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~

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Happy Easter!


Wishing Everyone a Happy Easter!


~ Rob ~

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Planning the New Garden Shed and Greenhouse


The first round of seedlings have been started and as I strive to expand the gardens each year, attempting to grow more, I realize that I really need a bigger greenhouse.


My current greenhouse, which is 6'-10" x 8'-0", is the perfect size for the average backyard gardener. It has worked out extremely well over the past 5 years and has greatly improved my ability to grow more crops and extend my growing season. I can fit 8 seedling trays on each bench plus another 8 on the ground under the higher bench with allows me to fit approximately 1,080 seedlings in 2" soil blocks.

With the School Garden project and my desire to try and sell seedlings and cut flowers at the farmers' market, I really need more growing space plus storage for supplies. Last year I designed a new garden shed and planned to have it built before winter, but as luck would have it I was too busy and wasn't able to get it done. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I had time to re-think my plan and do a little re-design. 

The Revised Garden Layout

I thought it would be nice to have the new greenhouse attached to the shed so I could store my gardening and seed starting supplies nearby (see revised garden plan above). The new location will make it easier to carry seedlings to the garden and also allow me to run electricity and water lines so I can start my seedlings directly in the greenhouse.


Now that the drawings are completed, it's time to resubmit my plans to Town Hall to get my permit re-issued. Hopefully it won't take too long and I can get started on this project as soon as the ground thaws out!

After I build the new Garden Shed and larger Greenhouse
I will be adding the plans to my Project Plans Web Page.

~Rob~

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Farm to Table eBook release!


 Today I am pleased to announce the release of the new eBook, "Farm to Table Throughout the Year"!

As mentioned in an earlier post, This eBook, "Farm to Table Through the Year - 12 Months of Fresh Food from the Garden", is a collective work of 12 contributing bloggers, and was coordinated and put together by Gretchen Stuppy Carlson from The Backyard Farming Connection. Each contributing author was asked to write a chapter for a specified month, giving growing information and a recipe for a certain crop.

Here is a list of the contributing authors and a link to their blog,
please visit each of their sites to learn more about them:

Angie from Schneider Peeps
Rob from Bepa's Garden
Lisa from Fresh Eggs Daily
Tammy from Our Neck of the Woods
Lisa Lynn from The Self Sufficient HomeAcre
Gretchen from The Backyard Gardening Connection
Katie from Maple Grove
Jennifer from 1840 Farm
Kim from Mothering With Mindfulness
Sheryl from The Wilderness Wife
Christine from These Light Footsteps
Teresa from Radishgirl Thymes Blog

 I was thrilled to be asked by Gretchen to be a contributing author for this project because healthy food, and gardening are passions of mine.
This was a fun project to be a part of and it was exciting working with so many other talented writers.
I hope you find this eBook informative and I hope it encourages you to grow some of your own healthy food!

Click here to get your free copy!

~Rob~

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Homemade Vegan Cheddar Kale Chips


We had been thinking about getting a dehydrator for a few years now and finally decided to purchase one. After a lot of research we decided on a 9 tray Excalibur dehydrator with timer, model # 3926TB.

We are planning on using it to dehydrate fruit, herbs, vegetables, and make snacks like fruit roll-ups and zucchini chips for the kids, so we went with the larger 9-tray model. Stocking our pantry with healthy snacks instead of buying store bought processed items, and being able to preserve our garden harvests were our main reason for purchasing a dehydrator.

Yesterday I got to play around with it and made some delicious Vegan Cheddar-Kale Chips!


The recipe I used was from Ani Phyo's book Ani's Raw Food Essentials.





Ingredients:

1 cup red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup raw cashews
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 to 4 tablespoons water, as needed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
6 cups bite-size pieces of kale, packed (about 1 bunch)

Directions:

Place the red peppers in a food processor or blender, then add the remaining ingredients except for the kale. Blend, using only enough water to process into a thick cream.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the pepper mixture with the kale, coating it evenly.


I tossed it with my hands, working the mixture evenly into the kale.


Spread the kale onto two 14 inch square Excalibur Dehydrator trays and dry at 104° for 8 to 10 hours.



The finished Cheddar-Kale Chips!!


Delicious! 
They taste even better than the ones we get from the Store!

We usually buy them whenever we go to Whole Foods, but like everything healthy, they are a little pricy. 
I made one small batch, which is probably equal to 6 bags from the store and it cost less than 1/5th of the price!

Can't wait to try other recipes!!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Starting Seeds in Soil Blocks: Blocking Up



 A couple weeks ago I did a post on Starting Seeds in Soil Blocks
This is the next step, called "Blocking Up". 

The purpose of "blocking up" is to give the roots more room to grow and to provide nutrients to the seedling. 

Blonde Du Cazard - Lettuce seedling in 3/4" soil block.
The seedlings, started on 3/1/13,  have formed their true leaves and have grown a healthy root system. They are now ready to go into the next size block which is 1-1/2".
Notice the root coming out of the soil block in the photos.



To make the 1-1/2" blocks you will use the next larger size block maker which works the same as the smaller one I used last time.


The process is also the same, you mix your compost with water to get a cement like consistency and then push the block maker into the mix to fill the cavities. Once filled you push down on the handle to dispense the blocks into your trays. The block maker has plastic cubes inside that create a 3/4" indent in each soil block for the smaller blocked seedlings to fit into.


This 1-1/2" soil block maker will make 4 blocks at a time so the work goes fairly quickly.


Once your larger blocks are made you simply pop the seedlings into the new blocks, it's that easy!




The seedlings will continue to grow, forming a nice root system that will stay contained in the block. When the roots reach the edge of the block they stop, waiting to continue growing when the plants are planted into the garden. The air space between the blocks prevents the roots from growing into each other.

Most of my seedlings will stay in the 1-1/2" blocks until they are ready to be planted into the garden. 



Lat year's lettuce before planting in the garden.
Soil blocks are easy to handle, eliminate the need to purchase seed starting trays or peat pots each year, and create stronger and healthier plants because they won't become root bound as they do in pots. There is also less root shock when transplanting because the entire block is planted into the garden.

There are so many benefits to using soil blocks and they are also a lot of fun to make!

~Rob~

Friday, March 8, 2013

Farm to Table eBook



A while back, Gretchen from The Backyard Farming Connection, asked me if I would be interested in contributing to a Farm to Table eBook that she was putting together. I am passionate about eating healthy, gardening and encouraging others to grow their own food, so of course I was absolutely thrilled to participate.

The eBook, "Farm to Table Through the Year - 12 Months of Fresh Food from the Garden", is a collective work of 12 contributing bloggers, each asked to write a chapter for a specified month about growing a certain crop. You can meet each contributor here. Each chapter contains information about growing a particular crop and includes a recipe.

My month was February and I wrote about growing using cold frames. There is information about growing a winter garden, a list of the types of crops that can be grown and a link to download my plans so you can build your own cold frame.

The eBook will be available for free download on March 14th!

~Rob~

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Garden Journal - March 2013


Garden Journal - March, 2013

To Do:

  • Start tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, herb and flower seeds
  • Transplant (block-up) seedlings started last month and move to greenhouse
  • Design and build the duck house
  • Layout and cut in new garden beds
  • Fence in gardens with temporary fencing
  • Design irrigation system for greenhouse and cold frames
  • Design gravity feed, drip irrigation system for garden
  • Order planting supplies like row covers, hoops, bamboo for trellis, etc.
  • Re-submit garden shed plans to town hall to renew building permit
  • Create blog and facebook page for the school garden
  • Finalize layout of school garden and start building raised bed boxes

Notes:

For the past few years I have been thinking about adding an irrigation system to the greenhouse and cold frames. There are usually over a thousand seedlings in the greenhouse by the end of March and it can get a little tedious watering everything. I would like to have overhead sprayers as well as drip lines and have been looking at the DripWorks catalog and website trying to figure out the proper system.

The garden beds next to the house and garage will be set up with a gravity feed, drip irrigation system. I have been looking for inexpensive rain barrels to use, but haven't had too much luck. I would love to use wooden barrels instead of plastic, but the ones I have found are very expensive.

The garden shed was supposed to be built before winter, but as usual I was too busy with my business and didn't have time to build it. That was probably a good thing because I have decided to put it in a different location which will work better with the new garden layout.

I would still love to build the larger greenhouse that I have been designing, but don't know if there will have time before spring. My current greenhouse is still adequate, but is getting a little cramped for space now that I am trying to grow flowers and plants for the school garden.

The school garden project has finally been approved ~YAY~ and we are really getting excited to start working on that. Last weekend I was supposed to walk the site and measure to finalize the layout. As soon as I do that I can start building the raised bed boxes and hopefully we can raise enough funds to get the fence built fairly quickly. We have a resident artist at the school who has agreed to design a sign for the garden, which should look awesome with the whimsical theme we are trying to create!

What is on your garden to-do list for March?

~Rob~


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Starting Seeds in Soil Blocks


Seedling in 3/4" soil block.
 Friday afternoon I finally took some time off from working to get my seeds started. 
I started leeks, kale, eggplant, onions, lettuce, spinach, beets, lavender, marjoram, sage, parsley, thyme, rosemary, oregano and petunias, totaling 800 plants. This year I am not only starting seeds for our own garden, but also for the school garden and for a seedling sale to raise money for the school garden, so this is about a third of what I am planning to start.

Several years ago I started using soil blocks instead of seed starting trays to start all my seeds. I have had much better results with this method and it is much cheaper because I don't have to buy starting trays or peat pots each year.
To make soil blocks you need special tools called a soil block maker.


 The soil block makers come in different sizes, 3/4", 1-1/2", 2" and 4". The smaller 3/4" blocks are perfect for starting small seeds like lettuce, kale, herbs, etc, and the larger blocks work well for starting larger seeds like cucumber and squash. Soil block makers are available from several gardening stores such as Johnny's and are reasonably priced.

 Johnny's also has a video showing how to use a soil block maker.

There are soil mixes available specifically for use with soil block makers which I have used in the past, but I have had much better results mixing my own using my own compost.

The first thing I do is sift some of my compost with a fine screen to take out most of the stones, sticks and leaves.


After sifting, I am left with very fine compost and a little soil. The compost will absorb moisture, help hold the block together and supply nutrients to the emerging seed.


 The next step it to mix in a little water with the sifted compost. You don't want a soaking wet mix, so just add enough water to make a cement like mixture. If you take a handful of mix and squeeze it in your hand you want it to stick together without a lot of water coming out of it.


Once you have your mix ready, you will use your soil block maker to make your blocks.

3/4" soil block maker - makes 20 blocks.

You simply push the maker into the mix, push it around to fill it with soil, and then press it out into your trays using the handle. The soil block maker creates a little dimple in the center of the block for the seed. I simply place a seed in the center of each block and tap it in using my small dibble, making sure it has good contact with the soil.


I use old lettuce containers from the grocery store. They are the perfect size, they hold 80 3/4" blocks each and make little greenhouses when closed.

I put them directly on my heating mats and keep them closed until the seeds start to germinate and the leaves start to form.



The concept behind using soil blocks is simple. 
The seeds are planted in the shallow dimple and are not covered by soil. Seeds started this way germinate faster because they have plenty of oxygen. Once the seedlings started in the smaller blocks have their first true leave, they are "blocked up" to the next larger size soil block. The 1-1/2 and 2" block makers form a 3/4" square hole in the block, allowing you to just pop in the 3/4" blocked seedling  without disturbing the roots.

Cucumber seedling in 3/4" soil block.

2" soil blocks with 3/4" dimples.

The roots will continue grow to the outer walls of the block and then stop. When the roots reach the edge they have ample air, water and nutrients so they will now send their energy into growing the plant which results in healthier seedlings. The plants will not become root bound like they do when using peat pots or plastic pots.

Basil seedling in 2" soil block. Notice how root growth stops at edge of block.

When planting the seedlings into the garden you simply make a hole large enough to fit the soil block and plant it into the garden. Planting this way doesn't cause stress to the plants because you are never disturbing the roots. By using soil blocks to start my seeds I have much higher germination rates, faster germination and healthier plants.

These seeds were started Friday afternoon and Saturday morning they have already begun to germinate!

Kale seeds beginning to germinate.
Lettuce seeds emerging.


Lettuce in 2" soil blocks (photo taken last spring)

Shared at:

Deborah Jean's Dandelion House
Tilly's Nest 
The Backyard Farming Connection 
Eat, Make, Grow


Bert and Ernie - just a year ago!