Got leeks?

leek and potato soupThis is gardening site but the taste of some of the things coming out of the garden just can’t be matched anywhere! This potato leek soup was our dinner tonight, along with fresh harvested corn and toasted baguettes. You can buy all of the things you need to make this at any grocery store, but you cannot come close to what it tastes like with just harvested fresh crops. Potatoes, leeks, and chives-so easy, and so good. In the SFG system, you can sneak by with 9 leaks per square. A traditional row garden will take up 3 linear feet to have the same yield. You can decide which system is better. These are bandit leeks from JSS.

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This is a summer lettuce!

cherokee summer lettuce 081516This tastes so awesome! No bitterness at all-a bavarian lettuce variety that grew right through a couple of 100 degree days and most the rest of the days in the mid to high 90′s. There are some very unique advantages to the SFG system, and this shows why. If you can protect your crops and lower the temperatures by 10-15 degrees, you can do anything you want with lettuce. For most folks the hot weather is largely behind us. Maybe southern California with it’s hot month of September is a candidate for this. You really should give it a try. If you’re tired of lettuce failure in the summer months and the bitter taste of the lettuce that remains in late spring, try some of these great summer lettuces.

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How to have a great fall/winter garden

harvest greens on 121613 after a 7 degree nightFor those in northern Utah-My first class on the fall/winter garden will be on August 16 starting at 10:00 AM. Class runs for 90 minutes and the price is $40 per person. I will start with an abbreviated course in square foot gardening, but since many feel comfortable with their own gardening styles, that’s all I’ll be covering-just the bare bone basics. There isn’t enough time in the growing year to even worry about some of the advanced techniques. I will then show you 3 or 4 different ways to successfully protect your gardens. If you would like to bring your own 1/2″ galvanized electrical conduit to the class I will bend it for you. As long as your gardens aren’t wider than 4 feet it will be perfect. That way you leave the class with the structures need to cover your crops in our harsh winter conditions. Make sure it’s the 1/2″ EMT. They come in 10 foot lengths and cost about $2.50 each. If you’d like to bring your own PVC conduit, I can cut that as well. I’ll finish the class by talking about the specific crops that do well in the fall and even into the winter if that’s goal. Some of these seeds will be available at the class at $4 per pack. They all do well in cold weather. If you’ve always wanted to harvest fresh salad greens in the middle of winter(as pictured), come on out and learn how to do it. Nothing beats fresh produce out of the gardens at any time, but even more so in the winter. Contact me if you’re interested in attending. Space is limited. Eat like a king/queen this winter.

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Leeks

leeks 080114In this gardening system you can plant 9 leeks in a square. If you were to grow this in a traditional row garden it would take up 3 feet. So many advantages with the SFG method. These are Lexton leeks and the white stems will be about 8″ tall-all done without the “hill” technique. More to come on this later. I was very bummed this week as I was hit by the squash vine borer. It was the first time I’ve ever had it, and I know why. I broke all the rules. When they say don’t plant squashes(and tomatoes and potatoes)in the same place in back-to-back years, they know what they’re talking about. That’s what did it for me and now I just hope I can get some butternut squash out of my gardens by the time the first frost hits. I sprouted a couple of seeds immediately and got them in the garden. I don’t think there is enough warm weather and daylight for me to successfully pull it off. Oh well, lesson learned. But I do have all kinds of things coming up now that are just outrageously delicious.

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Time to start thinking “fall”

fall crop kale 091513It sure is hard to believe summer is almost over. Seems it just got here. In zone 6, it’s time to think about your fall garden. If you’ve had a fun summer and want to put your gardens away for the year that’s great. But you’d be missing out on the best season of all-fall and even winter for those wanting to do just a little more work. Right now is the time to direct seed certain crops that will be ready in late fall-things like kale, carrots, beets, etc. If you’re lucking enough to be in a place where they have brussel sprout plants-now’s the time to put those in. In another few weeks it will be time to plant your entire fall/winter garden. There is little work. And the crops for winter are the absolute best! I have my first fall/winter garden class on August 16th. We’ll spend a minimum amount of time on the SFG system since participants will usually have their favorite gardening methods. For those who want to learn the SFG way-this will cover it. It’s abbreviated because we don’t spend time on things that you can’t do at this time of year-like vertical gardening. But you’ll leave with the basics. Then we are putting together a variety of low tunnels. These enable you to grow all fall and deep into the winter if that’s your goal. I’ll be bending your electrical conduit right here so you leave all set to go. If you’re garden space is big enough you can go right through winter. We’ll talk about protection methods, and then I will be discussing the crops that do best in our zone. I’ll spend additional time on the “dandy dozen” for winter. Also available for purchase will be a small sampling of seed packs at $4 each. Some may be things you’ve never known about but they will have you looking forward to each fall and/or winter season. If you’re local, please let me know if you’d be interested in attending. I’ll have another class in late August.

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Growing cantalope vertically

cantalope 72614Looks like I’ve got at least 5 cantaloupe growing now! I haven’t grown melons in years but I may have to start growing a lot more of them if it’s this easy. In the SFG method you grow 1 cantaloupe per square. Make yourself a vertical support out of 1/2″ electrical conduit, and then tie up the nylon netting. I always make sure to pull the netting tight. If it’s not, plants won’t climb up. It’s got to be tight. Make these yourself for about $12 each and you’ll have them forever. They are strong, never blow over, and never fall apart-no matter what you’re growing on them.

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Mottistone

mottistone lettuce 72114This is Mottistone lettuce-categorized as a “summercrisp.” Summercrisp lettuces are more heat tolerant than other varieties. When attempting to grow lettuce in weather of 80+ degrees, it’s hard to germinate the seeds. If you have lettuce that’s already up, the hot weather usually makes them bolt and turns them bitter tot he taste. But by utilizing just a few easy techniques, you can grow the heat tolerant varieties right through summer. I grow 6 different kinds of summercrisps and each one tastes different from the others. Learn how to be a square foot gardener. By limiting the size of your gardens you have better control over what you can do and are better able to protect your crops from not only cold, but from heat as well. In several weeks I will be having classes at my home. These are designed to teach you how to build an inexpensive “low tunnel” so you can grow right through winter. If you want to learn how to assemble a high tunnel, we’ll be doing that as well. I’ll spend a minimal amount of time on the square foot garden method. If you’re a row gardener, no problem. It’s more work and not a big harvest, but that’s your option. Classes will fill up. The fee is $25 per person and I’ll be selling specialty fall/winter seeds from Johnny’s. You’ll save shipping charges if you buy them from me and nobody around here has these varieties. Stay tuned.

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First squash of the season

golden egg squash 71514I can’t tell if I’m a little late on the first squash or not. Some of my neighbors have already been pulling zucchini, but that’s only been for the last 2 weeks. We love this squash-it’s from Burpee’s and it’s called Golden Egg. It’s a heavy producer and I’ve got 3 of them growing. It’s growing vertically on a tower and this saves a lot of room. Also notice that great looking basil just in front of it. Looks like it’s time to start having our famous fresh tomato pizza for the summer!

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Black beauty zucchini….

zucchini 70414in one square foot. Just put in a green tee-post, place your seeds next to it, water, and it starts to grow. I juse tie it up every 6-8″ and let it go straight up the post. Works every time-the leaves are large and it shades the squares next to it but I’ll use those squares for things like lettuce. This variety of zucchini only gets to be about 5′ tall. I plant one in May and another zucchini plant the first week of July to get me through the fall. If you ever hear/read that it’s impossible to grow this kind of zucchini in 1 square foot you’ll know someone doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Happy 4th of July everyone…

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Thinking ahead

sprouting brussel sproutes 62814It’s hard to believe but fall isn’t too far away. Right now is the time to start a few things indoors that you’ll transplant to your garden in 6 weeks. For me, that’s brussel sprouts and leeks. Be sure to look at the maturation dates for leeks-I’ve got 3 varieties that all have harvest dates of 90, 110, and 120 days. I like to start brussel sprouts inside on the last week of June. In 6 weeks they’ll be ready for transplanting and will be a good size. That puts me in the 2nd week of August which is when all the pests begin to go away-in this case aphids. This crop loves the cooler weather and in fact tastes better after a hard freeze. There’s several crops this happens with. When you sprout the seeds first I think you save a lot of time(and seeds)by knowing which seeds will grow. Then you put them in your potmaker cups and you’re off and running. These will sprout in about 3 days. If all seven seeds sprout, I’ll give a few of them away. We only need 1 plant to feed 2 of us but I’ll end up growing 3 or 4 to make sure I’ve got enough for customers. For leeks I’ll do the same thing. My favorite varieties are Bandit and Megaton. At a later date I’ll show you my technique for getting a large part of your leek to be white without all the extra work of hilling.

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New lettuce variety

queensland 62114I mentioned a little about this several posts back. This is a new lettuce that I’m growing that can’t be found in America. I have a friend who has traveled and gardened overseas and has found this great variety that can be grown in both cold and hot weather. It’s also a different spacing than what us SFGers would normally do. Lettuce is planted 4 per square. This variety is large enough so that it’s only planted 1 per square. It’s non-hearting meaning it doesn’t form that tender inner “heart” that typically is associated with leaf lettuce varieties. Think romaine-Caesar salad greens. You harvest the leaves from the bottom. It continues to grow and keeps going for 5-6 weeks. At that point it sends up a shoot, becomes bitter, and goes to seed. Then you save the fluffy gray seed heads for next year. I’ll be selling this at the end of summer if you’re interested. It’s another great tasting crop to have on hand. The greatest thing is its ability to grow in hot weather-something that is hard to do with all other kinds of lettuce.

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Lettuce in hot weather

shaded lettuce 61114Take a look around at your local CSA’s today. As a result of finishing up the spring season, there’s still lettuce in those baskets. But if you live in a warm climate chances are there won’t be any lettuce offered in the hot months. We’re not too far away from that right now. There is the possibility that they buy their lettuce from other sources to keep their supply constant. But what about July/August? It’s been 90+ here already this spring. At temperatures of 80-85+ it becomes very difficult if not impossible to have your lettuce seeds sprout outside. There are a few tricks to learn if you want to enjoy lettuce all summer long. The two main techniques are to water at least twice as much as you normally would and to provide some sort of shade cover during the hottest part of the day. In this way I’ve been able to sprout lettuce in 100 degree weather-and it comes up in 2 days! I’m in the process of finishing my 2nd ebook about this very topic. It’s got 3 additional techniques to use for a successful summer lettuce season. Of all the things we grow in our garden, lettuce is by far our family favorite and it’s the one thing we eat the most of. And when you’ve just harvested fresh lettuce from your gardens for your dinner salad you’ll hate buying it at the store.

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Do I really need a grid?

swiss chard 60314You sure do! If you’ve ever seen a raised bed without a grid it’s really nothing more than just that-a raised bed. Nothing sets it apart from the neighbor who also has a raised bed. But if you put a grid, all of a sudden you have to think differently. Instead of planting in rows like you’re used to doing, now you’re forced to plant something different in each 1 foot square. That’s the first reason you need a grid. The second reason-if you’re trying to imagine or come close to planting in squares by just eye-balling it, you’ll never get it right. You’ll be disappointed by the results. Third-it really does set your garden apart from just a raised bed. If you’ve ever seen a successful SFG, one of the first things you notice is the grid-”Oh, here’s a square foot gardener!” The last reason is something that many don’t even consider. It’s this: the grid is the gauge on how much compost you need to add when amending your soil whenever you change a crop. As an example, after pulling your spring crop of chard, you throw the wasted leaves in the compost pile. You then add not just 2 or 3 trowels full of compost, but rather enough until it reaches to top of the grid. This might be 5 or 6 trowels full of compost. Adding just 2 or 3 may not be enough. You can never get enough compost.

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Tonights dinner

A great mesclun mixIt’s a great mesclun mix of red sails and allstar lettuce, radicchio, butter chard, and spinach. I’m a little surprised at the spinach this late in the season after two harvests already. It’s grown back very nicely and we’ve got at least enough for another week. Top it off with some minicor carrots, mozzarella cheese, freshly grated pepper, and then a nice vinaigrette. My entire summer garden is almost completely planted. I’ve left a few squares open for a second planting of zucchini and for summer lettuce. But I’ll soon be emptying out squares of red ace beets, spinach, radicchio, and carrots. This should leave me plenty of open squares for my summer lettuce-which are the greatest to go along with those vine-ripened tomatoes. All my herbs are in-rosemary, cilantro, chives, parsley, garlic, and basil. And I’ve just planted 2 additional squares of red pontiac potatoes. Now’s the time to put your entire summer garden in for zone 6. Tomatoes, peppers, squash, zucchini, corn, all your herbs, chard, lettuce varieties, beets, beans, scallions. And then get ready for a great harvest in a few weeks.

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Much planted, much to go

51914 gardenAfter tomorrow I’ll have a lot of newly emptied squares. To date I have a lot of the summer crops in and growing. Tomatoes, cucumbers, summer lettuce varieties, chives, carrots, chard, scallions, potatoes, nasturtium, peppers, basil, and bush beans are all in. In the next day I’ll finish planting all the rest-zucchini, patty pan and banana/butternut squash, beets, scallions, and maybe some thyme. I’ll continue to plant lettuce all summer long to make sure I have a large enough harvest by the time the tomatoes ripen. If you’re looking for a nifty little gadget to tell you what to plant and when, you ought to check this out. It’s free and easy to use. You’ll get an email periodically to remind you what to plant next. Read about it here.  Hope this helps out.

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Posted in basil, beans, carrots, chard, cucumbers, gardening self-reliance, herbs, lettuce, peppers, potatoes, self-reliance, square foot gardening, squash, tomatoes, zucchini | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment