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What are your growing now?

What am I growing now?  Well, next to nothing.  Although once the farm is up and running there are many techniques one can employ to grow year round crops.  We’re just not there yet but we hope to one day!

What I am growing is my knowledge by reading books.  Each book has some tidbit of info I’ve never heard of or trick I want to try.  Each book carries unique techniques from that person and farm! But most of all I reflect on my own growing skills and what I will change next year for growing and sowing.

So what am I growing – knowledge.  I can tackle next season well before it starts and really set a good plan in place to produce the most of in the most organic way.  What would I change about my 2014 season?

Lets start with the hardware.  I had a poly cover over my beds which I won’t do again.  Unless you are completely closed system which temp, humidity, and air flow regulation I don’t recommend the purchase.  At best it kept the rain off and thats about it.

Row Covers per bed will be practiced.  You’ve seen row covers you just don’t know it.  They are white and long across farms.  Up close they are lightweight, air and water permeable, and pest resistant.  Depending on the thickness it does help with temps going up and down at night and some even can protect from frost.  So I look forward to employing row covers next year!

More skinny beds.  I left a lot of dead space and I feel that is because my beds are 4 feet wide! This poses a problem if I want to plant or harvest anything in the middle so I will construct 2 foot wide beds that can be easily jumped or stepped over and just plain reached over.  I’d suggest never creating raised beds you can’t reach all the way across so the length of your arm is a good rule to go by.

Next year I will be incorporating more flowers as pollinators and also to attract beneficial insects.  I may even put in a bat house.

Buy the right tools not the cheap tools.  I took more tools and things back because the product was terrible.  I’ve learned now that expensive means quality and consistency.  I don’t mind paying hundreds of dollars if it saves me time and trouble!  I’ve got to think long-term about tools.  You can’t use things for one season – you’ll never get your money out of it.  I need products to last for 5 years minimum or more.

Get things done when you can not tomorrow.  Come fall time in the Northern Michigan sunny days are few and far between and so are dry ones.  You don’t want to be caught trying to finish out projects in 40 degree weather raining and windy especially it that is trying to mulch leaves! If it can be done – do it.

Next year will be different.  I am moving to be a better location and will have my garden right out by back door and plan to grow and show the world how fun and easy gardening can be regardless of time, effort, money, and what not.  I just want to show you it is possible to have fresh, whole, unsprayed, un-altered food just steps away.


“I kill even Cactus”

Oddly enough I’ve heard people actually killing a cactus or otherwise known to most as ‘succulent’ plants.  Which is impressive because it’s literally a plant that can withstand cold,hot, dry, wet and dark.  If we ever colonize the dark side of the moon that will likely the first plant I would incorporate for ‘ease of use’.

But it’s usually not your fault, oddly enough. Well, not entirely.

To grow anything you need to make sure you have some things in place.  Growing plants is not as simple as stores would like you to think. Sure, now a days you can go buy just about anything in a store, transplant it, and “wah lah” you’re a gardener.  All the rewarding part of growing a plant from seed is gone and so is your stress and effort.  Most of the effort in raising plants and becoming a good gardener is doing this from seed.  From seed to small plant is the most crucial time because typically once a plant is sturdy, tall, and leafy it is pretty good at taking a beating.  I’ve transplanted fully downed plants into better containers and watch them spring back as if to say thank you.

Soil.  Soil is the most crucial part of what you work with.  Soil is not dirt.  Dirt is on your kitchen floor made up of debris and is not alive.  Soil is very much alive with micro-organisms, fungi, insects, bacteria, and many things.  I don’t want to know whats on your bathroom floor.  Soil holds a plant in place and provides nutrients.  And to those hydro-ponic people – your products suck.  Hydro-ponics is the ‘big pharma” of agriculture.  Soil and all of it’s micro components play a key role in each plant and how it grows and produces nutrients.

Water.  Yes, sorry but this is where it is your fault.  Most people always say they don’t water enough, and that’s probably true.  But more often I find that most people don’t drain enough water away.  In nature water does not stay around, it’s called the water cycle.  In containers roots get ‘root bound’ and if it can’t drain then it gets ‘root rot’ which often looks like your plant is dying but it’s not from drying out.  It is dying because where there is enough moisture there is harmful fungi who can take over and cause root rot.  You need to make sure as much as you water you also take away water.  In most soils outside this is easy.  In most container pots it’s not because there is no drain, but there can be.  Adding small rocks to a container will allow water to drain and evaporate easier and also not keep roots sitting in water – it’s actually not a good thing.  Oh and yes, you still need to water your plant while you’re gone.  It’s not plastic – you can get those I hear though, a plastic plant.  It’s ironic – plastic is killing our planet and we make plastic plants – can’t wait till plastic starts turning CO2 in O2.

Sun.  Contrary to popular belief plants don’t like all the sun you want to give them.  After about 80 degrees plants shut down in order to protect themselves(humans don’t have this function.)  In fact some plants don’t like it warm at all and won’t do well past 70 degrees.  You do need sun but oddly enough but typically lights in your house will do – not as good, but will do.  It’s still part of the light spectrum no matter the way you break it down.  Yes, there is special lights you can get, and would be great – if you want to be a crazy grower like me.  But all you need is a started plant and it doesn’t need much light just a long amount of light.  Now if you want to start your own plants then yes you will need some T5 high output lights and keep them on a 12 hour on/off schedule for seedlings.  Good luck.

Air.  If you think just because plants don’t have lungs like us and don’t breathe air, like us, you are so wrong.  Air is crucial but there is two different types of air a plant needs.  Air for oxygen is the air that which is contained in the soil and is absorbed in the roots.  And air that passes the leaves which makes the plant strong and sturdy.  Plants have a term called ‘vigor’ and this is basically like a plant workout.  If you could control two plants one with top air and one without top air and then put them outside the one without would wither and die because it could not handle force applied to it.  But the one with air applied to it has grown up in wind and is strong.  The more air that reaches a plants cell walls the cell walls thicken and strengthen giving them ‘vigor’ so don’t expect your home plant will transplant very well when a 20mph hits it hard!

Soil, water, sun, air.  If you have all these 4 – you can at least have the best chances to not kill your plant.  That being said go plant something, stop reading this, and find some seeds no doubt you left laying around from last year and plant something – anything.

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