Get The Most Out of Your Garden: Your Early Spring Planting Guide

Get The Most Out of Your Garden: Your Early Spring Planting Guide

Get out the compost and make those raised beds, because spring is almost here.

 

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My raised beds are ready for dirt and compost!

I’m starting my tomato and squash seedlings indoors, and even starting some crops outside (potatoes, anyone?). Now, before you think I’m jumping the gun, here’s the thing about me.

 

I love kale, and I’m not afraid to say it. 

 

Mix it with some homemade butter and straight-from-the-garden garlic, and I’m set. I start growing it as soon as I possibly can.

 

I can even get my husband to eat it on occasion.


Getting your garden started? Want to reap a better harvest?

YES, I WANT A GREAT HARVEST!


I’ve never been a big fan of radishes and arugula, but I’m starting them soon for the animals, with the hope it will even further reduce our grain expenditures.

 

I’m starting to get the winter blues, so focusing on spring is helping me beat them. And I’m increasing my self-sufficiency at the same time!

 

Here’s a starter guide to the crops you can grow in early spring, for both people and animals.

 

The most important thing I’m doing at this stage (aside from planting!) is using mulch to cover the garden. The last thing I want is late-winter scavengers to snap up the seeds I spent so much time planting!

 

wpid-cymera_20150210_134455.jpgArugula – Sow in the garden as soon as your soil can be worked. They’ll germinate in about 7 days, and ready to harvest in about a month.

 

For a continual supply, succession plant every 2 weeks until high temps will cause the arugula to bolt.

 

Beets – Sow seeds in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Plant in well-drained, sandy soil. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers as this will encourage top growth at the expense of root development.

 

Aerate your soil for uniform, healthy development. Keep consistently moist. Mulch to suppress weeds.

 

Broccoli – Sow broccoli directly in the garden 4 weeks before your last frost date. You can set out transplants 2 weeks before the last frost date when day time temperatures are between 65 and 80 degrees.

 

Give your plants a boost 3 weeks after transplanting.

 

CabbageSauerkraut anyone? Direct sow in the garden immediately after your last frost date, or plant transplants in the garden 2 weeks before your last front date.

 

Start seeds 6 to 8 weeks indoors before your last front date. Cabbage plants require soil rich in organic matter and consistent moisture.

 

Carrots – Plant seeds about 2 weeks before your last frost date. Carrots need deep, loose soil to form a strong, straight root. Keep the bed mulched to avoid competition from other plants.

 

Avoid forked roots by limiting nitrogen and keeping the bed stone-free. When the seedlings are about 2 inches tall, thin them so there’s 1″ to 4″ gaps between them.

 

You can also use alternate planting to increase your harvest and cut down on thinning. I use pre-planted seeds I created over winter to cut down on thinning.

 

Collards – Collard transplants can be planted 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost date in your area. Plant in fertile, well-drained soil. Soil rich in organic matter will encourage tender leaves, great for microgreens.

 

wpid-cymera_20150210_133242.jpgKale – A favorite here! You can plant kale about 3 to 5 weeks before the last frost date. Plant in soil rich in organic matter, and cover with cold frames during hard freezes. Great for flavorful microgreens!

 

Kohlrabi – Put out transplants of this funky looking plant 4 weeks before your last frost date. Kohlrabi is related to the cabbage, and can be eaten in similar ways.

 

Mulch or use protection against severe temperatures, and the cool temps will enhance the flavor.

 

Lettuce – The ideal day time temps for lettuce are between 60 and 70 degrees. Lettuce is more sensitive to cold than other cool season vegetables, so be sure to cover during freezing temps.  

 

Fertilize with a high-nitrogen fertilizer. Lettuce will grow in partial shade, and does better sheltered from the hot afternoon sun. Romaine is a favorite here (I finally steered my husband away from iceberg!)

 

wpid-cymera_20150210_133359.jpgOnions – Onions can be grown from sets, seeds, or transplants. This year I’m trying both sets and seeds.

 

Plant in early spring as soon as the soil is workable. Mulch to protect from hungry critters and freezing temperatures.

 

Peas – Direct sow in the garden 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost date in your area. They will germinate in soil temperatures as low as 40 degrees F.

 

Seedlings will survive a late snow and short periods of temperatures down to 25* F.

 

Potatoes – Plant potatoes when temps rise (if you want a permaculture indicator, plant your seed potatoes when grass begins to grow).

 

I cut my potatoes into 1” pieces with 2 to 3 eyes, you can also plant the whole potato. Soil should be loose, fertile and well drained. Mulch to protect from hungry critters and freezing temperatures.

 

Radishes – This year, I’m doing daikon, french  breakfast, and regular radishes. Sow radish seeds in the garden about 4 weeks before the last frost date in your area.

 

They are ready to harvest as soon as they are of edible size. Succession plant for a continual supply until temps are too high. Try one more than one variety, and see which does best in your garden.

 

wpid-cymera_20150210_134258.jpgSpinach – You can transplant spinach 4 weeks before the last frost date in your area, or you can sow seeds into frozen ground. They will germinate as the soil thaws.

 

Transplants can be set out 4 weeks before the last frost date in your area. Spinach prefers very fertile soil, so plant in soil enriched with compost, or fertilize when the plants are about 4 inches tall.

 

Swiss Chard – There’s nothing better than the gorgeous colors swiss chard brings to your garden. Direct sow seeds 2 weeks before your last frost date.

 

Use pre-made seed tapes, or thin to 6-inches apart when seedlings are 3-inches tall. Water regularly and mulch to protect.

 

Tatsoi – Extremely cold hardy, tatsoi can withstand temperatures down to -15 degrees F. Tatsoi likes rich soil and plenty of moisture all through the growing season, so mulching is best.

 

It’s a very pretty ornamental, so consider growing it in your landscape. Space the initial planting very densely, then harvest entire plants for baby greens, but leave the final survivors to grow to maturity at about 12″ spacing.

 

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Turnips – Plant 2 weeks before the last frost date. Any well-drained soil will do.

 

Consistent moisture is key for healthy root development. Although it is not necessary, the greens will be the most tender if you plant in a fertile soil.

 

Wheat – We’re going to try wheat for the first time this spring. Be sure to use a spring variety (winter wheat won’t produce without some hard freezes) so check that label.

 

Plant when the ground can be worked and after your last frost date. It’s best to use a seed drill, but if you can’t, you can broadcast the seeds and rake them into the ground, making sure to cover with hay or mulch to keep critters away.

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Which of these cold weather crops will you plant? Leave a comment below!

6 Companion Planting Mistakes to Avoid

6 Companion Planting Mistakes to Avoid

Are you ready for spring? I can’t hear you. Are you ready for spring?!

 

I know I am. To beat these chilly blues, I’ve been planning my garden. Right now I’m deciding what to plant where. Last year, I made a few companion planting mistakes I’ll be sure to avoid this year.

 

We’ve built our raised beds, and I’ll be doing more square foot gardening this year.

 

(This article is an excerpt from my book, Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening. In that book, you’ll find an encyclopedia of how to grow vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants, lettuce, and more. You can buy it on Amazon or off this website to save 20% and get the digital version free.

Buy now right here to save 20% and get the digital version FREE!)

 

If you’re new to square foot gardening, then here’s my beginner’s guide to square foot gardening – it’s super easy to implement, but you have to make sure you get the companion planting right.

 

If your spacing is poor or your vegetable plants don’t “get along well,” then you’ll probably not have the harvest you’re expecting.

 

I think a salsa garden and an all-tomato garden are definitely on the list!

 

This year, my garden will be awesome. 

 

I’ve picked out a place for the radishes, near the house where the soil is loose but rich with the compost from plants of yesteryear. (I’m not the biggest fan of radishes, but they’re about as instant gratification as gardening gets, and this year I want to try to pickle them!)

 

The kale will line the walkway that leads to our front door, since kale, which doesn’t grow too tall, makes an attractive border, adding texture to our front lawn.

 

The cabbage will go in the front of the house, where I’ve been composting manure, and where they will be easily accessed.

 

It’s also far away from my radishes, since radishes and cabbage don’t grow well together. That was companion planting mistake #1 last fall. I planted my cabbages near my radishes, and neither did too great!

 

 

In fact, just like some foods just don’t like each other, some veggies don’t make good companion plants. Using a companion planting chart when planning your garden can help prevent costly mistakes.

 

As you plan your spring garden, use this easy companion planting guide to avoid 6 common companion planting mistakes:

Companion Planting No-Nos

 

Now, you do need to pay attention to zones (you can find out your USDA zone right here

 

Your season also will dictate what you’ll plant. Here’s guides for each month of the growing season:

January    February    March    April    May    June     July    August    September

 

Itching to start gardening RIGHT NOW?

Here’s 12 crops you can start in cold frames – including lettuce, spinach, radishes and more!

 

You can also learn how to heat your green house right here.

 

What will you plant in your garden this spring? Will you try companion planting? How will you avoid these 6 common companion planting mistakes?

square foot gardening plant spacing

 

How To Cure And Store Potatoes For Long Term Storage!

How To Cure And Store Potatoes For Long Term Storage!

It’s the end of the growing season for tubers – and you’re probably wondering how to cure and store potatoes for long term storage.

 

Curing potatoes is a simple process….and it is very necessary if you want your potatoes to stay edible into the winter.

 

By now, if you haven’t harvested your tubers, the green stems are likely drooping, and you’re itching to get your hands dirty and pull up those treasures you’ve waited all year to harvest.

 

And you should be excited – you’ve worked hard & should enjoy your haul!

 

Nothing is worse than working so hard – only to have the tubers rot because you didn’t properly cure and store potatoes for long term storage in the right conditions.

 

In this article, I will show you how to cure and store potatoes for long term storage so you can enjoy them in stews and combined with cheese and bacon all season. We’ll also cover how to prepare potatoes for storage after they’ve gone through the cure process.

 

This is a time tested process for how to cure and store potatoes for long term storage that our ancestors used!

 

How To Cure And Store Potatoes For Long Term Storage

 

How To Cure and Store Potatoes For Long Term Storage

After you’ve carefully dug up your potatoes, leave them outdoors in the sun (and away from hungry critters) for an hour or so to dry.

 

Don’t wash them – just let them dry. Washing them could result in dampness or mold.

 

If they’re still excessively dirty after they’ve dried, use a soft brush and gently sweep off clumps of dirt. Only do this if you must – any sort of brushing runs the risk of damaging your potatoes and they won’t last in long term storage.

 

At this point, you should examine your tubers – if any show signs of damage, such as a tear in the outer skin or holes, eat them right away.

 

The potatoes will heal some damage as they cure, but ones with excessive damage might not store well, so it’s simplest to just consume them ASAP.


Want to know more about growing herbs? Click here to learn more about my book, Herbs In Your Backyard.


How To Cure And Store Potatoes For Long Term Storage

 

How to Cure and Store Potatoes for Long Term Storage Tip: Keep Out Of The Light

To cure and store potatoes for long term storage (up to 7 months), the next step is to allow them to dry for a longer period, 1 – 2 weeks, this time out of the light.

 

Have you ever seen potatoes with green skin?  These are potatoes that have been allowed to cure too long in the sun. After enough time, the skins are no longer edible.

 

Sunlight causes potatoes to produce solanine, which turns potatoes bitter and is poisonous. So, it’s critical to store them out of the light once they’ve completed the first cure.

 

Allow the potatoes to cure in a dark place where temperatures are about 55 degrees. For the first 2 weeks, the humidity should be close to 85 percent.

 

To ensure the temperature and humidity are adequate while you cure potatoes, use a thermometer like this one. It has both a humidity and temperature gauge, and it’s cheap enough – it’s a sound investment.

 

I’ve found it’s best to lay the potatoes out during this phase – you want the air to circulate around them so they finish drying. It’s important they form a thick skin, which stands up to the storage process better.

 

During this time, the potatoes are also “healing” wounds that occurred earlier in the the cure process. This, also, allows them to withstand the long time in storage and remain fresh.

 

After this phase of the curing potatoes process is complete, move the potatoes to a dark storage area where temps are cooler – no more than 40 degrees F. A cellar in your home – or a root cellar if you’re so lucky – is a perfect spot.

 

The consistent temperature is important; if temps are higher, your potatoes might sprout eyes or even start to shrivel.

 

To store potatoes for long term storage, once they’re dry, 6-inch bins with slatted sides like these are a good option. The air can still circulate, and saves space. Just be sure critters can’t get into the bins.

 

Another option that’s recommended is to use perforated plastic or paper bags. These allow the potatoes to “breathe” while you store them. 

 

If any of your potatoes sprout eyes while they’re in your store room, double check the temperatures and light. If you spot mold or notice shriveling, check the humidity as well. If you cure and store potatoes for long term storage in just the right conditions, your potatoes should store for quite a long time – up to 7 months.

 

Now you know how to cure and store potatoes for long term storage!


In my book Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening, I show you how to build cold frames and raised beds so you can start growing your own food. You can get it on Amazon here. If you buy directly from me, you save 20% off the Amazon price and get the digital version for free.)


More Organic Gardening Tips:

 

Sauteed Late-Summer Vegetables For A Side Dish Hit!

Sauteed Late-Summer Vegetables For A Side Dish Hit!

We’ve been gathering a LOT of zucchini lately – and there’s only so much zoodles someone can make.

 

So, I’m excited that Alix and Hugo from A Hedgehog In The Kitchen were happy to come back with a fantastically delish recipe featuring those late summer stars, zucchini.

 

You can make this recipe as your main dish, or as a side dish, paired with other late-summer goodies! Enjoy!

 

Sauteed Late-Summer Vegetables from A Hedgehog In The Kitchen

We love cooking in the Summer. It is such a pleasure to gather our straw basket and our two dogs and head out to the market, whether we are in Paris or in Picardy, France along the coast where we are now for the Summer. This sauteed late Summer vegetables recipe was inspired by our market mornings.

 

This recipe is the perfect late Summer recipe because it uses gorgeous late Summer vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and zucchini with some mushrooms and walnuts thrown in to add that special Autumn feeling to the mix.

 

Each vegetable and nut brings its own unique flavor to the recipe which is enhanced by our favorite Herbes de Provence, some hot chili flakes, sea salt, black pepper, parmesan and a good quality, organic olive oil.

 

By cooking each of the vegetables little by little, you are sure to fill your home with the delicious aroma of late Summer vegetables!

 

Although I absolutely love Summer with its long days, slower pace, travel and general peacefulness, at some point during the second half of Summer, I start to crave Fall. I long for cooler days, windy Parisian walks, colorful leaves covering the ground, chunky knit sweaters and pumpkins, lots of pumpkins!

 

As we get more and more excited for Fall, we are dreaming about all of the wonderful pumpkin recipes we will make again this year such as pumpkin honey madeleines, pumpkin goat cheese quiche, and pumpkin mushroom bowls with brown rice.

 

RECIPE

For 2 / Prep time : 10 mins / Cook time : 1 hour

Ingredients :

6 small potatoes
4 small carrots (cuted into 1 inch pieces)
1 zucchini (sliced)
4 mushrooms (diced)
6 walnuts
6 tsp of parmesan (powdered)
1 tsp of herbs of Provence
1/2 tsp of hot chili flakes
Salt and black pepper
Olive oil

 

Instructions :

Heat olive oil in a casserole on medium heat.
Add potatoes and a pinch of salt and cook for 5 minutes.
Turn the heat to low heat and cook for 30/40 minutes, stirring from time to time. The potatoes are cooked when you can put a fork in them.
Remove the potatoes, put aside.
Turn the heat up to medium heat, put the carrots in the casserole, add salt and cook for 10 minutes.
Put the potatoes back in, add the zucchini and cook for 5 more minutes.
Add the mushrooms, walnuts, Herbes de Provence, chili flakes, a tablespoon of olive oil, salt, black pepper and cook for 5 more minutes.
Serve with parmesan.