Thursday, February 26, 2015

Great Vegetable Tips

The Importance of Soil

The most important thing I have to say about gardening is this:  Having good soil is the key to successful vegetable gardening.
If you take the time to nurture your soil, you will be rewarded with healthy crops and a beautiful garden environment.
One thing that will destroy your soil is using chemical fertilizers that aren’t organic.  They will destroy your soil food web.
This food web consists of earthworms, mites, bacteria, fungi and other organisms that release mineral nutrients and create the loose soil structure crops need to thrive.  They grow around your plant roots, obtaining nutrients and water that they then share with your crops.  Some microorganisms prevent diseases and help fend off insect invasions.
You can nurture this soil food web by using compost and organic mulches.  It also helps to plant cover crops and to minimize tilling.
Nurture your soil, and the soil will in turn feed you healthy, tasty, beautiful crops.

2015 Seed Shipping Charges

I’m on the mailing list for all the major seeds suppliers.  Today I sat down and compared their shipping and handling charges.
If you only need a few packets of seeds, and you’re not wedded to any particular variety, you may be able to buy from any company.  You may want to choose to buy from a company that keeps their shipping (and/or handling) charges low.
The winner this year is High Mowing Seeds with FREE shipping.  I love that High Mowing offers all organic seeds.  There no minimum order for the free shipping, although it is just for orders shipped to the continental US and Canada.   High Mowing Seeds offers a few of my favorite varieties, including Pruden’s Purple heirloom tomatoes, Chioggia beets, and Winter Density and Nevada lettuce.
Bountiful Gardens has the next least expensive charge at $2.50 for up to a $10.00 order.  Bountiful offers heirloom untreated, open-pollinated seeds from their Ecology Action operation in California.  Bountiful has signed the safe seed pledge meaning they do not knowingly sell GMO seeds.  Bountiful offers a great number of outstanding varieties, including some of my recommended varieties:Winter Density lettuce, Chioggia beets,  Jimmy Nardello peppers, Sugar Snap peas, and Glacier and Pruden’s Purple Tomatoes  They also have the Cocozelle zuchinni which I intend to try.  It is one that is rated very good tasting.  
The next runner up is Pinetree Seeds out of Maine with a charge of $2.95 for an order up to $9.99.  I love looking at the Pinetree catelog for the wide variety of seeds and accessories.  They have several of my recommended varieties including the Sun Sugar cherry tomatoes, Diva cucumbers, Mokum carrots and Cheddar cauliflower.
The next few are John Scheepers at $3.25 for an order up to $4.99, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds at $3.50 for any order, and Johnnys Selected Seeds at $4.00 for orders up to $10.00.
I hope this helps you stay within your garden seed budget.

When we sold at farmers markets, we displayed a sign with the information shown below. 

Starwood Eco-Farm Growing Practices

This farm is not certified organic.  We are not big enough to have the resources we need to meet the USDA certification requirements. 

We do follow all natural practices.

For fertilization, we use composted leaves, plant waste, vegetable waste, coffee grounds, and horse and llama manure.  We age manures as is necessary for safety. 

We use organic or natural soil amendments – e.g. seed meal, kelp meal, bone meal, blood meal, lime, fish fertilizer .

For pest control, the natural methods we use include:

Hand picking                      Companion Planting

Row covers                        Colored plastic mulches

Attracting beneficial insects and birds     Plant extracts

For weed control, the natural methods we use include:

Hand pulling and hoeing          Mulching

Flaming                            Shading 

Natural herbicides approved for organic production like corn gluten meal, clove oil and vinegar.

We have practiced these methods on this land for the last six years.  Previously, the land we farm was wild.