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Know When to Quit

March 26th, 2014

“A gracefully executed quit is a beautiful thing, opening up more doors than it closes.”

Kio Stark – Don’t Go Back To School: A Handbook for Learning Anything

5x5challenge wide
Today’s 5×5 Garden Challenge lesson is all about quitting or giving up on plants when the time has come!  As a gardner, you have to learn how to give up on something in the garden. If your tomatoes are starting to get blighted you must pull them up and dispose of them. If your lettuce is starting to bolt away it goes. Be ruthless about pulling plants that are past their prime and plant something else in their stead.
spinach harvest 2
This can be tough, especially if they start to bolt or get diseased before you get a harvest.  Learn to recognize the signs of bolting, plants sending up vertical growth, flower buds forming, bitterness, and others depending on the plant.   If a plant becomes diseased and it looks like it won’t pull through, pull it out!  You don’t want to risk disease spreading to other plants.  If one particular plant isn’t thriving while all the other are – away it goes.  Learning to be ruthless in the garden will save you lots of heartache.
bolting cabbage 2
This is something I always stubbled with in the beginning when I only had a small garden space. I wanted to eek a little more out of everything, but instead I ended up with vegetables that weren’t great and I wasted valuable time that could have been used for another crop.

Do you ever have issues pulling plants that are past their prime?

5×5 Garden: Keep Learning

March 19th, 2014

One of the most important parts of gardening is to be observant and to never stop learning.  You should never allow your gardening knowledge to stagnate, things should never be done exactly the same way year after year.  You should be trying new things, with failures and successes.  Ultimately, gardening isn’t really about plants, it’s about you and what you gain through the experience. So what are some great places to learn?
One of the best ways is to chat with other gardeners, they can be a wealth of information. I haven’t met a gardener yet that hasn’t been willing to talk about gardening.
Kitchen Gardening Books 1
Reading is also a fantastic resource, the library will be you friend and help save you a pretty penny. I read just about any kind of book about gardening, from garden design to growing vegetables, you can learn something from just about every book.
mushroom class 2
Workshops and classes can be a fantastic resource. Lots of local libraries and garden clubs have workshops throughout the winter. Check your local University extension for workshops and classes as well, they can be fantastic resources.
Kitchen Gardening Books 6
I have been lucky to be able to learn from all these ways, one isn’t any better than the other, they’ve all been tools that have helped me become a better gardener. Of course I should also mention that blogs are great ways to learn – especially since you’re here learning about gardening!

What’s your favorite way to learn more about gardening?

Patiently Waiting

March 12th, 2014

As I was thinking about what to write about for the 5×5 Garden Challenge post this week, I realized I don’t really have much.  I’m patiently waiting for it to thaw out.  This forecast isn’t helping, snow, and lots of it.
Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 8.27.52 PM
I am seeding things indoors, but nothing for the 5×5 Garden. What I need to do it get out my seeds and plan out where I’m going to be planting things when it finally does thaw. Here’s my post from last year about planning your garden.

Is the big winter storm going to be affecting your garden? Or are you happily soaking up sun in the South?

Should You Start Your Own Seeds?

March 5th, 2014

It’s Wednesday, that means it’s 5×5 Garden Challenge Day.  As I was starting seeds this past weekend, I thought newbie gardeners might wonder if they should start from seed or buy plants from a local greenhouse instead.
I’d have to say that perhaps the best place to get seeds and plants is from a local gardener.  If you happen to know someone that has a beautiful vegetable garden, chat with them.  I’m always giving away seedlings to local friends for their gardens.  You may end up with a great new friendship and a few lovely plants for your garden.  They will also be a great resource for your new gardening efforts.
Frost Kissed Seed Tin from Peaceful Valley 5
If you don’t have a friendly local gardener to get plants from, I’d recommend direct seeding a few things and buying a few plants as well. Some things, like beans, peas, and zucchini are easy to start from seed, so go ahead and buy seed for those.  They are also direct seeded in the garden, so you won’t have to worry about buying seed starting supplies.  The seedlings are also easy to differentiate from weeds, so you don’t really have to worry about accidentally pulling one of your seedlings while weeding!
Tomatoes are easy to start from seed, buy you might not get the timing quite right.  Plus you might want to try a few different varieties in your garden.  It’s much easier to buy a few plants at the greenhouse and purchase the seed and supplies to start your own. I’d recommend finding a small independent greenhouse nearby to see what kind of selection they have. Most likely you’ll be able to find tomatoes, peppers and herbs there.
Another reason to buy plants is because of the number of seeds in the packet. If you only want two tomato plants, you’ll end up with a bunch of unused seeds. They will remain viable for a while if stored in the right conditions, but you’ll have to find a place to keep them. You might also not end up liking the variety you grew or you might want to try a new variety the next year.
Another reason to buy seeds is because you can get a jump on the growing season. Most often greenhouse will have lettuce seedlings very early in the season. You can buy those, plant them in your garden and have lettuce ready to harvest in a few weeks. After you harvest the lettuce you can go back to the greenhouse and purchase tomato seedlings to plant in their place. Learning how to time starting seeds can be a bit trick for a newbie.
Starting from seed isn’t difficult, but there is a greater risk of failure if you have never done it before.  You also need to purchase a few supplies to do it, soil being the most important.  If you are interested in starting your own download my free Seed Starting 101 e-book (see the link in the sidebar).
seed starting 101 cover image
I don’t want to discourage anyone from starting all their plants from seed the first year if they want to.  Jump right in if you want, you can always find plants easily enough if things don’t go quite as planned, and you may end up with fabulous plants and a great gardening experience!
first raised bed in the garden
My first edible garden consisted of two 4×10 raised beds. All of the plants in them that first year were purchased at a local greenhouse. The following year all my seedlings were grown in my basement. Do what you want to do and what you have time to do.

As a newbie, are you planning on buying plants, starting from seed or both? As an experienced gardener, do you have any advice for newbies when it comes to finding plants for their first garden?

5×5 Challenge: What to Grow?

February 19th, 2014

Last year my choices for the 5×5 Challenge were easy, I was using the Rainbow Kitchen Garden Collection from Renee’s Garden. This year I plan on trying different vegetables. As a beginner, you may wonder how to choose which vegetables to grow when you only have a small space?
garden planning
First, you have to look at what you like to eat. If you hate zucchini, don’t grow it. If you love using fresh herbs, fill your garden with fresh herbs.  If you hate salad, don’t grow lettuce, plant basil instead.
Second, grow vegetables that mature quickly so you can make the most of your space. As a beginner, you’ll enjoy the garden much more if you’re harvesting vegetables often. Lettuces can be a great beginning vegetable, though they can be susceptible to slugs and other pests. Growing something like potatoes that are planted in spring and aren’t harvested until late summer isn’t the best option for your garden space.
catalina_spinach 1
Third, grow vegetables that maximize your space. For example, even if you love broccoli, it’s not really the best choice when you only have a small space. It takes a few months to reach harvest and only provides one head. Garden peas are the same, they mature in about 60 days, but it takes a lot of pods to make a bowl of peas.  You’re better off growing something like lettuce and herbs that reach maturity faster and will provide more harvest from the same space. Some vegetables and herbs will also grow back after being harvesting, thus allowing two or three harvests from the same space.
fresh cilantro
Fourth, grow what will save you the most money. If you can buy a head of local broccoli for a few dollars there’s no point in growing it when you can grow a few pounds of lettuce or herbs that would cost you much more to buy. Zucchini is very inexpensive to buy when it’s in season, spinach is much more expensive to purchase.  I grow a lot of cilantro because we really enjoy it and it’s expensive to buy. Growing it allows me to save lots of money, I also love that it grows back after cutting and will seed itself down from year to year.

Which vegetables would you recommend to a newbie as quick to mature? 


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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.