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Monday Harvest Report – January 18, 2016

There’s a lot happening around Stoney Acres in the last week!  Let’s start with the first garden harvest of 2016!!

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The weather has warmed up a bit over the last week, enough that the snow mostly melted off the cold frames.  This is the first chance I have even had to see the cold frames since before Christmas.  I took some time Saturday to clean the ice off a few of the lids and get inside for some harvesting!

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I brought in this muddy mess of carrots and greens.  The ground in the carrot cold frame was nice and soft and made for easy digging!

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Here’s everything cleaned off and ready to eat!  The totals came in at 1/4 pound of Spinach, 1/2 pound of lettuce and 1 1/2 pounds of carrots for a total of 2.25 pounds!  Off to a good start towards this years goal of 800 pounds.

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I also started my first batch of seedlings on Saturday.  I planted a total of 20 cells of 3 different types of hardy or quick growing lettuces.  I planted some butter crunch and also winter density (which is a new plant for us in 2016).  These should be ready to plant out right around the 1st of March.

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I’m also trying something new this year.  Many of my Master Gardener Friends use these soil blockers.  I’ve never used them before so I figured it was time to give them a try.  I know very little about starting seeds this way so this is just an experiment.  I planted these 8 cells with Tom Thumb Lettuce, which is a fast growing mini butter head lettuce.  I borrowed this soil blocker from a friend, if I end up liking them I may buy my own.  I will let you know how it goes.

Newspaper Seedling Pots

Since we are talking about Seed Starting I should remind you about my Seed Starting Video Course.  If you have ever wanted to learn how to grow your own seedlings this video course is the best way to learn!  It is on sale all this month for just $15.00!  Click on the image above or follow this link to learn more and to get the special price.

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Since we are on the topic of buying things I need to mention the Back to Basics Living Bundle!  This is a bundle that is available all this week for a fantastic price!  There are over 60 different Ebooks, Video Courses, Online Subscriptions and special offers in this bundle.  I’m proud to say that my Vegetable Gardening Basics video course is one of the items in this package.  All the the content centers around Homesteading, Gardening and Self Sufficiency.  If bought separately all the content in this bundle would cost over $550, but it is on sale all week for only $29.97.  I’ve already bought my copy and it is AWESOME.  You need to jump at this chance to get all this content for a super low price!  Click on this link to learn more and purchase.  Or simply click the image above.

 

Happy Gardening!  Have a Great Week!

From The Farm Hop – January 15, 2016

It’s time for another round of From The Farm where we love to see your ideas on how to garden, homestead, or any DIY tips and tricks. Last Week’s Top 3 Favorites, as chosen by YOU:

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Growing corn using the hill method

Growing corn using the hill method

Sweet corn has to be in most people’s top five garden crops. I know we love it around our place! But growing corn (either sweet or popcorn) represents a big challenge for most backyard gardeners. That big challenge is finding space to grow it.  Growing corn using the hill method can be a solution to your space problems!

Growing corn using the hill method

Corn is wind pollinated and each corn stalk must have plenty of other corn around it to assure proper pollination. Many new gardeners have been highly disappointed when they mistakenly plant only one row of corn. A single row of corn will never get pollinated properly. In fact I’ve found that when planting corn in rows you get the best pollination with 3 or more rows. That can take up a tremendous amount of space in a small garden and it also means when your corn matures you end up with 100’s of ears all at once!!

For a lot of years our solution was to just not plant corn. Despite many pleas from my wife I just felt like I couldn’t spare the space, so we bought our corn from the farmers market. But then I read about growing corn using the hill method, after a year or two of experimentation by both myself and my mother-in-law we have this growing technique figured out!

The hill method is simply planting corn very close together in small “hills”. The term hill in gardening really doesn’t have to refer to an actual hill. A hill is just a small intensely planted area. To plant corn in a hill you just need a space between 12 to 18 inches round.  I do usually “mound” it up a bit, maybe 3 or 4 inches high is all.  Corn is a big ” feeder” (meaning it needs lots of nitrogen). And corn also takes a lot out of the soil. So I like to start the season off by preparing my hills with plenty of compost and even some good organic fertilizer. This will give your corn plenty of nutrients for the summer.  And adding compost to the “hill” will actually raise the soil a bit.  But remember with corn “hills” we are not going for something large, just a small mound a few inches tall is what you are going for!

Growing corn using the hill method

You then simply plant 5 to 9 seeds evenly around the hill. Don’t only plant them on the perimeter of the hill, be sure to get a couple in the center.   Often I will plant as many as 9 seeds in a hill and then thin them down to around 6 plants evenly spaced over that 12 to 18 inch hill.  Corn also likes a lot of water so be sure your hills are in an area where they will get at least an inch per week.

Growing corn using the hill method

The corn will grow in a tight clump all summer. When the corn starts to tastle the 6 plants will be close enough to each other that all the ears will be properly pollinated! This is a never fail method for growing a small amount of corn.  My in-laws scatter 4 or 5 of these hills in empty spaces around their garden and they often end up with more corn than the two of them can eat.

Each stalk will developed 2 or 3 ears. So a hill with 6 stalks will have between 12 to 18 ears of corn. With 3 or 4 hills scattered around your garden (or even your flower beds) you will get a surprising amount of corn. Maybe it won’t be enough to bother canning or freezing, but it will be plenty for fresh eating.

Growing corn using the hill method

Another advantage of the hill method for growing corn is that you don’t have to plant all the hills at the same time. It is much easier to spread out your harvest time. Try planting two hills every two weeks over a six week period. This will give you several small harvests over a very long time instead of having all your corn come on at the same time!

The hill method is also perfect for growing popcorn. Most years we grow popcorn here at home and 6 to 8 hills of popcorn will give us around 70 ears of popcorn! Just remember that you can’t grow popcorn and sweet corn within 100 feet of each other. So if you have a small yard then you need to choose one.

Growing corn using the hill method

Keep in mind that corn grows tall and will tolerate being crowded by other plants.  So you could easily put 2 or 3 hills of corn in your melon or squash patch.  Plant the corn away from your main plants in the open area that will eventually be filled with your melon or squash vines.  By the time the vines actually take over the bed your corn plants will be tall and out of danger of being shaded by the vines.  Then the two plants will grow to maturity together.

You could even go as far as trying the 3 sisters method, where you plant pole beans at the base of the corn stalks and then the beans grow up the corn while melons or squash vines grow around the two.  This is a technique I have only read about and not tried myself, but I think the principal is sound and would work well when growing corn using the hill method.

Be aware that when you are growing corn using the hill method is the hills of corn are pretty vulnerable to strong winds. I have found that when the stalks get tall and full sized that they lean over and weigh each other down in a wind storm. If some of the stalks fall over in the wind you can usually pound a large stake or post in the center of the hill and then tie the stalks back up using some twine wrapped around all the stalks and the post. If your garden is in a really windy area it might be best to do some preventive measures early on by putting a stake and some twine in once the stalks reach their full height just before they tassel. I think the fact that the stalks are so close together just makes them a big target for high winds!

Growing corn using the hill method

We have been growing corn using the hill method successfully now for 3 years, we usually use it to grow popcorn. My in-laws have been using it for 6 years to grow sweet corn. So if you have always wanted to grow corn but didn’t think you had the space try growing corn using the hill method next year and you will see how awesome it will work for you as well!!!

Back to Basics Living Bundle – Coming Soon

This year I have the awesome opportunity to be part of the Back to Basics Living Bundle!  Not only am I an affiliate to the program but I also have the great privilege of also being one of the contributors to the bundle.  If you look close you will see yours truly as one of the authors!!  I feel really privileged to be a part of this bundle, there are a ton of very successful and experienced authors that are part of this bundle, I’m in awe that I was asked to be a part of it.  My Vegetable Gardening Basics video course is one of the resources offered in this great bundle.

So what is the Back to Basics Living Bundle.  This is a collection of over 60 different resources, these include eBooks, memberships, eCourses and even some bonus coupons!

Follow this link to learn all the details on the coming soon page!

Topics covered by this bundle include, Cooking from Scratch, DIY, Frugal Living, Natural Remedies, Preparedness and so much more!

Of course my favorite section is the Homesteading Section.

Included in this section is some really great material that I think will really interest my Stoney Acres Readers:

Urban Farming for Kids – These are some video’s produced by DaNelle Wolford over at the Blog Weed ’em & Reap.  The videos cover great topics on getting your Urban Farm going with your kids.  And the fun part about these videos is that the teachers are actually KIDS!  Great fun!

The Urban Chicken –  is an eBook by Heather Harris.  I love Heather and her down to earth way of teaching others.  This book will get you all set up for have your own chickens in an urban city.

The Art of Gardening: Building Your Soil – This eBook is by Susan Vinskofski.  She is an expert on improving your garden soil.  In this book she teaches you how to build healthy soil in your garden.  This is a topic that is often ignored by many gardeners so I would suggest getting this Bundle just for this book!

Ready, Set, Grow! – Is an eBook by Susannah Shmurak.  I think this one goes super well with my Gardening Basics course.  Susannah takes you through the basics of getting a new garden started right in your own back yard!

In the homesteading section there are also books and courses on A-Frame Pallet planters, raising rabbits for meat, raising goats, Homesteading with out a homestead, Pickling, homestead management and much more. And this is just one of the 9 sections in the bundle.

So now you can see why I’m so excited about this bundle.  There is so much information in this bundle that it will take me for ever to read and watch it all!

If you were to buy all 60 items in this bundle individually they would cost over $550.00.  But the whole package is being offered for only $29.97!  This is an incredible deal!  Hundreds of hours of content and eBooks for one $29.97!!!  Holy Cow!

Now this Bundle will only be up for sale for 7 days.  The sale starts January 18, 2016 and ends at midnight on January 24th.  So follow this link now to learn more about all the details and then when January 18th comes around you need to jump on this sale!

 

From the Farm Hop – January 8, 2016

It’s time for another round of From The Farm where we love to see your ideas on how to garden, homestead, or any DIY tips and tricks. Last Week’s Top 3 Favorites, as chosen by YOU:

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2015 New Crops Review

2015 New Crop Round up

I like to change things up a bit and try new varieties in my garden. I figure I’ve got a solid 40 or more gardens left in me so I ought to broaden my horizons and try growing new varieties of plants each year. 2015 turned out to be a big year for new plants around our place with 9 new crops that I tried! Here’s a look at what was new this year and which new plants we will keep and which didn’t make the cut!

Tom Thumb Lettuce

Let’s start out with one of my favorite new plants,Heirloom Tom Thumb Butterhead Lettuce. It was advertised as a fast growing, salad sized lettuce perfect for a dinner salad.

This one really lived up to its advertising! The plant grows a nice mini head of butter crunch lettuce. The heads turn out to be about the size of a large grapefruit and are perfect for a salad for one or two people. This is a very quick growing lettuce, the heads were ready for harvest in about 30-35 days. The heads held up well in the heat of early summer and also did well in the fall. We liked the taste and texture of this lettuce as well.

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The one thing I did find is this one doesn’t hold up well in the field. We lost a few heads from both plantings because once they reached mature size the quality quickly dropped off and the plants bolted or died off quickly. So in the future we will deal with this by planting few heads and staggering the planting times so they don’t all come to maturity at the same time.

Over all this is a great little head of lettuce that we will use often in the years to come, especially in the spring when we want a few quick heads of lettuce. Because these are so quick growing I’ve also thought they might do well on a window seal inside, I will keep you informed on how that works out!

Bush Pickle Cucumbers
These seeds also came from Territorial Seed. I got this one in hopes of having a pickling cucumber that didn’t take up as much space. We are fairly limited on trellis space for our cucumbers so I thought I’d try these guys. I wasn’t very impress with this one. The seeds germinated and we ended up with some fairly small bush like plants. But the plants seemed to struggle all summer, never looking very healthy and never producing much fruit. In fact the two hills I planted (with 3 final vines per hill) only produced a dozen cucumbers all summer. While the regular cucumbers only 18 inches away produced over 40 pounds.

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In the photo above the 3 pale green cukes on the top left and the 1 on the bottom right are from these plants.  I still have some seeds left so I may try putting these plants up front in a flower bed next year, just to see how they look and do up there, but I don’t think this one will ever find a space in the main garden again.

California Wonder 300 – Bell peppers

We have grown Yolo Bell peppers for years and always liked them. But sometimes they have a bit of a bitter taste to them when they are frozen. So we thought we would try a different variety this year. California Wonder 300 was the wrong choice!! These seed just never seemed to do well in our area. Even the seedlings grown indoors looked like they were struggling.

The plants never really seemed to get established and as a result we had very little production. Where 8 Yolo pepper plants usually give us around 20 pounds of peppers in a season the CA Wonder 300’s only produces 3 pounds for the whole year! So these won’t find a place in our garden EVER again!

Umpqua Broccoli

I decided to try Umpqua because it is a open pollinated variety. I figured I should get a variety of broccoli into my rotation that I could save seeds from if I ever needed to!

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My seed order didn’t arrived in time for me to grow Umpqua in the spring, but I did put in 6 plants this fall and I liked them. They grew decent sized heads for a fall crop and they were very quick to mature. They ended up being my earliest fall broccoli heads this year. And on top of being early maturing they were also quick to set side shoots. In fact this was the first year I have ever gotten a decent amount of side shoots from my broccoli before the cold weather killed the plants. So Umpqua will be a broccoli I continue to grow. I’m excited to see how they do next spring.

Arcadia Broccoli

I received a half package of Arcadia Broccoli from a blogging friend of mine. She didn’t have great success in her climate with them, but we live in very different parts of the country so she though I might like to give them a try. I was looking for a broccoli that grew a nice big main head and Arcadia came through on that front! These were the largest heads I got this spring. On all 4 plants main heads weighed in at 1 pound, and one of them was nearly 1.5 pounds which is pretty good for my garden.

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But Arcadia fell on it’s face when it came to side shoot production. These plants produced very few side shoots. Many other variteies of broccoli end up producing more side shoots than what you get from the main head. Not so with Arcadia. Each plant only gave me a few side shoots which cut the total production for the season below that of my other plants, despite the large main heads. So the lack of side shoot production will keep me from growing this one again.

Chamomile (German)

Growing any kind of medicinal herb was new to us this year. We thought we would start out simple by growing an easy one. Chamomile turned out to be a good choice. We got this variety from our local seed company, Mountain Valley Seed. I started 8 plants indoors in the seed starter at the same time I started my summer veggies and planted them out in mid May.

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All of the plants did well. Some better than others (the ones I planted in a flower bed close to the front side walk didn’t produce as well). This variety produces 100’s of dime sized flowers that were easy to harvest. We dried some for winter use and also used quite a few fresh to make a tasty warm drink, perfect for getting you all relaxed and ready for sleep! These guys fit well in any flower bed and I will continue to make them a part of our herb garden!

Soloist Hybrid Chinese Cabbage

This one ended up being a disappointment. I don’t know if the seeds were just not suited to our climate or what. We planted these in both the spring and fall and they never developed heads, just a bunch of out of control leaves. I may give them one more try this coming spring, but I think I’m going to look for some other type of Napa head cabbage.

Black Coco Bush Bean

I have always wanted to try a dry bean in our garden. I found this bush bean that was supposed to grow a nice black bean. I planted these at both the home garden and the borrowed garden.

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From the 20 or so plants that I put in, we ended up with only this small amount of eatable beans. It was a pretty big disappointment. I think in 2016 I will try a pole bean instead!

Royal Burgundy Bush Bean

I’ve always wanted to try a different colored bean. This plant worked out pretty well in our garden. The plant itself really doesn’t take up a ton of space, but they were fairly productive despite their small size.

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They produce this beautiful dark purple bean that was quite tasty to eat. Keep in mind that any dark colored bean like this doesn’t keep its color when cooked. Instead they turn a dark green when cooked (which the younger kids got a kick out of when they saw it happen). These plants weren’t nearly as productive as our normal green pole bean. But they added some nice variety to our harvest and they sure make a picture of beans much more beautiful! I have enough seeds left to plant for one or two more seasons, so I think I will use them up and then reevaluate when they are all gone. But over all I was pretty happy with this new comer.

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Well that’s it for 2015. I picked up a few new varieties that will stick around and also had some failures, but that’s just part of gardening.

Next year I’m looking for a couple new tomatoes and maybe a new lettuce. Any suggestions??

From the Farm Hop – January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!!

It’s time for another round of From The Farm where we love to see your ideas on how to garden, homestead, or any DIY tips and tricks. Last Week’s Top 3 Favorites, as chosen by YOU:

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