Welcome to Bepa's Garden!
This blog is about organic gardening, healthy eating and healthy living.
Each month I will be posting Garden To-Do Lists, Tips & Techniques, Garden Project Plans, Photos from the Garden, Recipes and Book Reviews.
I hope you enjoy reading and I hope I can inspire others to start a backyard garden!
Happy Gardening!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Growing Flint Red Corn

It's been quite some time since I've posted anything, but now that fall is ever so slowly approaching and the gardens are just about done for the season, I am finding the ambition to sit down and write again.

We are still searching for our farmhouse in Vermont with enough land to start a small organic farm. While we aren't quite ready to move just yet (we still need to finish renovations and repairs on our current home), we seem to be getting closer to finding that perfect house. In the meantime I am trying to work with the space I have with my current property, and at the school garden, to feed my desire to farm!

One of the many reasons I garden is to try to grow as much of our own food as possible. Knowing that our food is grown organically, comes from open-pollinated or organic seeds, and is picked fresh and is nutritious means a lot. Nothing compares to freshly harvested and prepared food! What we don't grow, which seemed to be quite a lot this year, we try and get from local farmers.

Building a seed inventory is another goal of mine. I've been selecting varieties to grow out and save based on several different criteria including, flavor, variety, and regional history.

This year I tried growing Roy's Calais Red Flint Corn.
Here is a little bit of history (from slowfoodsusa.org):

"Roy's Flint Red Corn is an open-pollinated heirloom variety which was originally cultivated by the western Abenaki people in Vermont, and grown and maintained by pioneer farmers, including Roy and Ruth Fair of North Calais, VT. In 1996, Tom Searns obtained the seed from local farmers like Mike and Doug Guy, who had received the corn and seed saving information from Roy Fair. Tom Searns crossed all of the inbred strains and grew out the variety introducing it through his company, High Mowing Seeds of Wolcott, VT."
If you are interested in reading more about the history, click here.

Roy's Flint Red Corn is an heirloom variety that is said to be ideal for cornmeal, flour and hominy. It is an eight row flint variety that has a short growing season which is ideal for northern climates. According to Fruition Seeds, "it has a significantly higher amount of protein than other varieties of corn. It requires long cooking to break down the hard starch, but you will never go back to off the shelf polenta after this."

We had planted quite a few seeds at the school garden in hopes of doing an activity of grinding the corn into meal and making corn bread, but we ended up with fewer ears of corn than we had hoped for. We did however grow enough seed to over plant next year to try again growing this variety!

As you can see in the photos below, the variety of colors are truly fall-like and amazing.

We now have several pounds of seed for next year, and are planning on building the soil over the winter with either cover crops or compost and leaves, and amending again in the spring so there are plenty of nutrients available for this heavy feeding variety.

We are hopeful that next year we will be able to grow enough to grind to try making flour or cornmeal!

This will be another variety that will be added to my seed bank and grown out each year. It's very rewarding growing your own food, but it makes it even more meaningful when you are preserving a part of history and your food has a story behind it, something I hope to pass along to my children!


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Waiting for spring...

It certainly doesn't feel like spring is just around the corner, especially when you look outside, but the grow room is already filled with germinating seeds waiting to make the trip out to the greenhouse, as soon as it warms up a bit of course!

This year I was actually able to start seeds on time so we can enjoy some early crops of kale, lettuce, spinach, cabbage and swiss chard. 

Blue Curled Scotch Kale
Red Express Cabbage
For the first time in several years I was able to start the artichoke and celery seeds on time as well. The taste of store bought celery just doesn't compare to celery fresh from the garden, but then again I guess that's true with just about anything!

Globe Artichoke
Utah Tall Celery
There are also trays of onions, leeks, broccoli, cauliflower and eggplant, as well as flowers and the herbs for medicinal and culinary herb garden. I think it's time for a larger greenhouse!

I can't believe it's been almost a year since I posted last, but things have been really busy and I have been spending more time to doing and less time talking about it. The school garden project has been consuming a lot of time, but it is well worth it. I have been working on crop planning, plant & harvest schedules and whittling down the 300+ varieties that I have in my seed collection to include only those varieties that we have had success with and want to keep growing year after year. 

This year there are some exciting projects planned, like the completion of the garden shed and construction of a self sufficient greenhouse at the school garden. I am also planning on {finally} building the garden shed for our home garden as well as a larger, more permanent, greenhouse so I have the room to grow enough vegetable seedlings and flowers to sell at farmers' markets. 

The big goal, as always, is to grow enough food for my family so we can eat mostly from the garden and spend less at the grocery store, and it looks like we are well on are way to doing that this year, weather permitting!

Stay tuned...


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Scenes from the garden...

This is turning out to be a very busy year!
 Managing both the school garden and our garden at home hasn't left me much time for posts, so here is a quick update on what's been happening in the gardens.

Sweet basil waiting to be planted.
The greenhouse is starting to empty, but still has several trays of plants waiting to go into the garden. 
Most of the plants went into the school garden but there are still more flowers, herbs and a few vegetable seedlings that still need to get planted.

Drunken Woman Fringed Head Lettuce - almost ready to be picked!
Another tray of lettuce, still in the 3/4" soil blocks!

A tray of tomatoes, lemon balm and mint.

This year I started several varieties of flowers to plant a cutting garden. 
I started zinnias, calendula, dahlia, ageratum, amaranth, morning glory and lots of sunflowers.

Ageratum - Dondo Blue.

Calendula - Mixed.
I also started several varieties of herbs to create a medicinal herb garden. The plan is to grow my own organic herbs for salves, teas and tinctures. I started lemon grass, several different varieties of basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, chamomile, cayenne peppers, lemon balm, evening primrose, mint, marshmallow, licorice and peppermint.

The fence is already up, but the beds still need to be turned before I can get the seedlings in the ground.

Lemon Grass
Holy Basil (Tulsi)
Lemon Balm
Evening Primrose
Some new varieties that I am trying for the first time this year are rhubarb and pop corn. 
I purchased seeds from a supplier in Vermont and am excited to see what kind of results I get.

Rhubarb seedling.
A tray of pop corn, started in soil blocks so the seeds wouldn't get eaten in the garden.
I am always amazed by how well the plants grow in soil blocks. Using them has really cut down on the cost of plastic starting trays and pots.

The kale, lettuce and greens that I planted last fall have all started to go to seed. I am just waiting for the pods to turn brown so I can harvest the seed for next season.

Kale, lettuce and greens going to seed.
Seed pods on the Ruby Streak - greens

At the school garden, we added more beds, increasing the growing area to 1,200 square feet!
We also put up a fence to keep the deer out after seeing signs of them eating the greens last fall! 
In a couple weeks we will be putting up a tool storage shed, building cold-frames and building one of my greenhouses so we can start seedlings right in the garden!

Most of the beds have already been planted and the beans we put in last week are just starting to emerge!

That's what's been going on in the gardens this spring. 
While I wish I had more time for more posts, I am really enjoying the time spent working out in the gardens. Hopefully once everything is planted, and things settle down a bit, I can find time to share my results with growing the new varieties.


Monday, April 28, 2014

"Grow a Sustainable Diet" a book review

Grow a Sustainable Diet 
planning and growing to feed
ourselves and the earth
Cindy Conner

Over the winter I have read numerous books that have inspired me to become better at growing most of our own food, and to work harder towards doing this as a career.

"Before we feed others, however, we need to know how to feed ourselves." ~ Cindy Conner

"Grow a Sustainable Diet, planning and growing to feed ourselves and the earth", is probably one of the most comprehensive book I have read to date about growing your own food and doing it sustainably. I've learned several new techniques for growing as well as planning the gardens, an area I seem to have the most difficult perfecting.

The author, Cindy Conner, covers every aspect of growing from planning the gardens, choosing crops for nutrition, calculating how much to grow, companion planting and seeds. She uses the bio-intensive method of gardening, something I have talked about several times, and replenishes the soil with use of cover crops and compost. She discusses mapping out our garden so you know how much growing area you have and with the use of her worksheets you can easily:

plan How much to Grow
calculate Plant / Harvest Times
create a Plant / Harvest Schedule
track your Seed Inventory
calculate Seeds and Plants Needed

The worksheets are extremely useful, especially in the School Garden, because I have to figure out when to start seeds so the plants are ready for our fundraisers. I also need to create a plant/harvest schedule so we can get the most yield from our garden. (Over the weekend we added 11 new beds and increased our growing area to over 1200 square feet!) I have already begun using the worksheets to plan the garden, and the children will be using the information to calculate our estimated yield and will then compare it to our actual yield.

There are also chapters on companion planting and crop rotation, two subjects I have been trying to learn more about. There are resources listed in each chapter where you can find additional information on each topic.

This book is an excellent resources, one I highly recommend if you are interested in learning about sustainably growing your own food. I have begun using the worksheets this year and we started implementing many of the techniques found in the book in both our home garden and the school garden. The worksheets have become teaching tools we can use with the children, not only to grow more sustainably, but to also incorporate other lessons like art and math into the school garden, and to help foster a deeper appreciation of nature.

"Grow a Sustainable Diet" has already become one of my most valuable resources!


Morning Glory seedling in soil block.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Scenes from the garden - 4/26/14

Raindrops on the Red Russian Kale.

It's been a cool and rainy day here in New England. I couldn't work in the garden today so I went outside with the camera and snapped a few photos of the raindrops that I though looked interesting on the Kale and Lettuce plants.

Red Russian Kale, planted last fall.

Yesterday I moved the cold frame off the kale, lettuce, onions and garlic, now that the night-time temps have been staying above freezing.
I also transplanted some of the extra Kale seedlings that were started on 4/6 into the garden.

Blue Curled Scotch Kale seedling.
 The greens I planted last fall really seem to be loving the cool spring temperature.

Greens, Ruby Streaks
Greens, Mustard Red Giant
These greens have add a nice spicy punch to salads.
I am thinking about letting some of them go to seed so I can save them for next year!

The color in the leaves, highlighted by the raindrops, is making my mouth water for a fresh picked crispy salad!


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Blocking up

94 degrees in the greenhouse!

Today I spent the morning blocking up some of the seedlings I started on Tuesday and enjoying the warmth of the greenhouse. As the sun rose higher it became so warm I had to open the vents to cool it off a bit.

The seeds seem to have germinated extremely fast, I started these just 5 days ago and most are ready to be blocked up to the larger soil blocks. I like to block them up as soon as they have two leaves so they don't get leggy.

Zinnias - Benary's Giant Mix 
Ageratum - Dondo Blue

This year I started mostly heirlooms and regional seeds and am getting almost 100% germination rates from each variety. They seem to be growing much faster than the seeds I started last year.

Cosmo seedling
Now the logistical game comes into play as I try to juggle the seedlings into the greenhouse during the day and back into the basement at night, until the nighttime temps stay above 50.

I was hoping to have the new shed and greenhouse built last fall, with electricity for the heating mats, so I could start and leave the seedlings right in the greenhouse. Hopefully this spring I can get them both built.

On Tuesday I started 10 mini trays using the 3/4" soil block maker. The small tool makes 20 blocks at a time and I can fit four of them into each mini tray, 80 blocks each x 10 = 800 seedlings. When I block up to the next size, which is 1-1/2", I can fit 40 blocks in each of the seedling trays, so I will end up with about 20 trays to maneuver around the greenhouse. That's just the flowers, herbs, early and cold crops, I still need to start the squash, pumpkins, more herbs and flowers, so you can see why I need a larger greenhouse!

Of course Bert had to come in to see what was going on before heading out to take a bath in the pool that I just refilled!

Now it is beginning to feel like spring,

The greenhouse is starting to fill with seedlings and will soon be overflowing with plants waiting to move into the gardens.


"A seed is sleepy,
but only until is it has found 
a place in the sun 
and it has had its breakfast 
and a drink of water.t
Then a seed is ...

Dianna Hutts Aston