Deep Mulch Garden Video Update

deep mulch garden video update

Here she goes again…

…talking about that deep mulch garden stuff. ūüėČ

If you’re a regular reader, you know how in-love I am with this method. I also promised to keep you updated with the progress of the garden this year, considering it’s my second year of implementing hay mulch.

Soooooo… I decided to show you today, instead of just write about it.

In this short video, you’ll learn:

  • The #1 MISTAKE I made this year with my mulching
  • How a mulched garden fares after being neglected after two weeks…
  • And why this crazy method is still working, even with my mistakes and neglect. :)

Deep Mulch Gardening Update Video (Second Year)

Video Notes:

Garden Snapshots

I purposely am including these pics, weeds and all, so you can see what things look like after two weeks of neglect in a mulch garden. Just keepin’ it real folks…

But before anyone declares this method “doesn’t work,” keep in mind the following things:

  • As mentioned in the video, my layer was too thin this year. A thicker layer would have helped a bunch.
  • If I hadn’t had the deep mulch in place, leaving for two weeks would have resulted in a garden completely lost to the weeds. There would have been no salvaging it.
  • Ten minutes of upkeep/weeding each day in my mulched garden is more than enough to keep the small number of weeds at bay. However, I’m thankful I have the option of leaving for a couple weeks and still having a garden when I get back.

July 2015:

early-summer-deep-mulch-1

early-summer-deep-mulch-2

August 2015:

august-deep-mulch-update

august-deep-mulch-3

My cukes got a late start... Hoping we don't get an early frost!
My cukes got a late start… Hoping we don’t get an early frost!
My little roma tomatoes are coming along... Hoping for some more time to grow before frost.
My little roma tomatoes are coming along… Hoping for some more time to grow before frost.

21 Vegetables for Your Fall Garden

vegetables to plant in fall garden

I’ve never planted a fall garden because…

I always forget.

OK… that’s really not the truth. Do you wanna know the REAL reason? You sure?

It’s because I’m usually am ready to be DONE with the whole garden-thing come October.

Yes… Jill-the-Homesteader-Girl just admitted she gets tired of gardening sometimes.

You can forgive me for saying that, right?

You see, I love living in a place where we have four seasons. By the end of summer, I’m craving homemade chai¬†and crispy leaves. By the end of fall, I’m craving cozy crackling fires and nourishing soups. But the end of winter, I’m craving the smell of fresh green grass and new baby calves. And so on…

So yeah, I usually rather enjoy the down-shift from all the crazy summer chores as we transition into fall.

But considering how my gardening has become so much easier thanks to the deep mulch method, I am kinda excited to plan a bit of a fall garden this year… Providing my very pregnant self can still bend over to shove some seeds in the dirt.

I’ve been looking at which veggies I want to add to my fall garden rotation and which ones will hold up best with our erratic Wyoming winters.

I’ve collected this list of fall vegetable options, just in case you’re not quite ready to give up gardening season either.

21 Vegetables for Your Fall Garden

Happy Lettuce

Lettuce

When to Plant: Plant Lettuce 4-8 weeks before the first frost. It grows best within a temperature range from 45 to approx. 75 degrees. Full sun to partial shade.

Cold Hardiness: This is a half-hardy vegetable that you can keep growing all season long by planting one small crop at a time. Hot weather makes it bitter and extreme cold freezes it.

Other Notes: If you use a cold frame or row cover, you can grow lettuce through the winter in most garden zones.

Kale

When to Plant: Begin planting Kale 6-8 weeks before the first frost. You can continue planting them throughout the fall in garden zones 8-10. Full sun to partial shade.

Cold Hardiness: Kale is a hardy vegetable. Their leaves are actually sweeter when they can mature in cooler weather. Frost enhances their flavor, and they are super tasty if harvested under a foot of snow.

Other Notes: If your fall season has a random hot spell, your kale might sulk a bit, however, when it gets cool again, those kale plants will revitalize quickly.

Helpful Links: 9 Green You Can Grow All Winter

Collards

When to Plant: Plant Collards 6-8 weeks before the first frost. In zones 8-10, you can grow them through the entire winter. Full sun to partial shade, though you should give them 4 hours of sun for the best flavor.

Cold Hardiness: Collards are one of the most cold-hardy vegetables. Like Kale, the flavor of the leaves improves after a frost.

Other Notes: Collards are heavy feeders since they produce so many harvestable leaves. Make sure to give them a rich soil in the beginning and regular feedings throughout the season.

Mustard Greens

When to Plant: Plant Mustard Greens 3-6 weeks before the first frost. Consider planting seeds every 2-3 weeks for a continual harvest. Full sun to partial shade.

Cold Hardiness: Mustard Greens are hardy, but not as hardy as collards and kale. They will tolerate a light frost, which makes their leaves sweeter. If you do not have killing freezes in your area, you can enjoy them all winter long.

Other Notes: Like Collards, Mustard grows very fast and produces many leaves for harvest. You must give them a rich and continually moist soil for optimal growth.

homemade herb salt recipe

Parsley

When to Plant: Parsley takes about 70-90 days to grow before you can begin harvesting. Full sun to partial shade.

Cold Hardiness: It is a hardy biennial: in mild climates, you can harvest parsley all year round and in the second year, it will send up a flower stalk and become too bitter to eat. It can survive the cold, but unless you protect it from snows and hard frosts, it might die back in the winter.

Other Notes: Parsley is fussy with germination. Soak the seeds 24 hours before planting for a higher success rate for germination.

Helpful Links: How to preserve your herbs (including parsley) in salt.

Arugula

When to Plant: Arugula is ready to harvest 30-40 days after planting. Consider planting Arugula every 2 weeks for a continual harvest. Full sun to partial shade.

Cold Hardiness: This peppery leaf is a tender annual. Arugula hates heat, which makes it bolt, and it also gets heavy damage with hard frosts and snow. Row covers can help your Arugula last longer in the season. They can survive winters in zone 7 or even zone 6 if under a row cover and thick mulch.

Other Notes: If you pick only the outer leaves, the plant will keep growing, which means each arugula plant will yield a large harvest for you.

Spinach

When to Plant: Plant Spinach 4-8 weeks before your first hard frost. Full sun to partial shade.

Cold Hardiness: Spinach is a hardy winter vegetable; it can survive temperatures below freezing IF the plant is grown to its’ mature size beforehand. They will have a higher success rate in colder garden zones with a cold frame or row cover.

Other Notes: Harvest the outer leaves only and your spinach plants will continue to give you harvests throughout the fall and winter.

Helpful Links: One of our favorite ways to eat spinach (and other greens): Cheesy Spinach Quesadilla Recipe

Swiss Chard

When to Plant: Swiss Chard should be started 10 weeks before your first frost date. It’s best to start them indoors and set the seedlings out when they are 4 weeks old. Full sun to partial shade.

Cold Hardiness: It is a hardy vegetable since Swiss Chard can tolerate light frosts, however, it cannot tolerate deep freezes like collards and kale.

Other Notes: You can harvest anytime the leaves are large enough to eat. The young small leaves are the most flavorful.

deep mulch garden method

Broccoli

When to Plant: Broccoli should be started indoors 85-100 days before your first frost date. Transplant to your garden when your plants are 3 weeks old. They prefer full sun.

Cold Hardiness: Broccoli is a hardy vegetable. It is very tolerant of cold temperatures and will survive many hard frosts. In mild climates, Broccoli might survive all winter. It does not like temperatures over 70 degrees.

Other Notes: Make sure to give your Broccoli plenty of constant water, they need steady moisture for optimal growth.

Helpful Links: A post all about the details of growing broccoli and other cole crops in your fall garden

Brussels Sprouts

When to Plant: Brussels Sprouts should be planted 85-100 days before your first frost. You can either directly sow the seeds into the garden (cooler climates) or start them indoors and transplant (warmer climates). They need full sun.

Cold Hardiness: These are some of the hardiest vegetables from the Cole Crop family. Brussels Sprouts can survive freezing temperatures and even some snow.

Other Notes: Wait until after your first frost to start harvesting your Brussels Sprouts because frost improves the flavor of your Sprouts.

Cauliflower

When to Plant: Start your Cauliflower seeds indoors 12 weeks before your first frost. Transplant them outdoors 6-8 weeks before the first frost. They need at least 6 hours of sun a day, however, some shade during the heat of the day is good too.

Cold Hardiness: Cauliflower are a challenging half-hardy vegetable. They are more sensitive to both cold and heat than most cole crops. They are only frost-tolerant if the heads are mature before a deep freeze. You should harvest them after a deep freeze so you don’t risk losing your crop.

Other Notes: Make sure your Cauliflower gets steady moisture: not too much or too little in order to get the best crop. You might find it beneficial to plant a few plants each week to get the best possibility of a good harvest.

how to use deep mulch in your garden for better moisture retention and fewer weeds!

Kohlrabi

When to Plant: Kohlrabi should be started 6-10 weeks before your first frost. If you sow your seeds directly, sow them 8-10 weeks before the frost date; if you start them indoors, start them 6-8 weeks before the frost date. They need full sun.

Cold Hardiness: These are a hardy vegetable. Kohlrabi is more hardy to hot weather than many Cole crops and they will survive light frosts.

Other Notes: Kohlrabi is a great vegetable for most fall gardens because they are mature very quickly: in 65 days, you can harvest them.

Bunching Onions

When to Plant: Plant your bunching onions 8 weeks before the first frost date. It is best to start them indoors and then transplant, however, you can try direct sowing as well. Full sun to partial shade.

Cold Hardiness: These are a very hardy plant: if given some protection from severe winters, they can survive below freezing temperatures, frosts, and snow just fine.

Leeks

When to Plant: Start your Leek seeds indoors 8-12 weeks before your first frost date. Make sure you get a variety that works for fall and winter harvests. They need full sun to partial shade.

Cold Hardiness: Leeks are a very cold-hardy plant. In places with mild winters (zone 7-10), you can harvest leeks all winter long. In colder areas, you need to mulch deeply around the Leeks (around 1 foot deep) because you do not want your leeks to become frozen in the ground.

Other Notes: Leeks taste better if grown in cooler weather. Make sure you blanch your plants as they grow by covering up their stalks.

cabbage in fall garden

Cabbage

When to Plant: Start your Cabbage plants indoors anywhere from 6-12 weeks before your first frost. You can narrow this time down depending on the early/late Cabbage variety you have chosen. Transplant to the garden when they are 3-4 weeks old. They prefer full sun.

Cold Hardiness: Cabbage is a hardy vegetable that can tolerate frost very well. They will keep thriving through frosts and temperatures as low as 20 degrees.

Other Notes: Cool temperatures and constant water will give you deliciously sweet Cabbage. Uneven watering might result in stunted growth or cracked heads.

Helpful Links: How to make sauerkraut with your homegrown cabbage

Garlic (for harvest next year)

When to Plant: You can plant next year’s garlic harvest anytime in late fall when your soil is around 50 degrees F. The trick is to plant it before your ground freezes over. An approximate time is 1-3 weeks before your first frost date through 2-3 weeks after your first frost date. Full sun to partial shade.

Cold Hardiness: Garlic is a very hardy and easy plant to grow. Make sure you plant the best garlic for your garden zone: Hardneck varieties are best for zones 3-6; softneck varieties are best for zones 5-9.

Other Notes: Garlic takes almost 1 year to grow, but the long growing season needs very little work from you: plant in the fall, eat or cut the garlic scapes in the spring, harvest next fall when the leaves turn brown, cure for 2-3 weeks. Then enjoy!

Turnips

When to Plant: For a fall harvest, plant Turnips about 2 months before your first frost date. Full sun to partial shade.

Cold Hardiness: Turnips are a hardy vegetable; they can tolerate light frosts and can continue through early winter if you cover them with a thick mulch.

Other Notes: Since Turnips are a root vegetable, you need to harvest them before the ground becomes frozen. Of course, a thick mulch will help slow down the ground becoming too frozen.

Beets

When to Plant: Beets should be started 10-12 weeks before your first frost date. Full sun to partial shade.

Cold Hardiness: Beets are a hardy vegetable. They can handle light frosts and can survive winter with some row cover protection and heavy mulch in garden zones 6 and higher.

Other Notes: You can eat the beet greens anytime while they are growing. They taste best when they are still small, around 4-5 inches long. Only pick a few leaves from each Beet plant so that you don’t stress the plants.

Helpful Links: How to Can Pickled Beets

radish in fall garden

Radishes

When to Plant: Plant your radishes 4 weeks before your first frost in the fall.

Cold Hardiness: Radishes are a cold hardy veggie and can tolerate a decent amount of frost. Many winter varieties are also early maturing, so you’ll probably be able to harvest even before the temps really drop.

Other Notes: Radishes are easy to grow and mature quickly, so be sure to check them frequently and don’t leave them in the ground too long.

Peas

When to Plant: Peas can be a challenge for fall gardens because you have to take a bit of a gamble on the weather. You might get an unexpected heat wave or an early hard frost, both of which can damage your fall Pea harvest. You can to plant your peas so that the first flowers appear before the first frost of the fall season. Depending on the variety, you should start your fall Peas 70-90 days before your first frost date. They prefer full sun to partial shade.

Cold Hardiness: Peas are a half-hardy vegetable: heat will damage them, but they will tolerate light frosts (if they are at least somewhat mature plants at the time of the frost).

Other Notes: For a good fall crop, you need to give extra care to your Peas during the late summer heat by giving them some shade and lots of water.

how to freeze green beans without blanching

Bush Beans

When to Plant: For a fall crop of Bush Beans, start planting them 10-12 weeks before your first frost date. Try planting in small batches every 10 days for a steady crop of beans. Make sure to grow a variety of beans that grows quickly, around 45 days to maturity.

Cold Hardiness: Bush Beans are a tender annual vegetable. They will be finished producing beans with the first frost. They can also be damaged by cold temperatures. You can often prolong your harvest season with row covers and heavy mulch.

Other Notes: Many people say that the flavor of bush beans is tastier in fall beans rather than those grown in spring. The soil temperatures will probably be hotter than your bean seeds prefer when you try to plant them. Regular watering and heavy mulch can help keep that soil cooler for better germination rates. Most people will agree that the flavor of the fall-grown green beans far exceeds that of those produced in the spring.

Helpful Links: How to freeze green beans (the easy way)

vegetables to plant in fall garden

How to Freeze Green Beans

how to freeze green beans without blanching

Here I go again, breaking the rules…

First it was canning peaches with honey, and then my no-sugar¬†canned pears, and now I’m becoming a green bean rebel.

You see, I have an extreme aversion to two things when it comes to food preservation:

  • Super intricate methods with seemingly unnecessary steps (Ain’t nobody got time for that when you have 15 bazillion bushels of food to put up…)
  • Used boatloads of sugar to preserve fresh produce

Now you do have to be a little bit careful when you’re preserving food– sometimes you just *can’t* be a rebel with certain things if it impacts the safety of the recipe. However, with the peaches and pears I listed above, the recipe is still completely safe, even with the edits.

So next up on my food-preservation-rebellion list?

Green beans.

First, let’s chat real quick about freezing vs. canning.

how to freeze green beans without blanching

Canning Green Beans vs. Freezing Green Beans

This one is totally your personal preference. Some folks prefer the taste and texture of canned beans, while others prefer frozen ones.

Personally? I prefer frozen green beans as I think they have a fresher taste, and less nutrient loss. Plus I don’t have to heat up my kitchen to make it happen. But if you really like canning green beans instead, there’s nothing wrong with that.

But if you decide to freeze, then there’s the issue of blanching… And that’s where my rebellious streak comes out.

Should I Blanch Green Beans?

When you freeze green beans, it’s always been recommended that you blanch them first. For those who aren’t familiar with blanching, it’s a common practice in food preservation that involves boiling the food for several minutes, and then plunging into ice water.

The thought is that blanching stops the enzyme action which can result in loss of flavor and color.

The problem? It’s an extra step. And I don’t like extra steps. And if you have a big bunch of green beans to freeze, you have to blanch in fairly small quantities, which takes time.

So last year I did the unthinkable: I froze all my green beans without blanching. Scandalous, I know…

But guess what? They’ve been in my freezer for almost a year now, and they still taste good. And there’s no obvious flavor or color loss that I can see. So that was enough to make me skip blanching for good. Here’s how I do it:

how to freeze green beans without blanching

How to Freeze Green Beans without blanching

You will need:

  • Fresh green beans
  • Freezer baggies

In ¬†my opinion, the most important part of this process is starting off with good beans. Older, tougher beans just don’t freeze well. You know the ones– they feel kinda woody and hollow when you try to snap them. Skip freezing those guys, and only select the freshest, most tender green beans for your freezer.

Snap off the ends, and break the beans into halves or thirds, if you like. (I usually just leave them long, though).

Wash and drain thoroughly.

Spread the green beans on a baking sheet in a single layer, and flash freeze for 30-60 minutes. Remove them from the tray, place in a freezer baggie, label, and place back into the freezer.

When you’re ready to eat them, boil until tender, season, and that’s it. Fresh-from-the-garden-flavor in the dead of winter (or anytime).

how to freeze green beans without blanching

So that’s how to freeze green beans using the cheater-method. But for those of you who are still blanching enthusiasts, no worries– I have instructions for you, too.

How to Freeze Green Beans (blanching method)

You will need:

  • Fresh green beans
  • Freezer baggies
  • Boiling water
  • Ice-cold water

Just like before, select the freshest, most tender beans. Snap off the ends, and snap into halves/thirds, if desired.

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, and lower the beans into the pot. The key here is to not overload the pot. If you add too many beans to the pot at once, it’ll take too long for the water to come up to a boil. Blanch small quantities at a time so the water returns to a boil within a minute or so of you placing the beans in the pot.

Once the water returns to a boil, set the timer for three minutes.

After three minutes, remove the beans and plunge them into ice water for another 3 minutes.

Then remove from the ice water, drain very thoroughly, and place on baking sheet in a single layer. Freeze 30-60 minutes, then place into freezer bags.

If you’d rather freeze in freezer containers, or skip the flash-freezing process, that’s OK too. However, if you skip those steps, there’s a chance you’ll end up with a big chunk of rock-hard frozen green beans that can be hard to separate if you just need a small amount later.

how to freeze green beans without blanching

Other Food Preservation Posts You’ll Love:

Diatomaceous Earth Uses in the Garden

uses for diatomaceous earth in the garden as natural pest control

Here I go again…

Venturing into another “controversial” subject… I’m such a rebel.

Nope, I’m not talking about GMOs, or vaccines, or any of that stuff today. But rather, diatomaceous earth.

Whooooooooo…. Crazy, huh? I have such a knack for happening upon controversy in places I’d never expect it. But maybe that’s because we live in the age of the internet and even the slightest, silliest things are controversial these days. (Does anyone else get tired of that? Man oh man, I sure do… But that’s a topic for another day…)

Anyway, back to the diatomaceous earth.

You’ve heard me talk about DE before here on the blog. In fact, one of my most popular posts ever goes into all the details of using diatomaceous earth around your home and for your health.

However, even though there are all sorts of diatomaceous earth uses in your home and medicine cabinet, I actually use it outside my home, more than inside.

I sprinkle it in my chicken coop to cut down on flies, use it on my barn floor, and occasionally dust my garden with it as well. And since I’ve received tons of questions about using diatomaceous earth in the garden, that’s what we’re diving into today.

But first, a little background.

uses for diatomaceous earth in the garden as natural pest control

What is Diatomaceous Earth?

Diatomaceous earth is a ultra-fine white powder made from the fossilized remains of algae-like plants  (aka diatoms).

There are a lot of different health claims attached to DE, but I personally am most interested in the pest control aspects of the stuff.

Diatomaceous earth purportedly works as effective, natural pest control as the fine powder is razor-sharp on a microscopic level. It slices into the exoskeleton and dries the insect out. Because it works from a mechanical standpoint, versus a chemical one, you don’t have to worry about insects developing a resistance, or spraying toxic pesticides on your plants. Which is why a lot of naturally-minded folks are fans of the stuff.

Diatomaceous Earth Safety

As soon as I even whisper the word “diatomaceous” online, I get pounded with emails and comments from people loudly proclaiming the “dangers” of DE. So I’m going to beat y’all to it today. ūüėČ

Yes, there are some considerations to take into account when handling DE. Do I think it makes diatomaceous earth something to be afraid of? Nope. But do use common sense, and follow these guidelines:

  • Always, always make sure you’re using food-grade diatomaceous earth, not the stuff designed for swimming pools.
  • DE is a ultra-fine powder, which means it’s not great for your lungs. So avoid breathing the dust, or wear a mask when you apply it.
  • DE is drying, and while it won’t cut your skin like it will an exoskeleton, it does feel funky if you get a lot of it on your hands.¬†Feel free to wear gloves when you use it.

uses for diatomaceous earth in the garden as natural pest control

Diatomaceous Earth in the Garden

As you know, I’ve been locked in battle to save my veggies from hungry insects this year. I’ve been using my¬†DIY Organic Pest Control Garden Spray¬†recipe on the veggies getting hit the worst, and also sprinkling on some DE as needed. Which sparked an interesting conversation on my Facebook page the other day.

Diatomaceous Earth and Bees

Recently, it’s been brought to my attention that many folks are concerned about using diatomaceous earth in their garden because of the effect it may have on¬†beneficial insects, especially bees.

As many of you know, the bee population is declining, which is a very serious problem. I wouldn’t want to do anything to¬†add to this issue, so I decided to investigate further. Here’s the issue with bees and DE (in a nutshell):

1. You sprinkle DE all over your garden like crazy.

2. Bees come visit your garden to pollinate the flowering plants.

3. Bees land in the DE. Bees try to groom the DE powder from their legs.

4. Bees die = not good.

This has caused a number of gardeners to become very much against any use of diatomaceous earth at all. Nada. Zero. Zilch. However, I prefer a balanced approach of looking at issues, so I decided to investigate further.

After talking to a local beekeeper, and reading a number of perspectives, it seems as though the importance lies in how we apply DE, versus the notion that simply DE on the premises is inherently bad.

I have decided to follow these strategies for continuing to use diatomaceous earth in my garden, while keeping the bees in mind at the same time.

  • Apply DE sparingly, and only to plants that are seriously effected by insects. For me, that’d be my poor beets this year. They are being eaten down to nothing…
  • Apply DE in the early morning, or late evening, when bees are less likely to be out.
  • Apply DE close to the ground, where bees are less-likely to land.
  • Do not apply DE to flowering plants where the bees would be landing to pollinate.
  • Apply DE on non-windy days to avoid it being spread over the entire garden.

Do I still think using DE is better than chemical pesticides. YES. Just only use it where you need it and use it with discretion.

How I use Diatomaceous Earth in the Garden:

1. DE is easiest to apply if it’s in a shaker container of sorts. If you only need to use a small amount, you can repurpose an old spice shaker. I needed a larger amount, so I poked holes in the lid of an old plastic coffee can.

uses for diatomaceous earth in the garden as natural pest control

2. Sprinkle DE on the plants being eaten by insects. Follow the considerations for bees above. Only use DE on the plants in your garden that need it. Don’t dust it all over everything.

3. Reapply after heavy rain, or watering.

Does it work?

It sure seems toРat least for me. I have noticed a decrease in insect problems after applying. The main disadvantage to DE is that you must continually reapply it, so it can be a bit of a chore. But if you are consistent, I do think it can be an effective garden pest control method which does not rely on harmful pesticides.

uses for diatomaceous earth in the garden as natural pest control

Let’s Sum it Up:

  • Don’t stick your head in a bag of DE and huff it. Your lungs will not be happy.
  • Don’t¬†jump into a tub of DE and rub it all over your skin. Unless you want to feel dry and crusty.
  • Don’t go crazy and¬†dust DE all over your garden. Respect the bees and allow them to do their job.
  • Don’t use DE if you don’t want to. Seriously. If you’d rather not use DE in your garden, that doesn’t bother me a bit. You can opt for a natural, homemade garden pest control spray instead, pick the bugs off by hand, or just buy veggies from the Farmer’s Market. Any of those options are just fine by me.

uses for diatomaceous earth in the garden as natural pest control