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Top 10 Most Cold-Hardy Fruits & Vegetables

Credit: Gilmour.com

With the impending doom of 60 degrees below zero on its way to us in Ohio, it got me thinking – what are the most cold-hardy plants that survive in the harshest conditions on the planet? I started doing some research and wasn’t finding anything particularly interesting. When it gets that cold, or you’re looking at an area like the Arctic or Antarctic, there’s a layer in the soil called Permafrost. This is a permanent frozen layer beneath the soil, but there is a thin layer on the surface of the soil that will freeze & thaw, called the active layer. Grasses, lichen, and dwarf trees & shrubs grow here, but the shallow layer of soil prevents trees from becoming well-established.

Though it’s fun to learn about that frozen world, I thought it would be better to focus on the fruits & veggies you can grow if you live in a frigid climate or growing zone below 6

1. Ice Cream Banana (Blue Java Bananas)

Blue Java Bananas (Ice Cream Bananas)

Also known as the Blue Java Banana, this plant was a little bit of a stretch for this list, but extremely unique and totally doable even if you’re gardening in Zone 4! If you’re in zone 7 or lower, you’ll want to plug these guys into pots. That way you can move the pots indoors during winter. Just as the name indicates, these have a vanilla custard flavor that comes from the plant’s unique blue bananas. This one may be quite a challenge, but so cool to know that it’s possible to grow tropical fruits in a Midwestern climate!

2. Gooseberry


Gooseberries have been rising in popularity recently, but are still relatively unknown in the United States. These plants are extremely hardy all the way down to zone 3 – or -40ºF!

3. Currants

Currants are very similar to Gooseberries – they are extremely hardy down to -40ºF. The big difference between the 2 is that Currants grow in clusters of 8-30 fruit whereas Gooseberries will typically have 1-3 fruit per group. There are a ton of varieties of currant: red, white, black, and pink – I actually have a variety called ‘Pink Lemonade’ in my garden and last year was the first year we were able to harvest fruit. They taste somewhat like a mix of grapes & blueberries, but slightly more tart. This season will be the 3rd year we’ve had the plant, so should see some great yields this year!

4. Persimmon

I have been extremely interested in Persimmons ever since I had one of my grower customers at work (I work at AM Leonard horticultural tool & supply company) tell me that they were a native tree to Ohio. It’s funny because a) I have never seen or eaten a Persimmon and b) I have never seen a persimmon tree! These are another super-hardy plant that can tolerate up to zone 4, or -25ºF. Just like the Blue Java Bananas, these are supposed to have a custard-like taste & consistency – I’ve also heard it described as nature’s sorbet.

5. Beets/Turnips/Radishes

Veggies that you already know about are boring to plop into this list, but I think it’s important to include fast-growing plants and not just fruit trees/shrubs that take years to get to fruiting. Radishes, Beets, and Turnips love the cool weather and they get off to a great start because they begin growing before the weeds do. Beets will thrive when growing in the warm summer months, but do better when seeds are started in a cooler environment. All of these crops can survive freezes and the cooler weather actually increases their sugar content & decreases that spicy flavor that can sometimes affect Radishes that are grown in hot weather (sorry to all my CropBox people that got the fire Radishes last summer!).

6. Cranberry

Cranberries are very similar to Currants & Gooseberries, but thought it would be important to list them on here as well because they’re considered the most-consumed berry in the world – and they are extremely cold-hardy, growing best in Zones 2-6. A lot of Cranberry production takes place in cold climates – Wisconsin, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Canada. And if you’ve never seen a cranberry harvest, it’s something you’ve got to check out. Cranberries are grown in ‘bogs’ and during harvest they flood the bogs, the fruit floats to the top, and they’re wading through waist-deep water with rakes – think Ocean Spray commercials with the 2 guys standing there in cranberries – that’s the harvest. Maybe I can try to link up with some local growers to capture a harvest next fall?

7. Cold-hardy Kiwi

Cold hardy Kiwi is a special plant. Normal Kiwis grow in zone 7-9, but cold-hardy will allow you to grow them up to zone 3! Another interesting thing about this plant is that it is basically in invasive weed – if you aren’t regularly pruning or training, it definitely has the potential to take over your garden, maybe even your whole yard!

8. Cabbage

Cabbage and other Brassica plants (Broccoli, Kale, Brussels Sprouts) are extremely cold-hardy as well with most of them able to take temperatures as low as 15ºF. These veggies are great for starting off your growing season & getting some early-season greens, or you can extend your gardening season with these guys growing well into October or November for me here in Ohio.

9. Carrots

Carrots are another underrated crop that can withstand the cold down to 15ºF – but you may have to cover the green tops to prevent damage from a hard freeze. Carrots are similar to the other root veggies mentioned earlier – they grow well in the heat, but the cooler weather really elevates the sugar content & makes for a sweeter-tasting end result.

10. Haskap Berries (Honeyberry)

Haskap is also known as Blue Honeysuckle, Honeyberry, and a slew of other variations. This berry is native to Japan, Russia, and Poland and grows well in zones 2-9. Honeyberries are loaded with antioxidants & supposedly have a flavor that tastes like a mixture of a blueberry & raspberry – I’m thinking we might have to make some room in the garden for these guys!

The winter months are grueling for a gardener – it’s all about waiting for the weather to break & keeping yourself occupied with projects to help plan the upcoming growing season. I hope this brought a little entertainment & value, maybe even helping you extend your growing season this year, but stay tuned as I’m really ramping up my content this year and will actually stay consistent with it. Just as last year I will be running my Fresh Produce Subscription Box, but will also be walking everyone through the process of gardening – from Planning to Planting, from Pest-Control to Fertilization, and from Harvest to Processing.

Let me know what you would like to see – what would help you become a better gardener?

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The Blog is Back in Town

Photo by Rohan Makhecha on Unsplash

It is 5:30am on the day before Thanksgiving. Last night we ended up falling asleep in the living room, so it was a lot easier justifying waking up early. I just rolled off the couch, checked my phone, then turned on the coffee maker 15 minutes before it was scheduled to brew automatically.

In the 15 minutes it took to brew, I laid here fighting the urge to go back to sleep. I grabbed my phone, checked all notifications – nothing important going on – then pulled myself up & turned on a lamp to get the day rolling. It’s a little hard to sleep when your alarm is telling you,

“Wake up, you have 1 life to live, let’s get it.”

I stare down at the coffee table paralyzed – should I read the book I started or should I write? On 1 hand I want to read as much as I can, but on the other hand I don’t want to read about Antitrust when I first wake up (the book I’m reading is Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand).

I also find it hard to write straight off the bat, but feel really encouraged by what Tyler said about my writing & my truth. He is always wrestling with should he post on Instagram/YouTube/social in general and it’s so easy & obvious for me to say, “YES, you’re too talented to keep it bottled! You could do X, Y, Z or even W!” I always know, or have suggestions, for how he can showcase his musical talents, will detail it, overthink it with some super rational explanation (I told him that his music doesn’t need to be thought about, he just does it because it is the essence of  his being) and last night he hit me with some truth I badly needed to hear.

He said, “Bro, I gotta be honest with you, you think about shit WAY deeper than it needs to be lol”.

Then he had an epiphany and said, “But WAIT – that is the essence of YOUR being!”

And honestly, that was the best piece of honesty & motivation that I could have received at that point. It’s crazy because it’s so obvious to me how talented he is & how easily I can justify his posting, but then I can’t see those magical values where they can exist within myself.

I’ve been writing, or attempting to write, and keep getting caught up in semantics, or questioning the content, constantly overthinking 10 miles down the road instead of just living in the moment & acting on inspiration & truth.

He was right, I’m always too deep in my own head – paralysis by analysis. So now I am resolving to write every single day. Writing is a practice & a discipline – greatness & freedom flow from the first steps, but only if you keep the pace. Tyler helped me realize it’s more important to share my writing than worrying about content. I am trying to paint myself in a corner with gardening instead of being true to myself & simply unleashing the thoughts constantly percolating in my head & talking about all of my passions & interests, not just gardening.

I think my worry is that writing will make me vulnerable. Putting my thoughts & feelings out there will expose me as weak or offer a chance for people to psychoanalyze me or something – clearly a little paranoid but when you write that’s what is supposed to happen – you want to expose yourself & your thoughts. When I was younger I was fascinated with reading people’s original stuff so I could gain insight on their true self – free of outside bias. I wanted to read Freud’s own writings, not a biography that is diluted by another’s own viewpoints & interpretations. I’m not saying I’m a Freud-caliber thinker, I just think it’s important to document & important to create – it can only lead to an infinite synthesis of possible ideations to iterate upon. Last night I made an oath to block out time to write, and this morning I fulfilled it without judging – just letting it flow from heart & brain to pen & paper.

Excited for the journey.

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What I Learned from Breaking my Foot

It has been 7 weeks since the ER confirmed that my foot was broken after falling 4-5 feet from a tree that I attempted to climb while at a family cookout. Ok, so I didn’t really try to climb it as much as I tried to run up it like a bear or monkey would. According to Kyla, my last words were, “Hey, watch this!”

Usually nothing good comes after a statement like that and this case was no different. I reached a point far higher than I anticipated and once I hit the ground I landed on a tree root, turned my ankle, and instantly knew my foot was broken due to the level of pain that I had.

After the fall I got up, walked (limped) back to the patio area where everyone was sitting, and of course everyone thought I was being dramatic. My Grandpa strapped a giant ice pack to my foot and that was that. I refused to believe it was broken but knew the truth.

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Minutes after breaking my foot

Since the cookout was earlier in the day, we went to Chipotle afterwards and I walked (limped) through the entire line and drove us home. This was another great plot line – I drive a stick-shift and I broke my clutch foot. I powered through the pain with the help of the endorphins flowing, but this would be the last time I would drive for 3 weeks.

For some reason I didn’t want to go to the hospital that night. We got home around 6pm and I knew we would be there forever – plus my foot wasn’t broken so there was no sense in wasting time & money right now!

I laid there all night in extreme pain waiting to fall asleep. Every trip to the bathroom or the kitchen was getting tougher & tougher – around 3am I could no longer walk/hobble/limp, and had to start hopping to avoid the pain. At that point I figured I would just wait for Kyla to wake up & then we would go to the hospital.

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Waiting on x-rays @ the hospital

Little to my surprise, they found I broke my 5th metatarsal, and I broke it right under my ankle – a clean break right in the middle of my foot! In this moment I realized that I broke my foot doing something stupid as hell, now had to rely on everyone for transportation, and basically was going to spend summer 18 on crutches!

But for some reason, I wouldn’t let it register in my head that I broke my foot.

I have too much stuff to do!

What about the garden? How will it get weeded & watered? How am I going to wear a backpack sprayer for applying fertilizers & pesticides while I’m hopping around on crutches? How am I supposed to carry stuff so I can actually garden?

And then what about my real life? No dog walks for a few weeks (taking our first one today). But how would I get to & from work? How would I get home at lunch to let the puppers out? How do I get my coffee cup from the kitchen to the living room without spilling?

These were the existential questions burning holes in my mind – but I tried my best to keep it from eating me alive.

And I believe these are all the reasons why I broke my foot.

Yes, I brought it upon myself, but I feel as though I was meant to break my foot in order to slow my life down. I was getting to a frantic pace of action – always busy doing something, feeling the need to create content / document the garden journey & just do as much stuff as possible – always on. With this accident, it forced me to stop & realize how fast the world can pass you by when you’re busy & focused in your own lane.

But more than anything, it humbled me.

You don’t realize the importance of your freedom until you rely on everyone else for transportation. Whether its hauling my ass to work (thanks Kyla), hauling me home for lunch (thanks Brian), or delivering the coffee from the kitchen (thanks Kyla), we all take the little things for granted until something helps mold our perspectives. Accepting help is something that I needed forced upon me & I am very appreciative to my friends & family for helping me when I couldn’t help myself.

Out of the struggles also come solutions, though.

Gardening on crutches is an absolute nightmare. You have to deal with crutches sinking in the soil, crutches damaging plants (R.I.P. to at least 2 tomato plants), and… you can’t carry anything!

I started getting creative with carrying work stuff in a backpack & for the garden I had won a tool belt on Instagram last year (never thought I’d wear that, what kind of guy wears a tool belt apron-thingy). The 5 pockets got packed with all the tools I needed: Soil Knife, Pruners, Weeder, plant ties, and whatever else would fit. To finish it off, I hooked a kneeling pad on the belt and that’s how I accomplished most of my gardening with a broken foot – by crawling around the garden like a child.

Although I was forced to slow down, I kept pushing myself to do as much as I could. Not only to keep the gardens groomed, but just to prove that despite the broken foot, I was going to keep doing my thing. The first 3 weeks were strong and then I decided, “hey, maybe I should just rest all day instead of part of the day?”

My mind stopped calling the shots and my body stepped in and told me to chill. Week 4 was a relaxing time with much less gardening & going, and I think it was a sort of turning point. At this point I was driving so I was exercising my foot whenever I drove and had to push in the clutch. I think that served as a micro-therapy and applied enough pain to slow me down the rest of the day.

As the weeks went by, I slowly began coming back to life. I was able to start walking – first on my heel, then slowly into a limping walk that allowed me to abandon the crutches. I limped for a week until my foot muscles & ligaments got built up and now I’m basically back to normal!

Although I was mad at myself for getting into this situation, I feel like it was much needed. I needed to slow down. I needed to ask for help instead of trying to do it all. I needed time to myself & time to think. And most of all I needed my mobility taken away from me so that I could appreciate what role Hustle plays in our lives. Ultimately & ironically, I think I needed to slow down so that I could optimize my actions & attack my goals even harder!

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Why I Haven’t Been Blogging

One of my resolutions for 2018 was to publish a weekly blog post. I started the year off extremely strong, sometimes even posting multiple times a week – or I’d get on a roll of posting on 3 consecutive days – I was really feelin’ it!

But a few things happened, and I decided to pivot & follow my instincts on blogging.

I felt as though my posts were manufactured & becoming forced just for the sake of keeping up with the metrics of my resolution – not in line with metrics of my motivation.

And then it was even more forced when I was trying to align my blog posts, with my Instagram posts, with my YouTube video. And as I’m writing this, the logic seems flawless – but the execution was lacking, it was motivated by the metrics, not the true passion.

Mostly this is my fault & the fault of my perception on it, but the pivot took me to some really interesting places and some new mediums that allowed me to test my limits & push myself out of my comfort zone.

I had already been working on my Podcast that I started on Anchor, so I kept publishing on my channel “Plant Rant”. (Check out my latest episode below or the whole channel here)

As I carried on with the podcast, it too felt like it was lacking something. It definitely wasn’t focused, but that’s how I wanted it – I just wanted to rant – Plant Rant. Sometimes it was about gardening, other times it was about social media, or my thoughts on something that was grinding my gears, or my observations & perspective on stuff. I really enjoyed it, but it was just lacking something!

The fact that it was spontaneous was probably a very limiting factor, but it was important to me so that I could practice my verbal skills, build confidence, and because I believe all the magic happens in spontaneity.

What needed to happen was a merging of all of these ideas & platforms into one – and that’s basically what I did!

And thus the Vlog was born!

Vlogging has been a great collision of everything that I want: spontaneity (because I never plan or try to manufacture content), visual content combined with an audio commentary, providing value through knowledge & experience, and documenting my process of growing my garden and my business.

From Vlogging and posting on YouTube & Facebook, I went to creating content for IGTV. I would still post the IGTV videos to Facebook, but didn’t feel like it was good for YouTube because of the vertical format vs YouTube being optimized for horizontal. I like the concept of IGTV and think that it will really take off with the time & development – especially if they can integrate it into the feed in some way.

Recently, I have been pretty terrible at producing content & keeping on the up & up with stuff! After breaking my foot, I basically went in to hyper-drive trying to prove that I could keep up with everything and that my broken foot wasn’t going to slow me down. I ran on pure adrenaline for the first 3 weeks & doing as much activity as I could handle. After the 3rd week I began driving again and that pushed the limits a little, but was necessary to rehab the foot & begin working the muscles again (I have a manual transmission and the broken foot is my clutch foot).

From that point I realized that I needed to slow down a little bit if I wanted to heal up, and I think that was the whole reason I broke my foot in the first place – to force me to slow down, smell the roses, and enjoy life without constantly trying to do 8 million different things.

I feel like that last sentence completely contradicts the whole point of this article, but when I slowed down the production of my content, I began consuming more content, observing, and realizing what would draw me into videos. Basically observing success & reverse-engineering it to fit with my personality & style.

So now that I have gotten a chance to rest my mind, had time to rethink & refine my content strategy, I’m ready to get back to executing against my master plan to ultimately buy land & begin my farm – stay tuned to the podcast & the vlog, and please! – feel free to reach out with any gardening questions or topics you would like to see covered on the blog/vlog/podcast!

 

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Vertical Growing

Vertical farming has become a hot topic in the last couple years in the Green Industry & is only continuing to grow in interest & popularity.

A big push has been made for Vertical Farming due to a few factors:

  • Decreasing amount of arable land
  • Increasing amount of extreme weather
  • Uses less land to grow more food
  • Uses less water
  • Uses less fertilizer
  • Moves Green Industry closer to technology

Here are a few of the ways you can grow vertically – indoors & outdoors!

Grow Racks

Grow racks are probably the most popular method that is currently out there. Some companies are growing 10-15 levels high, or even higher in some cases! Crops grown in these systems is limited to leafy greens & herbs due to the smaller space they occupy. Commercial crops like Tomatoes & Cucumbers are already “vertical growing” – some grow up to 30 feet tall!

AeroFarmsVerticalFarming.png

Zip Towers

Commercialized by Bright Agrotech, these grow towers are essentially like 2 gutters sandwiched together with a foam growing media that you grow the plants in. Unlike a gutter that lays horizontally, these are grown vertically and then you stack towers side-by-side. I have not tested these out, but have had my eye on them since the first time I heard about them! You can grow them outdoors, but I feel like it would be more ideal to do indoors or in a greenhouse to maximize production.

Zip Towers.jpg

Grow Towers

There is a wide variety of Grow Towers out there. Some are hydroponic or aeroponic – meaning that the roots are either growing in nutrient-rich water, or the roots hang in the air & is misted with nutrients & water. Typically, those types of towers are also using artificial lighting, but I have seen some growing in greenhouses.

Grow Towers.png

Other Grow Towers do use soil – some are made by growers themselves, but I am going to be testing this Tower out this summer that holds 250 plants & uses soil – so excited to see how well it works! This is going to save me from building as many Gutter Growing systems & will save a ton of space as well! Instead of 250 heads of lettuce taking up 250 square feet, it will take up 4 square feet – pretty impressive right?!

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Gutter Growing Systems

This has been made popular by In.Genius Farms out of Canada & I’m excited to give this a whirl this season. I think I’ll mainly grow leafy veggies, herbs, green onions, & maybe even strawberries. My concerns are that they will not stay hydrated enough – & will be hard to keep watered when temperatures get in the 90s this summer. Not only the water issue, but the actual heat issue – how will that affect the plants roots, will it bake them? I guess there’s only one way to find out!

Gutter Growing.jpg

I think that Vertical Farming will only continue to expand, but there are some challenges that need to be tackled:

  • Energy usage from Grow Lights
  • Ease of harvest from higher racks – typically a scissor-lift is used
  • Crops grown – most vertical growers only grow leafy greens, microgreens & herbs
  • High startup costs

Vertical growing has been in theory for nearly 100 years, but companies are just beginning to tackle this growing option with plant factories & new growing systems coming out all the time. There are challenges, but through testing, failing, & innovating, I believe that this will be the future of growing as the population expands & the size of farms continues to shrink.

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7 Seeds to Sow in April in Ohio

If you don’t like the weather in Ohio – just wait 5 minutes!

That’s how the saying goes in Ohio (and in a lot of places around the country) but this year’s weather has been exceptionally crazy! There was a lot less of the sub-zero temperatures, but instead of that, we’ve just been floating between 60-degree days & snow. You know there’s a problem when hydrangeas start growing/budding in late January when you’re in zone 6!

So, it’s early April – the weather is around 70 degrees – spring has come early, right?

Unfortunately – you couldn’t be more wrong!

On the positive side, there are still plenty of things that you can plant to get a jumpstart on your garden!

In the ground

Even though it may be 50-75 degrees for a few days doesn’t mean it will last forever – we’ve seen snow into May before (knock on wood we don’t have to deal with that this year)! However, there are some perfect candidates to plant at this time that will be able to withstand the cooler temperatures.

  1. Kale – this super green is extremely winter-hardy and can withstand temperatures as low as 18-20 degrees. Kale is packed with potassium, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Iron, and other antioxidants that make it a great addition to salads, or my favorite, smoothies.
  2. Spinach – another super green that can withstand freezing temperatures, spinach can be planted in mid-April & you could harvest your first leaves within a month. The great thing about spinach & kale is that the flavor is actually sweeter when grown in the cooler weather. As you get into warmer summer weather, you’ll notice that your greens will get more bitter – and the plants may even begin to “bolt” or begin to flower – and you definitely don’t want to eat it at that point!
  3. Lettuce – it’s best to be too early rather than too late when planting leafy greens. Cool weather enhances the flavors, while warm weather produces a more bitter-tasting product.
  4. Garlic – depending on the variety, you can plant garlic in late fall (Oct-Nov) or in early spring (Mar-Apr). Again, garlic is extremely hardy to freezing temperatures & the cool weather builds the flavor profile.
  5. Carrots – a lot of gardeners won’t grow carrots because they’re a little tougher to grow, take about 100 days to harvest, and they don’t want to “waste” that space in the garden. In my opinion, they aren’t planting carrots because have never tasted a garden-grown carrot – who knew they had so much flavor! You can literally taste the earthiness & the sugar since it hasn’t been processed & stored for months before it makes it way into your fridge.
  6. Onions –  like garlic & carrots, onions are another root vegetable that develop more flavor in the cooler weather and they can withstand the cold temperatures extremely well!
  7. Potatoes – you can plant potatoes in the early spring as soon as you can work the soil but they won’t begin to grow until the soil temperatures reach about 45 degrees. It is important to grow potatoes in mounds or mounded rows. This ensures that the soil is loose & doesn’t hold too much water. Water-logged soil can lead to rot of the seed potato or lead to disease/fungus issues down the road.

Hopefully this helps if you feel like you’re too late to start your garden – it is NEVER to late to start growing! A lot of gardeners typically start seeds indoors to get a head start on the season. If you haven’t started seeds indoors, now is a weird time to start them indoors because you typically need 6-8 weeks before you can transplant.

If you still want to get a head start on tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, or other veggies that take a while to grow, I would recommend starting them in peat pods or a biodegradable pot that you can just plant straight into the ground. This will give you the option to start early, but won’t keep your plants trapped in a seed tray when spring does decide to stay for good!

 

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3 Tips on How to Care for your Seedlings

You started your seedlings a month ago – they’re growing like crazy, right?

If so – here’s how to keep them growing strong!

If not – this article will help you get them growing on the right track & help to set you up for gardening success this year!

The moment that you begin to plant seeds is such a revolutionary time. As you fill the seed trays with soil, you feel your soul being filled with the hope of growth; the hope that warm weather & bountiful yields are on the horizon. But first, you need to get these bad boys growing – and then you need to keep them alive & healthy!

Here are the most important things to monitor to grow like a pro!

  1. Light – I know this seems like a no-brainer, but it’s usually one of the hardest things to adjust for, and in my opinion, the #1 reason for new gardeners believing that they have a “black thumb”. Light is the most important thing for a plant to have – it’s how they transform carbon dioxide & water into food that fuels growth. When you start your seedlings in a window in February-March, there a few things you have to realize. You need a south-facing window. During winter & early spring, the sun will travel low in the sky in the south & a south-facing window has the most light exposure. Also, daylight hours are short, not usually long enough to facilitate proper growth because seedlings need between 10-14 hours of light to reach their full potential. If you see that your seedlings are getting “leggy” & stretching out – you may not have enough light and may need to consider using grow lights to get the results you want.
  2. Water – Again, it seems like a no-brainer, but trusting the plants to take care of themselves is another beginner mistake that just happens – you live & learn after a few seasons of “practice” 🙂 You want to make sure that you’re keeping water at an optimal level. What does that mean? Check on the soil – is it visibly dry? If yes, then water. If no, check later in the day or tomorrow. On the flip side, don’t keep the soil so moist that it never gets a chance to dry out. This will essentially drown the seedlings by not allowing air to get into the growing media – not to mention the potential for algae, disease, or fungus growth.
  3. Fertilizer – This was an area that I was always shaky about when I began gardening. Mainly because you think that the plant already has everything it needs. And also because you hear horror stories of people who over-fertilized & “burned” their plants up. The good news is that there’s this cool thing called a label on the fertilizer. If you read that, it will tell you exactly how much you need – in most cases it will even have a recommended rate for seedlings! As a rule of thumb, I usually look at the recommended rate & cut that in half and then will fertilize every other time I water the seedlings. This isn’t to steroid the plants out, but to keep them happy. If you are inconsistent with fertilization, it will affect the pH of the soil & affect the ability for the nutrients to be delivered through the soil media into the plants (this will have to be its own separate, and highly technical article in the future).

So I’m sure this advice seems basic or elementary, but success is on the other side of executing the fundamentals exceptionally well.

And if you want a more in-depth analysis & conversation around seed starting, check out the podcast I did with Tori from Mustard Seed Farm Market

Happy Gardening!

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Spring Fever Anxiety

It’s April – that time of the year when everyone is talking about having spring fever. Here in Ohio we have been getting teased with mild weather since the end of January – and then we’ll get snow, or ice, or both – but this year’s spring fever is different for me. I’m not just anxious for spring, but I’m also anxious for what the spring will bring & how my CSA Veggie Box Subscription is going to do.

As we inch into April I am still waiting on some additional seeds to come in, and quite frankly, it’s making me nervous as hell!

The good news is that I have all of the necessary crops planted:

  • 4 varieties of Tomatoes – Jelly Bean, Tommy Toe Candy, Golden Rave, & Tribute Hybrid.
  • 6 varieties of Peppers – Anaheim, Cayenne, Gurney’s Primo Jalapeño, Habanero, Yum Yum Mini Bell Peppers, & Ghost Peppers
  • Winter Wonderland Kale – I started this out under fluorescent lights & it was thin, leggy and I really wasn’t sure if it would recover. Once I got it under the TotalGrow Broad Spectrum LED lights it completely changed the game & now the kale is going wild with growth!
  • Green Onions – they aren’t growing as well as I would have liked, but you live & learn! The good news is that I can direct-sow those seeds in the soil now & then get the transplants out in the garden once they get to a good growth point – shouldn’t be too long!
  • Lettuce – this has been a huge fail & it’s my fault for using expired seeds. The good news is that lettuce grows fairly quickly. I’m replacing the failed lettuce trays with Buttercrunch lettuce.

The biggest reason for my Spring Fever Anxiety is the fact that I now have customers – I’m growing for a greater purpose other than just for my own curiosity & passion. I’m now spreading my passion into practicality and I think that is why it makes me so nervous. I want everything to be (nearly) perfect – I want to supply my friends & family with a full produce box bi-weekly & that is a much bigger challenge than simply growing veggies – it’s about planning AND growing veggies.

We’re exactly 2 months out from our first round of delivery, so there’s plenty of time to get the herbs, lettuce, spinach, radishes, and other small add-ons growing for harvest by then.

In addition, we have about 60 heads of garlic growing in the garden right now along with oregano, peppermint, 2 varieties of raspberries, and blackberries. I think we’ll get a good amount of raspberries this year – the golden raspberries will definitely burst with fruit & it should be the first fruiting year for the red raspberries & blackberry – fingers crossed!

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So far we have 5 confirmed customers and I am expecting at least 5-10 more. I really think that I could handle more than that and the good news is that we’re at a very scalable point in the game. Right now it is all about succession planting for the consumable crops.

The next step is to re-sow lettuce. This time around, I’ll start off with half of the tray – that should give us 36 heads of lettuce which should feed my customers for 2 weeks. So essentially, I will reseed lettuce every 2 weeks & do the same with similar consumable crops: radishes, cilantro, green onions, & spinach/kale (not so much because you can continue to harvest from these throughout the spring, but depends on consumption too!).

My reason for writing this post was to air out my irrational feelings of being behind the 8-ball & I think I realized that I am in a great spot even though it doesn’t feel like that! You have to take stock of where you’re at, admit your challenges & defeats, and then develop an attack-plan in order to conquer your concerns.

Gardening is definitely a patience game – it’s about the long-term – but if you aren’t auditing yourself on every micro-action, it is easy to fall behind. I feel a metaphorical sigh of relief after writing this post and I can’t wait to get out in the garden to turn that patch of dirt into a thriving ecosystem of life again!

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Pruning your Raspberry & Blackberry Bushes

ripe golden raspberries

Pruning your Raspberry & Blackberry bushes is an essential & necessary task that you should complete in late winter to ensure the health of your plants, promote growth, and to optimize fruit production. You want to wait until late winter to prune your plants because the canes actually provide carbohydrates to the root system of the plants, helping the plants to better survive the harsh winter.

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So why should I prune my berry plants?

Pruning will keep your raspberry or blackberry patch from becoming overcrowded. You may think that an abundance of canes means an abundant amount of fruit, but it’s all about knowing the growth habits.

You want to keep last year’s canes that didn’t bear fruit. Those primocanes will then become floricanes – meaning they will flower & bear fruit this year.

Using loppers or hand pruners, remove any dead-looking canes and get rid of small/spindly canes as well, by cutting them at the ground level. You can also get this tutorial on my YouTube channel to see the pruning in action – here’s a link to the video.

Thin the canes so they’re about 6 inches apart & trim your rows so that they are 1.5-2 feet wide.

As far as pruning the actual canes, you’ll want to top them around 36 inches in height. This will encourage new lateral growth – which then turns to flowers – which then turns to fruit!

A lot of reading that I did also said you wanted to remove any canes that fruited in the past season. I didn’t have to worry about that with my Boyne Raspberry plants because it was only their first year growing, but the Anne Raspberry had a ton a fruit! Since those canes were not deadwood I just pruned the top of the plant that had flowered – I guess we’ll see what happens!

When you prune raspberries, you need to prune them to a flowering node (see below).

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Pruning blackberries is very similar to pruning raspberries – they’re both in the Bramble family, which includes roses as well! However, the growth habit of blackberries is slightly different.

Blackberries grow a lot like grapes – they have vines & grow up to 20 feet long! You want to keep blackberries pruned to having 5-7 vines per plant. Tip each vine at about 3 feet. Each vine will then have lateral branches – prune these to about 10-12 inches. This will promote rapid growth – and I wish I brushed up on this knowledge before I butchered my blackberry plant 😭 you can see the video here!

As I mentioned, last summer was the first time I was able to harvest raspberries from the Anne golden raspberry plant I started in the summer of 2016. The amount of fruit that we harvest was astounding!

golden raspberries
Anne Golden Raspberries

I didn’t even prune the canes from one year to the next, they got hit with a freeze after the growth cycle began in early spring, and the only “trellising” that I did was wrapping some sisal twine around the middle of the canes. Basically it was a raspberry ponytail 😂

This trellising system was apparently effective, but I just wonder how much better it will be with a legitimate trellis! In case you’re wondering what that might look like – it typically consists of wooden posts with cross-bars at 24″ height & 36″ height. Wires are then run from post to post & this provides a framework for the raspberries to grow upon.

The importance of the trellis is really 2-fold:

  1. To support the canes & to optimize fruit production.
  2. To open the canopy & allow for newly sprouted primocanes to flourish.

Trellising is important, but pruning is the real catalyst for fruit production & new growth to happen. Now that the pruning is done we will be waiting for the ground to thaw out so that we can install the trellis system – stay tuned for the blog & the video that will give you a step-by-step on how to make it happen!

If you have any further questions, drop me a line below – would love to hear from you!