In the news there has been talk about water shortages – especially in California. I also wrote about concerns about water and food shortages in a previous post. Conserving water just makes sense but in some cases it is mandatory. Here are few suggestions to help you grow your own food in spite of water restrictions. Add compost to your soil to hold moisture. Compost also provides nutrients and soil organisms. Soil micro organism have been shown to plants obtain water and nutrients from outside their root zone plus provide disease protection. Plant in blocks instead of rows. Bare soil between plants dries out more quickly and gives space for weeds to grow. Mulch your soil. This keeps down weeds and holds moisture in to the soil. Keep mulch about 2 – 3” away from the trunk or stem of plants. Mulch with compost or bark which will add organic matter and nutrients to the soil. My preference is compost alone or compost with bark on top. Using rock creates heat so avoid using rocks or gravel for mulch. Plants such as succulents or other drought tolerant plants may rot if kept too moist so use less mulch or at least keep the mulch farther from those plants. Find out what is already edible in your yard – native plants, weeds, established plants. There may be plants in your yard that you did not know were edible. Check out my book on edible and medicinal plants to know what is already in your yard. Grow plants that can survive with less water. Many Mediterranean herbs including lavender, sage, oregano, rosemary, fennel, and thyme survive on less water. Artichokes, Sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes), Squashes, Goji berry and Okra are all edibles that can get by with less water. Asparagus and Rhubarb once
Keep your pet safe while in your landscape. Pets should be considered when planning and tending your yard and garden (and even houseplants) since some plants are toxic to dogs, cats, and other pets. Organic methods also keep your pets safer. Pesticides on lawn, systemics on roses, and slug and snail baits are just some of the pesticide dangers in the landscape. Especially be careful with dogs since they tend to eat almost anything. Just because we can eat it does not mean our pets should. Because they can eat it does not mean we should. Rhubarb leaves are toxic to humans but chickens do not problems with them. Some plants which are toxic to pets: Grapes and raisins – poisonous to dogs and cats. Damage the kidneys. Avocados – poisonous to most species but especially birds. Damages the heart muscle. Garlic and onions – poisonous to dogs and cats. Damage to red blood cells. Macadamia nuts – poisonous to dogs. Muscle and nervous system problems. Chocolate – poisonous to most species but mostly dogs. Nervous system and heart. Pet Safe Foods – for dogs and cats: Apples Peas Green beans Popcorn – no salt, butter, GMO Carrots Sweet Potatoes Pumpkin (one of my cats loves cooked pumpkin) Zucchini Squash Lettuce Blueberries For more information or if you have a pet poisoning contact the Pet Poison Helpline or ASPCA Poison Control Chickens for pets? Here is a seed mix to grow your own chickens feed! Remember to be careful about pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Most slug and snail bait is deadly to animals – What to do instead
Your yard might be buried under feet of snow or you might have no snow and sunny skies like here in Utah. In either case it really is time to think about what to plant and when. Besides, don’t you have spring fever? In many parts of the U.S. you can begin planting by March. If you have a few inches of snow that you can clear away even in a small area you can go ahead and plant. What you would plant soon would not be likely to be bothered by cold or freezing temperatures that we will still have. Peas, spinach, lettuce, arugula, cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower and perennial herbs such as chives should be fine planted now. First though, you want to do something with your soil. My preference is to add a few inches of compost to the top of your raised beds or even right on the ground – then plant. This gives you some unfrozen ground to plant in, improves your soil, and will provide some nutrients for the plants. I usually plant my peas by March 5. St. Patrick’s Day is considered to be the day by which you should have planted your peas. When the weather is just right the seeds will emerge. It may take a bit longer than usual but the seeds seem to know when the time is right. If you have several feet of snow you might want to consider planting your early crops in pots. Use pots that can withstand the temperature changes. Fiberglass, plastic, and wood usually hold up for a few years at least. Unglazed terra cotta may last one or two seasons. Plant indoors using potting soil (not garden soil) which you have thoroughly watered before planting. Then place your pot outdoors. Don’t leave
Last Saturday I bought a $15 kit to make my own pickled vegetables including pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi. I have been excited to try it! The directions sounded so easy and the samples of kimchi and pickles that I tasted were fantastic. Today I finally had the chance. I used 2 cucumbers, plus a small amount of red sweet pepper, celery, and some cauliflower. For seasonings I used dill seed, black pepper, and garlic. I will know in a few days how it tastes. Can’t wait!
Of course I think the best way to save money on produce is to grow your own. Maybe you are just getting started and aren’t growing much yet. Maybe it is not the garden season and you aren’t growing edible plants as houseplants or don’t have another way of winter growing right now. Maybe you didn’t plant enough to preserve or store some of your harvest. Maybe you would like some produce that you aren’t able to grow in your area. Whatever the reason there are times when some of us would like to purchase produce. Purchasing locally when possible is a good choice. To find farmer’s markets, community supported agriculture, and local growers check here Farmer’s Markets, CSAs, Local Food Another option is Bountiful Baskets where you can choose an organic basket and sometimes some extra items such as breads. Here is an article about Bountiful Baskets.
Yes, it is the time to be thinking about seeds (in case you weren’t already). Planning, Ordering, Planting Think about what you want to grow. What will you eat? What that is new to you would you like to try? Do you write a list last year of what you planted, how much, when, and where? This would be a good time to start for this year. Where do you want to grow it? Outdoors? Indoors? Where outdoors or indoors? When do you need to plant it? Are you starting the seeds indoors? Winter sowing the seeds outdoors? Planting in March, April, or May? Once you know what, how much, where, and when to plant you may be ready to start purchasing your seeds. Soon is a good time. Seeds can be started now for things you want to plant outside in March. Here in Utah March is a great time to plant cabbage and broccoli outdoors. I start some peppers now because even though they like warmer weather peppers tend to be slower germinating and growing than some other vegetables. I start some tomatoes now too so I can plant a few early with protection. I’ll start the rest later to be planted in May after the soil warms up. Lettuce, spinach, arugula, and cilantro are among the herbs and vegetables can be planted from seed outdoors in March because they like the cooler weather. Some sources of heirloom and open-pollinated seeds (so you can save the seeds for replanting if you want to): Seed and Plant Sources