Starting your garden!

I am so excited! The lilacs are blooming and that is the earth’s signal for us to start planting our vegetable gardens for the season!

Gardening is a great hobby and gives everyone who plants one access to clean fresh food. You can get my report on how to grow your own herbs that heal by signing up on our contact page.

Growing up on a farm, I learned at a young age to love fruits and veg. I wouldn’t even need to come inside to eat because i would be playing outside in the fresh air and sunshine, eating whatever was around to forage. We had grape vines, a cherry tree, wild strawberries, raspberries and a huge garden where i would often pick beans, peas or pull up a carrot to wash off under the hose so i didn’t have to go back inside.

I still find myself in awe of how something as tiny as a seed will grow into a magnificent plant that nourishes us. I get so excited to see those little seeds grow!

So come on, let’s get growing so you can see for yourself how vibrant food makes a vibrant you!

When deciding to start a garden you will need to start with a plan.

I didn’t do this at first, I just read a bunch of books and went willy nilly at it. I reaped some from the fruits of my labour, but I didn’t get  any extras to store for winter and some plants did not do well at all. 🙁  Now I have a garden journal so that I know where I have planted my veg in the past so I can rotate my crops for better nutrients for the new crops and I plan out where I am going to plant things that benefit each other for this year. Like the three sisters. Beans, corn and squash. These three have been planted for years all over the world. They stabilize the soil and help support each other, not to mention they are delicious.

While a smaller garden means less work and money, it will not produce enough food to sustain you for the winter months. Container gardens are fun and easy to maintain not to mention a necessity for small yards or balconies, but they do require more water and fertilizer.

One item that will ease your workload is to put down a 4-inch layer of mulch. This will reduce the soil’s need for water and helps keep weeds under control. Last years leaves or straw make a great mulch. I use both, and I have very few weeds.

Keeping your yard tools in good condition is going to make your maintenance tasks easier. So go ahead and put them away when you’re done, somewhere they are out of the elements.

Save your seeds at the end of the season; it’s cheaper than buying more and you can trade them with other gardeners. Some communities have seed exchanges where you can swap some of your seeds for new varieties!

Here are six things to consider when starting your garden:

Remember each garden will have a unique process for bed preparation, depending on soil conditions and available tools.

  1. Aerate – Use a pitchfork to loosen the soil (to invite oxygen, water and root growth) without turning it over (to preserve structure and microbiology).  
  2. Weed – All competing plants must be pulled up. Be sure to get all the roots or else they will come back.
  3. Amend – Now is the time to add fertilizer or soil amendments.  adding ash from the fire pit for potassium and higher pH.
  4. Mulch – Apply a layer of mulch of your choice until soil is covered.  Mulch protects soil from moisture loss, weed growth, and erosion from wind and rain.
  5. Plant – Direct seeded tomatoes, beans, peppers and transplant seedlings
  6. Companion planting is another lesson to learn. Multiple species can  grow well together, each contributing to the greater ecosystem.  For instance, legumes and their rhizobia (bacteria in their roots) build nitrogen in the soil.

Starting your own garden is so rewarding! When you are outside in nature you have a real appreciation of where your food comes from and the work it takes to grow.

Have you started your garden? What do you like to plant?

 

Are your Seedlings in Trouble?

Green_Seedlings_Growing-

When staring a garden, nurturing your wee seedlings requires attentiveness, love and some patience. To keep your sensitive seedlings safe and healthy you will need to recognize when they are not well. Here are some signs that your wee ones are in trouble and what might be the culprit:

  1. No germination – Causes could be that it is too cold or hot, growing medium dryed out, seeds were planted too deep or not deep enough, seeds are old, not enough light or improperly stored or seeds rotted in the soil. (damping off disease)
  2. Mold or Moss – Causes could be that there is not enough air circulation or too much moisture.
  3. Decaying or falling over– this could be damping off disease. Damping off disease is a horticultural disease or condition, caused by a number of different organisms that kill or weaken seeds or seedlings before or even after they germinate.  This can be caused by the soil or the containers not being sterilized. Before you reuse your containers be sure to sterilize them! Other causes include not enough space for your seedlings to grow, poor air circulation, too much moisture, low light or cool temperatures.
  4. Stunted growth – is possibly caused by poor nutrients in soil or low temperatures.
  5. Spindly growth – could be caused by overcrowding your seedlings, not enough light or too much fertilizer.
  6. Leaves that curl under–  Could be too much light or too much fertilization.
  7. Pale or discoloured leaves – May be insufficient lighting, too much water, not enough nutrients or fertilizer burn.
  8. Poorly developed roots–  Some causes include low temperatures, poor soil nutrients, poor drainage and compacted soil that doesn’t leave enough air for the roots.

These are just a few things to keep an eye out for when you are germinating your wee ones.  Your seedlings need just the right conditions to grow up to be vibrant plants, so get out there and grow!

 

Succession planting

succesion plantingSuccession planting is an important part of gardening if you want to utilize your space to get as much food as possible. You can avoid situations where the whole crop comes in at once and you will have an ongoing supply of veg throughout the season. It is nice to have a steady supply ready for harvest over a long period and this reduces the risk of crop failure by having another crop ready to  come in.

Here is a sample of some crops that I have successfully succession planted:

  • Cucumbers -every three weeks. I like this so i can have fresh cucumbers and have lots to make into pickles
  • Kale – every three weeks. Kale is prolific. As long as you are trimming it, it will continue to grow. It is nice however to have some fresh baby kale throughout the season.
  • Beets– every two weeks. Mmm beets and beet greens!
  • Green beans– every ten days.
  • Melons – every three weeks
  • Sweet corn- every ten days. There is nothing like fresh organic corn in the summer time!
  • Radish– every week.
  • Spinach – every week. When I have a surplus of spinach I like to blanch and freeze it for the winter months.
  • Carrots, Cabbage, Cauliflower and Broccoli – twice a season. This way you can have a summer crop and some in the fall to store for winter.
  • Basil – every two weeks. A nice way to store extra herbs are in ice cube trays with olive oil… Freeze and re thaw when needed.
  • Tomatoes and peppers can be planted a couple of times as well if you have the space.

Replacing crops that have finished producing with a new crop in the same place is another way to succession plant. Just be sure that you are planting something that works well for the time of year you are planting. For example, plant peas in the spring then cucumber in the summer and Kale in the fall. This way you will get a wider variety of veg in the same amount of space and your vibrant garden will never be empty throughout the growing season. By varying the types of veg that you grow in each succession you will be preventing the depletion of some nutrients. Crop rotation is important so that you are nourishing the soil which will in turn give you higher yields. Also make sure to feed your soil in between planting to keep production high. I like to add a bit of compost to my soil in between and or sometimes watering it with some compost tea.

I use my google calendar to keep track of when I need to plant my next crop… any calendar or journal will work as well for you to keep track of yours. I like to keep a journal of where i am planting what as well, so that I can utilize succession planting from year to year to ensure good crop rotation.

 

Starting a garden

gardenThere are so many wonderful reasons to start your own garden. Sunshine, fresh air, free therapy and the freshest produce around to name a few!

If you are thinking of starting your own garden you will need to find some space that gets at least 6 hours of full sunlight per day. You will also need your garden to have good drainage. So if you have a backyard space then look for a spot in the yard where no puddles remain after a good rainfall. If you are planning to use container or vertical gardening you will need to ensure that there are drainage holes in your containers.

Once you have found the best spot then you get to ask yourself what you need from your garden. Do you want to make a lot of tomato sauce for the winter, then planting tomatoes will be on your list. Do you like having fresh fruit? Then melons or berries will be on your list.

My goals for this year is to grow, harvest and preserve as much food as I can for my family over the winter. Every year my garden gets a little bit bigger, more things added. This year I will add some vertical space to my garden so that I will get higher yields in the space I have and a fruit tree.

One of the easiest gardens to grow is a salad garden. It can be grown just about anywhere and is a great place to start if you have never tried gardening before. Containers and Vertical gardens are great for this type of garden. All kinds of greens, onions, cherry tomatoes, chilies and beans are some ideal veg for this garden.

And let’s not forget herbs. Herbs can very easily be grown in pots and vertically.

Once you have your location and you have an idea of what you would like to plant then you have to get your space ready. You will need to prepare your soil, whether it is tilling and adding compost or prepping your containers with good quality compost. High nutrient, non compact soil is what you are going to need.

Once you have that ready you can then decide moving forward what you need in terms of compost next year. I love composting as it is my give back to Mother Earth for helping me grow beautiful veg for me and my family. You can check out different kinds of composting here.

Next is choosing your veg. If you are new to gardening then I suggest starting with asking yourself, “what will i eat?”  This is a good guideline on what to plant and if you enjoy eating what you grow you will feel more motivated to keep your garden growing.

There is a wonderful community of gardeners out there that will be happy to share seeds, plants and knowledge with you if you shall seek.  In the community where i live there is a couple of seed exchange programs and plant exchanges that you can swap different plants or seed to get some new varieties in your garden.  This is a great place to exchange some seeds if you get too many in a package to use.

You can start your garden from seed or transplants whichever works best for you. I love starting my veg from seed as I save all my seeds from the year before and i love to watch them grow into fruition.

Let’s talk mulch. Mulch is a must if you want a more low maintenance garden. Mulch deters weeds, keeps in moisture and add vital nutrients as it decays. Mulch comes in the form of leaves, wood chips and old weeds that haven’t gone to seed.

Now for watering, fruits and vegetables need a light water every day or two. Once your plants are mature they will need a couple of inches of water per week, more in hotter regions or well drained soil. I have a rain barrel that I water my gardens with as I don’t want to add chlorinated water from the city to my garden.

You will need to harvest and weed your garden regularly. Some crops mature in as early as 20 days after planting, so check them regularly so that you get your harvest before the squirrels, raccoons, skunks or other critters get them. Weeds will shoot right up after an intense rainfall so be sure to get out there and pull them out. I just leave them on top of the soil as mulch. Most of all have fun starting a garden!

Get out of the Grocery store

farmers-market-local-produce-520What is with the grocery stores these days? It is the place we all go to shop for food, but I find that there is little actual food in these stores. Have you stopped to read the labels on some of the products in there? It’s frightening! For me my rule of thumb is, if I can’t read it, it isn’t food and I am not going to be eating it or feeding it to my family.

With all the marketing and clever disguises the food companies assault us with it is no wonder disease is on the rise. We are no longer eating food we are eating food like substances.

So what are our options?  Some people say that eating local and organic is expensive or that they don’t have time to make meals. Have you calculated the cost of being sick lately? A little prep time once a week goes a long way in terms of eating healthy and getting healthy meals out to your family in a timely manner.

Here are some other options for frugal and healthy shoppers, that want to vote with their dollars and get away from the grocery store nightmare.

  • Join a food co-op or CSA (community supported agriculture) -this is a great option a real tangible way to vote with your dollars.  You can signup and receive weekly fresh produce from the people in your community. With co ops, they will require a membership or volunteer time in lieu of payment. Definitely a great alternative to the traditional grocery store.
  • Grow food in your space plant in containers of all kinds, vertical gardening is a wonderful way to utilize space, find a sunny window sill to grow kitchen herbs or turn your backyard into an urban farm!  Not only is gardening cheaper than therapy but you get tomatoes and you know exactly where your food is coming from and what went into it.
  • In season produce– cheaper and nutritionally superior, this is the way to go for healthy and frugal shoppers alike and when it’s local you are helping your community. If you buy too much you can always blanch, freeze, dehydrate or can your extras for the winter months.
  • Buy local– change your shopping habits and buy from your local farmers. You get to know where your food is coming from and get to know and support the people in your community. Find a local farmer here http://croptouring.com/
  • Buy your staples in bulk– buying in bulk quantities reduces the prices to lower or equal to the prepackaged items found in a traditional grocery store.
  • Forage– this is one of my personal favorites as there is so much food/medicine out there that we overlook every day. Lots of greens, berries, fruits and something for every ailment. After all our mother earth is here to sustain us. Don’t forget tho if you are taking from her it is a good idea to give back. I like composting as my giveback to the earth.

With making these few changes we are voting with our dollars and saying no to harmful pesticides, chemicals, gmo’s and artificial processed ingredients. Say no to the traditional way of shopping and get involved with your community at the same time.

 

Vertical Gardening

garden-in-wall Vertical gardening is a wonderful way to make use of your space when growing veg.

If you have raised garden beds like I do for instance, you can utilize some vertical space by adding a short wall the the north side of your garden and growing some of your veg upwards on the south side. Peas, squash, beans can all be trained upwards along the wall or you can add pockets to the wall and grow some micro greens.

You of course can also grow other plants in your vertical garden as well and create absolutely beautiful works of art! I have seen some beautiful wall pieces that incorporate herbs, others with beautiful succulents. I am of course all about the food!

If you are planning on growing food vertically you will need to find a location that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight and you will need to be mindful of watering regularly as with any garden.

You can start your vertical gardens in containers or a raised bed or even directly into the ground. Using trellises and hanging containers you can add addition veg.

Utilizing your vertical space has many benefits including:

  • saving space, you can grow and harvest your veg in space that otherwise would be lost.
  • Easier harvest, veg is easier to reach when it’s ready to pick.
  • Air Circulation, around the plants provides ideal conditions for them to grow
  • Veg is off the ground, this prevents mold and soil borne disease as well as crawling insects.

Starting with your food supply is a great way to help you live more sustainably. Grow food in whatever space you have, whether it is a back yard,  or a patio with containers or vertical gardens or even a community plot is a great place to start! Starting a garden is a rewarding experience and you will be on your way to a more vibrant you!

 

Do you have internal parasites?

The answer is most likely yes. Parasites and worms can enter our systems and sometimes even make us sick. So what natural products can we use to ensure we are vibrant from the inside out?

I have checked out a few, listed below. Some of these can even be grown in your backyard!

garlic2Garlic – a powerhouse of beneficial nutrients. Garlic has been used for years to flavour our food but also as a medicine. Garlic is a wonderful addition to any garden and very easy to grow and keep throughout the winter months.

blackwalnutfruit100_2556Black Walnut– a must have in your medicine cabinet, especially if you have pets. I have a big black walnut tree in the backyard and I make tincture every year. In the spring the dogs, cats and humans all get a 21 day dose of black walnut tincture to ensure we aren’t carrying or giving each other worms.

Cloves– one of the only known sources to kill parasite and worm eggs on the planet. Adding cloves to your black walnut tincture adds a clovesdouble punch to get rid of internal parasites. Now if you live in Canada like I do, you won’t be able to grow cloves in your backyard as this plant grows best in tropical conditions, like those regions surrounding the Indian Ocean. The clove tree is native to the Molucca Islands of Indonesia.

wormwoodWormwood– is a part of the daisy family. Other common names for wormwood include mugwort, artemisia, and sagebrush.

Wormwood is the key ingredient in the famous European beverage Absinthe, and while yes you can grow this in your backyard it is considered a weed to most and can easily be foraged if you know what you are looking for.You can usually smell the plant before you see it and it can cause skin irritation if you are handling it. Wormwood is a perennial plant and it flowers every year. It grows between 30 to 90 cm tall and has small, yellowish flower heads.

It has powerful effects on both mind and body, wormwood has been valued as a medicinal plant since at least 1600 B.C. It has been used throughout history as an antiseptic,  stimulant, tonic, and as a remedy for fevers and menstrual pains.  It has been used to exterminate tapeworm infestations while leaving the human host unharmed.

This herb has been found to cause nerve depression, dermatitis, convulsions, infertility and renal failure if used habitually. You will need to take caution when using this herb.

3 Natural Antibiotics that you can grow in your Vibrant garden!

I don’t know about you but I find it is scary knowing that there are antibiotic resistant super bugs out there. Today i am going to look at what kind of natural antibiotics we can use to help us when we are sick. After all, as Hippocrates said,  “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

GarlicGarlic

Even though garlic is such small vegetable, it packs a huge punch when it comes to antibiotic properties. Garlic also transforms meals into a aromatic, bold and healthy experiences. I have even eaten garlic in ice cream… and it was delicious!

Garlic is a “bulb,” it is a couple of inches in height and diameter and has numerous small separate cloves. You can plant garlic cloves in the fall and cover with straw and it will come up in the spring, it will spiral around and produce beautiful scapes that garlic-scapescan be eaten just like the garlic itself.

When garlic is crushed, chewed or chopped it allows the sulfur containing compounds to mix and create a new compound called allicin. Allicin is very valuable in terms of health benefits. It has been associated with having antibacterial and anticancer properties, along with cardiovascular benefits.

Crushing the garlic and allowing it to sit for 5 – 10 minutes will allow the compounds to interact and create the valuable allicin.

You can purchase dried, powdered and fresh garlic in markets throughout the year, however, fresh is best! And if you are growing it yourself, bundling it and hanging it in a cool spot, it will keep for the year until your new crop sprouts up in the spring!

Echinacea_Prairie_SplendorEchinacea

This is a popular wildflower and garden plant, the purple coneflower as it is also known as, is also a popular herbal products. It has been used to prevent and treat the colds,  influenza and infections. Echinacea is one of the most researched of immunostimulants.

It was also one of the most popular herbs used by Native American Indians. They used Echinacea for coughs, colds, sore throats, infections, inflammations, tonsillitis and toothaches just to name a few.

Some people can experience an allergic reaction to echinacea if they are already allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds or any other members of the daisy family.   

You can also grow this in your vibrant garden and harvest it to make teas, tinctures and compresses.

 

Oregano_02Oregano and the oil of oregano

Oregano… not just a spice for tomato sauce and pizza. This versatile herb has long been used as a medicine as well.

It has been used for respiratory disorders like coughs, asthma and bronchitis. It has also been used to treat gastrointestinal disorders like heartburn and bloating. Other uses include treating menstrual cramps, urinary tract infections and headaches.

Amazing right? Well that is not all!

Oil of oregano is a staple in my medicine cabinet. It is known to be taken orally for parasites, allergies, sinus pain colds and flu. Just a few drops under your tongue is usually enough to do the trick.

The oil can also be used topically to relieve the itch of insect and spider bites as well as to relieve athlete’s’ foot, canker sores and dandruff.  I like to mix it in carrier oil for massages to relieve muscle pain.

All of this and you can grow it in your own backyard! In the fall you can trim it, bundle it and let it dry, then store it in a glass container to have on hand throughout the winter season!

Dreaming of Gardening

 

compost_et_copeaux_de_boisOn a beautiful snowy day i am still thinking about my garden. I think about what i am going to plant next year and where I am going to add fruit trees. I also think about the great compost that i am going to nourish my plants and trees with. This is something i can do for my garden throughout the winter months.

Composting is my way of thanking the earth for her beautiful bounty.

So there is a few ways you can contribute to get the nutrient rich soil your garden deserves!

First is traditional composting.

A balanced compost pile (or compost bin) is the  key to good composting.  There are two main categories for organic inputs in composting, green and brown material

The green material is made up of items high in nitrogen like kitchen scraps, weeds, flowers, grass clippings, and chicken manure. Compost that is high in this green material can cause the pile to become mushy and smell bad. So you want to ensure that you have a 3:1 ratio of brown material to green material in your compost pile.

The brown material is made up from woody and fibrous materials like wood chips, branches,  straw, wood ashes, newspaper, corn cobs and sawdust. Put too much brown material in the compost and you will find it takes much longer to break down.

Water, oxygen and temperature are also key components to your pile. Too much water can cause it to become mucky and too little will slow down the process. Outdoor piles typically only need a sprinkle if it becomes too dry as the extra water will be absorbed by the surrounding earth. Adding brown material in between the green will keep oxygen throughout your pile. If you find that your compost is not getting enough oxygen you can turn it over or give it a few pokes with a pitchfork to keep the oxygen flowing. As for temperature, your compost pile is doing its best when it is between 55 and 65 degrees Celsius.  

Second is Vermicomposting.

Vermicomposting is wonderful!  This consists of red wiggler worms breaking down your organic green material. This is a wonderful solution if you are living in an apartment and don’t have access to a outdoor compost pile or if you live in a city that doesn’t offer compost collection. The rules are pretty much the same as above with the exception of meat. I never put meat into my vermicomposter. I find egg shells to be okay though.

Vermicomposters are easy to make as well. I purchased a large tote with a lid drilled some holes in the sides and filled it with shredded paper a little soil and worms to start. I had a bin in my apartment for a year and found that as long as i kept to the 3:1 ratio i had no problem with the smell.  

The soil you get out of this bin is as good as gold! Red wigglers can eat their weight in food and the compost can be harvested in as little as 8 to 12 weeks!

Third is Bokashi composting

This one was new for me.

Bokashi is a Japanese word that broadly means “fermented organic matter.”

With this system you can compost all kinds of kitchen scraps, including dairy and meat products.

Layering Bokashi bran with your kitchen scraps is a process of using Effective Microorganisms (EM) to reduce food scraps into compost.

Once the bin is full it is set aside for a couple of weeks. You will need to drain the excess liquid off of the bin every couple of days… that is where having a bokashi bin is helpful as it comes with a spout at the bottom just for this.

The liquid that comes from the bin can be diluted and used as a fertilizer or poured full strength down drains to clear them.

The compost breaks down in about two weeks and is ready to be put into your existing compost pile or into a shallow hole dug out in your garden. You will want to be careful that your plant’s roots don’t touch the Bokashi though as it is still very acidic at this stage.

So no matter what you choose you know that you are going to get exceptional compost for you garden. Just another step in creating a vibrant garden and a vibrant you from the ground up!

 

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