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 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

Friday, April 4, 2014

Starting Seeds

I'm about a month late, but I was finally able to find time this week to start some seeds for the garden.

Heirloom sweet corn seeds saved from last year.

This year I am planning several new growing projects including putting in a cutting flower garden and a medicinal herb garden as well as starting to grow mostly regional heirlooms.

The Medicinal Herb Garden

I have been intrigued with herbal remedies for quite some time now and over this past winter became even more inspired to put in a medicinal herb garden after reading Homegrown Herbs, by Tammy Hartung Grow It Heal It, by Christopher Hobbs and Leslie Gardner,  and Medicinal Herbs, a beginner's Guide and Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health both by Rosemary Gladstar.

I plan on making my own herbal teas and salves using organically grown herbs from my garden, so I purchased some medicinal herb seeds from Horizon Herbs. Some of the varieties I purchased are: Sweet Basil, Holy Basil, Burdock, Calendula, Chamomile, Echinacea, Elecampane, Evening Primrose, Flax, Lemon Balm, Licorice, Marshmello, Mint, Motherwort, Passionflower, and Cayenne Pepper just to name a few.

The Flower Garden

I am also planning on putting in a cut flower garden so I purchased some flower seeds from Fedco Seeds to get started.

I purchased varieties like Ageratum, Amaranth, Cockscomb, Cosmos, Rudbeckia, Salvia, Snapdragon, Sunflower and Yarrow. Not only would it be nice to have a steady supply of fresh cut flowers, but hopefully I will be able to grow enough to sell at the local farmers market.

The Heirloom Garden

One of my biggest goals for gardening is to be able to sustainably grow as much of our own food as possible. Part of that is saving seeds for nutritional value and adaptability to my region. After reading The Seed Underground, by Janisse Ray (an excellent book I need to do a review on very soon!) and learning about Sylvia Davatz of Solstice Seeds in Vermont, who grows and sells heirloom seeds, I immediately contacted her to see if I could order some of her regionally grown seeds for my garden.

I ordered varieties like Cannelini Beans, Dark Red Kidney Beans, Black Turtle Beans, Beets, Vermont Red Kernal Popcorn, Athens Cucumber, Scotland Leeks, Rouge d'Hiver Lettuce, Tango Lettuce, North Pole Lettuce, Drunken Woman Fringed Head Lettuce, Guernsey Parsnips, Early Champagne Rhubarb and Monnopa Spinach. 

I also have several varieties saved from my own garden from last year. Slowly but surely I am building my own heirloom seed inventory that I hope to be able to share soon.

All these seeds mentioned above will be planted in our home garden as well as the school garden.

Starting Seeds

Sweet Basil.

On April 1st I finally decided to take some time off from what seems like an unbelievable busy year to get some seeds started. I usually start my seeds on March 7th, which gives me plenty of time to grow early tomatoes and lettuce, but this year I have been so busy that I am almost a month behind. Hopefully the weather cooperates and it doesn't warm up too quick like last spring. 

I start my seeds in soil blocks, a method that has worked out very well. You can read more about starting seeds using soil blocks here.

 I started over 800 seeds on Tuesday, including Basil, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, Swiss Chard, Rhubarb, Kale, several varieties of Lettuce, Bell Peppers, Tomatoes, Sunflowers, Ageratum, Amaranth, Cosmos, Zinnias, Calendula, Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Evening Primrose and Mint. 

My chart for keeping track of the soil blocks.

I haven't mastered starting the correct amount and I always end up with way more seedlings than I can fit in my garden, but between the school garden and giving them away they always all seem to end up in somebody's garden.

Most of the seeds this year are from the sources listed above and it is my first year growing them. So far I am very pleased with the germination rates. After only a few days just about everything has begun to grow and some of the trays have 100% germination!

Sunflowers beginning to grow.

In the cold frame

Last fall was also extremely busy so I wasn't able to get much planted in the cold frames. I did put in some extra Leeks, Garlic, and Onions that we had planted in the school garden as well as seeding in some Lettuce and Kale. 

The plants took a beating because we had so many below freezing days during the winter, but now that it is warming up it is growing nicely and it looks like we will have some early greens to enjoy!

Red Russian Kale
Blue Curled Scotch Kale
Greens, Mustard Red Giant
Greens, Ruby Streaks
This year is shaping up to be very busy with many exciting projects and events planned.
I vowed to get outside more often and spend more time doing and less time dreaming, so I may not be posting as much as I would like, as you can tell by the lack of posts this year. I will however try to post weekly photos of the gardens and share my experience with the new gardens and projects.

"Life is short, live your dream and share your passion!"