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!
~Rob~

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Warm wishes...


Wishing everyone a Happy & Healthy Holiday Season!!!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mini-greehouse update


Yesterday we enjoyed a nice fresh salad from our mini-greenhouse! The lettuce was buttery sweet and vibrant green, absolutely delicious! The units have been working extremely well! The nighttime temperatures have been dropping into the low 20's but the mini-greenhouses have been maintaining temps 6 - 8 degrees warmer than the outside, with humidity levels between 86% - 96%. There is always condensation on the walls and it never freezes even during the bitter cold nights.


The romaine lettuce is growing slowly, but it is still thriving and has been able to tolerate the sub-freezing temperatures.


The broccoli is starting to form now. The plants are about 2' tall almost touching the top of the mini-greenhouse.


The cabbage has been coming in nicely, starting to form the heads. I have been picking bottom leaves and some lettuce to feed the rabbits so they can have fresh greens!


This photo was taken when it was 34 degrees outside. As you can see the mini greenhouse was 41 degrees with 91% humidity.


So far the mini-greenhouse experiment has been very successful. The only thing I have noticed is on mornings after a really cold night the lettuce is a little wilted, but it perks right back up when the sun comes out. I imagine when it starts snowing and there is accumulating snow around the units the temps inside will stay even warmer at night. Everything seems to be thriving, even the kale, scallions and sage, and the garlic bulbs I planted are coming up as well. It will be interesting to compare their growth with the ones I planted outside in the bed. I have also planted some chestnuts in the units that came from a tree grown from nuts from a tree my grandfather had planted many years ago. I have tried growing trees before but when they are about 2' tall the squirrels always seem to find them and eat them. I have 12 nuts planted so hopefully this time I can get at least 2 trees to survive!




Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!


Wishing everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving!


This year, since we are vegans, we decided to adopt a turkey from Farm Sanctuary. Through their Adopt-A-Turkey Project donations go towards the care of rescued turkeys living at their sanctuary and educating the public about the plight on factory farms.





Monday, November 8, 2010

First Snowfall


Today we are having out first snowfall of the season here in New England. We are only expected to get an inch or two, but it is blustery and cold with high wind warnings. Most of the garden beds have been cleaned out and mulched with chopped leaves, the asparagus has been cut down and the garlic has been planted. We have already had our first frost and a few very cold nights where the temperature fell to about 28°.  During those freezing nights the temperature inside the mini-greenhouses has stayed around 32° with 91% humidity. I pulled the row covers over the hoops inside at night to give the plants extra protection, so the temperatures closer to the ground should have been a little warmer. None of the plants were affected by the freeze and the lettuce, which I thought would be wilted, was still looking great!


This morning the temperature outside is 30° and it is still 36° inside the mini-greenhouses with 93% humidity! The plants are all still thriving. Last weekend when I was cleaning out the herb garden, I transplanted some sage, parsley, basil and chives into the mini-greenhouses along with some garlic.





Friday, October 29, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hay Day


Friday was "Hay Day" for our bunnies - when they get their annual bale of hay for their pen. It's become a sort of ritual every year, about the time I get the firewood all split and stacked for the winter,  I split up a bale of hay and spread it around to keep them warm for the winter. They have dug a series of tunnels under their pen which they sleep in every night. All three rabbits immediately come up to see what's going on and join in helping to spread the hay throughout their home.



Maisy at the opening to their tunnel.
 They tunnel through the hay like moles, grabbing mouthfuls as they plow. Then they run down into their burrow filling it up and come up for another mouthful! They frolic and play and run around like kids playing in leaves! It is really a sight!



Mimsy


Niffer eating maple leaves that fall on their pen.


Now the firewood is all split and stacked, the quail have been moved from the greenhouse into the basement and the bunnies have their hay for warmth. We are all ready for winter!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Finishing the mini-greenhouses


There is a frost predicted for next Friday, so today I put the 6-mil greenhouse film on both of the mini-greenhouses. Both units have wire hoops inside with row covers rolled up on the side that I can pull over for extra protection when the evening temperatures go down into the teens. There is also a thermometer sensor mounted in one of the mini-greenhouses transmitting to a weather station in my home office so I can monitor the temps. If it gets too warm I can prop open the roof panels to let cool air in. I may eventually add solar operated vents to automatically open the roof panels if it gets too warm inside.


In the first mini-greenhouse I have planted leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, kale and scallions. I will also be adding some spinach in next week along with successive planting of lettuce.


In the second unit I have planted red cabbage, green cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and more kale. 
Some of the cabbage will be for our rabbits during the winter!



Cabbage (Alcosa Savoy) planted on 8/1/10

I have had the plants covered with row covers to keep out pests and to protect them from cool evening temps until I was able to put on the greenhouse film. Except for an early attack of cabbage worms and an intrusive mole who burrowed through my carrots, everything seems to be coming in nicely!

In the spring I am planning on starting my tomato plants early in one of the mini-greenhouses, planting them directly in the beds and then removing the roof panels when the plants grow tall and the temps warm up. It will be nice to have early tomatoes!

This is my first attempt at growing a winter garden and I am keeping a crop journal to track the progress. I will be posting updates and photos throughout the winter to see how the mini greenhouses work for growing a winter garden. If the units perform well, I am planning on building some out of red cedar with removable polycarbonate panels, automatic solar vent openers and drip irrigation systems.

If you would like to build a mini-greenhouse for yourself you can download plans here. If you do build one, please send photos and let me know how it worked out for you!

 


The Chicken Chick

 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mini greenhouse (cold frame) - Part 2


With winter right around the corner I have been working on finishing the mini-greenhouses. The night temps have been fairly stable with a few nights in the upper 30's, but we still haven't had our first frost yet.


I have finished building the 2nd mini-greenhouse this past weekend. I have purchased some coiled row cover wire from Johnny's to support the row covers inside. The wire comes in a 60' roll that you can cut to the lengths you choose. I cut mine in 63" lengths for the lettuce and a little larger for the cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower.



The row covers should offer enough protection for now, but in another week or so I am also going to cover each unit with 6 mil greenhouse plastic. Eliot Coleman, in his book The Winter harvest Handbook, calls this method of double layered protection "twice-tempered". Eliot states that "the inner climate is moved three USDA zones to the south" and winter vegetables with thrive under these conditions. Everything seems to be coming in nice, so hopefully we will be harvesting lettuce  and other winter veggies throughout the winter!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Building the mini-greenhouse


I spent the morning building the first of the mini-greenhouses for my winter garden. . This unit is 4' wide x 8' long x 44" tall, is made out of 2x3's and has hinged roof panels. As I was building it I thought it might be too big making it difficult to reach inside to harvest or plant, but now that it is finished I am very pleased with how it turned out. Each roof panel is wide enough to allow room to easily reach inside. All four roof panels are hinged so there is access from both sides.


While the temps are still above freezing I am using row covers to protect the plants. I purchased some greenhouse film that I will install later this month as the nigh-time temps begin to drop. I am considering attaching the film to panels so I can easily remove them in the spring and go back to using row covers (for seedlings). In the summer I plan on leaving the mini-greenhouse in the garden (without covering) for the plants to grow inside, but I've constructed the mini-greenhouse in sections so I can easily break it down and store in the shed.

I have posted the basic plan if anyone is interested in building one. Click here to download. 



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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mini-greenhouse

Carrots started 2 weeks ago for winter harvest

With the winter garden coming along nicely it is time to get started building the mini-greenhouses to protect the plants from our northeast winter. This weekend, if all goes well, I will be building four 4' x 6' units to cover my lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. The design has changed several times, but I think I have finally come up with something that will work well for my garden. The original plan was to build a structure and just wrap it with row covers, using bricks on the sides to hold down the covers. After pondering the design more I decided to add hinged roof panels that will allow easy access for watering and harvesting. They will also be able to be propped up to regulate temperature if it gets too hot inside. I purchased greenhouse plastic from Growers Supply to cover the units when the temps drop below freezing.


After I build one, and work out all the details,  I will be posting pictures and the basic plan if anyone is interested in building one for themselves. I may also put together a package that includes full size plans, materials lists, cut lists and exploded view drawings with assembly instructions, available for a small fee to cover the cost of printing and postage.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Planting the winter garden

Asparagus seeding out

As the last of the tomatoes & eggplant are being harvested and the herbs are about ready to pick and dry for winter use, I am beginning to plant my winter garden. For the past few years I have wanted to plant crops for winter harvest but always seemed to be too busy to get them planted. Last year I did manage to get carrots in which we harvested until January - they were absolutely delicious! This year I planned ahead and was able to start seeds and plant on time. I started cabbage (red and savoy), broccoli and cauliflower seeds in soil blocks on a heat mat in the beginning of August. A week later I was able to transplant them into larger flats in the greenhouse. After a minor attack from cabbage worms they are in the garden and growing nicely.


Floating row cover on lettuce

Cabbage plants
I direct sowed carrots, romaine lettuce, fall & winter lettuce, mache, spinach and kale on September 13th. By the 16th almost everything had started to come up. The night temps have been in the 50's with daytime temps in the 70's, other than being dry the weather has been perfect. I have 4' x 4' x 1' wire baskets covering the plants with row covers on top. In a week or two I am going to build "mini greenhouses" to cover the plants for the winter.  I am planning on making three 4' x 12' mini greenhouses to start with and will be covering them with plastic to protect the plants from the winter frost.
Spinach Seedling
Lettuce Seedlings
The mini greenhouses will be running east to west with hinged lids on the south side. They should be adequate to keep the plants from freezing and help keep unwanted pests out. In the spring I will remove the plastic and replace with row covers to start next spring's crop. You can find great books by Eliot Coleman on growing a winter harvest in my resources section.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sunday Breakfast in the Garden

Niffer, Maisy and Mimsy

I woke up this morning and turned on the TV to watch the Sunday morning news. As I sat down I started smelling the faint smell of a skunk coming in through the open upstairs bedroom windows. The smell was now getting stronger so I decided to see if maybe a skunk had gotten in the garden. I looked out the back door and on the patio was a black rabbit standing there looking in at me! At first I thought it was a rabbit that had maybe escaped from someone in the neighborhood, but then I realized it was Niffer. Maisy, our grey rabbit, was in the pen stomping her back feet, obviously angry about something. I walked out to the pen to see how they could have have gotten out. Over the years they have dug a series of tunnels inside their pen. In the fall I put a bale of hay in their cage that they take down into their hole for the winter. They have dug very deep tunnels, but have never tried to dig out, something they could easily do in a matter of minutes. Maisy was now at the other end of the pen sticking her head through a hole the size of a baseball, luckily she was too fat to fit through. I can't tell if they chewed the wire, or if something ate through trying to get in. Niffer was now following me around, but when I went to grab her she ran towards the fence. I was worried that she might get startled and run underneath into the neighbors yard. She finally jumped onto the wood pile where I was able to catch her. I put her back in the pen but I couldn't see Mimsy, our little tan rabbit, anywhere. I looked around the yard but still couldn't see her. I happened to look at the garden and there was Mimsy, happy as can be, enjoying her breakfast of my newly planted cabbage seedlings! I called her and she came hopping to me like it was no big deal that she was outside her pen snacking on my cabbage plants! Everyone is now back in their cage safe and sound. These are the most spoiled rabbits. They have a 3' x 8' double hutch, up off the ground with sleeping boxes inside connected to an 8' x 8' fenced in run. They get daily vegetable scraps left over from our lunches and dinners and whenever I am harvesting cabbage, carrots, beets or salad greens I always throw a bunch or two in to them. I have to wonder if this was a thought out plot, that Niffer was the look-out at the patio door while Mimsy helped herself in the garden. Maisy was probably trying to fit through the hole in the pen to join them when a skunk saw what they were doing and sprayed, trying to chase them away from her feast!

I think tomorrow I will build them the new pen that I have been wanting to build for a year now!

Sunday, August 15, 2010



I just finished watching the movie, FOOD, Inc., directed and produced by Robert Kenner (we borrowed our copy from the local library). This movie shows you where your food comes from and how farms today are "factory" farms, designed to produce more product at the cost of your health and safety. It talks about the beef, chicken and pork industries and the seed and chemical industries. It is a very informative (and disturbing) film that will open your eyes to the food industry. It will (or should) make you think twice about what you eat and help you make better choices about what foods you buy. Everyone can do their part in making a difference. Buy local organic foods, support your local small farmers, don't buy overly processed foods and read labels to see what exactly is in the foods you are buying. You can also plant an organic garden. Even a small garden can make a difference. Every year I buy organic seeds to plant in my garden, which usually come 50 - 100 seeds per packet. I usually over plant and end up with way more seedlings than I have room for, or leftover seeds. To help make a difference and hopefully encourage people to start organic gardens, I will be offering free seedlings, and possibly seeds next spring to anyone interested in them. I will post more details on this at a later date.

Visit www.takepart.com/foodinc for more information and to see how you can make a difference.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Happy Reunion!

Chick that hatched on 4/04/10

This week I had the opportunity to visit the chickens I hatched this past April. I ordered a dozen Buff Orpington hatching eggs from a hatchery and put them into the incubator on 3/16/10. The first chick to hatch arrived on 4/4/10, Easter Sunday, it was a nice Easter surprise. Out of 13 eggs, I ended up with 10 that hatched. The first chick to hatch, for some reason, was smaller than the others. She was always easy to pick out of the flock because of her size.


Pictured above are the chicks on 4/14/10. They were playing in a pen I set up in the backyard. The sun was out and the weather had warmed up enough to let them play outside for a while in the afternoon. They were scratching at the dirt and looking for bugs. I knew I couldn't keep them, I checked with the town (which was probably a mistake) and was told I didn't have enough land to raise chickens. There are many cities and towns that have changed, or are changing their zoning laws to allow homeowners to raise chickens. There has been a huge uprising in home gardening and folks wanting to keep chickens mainly for eggs. Usually you are limited to 6 hens and no roosters. Luckily I was able to find someone to take them, who happened to be a friend of my daughter, so I am able to visit them and watch them grow.



Here are the chickens on 7/20/10. They are huge compared to the last time I saw them. Out of the 10 that hatched, there ended up being 3 roosters and 7 hens. A nice looking flock! Seeing them again made me wish I could have kept them and raised them. It was a very memorable and exciting experience hatching them, something I hope to do again soon.  Who knows, maybe I'll petition the town to try and get the laws changed!

A great book for anyone interested in raising chickens is The Joy of Keeping Chickens by Jennifer Megyesi.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Garden Pests

Tomato Hornworm (photo by C. Terry)

Now that the garden is coming in nice the pests are starting to attack in full force. This past weekend while weeding I came across the tomato hornworm (pictured above) eating my potato plants. This is the first time I have seen one in my garden. Johnny's has a very informative video about this ugly pest. Last year we noticed the hummingbird moths flying around in our butterfly garden and didn't realize that they lay the eggs that turn into the tomato hornworm. I check my garden every morning handpicking any pest I might see, so I noticed him right away and he didn't have time to do too much damage. I also use row covers early in the spring when I plant to keep the pests from laying their eggs on the leaves of the plants. Using row covers along with applications of compost tea seems to work pretty good. I still get the occasional pest, but not nearly as many as I used to.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Rasbperry Sloosh


I finally got around to trying my hand at making raspberry juice, like my grandmother (Mema) used to make. The first batch was good, but didn't really taste like Mema's. It was clear and a little watery, even though I didn't add to much water. The second batch came out excellent! The key, as I remember, is to use over ripe raspberries, the one's that are deep red, almost dark purple and about to fall off the bush. They are the juiciest and seem to have the most pulp. The second batch cooked down nice and was cloudy, pulpy and thick, just like I remembered!

This is the recipe I used:
  • Thoroughly rinse the berries and place them in a heavy pot with just enough water to make them float. Less water is better for a thick concentrate.
  • Bring to a boil, mash down the raspberries with a potato masher and then bring back to a boil.
  • Line a strainer with several layers of cheese cloth and pour the mixture through collecting the juice into a bowl. Let the strained mixture sit for a bit as the juice will continue to drain.
  • When most of the juice has drained and the mixture has cooled, fold up the cheesecloth into a bag and gently squeeze to get the remaining juice and pulp. 
  • Put collected juice back into pot and add sugar to taste. I used only a 1/4 cup of sugar, you can add more later if needed. Bring back to a slight boil to make the mixture thicken up.  
  • When the mixture cooled a bit I poured into mason jars to store in the refrigerator. You can put into a canning bath to preserve the juice for later use, but I know it won't last long in my house so I just put it in the refrigerator.
The mixture you end up with is sort of a thick concentrate. To make juice I diluted it in 3 parts water. Add a fresh lemon slice and enjoy!

There is nothing more refreshing that a nice cool glass of raspberry juice on a hot summer day!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

We be jammin'!


Since I am the one whose creative efforts produced these wonderful jams, I am allowed to be a guest contributor. I feel honored because my husband is usually really picky about his projects and this blog is one of his "babies". Since he wants me to keep making treats for him, I guess he really doesn't have a choice in letting me be a contributor. I love ya' honey!
For years I have been meaning to make homemade jam. I always talked myself out of it because the task seemed so daunting. This year we have more raspberries than we know what to do with. That is even after giving a ton away and letting the birds have their fill. So with a quick Google search and a little encouragement from Rob I gave it a try. I was amazed at how easy jam is to make! Once you have the equipment you need, jam making is a breeze!
Besides berries, pectin and sugar you do need some special equipment. I found everything I needed at Walmart and it was cheaper than anyplace else I searched. A canner is essential. A canner is basically an extra large stockpot with a lid and handled basket and to hold your jars. You also need a jar grabber (self-explanatory), wide-mouth funnel, magnetic lid grabber, and jars, and lids. The grabber, funnel, and lid grabber come as a kit at Walmart. I bought everything I needed for $33.83!
I won't go into specific details about how to make the jam, there is an easy recipe in each and every box of pectin (gelling agent). What I will say is follow them exactly and you will have perfect results. I'd also like to comment on how satisfying it is to take berries grown in your own yard and turn them into little jars of jeweled sunshine! Seeing the delight on my family's faces as they spread the jam on fresh baked fluffy biscuits sends my heart soaring. Hearing their "yummy noises" makes me proud to be carrying on the traditions of my mother and Rob's grandmother. Knowing that I am giving my children treasures that aren't materialistic solidifies my belief that it's the simple things that make this journey we call life richer and more wonderful!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Vegan Raspberry / Blueberry Cheescake

Vegan Raspberry / Blueberry Cheesecake

We have been looking for recipes to use with all the raspberries that we have been getting this year. This recipe comes form Alicia Silverstone's book The Kind Diet. I have modified the recipe slightly after making it a few times. This is a vegan recipe that doesn't contain dairy. It is absolutely delicious!


Ingredients:

1/2 cup Earth Balance Butter
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 (12 oz) package silken tofu
1 cup nondairy cream cheese
1 tablespoon safflower oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup soy milk
2 teaspoons arrowroot
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Fresh raspberries and blueberries for topping

Preheat oven to 350 deg.
Oil an 8" or 9" spring form pan.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in graham cracker crumbs. Press the mixture into bottom and slightly up sides of spring form pan. Bake for 5 minutes and then let cool on baking rack.

Combine tofu, cream cheese, oil, syrup, soy milk, arrowroot and vanilla extract in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Pour the mixture into the graham cracker crust and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake the cheesecake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let the cheesecake cool to room temperature. Toss fresh raspberries and blueberries with 1 to 2 teaspoons of maple syrup to create a slight glaze. Top the cheesecake with the berries and chill until ready to serve.

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bursting with Berries!

The raspberries are just about up to their peak yield. They should be producing consistently throughout the summer and into the fall. The bushes are so loaded with ripening berries they are starting to lean over from all the weight. The birds seem to be leaving them alone, although I have caught the occasional squirrel sitting on the edge of the deck snacking in the afternoon.

We have been picking about 4 to 6 pints daily (plus 1 to 2 pints consumed while picking!) and have been enjoying them for dessert after dinner. Tonight we are having raspberry / peach cobbler! This weekend (for fourth of July) I am making a vegan raspberry cheescake.


This year there is definitely a greater yield than last. There is a bunch of new growth and new plants starting. I am going to try and weed some out to start another patch. The canes for the 2nd crop are staring to grow tall. They will end up being over 8' tall when they start producing in August. We are going to try making raspberry jam this year with all the extra raspberries we are getting.