Springtime in the garden

Signs of spring are everywhere! The Orchard is in bloom and the hens are loving the green grass and worms that come out after each rain.

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Apple Blossoms

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Pear Blossoms

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“Katniss” being loved by little man

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Peonies in bloom

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The first lotus flowers of the season

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Sewing heirloom seeds and why it matters

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

What is an Heirloom tomato and why does it matter? Heirloom vegetables are old-time varieties, that have been handed down through multiple generations of families. Heirlooms were bred naturally for taste. Modern hybrid varieties are bred for durability (think about apples bouncing on a truck as it crosses the USA), ripening pace, and color. (Ever bit into a beautiful red apple only to find it has no flavor whatsoever?)

“A lot of the breeding programs for modern hybrids have sacrificed taste and nutrition,” says George DeVault, executive director of Seed Savers Exchange, the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom and other rare seeds. “The standard Florida tomato is a good example. Instead of old-time juicy tangy tomatoes, it tastes like cardboard. It was bred to be picked green and gas-ripened because that’s what was needed for commercial growing and shipping.” (cited from Motherearthnews.com) IMG_7246

Hybrid tomatoes destined for supermarkets are harvested prematurely while still green and sprayed with ethylene, a gas that helps the fruit develop its red color. They are refrigerated for preservation until shipped, a process that further eliminates flavor. That’s why any farmer will tell you to never refrigerate your tomatoes.

It was important to me that we use only organic heirloom seeds in our garden this year. Not only are they superior is taste but they are superior in nutrition as well. (For more details, see Industrial Farming is Giving Us Less Nutritious Food.) Another benefit to Heirloom plants is that they are less uniform than Hybrids, meaning the fruit does not all ripen at the same time. This is an undesirable trait for commercial farming where harvesting happens all at once, but for the home gardener, it is exactly what you want.

IMG_8456The most exciting part of starting seedlings this year has to be the addition of a new three tier SunLite garden. Ordered from Gardeners and it came in about a week. The unit required assembly and had very poor directions, but the unit itself is well made. Once I got it together it looked great placed against the kitchen wall.

I also decided to invest in the Growease seed starting Kit. I justified this expense by knowing that the containers can be reused year after year and that the units are self watering!  The kids and I got to work mixing water into the germinating mix and packing it into the trays. They enjoyed labeling the wooden sticks with the variety of seeds that were being planted. We started with cool weather plants like kale, spinach, lettuce, etc. These seedlings can go into the garden much earlier that other more sensitive plants especially with the protection of hoops and a cover cloth. So now, our heirloom seeds are sprouting…next project…growing microgreens! IMG_8455

Raising the raised beds…

To officially meet farm status I suppose one must have a garden. We decided to go the raised bed route for two main reasons. First, with raised beds you control exactly what the make up of your soil will be and are not dependent on what is in your yard. (clay in my case) Secondly, raising the level of your garden off the ground is much more friendly on your back and makes weeding / harvesting easier.

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Measure twice – cut once!

The location of the raised beds was chosen due to its proximity to the house and chicken coop (chicken poop makes the best compost) and because it had full sun. We decided to build 2 raised beds out of Western red cedar because it is naturally resistant to rotting and insect attacks, and is not treated with chemicals like standard pressure treated wood. Wood manufacturers will say that pressure treated wood is safe to grow food in, but we were told Asbestos was safe too, and we all know how that turned out.

 

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Cedar Beds are 24″ tall and 5 ft. by 20 ft. long.

After all, the whole point of this is to grow food that is chemical free! The boxes are designed to be 24″ tall and 5′ x 20′ in size. There is a large path between them to move equipment in and out of the garden. The fencing is a complicated issue because we are not only trying to keep out the deer, but also the foxes and rabbits. At the moment, we plan to install high tensile wire along the upper portion of the fence and electrify it to keep out the deer. The bottom half of the fence will need galvanized metal fencing with no more than 2′ x 4′ openings. This fence will be installed a minimum of 12′ deep into the ground to keep out animals that like to dig. (dogs, fox, wood chucks, etc)

 

Now all I have to do is the the soil to fill the boxes….stay tuned!

 

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Pea gravel finishes the look

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Our master designer and littlest helper. 🙂

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