Training Children is Like Training Vines

Emery and I do most of the gardening.  Everyone pitches in when it comes to weeding and harvesting, but the rest of it is done by the two of us.  I’m working on training Jade to love the garden, but I haven’t had a lot of time to spend with her working with our hands in the dirt.  That’s one of my big goals for the spring – to instill my love of gardening in Jade.  She loves the outdoors (and doesn’t mind getting dirty) and I think it will be something she really enjoys.

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Yesterday, Emery and I were training some loganberry and blackberry vines onto the cattle panel trellises in our garden.  (Check out this blog post if you want to learn how to build a cattle panel trellis).

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Training the vines to the trellis involves weaving them in and out of the little squares.

Training Blackberries and Children

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I must be in an introspective mood lately, because just like the incident with the little oak tree, I started to think of all the ways that what we were doing reminded me of parenting and training my children.

1. Training provides more opportunities for growth.  When you train a vine up the trellis, instead of leaving it lying on the ground, you give it more chances to grow.  Likewise with our children, if we train them to go in the right direction, it can expose them to new opportunities that they wouldn’t have found on their own.

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2. Training provides more exposure to sunlight.  When you move the vines up the trellis, it allows the sunlight to reach more of the leaves.  If they all lie in a heap on the ground, many of the leaves end up in darkness, covered by one another.  When we train our children, we should be removing some of the (negative) choices in their lives and allow them exposure to many of the sunny possibilities.

3. Training exposes the weeds.  When we picked the vines up off the ground and started training them up the trellis, we discovered many weeds that were hidden.  When you work on training your children in different areas, it exposes some of the heart issues that they are struggling with.  By exposing them, you can help to weed them out of your child’s life.

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4. Training sometimes results in a few lost leaves.  When you’re weaving the vines in and out of the trellis, sometimes, even if you’re careful, the vine loses a few leaves.  Training your children isn’t always all smiles.  Sometimes there are bruised feelings and hurts involved.  But those minor pains can often produce improvements that you otherwise wouldn’t have seen.

5. Training sometimes requires removing vines from the wrong support.  In the summer, we grow a lot of cucumbers on our trellises.  The cucumbers are really bad about grabbing onto some of the nearby plants (such as tomatoes or peppers) instead of grabbing onto the trellis that we provide.   If I don’t remove them from those plants and train them back to the trellis, it is bad for the tomatoes and bad for the cucumbers.  Likewise, our children if not properly trained, may find the wrong people or activities to cling to.  It is my responsibility to make sure that my children are trained to know the difference between a good and a bad support.

6. Training shows which plants are stiffer and which plants bend more easily.  When training blackberries, there is huge difference between some of the branches.  Some are really thick and rigid and some are softer and more pliable.  I have found that while raising my eight children, the same applies.  Some children are super easy to train and some are a lot more resistant and strong-willed.  It takes a lot more effort (and a gentle hand) with the strong-willed ones, but the results are worth it.

7. Training is best done early, before they go off in the wrong direction.  Emery and I got kind of lazy with these blackberry plants.  We should have been working with them all summer.  We would have lost a lot fewer leaves and the process would have been easier before they dug themselves in and planted new roots.  Training children is always easier if you start when they’re young.  It’s still possible when they’re older, but you’ve got a lot more work to bring them back from the wrong directions they’ve gone.

PJ

Harvesting and Preserving Vegetables

In years past, we have spent many hours canning, dehydrating, fermenting, and freezing our fruits and vegetables.  Lately, the children are eating more and more of the produce straight from the garden, so I find there is less need to preserve.

Strawberries almost always go straight into everyone’s mouth.

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If there are extras, they get brought into the house and cut up and put directly into our goat milk yogurt or kefir.  If you have extra strawberries to put up, our favorite methods are to freeze them in ziplocs or make jam.

We grow sugar snap peas, so they get eaten whole straight from the garden.

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Extras are shelled and frozen in ziplocs for use in homemade chicken pot-pie.

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Lettuce is eaten in large quantities in salad.

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And the rest is fed to the chickens and rabbits.

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Cabbage is shredded for homemade sauerkaut which is a really fun project for the children and a very healthy way to preserve the cabbage.

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The children generally eat all the brocolli straight out of the garden.  They love it!  Any that makes it into the kitchen is steamed and served with dinner.

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Swiss chard is used in our spanakopita casserole recipe.  It is SOOO good!

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Tomatoes are turned directly into tomato sauce and then frozen for use all winter.

Basil is served fresh in tomato salad or it is made into pesto and frozen in ice cube trays for use all winter.

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Peppers are diced and frozen in ziploc bags.  We generally use this all winter for chili or taco soup.

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We also love to use peppers and tomatoes for homemade salsa.

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If you’re new to putting food up, my best advice is to experiment with canning, dehydrating, fermenting, and freezing – and find what works best for you. Preserving your veggies for use throughout most of the winter is a lot of manual labor, but it isn’t difficult.

Before Goat Milk Stuff, I used to preserve it all.  Putting Food By* is the book I started with. Wild Fermentation* and Root Cellaring* are two other books I found helpful.

So start putting up some food, but don’t let it become a burden.  For me, I now preserve what I want and feed the rest to the chickens and rabbits.  And I don’t let myself feel guilty about it!

PJ

 

 

*Amazon Affiliate Link

Perennials in the Vegetable Garden

I am a big fan of perennials because you can plant them once and they come back year after year.  In our vegetable garden, the only perennial “vegetable” that we plant is asparagus.  I love it because it is the first vegetable to come up in the spring and is pretty easy to grow and maintain.

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Rubarb is another perennial, but I’ve always been afraid to grow it in our garden because the leaves are poisonous and my children are too used to eating everything out of the garden.  But someday I’ll add some.

Other than asparagus, we keep perennial berries in our garden – strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and (new to us) kiwi.

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Most of the perennials we grow are actually herbs – chives, rosemary, oregano, sage, lavender, and thyme.  We grow these in our herb garden.

Even though it isn’t a perennial, I will let some of my basil go to seed and it often comes back year after year.

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The other self-sowing annual that we plant in the vegetable garden are orange marigolds.  Marigolds can help repel bugs and the orange color is super cheery and makes me smile (not to mention the fact that it is a Goat Milk Stuff color).  But the best thing about marigolds is that they are edible! I like to add some to salads. They brighten it up and make a wonderful talking point.

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Perennials are a great investment and use of space in your garden.  Do you plant any perennials?

PJ

 

 

The Herb Garden

I love herbs.

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I love to cook with them.

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I love to eat them fresh.

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I love to smell them.

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I love to watch them bloom.

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I love to use them in herbal remedies.

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I even love to use them in soap.

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When it came time to determine where to plant my herbs at the new house,  it was a fairly easy decision. Some of them are duplicated in my dream garden so we have a larger harvest.

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But most of them are planted outside my front door for easy access when I’m cooking.

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I do share my herb garden with some of Emery’s flowers.  It works well because it allows Emery room to plant his flowers and keeps him from complaining about weeding the herb garden.

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We just established this new garden, so it’s still in the beginning stages.  Right now it contains mostly perennials: oregano, thyme, lavender, rosemary, sage, chives, echinacea, and comfrey.  There are also some annuals: curly parsley, italian parsley, and basil.

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In the past we’ve had mints in the herb garden – pepperint, spearmint, and lemon balm.  But I’m tired of containing them, so I haven’t planted them yet.  I do miss having fresh mint, so I’m going to have to figure out a location for it.

If you’ve never done much cooking with fresh herbs, you’ll be amazed at the difference.  Most herbs are very easy to grow and worth some space in your garden.  Let me know if you fall in love with them as I have!

PJ

 

 

The Home Orchard

Having access to our own fruit is absolutely wonderful.  In our orchard we plant not only tree fruit, but berries as well.  At the new house, we’re working on establishing our orchard.  It’s still in the early stages and looks rough compared to my “dream garden“.  But it will get there.

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Afterall, the first apple trees we planted this past fall already have fruit.

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After experimenting over the years with many different tree sizes, we have decided that the “semi-dwarf” tree is our favorite.  It’s big enough to look like a nice tree, but small enough that it is easy to care for and harvest.

In the orchard, we have the following trees: apples, pears, asian pears, cherries, plum, peach, and nectarine.  We’ve purchased most of them online from Stark Brothers.  A few of the trees didn’t survive the winter, and Stark Brothers replaced them.  Overall, we’ve been very happy with the quality of their trees and their customer service.

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We plant berries in both the orchard and the garden.  The berries include: blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, currants, gooseberries, and elderberries.

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All of the trees and berries are planted in a line and like the garden, each line has its own spigot.  Each spigot gets  a black drip hose and is connected to the timer.  Regularly watering fruits and berries really helps them to produce better fruit.

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The chickens are allowed the run of the orchard.  Not only do they eat all the rotten fruit that falls to the ground, but they really help to keep down the bugs in the garden (e.g. japanese beetles) that really mess with the fruit.  This is especially important because we don’t spray our trees with any pesticides.

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One of the most important things that we have learned about having a home orchard is to purchase trees that are highly disease resistant.  We lost several big fruit trees at the old house one year to fire-blight.  It was really sad.  Now we only purchase trees that are resistant to fire-blight and cedar apple rust (another disease we’ve had problems with). Having hardy trees makes a big difference and is worth the extra time and investment.

One other thing we plan to do is to start our bee hives again.  We had them years ago, but stopped when we started Goat Milk Stuff.   I’m hoping to establish a few hives so they can pollinate my fruit trees.

Not to mention that raw honey would be a huge bonus!

PJ

 

 

How To Build a Cattle Panel Trellis

There are a lot of vegetable plants that benefit from being supported.  For our tomatoes, we generally use tomato cages* that are strengthened with t-posts*.  For other vining vegetables and berries, we use cattle panel trellises.  To make the trellis, we pound in* four t-posts.  Then we get a bunch of people to grab the cattle panel and bend it so that it wants to “spring” open against the t-posts*.

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When we first started making these kinds of trellises, we attached* the cattle panel to the t-post (because I was afraid of them hurting somebody if they came loose and sprang back into an unbent shape).  But they’ve never gone anwhere, so we’ve gotten a bit lazy and don’t even bother to attach them anymore.

The vegetables that we have grown on these trellises include: pole beans, peas, cucumbers, watermelons (sugar-baby*), and cantaloupe.   We do support the watermelons and canteloupe as they grow, but the other plants take care of themselves.

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We also grow berries such as blackberries* and raspberries on these trellises (in the below photo the red raspberry plants are in front and swiss chard* is behind).

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Last year, we tried something new – kiwi*.  The kiwi plants survived the winter, so we’ll see if they actually produce any kiwi for us.

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I love having the trellises spanning the beds during the summer.  It’s always fun to walk under them (or lean on them like Hewitt is doing). Depending on what you grow on them, they can create a good amount of shade for your other plants.

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Overall, I love not only the way the trellises help my garden produce better, but I love the way they make the garden look as well!

PJ

 

 

*Affiliate link

Gardening Isn’t Just for Summer

In the past I’ve had a greenhouse.  But to be perfectly honest, I always found it a lot of work and I never enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed gardening the rest of the year.  Right now we just have our outside garden beds and we garden in the Spring, Summer, and Fall.

Gardening season for us begins around my birthday (March 17th).  That is an easy anchor for me to remember that it is time to get the cold weather seeds in the ground.

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These may include any of the following (we change it up slightly from year to year depending on our mood): peas, lettuce, spinach, kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, swiss chard, turnip, parsley, italian parsley, onions, garlic, potatoes.

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This takes up about half of our bed space.  Around Mother’s Day (my next anchor), I plan to get my first warm weather plants in the ground.  These include: tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zuccini, sunflowers, basil, eggplant, green beans, sweet potatoes.

Once the weather starts to get hot, the cold weather stuff needs to be finished off.  So we harvest what is left of them.

Emery is harvesting the peas (which will be shelled and frozen), and tossing the plants to the chickens.

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The lettuce plants become bitter when the weather gets hot so they get pulled up and fed to the rabbits and chickens.

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Once we have cleaned out the cold weather stuff, we plant more hot weather plants in their place.  This primarily includes watermelon and cantaloupe, but also includes green beans and any other random plants we decide we need more of.

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We also make use of trellises and tall plants to help us with the fall garden.  We plant another round of lettuce and kale and peas in the garden in the shade of the sunflowers and trellises.

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These plants will do better being protected from the late sun.

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The main point about the garden is that we start seeding in March and keep on planting until about August or September.  We are always adding new seeds.  Particularly with plants like green beans.  As a family, we prefer bush beans over pole beans, so we plant several rows of bush beans every two weeks all summer long.  This insures that we have a steady supply throughout the summer.

We also harvest all year long.  The asparagus is the first plant up in March or April and we keep on eating until well past the first frost.  Depending on your location (how far north you are), you can eat well out of your garden (without a greenhouse) for much of the three seasons.

Eliot Coleman’s book, Four-Season Harvest*, is one of my all time favorite gardening books and will give you a wealth of information and inspire you as to how long a growing season you can actually achieve.

PJ

 

 

*Amazon Affiliate Link

Rotating Your Vegetables in the Garden

Once we had all of our garden beds built, we had to decide how to lay out the plants within the beds.   We try to spread out our vegetables so we have a little bit of everything everywhere. We also rotate our vegetables and don’t plant them in the same location year after year.

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For example, last year we had sweet potatoes in this portion of one bed:

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So this year we planted lettuce there:

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Where last year there were tomatoes:

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This year we also planted lettuce. (But the lettuce will be followed by green beans once the weather gets hot.)

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There are two main benefits to rotating your vegetables throughout your garden.

1. Rotating Vegetables Balances Soil Fertility.  Different vegetables have different nutrient needs. Tomatoes, for example, require a lot of nitrogen and phosphorus.  So if you plant tomatoes or other members of the nightshade family (peppers, eggplant) in the same spot year after year, the soil will not be properly balanced and will be nitrogen deficient.

By following tomatoes with lettuce and then green beans, it helps to balance the soil needs. The beans in particular will actually add nitrogen back into the soil (although they also require a lot of phosphorus).

Rotating vegetables and adding lots of manure are the best ways I know to make sure my soil stays healthy.  And healthy soil grows vegetables that are very nutrient dense.

2. Rotating Vegetables Prevents Disease and Pests.  Pests and diseases tend to go after plants in the same family.  So by spreading out your tomatoes and peppers, it doesn’t give pests a huge feeding ground of their favorite foods.  It also helps to keep down the spread of disease.

It doesn’t mean you won’t ever see flea beetles or catepillars, but it can help to make them not a major problem.

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To be honest, we don’t give a lot of thought ahead of time to where and how we’re going to plant things.  We just naturally remember where we planted vegetables last year and try to move them to a different spot.

PJ

 

 

The Importance of Building Your Soil

One of the main reasons that I have a garden is so that I can have a reliable source of healthy vegetables for my children to eat.  I have found that even organic vegetables aren’t necessarily grown in nutrient-rich soil.  And if the soil isn’t nutriet-dense, the vegetables grown in that soil won’t be nutrient dense.

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Composting and adding the compost back to your garden soil is a great way to maintain soil fertility.  But it requires a certain amount of patience and a LARGE amount of organic material – especially if you have as big a garden as we do.  For us, the number one best way I have found to maintain my soil fertility is rabbit manure.

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We have a lot of goat manure and chicken manure available to us at all times.  So why do I use rabbit manure?

Because you don’t need to let rabbit manure age before putting it on your garden.

Chicken manure in particular is very “hot”.  That means it is very high in nitrogen.  And while your plants need nitrogen, too much “hot” nitrogen will burn your plants and possibly even kill them.  So it’s not good to add chicken manure to your garden without composting it for at least 6 months to a year.

Again, I’m too impatient for that.

So instead, I let my rabbits do the composting for me.  I feed them lots of clover and other vegetables (which they love).

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Then I send one of the children (in this case Emery) to clean out their run.  One of the great things about rabbits, is that they tend to poop outside.  So we keep their inside with clean shavings and they go outside to poop.  That makes it easy to “harvest” the manure without any bedding in it.

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This manure can be spread directly into the garden.

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Don’t get me wrong, I love snuggling with the rabbits (especially the babies).  But the main reason I keep them is for the benefit they provide to my garden!

PJ

 

 

Weed Control in the Garden

If there is one chore in the garden that causes me stress, it is weeding.  Not the day-to-day weeding, but when the weeds get out of control! In every garden I’ve ever had, at some point throughout the growing season, the weeds got ahead of me.  So when it came to my dream garden, I was determined to do whatever it took to minimize the weeds.

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One weapon in my weed control arsenal was placing the garden in a location where it would get plenty of traffic.  I walk through my garden 4-10 times a day as I go back and forth from the house to the soaproom.  During almost every one of those passes, I do a little bit of weeding.

Taking a “small bite” at a time keeps the weeding very manageable.

And then usually once a week or so (depending on how often it is needed), we all go out as a family and weed together for about an hour.  With all ten of us working, the weeds don’t stand a chance.

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So the weeding in the garden beds are usually well taken care of.  But in the past, it has always been the weeds in the aisles that tend to take over my garden.

Over the past twenty years of gardening, I think I have used everything (short of chemical weed killers) to keep the weeds under control in the aisles. I have used plastic, mulch, cardboard, shingles, tarps, wood, bricks, fabric.  You name it, I’ve tried it.  Eventually, the weeds always win – as you can see in my heavily mulched herb garden at the old house.

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With my dream garden, I was determined to win the battle once and for all.  Concrete was my solution.  All of the aisles within and around the garden are covered in concrete.

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As of yet, not a single aisle weed in sight!

PJ

 

 

How To Water Your Garden the Easy Way

I grew up in  New Jersey – the “Garden State”.  We always watered our garden.  But when I moved out to Indiana, I was shocked that few people watered their gardens.  My neighbor (an avid gardener) let his garden die the summer we had a drought rather than water it.

So if you don’t water your garden, this isn’t the post for you.  But if you do… this is how I handled the water in my dream garden. While we were constructing the beds, we laid down blue water lines to all of the beds.

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These come up through the bottom of each bed and are attached to a spigot.

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Each spigot in each bed gets a black “drip” hose.

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During the summer, the spigots are all left in the “open” position.  They are all connected to a central location that has a timer.  The timer is set so that the water goes on in all of the garden beds for 30 minutes to one hour (depending on how rainy it has been) every morning.

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Sometimes it is rainy and the watering is unnecessary.  We try to remember to turn the timer off, but we often forget.

When we plant something new in the garden (such as the sweet potatoes below), we can turn the hose on so it gets some extra water.

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We generally water every morning before the sun rises.  This allows the water to absorb into the ground and not evaporate away.  Then when the sun comes up, it dries out the plants (if they even get wet) to make sure that they don’t get moldy or rot.  The bottom of each bed is rock, so the water can drain away from the beds as well.

The blue water lines were all buried in the concrete aisleways.  They were  not buried below the frost line, so every Fall, we have to drain the lines for the winter so nothing freezes.

This is just one more example of how I simplified my garden maintenance.  Small and steady watering helps ensure a bountiful garden harvest!

PJ

 

 

How To Construct a Garden

Jim and I have built many, many raised beds in our time.  But for my “dream garden”, we had our contractor do the work!  First we decided to make use of a low spot that was very conveniently located, but not good for much else.

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Brandyn broke out the spray paint and we talked about how wide the beds should be and where they should be located.

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A lot of “thinking time” went into making sure everything would work out the way we envisioned it.

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Lucky was amazing and squeezed the garden bed construction into the middle of the house construction.  He knew how badly I wanted to get some vegetables growing! (Ok, I might have reminded him of it daily. LOL)

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I know some of the construction guys thought we were nuts as we planted our seeds and seedlings during the middle of construction.  They never knew what they would find growing when they returned the next day!

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Hewitt was a regular visitor and would hang out with Brandyn for as long as Brandyn could put up with him!

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Once the garden beds were in, they were able to build the retaining wall so they could get ready to build the chicken/rabbit house.

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And then the fun work of building all the concrete walkways and steps began.

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It took a LOT of guys to  move all that concrete into the aisles and get the concrete stamped before it dried.

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This is the walkway to get us into and out of the garden area.  The tunnel is for the chickens so they can go from one pasture area into the orchard.

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This walkway just “dead-ends” into a drainage culvert that goes underneath our driveway.

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There was a LOT of labor and expense that went into my garden.  My estimate is that with what we would otherwise spend on vegetables, it will pay itself back in about 10-12 years.  And that does not include any of the lifestyle and health benefits that come from the garden, not to mention the joy.

To me, that is immeasurable!

PJ

 

 

How to Make Your Garden Convenient

I have gardened for most of my life.  It’s something I love and something I teach my children to love. Right now, the kids (especially Emery) do a lot of the work in the garden.  But when I was designing my dream garden, I wanted to make sure that I would be able to maintain it myself, even after the children have grown.  Having the garden in the proper location was important. But I also need the garden to be convenient to use.

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When designing the garden, we considered the following convenience factors:

Length of the beds.  Right now we have a total of ten garden beds. I did not want the beds to be too long so that it took a while to walk around them.  I also didn’t want them to be too short, because it is more economical to build longer beds.  We ended up with several different sizes ranging from 12 feet to 28 feet long.

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Width of the garden beds. Again, the wider the beds, the more economical they are to build, but anything exceeding four feet becomes really difficult to reach into the center.  So we made sure to keep the dirt portion at no more than 4 feet wide.

Height of the garden beds. Raised beds are so much easier on your back.  And if I feel that way at my age, I know it will only become more pronounced as I get older.  Because we built the garden on a sloping hillside, the beds are taller on one side than the other.  If I had more money, I would have made the beds another row of bricks taller, but in a money-saving effort, they are where they are and I’m pretty happy with them.  I also figure that I can always build them up another row in the future if my back demands the change.

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Proximity to the Chickens.  I wanted the chickens to be close to the garden for two reasons. First, because we throw our weeds and old plants and bad vegetables to the chickens.  (Remember when Greyden prepared the garden for winter last fall?) So having them close is convenient.

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But even more importantly, we designed the chicken run to extend around the garden so that the chickens could keep down the bugs.  Having the chickens near makes a big difference in how many pests we experience in the garden.

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To get the chickens into the orchard and on the back side of the garden, we had to create a tunnel under the garden walkway.  I admit I was a little nervous about the chickens being willing to use it, but they do so without any difficulty or hesitation.

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Proximity to the Rabbits.  Having the garden close to the rabbits was also essential because like the chickens, we share a lot of our produce with the rabbits.  But even more important is the proximity to their manure.  The rabbit manure for the garden is the main reason that we have rabbits.  So having it close is a lot more convenient.

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Water Access.  The other main convenience factor was an easy way to water the garden.  I’ll be discussing that in detail in a future post.

Tomorrow I will share how the garden was actually constructed.

PJ

 

 

Choosing the Garden Location

I have lived and gardened in many different homes over the years.  And what I have discovered, is that where you choose to locate your garden is essential to how well you take care of your garden.  The adage, “Out of sight, out of mind” applies to your gardens.  So when we moved to the new house, it was imperative that we locate the garden where it would get a lot of attention.

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After a LOT of thinking, talking, and planning, we decide to locate the garden between the house and the soaproom.

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Every day,  Jim and I walk through the garden on our way to and from the soaproom.  The children do as well unless they are riding their bicycles on the driveway.  Passing through the garden regularly affords us a chance to pay attention to the garden to see what is needed.  It also gives us a chance to do some weeding and garden maintenance.

But mostly, it allows us a chance to eat.

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Every time I walk through, I grab something to eat.  A month ago it was lettuce or parsley or kale. Then it was strawberries.  Now it is sugar snap peas.  Soon it will be cherry tomatoes.  In fact, cherry tomatoes are quite often my breakfast during the summer.  I probably never would have thought to have cherry tomatoes for breakfast except for the fact that I walked by them on my way to the soaproom every morning last summer.

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So if you can locate your garden in a high foot traffic area, you (and your garden) will benefit from the proximity.  You will notice when the weeds are taking over.  You will notice if you need to send the children after all the caterpillars.  And you will notice that ripe cherry tomato that is calling your name!

PJ

 

 

10 Reasons Gardening is Worth Your Time

I’ve posted a lot of photos of my garden (which I consider my “dream garden”) on Facebook. It’s pretty impressive (if I do say so myself) and people always want to know more.  So I’ve put together a comprehensive series on gardening that I’m hoping will answer everyone’s questions.

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Our family devotes a lot of time to gardening.  We always have.  Afterall, gardening takes work.   And quite often, it takes a lot of work.  So the first question becomes, is gardening worth your time?

To me , the answer is a definite “Yes”.  But if you need some convincing, here are my top 10 reasons why gardening is worth your time.

1. Gardening Allows You to Enjoy Organic Food.  There are so many pesticides used in the American food chain.  And organic food can be rather expensive or difficult to find.  By growing your own food, you can guarantee that you are keeping it healthy and pesticide-free.

2. Gardening Teaches Your Children Where Food Comes From.  In today’s culture, most children (let alone adults) do not understand how food is grown.  They believe meat and eggs and vegetables and fruit come from the grocery store without any concept of what is involved to actually produce or grow the food.  Connecting our children to where our food originates is an important part of giving them a healthy relationship to food.

3. Gardening Motivates Your Children to Enjoy Fresh Vegetables.  Nothing tastes better than sun-warmed strawberries picked right from the garden. When your children are able to go straight to the garden and eat vegetables and herbs they pick themselves, the vegetables will naturally taste sweeter (because the sugars haven’t converted to starch).  Helping to grow the vegetables themselves will often (but not always) motivate even picky eaters to eat their vegetables.

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4. Gardening Saves You Money.  Building, seeding, and maintaining a garden does take some money.  But it is a lot less than what it would cost you to buy all those vegetables – especially if you plant some expensive fruits like raspberries and blackberries.

5. Gardening Reduces Your Stress Level.  I love to go out and weed the garden in the late evening or early morning when the sun isn’t beating down on me.  I set myself a certain section to do and I do it.  I don’t think of anything stressful, I usually let my mind wander or sing  to myself.  And when I’m done, there is a huge sense of satisfaction that comes from seeing a weed-free area.

I would caution you to know your limits when you garden.  Most people create a garden that is too big for them to maintain.  And then their garden becomes a source of stress.  Don’t let this happen to you.  Start small.  It is better to have a small, well-maintained garden, than a large one that is over-grown with weeds.  You would be amazed at how much you can grow in a 4 foot by 4 foot square*.

6. Gardens Can Save You Time.  Maintaining the garden does take time, but I save so much time over the summer in not having to run out to the grocery store.  I can simply send the children out to the garden to harvest whatever I need to cook with.

7. Gardening Improves Your Health. We live in a stressful world where too many people are overweight, out of shape, and spend too much time indoors.  Gardening gets you the benefit of being out-of-doors where you have access to lots of healthy sunshine.  It also is a great form of exercise and helps you to get the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables into your diet.

8. Gardening Allows You to Share.  If you know people who are struggling financially, sharing your garden produce is a great way to help them without injuring their pride.  And even if they’re not struggling financially, many people love to be blessed with fresh tomatoes or zucchini bread made with zucchini from your garden.

9. Gardening is Better for the Environment.  You’ve heard the admonition that eating locally is better for the environment because it requires less energy than transporting vegetables across the country (or even globally).  It is hard to eat more locally than getting your food out of your own backyard.

10. Gardening is Fun. There are many times that I enjoy working alone in the garden.  But there are just as many times that the whole family works together.  We sing songs, share stories, and have fun working side-by-side.  And the children think it is so much fun to go out and harvest food like sunflower seeds themselves.

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So those are just some of the reasons that I think gardening is worth your time.  This is a 14 part series on gardening. Tune in tomorrow as I talk about how we decided where to locate our garden.

PJ

 

 

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