Archive | Edible Landscaping

Spring is almost here! Planting successful starts in your Togetherfarm Blocks.

You can use your Togetherfarm Blocks as seed or starter planters!

You can use your Togetherfarm Blocks as seed or starter planters! Just flip them over, plant your seeds or starts with potting seed mix, water and put in a warm place.

Spring is finally almost here, but in many parts of the world (including ours in the Pacific Northwest of America), we have quite a few months to go before it is safe to put many plants directly in our raised Togetherfarm Block beds because of the danger of low temps, late frost and hail.

March is the perfect month to start plants and seeds indoors that require a long growing season (like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and broccoli) so that when the later Spring months of May and June roll around, they already have a good start on their growth, and you can move them in your Togetherfarm Blocks raised bed.

Depending on the area you are planting in, you may start your seeds for different plants earlier or later. This handy planting calculator can help determine when to plant your seeds and starts according to your zip code.

Easy way to sanitize your Togetherfarm Blocks for planting seedlings and plant starts!

Easy way to sanitize your Togetherfarm Blocks for planting seedlings and plant starts!

Using sanitized seed planters is key to disease-free starts
Seeds and small plant starts are especially prone to contracting bacteria or harmful plant disease that may be left over from an earlier season in your planting pots. To avoid transmitting disease to your seeds and starts, just toss your Togetherfarm Blocks into the dishwasher for one cycle–the Blocks can be safely sanitized in the dishwasher and then ready for use year after year.

Light exposure and warmth
There is little as frustrating as trying to get a strong start from a seed, but ending up with a weak and spindly stalk that cannot “weather” the transfer to an outdoor climate. The secret to a strong start begins with the amount of light it is exposed to each day. Here are some tips on getting the most light for your seeds and starts–even in the dead of winter when light is scarce.

1. Choose a south facing window and put your starts in a place without shade and make sure if it is close to a window that the environment is warm enough to get the seeds going. Ideal temperature is between 70-85 degrees.

2. Head to a hardware store and pick up a fluorescent light, and keep the light pointing at the tops of your plants and planter. The light should not be very far away from the planter—2-3″ above them at most. The plants should be exposed to this light for 10-12 hours per day for best results.

Soil and moisture
Small starts, and especially seeds require a very light soil (organic seedling potting soil works best) as the heavier potting soil for mature plants is too heavy and will not allow the small seeds to push up to the light. When covering your seeds with the potting mix, be sure to go no deeper than 1/8″ inch, and in some cases even less, depending on the size of the seed.

Water your seeds and starts every day, preferably with a sprayer so that you do not disturb the seedlings growing process. Never allow your seeds or starts to dry out! A consistent even moist (but not drowned!) environment is ideal.

Don’t fertilize your seeds with anything until 2 or more leaves have formed on a stem. With your small starts, you may start fertilizing them with a light to medium strength, lower nitrogen organic fertilizer such as sea kelp liquid or fish emulsion. When your seeds have formed 2 leaves, fertilize the plants once a week to help form a strong root system.

Transferring your starts from potting container to outdoor raised bed safely
After you have gotten your seeds and starts to a state in which they are ready to be transferred to your raised bed, you must first “condition” them to a colder overnight climate than what they have been used to in the indoor environment they were grown in. This process is called “hardening off” and it is essential to a smooth transition and for survival of your seed starts.

About 10 days to two weeks before the time to move the plants outdoors, start by putting the plants in a shaded, cool place on your porch or patio that is protected from the wind. You can leave them for up to 2 weeks, and then move them to a shady area in your garden close to the area that holds your raised bed. Leave them in this area for another 7-10 days and then if the ground is warm and there is no frost forecast, plant them in your Togetherfarm Blocks raised bed. You can shield them further from wind, birds, squirrels, etc by placing a barrier such as a milk carton with the ends cut off around them until they are sprouting at least 2-3 bunches of leaves off of one stem.

If frost is forecast, bring them in for the night to protect them or until frost danger has passed.




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Benefits of Growing and Eating Kale

Benefits of Growing and Eating Kale

Ornamental Kale looks beautiful in the garden and is also edible.

Kale is one of those garden plants that is packed full of all kinds of nutrients and benefits for your body. In addition, it is really easy to grow and is hardy in lots of different climates. This article will tell you how to grow kale as well as explain some of the benefits to eating kale.

How to Grow Kale

Kale is really easy to grow. All you need is a portion of your garden that gets lots of good sunlight and where the nutrient rich soil is at least 6-12″ deep. Kale is in the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts which all require soil that is rich in nitrogen. You can buy kale starts at most places where vegetable starts are sold however, kale is also easy to start from seed. The past few years I have done a combination of purchasing a few starts to give me some kale earlier in the year and then started a few kale plants from seed. Once the kale plant has established itself, water it 1-2 times per week when the temperatures are under 80°F and every other day for warmer climates. When the plant has several leaves on it, you can start picking and eating the bottom leaves. The plant will continue to grow and produce more and more leaves that can be eaten. I had one summer where my kale plants had gotten to about 4 feet tall and we had so much kale that we were sharing with all of our neighbors.

Benefits of Growing and Eating Kale

Ornamental Kale can survive freezes as low as 20°F.

If you live in a colder environment or if you want to grow kale in the winter, many varieties do well in near freezing whether. In addition, some of the ornamental kale can withstand temperatures down to 20°F. The ornamental kale is edible but doesn’t taste quite as good as regular kale.

One of the garden pests to watch out for with kale is aphids. If you have a problem with aphids on your kale, check out this article for some organic ways to get rid of aphids in your garden.

Benefits of Eating Kale

Kale is full of incredible nutrients. It is high in Vitamins A, C, and K. It also has lots of calcium, potassium, folic acid, lutein, and antioxidants. Per calorie, kale has more iron than beef, more calcium than milk, and 10x more vitamin C than spinach. Wow! That’s a lot of wholesome goodness in one plant. So what is all that good for? Well, these nutrients help with eye health, skin health, reduction of the risk of heart disease and cancer. Kale also contributes to weight loss, lower cholesterol, and healthier bones.

Here is a fantastic info graphic that sums all of this up, courtesy of Juice Generation:

Why you should eat kale and health benefits of kale

Do you grow kale? How do you like to eat your kale? Share your favorite recipe in the comments.

Eat Kale, Stay Healthy


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3 of the Best Winter Crops – Onions, Garlic, and Cabbage


Cabbage is a great winter vegetable.

This article will give you an overview for 3 of the best winter crops – onions, garlic, and cabbage.

In the past I always assumed that my garden would just lay dormant in the winter. After all, what produce really grows in the winter? But, I was wrong.

There are actually quite a few varieties of plants that can be planted in the fall to be harvested in the winter or early the next season. Before planting in the fall, be sure to amend the soil to make sure that you have plenty of nutrients for the winter crops to thrive on (for a soil amendment recipe, see tip 3 of this article: 3 Tips on How to Prep for the New Growing Season). One other thing is that these plants grow best in areas that have a mild winter – meaning that there are nights that might get below freezing but not severe freezing for weeks and weeks at a time.

So, what are 3 of the best crops to grow over the winter? Here they are:

1. Onions

Onions are a perfect winter crop because they take very little effort to plant and maintain. Simply plant the onion in the amended soil so that the bulb is covered (about 1-2 inches deep). You can plant onions even as late as October or early November depending on the weather. Once you have planted the onions, cover the soil with mulch. This will help to keep the soil moist and slightly warmer. Water the plants a couple times per week if the soil is dry in your area and until the first freeze. Then, just leave the onions for the entire winter. In the spring, you can harvest the green part of the onion to use in soups and other dishes. Once the tops turn brown, your onions are ready for harvest.

2. Garlic

Garlic is also an easy plant to grow in the winter. You can even just buy a large garlic from the store and break each of the little cloves a part (called “cracking”). The larger each of the individual cloves, the bigger the garlic will be when harvested. Each clove will  become a whole garlic for the harvest the next summer. When planting, it is important to plant the bottom of the clove down and the top facing up. You can plant garlic in October or November depending on the weather in your area (you will need to plant garlic 3 weeks before the first hard freeze). Plant at a depth of about 2 inches below the surface and then cover with mulch.

3. Cabbage

Cabbage is a plant that will grow and be ready for harvest in the winter. In order to do this, you will need to plant the cabbage from seed in late Spring, or you can buy starts in the late summer or early fall from your local nursery. Make sure your soil has lots of nutrients. The Savoy Cabbage is among the hardiest of the cabbages and is a perfect one to grow in the winter. When the cabbage looks big enough and the head feels firm, you can harvest it in the middle or late winter.

There you have it. There are lots of other plants that can grow in the winter. If you don’t want to grow produce in the winter, then try growing a cover crop. Cover crops help put nutrients back into the soil for the next growing season and they help with weed control. Check out this article to find out more about cover crops: Cover Crops.

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How to grow and prune grape vines

How to grow and prune grape vinesGrape vines are quite easy to grow. The basic elements you will need to successfully grow grape vines are sunshine, a good trellis to support the vines, mulch, and some pruning shears. Here are the steps for how to grow and prune grape vines so that you get years of fruit as a result.

1. Choose your grape

There are numerous grape vines to choose from. Some are good for wines while others are good for eating fresh. Still others have seeds and some varieties don’t. Obviously there are green grapes and red grapes and black grapes too. So, to choose your grape vine, decide what you want to use the grapes for. I choose two varieties that are good for eating fresh and that have no seeds. One type is a green grape and the other is a red grape.

2. Plant your grape

Now that you have selected your grape variety, you will need to choose a location to plant the grape vine. The base of the vine doesn’t necessarily need to be in a sunny place as long as the vines can grow to a location that has sun. My vines are planted in a shady spot along the fence between me and my neighbor’s property. Over the past couple of years, the vines have grown along the fence and the majority of them are now in a full sun location. When you select the location to plant your grape vine, dig a hole twice the diameter of the  pot size that the grape came in. Dig the hole twice as deep as well. Now, amend the soil by adding in some compost and organic fertilizer (composted chicken manure and some blood meal and bone meal works great). Then, plant the grape making sure that the vines will be able to reach the trellis. My grapes are close to a chain link fence and I used the fence as a trellis for the vines. I loosely tied the vines at various points to the fence and then let the vines grow along the top of the fence.

3. Mulch your grape

Once you have planted the grape vine, be sure to add lots of mulch around the base of the plant. I usually try to have about 4 inches deep of mulch around my grapes. This helps to retain moisture and keeps the roots from drying out. Over time, the mulch also breaks down helping to provide some nutrients for the grape vine.

4. Prune your grape

Now, the waiting game starts. Grapes take a few years to get established. Don’t expect to start eating grapes off of the grape vines for at least 2 or maybe 3 years. My grapes are currently in their 3rd year and I finally have a really good crop that set on. Each year, you can prune the grapes by cutting off the little runners and training the vines to go the direction you want them to. My second year of growing grapes, I had a few bundles of grapes set on but they ended up shriveling and falling off. I asked a gardener friend of mine what happened (he is about 75 years old and has been gardening for decades and has lots of delicious grapes every year). He gave me a secret trick that he uses. He prunes the vine 2 nodules past where the grapes are setting. So, this means that wherever you see a bundle of grapes forming, you will want to prune the vine beyond where the grapes are setting by count two nodules past the bundle of grapes (essentially, two leaves past the bundle of grapes). Then, cut the vine off at that point. What this does, he told me, is to allow all of the energy of the grape vine to go into producing the fruit rather than growing the vine itself. I tried this trick this year and it has worked amazingly! I have the best crop of grapes setting on and I’m excited for them to get ripe.

That’s it. Let us know if you have any tips or tricks for growing or pruning grapes that would benefit the TogetherFarm community.

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