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!


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Planning a fall garden

Even though the gardens are just now starting to produce a bountiful harvest, it is time to start thinking about planting a fall, and winter, garden.

One of my goals is to have my gardens producing year round. I have been successful growing greens through the winter using my cold frames, but I also want to get better at succession planting and have a steady supply of certain vegetables like lettuce and carrots.

There are several great resources to help you plan a fall garden and help you can find information on what cold hardy varieties to plant and when to plant your seeds.

Johnny's Selected Seeds website will help you choose varieties to plant now and even has a Fall Planting Calculator that you can download to help you plan the correct time to plant. 

Four Season Harvest and The Winter Harvest Handbook, by Eliot Coleman, are very useful books that will help you plan fall and winter gardens. These two are part of my library.

I just started reading The Year Round Vegetable Gardener, by Niki Jabbour. This book gives a lot of useful information on year round planting, growing in cold frames and using row covers and cloches to protect plants. The chapter I am reading now talks about how to determine when to start seeds so plants will be ready for harvest before your first average frost.

Here's how Niki tells you to figure it out:

You first need to know the average first frost date for your area. If you don't know this you can find it by going to the National Climate Data Center.

Next you need to look at the maturity dates for your cold hardy varieties. Niki recommends adding 1 to 2 weeks to the maturity date because the plants growth will slow as the temperatures get colder.

Average Frost Date (for my area) : October 19th
Days to maturity: (for Nutri-Bud Broccoli) - 60 days
Add 12 days for colder temps - 72 days
Now count the days back from October 19th and you end up with August 8th for the date you need to transplant your plants into the garden.

If you follow the Johnny's Fall Planting Calculator, they tell you to add another 4 weeks to plants that need to be started indoor from seed - so that would be July 11th (today!!).

Calculating seed starting dates and planting at the correct times has always been challenging for me.  I created a garden journal database where I keep all my seed inventory information including maturity dates, germination dates and all of my growing information so I can easily write formulas to automatically calculate planting dates and generate a planting schedule. It is still a work in progress, but so far it has worked out well.

Hope this information helps you plan your fall and winter garden!

Our friends at 1840 Farm and Let This Mind Be In You have also written post about planting a fall garden, so be sure to check them out as well.

I am also excited to tell you that I have teamed up with both of these bloggers to participate in a giveaway for some exciting prizes so be sure to enter!


Guest Post: Kale seed saving by Fruition Seeds

I am thrilled to present this guest post on saving seeds 
by Petra Page-Mann and Matthew Goldfarb of Fruition Seeds!


Saving seed is the origin of civilization.  It is also easy as pie!  Truly, some are easier than others and kale is one of the easiest. 

Kale is biennial, so it gathers energy the first season to produce its seed the second season.  In our temperate Northeast climate, kale may overwinter as a full-size plant uncovered but we plant our seed crop of kale in early September, finding the overwintered young plants more reliably resilient.  Some plants will inevitably not survive, but those that do will be that much more adapted to your conditions!

Petra with overwintered kale, ready to go to seed
Kale may be Brassica napus (Siberian types, such as Red Russian, sharing the species with rutabaga) or Brassica oleracea(all other types, sharing the species with cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts and more).  It is critical to only have one of these species flowering at any given time, unless you want them to cross! 

Three foot kale flowering in May.
In the Spring the bedraggled plants will begin to grow again!  Be sure to select for strong, vigorous regrowth as well as leaf shape and color.   It is also important to thin plants for increased air-flow around the plants as they go to seed.  Our kale planted in September overwinters young and thrives when thinned to ten inches between each plant, give or take a couple inches.

Nathaniel Thompson of Remembrance Farm with flowering kale.
Second year kale will bolt (go to seed) fairly quickly.  Enjoy its tall, stately stalks lined with pale yellow flowers covered in pollinators!  Each flower will turn into long green pods that swell and turn brown as they mature.  Once the lowest pods have turned brown, dry and have shattered, harvest the whole stalk and set it on a clean, hole-free tarp in a dry place for a few days to further dry down. 

Petra surrounded by flattening seed pods.
Separating the seed from the fully dry stalk can be done in any number of ways!  We have several sticks we are fond of that knock the seeds out of their pods quite effectively.  I also love to wrap up the stalks in the tarp (like a burrito) and dance/stomp on it!  

Wading through an ocean of kale going to seed.
The seed has now fallen onto the tarp, along with all the chaff (bits of the dry plant).  To clean the seed from the chaff, use a colander or another screen you might have in the garage.  Also, pouring the seed and chaff before a box fan and into a bin will allow the chaff to be blown away while the heavy seed falls straight down.  

Screening seeds.

It is important to keep your seed well labeled, in a cool, dark dry and rodent/insects-free place.  If stored well, your kale will last for years and years!

Saving seed is easy, fun and incredibly satisfying.  Your seed will be uniquely suited to your soils and climate, your particular taste and garden style.  


Monday, July 8, 2013

New Plans - A Child's Picnic Table

Building a Child's Picnic Table

We decided that we needed to add some tables and seating to the school garden so I drew up some plans for a picnic table.

After working with  the elementary school children in the after school garden club, I realized that we should have some child size furniture so the children would be more comfortable using it, so I scaled down my picnic table design and came up with this child's size picnic table.

The table is easily, and inexpensively, constructed out of 2 x 6's and 2 x 4's and took only about an hour to build, including the time to change my original design ( After building it I felt the seats were too close to the table top so I extended the seat supports). The table is 48" long, 44" wide and 24" high. It's a child's size table, but even I can sit at it!

I will be building three more of these children's picnic tables, and two of the full size version, for the school garden in the next week. Tomorrow we will be bring this one over to the school.

 I have added the plans for the child's picnic table to my downloadable project plans section of my website if you would like to build one for yourself.


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Farmacology Book Review ...

one of the books on my reading list for this summer.

Farmacology is about the connection we have with the soil our food is grown in and how the nutritional content of what we eat has a direct impact on our health. It's a very interesting book and surprisingly is written by an MD who takes a natural preventative approach to health care.

The author, after reading "The Unsettling of America" by Wendell Berry, and " The Soul of Soil" by Grace Gershuny and Joe Smillie, decided to visit family farms to research the connection between farming, food and our health. She realized that all the vitamins and minerals that are the building blocks of our bodies are derived from the soil. The plants, as they grow, draw these nutrients from the soil and pass them onto us through the food we eat. We, in essence, are not just nourished by the soil, we are the soil.

After visiting several sustainable family farms and talking to scientists and researchers, the author realized that the natural way biodynamic and organic farmers "treat" the soil to make it healthy is the same way she treats her patients to make them healthy. Successful sustainable farmers rely on examples from nature to create a self-supporting eco-cycle using only natural elements. When chemicals or unnatural elements are introduced, the cycle becomes off and issues arise, just like in humans.

Conventional farming practices deplete soil of nutrients and produces nutrient deficient food, which is one of the reasons there are so many health issues today. The food grown today is much different than the food grown 100 years ago in respect to nutritional value. Organic farming methods are better than conventional, but still deplete the soil unless the farmer uses sustainable growing practices. Studies have shown that Biodynamic and sustainable farming builds and replenishes soil and produces more nutritionally dense food.

Farming needs to be more than just a business that grows food, it needs to be self contained ecosystem run by farmers who understand the connection between soil and nutrition. These were the principles of Rudolph Steiner and Biodynamic Farming. While I agree with most of the concepts of biodynamic farming, that everything in nature is connected, and that plants are affected by the cycles of the moon, I don't really understand the spraying of silica or burying  cow horns filled with manure. That's not to say that I don't believe this works, I just don't know enough about it to understand it. I do believe in a natural farming, growing in harmony with nature. As the author writes, a farm is not just a collection of parts but a complete (and sometimes unwieldy) living system. Biodynamic farming has no need for outside additives of inputs like fertilizers and pesticides and is the definition of sustainable. It is a self supporting eco-cycle or self powered organism.

She also discussed the benefits of farming or gardening. Growing your own food connects you with nature, makes you more aware of healthy eating, lowers blood sugar and body mass, increased exercise capacity and lessens depressive symptoms. Studies have shown that people who garden are more likely to eat the recommended amount of vegetables each day over non-gardeners. Gardening is also a way to socialize and build community, something that is important for your mental health.

This book really reaffirms my beliefs that what we put into put into our bodies has a direct impact on our health. To maintain a healthy lifestyle you need to be aware of what you are eating. Consuming more vegetables isn't enough, you need to be aware of how your food was grown and what the nutritional value is. Food grown sustainable has far more nutritional value than food from a factory farm. You may pay more for it, but in reality you are getting more.

So the next time you reach for some "food like" substance when you're hungry remember, you are what you eat. What you up into your body will have a direct impact on your health!

I highly recommend reading this book. It will really open your eyes to the connections between sustainable farming, nutritious food and your health.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Fruition Seeds

There is a new organic seed supplier here in the northeast, called Fruition Seeds, and their mission is to preserve the diversity of seeds.

I am an avid seed saver and whole heartily believe in preserving heirlooms and varieties that are becoming extinct. I believe in knowing where my seeds came from, who grew them and what farming practices they use and I like to support organic farmers and non-gmo, non-hybrid seed growers, so I was thrilled to learn about Fruition Seeds. They are located in Naples, NY. and use local growers to grow some of their seed crops.

I commend them on what they are doing as their views on food and farming are the same as my own. I wanted get some of their seeds to plant in my winter garden so I ordered some Choi, Hon Tsai Tai, Mizuna, and Amaranth. The seeds arrived today and you can tell by their seed packets that they really care about what they are doing!

Each seed packet comes with growing and seed saving instructions and they encourage you to save their seeds!

I can't wait to plant some of these varieties in my summer and winter garden and look forward to getting other varieties to plant next year!

Fruition Seeds has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for their venture. They are trying to raise $25,000 and you can help by making a pledge to support them. With each pledge you will get discounts or free seeds and will help make a difference by supporting an organic company that is trying to save the diversity of seeds!

They need to have $25,000 in pledges by July 18th and they are already at $18,445!
I have already pledged my support because I share the same views on food and farming. I feel what they are doing it is extremely important and will affect everyone in some way. Saving the diversity of seeds and preserving our open-pollinated, non-gmo varieties is critical and I am happy to support them!