Growing corn in hills – Video Tip

At the first of this year I did a post about Growing Corn in hills.  This proved to be such a popular post that I decided to do a YouTube video as well!

Growing corn in hills

Gardening Tips: Growing Corn in Hills

Sometimes growing corn is hard! Well okay maybe hard isn’t the right word, Space Consuming, might be a better description. Growing corn using traditional methods just takes up a lot of space!! That isn’t a big deal if you live on a large plot of land, but if your like me and you just have a little lot, dedicating space to corn can be a big sacrifice.

For years that was just a sacrifice I wan’t willing to make. But 8 years ago I discovered a new method for growing corn. Growing corn in hills! This simple, space saving method allows you to grow small quantities of corn and still have the corn in close enough proximity that you get proper pollination!

What the video for a complete break down of the process, but a simple summary is growing corn in hills involves planting 5 to 7 corn plants all within a 12 to 18 inch “hill”. Growing the corn close together like this in clumps allows the corn to still pollinate correctly. This is great especially if you only have a little space OR only want a little bit of corn.

Please go take a look!!  There’s lots of good info in this video.

While you are watching please be sure to like and comment.  And also be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel so that you will get notice when all these other videos are ready to go!!

This video, How to Cure and Store Garlic, is part of my Grow what you Eat, Eat what you grow video series.  Check out my YouTube channel for a growing list of practical gardening tips.  I try to film videos that are really going to help you in your garden.  You may even be able to learn from a few of my mistakes along the way. (Hopefully I won’t make too many!)

If you have a gardening question please be sure to leave it either in the comments section of this post or in the comments on my YouTube channel and I will get it on my list and film you a video answer!!

Happy Gardening!

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9 crops you can plant in August for fall and winter harvest

The list of crops you can plant in August for fall and winter harvest is actually quite long.

9 crops you can plant in August

According to some authors there are over 30 different crops you can plant in August for harvest in the fall and winter. In this post I am going to focus on the 9 crops you can plant in August that I consider the base fall and winter crops. But I have included a list of the others you can plant at the bottom of this post.

The instructions in the post are meant mostly for those of you living in zones 4 to 7. If you live in the warmer zones then this post will still help you but your planting dates will be much later.

For those of us in zone 4 to 7 August is our most important month for fall and winter planting. Your exact planting dates are based on your expected first frost date. Planting for a good fall and winter harvest starts 6 to 8 weeks before your first anticipated frost date. So for most of us that planting date will fall somewhere in the month of August.

Let’s use my garden as the quick example. I live in a zone 5b, almost zone 6. My first frost usually comes right around October 1st. So counting back 6 to 8 weeks gives me a 2 week planting range of August 1st to August 15th. As long as I get things planted during that time frame I can expect a good harvest that will start in the fall and continue through the winter.

Now let’s talk about the 9 crops you can plant in August that I consider the base crops for planting a fall and winter garden.

Brassica or Cole Crops

The first of the crops you can plant in August is actually a whole family! Plants in the Cole or brassica family are perfect crops you can plant in August. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts all do very well in the fall. One very important thing to keep in mind is that you plant all of these plants from seedlings NOT SEED’s.

crops you can plant in August 2

If you plant by seed there will not be enough time for your plants to develop before the cold weather sets in. So you either need to buy seedlings from your local nursery or start your own seedlings indoors in June.  You should be planting those seedlings out into the garden around 6 weeks before the first frost and you should plan on protecting them late in the season with fabric row cover or a hoop house!

Kale

Kale actually belongs to the brassica family as well, but it is an very different beast and deserves its own spot on this list. Kale is one of the most hardy plants you can grow in the fall and winter. In fact if you live in a zone 5b or above you can get kale to over winter in your garden with just the protection of a piece of heavy row cover. The other great thing about kale planted in the fall is frost and freezing temperatures sweeten the kale, changing the flavor considerably. I’m not a big fan of kale most of the time. But grow it in the cold and I will clean my plate every time.

crops you can plant in August 3

Another nice thing about kale is it can be planted either by seed or seedling. Because you use the leaves there is less time needed to get a eatable crop. Just get some seeds in the ground 8 weeks before frost comes and you will have sweet tasty leaves all winter long.

Lettuce

Lettuce will be one of your most abundant crops in the fall and early winter. In fact I love growing lettuce better in the fall than the spring. Lettuce is fairly hardy, so moderate frost and cold night time temps are really not a big deal. And the biggest difference with fall lettuce is you are not fighting the impending heat of summer which causes tip burn and bitterness.

crops you can plant in August 4

You can start planting fall lettuce 8 weeks from your first frost. Continue planting until as close as two weeks. These later plantings can be used as baby greens or could be over wintered in a cold frame for extra early spring harvests. (Learn more about growing fall and winter lettuce here)

Chinese greens

Chinese greens are next on the list of crops you can plant in August.  These are also technically part of the brassica family. But again they deserve there own spot on the list.

Chinese greens like, pac choy and tatsoi are very hardy and grow super well in the fall. The cool fall temperatures give these greens a nice flavor.

Chinese greens can be planted buy seed if you like 8 weeks before your first frost. For an extra early crop you can start them indoors first and tuck them into your garden as spots start to clear out later in the fall.

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Carrots

Carrots are one of our favorite late fall and winter treats. As the temperatures start to get cold an amazing change takes place inside your carrots. The starches in the plants turn to sugars, making winter harvested carrots sweet and delicious. These are seriously some of the best veggies you will ever eat!

crops you can plant in August 8

August is usually a pretty hot time for most of us, that means you have to give your carrots extra attention to get them germinated and off to a good start. Plan on watering the seed bed lightly once or twice per day. Or you could try covering the bed with damp burlap like my friend Jess.

We like to cover our carrot bed with a hoop house or a cold frame, but in a pinch when the weather really starts getting cold in December just cover the bed with straw. (Learn more about growing winter carrots here)

Spinach

Spinach planted in the fall is an amazing plant. A little protection with a hoop house or cold frame will give you 6 months of harvest. An August planting of spinach with give you a harvest starting in mid October. If you cover the bed with a hoop house or cold frame you can continue to harvest small amounts all winter. Then when the spring arrives the plants will take off again and provide a great harvest until May.

crops you can plant in August 7

Start planting spinach 8 weeks before your first frost. Just like lettuce you can continue to plant up until 2 weeks before your first frost. The later planting won’t give you a harvest in the fall but they will over winter for any early spring harvest.

Swiss chard

Swiss chard is another super hardy plant. Treat it the same way you would spinach. Early plantings will give you fall and winter harvests. Later plantings will give you early spring harvest if you protect the plants with a hoop house or cold frame.  All of your fall planted Swiss Chard will over winter in a cold frame.  Expect the fall and winter harvests to consist mainly of small leaves.  In the spring you will get a very early harvest of traditional larger Swiss chard plants.

Beets

Early plantings of beets will give you a regular harvest of roots late in the fall. Later plantings of beets will only yield the tops, but still give you something different to add to your fall salads.

crops you can plant in August 6

In order to have beet roots to harvest you should start planting at 8 weeks before your first frost.  Anything after about 6 weeks before the frost will end up only producing tasty tops.

Turnips

Once known only as fodder for farm animals, or as peasant food. Plant breeders have really improved the taste and variety of turnips. Look for tasty Oriental varieties and many other smaller rooted turnips.

crops you can plant in August 5

Just like beets you will need to get these planted early if you want to harvest roots. 8 weeks before your last frost would be perfect. Later plantings will yield only tops.

Unless you live in a fairly mild winter area, don’t plan on overwintering beets or turnips, they are just not hardy enough to survive the winter.

Other Crops you can plant in August

The 9 crops I listed above are what I consider my “base” crops for my fall and winter garden.  There are several other crops that can be planted in August and harvest in the fall and winter.  The include the following:

  • Arugula
  • Chicory
  • Sorrel
  • Radish
  • Parsley
  • Endive
  • Dandelion
  • Leeks
  • Mache (don’t plant this one until September)
  • Radicchio
  • Mizuna

Are you interested in learning more about season extension?  My 5 hour Year Round Gardening course is a great way to learn more about this fun aspect of gardening.  Follow the link on the photo below to start learning more!!

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How to Cure and Store Garlic – Video Tip

This weeks edition of Grow what you Eat, Eat what you Grow is about How to Cure and Store Garlic.  This is a simple but often over looked part of growing a successful crop of garlic in your backyard garden.

How to Cure and Store Garlic

There are 3 conditions that you need to know when learning how to cure and store garlic.  I cover all three of these things and stress why each is so important.  In this video tutorial I talk about the best places to cure your garlic and how long you need to let it cure before you bring it in to store it.  I also cover some of the best practices for storing your garlic to make it last as long as possible!!  There are differences on storage life between hard neck and soft neck varieties of garlic.  I also discuss these differences and which ones you should be eating up first!!  You can watch the video below:

 

Please go take a look!!  There’s lots of good info in this video.

While you are watching please be sure to like and comment.  And also be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel so that you will get notice when all these other videos are ready to go!!

This video, How to Cure and Store Garlic, is part of my Grow what you Eat, Eat what you grow video series.  Check out my YouTube channel for a growing list of practical gardening tips.  I try to film videos that are really going to help you in your garden.  You may even be able to learn from a few of my mistakes along the way. (Hopefully I won’t make too many!)

If you have a gardening question please be sure to leave it either in the comments section of this post or in the comments on my YouTube channel and I will get it on my list and film you a video answer!!

Happy Gardening!

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When to Harvest Garlic – Video Tutorial

Time to learn when to harvest garlic.  I’ve been so busy in the garden this year that I really haven’t had as much time as I had hoped I would to get out and film new videos for my YouTube Channel.  Things finally settled down for a bit last week so I sat down and actually filmed 8 new tutorials.  That should keep me busy editing for a while!!

When to Harvest Garlic

This weeks video teaches you a little bit about when to harvesting garlic.  It includes some tips on how to harvest garlic and a couple of tips about when to harvest garlic from your garden.  When I first started growing garlic one of my biggest frustrations was a good description of when to harvest garlic.  There is plenty to read about the topic but not a lot of pictures.  So in the video I’ve tried to give you a good breakdown of when to harvest along with a few tips that will help you know when harvest time is approaching.

Please go take a look!!  There’s lots of good info in this video.

While you are watching please be sure to like and comment.  And also be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel so that you will get notice when all these other videos are ready to go!!

This video is part of my Grow what you Eat, Eat what you grow video series.  Check out my YouTube channel for a growing list of practical gardening tips.  I try to film videos that are really going to help you in your garden.  You may even be able to learn from a few of my mistakes along the way. (Hopefully I won’t make too many!)

If you have a gardening question please be sure to leave it either in the comments section of this post or in the comments on my YouTube channel and I will get it on my list and film you a video answer!!

Happy Gardening!

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Growing Peas in the Fall

Depending on where you live, growing peas in the fall can be a little tricky.

Growing Peas in the Fall

We love garden peas.  They are one of our favorite spring time treats.  There is nothing better than June harvested pea’s (Well okay, maybe August Tomatoes).  (For a complete growing guide for peas follow this link)

Many people don’t realize that they can be growing peas in the fall as well!  In fact, I’ve had many of my readers tell me that peas do better for them in the fall than their spring time plantings.  Those folks must have a much different type of fall than we have!  Our falls are often hot, dry and short!  But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a decent crop of peas in the fall as well.  Just be prepared for a little more work and a much smaller harvest.

The key to a growing peas in the fall is the planting date!

Here’s how you find your planting date for fall peas.

  1. Take a look at the days to maturity on your seed packet.
  2. Add 10 more days to that total.
  3. Now find your expected 1st frost date.
  4. Count back from the frost date the number of days you came up with in step one.
  5. The result is your planting date for fall peas.

 

Note:  The extra 10 days is to allow for the decreasing amount of sun light in the fall

So let’s use my garden as an example:

Two of our favorite peas to grow are Sugar Snap Peas and Oregon Giant Snow Peas.

Growing Peas in the Fall

Both have a maturity date of 62 days.

Growing Peas in the Fall 5

So we add 10 days to that:  62 + 10 = 72 (days to maturity)

Our expected first frost for our area is October 1st.

Counting back 72 days we get – (September 30 days, August 31 days, July 11 days) – July 20th

So our expected planting date for these two varieties of peas would be no later that July 20th.

I have found there is very little wiggle room in this planting date!  Any later and the peas will not mature before the heavy frosts start showing up for us in October.

Use the same exercise as above to figure out your planting date for your area!

Here are a few other things for you to consider when Growing Peas in the fall:

Peas are a cool weather crop.  July is not cool weather and for us, neither is August.  This means that your growing pea plants are going to need extra attention.  They will require extra water and they would love a good thick layer of mulch to help keep them cool.  Try some good organic compost or even some grass clippings from your lawn as your mulch.  The mulch will help to keep the soil cool and moist.

Growing Peas in the Fall 2

The fact that your peas are doing most most of their “growing up” in the heat, means that your plants are NOT going to be as productive in the fall.  Expect to harvest 1/2 of what you would get in the spring time.  Be sure you are willing to sacrifice the space for less production.  But I often find peas are a great addition to fill up the little empty spots that normally show up in are garden as the summer progresses.

I can hear some of you out there grumbling at me!  I realize that not everyone has the hot, dry, short falls that we have. Many of you have wonderful long cool falls.  If you are blessed to be in an area like that, then you may very well find that your fall pea production is just as good as your spring (or even better).  But many of us will struggle with a fall crop, so be sure the space wouldn’t be better used planted with something else.

Growing Peas in the Fall 3

Also keep in mind that in the spring, peas are pretty frost and cold tolerant.  But this is when the plants are young.  This is why you can get away with planting peas so early in the fall.  But as the plants mature, flower and start to set peas they become less tolerant to frost.  So be prepared to offer them some protection from the frost.  This protection will come in the form of a heavy fabric row cover that you can throw over them in the evening and remove during the day.  Or even better you could put up a simple hoop house with some PVC and a little plastic (learn more here).

Growing Peas in the Fall 4

The declining sunlight is also a huge problem for fall pea production.  You are in a race against time (and fading sunlight). So if you want to be growing peas in the fall be sure to get them in by the planting date you calculated using the formula above.  You want your crop to mature before your day length drops much below 11:30 hours a day, for our latitude that happens roughly the 10th of October.  The later in the year you get, the less likely your crop will mature.

One other consideration is variety.  I have found it is much harder (but not impossible) to get shelling peas to maturity in the fall.  We have switched our fall plantings to Sugar Snap and Snow peas.  Why?  Because in both cases you can eat the immature pods.  So really all you need is to get those plants to the flowering stage and you are home free.  Every day past flowering means larger pods for you to eat.  If the weather holds you may be able to “shell” the sugar snap peas if you want, but in either case (sugar snap or snow) you can always eat the pods no matter the size, so you get something from your efforts.

So if you have some space in your garden that has opened up during July, a fall crop of peas is a great idea.  We always end up planting peas where our garlic was planted.  I’m sure you can find a spot you can use for Growing peas in the fall as well!

I’d love to hear from my readers on this post.  How many of you grow peas in the fall?  Any advice you’d like to share?  How about a variety you have found does extra well in the fall?  Please share in the comments section below!

 

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A Simple 4 Year Crop Rotation Plan

This post is part 3 of my series on crop rotation.  Today we are going to talk about my 4 Year Crop Rotation Plan.

4 Year Crop Rotation Plan Cover

I hope you have caught the first two posts in this 3 part series on crop rotation. If not you can read them here:
1. Vegetable Crop Families
2. The Importance of Crop Rotation

For those of you that haven’t read the other posts a quick summary of those two posts would be:

All crops (both veggies and fruits) belong to a family of related plants, those related plants use the same nutrients and have the same disease and pest problems.  If you plant the same crops (or crop families) in the same place in your garden, year after year.  Then you will deplete the soil of some specific nutrients and you risk a big build up of soil borne diseases and pests.

Everything I’ve ever been taught tells me that you should give a garden bed at least 3 years off from each plant family.  So the perfect rotation system would have you planting the same crop in the same bed every 4 years (that would give each bed 3 years off). So this 4 year Crop Rotation Plan is perfect!

This simple 4 year Crop Rotation Plan divides your garden into quarters!!

In this post I just want to take a quick minute and explain my 4 year crop rotation plan.  I will use my garden as the example, but you can use this system in almost any garden by dividing that garden into 4 sections.

So here’s my simple 4 year Crop Rotation Plan
My garden has 6 beds all 4 x 25 feet. Two of these beds are taken up by my strawberry, raspberry and blackberry patches.

That leaves me with 4 beds to plant all of my other crops!!
So my simple 4 year crop rotation plan goes like this.

4 year Crop Rotation Plan 1

I group plants together by family and come up with a plan that allows me to get everything in my garden that I want.  The diagram above is a little simplified, I grow more than just these crops, but this is enough to give you the right idea.
Then every year I plant all the same plants together, just the same as last year, but in a different bed.  In my case I move bed #1 down to the furthest south bed and then move the other beds up one to the north.

Year 2

4 Year Crop Rotation Plan

Year 3

4 Year Crop Rotation Plan 3

Year 4

4 Year Crop Rotation Plan 4

This simple rotation system means that every bed only sees the same crop every 4 years.

 

Now, if you want to add an additional twist to it, try this.

After the first 4 years of rotation, flip all the crops left to right. That means that in some cases, a spot in any particular bed will only see the same crop every 8 years or even every 12 years!

4 year Crop Rotation Plan 5

This system doesn’t have to be used just on gardens that have long rectangular beds.

I met a guy that has a garden that is perfectly square, he divides his garden into 4 quarters and does the exact same thing, rotating groups and families of plants around this garden in a 4 year cycle.

4 Year Crop Rotation Plan 6

And you can do the same even if you only have a small garden. Divide it into 4 and rotate crops!

4 Year Crop Rotation Plan7

This is a simple program, it’s easy to keep track of and it also makes planning where I’m going to plant everything in my garden a breeze!! It’s not perfect, my garden is not big enough that I can keep every family, perfectly separated every year. (The squash family is my problem because they take so much room) But it does assure that every bed (except my potato, tomato, pepper bed) doesn’t see plants form the same family for up to 8 years!

This 4 Year Crop Rotation Plan isn’t rocket science, but it does require keeping some records.  That is why I am such an advocate of keeping a garden journal.  Having last years (or the last 4 years) maps to look at really helps with your planning.  A garden journal also helps you keep track of how each crop did in each bed.  This allows you to make changes to your plan when needed.  To learn more about garden journals you can read this post.

I hope you enjoyed this series of posts.  Crop rotation is often over looked by many gardeners, especially new gardeners.  So take these plans and ideas that I have given you and apply them to your own garden.  Everybody’s garden is a bit different but if you apply the 1/4 concept to your garden, each of your garden beds will get at least 4 years off from any particular crop.  This will promote a vigorous, strong garden full of healthy balanced soil!!

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Year-Round Gardening Part 1- Why we grow a year-round garden.

Year-Round Gardening #1

Welcome to Part One of my Year-Round Gardening Series!

Over the next few weeks I will post some instructional articles on the “how to’s” of Year-Round Gardening.  Today I thought I would kind of set things up with a post about why we do Year-Round Gardening.

 

Our goal around Our Stoney Acres is to grow as much food as we can for ourselves.  This year is our 17th year with an official garden.  Each year our garden has gotten bigger as our skills (and lot size) improved.  We had messed around with a little bit of season extension for a few years.  Mostly that involved planting lettuce and peas in the early spring and again in the late fall and hoping for the best.

In 2008 I read that you could actually have a garden in the winter time, even in the cold northern climates like ours. This interested me so I did some more research and found a fantastic book.

The book is called Four-Seasons Harvest by Eliot Colemanwho is the world foremost guru on Year-Round Gardening.  I also learned that Year-round gardening involves a lot more than just growing things for the winter as well.  Year-round gardening is a whole new way of thinking about your garden.  Year-round gardening means you are constantly planning and planting so that 365 days of the year you have something to harvest from your backyard garden.

Sometimes you will hear the term winter gardening.  Winter gardening probably isn’t the best term for me to use, winter harvesting is better.  You really don’t need to do much actual gardening during the coldest part of the winter.  During the winter you really just harvest the plants that you bring to maturity in the late fall.

Year-Round Gardening Series Part 1

Hoop House Winter 2010

The key to year-round gardening is some planning and some simple protection to have fresh vegetables all year long.

Let me give you an idea of what I’m talking about.  I read Four-Season Harvest in the late winter of 2009.  That spring we planted our normal garden and started harvesting the first radishes and lettuce about May 1st.  By building a few cold frames and hoop houses and applying what I learned in the book we have had something fresh we could eat from our garden every day since.  You read that right; we have had some kind of fresh produce available to us from our garden every day now for over 7 years (as of 2016)!!

Year-Round Gardening Series Part 1

Carrots and Pak Choi

So what kinds of vegetables are we talking about?  Our winter cold frames have mostly salad greens available.  We usually grow at least 2 or 3 types of lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, Mache and our favorite carrots.  All these vegetables are cool weather plants and they taste a ton better this time of year.  In fact the carrots will be the best you have ever tasted because the cold causes some of the starches to turn to sugars and they are sweet and delicious.  Over all there are 30 different crops you can grow in the winter time, some are a quite exotic others are some hardier version of what you are used to growing.  Most winter crops lean towards the “leafy greens” family.

Year-Round Gardening Series Part 1

Winter Carrots

But there is even more to year-round gardening than just the winter harvests.  By applying the year-round gardening principals you can extend the harvest of your crops late into the fall and even the early winter.  And with some added protection and some early planting and planning you will be having the earliest harvests you have ever had from your spring garden as well.

I’ve written a 9 part series that will introduce you to all the basic principals of year round gardening.  All 9 of the posts are listed below.  Every couple of years I update these posts with new information and updated experience.  When I do those updates I bring the publish dates forward on the blog so that everyone can see the updated posts.

Also my love for Year-Round Gardening has given me many chances to teach classes.  I’ve consolidated all these classes into one big 5 hour premium gardening course called Year-Round Gardening.  This class is currently on sale!  You get life time access to all the content on this course for only $25!!

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Check back over the next few days as I break down the details of what to plant, when to plant it and what to do to keep it growing when it’s 15 degrees outside.  We love Year-Round Gardening!!

**2016 Update:

Since I first wrote this series in 2012 it has proven to be one of my most popular group of posts, I’ve given it a bit of an update in 2016 adding a little more information and updating with a few new things I have learned.  The whole series is listed below:

 

 

If you are looking for a real in-depth and fun way to learn more about Year-Round Gardening then I’d love to have you buy my Year-Round Gardening Video Course.  Just follow this link or click on the image below to learn more!! 

Year Round Garden Video Course

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