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Ideal Indoor Grow Room Conditions: Grow Room Temperature and Humidity

Having a grow room is what every farmer should think of. It is one of the best things to have. A grow room comes with several advantages as compared to cultivating in an open field. You get to control pest infestation, odors, make use of a small space, and have total control over your crops. Since it is an enclosed area, you will need to manually control the climate inside the grow room. Unlike an open area where the environment controls how the plants grow, this entirely depends on you.

A grow room needs ideal indoor conditions for your crops to survive. Actually, it is not just a matter of surviving but getting the most yields out of them. There are two main weather conditions that are very paramount for crops growing inside a grow room or tent. Let’s find out what they are.

marijuana

1. Grow room temperature

Temperature is very crucial for growth and development of plants. Each type of plant has its own favorable temperature at which it thrives best. However, photosynthesis takes place nicely at 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Any temperature higher than that can affect the process badly.

Else ways, some plants can withstand heat a little higher than the normal level. Summer comes with very high temperatures which may sometimes be difficult to control. Plants like cacti, Aloe Vera, succulents, Devil’s ivy, and Ponytail Palm can withstand a lot of heat. They have enough water to sustain them through drought. They also have mechanisms that prevent excessive transpiration. However, other plants need a controlled environment in order to blossom.

The temperature required depends on the stage at which the plant is. For example, in the vegetative stage, 70-78 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and around 10-15 cooler at night are standard for growth. The flowering stage requires a temperature of 68-75 degrees Fahrenheit during daytime and about 10-15 cooler at night.

For conditioning the air inside your grow room, we have the best ac for grow tent. It is not every conditioner you find on the market that can serve you to your satisfaction. Our company supplies high quality, durable, eco-friendly, and reliable air conditioners. This is what you need to control the temperature inside your grow room.

You can find a programmable ac which automatically switch depending on the environmental temperature. For instance, when the heat goes too low for plants’ survival, the heater turns on until the optimum temperature is attained. When the heat is too high, a cooler is turned on. A fan helps in circulating the conditioned air inside the grow room.

If you may need to move your conditioner to different places, consider buying a portable ac grow room. We have it in stock at a very affordable price. A portable air conditioner gives you an easy time in case you want to relocate your plants to a different grow room, or even use it for conditioning your house. It is easy to carry around and operate.

Depending on your budget, you can find an air conditioner of your preference. All sizes and designs are available. You do not want a big ac for just a small tent. This will be as good as wasting electricity. In addition, you can find one that uses gasoline or even solar. Think about what will serve you well and go for it.

2. Grow room humidity

Humidity can affect growth of indoor plants depending on its level. It is very crucial to keep it at the recommended level to ensure your plants bloom. Plants need different quantities of humidity depending on the growth stage. For example, seedlings need a strict range or humidity, unlike grown plants which can resist a wider range.

For plants in the vegetative stage, 45% to 55% of humidity is ideal for growth. In the flowering stage, plants need a range of 35% to 45%. You can even lower it to 30%. Plants can survive between 3-55% of humidity. However, the ideal range is between 40% and 45%.

To monitor the amount of humidity in your grow room, you need a hygrometer. In addition, a humidifier will help you regulate the level of moisture in the room. Too high levels of humidity may cause growth of molds, rotting of buds, and Powdery Mildew. On the other hand, too low humidity may affect the capability of transpiration. This causes stunted growth in plants as photosynthesis is highly affected.

We supply the best humidifier for grow room to help you regulate the amount of vapor in it. You can find any design and size from our store depending on your preference. The humidifier has sensors which detect the level of humidity in the atmosphere before automatically switching to the appropriate action. Good ventilation can also play a big role in controlling the humidity inside your grow room or grow tent.

Using a buyer’s guide, you can choose the best humidifier available in our store. You can choose one depending on the speed of humidification, temperature of the moisture, source of power, convenience, and portability. You can find any type of humidifier grow room at your own budget.

Apart from the two weather conditions, there are more requirements for crops in growing rooms to survive. For instance, oxygen, carbon IV oxide, light, water, soil type, mineral nutrients, and support are other necessities for growth. Good ventilation will ensure most of the requirements reach the plants. Nonetheless, there are a few plants that can grow very well without sunlight. They can survive on indirect light. Such plants include Dracaena, bromeliads, Maidenhair Fern, Parlor Palm, Umbrella papyrus, snake plant, and creeping fig among others. These are some of the plants you can grow indoors.

It is the joy of every cultivator to reap maximum yield. With no pests in the picture, it is very possible to harvest well as long as you keep the weather conditions in your grow room ideal. A grow room saves you the tussle of fighting pests, weeds, and worrying about bad weather. You can grow any type of plant during any season. You don’t have to think about the weather outside. Your cops will still thrive because all the power lies in your hands.

Everything you need to know about Growing Heirlooms

growing heirlooms

For many of us, a large component to modern homesteading is growing fruits and vegetables for ourselves and our families. We enjoy having a little bit of control over what we’re eating and how it was grown. Growing and eating fresh produce is hands-down a healthier lifestyle and it leaves us with healthier wallets, as well. If you have yet to try your hand at growing heirlooms, there’s some compelling reasons to introduce a few into your garden this year. One of the most exciting is the hundreds (and hundreds) of heirloom varieties that you won’t find in the typical grocery store. Everyday commercial vegetables don’t begin to scratch the surface of the many shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors that heirlooms (and other open-pollinated varieties) can offer.

When you do find the one or two heirlooms in the produce aisle, they’re extremely expensive. Growing these special vegetables in your home garden will have you saving money, eating the ultimate fresh food, and enjoying intense vegetable flavors that you’ve probably never tasted before. To top it off recent studies have shown heirloom vegetables to be higher in nutrition than their half-breed cousins — the commercial hybrids. Heirloom and open-pollinated seeds can be saved year-to-year, which means that technically after the initial purchase you’d never have to buy seeds again. Unless, of course, you’re like me and can’t wait to try the next variety that catches your eye (or palate). If generous gardeners around you (and vice-versa) share seeds from their plants; you may never have to purchase seeds for your garden again.

When you plant heirlooms, you’ll be putting food on the table that has its own genes and produces true seed. But what exactly does that mean? First let’s talk about the definition of open-pollinated, heirlooms, and hybrid plants (by the way, these terms define flowers and bulbs, as well as vegetables).

Moon-and-Stars-watermelon

Photo courtesy of: Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply/Grow Organic.com

Defining Heirloom Characteristics: 

Hybrid: The offspring of two plants of different breeds, varieties, or species as produced through human manipulation for specific genetic characteristics. Seeds kept from hybrids won’t breed true to the parent plant and can actually be sterile (as is the case for some commercial hybrids).

*Hybrids should not be confused with GMOs. A genetically modified organism has been altered by genetic engineering such as placing the gene from one species (like a fish) into another species (like a tomato).*

Open-Pollinated: These are plants that are pollinated naturally (by insects, wind, water, birds, or mammals). Seeds from an open-pollinated (OP) plant will produce seedlings and fruit that will look like the parent plant. In other words, these seed varieties are said to “breed true.”

Heirloom: Heirlooms are a sub-set within the open-pollinated class. Generally, they earn their title when they’ve been handed down from generation to generation for fifty years. Let me further clarify what puts heirloom varieties into a class of their own:

1. Heirlooms have time, stability, and history behind them. But the truth is that there’s no “official definition.” In fact, some purists don’t like to put varieties into that category unless it’s 100 years old or older (most agree to the age of 50 years). One thing is for sure, heirlooms are rich with culture being brought to us courtesy of immigrants from all over of the world. Plus, many of these seeds have wonderful stories — and names — attached to them.

2. Heirloom vegetables are always open-pollinated varieties, although not all open-pollinated varieties are heirlooms. One example is when open-pollinated varieties are “created.” This happens when a plant breeder uses two heirlooms (or an heirloom and a hybrid) and crosses them in order to get certain desirable traits. The plant produced from the seed after the cross-pollination is a hybrid. This hybrid can be grown out, allowed to become naturally pollinated, and these seeds are saved.

They’re replanted and the cycle begins again and again for five years or longer. At the point where after the seed is grown out and it consistently grows true to its parent, it’s considered “dehybridized” and can be referred to as an open-pollinated variety. Are these new OP kids destined to become heirlooms? Maybe. If they’re loved and kept around for generations, these new open-pollinated plants could end up being the heirlooms of our future. After all, family heirloom varieties whose seeds have been passed down through the generations originated from cross-pollination (started out as natural hybrids) in the garden or on the farm.

3. It’s extremely important to note that no one owns open-pollinated or heirloom varieties; they remain public domain. Unlike many commercial hybrids, heirlooms have no secret parentage (as can be the case with hybrids) and they’re available to any gardener. By the way, the above characteristics belong to the open-pollinated veggies that aren’t necessarily considered heirlooms. They just may not have the extensive history as their counterparts.

Why We Celebrate Heirlooms 

Due to some misconceptions floating about, I’d like to explain that hybrid plants are not being demonized within the heirloom-loving communities. Hybrids certainly have their place and I don’t know anyone that’s actually banished them from their home garden. Rather, the idea is to celebrate and share the incredible value of heirlooms and open-pollinated plants. Here’s the part where I share what it is about our heritage plants that just rocks our world (literally).

Unrivaled flavor — I’ll be the first one to admit that any vine-ripe vegetable grown in the home garden (hybrids included) beats the flavor of store-bought vegetables any day. That said, most heirlooms have the flavor factor in spades; the prolific hybrids have a hard time competing with that. Commercial hybrids are created for uniformity in color, shape, size, yield, transporting abilities, and the ease of machine-harvesting. This isn’t to say that there aren’t delicious hybrids — there certainly are. But there’s an amazing assortment of heirloom varieties (and therefore, flavors) to please the palate.

Genetic diversity — We can thank genetic diversity for the fact that so many varieties of vegetables exist in so many different areas. Gardeners in Alaska can have potatoes just like gardeners in California all because there are varieties adapted to each environment. A big drawback to planting monocultures (a large amount of only one plant variety) is that a single pest or disease can come in and wipe out an entire food crop. Genetic diversity in a garden is the first defense against this potential threat. An excellent example is the Irish potato famine of 1845. At that time all of the potatoes grown in Ireland were a variety called ‘Lumper.’ Farmers lost all of their crops,  the people lost their food. Because the plants were genetically identical more than a million people died of starvation.

Adaptability — Heirloom plants have an inherent ability to adapt naturally over time to their environment (these plants are referred to as “landraces”). They adapt not only to the soil they’re planted in, but also to the climate.

Historically, as vegetable varieties adjusted to their environments they also developed resistances to local pests and diseases. The resulting plants ended up strong, viable, and suited to every area in the world. You can create landraces by planting an heirloom that does particularly well in your garden, saving the seeds from the best fruit, and replanting year after year.

A Little Control — Food is a basic human necessity and he who controls the seed controls the food supply. Unfortunately, about ten companies control three quarters of the commercial seed world-wide. They literally own it. You’ll be happy to know that heirlooms are owned by no one — and everyone.

A Link to Our Past — So when did “heirlooms” become heirlooms? It might surprise you to know that the term didn’t exist before the early 1980s. Before that, they were know by a different name; food. These plants were simply traditional vegetables grown in gardens everywhere — the staples of life. I find it fascinating that some of the heirlooms preserved by family seed-saving go as far back as 2000 years or more. Connected to these seeds is the history of our ancestors and who they were; giving us a basic indication of who we are. Seeds are truly living family heirlooms.

Purple Pod Bush Beans

Photo courtesy of: Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply/Grow Organic.com

Those Funky, Fabulous Names 

If you aren’t sold on heritage seeds by now, their names and stories will surely win you over. Check out this small example of some marvelous monikers:

  • Drunken Woman Frizzy-Headed lettuce — You’re really going to resist that?
  • Moon & Stars watermelon — This melon literally has a big, gold moon and little starts on the rind.
  • Dragon Tongue beans — You can grow Dragon Tongues?
  • Mortgage Lifter (Radiator Charlie’s) tomato — M.C. Byles of West Virginia (“Radiator Charlie”) bred this tomato variety to bring in more money while he was struggling in the 1940s. He bred the plant for six years to achieve some stability in the variety. He sold the plants for $1 each and paid off his $6000 mortgage.
  • Rattlesnake beans — Pour these seeds into your kids’ hands and tell them to go plant some rattle snakes in the garden.
  • Tigger melon — Tigger is child-hand-sized, bright yellow with zig-zagged orange stripes.
  • Cherokee Trail of Tears beans — This bean was carried from the SmokyMountains to Oklahoma during the winter death march (1838-1839), 4,000 graves were left along that trail.
  • Mascara lettuce — Named for her brilliant red, frilly leaves.
  • Depp’s Firefly tomato — Read the name again. I’m just sayin’. 

Perfect Pollination

If you’d like to grow heirlooms and save the seed for next season’s garden, you’ll need to protect your plants from cross-pollination by other plants in the same family. The goal is collect pure seed and in order to do this, varieties are usually grown a certain distance apart (depending on the plant family), or by using physical barriers such as caging or bagging techniques. For example, pumpkin varieties can all cross-pollinate with one another, which would produce impure seed and the pumpkins produced from the next generation would end up a hybrid. I should also mention that there are times when it may not matter to you whether your plants are cross-pollinated or not. If you don’t plan on saving seeds, then it wouldn’t matter how (or who) pollinated your plants. Here’s why: When a plant is pollinated it produces the right fruit for that variety.

Let’s say the a honey bee carries the pollen from a ‘Dixie Queen’ watermelon and pollinates the flower of a ‘Crimson Sweet’ watermelon, the fruit borne on that plant will be a ‘Crimson Sweet.’ Cross-pollination doesn’t affect the resulting fruit of the first generation. It affects the seeds within that fruit. Therefore, only if you were going to save the seed from that pumpkin would you be concerned about whom was pollinating whom. One of the keys to successful gardening is choosing the right variety for your climate — this doesn’t get any truer than with heirlooms.

The best advice I can offer on choosing the right varieties for your area is to talk to your local nurseries and see if they offer varieties that thrive in your zone, find out what your neighbors are growing, and ask heirloom seed companies for guidance before you order. This year, plant the vegetables with the laugh-out-loud names, rich heritages, amazing colors, and mouthwatering flavors. See for yourself why the varieties of the past have earned their way into the hearts and homesteads of so many gardeners of today.

asuburbanfarmer.com

About:
Chris is the gardening/home ag editor of From Scratch Magazine. She is also a freelance writer, blogger, and author of five books including Vertical Vegetable Gardening (Alpha Books, 2012). She balances family, writing, and all things modern homesteading from their hobby farm in the Northern California foothills. She’s blessed with four fabulous kids and four darling sugar babies.

It’s Time for Your Vegetables to Grow UP

vegetables

When Less is Actually More

It’s obvious that growing vegetables up instead of out saves space, which opens gardening doors for almost everybody. Lack of space is certainly a great reason to start thinking vertically and that may be the road that led you to consider growing things vertically.

However, a small space is only one reason on a long list of great reasons to grow vertically. Even if you have plenty of gardening room, you may want to add vertical components in order to take advantage of the other compelling reasons to grow up.

Less Time and Work

This reason alone is enough to keep my interest. Between raising kids, working, keeping house and garden, cooking meals, livestock care, and volunteering, I lead a very full life. My guess is that you do, too! Gardening and growing fresh food is something that I strongly believe in and have no intentions of cutting out.

The question is, how many things can I grow? Most of us keep up a busy daily pace just to stay afloat, so it may feel like one potted pepper plant is all you can manage. This is the beauty of growing vertically[md]the time commitment is very little compared to what’s considered a horizontal garden bed. Of course, how much time depends on how many vertical gardens you’re tending.

I should point out that even if you choose to have a large garden of vertical veggies, you’ll still get twice as much done for your vertical plants as you would their horizontally grown counterparts. This is because there’s very little soil for you to deal with, especially if your veggies are in a container.

Less soil means less time watering for those of you who are hand-watering. Pruning plants such as berry canes, tomato plants, or fruit trees is easier. And harvesting? Harvesting is a quick endeavor when fruit is at eye level and can be easily seen and picked.

In short, your back and knees will thank you for adopting an upward gardening plan! Each of these factors also make vertical gardening the perfect method for those with physical limitations, as well. Gardeners in wheelchairs or with other physical challenges find that growing veggies up makes their hobby much easier[md]or perhaps even possible.

Less Money

Personally, this is a deal-maker for me. It’s a tough economy, right? If you intend to create raised garden beds, growing plants vertically will save you money on purchasing soil because you won’t need to build large rectangular beds. In fact, you’ll be able to get away with obtaining just enough soil for the roots of the plants. When you garden with large horizontal gardens, you’re providing fresh soil for the vines that simply rest on the soil as they sprawl; soil that’s basically wasted.

The same principle applies to compost. Compost is the best thing you can do for your garden and whether you have your own compost piles going or plan to purchase this important amendment. It’ll go a lot farther when you’re adding it only to the area that really needs it — the plant roots. I believe that no single thing benefits plants more than rich, crumbly, nutritional compost.

The building materials used for the upright climbing structures may be the area where most of your dollars go. However, this isn’t necessarily so. With a little imagination you can recycle and upcycle discarded items for the vertical garden that otherwise have been discarded.

Fewer Weeds, Pests, and Diseases

One of the best vertical gardening perks is that you’ll have very few weeds sprouting up. Even when they do rear their ugly heads, they can all be tugged out in minutes. On the other hand, with horizontal beds you’re also weeding all of the bare soil areas in-between the plants so that they don’t take over the garden as they mature. Vertical gardening has you working with much less soil surface and many times you’re starting with bagged soils that are weed-free from the outset.

Plants grown vertically enjoy exceptional air circulation — much more than most of their ground-dwelling counterparts. More air circulation around plant foliage means less trouble with pests and disease, which means a stronger plant and that will produce more unblemished fruit. And much, much less food waste due to rotting.

When plants are grown horizontally, their leaves often cover the soil leaving it damp and warm which can expose plants to soil-borne diseases. By allowing plants to grow up instead of out, you also limit their physical contact to neighboring plants. This is a major plus as plant diseases are readily transmitted through physical foliage contact. Crops grown on a support also have much fewer problems with rot, and therefore, waste.

More Produce

If the above advantages aren’t enough to have you scrambling for fencing and trellises, this one just might push you over the edge: a bigger bounty. That’s right, gardening vertically can actually increase your vegetable production. This increase in production is due to the plants and veggies receiving better air circulation and sunlight, which help maintain healthy foliage. Healthy plants with fewer pests and disease offer bigger yields, yet in a smaller space.

Ripe veggies that are grown vertically also have a much better chance of being spotted by the gardener. There are a couple of reasons that this is important. One is that you won’t pass up a perfectly ripe fruit that’s ready for the kitchen. But the other reason it’s important to keep ripe fruit picked from the vine is that for many plants an overripe fruit is a signal to halt production.

Cucumbers, for example, will produce like mad until one or two of the fruits ends up left on the vine and becomes overripe. At that point, as far as the plant is concerned, it has met its goal. It has now produced some fruit that contains mature seeds that will be part of the next generation of cucumbers. Thus, production comes to a full stop.

When vegetables are harvested ready for the kitchen (but not fully mature), the plant keeps trying by maintaining vegetable production.

Interested in growing YOUR vegetables vertically? Then you have to check out this book!

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Get your garden on – literally anywhere!

gardening

If you don’t have a garden, it’s probably because you don’t want one.

Which is fine. It’s your life, I’m not going to judge you.

But, it’s not because you can’t have a garden.

Even the most insidious Black Thumb can grow a garden. And it can be done literally anywhere.

There’s gardens growing everywhere right now — skyscrapers, rooftops, IKEA — even Antarctica.

Despite the ubiquity of gardens all over the world, there are still some people who swear they can’t have a garden for all sorts of reasons.

Here’s the most common ones I know AND solutions to those problems.

“My HOA won’t allow it”

Someday, we’ll all look back and marvel at the fact that we established Home-Owners Association and gave them broad powers over our lives and shake our heads in dismay.

But for today, it’s a reality that HOAs many times forbid vegetable gardens within the confines of their tin-pot dictatorships.

You could start an armed rebellion against the little old ladies wandering around measuring grass in a futile effort to protect their equity investments (I’m not advocating violence, but if you do, be loaded for bear: Little Old Ladies are surprisingly tough) or you could grow a garden anyway, and stay well within your HOA agreement.

First, find out the rules. With the increased interest in Homesteading, gardening and local food, many HOAs allow some portion of their jurisdiction to be planted with vegetables. Sometimes HOAs restrict vegetable plots to a backyard, or a certain space within the front. Other times, some neighborhoods actually have community garden space that can be planted.

If you can’t plant in your yard, then do a container garden. With some pots and potting soil, you can grow scads of veggies on your deck, on your porch, even indoors, if it’s near a window. You can take over and entire area anywhere in your home and turn it into a garden. It’s arguably cheaper and more efficient to grow indoors — there is no season and you’ll severely curtail the number of pests and disease pressures you’ll have. Don’t have a room that gets enough sun? By grow lights. They’re pretty cheap and produce lots of fake sunlight for as long as you want them to — you won’t be constrained by the length of the day.

If you don’t want to garden indoors or in containers, then find a community garden. Community gardens offer rows or plots to community members to grow in at a centralized location. For usually a very manageable membership fee, you can grow anything you want. Your HOA can’t complain because it’s off site. Don’t have a community garden? Start one.

“Climate’s not right”

Ignoring the aforementioned indoor gardens, climate is often one of the reasons people claim they can’t garden. If you live in a space too hot or too cold, then you’ll obviously have to do something different. In places like Alaska, for example, the combination of greenhouses and cold frames can significantly increase your chances of producing veggies in a space. They aren’t as expensive to build as you may think. And even heating one is relatively cheap and easy if you’re willing to get a little creative.

Even if you live in the hottest desert, you can still get some veggies out of the ground. Grey water irrigation systems can provide moisture, while xeriscaping and getting creative with your veggie choices can lead to some big gains no matter what the weather is.

One of my favorite things to grow, which does very well in desert climates, is the Prickly Pear cactus. This lovely cactus produces fruit that can be turned into jams and jellies and the pads of it can be harvested and eaten for a really tasty addition to any meal. It was a staple among the First Nations in the American desert areas.

“Can’t afford it”

A lot of people think you need tons of money to start gardening. But in reality, you can drop $10 on a shovel and another few bucks on a pack of seeds and start planting in a 10 foot by 10 foot space right now. My daughter likes to buy veggie and flowers seeds at the local dollar store with her allowance — four packs for a dollar. After that initial investment, sure you might want to spend more, but the fact is, you can manage a garden with what it costs to water the thing. If you invest in a grey water or rain catch irrigation system, you won’t spend much on water at all.

In fact, I hate spending money. It’s a fun hobby of mine to get as many gardening supplies as I can for as little as possible. Check craigslist for free stuff — If a body in your neighborhood is tearing down a deck, that wood could be re-purposed as a raised bed. Use pallets for everything (raised beds, vertical gardens, etc.). Compost for fertilizer. Hit up area coffee shops for their spent grounds to add to the soil. Contact your local utility company to get their wood chips for mulch — most of the time they’ll drop them in your yard for free.

Re-purpose old containers as pots — just drill drain holes in the bottom and go to town. Yogurt cups make great seed starting pots! Use your imagination!

“Don’t have the space”

If you think you don’t have the space to plant a garden, you’re absolutely wrong. Again — containers and indoor spaces can be used for gardening. A fodder system can produce lots of micro greens. Window boxes can be used for spinach and strawberries.

And you can always go vertical. A standing pallet garden provides grow space literally anywhere. I’ve seen people grow lettuce on apartment balconies.

My friend Christine McLaughlin wrote a great book on going vertical — Vertical Vegetable Gardening. My friend over at Sweet Potatoes and Social Change has been Apartment Gardening for a while now. One family in California produces 6,000 pounds of food from 1/10 of an acre just outside of Los Angeles.

Space is definitely not a limiting factor.

“I live in the city”

Again, community garden spaces can be found anywhere. New York City has them. Los Angeles has them. But even if  they didn’t, you can produce food anywhere.

Plant herbs in pots on your window sills. Grow mushrooms in a closet.

Or you can do like this guy did and grow veggies right next to your sidewalk space.

Ron Finley has been gardening in South Central LA for years in spaces formerly ignored and blighted.

So really, if this guy can do it, and fight the city in the process — all in the middle of South Central LA, then I’m pretty sure you can pull it off where ever you are.

Want to know more? Check out our book — Homesteading From Scratch. This beginners guide to homesteading will have you gardening in no time!

Best crops for Fall gardening

It’s time to get ready to plant your Fall garden! This is, at least in the South, hands down, the best time to plant a garden.

In the Southern states (and other very lucky places), Fall veggies can be grown nearly through January, with the proper row covers and what not. And, you don’t have to fight disease outbreaks, insects or the oppressive Southern heat. (Fun Fact: Most veggies stop growing and producing fruit whenever the temperatures get over 85 degrees F. Which means July and August in most parts of the South are a no go).

And we get to grow Brassicas! Brassicas are a family of vegetables that include most of the yummy greens: Cabbage, kale, collards, broccoli, cauliflower and mustard. Scientists believe all the brassicas resulted from a strain of wild mustard greens. The various flavors of brassicas actually result from the different species attempting to fight off insects. The pungent flavor of mustard, for example, comes from the plants attempts to fight off nematodes and other parasites by producing a chemical toxic to them.

But, there are other plants to grow during the fall seasons. Here’s our list of favorites, including our favorite Brassicas:

Cabbage

Cabbages are a great crop, versatile and put up well — especially if you make your own sauerkraut. If you’re going to grow cabbage, it’s best to start the seeds indoors (a south facing window sill will do in a pinch) about 8 weeks before the first frost date in your area. You can start the plants in origami newspaper pots, or buy commercial trays here. Harden them off about a week before transplanting. Transplant the starts in early August to September. Plant them in the soil with compost or manure, about 1-2 feet apart. Most cabbages mature over about 70 days. Cabbage, like most cool season crops, can withstand a frost, but if temperatures drop below 25 degrees F, row covers are recommended overnight. A lot of sources suggest a red cabbage variety for Fall gardens.

Kale

Believe it or not, kale can be grown nearly year round in most parts of the world, especially with row covers. It’s a hardy crop, able to withstand heat and cold relatively well. Kale grown in the warm months will often be bitter. These bitter greens however, are a popular folk remedy in many parts of the world, recommended for digestive issues, nursing mothers and more. Kale grown in the cooler months, however, is often sweet and tender — nearly a completely different crop. Like Cabbage, start kale indoors. When the plants have true leaves, and are about four inches tall, harden them off for about a week. Most gardeners and seed companies suggest planting kale about 12 inches apart, but I’ve had success planting them as close as six inches apart. Try this variety, it’s my favorite.

Swiss Chard

If I’m being completely honest, I don’t like eating Chard. The stems tend to have a texture that I don’t like. But, watching Chard grow, especially Rainbow Chard, makes me very, very happy. These lovely plants can add a splash of color to a Fall garden, which admittedly tends to be a steady shade of green for most of the season. Follow the same instructions for planting Kale, as seen above. Chard, however, can be grown as close as two inches apart.

Arugula

Arugula is a fast growing leafy green. It can be started indoors, but it’s probably best to plant these seeds directly in the ground, as soon as the worst of the summer heat has passed. Arugula grows incredibly fast — they’re also known as rocket greens.

The seeds should be planted about 12 inches apart, but closer plantings don’t seem to bother this fast growing herb. The plants are usually ready to harvest less than a month after planting. They tend to taste spicy, and if left out too long, they’ll flower, which intensifies the flavor. While most people tend to think the plants are too spicey after flowering, they are still edible, including the flowers. If you’re worried about early flowering, then try a slow bolting variety.

Garlic

Garlic planted now won’t be ready this fall, but it can be overwintered, which is just plain fun. Plant your garlic cloves in composted, loose, well turned soil. The point of the clove should be pointed up, and about two inches deep. Water the cloves for about four days then cover with six inches of straw mulch. Then ignore it all winter long. In late spring, mulch again with another four inches of mulch. Let the stems of the garlic get about 6-8 inches tall then cut them down to encourage bulb development. The garlic will be ready to harvest in mid summer.

Holy Shiitake! How to grow mushrooms in your backyard

shiitakes

By Julie Thompson-Adolf

I’m not much of a risk taker.

It’s sad but true. I don’t plan to scale the highest summit or cage dive with sharks. But in the garden?

Now, that’s a different story. I’ll plant varieties considered outside my USDA zone, push the envelope of sun verses shade recommendations, and squeeze just one more tomato plant into a bursting bed. Yep, I’m living on the edge, brandishing my trowel with the swagger of a swordfighter. The prize?

A lush, ripe delicious heirloom tomato for dinner. Although our ancestors thought them to be poisonous, today we know that tomatoes are safe. Not much risk there.

But mushrooms? Now, that’s upping the gardening — and eating — ante. There’s something subtly sinister about mushrooms. As kids, we’re warned not to touch mushrooms or play with snakes. As adults, we respect and covet the foraged fungi, salivating over morels and paying a fortune for truffles. Whether gourmet delicacy or cause for demise—mushrooms walk a fine line.

So, when I attended a mushroom growing session led by the owners of Mushroom Mountain, I definitely stepped outside my risk-averse comfort zone.

After all, the speaker was a brilliant guy — part genius scientist, part fearless farmer, part educator extraordinaire, part foraging foodie enthusiast. I was hooked.

Armed with my knowledge and a bag of plug spawn, I took a walk on the wild side: I began a mushroom garden.

I’m not certain that “garden” is the proper term, but “garden” sounds safe, don’t you think? Typically, shiitake mushrooms grow on portable, easily relocated fresh hardwood oak or sweetgum logs, approximately six inches in diameter and about three feet long. Of course, I don’t believe in easy.

Because my husband and I are tree-huggers, we won’t cut a tree unless necessary. However, we needed to remove a partially rotted tree.

Down went the tree, and with a few extra cuts—we had a forest of thick, round logs.

Much thicker in diameter than recommended and nearly impossible to move, I was determined to turn the gathered logs into a shiitake producing machine. Somehow, the stumps were very reminiscent of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree.

Anyway … Growing shiitake mushrooms seems complicated, but here’s a secret: It’s not. Don’t tell anyone, though. When people hear about the scrumptious shiitakes you harvested for dinner, they’ll think you possess amazing gardening powers.

Here’s what you need:

  • Plug spawn from a reputable source. I highly recommend Mushroom Mountain. The plug spawn I purchased from them is cultivated on 3.4” dowels. The spawn can be stored in a refrigerator and remain viable for up to a year. Remove the plugs from the refrigerator a day prior to use.
  • Logs or stumps, freshly cut from a living tree.
  • 5/16-inch drill bit and drill
  • Canning wax, melted using a double boiler method. (Bottom pot contains boiling water, top pot contains wax and small amount of mineral oil to help prevent the wax cracking and drying out. Submerge top pot into bottom pot to melt wax.)
  • Clean paint brush

How to Inoculate

Inoculation is the process of inserting the plug spawn into the log or stump—planting the mushroom “seeds.” The log needs to be inoculated within six weeks of cutting and should be dry and free of dirt. Drill holes 1-1/4 inch into the log to create an air pocket below the plug. The holes should be drilled in a diamond pattern on the log or stump, approximately five to six inches apart.

Hammer the plugs firmly into the holes and cover them with a thin coating of melted wax using a clean paint brush. The wax prevents insects from entering the holes in the wood.

After plugging and waxing the log, soak the logs overnight.

In my case, with our crazy forest of stumps, I ran a sprinkler to soak the wood.

Additionally, with the thick logs I used, I buried part of the wood in the ground to help with moisture retention. And then … you wait. And wait.

Hopefully, when your first mushroom appears, it will look like a shiitake. Our first mushroom looked … odd. I harvested it, took a photo, and sent it to Mushroom Mountain to confirm that it was, indeed, a shiitake.

As I awaited a reply, I watched “The Today Show.”

Ironically, Nicholas Evans, author of The Horse Whisperer, appeared on the show, discussing the accidental poisoning of his entire family—by serving them mushrooms. They all required kidney transplants after ingesting foraged mushrooms. What?!? Nervously, I threw away the mystery mushroom.

It turns out, I discarded a perfectly safe, delicious oyster mushroom. Somehow, a stray oyster spore found its way onto the log.

But then, a few months later, a mushroom appeared on a log. Then another. And another. Soon, dozens of mushrooms filled the logs — and they looked exactly like shiitakes. Of course, do you think I ate them without first sending photos to Mushroom Mountain for a proper ID?

Not only am I risk-adverse, but I also try to keep my family healthy and poison-free. Fortunately, the very kind folks at Mushroom Mountain confirmed that my mushrooms were “beautiful shiitakes,” and I should happily feast on them.

That night, as I prepared dinner, I noticed that my husband waited until I took a bite of the risotto ai funghi before he tried it. He knew that if even I would venture to eat homegrown mushrooms, then they must be safe. As for my gardening status? Yep. I’m pretty much a mushroomgrowing rock star now.

And I might even attempt to forage for morels.

On a supervised expedition.

With the pros of Mushroom Mountain.

Here’s my recipe for Risotto Ai Funghi:

Ingredients

  • 6 cups organic chicken broth, divided
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 pounds shiitake mushrooms, fresh or dried (rehydrate prior to use)

  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1-1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • ¾ cups dry white wine
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • sea salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Note: Make sure to have all ingredients ready before you start. You need to stir continuously to avoid burning, so you don’t want to hunt down ingredients in the midst of cooking.

Directions

  1. Warm the broth over medium-low heat in a saucepan.
  2. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the mushrooms (fresh or rehydrated) and cook until soft, approximately 3 minutes. Remove mushrooms and liquid, and set aside in bowl.
  3. Warm 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet, and add the shallots. Cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add rice, stirring to coat it with the olive oil. When the rice is golden in color (about 2 minutes), add wine. Stir continuously until wine is absorbed. And ½ cup broth to the rice, stirring until broth is absorbed. Continue adding ½ cup broth at a time, stirring continuously, until liquid is absorbed and rice is al dente, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Remove skillet from heat. Add mushrooms with liquid, butter, chives, and Parmesan, stirring well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve alone or as a side dish. Makes approximately 6 servings.

Find out more about the writer and her work here.