GARDEN: Our Strawberry Patch – Fall

In addition to Pepsi I am a addicted to strawberries…yup, I love em! You will always find an open can of freeze dried strawberries in the cabinet for use on my Special K. This past spring I did a strawberry planting in containers.  I was going to write an article about the experience but simply kept putting it off. Now, months later, I am once again out in the patch working on my strawberries. And I definitely wanted to write about yesterday’s experience. But, to understand yesterday, you gotta understand last spring.

However, I can’t find a single picture of my spring strawberry planting at this time. So on with the work I did yesterday…

I ended up with two containers of strawberry plants, 4 plants in one, 2 in the other. Here is a picture of the container with 4 plants…

Note: When I planted the original strawberry plants in the spring I made sure to not let the plants bear fruit. I pinched off blossoms as soon as I saw them, I wanted strong roots, healthy plants, and lots of runners…not fruit. However, 3 berries did ripen and they were delicious. My goal was not to eat fresh strawberries the first year…I wanted to seriously increase the size of the patch. And that would give me WAY more berries to eat next year, and the year after, and the year after…

Last month I had taken 10 of the small plant containers that I had used this spring for new garden vegetables purchased at Lowes. I had filled them with potting soil and stubbed strawberry plant runners (daughter plant) into them to root them. Nine were successful in rooting, one just didn’t cooperate. And there were several that had rooted themselves on their own that I would transfer those as well.

I had more containers now that the garden had basically died out, mostly from a lot of damage from the hail storm we experienced. So I moved those containers over to the patch, freshened the soil in them, repaired two cracks, and got to work.

For the nine that had rooted I simply planted them as I would new plants purchased from the store. I planted them at the correct depth, then pressed the soil around them to form a slight indented ring around each plant. I then placed about a tablespoon of an organic fertilizer around each plant, pressed it into the soil, and watered it in really well.

In our area we have to water regularly and the water will evaporate fairly quickly due to low RHs and wind/breeze. To help prevent rapid drying of the soil I placed about 3/4” layer of GrowKing steer manure compost over the entire surface of the container. Then about a 1” layer of wood chips on top of that. This allows for plenty of air movement and for water to seep into the soil but slows down evaporation.

As you noticed I only put 3 plants in each box vs the 4 I did this spring. I wanted them to have a little more room to grow and expand. Yeah, MORE berries 🙂

When all was said and down I ended up with 15 new plants in the larger containers. In addition I have another 15 small containers set-up to root additional runners. Hopefully when it is all complete in a couple of weeks I will have 36 strawberry plants from the original 6. And that my friend means lots and lots of berries next year!

My neighbor came over in the middle of me working and started asking questions. One in particular I thought would be appropriate to share here. “Which runners do I decide to use?” Well, first off I only use runners that are strong and healthy looking, not puny or dry looking or skinny runners. Then I only use the bud closest to the main plant. I cut off the runner past the bud I am using, I don’t cut the runner off from the plant. The bud has to get its nutrients from the mother plant until it has established its own roots. When I stick the runner bud into the small container in which it will root, I make sure it is well into the container, and then I back-fill it with the GrowKing compost. 

To know when the bud has sufficiently rooted I gently tug on the bud plant, if there is resistance then I know the roots have sufficiently grown to where they can be transferred into the permanent container. If there isn’t resistance and the bud still looks healthy I simply add a little more GrowKing, water, and put it back to try and root again.

Next year I will take one of the permanent boxes from this past season and allow them to produce runners vs fruit so I can replace damaged plants and expand the patch some more. IMHO…you can never have too many strawberries!

I gotta ask…what are you doing to feed your family next year? Any garden plans? Any fruit trees? Any berry patches?

Garden: Let’s Talk a Minute…

 

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Garden: Hail and Starvation

About two weeks ago we had a really bad hail storm hit us. Two miles away…nothing. Here…really bad.

So to make it simple to understand…we lost our entire garden…everything! The hail was the size of marbles and came down with such a velocity that it punched holes in the leaves of plants such as our beans and cucumbers. It pulverized our squash and peppers. The newly germinated fall squash plants…beat into green mush. Only the strawberries survived intact…relatively little damage.

So what does that tell me…what is the Lesson Learned for this experience?

Had we been depending on our garden for all of our food…we would be starving now! Yes, starving…as in dying without anything to eat.

Yeah, that was pretty startling. Our philosophy has always been to have enough food storage on hand to get our garden up to speed to feed us. So maybe the first year the garden would still be too small and our experience too young for it to be a sole source of food…but it would supplement our food storage to a great degree. Then maybe by the second or third season we would be pretty much self-sustaining out of our garden. Oooooppppppssssss!

What if that third year was the next year that a devastating hail storm hit and wiped out the garden? What if that was the year that our food storage was down to a few #10 cans left on the self?

Not a pleasant thought!

So we are doing a couple of things:

  1. We are going to use a “sunshade” material that handled the hail without issue. It will be ready to deploy on the garden at the first indication of, or prediction of, hail.
  2. We are going to look at a rationing plan for our food storage to try and stretch it out as long as possible. The goal will be to cover more growing seasons.
  3. If/when the SHTF we will use more garden produce in our diet to increase the length of our food storage usage.
  4. We will add another heirloom seed bank to our preparedness.

Note: Hail did some damage to the fruit trees as well, it tore off leaves. If there had been fruit on the trees I am sure it would have destroyed most, if not all, of it. Fortunately the trees are fist or second year and no fruit was set and no major damage to the trees themselves.

Mother nature is a powerful force…you can’t stop it…but you can prepare for it.

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Top 3 Apocalypse Vegetables

This article came from a question asked of me: What would the top 3 vegetables be in your garden during the apocalypse?

Valid question…although the first time I have been asked that. And it is not an easy question to answer if you are looking for advice from me.

Why’s that? Because you might live in Alaska or Florida or the deserts of New Mexico…and, on top of that, I am no gardening expert.

I’ve lived in and learned to garden in the mid-west, the south-east, and the desert south-west; I am learning to garden in a really nice area of Arizona. Each area was/is different in terms of soil, weather, rain, humidity, sun intensity, etc. Each of those factors control how you garden. So I will answer it differently than you might have expected. I will give you my top vegetables, in priority order, but leave it up to you to decide which is best in your area based on your growing conditions and your health needs.

  1. Beans – great source for protein, amino acids, folate, antioxidant, and fiber.
  2. Potatoes – calories/fat/protein, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Niacin, Folate, and fiber. Probably a genetic thing as well for me.
  3. Squash – vitamins A/C/B, potassium, magnesium, manganese, antioxidant, and fiber. Banana squash has been used to control blood glucose in diabetic patients and greatly assists hypoglycemics. Yellow squash is rich in anti-inflammatory compounds.
  4. Beats – Manganese, Copper, Potassium, Magnesium, Iron, Sodium, Vitamins C/B, folate, and fiber. May reduce blood pressure and blood sugar. May improve athletic ability. Really awesome when pickled.
  5. Cabbage – vitamins K/C/B6, folate, protein, calcium, potassium, antioxidant, and fiber. Helps regulate blood sugar and metabolized cholesterol. Anti-inflammatory that may reduce chronic inflammation.
  6. Tomatoes – calcium and vitamin A/B/C/E/K, and fiber. Beta-carotene, coumaric acid, and chlorogenic acid, and antioxidants. May be a protective food for people with type 2 diabetes.
  7. Peas – contains the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. Vitimins A/B/C/E, iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium, catechin, epicatechin, coumestrol, and fiber. Rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals. May help as an anti-inflammatory, fight diabetes, control blood sugar, as well as preventing anemia. May assist the body’s immune system, and helps prevent scurvy.
  8. Peppers – vitamin A/B/C/E/K, potassium, folate, antioxidants, fiber, carbs
  9. Garlic – vitamins B/C, manganese, selenium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and fiber. Commonly associated with protection against or helps cure colds, infections, and flu; as well as reducing blood pressure, and reducing total and LDL cholesterol. May improve athletic ability. At high doses, the sulfur compounds in garlic have been shown to protect against organ damage from heavy metal toxicity. Garlic is an antibiotic herb and is marketed as a natural antibiotic supplement. And I have heard the term “poor man’s antibiotic” more than once when talking about the benefits of garlic.
  10. Carrots – contains beta carotene, fiber, vitamins B/K, potassium, sugar, carbs, and antioxidants. Also, Beta carotene, Alpha-carotene, Lutein, Lycopene, Polyacetylenes, and Anthocyanins.

Note: Antioxidants help fight the negative effects of stress.

For me…I would try to grow each of the “10” as much as possible. Each one of these garden beauties plays a part in overall health. And this is especially true while dealing with the stress during the apocalypse, TEOTWAWKI, SHFT, or grid-down.

Don’t neglect the idea/concept of having a fall or winter garden…and you can start your plants indoors to get a jump-start on your summer garden. Especially important if you have a short growing season.

Don’t forget to plant heirloom seeds whenever possible…and then seed save! Planting seeds from hybrid plants may result in some very strange plants with or without producing anything edible.

Yes, I know some of these are actually “fruit”…deal with it…I am talking about finding it in a garden which makes it a vegetable to me 😉

 

 

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Garden: Let’s Talk a Minute…

Since we started our “glamstead” I’ve been talking about gardens. Oh, what’s a glamstead? It’s kinda like a farmstead thing, kinda like a homestead thing…but with lots of modern conveniences such as relatively close to town, water, power, nice house, air conditioning, etc. It’s what we are doing…our situation is not dependent on raising our own food, meat, or being organic, etc. We do have our own solar powered well, solar system for power, sewage system, a nice comfortable house, air conditioning, etc. That is the “glam” part…and we have a few acres, a garden, tractor, UTV & ATV, riding lawn mower, etc. Glamsteading.

If you followed my previous articles on gardening you know we struggled with the whole garden thing. The first year ants, birds, and mice ruled us. They simply thought we were providing a great lunch & diner buffet for them. Last year was better but once again the ants, birds, and mice got the lion’s share. But, we did eat out of our garden last year and we loved it. It would have been better had the birds not pulled up the cantaloupe, zucchini, squash, etc. Well, we thought it was the birds…little did we know.

This year we were not going to have a garden, simply too many other things going on and I wanted more time to get back to writing/posting my book. Wife person was fine with it…done…no garden.

Then the whole food thing fell apart in the country, the prices went through the roof, inflation rampant, etc. We talked…a smaller but productive garden became the order of the day. But, we didn’t want to plow, till, amend, etc. No problem. I was doing a major “put away” on my shop and our small barn/garage. I had 7, foot locker sized plastic storage bins left over…perfect for us to try our hand at container gardening. And so it began.

We planted our standard fare; tomatoes, cantaloupe, peppers, squash, green beans, and I started the strawberry patch. Yeah, I killed off the first strawberry plants with compost that was too hot. And then came the destruction of cantaloupes, squash and peppers. We were discouraged. But, we were looking at this as a very needed learning experience…more on that later.

Well, we had cleared out the local mice and pack rat population really well over the last year…none of those little buggers anywhere inside our acre of chain link fence. So it must obviously be the birds. Yes, we ruled out the herd of jack rabbits that live in the area…they stay outside of the chain link fence thanks to the dogs and my Ruger 10/22. We bought bird netting and up it went…and the plants kept getting dug up, knocked over, and torn out of the soil. Dang those birds!

And then I saw the culprit…our youngest dog! I use an organic fertilizer when I first put the plants into the ground. It gives the plants a boost without burning them out like chemical fertilizer might. But, our youngest dog thinks the organic fertilizer pellets are great food for snacks between meals. She would nuzzle up against the plant, chew out, or lick up the pellets, and leave the plants virtually destroyed.

Varmint fence went up, problem solved. And that single lesson was worth this year’s effort, work, and money in our garden world. Why? Because we had no idea it was our dog. If we had planted a large garden out of necessity, she would/could have virtually wiped us out before we knew what was happening. So it was a much more cost-effective problem solving experience than it otherwise could have been.

In my two previous year’s articles I encouraged you, kinda begged you, to plant a garden. Any size garden…just plant a garden. I guess it was in the hopes you might work out any garden-related issues you would face as well…before “necessity” came into play.

Moving on to the next subject…

So let’s talk necessity…it is really important. For about a month now I have been really impressed to talk with you and your next year’s garden but just couldn’t figure out the “why” or other details. But now I have. I want to strongly encourage you to have a garden next year…as large as practical and as your situation will allow. And maybe push it just a little bit past that mark.

You guys are smart folks…you see and hear what is happening all around us. You know fertilizer is up 200 – 400%. You see the prices of food in the stores. You also hear and read the stories of farmers talking about looming food shortages and food chain disruptions. Any now there are rumblings about some seed shortages. There are few worse experiences in life than starving…and watching your children starve.

I have no concrete fact-based empirical evidence that there will be significant problems with food next year. But the circumstantial evidence points that there is a high likelihood of that being the case. And of course…it is just a gut feeling that I need to stress how important it is that we all have a garden for next year…situation permitting.

But, here is what I really want you to do now…regardless of your decision of a garden for next year…buy now the supplies needed for a garden next year.

I am not saying supplies won’t be available next year. I am not saying those supplies will be prohibitively expensive next year. I am not saying garden vegetables will be 10 times more expensive next year. I am not saying that vegetables will be absent from store shelves next year. I am not saying anything about doom & gloom end of the world scenarios.

What I am saying…be ready to have a garden. That means have all the supplies in the garage ready to go…and get those supplies together within a month. Yup, I am asking you, encouraging you, to buy all the supplies now for your garden next year.

Now how big of a garden?

Well, that may be dictated by a number of things; 1) space for a garden, 2) physical ability to garden, 3) HOA restrictions, 4) financial resources, 5) capability.

But, how big should your garden be?

If you had all of the 5 issues above under control, then how do you decide what is the right size?

Some years ago I did a whole lot of research to see what it would take to be self-sustaining as far as food goes for a family of four. Wow…it was eye-opening!

Under ideal circumstances it would take a minimum of 5 – 12 acres to grow your own fruit, vegetables, and meat. But the worst part…it is a full-time job to do such a thing…or pretty dang close to it…for two people.

So I am not asking you to be an organic, mother-earth, hippie commune homesteader. I just want you to have a realistic sized garden for food. No, not all your food, just to supplement your purchased food…or your food storage.

My wife and I have talked it over and we have neither the time nor desire to work so hard to provide even most of our fruit and vegetables. We have already planted 11 fruit trees, a couple fig trees go in the ground this coming winter. Strawberry patch got started this year, should be 3x – 5x times larger this coming year. Blackberries and raspberries go in this coming spring.

Now, we have no intention of a really large garden…we simply can’t do it and honestly have no desire to do it. But, we love fresh food…nothing better than a warn cantaloupe on a summer morning.  OK, maybe a bowl of fresh strawberries with 4″ of heavy ReadiWhip on em!

I’ve purchased the heirloom seeds, soil amendments; peat moss, perlite, and composed steer manure. We still have to get a 3-yard load of compost and some more bird netting. I will get the compost in the next week or two, it will sit and chemically cool off till needed in the spring, then it should be perfect. I bought the organic starter fertilizer, the chemical fertilizer, diatomaceous earth, and bone meal. I bought the heirloom seeds for all the plants we want to grow and eat…with some left over to share. We are ready to go!

And a previously planned/schedule project included two cattle panels, clear plastic, and some lumber supplies still needs the materials purchased. That will give as a small, cost-effective greenhouse to get a jump start on the growing season. I will probably get those supplies in September/October, build it in December/January. I will get an article up for that project too.

Now I want to get pretty personal…I mean truly from my heart to yours…

I don’t know for sure why I am asking you to not just have a garden next year but to buy the supplies for next year’s garden within a month. I really don’t know. But, I know I am supposed to prompt you, urge you, plead with you, even beg you to do so.

I know it is a lot to ask…but ask I must. It might mean the difference between being hungry or not. Might mean you just save a few dollars on your food bill next year. Maybe just enjoying great tasting tomatoes. Maybe it is a learning experience on how to garden in your location for a time when it will be needed…I mean really needed. Maybe all of the above. I am telling you point blank I don’t know entirely why I am asking you. But I am asking you to do it.

And it may be a lot to ask of you to lay out money over the next month to buy the supplies…I know it has impacted us to be sure. But I am asking to very seriously listen to what that little voice is telling you right now. I hope it is confirming what I am asking of you. If not, then so be it…it is your decision to make and I respect that.

I hope you felt the spirit with which I wrote this, I hope it means something to you, and I hope it helps you.

 

 

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Garden – 2021: 3/8/2021

On February 11th my wife and I started our seedlings. Now, just so you are aware…I’ve never, ever tried to grow my own plants from seeds indoors. Yeah, never. But, last year’s experience taught me two main things…1) get a jump on the growing season by using healthy well started plants, 2) those plants referenced in #1 are getting really expensive and weren’t easy to come by last year. So that led me to the decision this year…grow my own starter plants. And I spent a whole lot of time researching the right ways to do all of the above.

As I was saying on 2/11 we planted our seeds. On 2/18 they looked like this.

Everything looking good for our plants…but the picture shows one HUGE mistake…any guesses?

If you guessed the onion set starter box you would be 100% correct. The box is way too big, the dirt way to deep, and blocks out way too much sun for the other plants.

If you are wondering why we started what we did, here is the explanation:

  1. Opinions – We love to use onions in a lot of what we cook. They are pretty easy to grow, can thrive in our climate, and taste really good. They also store reasonably well, and can be frozen.
  2. Tomatoes – This could easily be the root of our diet. We love tomatoes! And we are most fond of Roma and cherry varieties. The cherry tomatoes go into salads. The Roma tomatoes get eaten whole, sliced on sandwiches, cooked into sauces, and dehydrated with a little olive oil and Italian seasoning on them. Roma tomatoes tend to be meatier and less juice…exactly what we want.
  3. Peppers – Similar to tomatoes…they go into just about anything. We do a couple of primary things with them; 1) they get made into a pasta sauce that is out of this world good, 2) diced dehydrated, 3) turned into a “shaker pepper”. We take all our left over peppers, dehydrate the crap out of them, then put them all together into a blender, and blend them until the consistency of a coarse black pepper. We vacuum seal the coarse powder into small pouches…about a 1/2 cup. When the time comes we open a pouch, put the contents into a shaker and we have a really, really good pepper seasoning.
  4. Watermelon – it is juicy, refreshing, and hydrating. Sitting outside on the patio on a warm summer night eating a piece, or ten, of watermelon is simply divine.

And we have to start cantaloupes soon. They didn’t have the seed last time we were in the store. We will check tomorrow. Then they get started as well…in the most prominent spot of course! Nothing better than eating cantaloupe picked fresh off the vine early on a summer morning for breakfast!

So here is some information that I hope helps…

And in case you are wondering…no, it is not too late for most people to just be starting their seeds indoors. Most plants can be started indoors 4 – 6 weeks before transplanting outdoors. So you should have enough time, maybe even plenty of time.


Related Articles:

 


Contact me personally with your questions/comments…





 

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It’s time for garden prepping !

Yup, it’s that time of year to start preparing for your garden. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to actually start planting! Unfortunately it is not yet time for 99% of us to be planting. But it is time to…

  1. Plan what you intend to plant. Only plan for what you will actually eat.
  2. If you haven’t already purchased your seeds like I suggested several months ago, go buy your seeds. Yes, heirloom seeds if at all possible. But, whatever seeds are best for your local conditions and needs is just fine.
  3. Last weekend my wife and I planted seeds for our sweet orange peppers, Serrano chili peppers, Poblano peppers, Roma tomatoes, and sweet yellow and white onions (for onion sets).
  4. Today we will plant seeds for grand bell peppers, Crimson watermelon, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes.
  5. They are sitting in a large south facing window.
  6. Next week we will buy an LED grow light.

So why so early? Well, for us it is not really all that early. We want to get our plants started early and let them grow to a pretty good size before we plant them outside. Yup, a jump on the growing season!

When will we plant them out side? I wasn’t sure at all. We planted a micro-garden last year…with poor results…more on that later. So I really didn’t know for sure when to get our plants in the ground outside. After a little research I found a great website that you enter your zip code and it gives you a date-by-date planting guide for each vegetable type.  According to my zip code I will have 2 – 3 months of growing my plants indoors before they get the real thing outside. Of course I am not sure if I am right in my planning or not…this is my first time at this scale in this location. But, I have to get experience somehow, sometime…why not now!

Why didn’t I use local “experts” for guidance? I tried…and each had their own opinion and I wasn’t sure who was right or not. So I went with the Internet experts…if it’s on the Internet it must be true!

<click here to go to The Old Farmer’s Almanac Planting Calendar>

Our neighbor is all about “food sustainability”…and I mean he is focused on it to the point of obsessive. And that is great, that is his thing for prepping. I tend to be a little more balanced in my prepping…and balance with the rest of my life. So I garden for fresh vegetables, some preserving, and gaining experience (especially in this new area). The experience gives me the background and knowledge, that should the need arise, I can go into growing most of our own food. Until that time comes…we just love eating all that fresh stuff…especially the tomatoes!

So why the article today on planting seeds and gardening? Simple, I am strongly encouraging you AGAIN to gain gardening experience. Why? Because there will come a time when folks will need to grow their  own food, then preserve it…and then survive off of it. If you wait to gain experience until growing your own food is a necessity…it might well be too late.

Yes, I will try to blog my garden activities this year. Not because I am some expert master gardener trying to educate you…nope, that’s not me at all. I am simply trying to share every day, ordinary experiences with you.

So there you go…hope you have some motivation to learn gardening. If you already know…then maybe you could make your plan. If you already have a plan…you could get started. Please…give it a try…you never know when the need will arise. In the meant time…FRESH TOMATOES!!

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