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~

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The New Garden Layout


 What a busy year this is turning out to be! Not too long ago it was the middle of December and I was thinking that I had plenty of time to start planning the garden. Now it's almost the end of February and I am already behind on starting some of my seeds!


I started posting my Garden Journal thinking it would push me to schedule the gardening tasks, making it  easier for me to get things done on time. It seems to be working as I have completed most of what I set out to accomplish in February. 

I did find the time to update my seed database, order the remaining seeds and create my planting schedule, however I am already a few days behind starting seeds as I was hoping to start my kale, eggplant, onions, thyme, oregano, parsley, sage on the 22nd.

The other important task that needed to get completed was to create a new garden layout because I will be planting more vegetables and adding beds for cutting flower this year.

The new Garden Layout
The new layout gives me about 1,200 square feet of vegetable gardens, plus additional beds for herbs and cutting flowers. I also figured in new beds to add a raspberry and blueberry patch. As soon as the snow melts and the ground thaws I will start double digging the new beds, building the new shed and fencing in the gardens. I also need to build the duck house as I am sure the boys are getting tired of going into their portable duck house in the garage at night!

~Rob~


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Creating a School Garden


We finally have our approval to move forward with the school garden project, something my wife and I  have been dreaming about for a very long time.

Last week we had or first meeting to discuss the location, throw around some ideas and talk about how the garden will be used. We have a great group of people on board so far and everyone seems to be really excited about this project!

Proposed layout for the school garden.
Our vision for the school garden is to be a place to teach children about where their food comes from, let them experience the process of growing their own food, and to help connect them with nature. Hopefully the garden will inspire children to become interested in starting a garden at home and educate them about the importance of eating healthy, local food. It always surprises me when someone tastes a vegetable fresh from the garden and says, "Wow, I never knew these tasted like this!"

Another reason I am excited about this project is because it is a chance to experience growing on a larger scale than my own back yard. For me this is a step along the way to owning some acreage and running a small organic farm.

We want the garden to be strictly organic, which means no chemical pesticides or fertilizers and planting only organic and heirloom seeds,  no GMO or hybrids. We want to use only natural growing practices - growing in harmony with nature. We plan on using natural pest control, such as garlic sprays and will be applying compost and compost tea sprays, which is something I do in my own garden with great success.

As soon as the snow melts and the ground thaws, we will be laying out the garden, building the raised beds and putting up a fence to keep the critters out. Meanwhile, I have worked out a proposed budget and we are in the planning stages to make sure we can get things started as soon as possible. This year will be busy planning our own gardens in addition to the school garden, but I am passionate about gardening and healthy food, so I am thrilled to be working on this project!

Hopefully the garden will be successful and we get a lot of people interested in it. There is already talk of starting a garden club, possibly incorporating some of what we grow in to the lunch program, doing a seedling fundraiser and even having a farmers market. Future plans will include adding a storage shed, greenhouse and possibly expanding the gardens to include blueberries and raspberries!

~

To help fund this project I will be donating 50% of all my online sales for the months of March and April to the School Garden Project. That means 50% from each item sold from my ETSY store and Website will go towards supporting the School Garden Project and help promote organic gardening!

~Rob~


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Monday, February 11, 2013

Blizzard of 2013 ...

Friday afternoon we were hit with a blizzard here in New England. 
With hurricane force winds and snow fall rates at 2-3" per hour, we ended up with over 24" of snow by Saturday afternoon. Some towns here in Connecticut received record levels of snow at over 40"! The strong wind gusts created 4' snow drifts at our back door and around the cars in the driveway and it took us 2 days to completely shovel out.



During the storm it was hard for me to relax. I always feel like I need to be doing something and it was difficult to just sit and enjoy the quiet and marvel at nature's beauty. It is truly amazing how quiet it gets when the power goes out. You don't realize the constant noises and buzzing that occur in day to day life!


We lost power Friday night at 6:30 pm. until Sunday morning around 10:30 am.
Luckily we have a wood stove that kept the house toasty warm, especially since the nighttime lows were  around 6 degrees! 

We were able to heat water for tea, cook soup, heat leftovers and make grilled cheese sandwiches on the top of the stove and even roast potatoes inside! Those were delicious potatoes!!

Potatoes roasting in the wood stove.





During the storm we talked about how we have been getting hit with an awful lot of strong storms lately, and how important it is to have more food on hand at all times. Growing up our grandparents always had canned or preserved food in their pantry. They never had to run to the store before a storm to stock up because they were always prepared. It was just the way it was, they gardened, they preserved their food and they always had more than enough on hand.

We decided to add pantry cabinets to our kitchen renovation plan, (hopefully the renovation will be happening soon) and stock up on items like dried beans, grains, lentils, rice, and nuts. We are also going to purchase a dehydrator so we can preserve some of our garden harvest as well as do canning and freezing. We want to always have a stocked pantry so we never have to worry about having enough food when the next storm hits.

~Rob~

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Garden Journal - February 2013


 I use a garden journal to plan out and track each years' crops.
It is a bound journal that I put together each winter that contains a monthly planner, planned crops, seedling tray layouts, garden layouts, planting and seed starting schedule, plant and harvest notes and other miscellaneous information. 

I also a my garden journal database, which I developed, to keep track of each variety I grow, where I obtained the seeds, growing information, germination rates, starting dates, maturity dates, pest information and yields. I can automatically generate my spring and fall planting and seed starting schedules from my database by entering the last spring frost and first frost dates for my area.



Gardening is a continuous learning process and keeping records has helped me fine-tune methods that work well for me. Having a place to store and easily access this information has been extremely helpful. I can quickly look back at the previous year to see what yields I had, what pest problems, if any, I encountered, what methods I used to deal with them or see what germination rates I was able to obtain using my own starting mix. I plan on growing on a much larger scale some day so setting up this system now will hopefully help me grow more efficiently and successfully in the future.

Each month I am going to post my Garden Journal To-Do lists to help keep me on schedule and to track what projects I am working on. It will also be a nice way to generate new blog posts for the month!

Garden Journal - February, 2013

To Do:

  • Clean out greenhouse and set up heat mats to prepare for starting seeds
  • Draw new garden layout for this years crops
  • Update seed database and order remaining seeds
  • Create planting schedule
  • Sift compost and create seed starting mix
  • Start Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery, Collards, Kale, Leeks, Lettuce, Onions, Parsley and Spinach in soil blocks
  • Design new greenhouse for starting flowers
  • Finish reading "The Flower Farmer, an Organic Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers" by Lynn Byczynski
  • Draw up layout for this year's cutting flower beds
  • Hold first meeting for the Elementary School Garden

Notes:

 This year my goal is to grow only organic and mostly heirloom varieties. I plan on saving seeds for next year and am working on building my own seed bank. I am also working on growing as much of our own food as possible so it is important to plan the gardens to maximize space.

I grew only vegetables in the past, but this year I am planning on putting in a cutting flower garden. It only makes sense as a natural way to attract bees and other beneficial insects and it will be a start to hopefully selling cut flowers at the local farmer's market.

The other big project we are working on is getting the School Garden up and running. We have hit many road blocks along the way but we finally have some people on board that have some influence so hopefully this will be the year to make it happen!

~Rob~


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Planning for Spring Planting - Cold Frames (mini-greenhouse)



Most gardeners and backyard farmers are busy pouring through the piles of seed catalogs that seem to keep coming in the mail, dreaming about what varieties to plant in this year's garden and anticipating warmer weather to start their seeds. 

An easy way to get a jump start on your spring planting is with the use of cold frames or mini-greenhouses. These cold frames are easy to build and can be used for early spring planting, extending your growing season in the fall, and for winter growing. They are also great to use for seed starting if you don't have the space for a larger greenhouse.


The cold frames (mini-greenhouses) are 4' x 8' and are constructed using 2 x 3's and exterior grade screws. Each unit has four hinged roof panels that can be opened for planting and propped open for ventilation. They are very easy to build and can easily be constructed in an afternoon.


Once assembled, I used 6 MIL greenhouse film, which I purchased from Growers Supply, to cover the units, stapling the plastic to the frames and folding it around all edges. For added protection I use row covers and row cover hoops inside the mini-greenhouses to cover the seedlings.


Early last spring I moved one of my mini-greenhouse over the garden bed and planted my tomato seedlings directly in the garden. The protection of the plastic created a nice heated environment for the plants and they thrived, giving us early tomatoes!


Once your mini-greenhouses are built you can also use them in the fall to extend your growing season. In late fall right after the first light frost I move the mini-greenhouses over the kale, broccoli, cabbage, scallions and other cold hardy crops.


The hinged roof panels can be propped open so the mini-greenhouses don't get too hot during the sunny days, and closed at night to keep the frost or snow off the plants.  


I start more crops of lettuce in the fall and make sure the plants are well established before the frost. The plants will keep growing with the protection of the mini-greenhouses, providing us with fresh greens all winter long.


The plants may wilt when the temperatures drop well below freezing, but they will spring back to life as soon as the sun rises and the mini-greenhouses start to heat up. It is so satisfying to be able to go out into the snow and pick fresh greens in the middle of winter! I have had good luck growing kale, leaf lettuce, spinach, arugula, parsley, sage, carrots, garlic, scallions and leeks throughout the winter.





I have plans available on my website that you can download for free 
and use to build yourself either a 4x4 or 4x8 cold frame (mini-greenhouse).



We have had quite a few warm days this winter so why not take advantage of some of them to build yourself a cold frame (mini-greenhouse) and get a jump start on your growing season! They are easy to build and are versatile for extending your growing season!

~Rob~