard will perform well in the fall. You might be able to get another round of cabbage, broccoli, or cauliflower for fall depending on how early the cold weather arrives. Root crops like beets, turnips, radishes, and carrots will thrive in fall as the cooler weather arrives.
Transitioning Your Garden from Summer to Fall
As summer comes to an end, you may have some tomato plants or bush beans that are starting to show signs of damage from pests and the heat. You really have two choices. You can rip out those plants completely and start over with cold hardy fall vegetable plants or you can try to extend your summer crops and just plant carefully around them.
By the time your fall crops are large enough to need the extra sunlight, your summer plants should be coming to an end and you can simply cut them off at the ground level and leave the root ball in the soil. It will break down and add organic matter to improve your garden’s health.
Don’t forget to remove any weeds that will rob nutrients and moisture from your garden. You can top off your garden with a fresh layer of compost if needed. I generally wait and add fresh compost in spring, but any time of year is fine.
After you plant your fall crops and everything sprouts, add a thick layer of mulch to your garden. We use woodchips and straw for mulching, but the mulch is a critical piece of successful fall gardening because it helps the ground hold heat a little longer, giving you a leg up on getting your cool weather plants going strong before the real cold hits.
Where to Buy Plants and Seeds for a Fall Garden
Sometimes, you can find cool weather plants at your local hardware store or plant nursery. Just watch those prices! Recently, I saw some cabbage plants at the hardware store, but they were $4 each! This is excessive in my book when I can buy a head of cabbage for around $1-2 at the grocery store or farmer’s market. If I’m going to grow it myself, I want to reap some cost savings. For that reason, I grow most of my fall garden directly from seed.
During the fall, you can use any seeds you had leftover from spring. Just pay close attention to the seed packet and how many days the plant takes to produce. Check the calendar and make sure you have enough days left for the plant to mature before your first estimated frost date, unless it is a plant that can handle a freeze.
Start Planting Your Fall Garden
You can start seeds indoors under grow lights for the fall garden, but I prefer to plant them directly into my garden beds. I find that I get faster, more successful germination when I direct sow seeds in the fall compared to the spring. Some of my favorite places to buy seeds for fall are Hoss Tools and Baker Creek. You can order them online. In my experience, Hoss Tools ships fastest so if you haven’t ordered yet, I’d recommend Hoss! You might be able to find seeds locally at plant nurseries too.
Caring for Your Autumn Garden
When you first plant seeds for fall, watering is the most important thing you can do. As summer comes to an end, the heat can still be intense at times. Make sure you keep your plants and seeds watered and don’t let the soil dry out. Once the plants are well established and the weather cools, you won’t have to water nearly as often. Adding a layer of mulch on top of your garden beds will help moisture retention tremendously.
Be Prepared for Fall Garden Pests
A fall garden can struggle with pests so it’s critical that you are checking on your plants every day. Look for holes and spots on the leaves as a first clue that the pests are starting to wreak havoc. Deal with pests quickly and regularly to avoid losing your harvest. Some organic pest control options are Neem oil, Monterey BT, and diatomaceous earth. You can treat your garden with these organic pesticide options to prevent damage.
Extend Your Growing Season
You might be able to extend your growing season for crops that are sensitive to frost by adding row covers. You can cover your plants with frost blankets to protect them from cold nights. The frame can be reused in summer with shade cloth too! We were able to extend some of our spring greens well into June by using shade cloth.
Best Vegetables to Grow in the Fall
Your best options for the fall garden will grow quickly. Some quick crops can mature from seed to fully grown and ready to harvest in just 40-50 days. Try planting fast growers like arugula, radishes, turnips, beets, mustard greens, and spinach. Asian greens like Tatsoi will thrive in fall and they make a great addition to soups and stews in the chilly fall weather.
Some fall vegetables will be hardy enough to survive the winter if they are mulched well enough or put under a row cover. Last year, we successfully grew collard greens, kale, swiss chard, carrots, and lettuce through the winter. At the coldest point, they stop growing but they stay alive and will start to flourish and put on new growth when the first days of spring arrive. You’ll have less to plant in the spring by overwintering some of your fall crops.
Don’t forget that fall is the perfect time to plant garlic. Put the bulbs in now and next summer, you’ll enjoy big flavorful bulbs of garlic.
Here’s a list of recommended vegetables to grow in your autumn garden:
Spring is right around the corner and it's time to start planning a spring garden. It might seem crazy to start thinking about a garden in January, but now is the time to make sure you have everything ready and have a solid foundation to guide you as you go.
Gather Helpful Resources
January is the time to start gathering the resources that will help you as you go. There are three must-have resources that we recommend...
#1 - Baker Creek Seed Catalog - Even if you've already ordered your seeds, this catalog is a really handy visual guide with short descriptions of each plant. This will be your go-to as you dream and plan for the coming months in the garden. You can order your catalog at rareseeds.com or just browse their seed options online if you prefer.
#2 - Farmer's Almanac - Grab the new 2021 edition of the Farmer's Almanac. It is full of helpful information and even breaks down when to plant your seeds and baby plants according to the moon phases and your region.
#3 - Encyclopedia of Country Living - This book offers a wealth of information on everything from gardening to keeping animals. This is one of my must-have books for homesteaders. I reference it often and I definitely recommend it!
Order Your Seeds and Seed Starting Supplies
January is the time to order your seeds unless you plan to buy plant starts from a local nursery. Choose the varieties you want to go and place your order now. If you will be starting seeds indoors (recommended), make sure you have a grow light and heat mat. You can find the grow light I'm using here and the heat mat I use is here.
Figure Out the Best Location for Your Garden
Choose an area that gets plenty of sun for best results. We grow in raised beds and we will be walking you through the process of how to build one on our youtube channel in a few weeks. For now, figure out where you want your beds to live or where you plan to put a garden in the ground. If you are going to do a raised bed garden, you will also need soil to fill your new beds. Check with local mulch yards to find top soil and compost to fill your beds.
We will share an update with a full list of what we are planting this spring in the next week or so. We also plan to launch our Youtube channel this week where you can watch our entire process of gardening, raising animals, and homesteading throughout the year. This will be the best way for you to get detailed tips, DIY's for building your garden beds, and more. Stay tuned! We'll add a link on the home page when the first video goes live.
Note: Some links may be affiliate links. This means that when you purchase items through our links, we may receive a small commission for the referral. Please know that we never recommend items that we haven't tried and used. We only share links to products we believe offer real value to you, our readers.
Now that 2020 has come and gone, I've been reflecting on what we learned in our first year of homesteading. We started out the year with very little knowledge about gardening, animal keeping, or generally anything related to small scale farming, but it's been really remarkable how much we have learned along the way in only our first year. Here is a look at some of the most important gardening lessons I learned this year.
Growing Food is an Ongoing Science Experiment
We had some minor gardening experience before 2020, but I was honestly never very successful with it. This year, I’ve learned that it’s kind of like doing a science experiment that never ends. Sometimes, seeds germinate and you get beautiful, healthy plants. Other times, you plant those seeds and wait and wait and wait… and nothing ever happens.
So many factors can impact your garden. Is it getting enough water? Is your soil healthy? Are you planting the right things in the right time of year? My first big lesson was learning what to plant and when in our zone (7B). Knowing your zone will help you so much because you can literally just go online and look up what to plant in the current month for your particular area. If you don’t know your zone, you can find it online here by just putting in your zip code.
Plant the Right Things at the Right Time
The first things I planted didn’t do too well honestly. I started seeds in the spring and put them on my greenhouse shelves on the back deck and figured as long as I gave them a little water along the way, they would do just fine. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite that simple. I planted all the wrong things to start!
Here in western NC, there are basically three gardening seasons: spring, summer, and fall. You can grow a few things in winter, but not a lot. For my spring garden, I tried to plant summer crops. They couldn’t handle the unpredictable temperatures and cold nights and most of them died before they ever came out of the seed trays. Some didn’t germinate at all.
Like a good scientist, I didn’t give up. Once warmer weather came around, I replanted the summer crops and this time, I had better results. I learned that starting things from seeds is tedious and baby plants are very delicate. I felt like those little seedlings would die if I looked at them the wrong way sometimes!
I ended up doing a 50/50 approach to summer gardening. I relied on plant starts from local nurseries for 50 percent of my garden and I started seeds for the other half. I also learned that sometimes it’s better to direct sow the seeds into the garden, instead of using those seed trays. Some plants came up nicely in the seed trays, but they just couldn’t survive transplanting.
Summer Gardening is the Easiest for Beginners
During the summer months, we enjoyed an overwhelming success with tomatoes, bell peppers, green beans, okra, cucumbers, basil, banana peppers, turnips, jalapenos, and a few other herbs. We had mediocre success with potatoes - I should have purchased indeterminate seed potatoes, but instead, I bought a determine variety so the yield wasn’t great. However, those homegrown potatoes tasted amazing!
Our corn crop was mediocre. We planted too early the first time and got no results so I replanted and the corn came up nicely. However, it was FULL of worms so we only had a handful of edible ears to enjoy. I probably won’t even attempt to plant corn again because it’s so cheap and plentiful here in the south in the summer. I will, however, continue to keep seeds for corn in my freezer as an emergency stash in case I change my mind (and I might!).
Plant What You Will Use and Learn to Preserve the Harvest
In the thick of July’s heat, we were overrun with tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and green beans. Those four crops were so prolific that I actually started selling vegetable bags to a handful of friends and neighbors. We were able to share our bounty with friends at church too. Even with selling and sharing a large portion of our summer harvest, I had to figure out how to preserve all those beautiful vegetables.
I invested in a gardening tool I had never planned on - a canner. I learned to can using both a water bath canner and a pressure canner. This turned out to be a lot of fun and I built up a beautiful stockpile of jars filled with my own produce. I canned tomato sauce, tomato soup, diced tomatoes, pickles, pickles, and more pickles. Then just when I thought I was catching up, green beans were ready to pick and it was time to can some more!
Growing a Garden Can Quickly Become a Full-Time Job
With all the planting, weeding, watering, picking, and preserving, I quickly found out that a successful garden takes a lot of work and a ton of time. During the summer months, I would wake up and start my day in the garden before it got too hot. Then in the evening, I’d go back for round two when it had cooled down enough to get more work done.
Then when we decided to try selling some vegetables, there was the matter of dividing produce, packaging it, weighing it, and scheduling pickup times. I really enjoyed this part though and it led me to dive deep into researching commercial gardening, CSA’s, farmer markets, and other models of selling produce.
Fall Gardening is Fun Too
By the time fall rolled around, I was so in love with my little garden that I wasn’t about to let it come to an end. As I pulled dying plants out of each bed, I replaced them with baby plants I had started indoors or I planted new seeds. This time, I planted the right things at the right times and had much more success than in the early spring.
Fall has delivered a great harvest of kale, arugula, broccoli, an abundance of lettuce greens, and collard greens. These leafy greens thrive in the cooler temperatures and I’ve learned different ways to prepare them so that even my kids will eat them.
What I’ll Do Differently in 2021
As I start to plan my garden for 2021 and order seeds, I have to confess that I’m feeling like a kid at Christmas. I want to plant ALL THE THINGS. It’s truly like magic to watch a garden grow, to eat food that started as a seed in your hand, and to know I’m feeding my family homegrown vegetables with absolutely no pesticides or sprays that could make us sick.
In 2021, my plan is to go bigger. Last month, Josh worked with his dad on the excavator and tractor to clear a big part of our upper land. This will become our first market garden and we plan to grow those summer bumper crops that we know will sell well to friends and neighbors. We’re going to offer produce bags weekly this summer and start to experiment with creating a profitable business model for our little farm.
Our raised bed garden will continue to be used to feed our family and I plan to experiment with a few new varieties this year. I’m shopping for seeds now and trying to decide what all I will plant. I definitely want to do more potatoes this year and I also hope to add a pumpkin patch.
So there you have it! That is our 2020 gardening recap and a quick look at what we learned in our first year of homesteading. If you are considering a garden, I really encourage you to jump in and give it a try. Even mistakes help you learn and there is a lot of joy found in the garden. Personally, I find that God speaks to me most often in the garden. Sometimes about having my hands in the dirt, my heart quiet and ready to listen, and my attention fully on work at hand just lends itself to growing faith and time in prayer.
What about you? Did you grow a garden in 2020? Was it successful? What do you plan to do differently in 2021?
Years before our homestead dreams became a reality, I took an interest in gardening. Our first garden was a simple little raised bed planted in the backyard of the parsonage, when Josh was in his first senior pastor position. That first garden wasn't all that successful, but it was a learning experience. We planted just a few basics - tomatoes, squash, and some cucumbers.
Fast forward a few years... we moved to the coast as Josh started a new calling as a church planter. We mostly lived in rental houses at that point and gardening just wasn't high on the priority list. I still looked longingly at the gardens we would pass on the drive back home to visit family.
Then in 2013, we moved backed to western NC and put down roots. We bought my grandparents' old house right in the middle of a neighborhood. Even though the neighbors looked at us like we were crazy, we tilled up some ground and planted our second garden. The first year was a total disaster! The ground was red clay and nothing would grow. The next year, we tried again and got slightly better results. We were able to harvest some tomatoes and green beans, even a few slightly sad looking okra. It wasn't much, but it was a start. Each year got a little better.
A few more years drifted by and our children were getting older. Instead of tiny toddlers, now we had preteens. Josh and I started to think about life skills that we really wanted them to gain. In a world that felt increasingly uncertain, we longed for a more sustainable lifestyle. We wanted to grow our own food, raise chickens, and just pursue a purposeful life that didn't depend on constant trips to the supermarket to feed our growing kids.
At the same time, Josh and I were more and more convinced that we wanted to find a way to live debt-free. We wanted out from under a mortgage. When we bought my grandparents' house, it was in need of some significant repair and updating. We had spent years working on it a little at a time - new heat pump, new plumbing, updated electric, new kitchen. In 2019, we finally took the jump and put it on the market.
Our plan was to buy some land near family and build a little house, but nothing came together. We couldn't find land in the area we wanted, we couldn't find the house plan we were looking for, and it just didn't feel right. One night, my in-laws came over and the 6 of us gathered at the dining room table. We went around the table and talked about what we truly wanted in this "homestead" we had been dreaming of for years. We prayed very specifically for each of those things.
Nearly instantly, God answered our prayers. Josh found a property in foreclosure. To put it bluntly, it was a dump. The house itself was in no condition to move in. The land was overgrown with weeds, thorns, and wild blackberry bushes that were out of control. But there was a peaceful creek down at the border and the land was laid out perfectly to have some chickens and goats, a huge garden, and even the fruit orchard that Josh was particularly interested in starting.
So we jumped on the opportunity and went through the necessary steps to bid at the auction. After a few anxious hours and several bids back and forth with competing buyers, the property was ours! In another post, I'll share the long process it took to get the house move-in ready. It was a nightmare to put it lightly. But here we are - all moved in and ready to garden!
For this first year, we decided to build raised bed gardens. While the back field will eventually be the perfect place to plant, it is large and we decided we better start a little smaller since we are still learning. Plus, we've spotted 4-5 deer back there multiple times and I worried that they would eat anything we planted before we got close to enjoying a harvest.
We decided to spend this year working the land, tilling it up, working in some compost, and figuring out some fencing before we pour a ton of money and time into planting on a large scale. We researched raised bed gardens and Josh happened to have some wood leftover from the house remodel. One afternoon, we got our supplies together and started building our first three raised beds.
We built these first three raised garden beds with the wood we already had on hand, but we have plans to build a few more garden beds later this spring. We gathered up the stack of 16-foot deck boards we had stashed in the barn and got to work. The beds are 16-feet long and 4-feet wide with 2x6 bracing in the corners. We also put stakes around the outside to support the weight of the dirt. The beds are two boards high (11 inches total).
For our next raised beds, we will most likely purchase 2x8's or 2x10's and use 2x4 around the top for bracing. Once the frames were complete, we lined the bottom of each bed with cardboard boxes as a weed barrier. Thankfully we had saved a lot of our moving boxes for this very reason! We spent a Saturday hauling and spreading 3 truck loads of top soil and compost (shout out to Sigmon's Mulch Yard!). The beds were finished and ready for planting!
Of course, around the time we started making plans for the garden, the coronavirus pandemic hit. This meant we were limited in going out to buy seeds and some of our favorite heirloom seed companies were so backed up that they couldn't ship what we needed in time. We did the best we could with what we had. My father-in-law had some heirloom seeds in the freezer that he had been saving for the right time and he was happy to pass those along to us. We started seeds in the small greenhouses we had on the back deck. We also bought a few seedlings at our local hardware store.
Once we had enough seedlings ready, it was time to plant the garden. Today, I'm going to share with you our garden plans for 2020. Here's a look at what we are growing and how we are making the best use of our limited (for now) space.
First, let's talk about container gardening. Since we just moved in February, we had a ton of big plastic rubbermaid containers. We have a large deck on the back of the house that gets good sun exposure so I decided to try growing as many things as a I could in containers.
So far, we are having some good success! In our containers, we have planted radishes, carrots, strawberries, yukon gold potatoes, cantaloupe, onions, spinach, and pickling cucumbers. We are also working on some new seed starts for black beauty zucchini, okra, basil, and a few different varieties of cucumbers. The hope is to plant those along with some corn in the next round of raised beds that we will build at some point over the next few weeks.
In our three raised garden beds, we decided to focus on growing a handful of crops that we could eat this summer or can for fall and winter. In our first bed, we decided to focus solely on tomatoes. On one side of the bed, we planted a variety of plants to see which kind grew best and which kind we most enjoyed. We are trying Goliath, Parks Whopper, and Better Boy varieties. We also added a Fantastico Grape tomato plant. These were all purchased at the hardware store and were over a foot tall with lots of blossoms in place by the time we put them in the ground.
On the other side of the first raised garden bed, we did a row of 6 roma tomato plants. These are much smaller seedlings at just a few inches tall when we planted. We will see how they do, but they all look healthy so far! We chose roma tomatoes because they are excellent for canning and will be perfect for several things - tomato sauce, tomato paste, and salsa.
We went ahead and put our tomato cages in place around all 11 plants. Josh built these cages using concrete wire. He cut them 36-inches long and left a little metal to use as a tie. He also used zip ties to secure them together as well. These were buried into the garden soil to keep them in place.
Next up, we planted raised bed #2. We are going to try to grow everything vertically this year to save space and maximize our yield per square foot. So in the second bed, we planted half bell peppers and half crookneck squash. Bell peppers are a staple in our house! We use them for fajitas, pico de gallo, soups, and just raw as a snack. I can't wait for the day when I can just go pick peppers from my garden instead of buying them at the grocery store each week.
Yellow squash was planted in the other half of raised bed #1. We added cages around the plants and as they grow, we will trellis them up to maximize our space and hopefully prevent fungus growth from being right on the soil. Squash is Josh's absolute favorite. He loves it battered and fried (like all good southern men, right?!), but we also enjoy it roasted with other veggies or raw in a salad. Squash casserole is another yummy favorite in the summer. Squash also freezes well so hopefully we will have plenty of harvest to eat and freeze for fall and winter.
For garden bed #3, we decided to focus the entire area to green beans. We planted two rows of half runners. We decided to direct sow the seeds as this worked well for us in the past when we grew green beans in our last garden. We eat a lot of green beans around here - it's really a staple vegetable! We like them boiled or pan roasted. Personally, I like eating them raw as a snack, but the kids look at me like I'm crazy. Do you like raw green beans? Just me?
So there you have it! That is the story of how our 2020 garden was born and what we have growing here at Grace Walk Farm this summer. What about you? Are you planting a garden this year? What are you growing? Leave a comment and tell us about your garden plans!