Edible Container Garden: A recap, a few FAQs and a how-to

This is a sponsored post written by us on behalf of The Home Depot.

Today we’re wrapping up our edible container garden series with a recap, a how-to and answering a few FAQs.

In every gardening class we’ve ever taken, the first thing the teachers say is “make sure your garden is close to your house.  The more you see it, the more you care about it, the better your output will be.”  But did we listen??

Jeanne’s been pretty successful growing food in some raised beds.  But they are deep in her backyard.  And Abby’s abundant greenhouse is at the far edge of her property.  So while we’ve been “lucky” to have success despite the distance from our backdoors, both of us were looking for a way to bring some of our veggies a little closer to the home.  And container gardening brings fresh herbs and lettuce right outside our kitchen doors.

With food prices so high and plenty of empty patio space, we both feel it’s a convenient and cost effective way to increase our garden output this year.

Of course, we wanted the right containers.  And sometimes, it’s easier to figure out what the right container is by seeing what’s available, then going home and dreaming about it before formulating the plan.  So last week we headed to Home Depot to look around and figure it out.

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Then we braved the snow (yes, snow, on April 20th) and went back to the Garden Center to actually get our pots, soil and seeds.  (We were very fortunate to make it out  of the Garden Center still friends as we were both eying the same set of pots!  Good thing there was more than one set available.)

Two days later, in true Montana Spring fashion, the weather was beautiful and we were able to get together and finally plant stuff!

Frequently Asked Questions:

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Which type of soil is best?

Abby here.  I must admit, up until a few days ago I was pretty satisfied with using Organic Choice Potting Mix in my garden beds.  So I won’t bash it because it’s a totally viable choice and, I should say that we’ve been pretty darn successful growing food up to this point.  BUT thanks to Jeanne I now know there are some easy, even better, and cost effective ways to get soil.

Because Jeanne makes her own potting soil.  She uses a blend of organic compost (that she either buys or gets from her compost bin), peat moss and a little vermiculite (all available at HD).  So easy.  And so much less expensive when you’re filling a lot of raised beds and or containers.

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So we put together a short video that shows exactly how it’s done. Check it out HERE!

And don’t let the word vermiculite scare you off like it did me (Abby).  I thought it was a fancy, hard to find thing, but turns out its just a very fine natural stone-like substance sold at most garden stores, including Home Depot.

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What is the difference between conventional, organic and heirloom seeds?

  • Heirloom seeds are simply seeds that have been passed down for generations.  They haven’t been tampered with or modified in any lab in any way.  They’re generally open-pollinated and created by nature.  (And this is a good thing!)  The one downside to heirloom seeds is that they are a little more “fragile” in that they are more susceptible to insect infestations and climate issues.  Nothing that can’t be overcome.  And if you want the tastiest fruit and veggies, heirloom is the way to go.
  • Organic seeds are similar to heirloom ones in that they are true seeds.  But some of them are hybrids.  Hybrids that could and do happen in nature, but can also happen in a lab.  Unlike conventional seeds, organic seeds are not genetically modified with genes that cross species, nor are they injected with viruses, or with anything that couldn’t happen in nature.
  • And then, of course, there are conventional seeds.  Which we avoid like the plague.  There’s just no way to know what genes or viruses or insecticides or fungicides are genetically altered or added to the seeds.  Sure, many of them are drought-resistant, insect-resistant, disease-resistant.  And that can be a major draw.  But for us … we’ve just seen and read too much information about how use of GM foods may be related to higher rates of autism, ADHD, Parkinson’s Disease, increased allergic-tendencies, etc.

At the end of the day, seed choice is going to have an impact on your successful growing.  You want to get viable seeds.  You don’t want to pay a lot of money for them.  And you want food that’s going to nourish your family that you will actually eat!

Look at the veggies you buy (at the store and and at the restaurant) and consider planting what you’re going to enjoy.  We suggest finding seeds that are developed locally, that are going to grow in your climate, and that is going to make you happy to feed the food to your family.

Whatever you decide, we’re psyched you’re growing food!  Yay gardens!

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How do you make a raised bed? 

There are so many ways to go about making a raised bed.  People build raised beds from old railroad ties.  They use old tractor tires.  Some use concrete slabs or bricks.  We’ve seen beds out of stone or rocks.  You can use what you have on-hand or buy a kit.

The only real issue to consider is:  Is it safe?

Old railroad ties look awesome, but they can leach oil and carcinogens into the soil that’s going to be growing your veggies.  Same with old tractor tires.  Do you really want to eat veggies that come from potentially poisoned-dirt?

So whatever you decide, our recommendation is to make sure that whatever is touching your soil be untreated, unpainted, unstained and uncontaminated.

If you’re going to build a 4ft x 4ft raised bed with raw materials, this is how Jeanne went about building hers:

We used two 8 ft 1″x 12″ boards, each cut in half.  We screwed them together to form a box (how’s that for descriptive writing?), stapled some weed liner to the bottom and placed them right on top of the grass in our backyard.  The boxes each cost about $24 in raw material.  Then we filled them with our own potting soil (see video above about how it’s made) and got to planting.

We could have gone more complicated, with fancy edges or corner-spikes to hold them into the ground.  But after a couple of years, we’re thrilled with the food that we can grow enough veggies to feed our family of four for the summer and into the fall, very happy with how they are holding up and even happier that we didn’t go overboard spending hundred of dollars on “extras” that we didn’t need.

 We could really go on and on here … get us going on the garden and it’s apparently hard to stop us from rambling!  But we’d love to hear from you all.  

What advice do you have for us all about growing a successful organic garden?  

Got more questions?  Be sure to check out the Garden Club Community Forum or ask us and we’ll try to find the answer!

It’s home improvement time, and The Home Depot has everything you need to #DigIn for Spring. No matter what projects you want to tackle, they have great values on all you need. They’re ready to help you with renovation ideas and expert advice, too.

Get over $300 in email exclusive savings each year, sneak peeks on new products, monthly lawn & garden ideas for your region and access to The Home Depot’s gardening experts.
Click HERE to join the world’s largest garden community today! Or go to http://gardenclub.homedepot.com/ to see some of the many benefits of membership.

This is a sponsored post written by us on behalf of The Home Depot.

it’s time to plant your seeds!

This is a sponsored post written by us for The Home Depot.

Two days ago we showed you the beautiful new containers we got for gardening this year.

And now we’ve got to get them planted.

Because if you know anything about gardening, we just don’t want to waste any daylight!  Abby’s using her pots to add color and character to her already gorgeous greenhouse (that’s Jeanne gushing … not Abby … Abby doesn’t gush about her own stuff.  She’s just not that gal).  So she’s transplanting a lemon tree in one.  A LEMON TREE!  IN MONTANA!!!  No, she’s not crazy.  That greenhouse of hers is one toasty little building and gives her a climate that’s basically two zones warmer than ours.

So yesterday, that beautiful little lemon seedling got it’s new home …

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And she’s got tomatoes going into another one.

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Ohh, and a few basil starts in a terra cotta pot purchased at the Garden Center last year.  This will live in the kitchen for bit longer till it’s warm enough for the deck.

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Jeanne’s a little less organized.  She’s got lettuce going into one.  Chives in another.  But there’s not a whole lot to show for it yet since they are just seeds in soil.

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If you need a little more inspiration, be sure to check out THIS Pinterest page. Also this week, Jeanne’s working on her raised beds.

A few weeks ago, her stepdad was visiting and every other minute day he would say “you better get those peas in the ground.”  (It was almost annoying … but, like Jeanne, her stepdad grew up in a rural agricultural part of New Jersey where if you want sweet peas, you have to get them in the ground the first week in April.)

Now, a few weeks later, even here in the Big Sky State, it is time to get the peas into the raised beds.  So this week, Jeanne’s planting peas.

And broccoli.

Cauliflower.

Kale.

And  spinach.

But it’s not without some trepidation.  Because in Montana, we still have night temperatures dropping below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.  So protecting the seeds somehow is important.  For Jeanne, that means planting seeds and protecting them with some spun row cover.

In fact, if you’re not planting in raised beds (or in a greenhouse or cold-frame), you might not be able to plant yet.  You’ve got to be able to work the soil with relative ease (aka, it’s not frozen anymore) if you want your seeds to germinate.  And it’s really only time to plant cold-season veggies if you live as far north as we do.

But if you’re in a more temperate environment … get those seeds in the ground!  Especially if you’re like us, and looking to guarantee that your food is organic, locally grown, really good for you, and a totally satisfying experience.

If you do have a greenhouse … it’s time to start transplanting some seedlings.  Abby’s moving tomatoes.

And beets.

And peppers.

Onions.

Melons.

She’s even planting sweet potatoes this year.

It’s amazing what you can plant when you create the right environment.  And Jeanne’s only a little envious.

So let’s talk transplanting …

We both use a lot of peet pots (aka eco-friendly fiber pots) for our seedlings.

When it’s time to transplant (into bigger pots or into the raised beds or garden or greenhouse), we’ve heard that you can plant the whole peet pot directly into the ground so long as it’s fully covered by soil.  Now, this may just be our experience, but we have both found that if you leave the peet pots on, they do not breakdown all the way and can limit your root growth, which limits the size and viability of your plants.

But we still use the fiber pots.  Why?  Because they are SUPER EASY to use in transplanting.  All you need to do is make sure they are well-watered and then peel them off from around the plant before putting your root ball into the ground.

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See how easy that is?  And a major benefit of doing it this way is that you won’t disturb your root system as you might having to dig the ball out of a plastic container (although we’d be lying if we told you we didn’t use these, too … we use what’s available because our goal is to grow the most plants we can before they have to get moved outdoors).

After your seedlings been successfully moved into your new container (or raised bed or garden or greenhouse or cold frame), it’s a good thing to add a little more soil or compost or your favorite fertilizer (when Jeanne transfers her tomatoes, she adds a bit of bonemeal to to the soil mixture to increase the nitrogen for juicy red tomatoes).

Then water. Water. Water.  Make sure your new transplant is well-hydrated.  If you’ve just put it in a new pot, be sure to harden it off before leaving your little munchkin outside all the time.  That sweet little girl needs time to get used to the harshness of nature after being all cozy next to the heater in your sun-room 🙂

transplant tomato 2Now what?

Well … if you’re Jeanne and Abby … you start dreaming of the Raw Garden Salsa you’re going to make come mid-summer.

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Or the pesto pizza that’s just around the corner.

green pizzaAnd the heirloom tomato sauce that you’ll be canning for all the pizzas and pasta you eat next winter.

Maybe you’re even thinking about attempting a watermelon & heirloom tomato sorbet … just for the heck of it.

Anyway, that’s what you do if you’re us …

What’s going in your garden this year??

It’s home improvement time, and The Home Depot has everything you need to #DigIn for Spring. No matter what projects you want to tackle, they have great values on all you need. They’re ready to help you with renovation ideas and expert advice, too.

Get over $300 in email exclusive savings each year, sneak peeks on new products, monthly lawn & garden ideas for your region and access to The Home Depot’s gardening experts.
Click HERE to join the world’s largest garden community today! Or go to http://gardenclub.homedepot.com/ to see some of the many benefits of membership.

This is a sponsored post written by us on behalf of The Home Depot.

organic container garden – choosing the right container

This is a sponsored post written by us on behalf of The Home Depot

Ahhhhh … the joy of Spring in the Big Sky State.

Sunday afternoon was so beautiful.  Sunny.  Almost 50 degrees.

Jeanne and her kiddos spent the day outside planting in a flower-bed and digging out a new spot for sunflowers.

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Abby played in the greenhouse with her littles.

And we had plans to meet at Home Depot to buy our containers for the container gardening project we’re working on.

But an hour before we were supposed to meet, the temperature dropped nearly 20 degrees to 28.

The wind picked up.

It started to snow.

So we were glad we went in with a plan because the Garden Center is outdoors.  And no one was dressed for the weather.

We had done some re-con last week, so we quickly found a beautiful set of cobalt blue stone containers that are glazed only on the outside … and we almost fought about who was going to get to bring it home.  Thankfully, a Garden Center employee was there to referee (and to point out there was another set on the tippy top shelf that he could bring down for us).

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Crisis averted!

We laughed about it later … because we went in looking for what we thought were different things.  But even though Abby’s plan for the pots involve sweet potatoes, lemon trees and strawberries, and Jeanne’s plan is to grow herbs and salad fixin’s outside her kitchen door, our needs were really similar.

We wanted containers that were eco-friendly … made of a “natural” compound that wouldn’t leach chemicals into our food.

We wanted something pretty that offered a pop of color to some currently monotone spaces.

We wanted containers big enough to develop strong root systems.

And we wanted sturdy vessels that could weather the extremes of our Montana days.

Apparently, there’s a lot to think about when considering a container garden!  When you’re figuring out what you need, these are some of the things to think about:

What are you going to grow?

Herbs?  Vegetables?  Flowers?  These questions influence the size of your containers.

Sugar baby watermelons (the only container-friendly watermelons we know of) or tomatoes need a big one to develop a strong root system (6 – 18 inches deep, 18-24 inches in diameter).

Basil or Thyme do best in pot that’s at least 3-6 inches in diameter.

A container to grow lettuce in can be pretty shallow, because their root systems aren’t very deep.

Where do you live and what type of container will you use?

Do you live in Florida or Texas and want your pots in a sunny spot on your patio?  You might want to avoid metal containers as they will heat up and could potentially burn the roots of your plants.  They’ll also require a LOT more watering.

Unglazed terra cotta is generally a wonderful choice for organic and eco-friendly gardening.  It reduces the amount of water you need, it keeps the roots cool and happy.  But if you live in a place like Montana (which holds the world record for the greatest temperature change in a 24-hour period … from minus 54 degrees to 49 degrees … 103 degrees!), you might want to skip out on the terra cotta because that same ability for it to absorb moisture can also cause it to crack in extreme weather shifts.

Untreated wood is another great organic choice.  Like terra cotta, it will keep the roots warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot.  And it requires a little less watering and maintenance.  And when it’s cared for will weather beautifully.  Abby has had her wooden half-barrels for more than four years and they are still gorgeous.  With the help of a trellis of tomato cage, there are great for growing, well, tomatoes.

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If you have the room, raised beds are always a great option.  As with the wooden barrels above, using untreated wood is key.  Jeanne has a few, and will be adding more this year.   Raised bed garden kits are a great option, too!

Then, of course, there are choices like fiberglass and resin.  We haven’t been able to find out much in the way of studies to confirm their viability in organic gardening.  But they are lightweight, really cost-effective (aka inexpensive), can be really attractive, and in many cases, look a lot like the pottery they are designed to imitate.  We almost snatched these up before the stone pots caught our eye.

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Stone is frost-resistant, eco-friendly and a fourth great choice for organic gardening.  They are sturdy and heavy.  So you’ll want to place these pots before you fill with soil because moving them around after they are planted won’t be too easy.  They’re a little spendy.  But they’ll last forever, so we figured it was worth the investment.

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So now we’ve got our pots, which we were even more thrilled with once we got them home.

We’ve got some growing medium (aka soil).

And we’re already growing some plants that are going to go in them.

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Woohoo!

It’s home improvement time, and The Home Depot has everything you need to #DigIn for Spring. No matter what projects you want to tackle, they have great values on all you need. They’re ready to help you with renovation ideas and expert advice, too.

Get over $300 in email exclusive savings each year, sneak peeks on new products, monthly lawn & garden ideas for your region and access to The Home Depot’s gardening experts.
Click HERE to join the world’s largest garden community today! Or go to http://gardenclub.homedepot.com/ to see some of the many benefits of membership.

This is a sponsored post written by us on behalf of The Home Depot.

you don’t need a greenhouse to grow food

This is a sponsored post written by us on behalf of The Home Depot.

Jeanne and Abby here.

You guys already know that we grow a lot of our own food.  Not only is it convenient to step outside and grab what you need, but it’s even more satisfying to reap the nutritional benefits of organic gardening at home.

Remember a few weeks back when we told you all about our involvement in Home Depot’s Garden Campaign?  Well, we thought it a good fit to use that opportunity and show you how we grow food, even in small spaces.

And though we both have gardens (Abby also has a greenhouse, and Jeanne’s only a little jealous), we also have containers strategically placed around the yard (and in the house) growing food.

We started this planning weeks ago.  But maybe you recall that the last time we went to Home Depot to start planning we ran into a few (four totally adorable) roadblocks?

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And as cute at they are, we needed some alone time.  So last night, we bit the bullet and escaped to The HD on our own.  Is it wrong that we LOVED walking around the garden center and not have to have one eye on each kiddo?  We actually had time to make a plan!  We live in a small town, and needed to see what exactly our Home Depot had in stock.  Luckily, they were well stocked and we’ve got plenty of choices!

We were both immediately drawn to these pots.  Don’t they just make you happy?  Can’t you picture bright red tomatoes in that big yellow pot?  Or rosemary in that beautiful aqua one?

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Jeanne’s throwing around the idea of adding another raised bed to her garden, and Steve was super helpful (cheesy, but true!).  It was only a little awkward to ask him to smile for a picture.

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As gorgeous as they are, we tend to stay away from glazed pots because of the potential for leaching lead or cadmium into your soil (and therefore into your produce … and if we wanted chemicals in our veggies, we probably wouldn’t be gardening).

For an organic garden, terra cotta is always a good choice because it reduces the amount of extra watering you have to do in container gardens (except, of course, if you live in an extremely cold climate … like Montana … as they will expand and shrink and crack if they are exposed to real cold so they have to be moved indoors for the winter).

Fiberglass is another option.  Lightweight.  Versatile.  They come in great color choices.  Different sizes.  And they’re really reasonably priced.

And then there are wooden barrels … another great option.

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Truth is, Abby already has at least five of these on her deck.  They were purchased nearly four years ago from Home Depot and have weathered beautifully!

And if this happens to be your first time at O’Mamas … we live in Montana (yes … that “extremely cold climate” where terra cotta isn’t ideal).  So wood is a really good choice.  It protects the roots from drastic weather changes.  It’s easy to maintain.  And it’s available untreated so there’s no fear of chemical leaching.

And yes, it is mid-April and still snowing here.  So you likely won’t see too many big plants in our containers while we’re working on this project.  But fear not, about two months ago (before we knew we’d be involved in this campaign), we started seeds indoors.  WHEW!  And can we just say how thankful we are that Home Depot not only carries organic, but also heirloom seeds?!  (We’ll explain the difference this week.)

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We didn’t actually purchase anything last night… unless you count the sushi afterwards.

We had a once in a blue moon dinner together sans the kids.  We sipped on sake and ordered one too many rolls.   Best of all… we were actually able to make a plan!

And we have a plan for you to … because we firmly believe that even if you live in the smallest New York apartment, there’s room somewhere in your life to grow food.

Stay tuned and we’ll give you all the details on how to make this happen.  We’ll be discussing soil, plant depths, organic fertilizers and which foods grow best in containers.

We’ll be getting the ball rolling on Monday.  It’d be great fun if you’d join us!

It’s home improvement time, and The Home Depot has everything you need to #DigIn for Spring. No matter what projects you want to tackle, they have great values on all you need. They’re ready to help you with renovation ideas and expert advice, too.

Get over $300 in email exclusive savings each year, sneak peeks on new products, monthly lawn & garden ideas for your region and access to The Home Depot’s gardening experts.

Click here join the world’s largest garden community today! Or go to http://gardenclub.homedepot.com/ to see some of the many benefits of membership.

Homedepot.com

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of The Home Depot.

the joy of composting

Jeanne here.

I read an article in a magazine a few years ago about a family of four who has reduced their garbage to ONE BAG A MONTH!

I wish I could remember the magazine … or their name … or where they lived.  But it was one of those, waiting-in-a-waiting-room-reading-a-magazine sort of deals.  So the details are gone.  Except the image in my head of her closets (which were immaculate and amazing … like a page from the Sundance catalog. One day, I’ll proudly display my closets with pride … not today … but one day).  And that they only threw away one bag of garbage a month!

So I’ve been on this kick since I read that to reduce the clutter in our house and limit the amount of trash we add to the local landfill.  Which is part of what inspired me to stop buying bottled water and start shopping the bulk aisles at the grocery store.  It was only after I did that, that I started to realize the health benefits of the change, which have been immeasurable … no more water that sits on flats in an overly hot grocery store, or in the sun as it’s being unloaded, leaching all sorts of BPAs (which are endocrine disruptors) into the liquid.

No more bags or bottles or boxes from processed food in the garbage.

That made a huge difference in our trash output.

And then … this time last year, I convinced the Cowboy to make me a compost bin.

We were getting ready to expand our garden, and I thought compost would be a great addition … some natural and organic fertilizer and soil amendment that we could actually control what was in it.  So the two benefits of a compost bin?  Good for the garden, great for the reduction of food scraps and yard clippings that would otherwise end up in the landfill.

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I scoured books and web-pages for how-tos.

I compared spinning ones to chicken wire ones.  Basic bins to “hot” automatic composters.  Indoor ones to DIY-three-crate-systems.  Bokashi composters to worm boxes.

And was amazed at all the different choices.

All I wanted was something not unsightly, that would get the job done.  So it made sense for us to make it ourselves.

The basics (no matter what version you get …except the bokashi and spinner models):

It should be at least 3ft x 3ft x 3ft, so that air can circulate.  When you use Aerobic Decomposition (like we do), it doesn’t smell!  That’s pretty much how you know if you’re doing it right.  If it smells, you’ve made it so compact that you end up with an anaerobic situation … it gets sludge-like, it’s usually slower, and smells foul (like methane, hydrogen and sulfide) … ew.

So … start with a 3ft x 3ft x 3ft box.  An easy and inexpensive way to make a box like this?  Use leftover UNTREATED wood pallets from your local grocery store.  Often times, they’ll give ’em to you for free.  Five pallets … one for the bottom, plus four for the sides, a drill and a few screws and you’re good to go.

The Cowboy wanted something a little more refined, and we had a bunch of untreated 1×4 boards from an old fence that we were replacing, so he went to Home Depot for a few 1x6s for the bottom of the box, some chicken wire (to line it), hinges to give us an easily removable door … and we used an old a sheet of plywood that was taking up room in the garage for the top (we have some crazy weather and I wanted to control the moisture level, so we added a top).

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So then you have your box … but then what?

Add your grass clippings … shredded branches … raked leaves … food scraps (no meat or dairy except empty egg shells) and straw.  The best ratio is basically 30:1 … 30 parts Carbon (brown material like straw, leaves, bark, wood chips) to one part Nitrogen (green material like vegetable waiste, grass, cow and horse manure, poultry and pig manure).

Spray with some water to make the mixture moist but not wet.

If you want … you can go all out and get yourself a compost thermometer to make sure the center of your pile stays between 110-150 degrees Fahrenheit … you can get your compost tested when it’s all done to make sure it’s the right ratio of C:N.

We didn’t go that scientific … we were just looking for a rich dark soil output that looked good, and had a fine (but not too fine) texture … so, once a week, we turned the compost over, putting the new additions into the middle of the pile.  And one year later …

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COMPOST SUCCESS!!!!

Ready to amend the soil in our raised bed … WOOHOOO!!!

compost to the garden

Which just makes me thankful the Cowboy puts up with my garden-crazy … Oh yeah … and we’re down to one and a half garbage bags a week!

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NOTE ABOUT HORSE MANURE IN MONTANA:  A lot of the hay in Montana is sprayed with a herbicide to reduce noxious weeds and non-indiginous infestations.  The herbicides DO NOT break down in the Compost Bin and will kill your tomato (and other tender) plants!  So … if you’re going to use horse manure, make sure you know what those horses have been eating!!!

 

We’re linked up at Natural Living Mamma and Domestic Superhero!

the not so glamorous side of gardening

Here in Montana we have a pretty short growing season, so to grow a substantial amount of food you have to be gardening most of the year.

And while sometimes gardening means harvesting your bounty and enjoying a gorgeous day outside, the majority of it is not so glamorous.

Like trecking out to the greenhouse in 18 inches of snow to tend to your blueberry bushes.

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And when you are out in the greenhouse pruning the strawberry plants there is always a chance you will see a mouse THAT YOU ALMOST TOUCHED scurry under the brush.  At this point, I normally would have screamed my head off and ran into the house vowing to never, ever enter the greenhouse again.  But instead I put on my big girl panties and kept going.  This is a big deal coming from the girl who is so terrified of critters I slept in between my parents for 2 nights after seeing a spider on my bed in high school.  So yea… I was pretty proud of myself, and the strawberry beds are ready!

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And there’s a good chance gardening could mean giving up a lot of kitchen real estate for a giant metal shelf to hold on your seeds you are starting.

photo-18 Speaking of planting seeds, it’s very tedious.  And if you have little hands that want to help it will in fact take 100 times longer.

photo-19 But it’s always nice when that pop of green finally shows up!
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And then there are the bugs.  Those far things can be so frustrating.  And sometimes despite what seems like all your efforts, the bugs will take over.  I’ve had particular bad luck with aphids, but I’m gearing up this year to dominate those things.  THEY WILL NOT WIN.
Alright.  So, if you don’t grow food yet, it’s so worth it.  There are always times when you want to scream and pull your hair out, but the end result is always worth it!
-Abby

how and why we wash our fruits and veggies …even the organic ones

by Jeanne

First things first … I am loving reading all the ways people are swapping out processed foods for real food … don’t forget to sign up for our GIVEAWAY this week and let us know what you’re doing to switch things up!

Now back to business …

So by now you know our littles eat their fair share of fruits and veggies.

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But one thing we didn’t talk about yesterday is:  it’s a good idea to wash that produce before they are ingested.  Even the organic ones.

Because while it’s obvious that the conventionally grown produce could be carrying pesticide or herbicide residue on its skin, both conventional and organic fruits and veggies could be harboring dangerous bacteria, picked up from the soil or from the hands that handled it, in the truck on the way to the store, or from the lady in front of you in line who sneezed on it while picking her own selection.

In most cases, washing your fruits and veggies with water works just fine.

But some of the bacteria is pretty “sticky,” so unless you’re scrubbing really hard, it may not be released.  (Maybe there’s a way to detect bacteria on the produce you bring home … but I don’t know it.)  And maybe it’s just me, but I don’t want to “scrub” my berries because the skin is so delicate.  I’d prefer not to destroy my fruit before I get to eat it.  (My teeth and digestive juices will do enough macerating without the assistance of a potato brush.)

So how do we clean our fruits and veggies?

Remember how we told you about the anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral properties of Apple Cider Vinegar?

Tadaahhh!!!:

Add ACV.

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Place your fruit in a big non-reactive bowl.

Cover by an inch with filtered water.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of ACV.  (This does NOT change the flavor of your fruit.  I promise!)

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Let stand for 10 minutes.

Put the fruit in a good strainer and rinse well.

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And there you have it.

I’m going to admit that while we should be diligent about using this method all the time … sometimes … sometimes we forget … sometimes we don’t have time.  But we’re pretty good about using this method consistently with berries (2 lb. containers of Organic Strawberries are on sale at Costco in Bozeman today for $7.99!!!!!  It’s like a taste of Spring and a reminder that Punxatawney Phil did NOT see his shadow!!!).  Apples.  Peaches.  Plums.  Potatoes.  Carrots.  And spinach (which has been a major culprit on Salmonella outbreaks these past few years) … which we rinse in a salad spinner instead of regular strainer.

By the way, we grow as many fruits and veggies as we can, so we know those are organic.  But we’ve got dogs who spend time out by the garden … and there are birds … and other critters (like praise dogs, voles and bunnies), so even the food we grow gets this treatment.

BIGGER NOTE:  It’s a short growing season in Montana.  Even if you have a greenhouse.  So we rely on the grocery store for a good share of the produce in our homes.  And like many of you, we live in the real world and don’t have an unlimited budget to spend on all organic foods.  

So we’re thankful for the Environmental Working Group’s yearly study of 45 different fruits and veggies that gives us a better understanding of what conventionally grown fruits and veggies we can feed our families without having a panic attack.  

The EWG has two lists … The Dirty Dozen (which now contains 15 fruits and veggies that, when conventionally grown, contain high levels of pesticides and herbicides).  And the Clean 15 (just like it sounds, these are the 15 fruits and veggies that don’t seem to absorb the pesticides and herbicides into their flesh).

gearing up to grow food

Abby here…

This year will be our fourth year growing food.  One thing I know for sure… gardening is hard work! It’s fun and rewarding too, but it takes a ton of time and effort.

At the very end of last summer, David started walking which made working in the greenhouse so much easier.  This summer, both my boys will be at perfect ages for spending tons of time out there… can’t wait!

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Although we’ve managed to grow a decent amount of food, there is so much to learn.  In fact, every year I realize I know way less about organic gardening than I did the year before.

We’ve got to figure out how the heck to check the pH balance of our dirt, and then what to do with that information.

We’ve got to figure out how to keep the aphids away.

We’ve got to get a compost bin going.

Within the next few weeks we’ve got to get some tomato seeds under some grow lights.

And most of all… we need a plan!  The past few years we have just sort of flown by the seat of our pants… throwing tomatoes here, carrots seeds there, squeezing onions starts anywhere can.

This space has so much potential. Even though this picture just looks like a bunch of green… there’s tomatoes, onions, tons of herbs, peppers and lemons growing in the picture below.

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So I look forward to this year.  We’re gearing up earlier than normal, thumbing through a bunch of organic gardening books and coming up with a plan.

This is sort of where we had things planted last year.  We grew a lot more than whats listed on the page, but these are the things that will be in the same spot next year.  And yes, thanks to auto correct… I now know its tomato not tomatoe.

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Speaking of tomatoes, doesn’t that bowl just look like the perfect start to some homemade salsa a1000-2

So what about you guys?  Do you grow food?  I’d love some inspiration!

rainy days and mondays and trips to the garden store …

Jeanne again … with a garlic update …

Now that we’re staying in the Cottage for a bit longer, we’ve got a lot to do to make it livable for our little tribe.  It’s a small two-bedroom, one bath cottage.  Hardwood floors.  Original molding and light fixtures.  It’s really charming.

Many a real estate agent has called it “cozy.”

But it’s only got one bathroom.

And two bedrooms.

For four people and two dogs (who don’t use the bathroom, but take up more than a little space in the other living rooms).

The good news (because isn’t there always good news?) is that we have a double lot, so we have a lot of space to build and expand behind the house.

But additions and renovations will have to wait until the Spring, as we’re in Montana and just about to turn the corner into Winter.  And building just doesn’t begin in Montana in November … no matter how fast the builder.

So I just have to keep my head focused on what we can do right now.

Like open up the wall between the kitchen and living room to make the space more family friendly.

And plant garlic.

I was prepared to let the garlic go for this year since we were looking to move.

So I didn’t make it to any of the local seed stores to get hardneck garlic seed cloves.

And now all the greenhouses are closed for the season.

Except Cashman’s … which stays open all year.

But they don’t have any garlic left.

And they suggested I check out Montana Stinking Rose, because that’s where they get their garlic.

But MSR is out of stock.

Wild Rose Greenhouse is closed.

So is Fisher’s Garden Store.

Judy said they might paint their sign next year … but she hasn’t decided yet.

I really wanted to buy local.  But that didn’t seem like it was going to work out.  So I did what any self-respecting home gardener/blogger would do.  I turned to the almighty internet.  And was shocked to find out that most of the online suppliers are out of stock, too!

I knew I was late … but man … really?

Finally … I found some Organic German Red Garlic for sale at groworganic.com.

Whew!

And I placed my order.

One pound (which is about 20x more than I need for my little garden – I need about 3 bulbs, I think), but I’ll take what I can get, and maybe bring some to the next food swap in case someone else waited too long to get their garlic, too 🙂

About 10 minutes after I placed my order (and paid way too much in shipping and handling), I got a call.

Judy from Fisher’s Garden Store.

She said they were closed for the season (which I already knew), and that she was in the middle of seed-harvesting (which I didn’t know), but that she had about 6 extra bulbs of garlic that she’d be willing to give me if I could make it out to her place in the next 45 minutes.

Fisher’s is about 30 minutes from town, not far from the airport in Belgrade.

So I loaded up the gang (which took about 12 minutes) and 42 minutes later walked into a closed shop whose floor was covered in a huge harvest of acorn squash, onions, cherry tomatoes, butternut squash and a plethora of gorgeous goodness … in fact, every surface was covered.  Tables, boxes, crates, shelves.  So when I walked out of her shop with three beautiful bulbs of some hardneck garlic variety (no idea what kind it is, but she gave me a one-page how-to for how to grow and harvest it in this climate), I was happy happy happy.

While we were chatting, I asked her if I could help out by publicizing her shop online in the blog she said … “Please don’t.”

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She said, “This is a 90 year old business.  And we operate like one.”

They don’t have a website.

She doesn’t have a cell phone.

All of their seeds are cleaned and packaged by hand.

Her seed bags are printed from her computer.

And she handles all the distribution herself.

When she’s in the garden, she’s in the garden.

And that’s how she likes it.

She might paint their sign next year because it’s been more than a decade, but she doesn’t want to be the next Planet Natural.  She doesn’t want to compete with Home Depot.  She wants to do things her way.

Which is why she can decide to call people back and open her store to sell a late-bloomer a few late garlic bulbs if she has ‘em.

So I totally win.

But don’t go looking for her, please.  Because I might need her again next year 🙂