Blog : sustainable

Stop planting carrots. Please.

Look I get it – you like carrots but you really don’t like carrots after you start planting them.

In my first year of doing garden installations I was so excited to go outside and help people install a garden they could harvest and hopefully learn how to grow and harvest their own food. In the business world of things it wasn’t the most thought out plan due to the fact that eventually my clientele won’t need me – but I don’t care about that.

One thing I always asked people was ‘what do you want to grow’ and then I was hit with a truck load of wants and needs and wow….we’re off running.  I never considered that I can not ask that question any more.  Due to many facts but one is that I was installing a garden and the ‘know how’ was left on me and yes I gave people this cute little printed/laminated hand off to learn quickly about their veggies and fruits but I was finding that many people did not read them – at all.

To experienced gardener carrots, beets, tomatoes, and so on always seem easy.  But if you can remember growing your first carrot – it probably didn’t go so well and if it did you only grew it once that year.

Most cold weather crops IE lettuces, alliums(onions), salad green(mustards, beet family), and carrot family need a few things to happen for great success.  One is succession and the other is thinning.  There are many other factors but those come first in my book.

Now if you’re a root vegetable lover of carrots and beets you know the pains of thinning.  Imagine you plant thousands of seeds and then in about 10 days you come back and have to ‘thin’ them out.  It’s the polite term for killing or making room so to say for the others.  Beets and carrots both need this process.  So that’s your step 2, step one was planting in the first place.

Step 3 – this step happens 10 days after you plant.  It’s call ‘succession’ growing.  You see unlike planting a tomato seed whereby you get lots of tomatoes if you plant a carrot seed you only get one carrot and there is no multiplicity to that seed.  In the long run one day well after we are gone we’ll have to consider plants and vegetation that is efficient and less time-intensive – carrots I feel won’t make that list.

So now do you still want carrots?  Is it really worth it?  Plant, thin, re-plant.  Oh and hope you’re soil is good enough due to their sensitive nature of hitting most other forms and deforming in the soil and add to that timing – these are cold weather crops that once temps stay about 60-65 day and night begin to bolt(go to seed) or full on remain in a vegetative state.  I’ve had beet seedlings grow throughout the summer and only until september they finally began to bulb out.

Yesterday I bought decent little bushel of carrots for $1 and was just discouraged for the farmer wishing he would never plant them.   Just doing the math was discouraging for me and to think I paid a dollar – for someones efforts over 40 days a dollar!

I never tell people to plant carrots because it is not worth it.  Just like lettuces.  A small discussion came up at our house yesterday about lettuces and I feel the same way about lettuces as I do carrots.  You need to have coordination, a bit of know how, and lots of lettuce to fill the shelves of your fridge and at the end of day are you really eating that many salads to want fresh lettuce every time?  I will say that fresh lettuces last longer than store bought ones and if you’re planting kales – I recommend getting your hands on some asian flowering kale.

We’re coming out with a small book in the spring of 2016 about what people should be planting in their first garden to make it worth it.  I have about a dozen books on gardening and in the back is an A-Z list of what you can grow.  Awesome, great, and who is about to do all that?  We need to show generations having a garden can be productive and life changing – and it’s not going to be with carrots.  In my garden alone I grew over 60lbs of food and I have only 60 square feet of space and that is roughly 1lb/square foot.  I feel accomplished and sure if you’re growing the big squashes you can smash that number due to overall density – I did it with tomatoes, beans, zucchini, and cucumbers.  And we never recorded herbs because that’s just takes forever.

Stay tuned, stay in touch, and lets turn a generation around by telling them the truth.

Tell me your thoughts, confessions, and triumphs and trials…I want to know.  I’d rather hear from someone who has failed as opposed to the success stories because often we learn our best from where we fail and we seem to only revel in success than learn from what we did right.

Radish Days to Harvest | 30-40 Cold Weathering crop Space 2-3" apart Succession at sign of true leaves.

A radish is a good example, the only photo I had, to give an example of why these species shouldn’t be grown by the amateur.  This radish is grown on a soil block and it took about 30 days.  1 radish 30 days.  If I planted 1 tomato I get dozens of tomatoes.  The math is better and we need to create success and not stress.  Radishes need to be sown early on to prevent bolting, and spaced out properly, and given plenty of water since its’ small roots don’t root out like tomatoes.  Still want radishes now?

Young plants and young humans

Young plants and young humans

So this year I’ve been doing soil blocks for my seed starting.

First off if you ever get a chance to soil block – I’d recommend it.

For those of you who actually ready this and don’t know what that is – soil block is a technique small farms use to “block” or form together a custom soil mix usually compromised of a few or many organic matter/nutrients.  Predominantly made up of peat moss, it’s the binder, it ends up being very similar to peat pods(netted peat) and better yet will decompose in your garden.  Although the peat pots claim the net is “biodegradable” I’ve def found them year after year in my gardens and I don’t appreciate it.

So now I soil block.  And I love it! As the plants grow I can see their health as roots form out of the sides and bottoms.  It’s such an interesting technique and far better than using pods, plastics, and having to continually transplant into bigger planters.

But during my moments of soil block I had that “ah ha” moment of why we need so many chemicals to control plants and their vigor and health.  We are growing them up to be pansies.  Essentially what I mean is we give them these pristine environments such as perfects soils, temperature controlled, available water and we don’t let them work for their lives.  Then we throw them out into nature and all the sudden it’s “make it or break it day” when growing.  So we throw chemicals and sprays to defend its pour immune system because up until now it has not been tested.

We as humans are doing a very similar thing to our kids.  We now shelter them to never get sick and pump them full of meds and never let their immune system learn and recover.  It’s all about patch work when it comes to our immune system.

Ah – so that was my two cents after awhile.  Growing is going awesome and I am very excited for the 2015 season and going bigger this year and showcasing how great gardening can be.Photo Jan 20, 11 30 41 AM

The least of 3 evils.

 

The least of 3 evils: An examination of GMO’s, Big Farming Practice, and Preservatives.

GMO’s.  Oddly enough it’s not as common as a term as I had thought.  I recent documentary highlighted this issue and I was myself astonished thinking….how do people not know about GMO’s?  But then again – it is tied into a field which is at the fabric of what I am doing and I am sure, 100 percent positive, there is much I don’t know about a product I use that is quite controversial.  So I don’t blame you, I understand.

Lets shed some light on the GMO.  Genetically – Modified – Organism.  They are basically playing gene therapy to plants we eat.  Who?  Lots of companies.  Why? GMO’s grow better – they can cross pollinate, inject, change the DNA of a plant in order for it to grow better and be less harmed by the environment.  This is predominantly for mono-crop systems like big agro.  They need the crops that can withstand a lot because well they are going to grow it well beyond it’s normal means and need to assure there is profit. If you grow one thing in one area for a long time you need help, in many ways.(pun intended) What?  Still don’t get it? The biggest argument is that GMO’s do not have human trials so we have no idea what these new organisms will be doing to our molecular body so many years from now.  But does that really matter – you have diet coke in the fridge.  So do you really care?  No.  And in all honesty they aren’t planting new chemicals into the plant and they aren’t playing god.

Now to give you something to worry about.

Chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, and anything else that ends with “cide”.  Why?  Because it’s still on your food! You should always wash your produce for two reasons.  One – kids.  Two – kids.  Three – farming sprays.

I know the USDA said it was ok to spray this chemical at this time and no point past bloom and it would evaporate or come off in a rain before harvest but when was the last time I trusted the USDA?  USDA organic?  Oh ok, define organic? That’s a certification you get by paying up not planning out.

We should be more concerned with what they put onto our food rather than what they try to cross-pollinate it with!  I don’t particularly want chemicals of any sort in any capacity on my food! There is a reason the farm workers where full protection suits while dispensing these chemicals! It is bad for you.  A list of chemicals which chernobyl can’t concoct and here we are spraying it on our food and wondering where the cancers come from?!

They need to spray each chemical because mono-cropping, producing one item in a large area, invites all the predators! You can expect a tomato horn worm family to show up if you put up a buffet table acres long and of just one item which is their favorite item!

Most of the time GMO and Pesticides are connected.  It would be rare if you had GMO but not organic.  Or if you had organic but GMO.  Now granted most of your local farmers are GMO but Organic.  What does that refer to?  It means they are using a GMO seed/varietal but have organic practices(usually listed as Hybrid and not a GMO).  And you can have not organic raised GMO.  Yeah…I had to think about that one too.

So which do you go for?   Which matters more?  I’d say Organic is list topper.  If they used a GMO seed but raised it organically without sprays/chemicals – awesome.  Probably got some good yields but were still having to raise it properly.  But it was Heirloom(non-gmo) variety but raised un-organic(technically not a coined term yet even though this is almost all your food) in which they raised a naturally occurring plant but applied chemicals then I don’t want chemicals.  If you don’t think chemicals affect you in the smallest ways then feel free to take a benadryl and see what happens. A small pill the size of a pez can knock you out so why it is you think chemicals and sprays won’t affect you.  Sure – not on a level you notice – but you body notices.

Third party problems – preservatives. Everything beyond the ‘grocery’ or ‘produce’ isle has preservatives.  Keep that in mind.  Isles 1-15 whatever are boxed, canned, concocted, mixed up, dried up, and dressed to sell.  It likely has more sugar, corn syrup, and starch than you’ll ever need.  Keep this  in mind about grocery stores – it is a store – where you buy things and those things are meant to profit other things(CEO’s) and do you think they are there to keep your best interests in mind? NO! A store is a store is a store.  There is no such thing as anyone selling for under cost.  They will put whatever ads, vitamin labels, and fancy coloring to sell to you – and if you’re with kids then they are not targeting you.  They are targeting the little buyer next to you – the one who is crying.  I won’t even touch the soft drink isle.  I get mean.

Does this help? Does this make sense?

Maybe now go out and buy a cookbook and learn how to cook food again.  Do the dishes.  Talk, converse, laugh, cry, sing, dance while doing the dishes(I do) and be human.  Find out about your food – you are on a computer – you literally have the world’s library in your fingertips.  Ever looked up what baking soda is?  You should! Cause last I checked  we don’t grow plants called ‘soda’.  hint hint.