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Food Security

Well we made it to 2021. Things didn’t magically change at midnight, but we all have high hopes for 2021. To be better than 2020. To see less destruction, anger, violence, politics and most of all, less pestilence. And many of us are suddenly thinking about food security, possibly for the first time in our lives.

We in the western world went so quickly from thinking that food security meant making sure you have enough treats on hand in case friends drop over, to battling each other desperately for those last, elusive packets of bread yeast on sometimes almost empty store shelves.

It’s scary, and daunting to someone who has never grown food before. It feels helpless and disturbing. You now know that you need to try harder to ensure your own food security and growing a veggie garden seems an obvious answer. But how on earth should you get started?

Start A Food Garden

A good place to start gardening is with a plan, however rudimentary. If you would like to have some fresh tomatoes but you only buy and plant oregano seeds, you won’t be happy with your results. So step 1 is to start with making a list of what vegetables, fruit and herbs that YOU like to eat.

Climate

Not all plants can grow in all soils, all light situations or climates. Your next step will be to do a little research and find out what climate zone are you in. Check each plant on your list against that – will they grow in your climate zone? Cross off those that don’t. It is possible to extend your growing season but this post is about your first foray into a veggie garden so let’s keep it simple; if a plant on your list is outside your climate zone, grow it next time and this time focus on getting started with your garden.

Cultural Requirements

Next look at cultural requirements for the plants left on your list. Some plants will require a trellis structure to grow upwards on, for example cucumbers. Others have to be “trained” to wrap around vertical strings so they grow upwards instead of flopping all over the ground, such as indeterminate (floppy and long lived) types of tomatoes. Make sure you have the space you will need for anything like this.

Soil

Research what kind of soil your plants expect. A plant that likes sandy soil is not going to thrive in thick clay soil. The good news is that is it possible to create a soil landscape that matches your needs, with a little investment in the components like sand, compost, clay etc.

Tilling

The soil is what holds onto the water, and the nutrients for your plants. It must have enough “organic matter” (compost) to provide these services via micro fungi and other tiny soil organisms, and to act as a sponge to hold moisture. Once your soil has been amended to meet your requirements, the less you disturb your soil the healthier it will be. Consider using a “no till” method of soil management. This will really help keep weeds down as well.

Weeds

Weeds are gonna come. There is no escape. If you plant seedlings rather than seeds outdoors, then the weeds are going to be more obvious – you don’t want to rip out all your carrots thinking they are poisonous weeds! You can mulch or cover with old carpet or cardboard or tarps in the paths between rows in your garden plot so you are only weeding in the actual beds. Weed often, right from the start, and it is an absolute breeze. Let it get out of hand for 2 weeks, and the rest of that season and possibly the next will see you locked in a real, life and death struggle with the weeds. Discipline is the answer my friends!

Light

Some plants can get by in shade, some can tolerate half shade and some need a full day of full sun to really produce. Make sure your garden gets enough hours of direct sun for what you have in mind to plant.

Think about what direction does the sun come from over the course of the day. How can you design the planting layout so the taller plants will be at the back and the smallest plants nearest the direction the sun comes from, to avoid your tall plants shading all the others.

Space

Plants require a certain amount of space, and it varies by kind of plant and even within the individual varieties of each plant. Generally this information is on the seed packet or published by the seed seller. Make sure your plan sets the right target numbers of plants to grow in your space.

Pests

Think about our animal friends, like birds, squirrels, raccoons, cats, dogs etc. They will all impact your garden if you don’t take steps to protect it from them. Consider things like row cover fabric, a 360 degree fence of chicken wire around your garden, bird netting, scare tactics like foil plates hanging from fence posts, human or owl shapes, and scattering blood meal around edges of the garden plot to make it seem like a place where predators may be.

Insects are also going to be a potential issue. These are harder to deal with simply because there are so many of them and so many kinds. Squash beetles will wreck your squash. Flea beetles will eat all your greens. Tomato hornworms will make you think your garden is the site of an alien invasion. It can seem overwhelming.

But the first step for dealing with insect pests is to have healthy, well watered plants, by setting them up in good conditions and keeping them properly hydrated. You can also interplant herbs amongst your veggies to attract beneficial insects, repel pest insects and also give you fresh herbs! Making sure plants are covered with row fabric during pest swells to “hide” the plants from the pests, who then simply go elsewhere. When all else fails applying a simple and pretty safe for humans spray using Neem (tea tree) oil mixed with water and a touch of detergent will usually take care of the problem.

What To Grow

My garden is in zone 5b. Some plants that I recommend for your first garden are potatoes, tomatoes, pole beans, bush beans, patio zucchini, Swiss Chard, lettuce, radishes, beets, sweet potatoes, eggplant, hot peppers, sweet peppers, turnips and carrots. Basil, sage, dill, cilantro and parsley are all easy and hardy. And sunflowers, marigolds and calendula will repel insects and bring beauty to your veggie plot.

In summary, you can start a garden with one plant in a pot on your windowsill, and expand from there, or you can apply these basic principles and give growing some food a try. Fair warning, digging in the dirt while the sun warms you and the birds sing, and the rich smell of the soil fills your world is very addictive. Once you start gardening you may not be able to stop!

If you want more detailed advice for your garden adventure, check back here often! Let me know what kind of garden you are planning in 2021.

If you want to sign up for a weekly delivery of naturally grown veggies rather than growing your own, you can sign up for my 2021 CSA here starting January 11, 2021.
Please note that there are a limited number of spots available each year.

Featured post

Garden Planning

[tweetthis hidden_hashtags=”#garden #planner #growingmydinner”]Enter a draw for a free planner you can use for your garden and your life![/tweetthis]

Garden Planning Chaos

Life is fast paced! If you are like me, you constantly struggle with planning your life and your garden in a truly useful and actionable way. I’ve tried an electronic planner, a paper planner, paper and e-calendars, charts on the wall, sticky notes randomly placed about the house and car, and even just winging it. Despite my best efforts…barely controlled chaos is pretty much still the order of the day. The planner search continues….

A Planner for the Garden

I like to use an undated planner so that I can begin using it at any time. I usually use the label set to customize the divider tabs and create my own perfect layout.

Garden Planner Elements I look For

  • Set garden goals for the year.
  • Track milestones like prepare soil, order seeds, order canning supplies, and start seedlings in the important dates section.
  • Set targets for monthly goals so I know when to start seeds, stake plants or to expect a harvest.
  • The project planning features are usually suited to planning out the garden milestones.
  • Link my planned harvests to weekly meal plans.
  • Track my garden budget, including what I saved by growing something myself, like a bountiful harvest of tomatoes that I turn into tomato sauce for the year.
  • Note frost dates, harvest dates, sun angle on specific dates, and anything else I decide to record and revisit during the winter months to fuel garden dreams and plan my next gardening season.

Organizing My Whole Life!

Any planner can be used for more than a garden of course. I like this planner a lot, even though it is not specifically for gardens – it’s a “whole-life organizing system”! What I like most about this deal is that I get a lot of extras. Check it out here:  Living Well Planner

Click the image to enter a draw for a FREE Living Well Planner, compliments of Growing My Dinner!!

Click here to subscribe and enter the draw!

Some Other Really Nice Garden Planners

Of course there are many planners and journals out there! If this one doesn’t inspire you, maybe you can find something more suitable here.

     

So how do you tackle planning your garden? Leave me a reply, and let’s share ideas!

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Hello Growing Gardeners!

Welcome to the Growing My Dinner blog! My name is Lori Wardell and I am the blogger in this little garden plot on the internet. I created this blog to share information and my experience of gardening and growing food.

When I first started blogging I was also trying to launch a CSA farm so my first blog talked about that, with stories about turning a grass field into a garden without herbicides. At some point I brought the posts from that blog into this blog.These days, I blog about just about anything to do with gardening.

That includes writing about growing, feeding, harvesting and using vegetables, herbs, mushrooms and microgreens. As this blog grows you’ll find information on garden design, soil, composting, recycling and repurposing, keeping chickens for eggs and compost input, as well as explorations of ways of dealing with garden and plant pests, traditional and new horticulture methods, techniques and tools.

I am not the most consistent of posters, but this year I am trying to change that. I am going to post at least twice per month.

If you have any feedback on my blog, my goals and projects, or my site please leave me a comment and I will respond!

If you would like to be notified of blog posts, you can subscribe to my newsletter using the form in the top right of this page.

Healing & Regrowth

Aftermath

Spring 2018. After breaking my leg in January 2017, and not being able to garden at all in 2017 – I couldn’t even walk to the hoop house or rake the yard – I am looking forward to this summer. Believe it or not, I’m still on the mend, eager to finish my healing out in the sunshine, breathing the rich scent of the earth and listening to the cheerful, busy birds as they also make the most of the warm weather.

I have not even started my own seeds and in fact, will likely focus on getting things back in order this year – healing the garden too. There is pruning to do. I want to try again to root some cuttings from the heritage apples – this was my only project in 2017 but it didn’t work, no rooted cuttings.

And my blog has been languishing as a struggled to get back into my life. But every spring we get a chance to start over in our gardens. My blog is like a garden, and it is now leaving a winter and embracing life again!

Healing The Hoop House

In the big wind storm we had a week or two ago, the hoop house took some damage. In the ice storm before that, the wind removed the outer layer of plastic (and folded it up pretty neatly along the hoop house edge!) so it was down to the inner layer which is about 6 years old. It was left in tatters after the storm so we removed it. When we were putting the outer layer back on the wind caught it and lifted us off the ground! Somehow, two puny humans battled that 50 foot long parasail up and over the hoop house. It was pretty exciting but hard to video while I was flying lol.

I couldn’t believe how many weeds got into that structure in just one summer. The floor has landscape fabric and a thick layer of bark chips. This shouldn’t have happened! So this is project number one this summer – healing my hoop house.

Projects:

Reclaim hoop house
Try again to root apple tree cuttings
Enjoy the garden

Heirloom Apple Blossoms Photo

New Apples From Old!

Heirloom Apple Blossoms Photo

Gnarled Old Apple Trees

I love my gnarled old apple trees. They were already old when I moved to my farm, and now they have a couple more decades on them. My first reaction was to prune the heck out of them, but they did not like that at all and pouted for a couple years. They spent their energy on growing literally thousands of new, kind of weak branches, and no apples. Afraid I had almost killed them with kindness, I vowed to leave them alone and just accept any apples they decided to grace me with.

It worked, and after a few years they began producing again. The apples are different types, and I get them from July to October! Now, I don’t do much pruning (yay!!) but that means I mostly get apples on the outside of the trees only, because the growth is so thick in the centre.  One tree died off, and I started to think about how I could preserve these wonderful trees.

Holding On To The Heirlooms

Last fall I gathered a bunch of seeds while making applesauce. I’m very excited to try and start them! Apples don’t produce the same tree as the parent when grown from seed. While it is an exciting chance to discover the next great apple variety, it doesn’t help me hold onto these heirlooms.

Air Layering

Next idea: air layering some branches to start new trees from the old. This is my special project for 2017! Check back for updates on my progress with this garden project.

Heirloom Apple Trees photo

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@growingmydinner” hidden_hashtags=”#growingmydinner”]Heirloom Apple Air Layering Project![/tweetthis]

 

Chlorine is not just for the pool

Chlorine is present in our environment today often at levels considered a contaminant. However, it is essential for plant to open and close its stomates, or pores, and for electrical activity within cells. It is quite important to setting fruit and overall plant growth.

Deficiency can be suspected if you see yellow leaves that subsequently die and fall off, accompnied by a complete lack of fruit set and overall stunted growth. It is supplied naturally by the atmosphere, which moves it from the oceans to water around the world as rain and snow. Because the concentration of chlorine in the rain and snow is variable there is a remote possibility to have a deficient soil.

To correct a deficiency
  • add Bromine to the soil, which can support plant use of Chlorine

Chlorine can build up in the soil like any salt. Too much can show as burned leaf margins and tips, bronzed leaves that turn yellow and fall off.

To offset an excess
  • by leaching with salt free water
  • increasing the sand content of soil to facilitate the movement of water
  • planting plants that use high amounts of chlorine, such as tomatoes

Soil testing is an important activity for a successful garden. Soil stewardship is an ongoing process, where you test and amend, grow some stuff, then test, amend and grow some stuff….and so on. Focus on building soil tilth so it can really hold and make available to the plants all the important nutrients. You do this in part by adding compost, manure, rock dust, bone meal, kelp & fish emulsions. Read this article series to learn more about each of the 13 key nutrients for your garden.

 

[tweetthis]Chlorine is not just for the pool – plants need it too! Find out more here![/tweetthis]

Nitrogen and why you should care about it

Nitrogen is most important in plants for vegetative growth and chlorophyll production, which of course is what makes plants green.

 

If the older leaves are thin, small and pale, and the plant develops very woody stems then the plant may require nitrogen. Left uncorrected, the problem spreads to the fruit which becomes spiny, deformed and short.

    To correct a nitrogen deficiency

  • add composted manure
  • plant with peas and beans to fix nitrogen into the soil from the atmosphere

 

Small yellowish spots on the leaves that get bigger until only the leaf veins are left green may indicate too much nitrogen present. In this case you will see initially see thick strong stems with rich green curled leaves that grow closely spaced on them, along with many side shoots and tendrils.

    Too much nitrogen can be corrected by

  • heavy irrigation
  • keeping the plants cool in order to reduce transpiration
  • plant heavy feeding plants like lettuce

Soil testing is an important activity for a successful garden. Soil stewardship is an ongoing process, where you test and amend, grow some stuff, then test, amend and grow some stuff….and so on. Focus on building soil tilth so it can really hold and make available to the plants all the important nutrients. You do this in part by adding compost, manure, rock dust, bone meal, kelp & fish emulsions. Read this article series to learn more about each of the 13 key nutrients for your garden.

 

[tweetthis]Nitrogen fuels the green machine – read more here![/tweetthis]

Zinc is important

Zinc is present in several plant enzymes and is required in photosynthesis.

Zinc deficiency can arise when the soil pH is too high and adversely affects zinc uptake. High phosphorous or calcium levels can impact uptake as well as copper, magnesium, manganese and iron. Deficiency symptoms begin on the lowest leaves and are subtle. There will be slightly paler areas between the veins that become worse over time while veins remain green, the space between where leaves come out of the stem is shortened up and leaves become small.

To correct a deficiency
  • Spraying with zinc sulphates can correct a zinc deficiency

Too much zinc can happen from multiple causes including proximity to mines or smelters, runoff water from galvanized building frames and contamination of water from galvanized pipes. Plants in soil with too much of this nutrient will have a very deep dark green vein colour that will eventually become blackened. Young leaves will develop yellow-green colour between the veins, which later turn completely yellow. Growth is stunted then stops, and yellow leaves develop dead patches and fall off. Too much of this nutrient is difficult to correct.

To offset an excess
  • adding lime
  • adding phosphorous

Soil testing is an important activity for a successful garden. Soil stewardship is an ongoing process, where you test and amend, grow some stuff, then test, amend and grow some stuff….and so on. Focus on building soil tilth so it can really hold and make available to the plants all the important nutrients. You do this in part by adding compost, manure, rock dust, bone meal, kelp & fish emulsions. Read this article series to learn more about each of the 13 key nutrients for your garden.

 

[tweetthis]Zinc is important to humans and plants. Learn more here! [/tweetthis]

 

Boron sounds boring, but your plants will love it

Boron is required by plants for cell division and formation of the plant’s growing points, also called grower’s tips. It is best if it is continuously supplied.

Deficiency of boron can be seen in the oldest leaves on the lower half of the plant becoming brittle and yellowed, and the grower’s tips dying back. Older leaves will be cupped upwards and stiff. Young leaves will be malformed and have prominent veins. Fruits are shortened and have cracks in their skins. Roots will have enlarged tips and will be black. Symptoms will appear around the first harvest.

To correct a deficiency of Boron
  • raise the ratio of organic matter to sand
  • lower the soil pH by adding Sulfur
  • add borax to the soil

Too much boron will show up in the oldest leaves with them cupping downwards and turning yellow and eventually expanding into dead spots between veins. The leaves can also become more circular shaped. If this condition is not corrected then the plant’s growth will be stunted with very few female flowers developing.

To offset excessive Boron
  • Heavy leaching can be used to remove some boron
  • add lime if the soil is acidic

Soil testing is an important activity for a successful garden. Soil stewardship is an ongoing process, where you test and amend, grow some stuff, then test, amend and grow some stuff….and so on. Focus on building soil tilth so it can really hold and make available to the plants all the important nutrients. You do this in part by adding compost, manure, rock dust, bone meal, kelp & fish emulsions. Read this article series to learn more about each of the 13 key nutrients for your garden.

 

[tweetthis]Boron sounds boring, but your plants love it! Read more here! [/tweetthis]

Copper pennies may be gone in Canada

Copper is necessary for photosynthesis and respiration.

Plants that are deficient in this nutrient will have yellow faded blotches that later turn a bronze or dull colour between veins on the oldest leaves, and later on the whole plant. The leaves will be small and the plant will be dwarfed. Flowers and buds decrease and fruits are poorly developed and are marred by sunken brown areas on their skin. Deficiency is mainly seen if there is too much peat in the soil, due to high pH reducing availability.

To correct a deficiency
  • Copper sulfate can be added to correct a deficiency but extreme care should be taken as too much copper can make the soil unfit for vegetable cultivation

Toxicity can result from using sprays of some fungicides, or even from plumbing used in the growing system.

To offset excessive Copper
  • Heavy liming can help remove some copper toxicity

Soil testing is an important activity for a successful garden. Soil stewardship is an ongoing process, where you test and amend, grow some stuff, then test, amend and grow some stuff….and so on. Focus on building soil tilth so it can really hold and make available to the plants all the important nutrients. You do this in part by adding compost, manure, rock dust, bone meal, kelp & fish emulsions. Read this article series to learn more about each of the 13 key nutrients for your garden.

 

[tweetthis]Copper pennies may be gone in Canada, but plants still need it. Read more here![/tweetthis]