Category Archives: Growing Groceries – Seeds and Growing Tips

Taking Stock

I wanted to share the list of items that we are growing on our small city lot because it still astounds me that there is room for all this bounty.  Once you start looking at your yard as growing space and remove the lawn all kinds of possibilities open up.  Maybe this list will inspire you as well.

Side orchard:

  • Liberty apple
  • Cox Pippin apple
  • Montmorency cherry
  • White Gold cherry
  • Italian Prune plum
  • Blues Jam plum
  • Bay
  • Quince
  • Columnar Golden Sentinel apple
  • Yuzu
  • Desert King fig
  • Violetta fig (potted)
  • Dalgo crabapple
  • Improved Meyer lemon (potted)
  • 15 Jersey Knight asparagus
  • 2 Hardy Annanasnaja arguta fuzzy kiwi
  • Table grapes (future plan for arbor over garage door)
  • 32 Tulameen raspberry canes

Front yard planted in ground:

  • Rubel blueberry highbush
  • Legacy blueberry highbush
  • Darrow blueberry highbush
  • 3 rhubarb plants
  • 3 Globe artichokes
  • Bronze fennel
  • garlic, chives, scallions, leeks and storing onions
  • 3 bags or barrels of potatoes
  • chammomile

In raised beds:

  • 30 tomatoes
  • 2 eggplant
  • 15 basil
  • Nantes carrots
  • beets
  • radiccio
  • Swiss chard
  • kale
  • brussel sprouts
  • broccoli
  • corn
  • mache
  • claytonia
  • French sorrel
  • purslane
  • green beans

Lower front terrace outside fence:

  • 8 lowbush blueberries, Tophat
  • 6 cranberry
  • 2 lingonberry

Just in front of the front fence so they can grow up it:

  • 3 zuchini
  • 1 Magic Lantern pumpkin for jack-o-laterns
  • 1 Sugar Pie pumpkin for pies
  • 1 muskmelon
  • 2 cucumber
  • 1 butternut squash
  • sunflower sentries – these are re-seeding from last year and I’ll re-plant as needed.

In my semi-shady backyard I have or will plant:

  • 2 evergreen huckleberry bushes
  • countless strawberry plants in the rockery
  • peas
  • celery if the seedlings make it.  They aren’t very happy right now
  • mustard
  • cardoons
  • lemon verbena
  • lemon balm
  • chocolate mint
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • oregano
  • marjoram
  • lavendar
  • tarragon
  • cilantro
  • parsely
  • thyme
  • red currant
  • black current
  • aronia
  • sweet woodruff (for flavoring soda)
  • 1 service berry tree for jam or dried fruit for baking
  • lovage – to be used as drinking straws for bloody marys when we have time to sit around…

It’s pretty astounding, isn’t it?  All in the same space that was previously un-usable or was rarely used front lawn.

We are trying to design the garden so that it fits well with the neighborhood and adds to resell value should we choose to sell the house.  With some planning and creativity you can do amazing things with your landscaping.  Growing groceries isn’t just for farmers anymore and can fit well into just about any landscape design.

A future post for next year when the fruit trees and berry bushes are bearing fruit will be on bees.  I wanted to get them this year since I was told the reason some of my zuchini fruits last year rotted and fell off was lack of pollination.  For now I’m happy to have gotten the garden beds in and focused on irrigation and chickens.   More to come on those topics hopefully next weekend.

One last note – all the berry bushes and trees I purchased in March as bareroot stock.  It’s a much less expensive way to purchase plants.  They are shipped to you during the dormant season for significant savings.  I ordered mine online from www.raintreenursery.com and www.onegreenworld.com.   Both are located in the Pacific NW and have disease resistant varieties that are acclimated to our conditions.  One Green World especially has amazing customer service – phoning before shipping each order to be sure everything is correct and let you know when things are coming.  They were great to work with and let me change my order just before shipping.  Raintree as well even went so far as to apply a discount code to my order that I had forgotten to use during the checkout process.  I recommend them both.

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Planting the Seeds of Change

It’s a radical idea to grow your own food and more empowering then you can imagine.  Everyone who has seen our front yard converting from green lawn to growing beds and orchard has asked the same question – “Do you really think you can grow enough food to feed your family?”  My answer is unequivocably “YES!”

By the end of WWII 40% of all American produce was grown in yards.  A lot has changed in 60 some years.  We’ve forgotten that we have the ability to grow food, and even more empowering then growing it is completing the cycle – letting a few of everything go to seed and storing those to use next year.  Knowledge is power, and dangerous to food corporations. 

If everyone was doing 15% of what I am doing – just saying no to food that contains dangerous chemicals, or is harvested using forced and/or child labor which happens even in this country (think of your year-round tomatoes) – food giants would sit up and take notice.

In the same way the toy industry suddenly realized this year that consumers would indeed hold them responsible for using lead, pthathlates and other dangerous chemicals in children’s toys and baby items, they would realize the future needs to change.  Knowledge is power. 

My challenge to you is to take the time to understand exactly what is in one grocery item per week and how it is made and harvested.  Email or phone the company.  Read the ingredients on the box.  Use your google skills.   Empower yourself.

Planting Potatoes

I finally got around to planting my potatoes (late of course).  Potatoes are a fun thing to grow with kids and a great thing for someone with minimal yard space to grow.  You can even grow them on a patio or balcony.

You can buy seed potatoes at most garden shops or through seed catalogs.  Or you can buy eating potatoes from a trustworthy organic farmer and hope they don’t have any diseases that might contaminate your soil for future plants in the same family as potatoes (like tomatoes for instance).  Once you buy your potatoes you put them in a brown paper bag in a dark place for a few weeks until they sprout.  A garage is perfect.  Non-organic potatoes won’t sprout, by the way, because they’ve been gassed to keep them from sprouting on you.  That’s in addition to the pesticides they have.  Nice, eh?

Read the rest of this entry…

What Does Your Garden Grow?

rfw_orange1

This post is a Real Food Wednesday post this week hosted by cheeseslave

Cheeseslave is encouraging everyone to grow their own vegetables this year, and to share what it is they are growing. 

I have my starts up on the kitchen counter still under the lowered fluorescent bulbs that I purchased at home depot and then hung from lengths of chain attached to cup hooks which I screwed into the bottom of my crappy cupboards (there’s one good thing from having crappy cupboards – you don’t have to worry about putting holes in them!)

Ideally I would have them in bigger pots by now and hardening them off since I could move them into garden beds next week.  However, we just finished taking out the grass and won’t have the beds ready for another two or three weeks.  My front lawn looks lovely, all cakey mud and worm-fest for the birds.  But it’s all in the sake of progress and sticking it to Montsano so I don’t mind.

So far I have started celery, broccoli, several kinds of kale, several kinds of tomatoes, leeks, storing onions and scallions. 

In a few weeks these will go into the ground (except the tomatoes) and in their place on my counter I will start brussel sprouts, cucumbers, pumpkins (jack-o-lantern and pie), zuchini, winter squash.  In the soil I will start chard, wild greens, potatoes, beets and carrots (if my garden boxes were ready these would already be in.)  I do have peas in the ground in the shady backyard already and they are just starting up so it’s time to plant another round of them in another spot.

In Mid-May I will direct sow beans and corn and put out all the new little seedlings after hardening them off.

Then in the fall I will start soft neck garlic. 

As far as perennials go I have 3 rhubarb plants and quite a few low bush blueberries, strawberries and lingon berries in the back.  I am just now adding horseradish, asparagus, high bush blueberry bushes, raspberry bushes, a hardy kiwi vine, two apple trees, two cherry trees, two plum trees, one crabapple tree, one bay laurel tree, two fig trees and one meyer lemon.  It should be a full house – or full cupboards hopefully.

How about you? What does your garden grow?

Uprising Seeds – Heirloom Varieties for the Pacific NW

The other day I opened the mail and got a catalog from Uprising Seeds – an outfit that sells 100% organic, heirloom and open pollinated seeds from the Pacific NW.   They are so new they don’t yet have a site up but are based in Bellingham, WA.  The seeds they sell are from a network of growers from Acme, Skagit Valley, Twisp, Sequim, and then Williams, OR.

They even have four varieties that have been listed by RAFT as “Ark Foods”. 

 The “Ark of Taste” was conceived at a Slow Food gathering…as a project to identify foods with special culinary and cultural significance that are facing extinction with the indultrialization of our food supply.

Uprising Seeds has taken as much time into drafting loving descriptions of each seed as they have in cultivating and preserving them, and they donate a percentage of their sales to better the social and legal climate for their workers.

Sadly, I had already ordered my seeds for the year before I heard about them but you can bet I’ll be buying my seed garlic from them this summer and giving them as much business as possible from now on.

You can find some info on them at Green People until their site is up and running.

Clearly they are planting the seeds of change!

Sustainable Lawn Conversion

front-yard-garden-plans

This weekend I tried out the free trial of www.GrowVeg.com. We are in the process of taking out the front lawn and converting that growing space into raised garden beds with an intensive orchard along the side and raspberry bushes lining the driveway.

Read the rest of the entry at the new blog…

Starting Seeds – Thinking of Spring

Starting Seeds Indoors

Starting Seeds Indoors

This year we are taking out the front lawn and building raised garden beds for growing our own veggies. Although we are certain to have sporadic snow and sleet several more times we are getting close enough to the last frost date to start seeds that do well when the soil temperature is 40 degrees or more.

Right now it’s time to start:

  • cole crops (broccoli, kale, cabbage),
  • alliums (onions, leeks, scallions and garlic),
  • tomatoes
  • You should start these indoors as close to a fluorescent bulb as possible, turned on for about 16 hours a day. You could try to skip the light but your starts will probably be long and leggy. That is great in a swimsuit model but not in a veggie start.

    I placed my seed trays up on my pickling crocs to get them closer to the lights. Another option is to buy small corded fluorescent fixtures, suspend them from thin chain which you can purchase by the yard at Home Depot, then attach them to the underside of your cabinet with cup hooks. The chain will allow you to lower the lights directly over the starts and raise the lights as your starts get taller.

    Since our heater is running quite often this weekend I’ll be checking them frequently to be sure they don’t dry out. I’ve started red kale, Nero di Toscana kale, broccoli, leeks, scallions, storing onions, celery, saucey tomatoes, and an ultra early slicing tomato.

    I started peas directly in the backyard earlier in the week. If the front beds were ready I would have direct sewn European salad greens (claytonia, veche, arrugula, and raddichio.) I purchased some hoops and cold covers but by the time the garden boxes are done this year I won’t likely need them. I’m hoping, though, to make this an annual garden so I’ll be using them in the fall and into next winter and spring.

    Spring will be here soon and hopefully I’ll have flats of good, sturdy starts to transplant when it comes.