I often hear at Farmer’s Markets that people would love to garden, but spring got away from them and now it’s too late. What if I told you it’s not too late? This is the perfect time to dig out that grass and till your soil or if you prefer raised bed, like I do, let’s get building.
Here on the Good Sweet Earth homestead we are always trying to take steps toward food self-sufficiency and this fall we plan on installing a few more raised beds too. Our raised beds will be earmarked for berries come spring, but this summer and fall we have a few ideas for some fast growing vegetables that we can still plant and harvest this year.
August is the perfect time to plant radishes, arugula, baby spinach, lettuce, and snap peas. Radishes take a mere 22 days to harvest and can be grown until the first frost. Snap Peas depending on variety take about 60 days to harvest. If you are feeling adventurous you could even plant some beets, broccoli, kale or swiss chard since all these vegetables take about 60 days to harvest too.
Remember the days to harvest is not counted from the day you put the seed in the ground until you harvest but rather once the seed is germinated and growing to harvest. Check your first frost date. Here in Zeeland, Michigan, our first frost date is October 10 which means we have a 50 percent chance of frost. Our short growing season 156 days will come to an end before we know it so let’s make the most of it! Happy (August) gardening!
Are you short on garden space, but have a long list of plants you want to grow? Try a trellis!
Growing your garden vertically saves space, making your garden more efficient and reduces the risk of disease. So what can you grow vertical? Cucumbers, peas, squash, pole beans, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and other melons!
Can all varieties of these plants grow up? No-- you need to make sure you have vining varieties of some and that the melons you trellis are the smaller varieties.
Also did you know that some plants prefer a natural trellis over a metal one? It’s true! Cucumbers, peas, and melons grab onto natural supports better than metal ones. So think wood, bamboo stakes, twine, and tree branches when constructing your trellis for those items. Or if you have a metal trellis you can add twine to it to help your plants grab on. Need ideas? Check out our Pinterest page for some great trellis ideas.
Seed catalogs start to arrive in our mailbox in January and when they do, I snuggle up and read them like the latest romance novel. I love planning my garden! This year our kids at the Good Sweet Earth homestead got to put their two cents in about what we should grow. The list is long!
We will have our staples: carrots, lettuces, radishes, green beans, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes (slicing and cherry), jalapenos, and green peppers. I don’t think we have ever had a garden without those ten.
The kids requested pumpkins again this year so we decided to do mini pumpkins and jack o’ lantern pumpkins. They also wanted apple trees (the sourest we could find, please!), watermelons, and cantaloupe.
I wanted to add to our early crops with arugula, snap peas, pak choi, and spinach.
For summer I added eggplant and a few herbs (basil, parsley, chives, and cilantro). And as usual we will also grow onions and potatoes. Check back this summer for pictures of our garden!
What’s in your garden this year? Let us know in the comments below!
March and April are frustrating months for gardeners in west Michigan. If you’ve been dreaming of getting your garden in the ground, but you look out the window and see snow in your yard, then now is the perfect time to put your dreams on paper. Every successful gardener has a list of what they want to grow that year so that they know they'll have the space for every plant. Are you new to gardening and wonder what grows well here in Michigan? Well wonder no more; here are the basics:
Most summer gardens here in Michigan have the staples of cucumbers, tomatoes, and zucchini. Sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, and green beans also grow well here. If you are looking to plant earlier than mid-May think lettuce, snap peas, kale, and carrots. Your options for vegetables are really endless, which makes gardening in Michigan very exciting!
Do you have fruits on your list this year? Strawberries and blueberries do well in Michigan. Cherry and apple trees are also Michigan staples. Watermelons and muskmelons also do well if you have a large enough area or grow smaller varieties up a trellis.
If flowers are more your passion, then you are in luck too. Zinnia, marigolds, cosmos, salvia, sunflowers, and petunia are all beautiful annuals (they come up once, then die). If perennials (they come up year after year) are what you are after try coneflowers, Lenten roses, black-eyed susans, allium, sedum, Russian sage, or asters.
Once you know what you want to grow, map it out, put it on paper. Then when the weather starts to improve, its time to get dirty. Happy gardening.
West Michigan yard farmers: For questions on gardening, or if you'd like to go organic in your garden this year, drop Master Gardener Corey Veldheer a line at Corey@GoodSweetEarth.com. We also offer a Garden Consultation Service to help you navigate through an entire growing season; for more info click here.
When I think of farmers of the 19th and early-20th centuries, I think of simple, honest, noble and humble people. When I think of farmers of the late 20th and 21st centuries, one of the first thing that pops into many people's heads are chemical-spewing, soil-destroying, government-lobbying, labor-abusing corporate farming businessmen.
Now don't get me wrong, I know there are still family farmers working the land the correct way-- right here in west Michigan-- but for the most part, we have corporations playing the role of "farmer" in America today. Tens of thousands of acres, producing crops that we don't really need, with genetically-modified seeds, using chemicals that are bad for the environment, and killing pests and diseases that only exist because they've destroyed the natural order of things. And then there's Monsanto-- a seed company that actually forbids farmers from collecting and saving their seeds for the next year. A company that sues farmers when "their" seeds blow from one farm to another.
This is just the epitome of arrogant human behavior. And these practices are destroying our farms and our soil. Soil, mind you, that took up to 1,000 years to develop. Soil, that once it's wiped out, is gone for good. This "money first" approach to farming is the total opposite of the image of the humble farmer-- being a steward of the land, working his or her soil with care and compassion.
And you know what? Humility and farming should go hand-in-hand. The word humility actually derives from the word humus-- which is soil. The Latin noun humilis means "grounded" or "from the earth."
So that's how we need to approach farming and gardening-- with humility. That means before we enjoy the flowers, or bite into those strawberries, or share our abundance of zucchini with the neighbors, we need to do right by our soil. We need to humbly approach our gardens, and realize that good crops don't come from a bottle or a chemical lab. Good crops come from good soil.
That means no synthetic chemical fertilizers. They kill the microorganisms that our plants need to survive and thrive. Humble farmers for thousands of years provided nutrients to their crops by way of compost. We should too.
That means no synthetic chemical pesticides. Humble farmers for thousands of years dealt with pesky and destructive pests without chemicals. We should too. There are always organic ways.
That means no synthetic chemical herbicides. Humble farmers for thousands of years dealt with weeds by picking them and by having healthy soil. We should too.
That means using compost, peat, Biochar, Worm Compost, clean soil, ground up egg shells, coconut coir to condition the soil and provide water retention and aeration.
If you're going to be a gardener, if you're going to be an urban or suburban farmer, focus on the soil, be grounded, be mindful of the earth in which you're sowing your seeds. Humility-- it's really understanding that humans don't always do things better than the rest of creation.
Steve & Corey Veldheer are organic yard & garden specialists in west Michigan.