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!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book Review - Turn Here Sweet Corn

Lately I find myself reading many books about organic farming. I seem to have this drive to learn as much as I can about organic growing and no matter how much I read I just can't seem to quench this thirst.

I just finished reading "Turn Here Sweet Corn" by Atina Diffley. Atina outlines her life from earliest memories, growing up on her families farm, leaving home at age 16 to find her own path in life, getting married, and then divorced. Through all these events she has a drive, a passion, for organic growing and to provide nutritious food for others. Wherever her life takes her she always has her hand in growing, whether it be an apartment garden, working at a co-op or working as a hired hand on a farm. She ends up meeting Martin Diffley, fifth generation farmer, who cares for his family's land, 120 acres of organic farmland which has never touched by chemicals. His family has always farmed this way because they believed doing things naturally was the best for the soil and plants. They believed they should leave the land in better condition than when they started there. They were growing organic before "organic" became certified by the USDA. Atina talks about her connection with the land, soil and seed, the importance of wholesome food, and how they love the land they are farming. Their farm becomes threatened and their land is lost, all but one acre, to development. They find another property to farm and again their land is threatened by an oil company that wants to put a pipeline straight through their farm. Throughout the story they are threatened by development, damaging storms, the threat of chemical over spray for neighboring farmers and an oil company wanting to take their land, but they continued to fight for what they believed in. Their deep connection to the soil and nature gave them the drive to overcome these battles and even write policy to protect organic farms land. The events in Atina's life all led her to where she is today, an organic vegetable farmer who also educates others about organic farming through their consulting business Organic Farming Works LLC.

This book was so captivating it was hard to put down and I didn't want it to end. It gave me the power and drive to keep working towards my goal of becoming an organic farmer and the realization that the event s in my life all seem to be leading me along this path. While I don't have a desire to run a 100 acre farm I do want to run a small 5+ acre micro organic farm. I feel the same connection with the land and also have the same philosophy that if you care for the soil naturally and organically you will feed it instead of depleting it. I agree with Atina, we should leave this land in better condition that when we came here.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who want to become an organic farmer or believes in the health benefits and importance of organic food!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Scenes from the Garden - May 26th, 2012

Back to Front - Lettuce, Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli and Kale.

Romaine lettuce almost ready to pick!

Broccoli starting to form heads.

Kale and Broccoli in front of cold frame with tomato plants.

Chives in Bloom.


Even the ducks are getting bigger!!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Planting using the Grow Biointensive Method

A few years back I came across a book called How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons and learned how to plant using  the Grow Biointensive Method of sustainable horticulture. By using this method I have been able to grow more vegetables in less space, improve the conditions of my soil organically, spend less time weeding and watering and have been getting better yields.

The first step is to prepare your beds properly by double digging them, adding organic compost and loosening up the soil to a depth of two feet. The organic matter holds moisture and feeds the plants, so you don't have to water as often. The plants roots will grow deeper to reach the water and nutrients and create stronger, healthier plants. It may seem like a lot of work in the beginning, but you only have to do it once. Once the beds are prepared you don't have to double dig them again, just loosen the soil and add more organic matter each year before you plant.

The next step is to plant using a hexagonal spacing pattern. By planting this way, as opposed to rows, you can fit more plants in an area and the leaves from the plants create a canopy which holds moisture in the soil and prevents weeds from growing by shading the soil below.

I have used this method for the past few years and have had excellent results! More vegetables, less watering and less weeding all while I build healthy soil and replacing the nutrients used by the plants.

Lettuce planted using the Grow Biointensive method.

I use wire cages to protect the plants from squirrels and other pests until the seedlings grow larger.

I also put row covers on my cages to keep insect pests from attacking my seedlings. I remove the covers when the plants reach the top of my wire cages.

To learn more about the Grow Biointensive method visit the Ecology Action website. You can purchase How to Grow More Vegetables and other books on the Grow Biointensive method from Bountiful Gardens. The book contains all the information you need to maximize the effectiveness of time and space and also contains charts that include information on seed starting, germination temps, plant spacing and average yields for each vegetable. This book, as well as the other Ecology Action books, have been valuable additions to my growing library.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Waiting for Warmer Days

Wisteria starting to bloom.

The weather has been extremely strange this year. We've had temps in the upper 80's a few weeks ago, then it dropped down into the 30's giving us a few mornings of frost and now we are in the 60's and it has been cloudy and rainy for the past few of days. While we need the rain and all the plants and trees are blooming, there isn't much I can do in the garden until it warms up a bit more.

 The evening temperatures have finally started to stay in the 50's so I feel comfortable leaving the seedlings in the greenhouse at night until they are ready to plant. The majority of the cold crops have been planted and all that is left in the greenhouse are tomatoes, peppers, basil, eggplant more lettuce and all the "extra" seedlings that I don't have room for in the garden.

Copenhagen Market Cabbage.
Red Express Cabbage

The cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale have all been planted and are growing well under row covers. I did notice cut worm damage this morning on a couple of the cabbage plants and I am going to try the toothpick method to see if I can keep them off the plants. I started way too many seedlings as usual and still have several "extras" in the greenhouse that I can use to replace the ones that have been destroyed by pests. I would love to let the ducks roam the garden to take care of them but they would surely devour the seedlings as well! 

Overwintered leeks.

The leeks I had planted last spring were still very small by fall so last November I dug them up and transplanted them to a new bed along with some rare heirloom red onions. I covered everything with leaves and put my wire cages over them to keep the squirrels from digging them up. The leeks and onions all survived the winter and are growing strong.

Earlier in the week we harvested a couple of the larger leeks to make a delicious cream of cauliflower soup. I can't wait to make it again with fresh cauliflower from our garden!

Leeks harvest earlier this week!

Current Reading

I am currently reading All the Dirt: Reflections on Organic Farming by Rachel Fisher, Heather Stretch and Robin Tunnicliffe. It is written by three women in their 30's who have all been farming for about 10 years. They each own their own organic farm but also own Sannich Organics which sells their products along with produce from other farms. The book was written to encourage prospective farmers and provide more information about starting and running an organic farms that just isn't found in other books. So far this books does just that!

Each woman tells her story of how they got into farming and about life on each or their farms. They talk about learning through apprenticeships, taking on interns, the problems they have encountered and overcome and why they wouldn't do anything other than farming. One woman describes how she gets a feeling of rightness, and satisfaction of working her farm and how she is drawn to work that is "ecologically healthy, that involves body and mind, that harkens toward sustainability and thoughtfulness rather than blind material consumption", something that I can truly relate to. 

I am about halfway through the book and I am thoroughly enjoying it while learning alot about running an organic farm. I am passionate about organic growing and the importance of nutritious, wholesome food and this book comfirms the reasons why I want to become an organic farmer someday and makes me want to do it that much more!

Chives after an early morning rain.