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The Survival Gardening Research Project

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posted on Jun, 27 2013 @ 02:50 PM
Garden Post #2,General Garden Inventory, Northern Hemisphere, Short zone 4, Alaska

In spite of our very late summer, this growing season is proving to be warmer and drier than most previous years.
Over Memorial weekend, we jumped from winter straight into summer. I came back from camping to find that my spinach and turnips had finally sprouted. They had been seeded on May 10 & 11, they took nearly 3 weeks to sprout.

I then finished prepping my other raised beds and containers for planting. My local, native soil is heavy clay mixed with boulders, so most of my planting is really done above ground. This also helps my beds to warm up a a bit faster. I will focus more on season extending tricks in the fall, I honestly got discouraged after the second time I shoveled all the snow off of my raised beds only to have it snow another foot. I gave up trying to hurry my spring in at that point this year.

When I returned home after our trip, I also discovered that baby moose are braver than the adults. I had hardened off all of my cole crops and was completing the hardening off of most everything else when we left. I have ALWAYS, since I lived here, hardened off plants in the same place. This year apparently a baby moose, whose print was only about 3 or 4 inches in diameter, had braved the front of the house to enjoy a meal. I was only able to salvage a few things. I had to buy starts to replace what I had lost. A few of my heirloom seedlings did make it though and I am growing home grown next to greenhouse grown for comparisons. I am surprised at how many recovered from the munching.

So, finally in the first week of June summer graced us with her presence! We must have offended spring somehow because we just never had that season this year. Planting started in earnest at my house.
I have the following growing space available:

3- 3X16 foot raised beds filled with topsoil, compost and aged manure planted with

* Broccoli
-heirloom starts (Atlantic) Mid March- 8
- store bought starts (Waltham 29) - 24

- heirloom starts(Brunswick) Mid March - 3
- trusted greenhouse (unknown variety names)
*blue cabbage - 4
*red cabbage -6
*regular cabbage -12

- heirloom (yellow Spanish)
* indoor starts to harvest as mature onions started in January - 34
* straight seeded in garden on May 11 for green onions - approx. 75

- heirloom (Giant Nobel) - approx. 50
*straight seeded May 10

*Carrots (all heirloom seed) - approx. 25-30 of each variety
- Atomic Red- May 11
- Cosmic Purple- May 11
- Nantes Improved- May 11

*Turnips - approx. 50 (need to be thinned, greens will be cooked)

- Detroit Dark Red- approx. 25

*Brussels Sprouts
- Catskill- 9

*Lettuce - approx. 75
- I scatter several varieties of lettuce and eat it as I thin it through the summer. I always plant leaf, bibb, romaine and head lettuce varieties, red and green.

- Gross Brother's Vermont Cranberry - 8

*Amaranth (courtesy of another member here) - approx. 100 - many will be transplanted to flower gardens to mature.

2 - small inground beds, 1x4, hand sifted approx 4 feet deep.

6 - tire stacks filled with good dirt and peat

*Potatoes - approx. 15-20 lb yield per stack
- one red stack and the rest are white potatoes and Yukon Gold

1 - 2x6 mound

* Peas (Alaska,Earliest of All) - approx. 60

* Herbs around the border of the mound
- thyme, perennial
* creeping
* garden
- chamomile, perennial
- dill, annual
- caraway, annual
- coriander/ cilantro, annual

In other garden beds, mostly flowers, I have the following edibles growing:

*Chives, perennial - 2 mature plants
*Bee Balm (bergamot or monarda), perennial - 4, most took winter damage this year, but came back
*Peppermint, perennial- scattered under raspberries to cut down on weeding
*Russian Red Kale
*Lettuce ( it actually volunteered in my hanging baskets)
*Red Currants-3
*Raspberries (they grow like weeds all over my property)
*Wild Roses - 10 have been left in cultivated beds for easy access to petals and hips

The following edibles all have their own designated beds:

*Blueberries- 3
*Raspberries- approx. 15x30 feet cultivated
*Strawberries- 6x8 feet cultivated, plus an old wheelbarrow full of transplanted babies this year
*Rhubarb- a 10 plant hedge
*Blackberries- an 11 plant hedge (first year)
*Low bush Cranberries or Lingonberries- approx. 20x20 they were wild, but I try to take care of them now


posted on Jun, 27 2013 @ 03:49 PM
Garden Post #2 continued

I have a 10x12 foot greenhouse that needs to be overhauled this year. I was sure that I could maintain the health of a permanent bed inside, but the soil has died on me and needs to be completely removed. I am changing it to a pallet and pot system. I started last year with the smaller of the 2 beds and was successful. This year I have growing in there the following plants:

*Stupice tomatoes- 3
*Black cherry tomatoes- 3
*Yellow crookneck squash- 2
*Bush Cucumbers-2

The tomatoes are my starts from seed and I bought the squash and cucumbers.

I have also planted a small postage stamp orchard tailored to my area. After much research I have found the following trees that return year after year. They are still in their first few years, so none produce yet, but their continued survival and growth has been promising.

*2 Apples
*2 Plums
*2 Cherries
*1 Crab Apple

My winterkill losses were sad ones, I will seek out replacements for most, if not all of the following plants:

*Egyptian Walking onions (perennial onion type)
*St. John's Wort
*Candy Mint
*Violets (a handful of violet leaves has more vitamin C than an orange, they rival the rose hips for nutritional content)

Due to the very dry summer so far, I have been watering daily. I have also been feeding everyone a fish emulsion with a 5-1-1 ratio. The numbers on the packaging of your fertilizer stand for nitrogen, phosphate and potash in that order. I still need to turn my finished compost pile once this season and let it sit a couple more weeks. I will then transfer that into the gardens and start a fresh one while the next oldest one cooks down. I have also been working on amending the soil in my in ground perennial beds with peat.

Weeding is a huge chore around here and horsetail is my worst enemy. Every gardener has that one worst problem, and horsetail is mine. The roots travel for yards and yards and will branch off a thousand times in that space. They are strong enough to grow through weed cloth and even heavier Tyveck style cloth. I have even had them grow through four stacked bags of dirt before, punching through each layer of plastic like it was butter.
Pulling them usually involves uprooting several tender sprouts in the process because they travel so far so fast.
I have had to resign myself to it's presence, it is an ancient plant that acts immortal. The only way to rid my property of it would be to dredge and burn the top six feet of soil to sterilize it, and that just won't happen.
My 2 year old loves to help in the gardens, and his one thing he can do everywhere is pull horsetail.

My special thanks to otherpotato, I don't think I would have even planted this much this year had it not been for the motivation of this research project. I was giving up on my growing season this year in general. This will be a great record of what can be accomplished in a worst case scenario season. Jumping straight from freezing temperatures into a hot, dry summer has caused quite a bit of shock to many plants, and leaves little margin of error for maturing crops. It will be close this year.

edit on 27-6-2013 by woodsmom because: spelling

posted on Jun, 27 2013 @ 04:09 PM
Supplemental Photos

This is my most mature rhubarb plant, the rest are a couple of years behind.

My broccoli right after planting

Spinach sprouts

A Catskill Brussels Sprout start

Part of the raspberry patch

Potato stacks (we add dirt as the season progresses)

This is half of the compost bin, the half being added to still

An older variety list from my journal, some have been replaced with better varieties for my area

Another journal page for comparison of past seasons

And finally my newly awakened strawberry bed

posted on Jul, 15 2013 @ 07:34 PM
Post#2, Northern Hemisphere, Zone 6, NE Ohio.
Topic: The very beginning of the Harvest, Canning 101.

We had several storms rip through, and other than flattening the corn, the garden just keeps growing. For the record, this is the earliest we've harvested, so without sounding some doom porn, I think it's a bit odd that veggies are ready to process this early in the season. Regardless, the work needs done.

The corn is healing itself, and growing back towards the sun. It may take a bit longer to harvest corn, but, hey, that's just the way Mother Nature works.

The Zucchini, Yellow Squash, and Cucumbers needed picked.

Going through the garden, the first of the cherry tomatoes are coming on, as well as hot peppers and green peppers.

I found a few Habaneros and Jalapenos to sample. (WARNING: NEVER eat an Habanero off the vine. Just shoot yourself in the face with Mace instead. Those suckers are HOT, HOT, HOT, in their natural state. It's WORSE than Mace, Pepper Spray, or anything mankind has invented! Sure, you recover, eventually, but chomping a whole fresh Habanero renders you incapacitated, crying, and gasping for breath for several minutes. The burn resolves about 45 minutes later. Nice punch for those spice lovers.)

I picked 1 head of cabbage, and it was made into 23 (call it two dozen) cabbage rolls, which were packaged into ziploc bags, and frozen, 6 per bag for four future meals, YMMV, depending on how many mouths there are to feed. There was also a bag of green beans picked, which worked out to 12 pints, in short, 6 quarts. These are the first pickings, and VERY early in the season. Since this thread is based upon survival, we tend to process EVERYTHING, and having an early picking, we are processing things early. Nothing goes to waste.

My mother (a 67 year old senior) processed the cabbage and green beans. I still have 5 quarts of green beans left from last year, so I got the cucumbers and the other stuff. At this moment in time, we are sharing the workload between two different households, and sharing the results.

My dill pickle recipe is renowned around these parts, and I have 3 quarts left from last year, but I usually take a quart to parties and seasonal family gatherings. The major consumption is attributed to the kids. I am going to make cucumbers into dill pickles.

So let's do some canning!

I guesstimated 14 quarts from the pile of produce. That's two batches of 7 quarts in the pressure cooker, and if I was short, well, the second canning would wind up short. You get a bit of flexibility here, because shooting for under leaves you fresh veggies to munch on. Regardless, I fetched 14 jars out of storage, and washed them up.

Since I'm also a Homebrewer, sanitation is imperative, and I rinse all my jars in a sanitizing solution.

Once your jars are clean, you count out the same number of rings and lids. These are started to boil before you start chopping veggies up.

You boil the rings and lids mostly to soften the rubber seal. Once you tighten the lids, before putting them in the pressure canner, they have pretty much become sealed. The heat of pressure cooking cooks the veggies, creates pressure inside the jar, and once cooled, creates a vacuum seal that will last for years. (We usually don't keep anything over 3 years old. If not eaten, it gets dumped for compost.)

Back to Pickle Making....

A sinkful of cucumbers. Soon they will be packed into jars. After cleaning and slicing. they go into a stock pot, to wait to be stuffed into jars.

To make pickles, you need a brine. Basically, vinegar, water, and canning salt. The ratio of vinegar to water is 1:4, and 1/4 cup canning salt. For my batch, I mixed 8 cups of water to 2 cups of vinegar, and added 1/2 cup of canning salt in a stock pot, and brought it to a boil while the lids were cooking, and while I was cutting up cucumbers. The brine is used to fill the jars with liquid, 1/2 inch below the rim, before the lids and rings are added.

For my recipe I add 1 tsp canning salt to an empty jar, 1/2 teaspoon dill seed, and 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger. I then pack the jars with cucumbers, and then add 1 teaspoon of dill weed to the top before adding the brine.

Here are the first 8 full jars ready for brine, and once they are topped off with brine, I'll add the lids (which are HOT) and tighten the rings. There's a 1/2 jar that I will be adding to.

Continued in the next post......

posted on Jul, 15 2013 @ 08:19 PM
.....continued from the previous post.

I've brined all 8 jars, but the pressure canner will only do 7 quarts at a time. The 8th quart will wait for the next batch.

Jars 1-7 are ready to put into the pressure cooker.


From here, we apply heat, and wait for the pressure to build up.

Once the regulator starts wobbling, it's 5 minutes, then cut heat, and let cool.

I processed the Jalapenos, Habaneros, Hungarian Peppers, and Cherry tomatoes, as well as a bit of the Zucchini and Yellow Squash. I packed the last few jars, and added 1 teaspoon Chili Powder and 1 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper. Topped off with brine, I had a second batch of 7 quart jars. The half jar of cukes that didn't make the pickle cut got mixed with spears of Zuke and Squash, filling out the jar, and after adding spices, got called "Spicy Dill". The rest were a "Spicy Medley"....

Overall, I got 8 quarts of Dill Pickles, 1 quart of Spicy Dill, and 5 quarts of a Spicy Medley. I go with the spicy route for "experiments" because family members, as well as myself, like to try new "spicy" flavours. I'll take a jar to a family gathering and let them try it. Being curious, I've already put one jar in the fridge to chill, and as a condiment, I'll pop it open and sample it to see how "spicy" it is once it chills. Each of those five jars got 2 slices of Jalapeno and Habanero, plus the other seasonings already mentioned.

To close out this post, last year I did 186 quarts. This year, the total stands at 20 quarts of produce canned from the garden, but it's way early in the season.

12 Pints Green Beans.
8 Quarts Dill Pickles.
1 Quart Spicy Dills.
5 Quarts Spicy Vegetable Medley.

Total so far: 20 Quarts Canned.

posted on Aug, 19 2013 @ 02:08 PM
Foraging Post 2, Boreal Forest, Northern Hemisphere


This last month has been my berry month. Every year I rely on the natural bounty of my state to fill my freezers and pantry shelves for the coming winter. I collect blueberries, raspberries, currants, crowberries, cloudberries (when found), rose hips, highbush cranberries and low-bush cranberries (also known as lingonberries in other parts of the world). I also collect a wide range of wild herbs, but I make a jelly and a honey (fake) with fireweed and clover blossoms.

Blueberries: There are several types of blueberries, I am usually able to find both highbush and lowbush varieties.

Highbush blueberries grow on medium sized shrubs that can reach a 6 foot height and a 6 foot diameter. Highbush varieties are found in higher elevations in mountain passes and the interior of the state. The highbush types also ripen later in the season than the lowbush types.

Lowbush types prefer the edges of sunny bogs. They are often found bordering the edges of low lying wet areas that are surrounded by woods. This type typically ripens around the same time as the wild raspberries, just as the hottest part of summer starts to wane. There are 2 types of lowbush blueberries that I come across, small ground hugging plants similar to the lowbush cranberries that usually only bear a few berries and a smaller short shrub that can produce a pound or so per plant. The short shrubs also produce a plumper brighter berry, more like a commercial blueberry. The ground huggers are darker and smaller, they are also more flavorful.

Blueberries can be consumed fresh or made up in any variety of concoctions. To preserve my berries, I initially freeze them according to purpose. For use in pancake, muffins and other baked goods or small portion needs, freeze the cleaned berries first in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. After a few hours to a day remove the frozen berries and pack into freezer containers, ie plastic zipper bags, small airtight freezable containers or vacuum seal. Jelly berries are generally cleaned and tossed right into a freezer bag and frozen. They are allowed to accumulate in amount and variety until time to can and jelly.

Here is one blueberry recipe from The Blueberry Connection by Beatrice Ross Buszek

Blueberry Waffles
1 cup blueberries~~~~~~~~~~2 cups sifted flour
3 teaspoons baking powder~~~~~1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs, separated~~~~~~~1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar~~~~~~1/4 cup melted butter

While preparing batter, heat waffle iron. Sift together dry ingredients. Slowly stir in milk, beaten egg yolks and melted butter. Fold in blueberries. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Cook on hot waffle iron. Makes 6 waffles


Raspberries: Raspberries are an amazing berry. They grow like weeds, spread by seed like wildfire and produce for almost a month. They don't ask for a lot, only the occasional drink. This is the mainstay berry in my life. I both grow and pick them wild, they consume my harvest time for a month filled with prickles, mosquitoes and bright red faced boys.

Raspberries are a cane plant, about 3-4 feet tall, that produce thimble sized red berries in the wild. The wild berries are much smaller than their cultivated cousins, but at least twice as flavorful. The canes are covered in thorns, smaller than a blackberry, but irritating nonetheless. The canes have about a 3 year life cycle. First year plants will not produce berries, yet they are lush plants focusing on plant growth. Second year patches are the best, they are still lush beautiful plants but they produce tons of large juicy berries. Sometimes the third year will also produce good berries, but generally the third year canes come back with sparse growth crowned with clusters of much smaller berries. Often times while picking, you will find moldy berries, I remove them from the plant and throw them somewhere nearby to help perpetuate the patches. Take heart, if you find raspberry bushes without berries, try the following year and you will be rewarded for your patience.

Raspberries can be frozen just like blueberries, but require a gentler hand to freeze individually. They can also be juiced and the canned or frozen juice set aside for later purposes. Here is a recipe from Alaska Wildberry Guide & Cookbook by Alaska Northwest Books.

Raspberry Ice
2quarts wild raspberries~~~~2cups water
2 cups sugar~~~~~1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Dash of salt

Clean berries and sprinkle with sugar. Cover and stand for 2 hours or so. Crush berries thoroughly & force through a fine sieve. Stir in remaining ingredients and freeze in a shallow baking dish.


The possibilities are endless with this kind of bounty! (cont.)
edit on 19-8-2013 by woodsmom because: Punctuation

posted on Aug, 19 2013 @ 03:25 PM

Raspberries have a tendency to grow in previously disturbed places, such as along power line trails, along roadsides, in old gravel pits and other natural clearings in the woods. As with all herbs and berries, pay attention to where you harvest. Extensive exhaust fumes and other road grime are not good, the berries themselves can be contaminated. I don't pick along major roads or highways that see a lot of traffic, however, small low traffic backroads should be fine. Use your judgement. Back in the midwest we used to drive the country roads and pick wild plums when I was growing up, I really miss that wild plum jelly. Be extra careful where you pick raspberries if at all possible, they are one of the most fragile berries.

** Special note: Red Raspberry leaves are an excellent all around herbal tea, as well as a primary woman's herb. Simply return to your patch after seasons end and strip the dried leaves and remaining tiny dried berries off of the plant. They are ready in late fall right before frost sets in.

Red Currants

Red Currants are a tart tasty wildberry found in much smaller quantities than the raspberries and blueberries, at least for me. They are a small globe shaped berry that grows in hanging clusters. Red currants contain one small single seed within each berry, and they turn translucent and bright red when ripe. Be very certain what you are picking are red currants!!! In Alaska we have a similar red cluster berry called a bane berry that is deadly poisonous!! I am unsure of the bane berry's spread and where they exist, but I have had to give up the largest currant patch that I ever found because the bane berry also grows there. The kids are too young to know the difference, though it is obvious if you look closely at the plant. Bane berries grow in an upright cluster above the leaves, each berry is held out from the cluster by a stiff stem, giving the cluster the appearance of a fireworks bloom in the sky. The berries are bright red or white, opaque, and have a butt crack on them like a peach.

Red Currants like shady wooded growing conditions. I often find the best bushes growing underneath alder stands, and almost always near devil's club. The currants come ripe before the raspberries and blueberries. They are my most elusive berry because they show up and peak at the same time as the peak of the red salmon run every year. This conflict means I do a lot of late night woods walking around my own house or early morning drives to my patches.

I both freeze and dehydrate currants, depending on the amount harvested. To dry currants simply wash the berries and dry them until slightly crispy on a puree tray in your dehydrator. I dry enough foods that I have always had a simple round food dehydrator. Another method of drying can be found in the link.


The following is a currant recipe from Alaska Wild Berry Guide and Cookbook by Alaska Northwest Books.

Alaska-Style Irish Bread
Baking Powder Biscuit Recipe~~~~1 cup dried currants
1 1/2 Tablespoons salad oil~~1 Tablespoon dried rose hip powder (see Rose Hips)
2 Tablespoons sugar~~~~~~~~~1 Tablespoon caraway seed

Follow your favorite recipe for baking powder biscuits and then add, in order given: salad oil, sugar , berries, rose hip powder and caraway seed. Stir just enough after each addition to mix well. Bake in an oiled, cast iron fry pan for 25-30 minutes @ 350 degrees. Increase heat to 400 degrees for the last 5 minutes. Serve warm with jelly or jam.

Rose Hips

The rose hip is the part of a wild rose that appears after the bloom fades. A fat node starts to swell just under the spent blossom. They plump up and ripen to a red orange soft fruit. They are ready to pick when soft but not yet mushy. If you pick it and the skin comes off in your hand, they are too ripe.

In Alaska the wild or Sitka rose grows everywhere in abundance from the coast to the interior, they like the same growing conditions as raspberries.

I freeze my rose hips until I have enough to make powder. The more the better, I always run out before they are ready to harvest again. I prepare my rose hips as powder because I do not have to seed them, otherwise take the seeds out before consuming because they are barbed.

Rose Hip Powder
Fill a saucepan with cleaned, trimmed rose hips and just enough water to cover the fruit. Simmer down to mush. Force through a sieve or hand crank food mill and return the pulp to sauce pan to repeat the process. After second pressing, lightly oil trays & spread puree thinly on fruit leather trays in a food dehydrator. Dry until very crispy. Break pieces into mortar & pestle and pulverize to a fine powder. Store in sterile, dry jars.
This is a very time consuming process, but the end results are well worth it.

Rose Hips
edit on 19-8-2013 by woodsmom because: tried to fix links

posted on Sep, 6 2013 @ 10:30 PM
Have you ever started on a path, going like gangbusters, then realized you were in over your head?

This was my garden for me--again--this year.

I start out with the grandest of plans. I will keep it under control this year! It will be well thought out and and will not overwhelm me. I will have time to pick, and measure, and photograph, and weigh, and preserve, and provide commentary. I will take notes. I will have time to be scientific about it.

Then my garden does its thing and snickers "no, you fool. You will not have time."

(I owe an apology to woodsmom and to Druid who have been keeping the torch alive in my absence. Amazing things you two have shared. Your contributions are what this thread was about.)

I can't share pictures - techno limitations. But here's my update:

Peas were insane. I just wanted them to stop at a certain point. We chose to "froze" because I prefer frozen peas. They kept producing into July at which point it was time to let them go. Learned this year that peas love sunflowers. Both the peas and the sunflowers grew like crazy together.

17 Broccoli plants STILL going like gangbusters. They're slowing down now and seeding off but this was the best broccoli year we ever had. Grew from seed. Big heads, and then shoots after shoots after shoots... I froze my early batches. Now I'm sort of sick of broccoli. I learned this year that with broccoli, it's all how you pick em. My mother is a broccoli picking expert. In fact I credit our success to her picking skills.

Carrots and beets - the sand worked. I had BEAUTIFUL carrots for the first time ever. Sowed carefully so I wouldn't have to thin as much. They grew beautifully, long and full. I resowed over the summer. I made the mistake of sowing the beets too sparsely though. My grandmother said it's better to sow beets close together to maximize the beet tops (best part!). Small beets are more tender so giving room for the roots is not the goal...unless that is your goal (not mine). Yum beet tops.

Lettuce - My reseeding strategy worked because we had tons of lettuce in the spring that came up from last year, and everything I planted this year in the shady areas lasted until mid July, which was surprising given how hot it got. I always hate the no lettuce periods (like now). I tried replanting in early August but no luck - too hot for seedlings. When I was cleaning out the lettuce/chard/garlic bed a few weeks ago I shook all the seeds back into the bed and now see a few new lettuce plants coming up. It's getting cool again so fingers crossed.

Chard - WILL COME BACK. I have the four plants from last year. They produced early on, then seeded off in late June. I cut back and they are leafing again in the cooler weather. I started a new bed from seed this year and it took them some time to really produce. They definitely love the shade behind the corn.

Speaking of corn - WORST YEAR EVER for corn. Thankfully I staggered my plantings or I would have had nothing. Right after I planted we had terrible rains. I waited three weeks and planted another section. The crop planted three weeks later was three times the size of the early crop, that's how much the rain interfered. I only got two stunted ears of corn from that earlier planting.

***In General Everything Was Two Weeks Late This Year - for My Area***

My beautiful zucchini and summer squashes got nailed by squash borers this year. This has never happened before. I had three zucchinis and a summer squash and lost all but one zucchini overnight. That lone survivor has been a beautiful producer up until this week. I did replant, and the newbies are in flower (but it's so late I doubt we'll get anything). My other research post will be about squash borers.

Nothing special to report about the tomatoes or the peppers. Same schedule as always except generally two weeks late and I am pretty sick of the sight of a tomato. I will never buy mixed hot pepper seeds again because I have more peperoncini peppers than I can deal with. I have not canned any tomatoes this year, though I canned salsa. My mother has been helping by freezing them, which of course means they are not true survival food but I'm "surviving" by her helping preserve them!

Beans - Never grew soybeans before. Love Edamame. Staggered my plantings but think I planted too many. Loved growing them and they are prolific. Less next year. Green beans got shaded by the sunflowers but this actually worked because the beans delayed their production which helped balance out harvest times. Still producing. And love the purple beans.

Butternut squash and acorn squash took over (as squashes do). We have about 25 in storage now. Tried pumpkins but they grew all over and did nothing. My neighbor foisted these plants on me so I feel no vested interest in them.


posted on Sep, 6 2013 @ 10:50 PM
Oh and cucumbers - I got my pickle stash! I grew pickling cukes and a hybrid with mixed results. The pickle "bush" hybrid was not worth it - cukes need to vine. Giving up on this next year. I had a true pickling variety and a vining hybrid variety planted together and they did well. But I feel like I'm so used to "cucumber insanity" every year that I can't appreciate having a contained, specialized crop for what I need. I do miss cucumber soup though - the thing you make when you have too many cucumbers - so maybe I need a straight variety for old time sake.

(Can I just also say that I forget every year how many cucumbers it takes, and how much time it takes, to can a decent stash of relish? I will never give jars away again...)

Potatoes... I saved this one for almost last because the jury is out. We dumped a bin and we had potatoes. I have containers left. We'll report later.

What else... Oh raspberries started to get established - very exciting. We have red this year as well as golden. I have a feeling in five years I will be griping about being overrun by raspberries. Jam jam jam....

We also cut down our crab apple tree. It was time. It offered little in terms of food (and all square footage must support food, dammit) and it was getting old. We're thinking about blueberry bushes in that space. Plus it opens up the sunlight for my poor, neglected grapevine which is very old (I inherited it from the previous owners 10 years ago) and would love to produce again.

What am I missing.... Oh spinach. Yeah. I'm not sure I can grow spinach in my zone. I keep trying but we never get anything worth writing home about. I think it will do better in the fall but by the time fall rolls around who wants to plant again? If anyone in zone 5/6 has advice I'll take it.

Though I did throw down more peas and they are growing. And broccoli, and they are growing. These and lettuce and chard are my fall experiments in zone 5/6. I've never tried a fall crop before. But I'm trying this year.

Too tired from this post too even think about and herb update except to say - we got dill!! And will never have to plant it again :-) Hooray....

If I can resolve my photo upload issues I will post pics. I lost a ton when our macbook crashed (trauma...) but still have some early photos on my phone.

Happy harvest. And thanks again to woodsmom and Druid for leaving the light on.

posted on Oct, 1 2013 @ 07:01 PM
Zone 4 Northern Hemisphere Final Tally

Well, it's that time of year. I have finally harvested almost everything. We have had several hard frosts already to take out the lettuce and other tender veggies, but today my boys found inch thick hard ice hiding in places.

This garden season was yet another improvement on last year, but also held many unexpected disappointments.

My spinach was doomed from the start, it took a month to germinate and the weather went from freezing to mid 70's in a few days. The heat germinated them finally, but they grew a whole inch and went to seed. I salvaged a couple of meals worth of baby leaves for a stir fry and a salad.

Lettuce did not fare much better. It grew the same, but rather than going to seed it just stunted to about an inch high for about 2 months until our August rainy season showed up. It then grew another inch before it froze. We had several meal contributions from this crop, but not one single salad. I managed to coax it along enough to have lettuce for sandwiches and burgers all summer. I'm still kind of depressed that I didn't get to make a single chef salad from my own lettuce though. Last year everyone was sick of it and I gave away at least 8 white trash bags full to other people. It goes to show that nothing is ever guaranteed in a garden.

Broccoli was another terrible failure this year, I harvested 2 meals worth over the season and the boys got to graze just a couple of times. The late start and immediate hot (for us) weather did it in, it bolted just like the spinach.

My summer squash started off ok. Then the powdery mildew set in. I had pretty good success with spraying them down with milk. I used 2%, soaked the leaves until they were dripping and repeated over the course of a week as needed. The plant put on new growth and fruited again. I probably harvested a good 6-8 meals off of those 2 plants. Then the other seasonal cycles came around and the mildew took hold again while I was fishing and berry picking. After two weeks of haphazard watering and not paying attention to details, it was too much for them to take.

The cucumber vine had a similar fate. They lived in the greenhouse together and in the two weeks my squash died, my cucumber also picked it up. I harvested a dozen or so nice cucumbers before that plant gave in too.

The corn started beautifully from starts, they had their own huge deep black pot outside in the glorious summer sun we were blessed with. They tasseled properly, germinated, and started putting on ears! Then August happened. It rained and barely got into the 60's most of the month. One single ear actually took and produced any silk. I harvested that single baby ear 2 weeks ago and tossed it into the veggie stock pot.

The most frustrating failures are my cabbages and Brussels sprouts, and I am just now having to give up hope on them. It was just too warm for them too soon. They are cool weather crops who need a cool to cold start and a similar finish. Just yesterday I saw that my sprouts finally started to produce actual sprouts, but with last nights hard freeze they are now a lost cause. I will harvest the greens and freeze some and use the rest for the next batch of veggie broth.

My cabbages just went on strike too, and to add insult to injury, the slugs showed up with a vengeance with the rain. I have about eight small heads to harvest, approximately apple sized heads. I will also have 3-5 pounds of individual cabbage leaves to harvest, depending on final assessment of the slug damage.

Anything else not mentioned falls in the fail category.

There were some successes! I harvested probably close to 30 pounds of carrots. They got huge this year. This is the first year that they have gotten so big. They are super sweet and their colors came out strong, my youngest son put in his lunch order today of " 2 red ones and 2 orange ones and I need 3 of the purple ones mom."

We harvested between 55 & 60 pounds of potatoes. There are so many extra little ones that I have canned 6 quarts of smaller than baby potatoes, all smaller than a golf ball. This is in addition to the 50 or so pounds of usual behemoths all the way down to the golf ball sized babies.

Peas did ok this year, I probably harvested a good ten pounds from them over the season. They didn't quite keep up with our consumption rate though, so none have been preserved, except for some fresh seed.

My tomatoes also did fairly well this year. The greenhouse overhaul went great and they exploded, by Alaska standards for tomatoes. Anywhere else it would be a disappointing crop, but I am happy I got any. I have been able to eat them to my hearts content, and I am the only tomato lover in the house. The black cherry tomatoes have become my new favorite. They are closer to plum tomato size, and are super flavorful. The plants are very sturdy and prolific as well. They produced better than the stupice that I planted. I probably harvested 12-15 pounds in total. I get to preserve some for the first time since I lived here. Granted, it will just be a single small batch of caprese jam, but an exciting day nonetheless.

I was also happy with my choice of beans. The cranberry beans liked it this year even in spite of being planted late. I pulled 5-8 pounds off of the eight plants as green beans, and have let probably another 2 pounds dry on the plant, just to add to my seed stash. They are a tasty large bean for a green bean. I can't wait to see how they do next year. I will be planting a lot more than 8.

My turnips also did well, and we discovered we like them mashed with potatoes. I got probably 15-20 pounds.

The herbs I harvested from my gardens are chives, thyme, dill, tansy, raspberry leaf, yarrow and mint. I have some Veronica out back that is still growing happily so I will let it go a few days more. My bergamot came back slowly this year, and never even tried to flower so I left it alone.

This was another great berry year, not quite as good as last year, but I can't complain. Keep in mind, my figures for berries include both domestic and wild harvest. I will simply list gallons per berry.
This will not include fresh eaten harvest, my two boys alone probably consumed a good 50 pounds alone through the season. I have also made several desserts and added countless handfuls to oatmeal and cereal all summer. I probably harvested 10 pounds of strawberries, but not a single one made it to the freezer to be counted. The rest are as follows.
Raspberries - 4 gallons
Blueberries - 5 gallons
High bush cranberries ( viburnum ) - 2 gallons ( this is also where cramp bark comes from )
Low bush cranberries - 4 gallons
Rose hips - 2 gallons

My rhubarb did well this year too. We ate several goodies with it all summer and I still froze about 10 pounds for winter use.

I am far from finished canning for the season but so far I have put up 20 1/2 pints of smoked salmon, 7 pints of fireweed jelly, 9 pints of fireweed honey, 7 1/2 pints of sweet pickle relish, 4 pints of turnips, 6 quarts of tiny potatoes, 13 1/2 quarts of moose broth (bones from a friend) and 7 quarts of veggie broth. I include it all as an overview, and both broths absorb the veggies that did poorly or there just weren't enough at the end to process separately. I will be canning carrots, jams, jellies and no sugar fruit spreads, as well as at least 2 more batches of moose broth.


posted on Oct, 1 2013 @ 07:28 PM
Continued from above...

Gardening to thrive on your own is a massive undertaking of time and energy.
It is also one a huge challenging joy to try and accomplish in today's society. I am far from being able to provide everything my family needs for sustenance without having to go to the grocery store like everyone else for milk and bread. However it is immensely satisfying to make a quick canned soup on a busy evening from ingredients that I have harvested and preserved with my own hands. As a busy mom, a healthy fast meal and a guilt free peanut butter and jelly sandwich can truly be lifesavers sometimes.

I would struggle to get as much without the wild harvest of plant and animal sources both.
I also strongly feel that in a true survival situation the ability would only supplement the need, and that alone would drive anyone attempting to produce much more than thought possible. As it stands now other concerns come up in life and take precedence over mundane matters of weeding and watering at times.

I appreciate this chance to look at my gardens in a different way, to analyze in ways I hadn't thought of yet. This entire endeavor will serve to fix some mistakes and strengthen my future efforts.
Hopefully any of the information I have provided can be helpful to someone else as well.
I know that in light of the world at the moment, I am happy to see the fruits of a summer's labor stored away for a long winter to come. It may only be supplemental, but it's a start.

Happy Fall everyone!

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