Growing Pumpkins in your home garden

Growing Pumpkins in your home garden is a fun and easy crop to grow.  But watch out, it takes a lot of space!

Growing Pumpkins

Growing Pumpkins has always been one of my favorites. Part of that appeal might come from the fact that pumpkins were one of the first real successes I had as a gardener. It was the first year we had an “official” garden, we had just moved into our new home and I took our two youngest out and had them help me plant the pumpkin seeds. They were tucked into a back corner of the garden and most of the vines grew out into our neighbors horse pasture. That one little hill of pumpkins gave us 7 carving sized fruits. The kids were thrilled and so was I!!

Ever since, the kids and I have tramped out together to the garden and planted a few hills of pumpkins. It has been a fun tradition that I will miss now that they are all nearly grown! (the kids not the pumpkins).

For a home gardener pumpkins are fairly easy to grow and relatively pest free. But be warned growing pumpkins requires a lot of space! So you will need to learn to be creative!!

How to get started growing pumpkins

Location

Keep in mind that pumpkins are a vining plant and require A LOT of space. One pumpkin vine will grow up to 20 feet and for a decent crop you need at least a couple of plants. So you need to plan carefully where you are going to grow your pumpkins!

They will need a sunny spot with lots of room to sprawl. It is possible to train the vines to stay in one area, but that area should be at least 10 foot square. Pumpkins can also be grown on a trellis to help save space, but larger fruits may need some support as they mature.

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You can prune pumpkin vines. Wait until the vine has produced at least one male flower and one female flower (I will explain flowers in a bit). Then prune the vine just past the first female flower. This will encourage other “side shoot” vines which can also be pruned. Pruning will encourage the plant to grow several smaller fruit instead of just one or two larger ones.

Pumpkins like fertile soil so amending the soil with at least 2 inches of quality compost or well rotted manure before planting (or even the fall before) is a good idea.

I have seen folks that have used longer flower beds to plant pumpkins. Pumpkin vine will fill up the bed (with a little training) and make an attractive green plant!

Planting

Pumpkins are planted like any other winter squash, in the late spring. They are a warm season crop and should be planted after any danger of frost has past. If you plant sooner be prepared for cold nights and cover the plants with some type of row cover or clotch. You need to wait to plant pumpkins until the soil temperature has warmed to 65 degrees. I love my handy soil thermometer to help me know when it’s time to plant. You can warm the soil earlier using some plastic (Read more about this technique here)

I like to plant pumpkins in “Hills”. Technically speaking a hill is just a grouping of plants, It doesn’t actually have to be a HILL. But I like to mound up a hill about 18 inches wide and 4 to 6 inches high. This gives me a good spot to plant my seeds or transplants and I’ve found hills with a little depression on top are easier to water.

Leave at least 5 feet between hills.

Plant your seeds 1 inch deep.

Plant each hill with 4 or 5 seeds spaced evenly around the hill. Once the seeds have germinated and are up and growing I remove all but the two healthiest plants.

Most pumpkin varieties take between 90 to 120 days from planting to mature. So if you have a shorter growing season you can get a bit of a head start by starting your seeds indoors 2 to 3 weeks before you intend to plant them out. Once the seedlings are ready you should put 2 seedlings in each hill. Keep in mind that all types of squash plants don’t really transplant all that well. So it is important to only give them 2 or 3 weeks indoors, you want small new plants with only a few leaves. Older plants that have already started vining will not do nearly as well. (learn more about seed starting by taking my Seed Starting Simplified course)

Care while growing pumpkins

The only care pumpkins really require while growing is weeding and plenty of water. They prefer moist soil, so be sure they are planted in an area where you can keep them watered.

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While they are growing keep those vines trained and contained in the area designated for them. Out of control pumpkin vines can shade the rest of the plants in your garden. So keep them under control.

Fruit Development and Flower Gender

Like all other members of the Squash Family, pumpkins develop flowers of both genders. It is easy to tell the difference. Male flowers just have a long flower stalk behind the flower, female flowers will have a small baby pumpkin behind the flower. Pumpkins are insect pollinated so be sure to avoid any pesticide use in your garden that might kill bees or other pollinators.

If you feel like your female flowers are not getting pollinated you can do it by hand. The easiest method is to carefully remove all of the flower petals from a male flower. Then gently rub the remaining flower parts all around the inside of a female flower. I have also seen folks hand pollinate using a small soft paint brush, taking pollen from the male flower and transferring it to the female flower. But ultimately bees do a better job, so do all you can to protect your local bee population!!

You will always see a rush of male flowers first. Often the only flowers you will see to begin with will be male. But never fear the female flowers will come. That rush of male flowers is natures way of attracting the bees!

Harvesting your pumpkins

Growing Pumpkins will start out green and late in the season they will slowly take on their traditional orange color. Color is not an indication of ripeness. You should try to leave your pumpkins on the vine as long as possible. It is best to leave them until the first frost kills your vines.

Growing Pumpkins

Once the pumpkins are ready to harvest cut the growing pumpkins from the vine with a pair of garden shears or a very sharp knife. Leave at least 2 inches of vine attached to the pumpkin.

Leave the pumpkins on a sunny porch for at least a week. This helps the skins to harden and cure and will give you a longer storage time. But be sure to protect them from frost on cold nights.

Growing Pumpkins #2

If cold weather forces you to bring in your pumpkins before they have completely ripened, never fear.  Just bring them inside and place them in a warm sunny window for a few weeks and they will ripen!

Storage

Most varieties of pumpkins will last in storage for 3 to 4 months. Keep them in a cool spot (50 to 60 degrees) for the longest storage.

Varieties to grow

There are 4 main types of pumpkins

Carving

These are the traditional jack-o-lantern pumpkins used for Halloween carving! The flesh of these types of pumpkins is eatable but they are really not the best type to grow if you are looking to eat your pumpkins. The flesh on these carving pumpkins is stringier and less flavorful. But the seeds from carving pumpkins are delicious roasted and are VERY nutritious.

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Pie Pumpkins

These are smaller, sweeter pumpkins that have flesh that is more tender and tasty. These pumpkins are traditionally used for pies and other baked goodies. They have much thicker flesh and a smaller seed cavity. The seeds on these pumpkins are also eatable. If you are looking to replace the flavor and texture of store bought canned pumpkin, you could also consider growing Butter cup squash. Believe it or not most of the canned pumpkin you buy at the store actually isn’t pumpkin at all, but instead Butter Cup or other squashes.

Giant Pumpkins

These are the huge 300 pound giants you see grown for all the contests every fall. They are very specialized to grow and take a lot of time and experience. But if you are looking for bragging rights in your neighborhood these are the plants you want to grow.

Novelty pumpkins

Technically many of the funny shaped and colored pumpkins you see are squashes. But they are grown the same way and can give you some fun variety to your fall decorations. Most of these varieties are also eatable and you may even like them better.

If you like pumpkin seeds there are also varieties you can grow that have “hull-less seeds” they are nice for eating but I have found them a little difficult to grow.

Common Pests & Problems

Pumpkins are troubled by cucumber beetles, squash bugs, squash vine borer and also powdery mildews. There are also some viral and bacterial wilt diseases that can affect pumpkins but these are less common.

There are some conventional non organic treatments for powder mildew, but I have found that early planting and good crop rotation usually keeps that problem at bay in my garden long enough to get a harvest.

Dealing with the pests is usually just a matter of vigilance. You need to keep an eye on your plants, inspecting the leaves often looking for both damage and egg clusters. The photo above is a shot of an egg cluster for squash bugs. Look for these and remove and destroy that section of the leaf. Adult bugs can be sprayed, but they are pretty tough and usually traps (or paying the neighborhood kids to catch and squash them) is just as effective.

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I hope this article encourages you to start growing pumpkins. I love having them in our garden and grow at least one hill each year, even now that we don’t have little kids around. There is just something satisfying about seeing those large leaves and sprawling plants in my garden. And it’s fun to peak beneath the canopy of leaves and find those growing pumpkins all around the garden!

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Book Review – The Perfect Pumpkin

The Perfect Pumpkin by Gail Damerow is a book I pick up at the library.  I really enjoyed reading this book and decided to do this review on my own.  I have no association with the author of this book and I received no financial benefit from this review.  The post does contain affiliate links where you can purchase the book.  If you purchase through this link I will receive a small commission.

The Perfect Pumpkin

Book reviews are something I have wanted to do here on Stoney Acres for a while now.  I do a lot of reading and research on gardening and I will try to give you a quick review of the books I’m reading to let you know if they are worth buying.

 

A link to what ever book I am reviewing will always be on the top left side bar of the page.  This link will take you to Amazon where you can buy the book if you would like to.  Here’s the promise I give to you, I will only review and recommend books that are really good.  Of course I would love it if you click on the Amazon link on my review and buy the book so I can make a little commission, but it is more important for me to keep you as a reader on my blog.   So I’m not going to promote junk and I’m not going to bug you about it.  If you’re interested in the book then I hope you will buy it.

 

So here goes with my first book review . . .

The Perfect Pumpkin”  by Gail Damerow.

  The Perfect Pumpkin

I picked this book up the other day at the library just looking for some advice on how to use our pumpkins in cooking. I had to laugh when I went to chapter 7 “Pumpkin Eater” and found the pages covered in little flecks of pumpkin “guts”. Apparently someone else had the same idea and chose to have the book close at hand while they were cooking.

I’ll be honest with you; I didn’t think it was possible to write a whole 220 pages about pumpkin.  But in The Perfect Pumpkin, Ms. Damerow really does a great job of tackling this subject and making it a very entertaining read.  Inside the pages you will find everything you will ever need to know about growing and using pumpkins.

The Perfect Pumpkin has a chapter on pumpkin history.

I had no idea how important pumpkins used to be to both the Native American population and the early settlers of the American content.  The author tells a story of a traveling preacher “praying” for a meal anywhere that didn’t have pumpkin.  Pumpkin really was important for eating for a long time in many countries.  Now a day’s most of us just eat pumpkin in pie or quick breads.  That wasn’t always the case.

The Perfect Pumpkin 4

Other chapters in The Perfect Pumpkin include a great breakdown of the different types of pumpkins out there.  Did you know that carving pumpkins are not necessarily the best pumpkin for eating?  I was a little disappointed to learn that, as we were planning to try eating some of our pumpkins this year.  We may still give it a try with a few of the smaller pumpkins we grew, but next year we will be planting some Sugar or pie pumpkins for sure.

The Perfect Pumpkin 3

Common Pests and Diseases

The book includes a great chapter on growing pumpkins and another on common pests and diseases.  I was particularly impressed with the section on pest management.  She takes a very level approach to pest management including using methods that would be considered organic first before escalating things to herbicides and pesticides.  There’s even a chapter on growing giant pumpkins if that is something that interests you.

She includes a great little chapter on how to carve pumpkins or use them in other types of decorations.  She then ends the book with a really good discussion on using pumpkins in cooking.  We are not just talking about pies.  She includes recipes for pie, cakes, pancakes, soups, chili, pickles and much more.  Also there are instructions for using the seeds either raw or roasted.  Even instructions for making pumpkin flour????!!!!

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I’ll admit I picked this book up thinking I’d only read the chapter on cooking with pumpkin.  I ended up reading the whole book cover to cover.  It is full of a lot of great information and is really written in a very enjoyable style.  I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to read and how well written the book was.  So if you interest in growing pumpkins either to eat or just to carve pick up a copy of The Perfect Pumpkin today.

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Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted pumpkin seeds are really good for you and super tasty!  Follow this simple recipe for a great fall time treat!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Carving Jack-O-Lanterns is an annual tradition in our family.  Usually the night before Halloween we get together and each of our kids carves up their own pumpkin.  Even the teenagers still seem to enjoy doing it.  We are not the most artistic bunch but we have fun making decorations for a spooky front porch display.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds #2

When you finish disemboweling your pumpkin your left with a big pile of seeds and pulp that used to go straight into the garbage around here.  A few years back I found a recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds and decided to give it a try.  Mrs. Stoney was very skeptical at first but now she has become a huge fan.  In fact we grow (and buy) extra pumpkins just so we could have the seeds for roasting.

There are all kinds of health benefits to roasted pumpkin seeds.

Some studies that show roasted pumpkin seeds helps promote prostate health in men.  Pumpkin seeds are high in the minerals magnesium, manganese and phosphorus, and a good source of iron, copper, protein, and zinc.  The seeds also contain Omega 3 fats and may also have some anti inflammatory properties.  Simply search the web for more on the health benefits of roasted pumpkin seeds.

Pumpkins seeds have become a daily part of our healthy eating plan.  Bot the Omega 3’s and the magnesium are good for head aches.  One member of our family deals with some pretty sever head aches on a monthly basis and since adding pumpkin seeds to our diet (along with other high magnesium foods) those head aches have become much more manageable.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds #2

Roasted pumpkin seeds couldn’t be easier to make.

First you need to clean off all the gunk.  This is really the biggest part of this whole project.  I start by rinsing them in a colander and picking out all the really big pieces of pulp.  I have found if you pour them in a bowl of warm water the seeds will float at the top, the pulp sinks mid way down and you can skim the seeds off the top with a slotted spoon.

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We then let them dry on a towel over night.

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Roasting the Pumpkin Seeds

Next simply spread the seeds out on a cookie sheet and generously salt.  Bake the seeds at 350 for 20 minutes.  Check every 5 minuets, stir and add more salt to taste.  Check the seeds for done-ness by taking a few out, letting them cool and taste.  If the inside is dry then they are done.  Don’t be surprised if a few of the seeds “pop” just like popcorn.  We had quite a few pop this year and burn on the bottom of the oven.

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Try different flavors, garlic, cheese, tex-mex, think about popcorn flavors, if they have a popcorn flavor for it, you can use the same for pumpkin seeds.  Store the seeds you don’t eat in an air tight container or freeze.

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One warning, these things are addictive.  If you’re like us you will find yourself planting more pumpkins that you could ever use, just so you have more seeds.  After Halloween we keep our uncut pumpkins in the cold storage in the basement.   We use the pumpkins for cooking or as a winter treat for the chickens and harvest the seeds for more roasted pumpkin seeds.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds #7

If you’re looking for more information about pumpkins I’ve found a great site dedicated to the art of pumpkin growing (and eating).  The link is http://www.pumpkinnook.com.  They have tons of great info on how to grow and use pumpkin.

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Ripening Green Pumpkins

Ripening Green Pumpkins is something we have to do ever few years.  Sometimes you just don’t have enough time in the fall for the last of your pumpkins to ripen.  But it is a actually simple process to ripen green pumpkins.

Ripening Green Pumpkins

“Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.” – Jim Davis

It happens every few years around our place.  You know the type of year, when the frost and the cold come early and you just have to break down and bring in your pumpkins before they have fully ripened.  Pumpkins can take a light frost or two and be okay, but once the foliage on your pumpkin plant has been killed by the frost there really isn’t a reason to leave the green pumpkins out in the garden. A really hard freeze could really damage those green pumpkins.

Ripening Green Pumpkins

The process for ripening green pumpkins is really quite simple.  You just need a sunny spot where you don’t need to worry about your green pumpkins freezing.  For us that perfect spot is a south facing window either in the garage or inside the house.  All they really need is exposure to a few weeks of nice warm sun shine and they will ripen up!

Ripening Green Pumpkins

 

Plenty of pumpkin pie coming from this beauty.  This one weighed in at 27 lbs when we finally brought it in from ripening in the sunny window in the garage.  We weren’t sure if this one would ripen, it was very green when we brought it in from the garden the night before our first hard freeze.

Ripening Green Pumpkins 1

 

Only 3 weeks in the sun was all it took.  This is the first time we have tried ripening green pumpkins.  Our wet cold spring set all our plants back several weeks so this one just didn’t quite get done before the frost.

Keep in mind when you are ripening green pumpkins that they won’t be a good of quality as a vine ripened pumpkin.  Like many other veggies ripened green pumpkins will be of lower over all taste and quality.  But this one was PERFECT for a nice Halloween Jack-O-Lantern

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Saving Lettuce Seeds from your own garden

Saving lettuce seeds is a great place to start learning to save your own seeds.  This post will show you just how easy it is to save your own lettuce seeds.

Saving Lettuce Seeds

Saving seeds can be a complicated, but also very fun and rewarding gardening skill to learn.

 

Today I want to talk about saving lettuce seeds.

Saving lettuce seeds is actually one of the easier seed saving projects. If you are interested in saving seeds I would suggest that saving lettuce seeds is a great place to start. Lettuce was one of the first plants I learned to save seeds from.

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I few years back a friend of mine gave me some seeds for a great little red leaf lettuce. He didn’t know the name, just that they loved it. So in his honor we call the lettuce Larry’s red. I’ve lost contact with Larry since moving so I’ve also lost my source for seeds, I knew this was an heirloom variety so I had to learn how to save my own seeds. I’ve been able to keep this variety alive and growing in my garden now for 7 seasons by saving my own seeds every few years.

In this post I’m going to cover 3 aspects of savings lettuce seeds:

First how lettuce plants produce seeds, Second cross pollination concerns and how to deal with them, and third how and when to harvest and clean your lettuce seeds.

How Lettuce Plants Produce Seeds

The first step in saving lettuce seeds is understanding how lettuce plants produce seeds. One of the keys is to understand timing. A lettuce plant will bolt to seed as the days get longer and hotter in early to mid summer.

Bolting

Bolting is a term used in gardening to describe the process of a plant developing a seed head (or flower). Not all vegetables bolt. If a vegetable produces a fruit (think, tomatoes, squash, melons) then the seeds develop in the fruit. But if the vegetable is one that doesn’t produce a fruit, then when it develops a flower head we call that “Bolting”. Lettuce is one of those plants that bolt.

The main trigger for lettuce plants to bolt is lengthening day light. The added heat of approaching summer is also a trigger to the plant to bolt. That is something to keep in mind if you are planning on saving lettuce seeds. It is best done in the spring and summer as it is much less likely that your lettuce plants will bolt when growing them in the fall and winter months.

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2016 was my year for saving lettuce seeds from Larry’s Red. So here is a great picture of the early stages of bolting in my Larry’s Red lettuce. You can see the lettuce plant changes shape and starts forming this long stalk that will eventually flower.

Saving Lettuce Seeds 4

Here’s a shot of one of the same plants later in the year, you can see a few of the little yellow flowers but for the most part this plant has finish flowering and the seeds are developing. Lettuce seeds develop a “feather” after flowering (kind of like a dandelion). Lettuce plants also are very irregular at flowering. You will see flowers developing on the plant over a period as long as 6 weeks with some types. Seeds are ready around 3 weeks after the flowering so you may need to harvest several times.

Lettuce is Self Fertile

Lettuce plants can be 100% self fertile. This means no insect pollination is required, which will come in handy when we talk about cross pollination issues later. For most varieties of lettuce the flower opens for just one day. With some varieties the flower may only be open for as little as 30 minutes. Once the flower has closed you will see development of the feather and then you know the seeds are on their way.

Cross Pollination Issues when savings lettuce seeds

Cross pollination is really not a huge deal with lettuce. There is a very small chance (5% according to the book Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth) that the lettuce flowers will be cross pollinated by insects. But many commercial growers (again according to Ashworth) believe cross pollination does not occur at all with lettuce plants. So to be honest, I really don’t worry to much about it.

But if you are concerned about cross pollination of your lettuce plants there are 3 methods you can use to prevent it.

Timing

The first and easiest method of preventing cross pollination of lettuce seeds is to only let one type of lettuce go to seed each year. This is the method I practice. Lettuce seeds if stored in a cool, dark place will last 3 to 5 years. So just set up your timing so that you only let one variety go to seed each season. Then there is ZERO chance of cross pollination.

Distance

If you grow too many varieties of lettuce to use the timing method then the second method is distance. The minium distance between flowering plants should be 12 feet but 25 or more would be better. So plan out your garden and lettuce plantings to allow for some space between plants to prevent cross pollination

Caging

The third method is to cover the plant with a wire cage (think something like a tomato cage) and to then completely cover the cage with a fabric row cover material. You then put this cage over the plant just before it starts to flower and leave it in place until the plant has finished flowering. The cage and material prevents any insects from getting access to the flowers.

Harvesting your Lettuce seeds

Harvesting is actually quite simple. Often it is as easy as putting the plant inside a paper grocery bag and giving it a shake!

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I like to be a bit more precise with it. Just get a small container and sit by the plant and find all the mature seed heads. Then just take that head between your fingers and rub a bit and the seeds break free and fall into the container.

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When you are harvesting the seeds you will also get a lot of the feathers and even seed heads. I like to spread the seeds out on a white paper plate (the white plate helps me see the seeds vs. the other junk).

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To winnow the seeds stir everything up really good and then gently blow across the surface of the seeds to blow off any feathers. Repeat this several times. Now you only have seeds and seed head parts. I then just take a pair of tweezers and pick out the other left over parts. That is usually good enough for us home gardeners, we really don’t need to have the seeds perfectly clean like a commercial grower would.

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I like to store my seeds in an envelope and then I put them in my seed box (Learn more about it here) and I keep the seed box in the coolest and darkest part of my basement. If you have room you can also store your seeds in your refrigerator.

Other considerations

How long it takes for saving lettuce seeds

This whole process actually takes a few months. March was the planting date for the lettuce I saved seeds this year. Most of the seeds I harvested were ready in late August. So from start to finish we were 6 months. Keep that in mind for you planning.

Production Volume

One lettuce plant doesn’t produce a ton of seeds, unless you are very careful when you harvest. So you should consider letting several plants go to seed if you are planning on having a supply of seeds that lasts for 3 years.

Can you Eat the lettuce?

You can harvest leaves from the lettuce plants you plan on harvesting seeds from before they bolt. Just not all of them. Harvest leaves from a leaf lettuce varieties but be sure not to harvest too heavily. Leave romain, head or butter head varieties without harvesting. So plan on growing some extra plants when you are going to be saving lettuce seeds.

Open Pollinated (heirloom) vs. Hybrid Plants

One other thing to keep in mind. It’s important that you know the difference between open pollinated and hybrid seeds. YOU CANNOT SAVE SEEDS FROM A HYBRID PLANT VARIETY. Find out before you save the seeds from any lettuce if it is an open pollinated variety. To learn more about Open pollinated plants vs. Hybrid plants please go read this great post by my friend . . .

A Great Resource for learning more

I love the book Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth(affiliate link). If you want to learn more about seed saving this book is an excellent resource!

Well there you have it. Saving lettuce seeds is a easy and a fun way to get started saving your own seeds.

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Un-Affordable Health Care Act and a Gardener

The Un-Affordable Health Care Act and a Gardener

Un-affordable Health Care Act copy

 

Before I begin this post let me apologize to my regular readers for varying so much from my regular gardening, urban homesteading and DIY posts. But something arrived in the mail this week that I have been stewing on for days and I just can’t keep quiet about it any more!!  This is after all a gardening blog so it’s not often I delve into politics.  I will admit I’m a little nervous to post this.  But I think the discussion will be beneficial to anyone striving for self sufficiency.

I am self employed.  Health Insurance is 100% my responsibility!  It has been for 15 years.  5 years ago the costs of a “traditional” health insurance plan became to expensive for us to pay so we had to switch to a high deductible plan with a Health Savings Account.

A high deductible plan basically means we are covered if something MAJOR happens, cancer, heart problems, a major accident.  We also get one visit to the doctor each year as preventive care for free.

Beyond that ANY TIME that we go to the doctor, we pay 100% and it applies to our $3000 per person deductible.  When we signed up for this plan it cost us right around $500 per month.  But that was way better than the $1200 we were going to have to pay. The $700 savings each month more than covered the few doctor visits we had to make each year.

Flash forward 5 years to this week.  We received a notice from our insurance company (that pays for almost nothing remember, we are a healthy family).  The letter told us that our monthly rate (that had already slowly crept up to $738) will be $956, starting January 1, 2017.  That represents a 30% increase in our rates this year and nearly a 100% increase in just 5 years.

Remember, this plan pays for NOTHING!!

The two visits last year for our younger kids to the doctor for a sickness.  $130 each – We paid that!!

The ER visit with our teenage son for treatment of a head injury from a basketball game.  $750 dollars, guess who paid that . . .  yes again US!

Or how about the visit to a sports medicine doctor ($350).   And 4 visits to a physical therapist for work on our sons leg after a track injury for $50 a piece?  Yes, again we paid for that!

In fact we have found that some doctors will give us a better rate if we just ignore the insurance all together and pay cash. (see the incredibly cheap rate we paid the physical therapist).

To help put this all into perspective, effective January 1st we will be paying more for our health insurance than we pay for OUR HOUSE PAYMENT!  Or put another way, we will pay $256 more per month than we pay for groceries to feed our family of 6!

I ask you, HOW IS THIS AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE!!!!?????

I haven’t been to the doctor for 6 years, why?  Because I can’t afford it!  Of course we take our kids when they are really sick.  No amount of money would make us risk our kids health or well being.  But my wife and I just tough it out!

The Un-Affordable Health Care Act has FAILED! 

Why in this election year are we so focused on “locker room talk” and “deleted emails” while stuff like this is happening to hard working American families.  I can’t even fathom what self employed individuals who choose to stay on a “traditional” plan are having to pay!

We don’t make a ton of money!  We have two small businesses (a bookkeeping firm and our blog & video course business).  Some years we do pretty well, other years (depending on market conditions) we don’t do all that great.  On those slow years we have sufficient for our needs and that’s about it.  During those slow years, this new insurance rate will represent 25% of our income!!  Yep ¼ of our income will go to pay for insurance we never use but have to have in case of a disaster (and because the powers that be have told us so).

I’m sure I will have people ask, in those slow years why don’t you turn to healthcare.gov and get a supplemented plan? Or put your kids on Medicare?  My answer;  taking care of my family is my wife and I’s responsibility NOT THE GOVERNMENTS.  I will get a second (or 3rd) job before I let Uncle Sam take care of me!  Period, end of argument!  These programs, in my view, are meant to help those who truly can’t help themselves.  I will be darned if I’m going to take a government supplement because I’ve having a slow year!

So what needs to be done???

We need to take the handcuffs off the market and allow a free market system and competition to return to the health insurance industry.

My family represents almost zero risk to our insurance company.  We have no health issues at all.  No family history of major health problems.  We exercise every day, watch our weight and eat better than 95% of the country.  Insurance companies should be breaking down our door to offer us competitive rates to get us in their “pool”.  Instead I’m forced to struggle paying almost $1000 a month for basically NOTHING.

We the American people have allowed this garbage to go on for too long!  I call on all of us to get this idiotic campaign out of our way. Then we need to drive our house and senate representatives CRAZY!  Until they get this fixed and allow the free market to function again!!  There is much “broken” in the health insurance industry, but we were better off before Obama Care!  Let’s at least get back to that stage and then move forward!

I’m interested to hear about how much you are paying for your health insurance.  Without disclosing too much personal information I would love to know what type of plan you have and how much you are paying?  Please comment below! 

I’d also love to hear from folks that have opted to not have health insurance and instead pay the stupid tax penalty?  How are you functioning without insurance? 

Give me your suggestions for us “little people” to get some changes made?

Okay, rant over . . . I think I will go sit in my garden for a few hours and eat some tomatoes!!

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Tips for Storing Potatoes all Winter Long

Storing potatoes properly is an important part of our gardening. We grow a lot of potatoes (some years over 250 pounds) so it is important that we keep those potatoes lasting as long as possible in our winter storage.

Storing Potatoes

I’m going to cover a few of the basics of potato storage first and then we will talk about several different methods for storing potatoes and which will be the most successful for long term storage.

What to look for when storing potatoes

Darkness

Light is the enemy of tasty potatoes. Exposure to light will cause the skins of your potatoes to turn “green”. The green is actually chlorophyll that comes from the potatoes reaction to light. The chlorophyll really isn’t the problem though, the problem is the toxin solanine. Solanine is an alkaloid that builds up in the skins of potatoes, the build up increases the longer the potatoes are exposed to light. Solanine is actually poisonous and can cause illness or in very very extreme cases death. You can of course avoid most of the solanine in a potato by cutting away the green, but solanine causes a bitter taste and should be avoided.

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So the solution is to store your potatoes in complete darkness! Even low levels of light will eventually cause your potatoes to go green, so what ever option you choose for storing your potatoes it needs to be as dark as possible!!

Cool

Storing potatoes in a cool spot is the most important consideration. Potatoes will last longer if they are stored at temperatures that stay consistently between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Even a little below 40 degrees is okay, just be sure they don’t freeze. The cooler your storage spot, the longer your potatoes will go before they start to sprout.

Humidity

Potatoes will last longer with higher humidity. Storing potatoes at a humidity level of 95% would be ideal. Of course that is often hard to achieve, but the more humid the better. But be careful. There is a difference between humid and wet. You don’t want your storage area (or your potatoes) to be wet, that will promote mold and rot.

Air Circulation

You are not sealing your potatoes in a vault!! When storing potatoes be sure that where ever you are storing them in (boxes, baskets, etc.) have plenty of air circulation. If you are using cardboard boxes for storage then cut some holes in them to allow excess moisture to escape.

Storing Potatoes – Options

There are a lot of options and ideas out there for storing potatoes. I’m going to talk about a few and provide you with some links to learn more about each option. Just keep in mind that the more dark, cool and humid your storage location is the longer the potatoes will last.

Root Cellars

A good old fashion root cellar is probably the best option for storing potatoes! With plenty of room, dark and cool they can be the perfect spot for potato storage. Rodents and other pests can be a problem in root cellars so be sure to have a plan for dealing with them.

Improvised Root Cellars

We love our window well root cellar! You can read more about it here. It’s just one of the window wells on the east side of our house that is in the shade most of the winter. It provides is great access (from the window in the basement) and is a cool spot to store all winter. Since we started using this option we have increase the storage time of our potatoes an additional 3 months!

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We keep our potatoes in these plastic laundry baskets and then cover the baskets with burlap and an old sleeping bag. That keeps out the light and adds some insulation for extra cold nights.

If your home doesn’t have a basement and instead just has a crawl space this can be another great cool, dark option for an improvised root cellar. It is a bit harder to control humidity in a crawl space, but it can still be a great option.

A Cold Garage

If you have a garage that is cool (but doesn’t freeze) during the winter this can be another good option. Remember that things need to be dark, so in a garage you may need to plan on covering your potato containers with burlap or an old blanket to exclude the light.

A cool spot in your basement

For years this was the option we used. We had a cold storage area in our basement where we would store our potatoes. The biggest problem we found here was it was never really cool enough. Temperatures only got down to the low 60’s and high 50’s so our potatoes would start sprouting after only 2 or 3 months.

A garbage can buried in the garden

I’ve always thought this was a great idea. The concept is you get a large garbage can and bury it just below the surface of your garden, you put the potatoes inside put the lid on and then cover the lid with soil, or straw or even leaves.

The biggest disadvantage I see to this method is convenience. We get a lot of snow in the winter (and rain). So traipsing out to the garden several times a week really isn’t the easiest way!

Here’s a link to a post I found that talks more about this method.

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Remember where and how you store your potatoes is super important. When property stored potatoes can last over 6 months in storage, giving you a great fresh vegetable option all winter long!

 

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