Organic Gardening
Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.


Hand Pollinating Squash for Higher Yields and Seed Saving

squash
Photo by Pixabay/MabelAmber

Hand pollinating squash may be necessary when poor weather conditions mean there aren’t many natural pollinators such as bees around, or if you’re growing under cover in a greenhouse or hoop house. It’s also an essential technique to know for squash seed saving.

How to Hand Pollinate Squash

First identify the male and female flowers on your squash plant. The male flowers have a straight stem behind the flower and a stamen inside, while the female flowers have a swelling behind the bloom (the immature fruit) and inside the bloom you’ll find the stigma.

Use a soft-bristled artist’s paintbrush to remove pollen from the stamen of a male flower – you’ll see the yellow pollen on the brush. Carefully brush the pollen onto the stigma of a female flower. And that’s it!

Another way is to detach the male flower from the plant, peel back the petals to expose the stamen, then carefully rub the pollen onto the stigma of a female flower.

 

Saving Squash Seed

Different squashes will cross-pollinate with each other, so to guarantee that seeds breed true you must prevent pollination by insects. You can then selectively hand-pollinate to insure the seeds produced are the same variety as the mother plant.

Isolate one or two flowers by enclosing it within a light, breathable fabric such as muslin and tie the fabric around the stem at the back. Once the flower has opened, remove the fabric and pollinate by hand. Replace the cover and keep it in place until the flower drops off. Tie a ribbon around the stem so you know from which fruits to collect your seeds.

Get More Tips with These Great Gardening Resources

Our popular Vegetable Garden Planner can help you map out your garden design, space crops, know when to plant which crops in your exact location, and much more.

Need crop-specific growing information? Browse our Crops at a Glance Guide for advice on planting and caring for dozens of garden crops.

More Videos

Watch more videos on gardening techniques and other self-reliance, DIY topics on our Wiser Living Videos page.


[Video] Farming For Life, Part 1: Is Farming Right for You?

 

Have you ever considered a career in farming but weren’t completely sure it would be right for you? Or maybe you just didn’t know how to get started. Either way, this video is for you, as working Oregon farmers at differing stages of their careers share their thoughts on what it means to be a farmer, and staff members of an Oregon-based farm training organization explain its structured educational program for future farmers.

Defining a Path to Farming

Historically farming has been passed from one generation to the next through working side-by-side with an experienced farmer. That fundamental process hasn’t changed, but the way the process is being implemented has.

Today, formal internships and apprenticeships on working farms must include structured educational programming to adhere to current employment laws. This approach protects both the farmer and the intern. It also helps to clarify the path for young people to begin building a farming career — which is good, because America needs more farmers and more farm mentors.

The Need for More Farmers

America is experiencing both a crisis and an opportunity in agriculture, as many of our country’s small to midsize family farms are being lost to the monopolization and commoditization of food production. The fact is: We need more farmers to regenerate healthy and robust local and regional food networks and to act as stewards of the lands we all depend on. And for young people who love working outdoors, living with the seasons, and growing food, a more formal career path to farming now exists.

For more information on advancing your farming career, contact these organizations:

1. New Entry Sustainable Farming Project - Tufts University 

nesfp@tufts.edu

978-654-6745

2. National Young Farmers Coalition

info@youngfarmers.org

518-643-3564

3. Rogue Farm Corps

info@roguefarmcorps.org 

541-951-5105

Production Credits and Thanks: A special thank you goes out to farmers Jack Gray and Chris Overbaugh (Winter Green Farm), Emily Cooper (Full Cellar Farm), Lili Tova (Flying Coyote Farm), Jonny Steiger (By George Farm), and Katie Coppoletta and Tayne Reeve (Fiddlehead Farm); to farm employees and trainees Mary Koppes, Daphne Gill, Stephen Lewis, and Piper Krabbenhoft; to EMSWCD Land Legacy Director Matt Shipkey; and to the staff members of Rogue Farm Corps for their support and participation. Selected video and photo files were provided by Rogue Farm Corps.

The four-part Farming For Life series was produced for MOTHER EARTH NEWS by Farming Is Life Media Services (FILMS), with writing and directing by John Vincent, and videography and editing by Paul Manda.

John Clark Vincent is a writer and author who lives in Portland, Ore. His most recent book, Planting a Future, presents a view of what’s happening within Oregon’s rapidly growing movement toward sustainable farming practices. In an effort to provide a glimpse into the many different aspects of such a surging movement, he uses profiles of 18 different farmers and farm supporters to represent the different elements of Oregon’s farm community. Find John online on his website, and read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

 

8 Simple Guidelines for Diagnosing Plant Problems

leaf

When plants are not growing and producing as they should, they will tell you what is wrong through their leaves.

The foliage on any type of plant will reveal everything a gardener needs to know about the health of the plant and the condition of the soil. If the foliage is not healthy and green, examine the leaves for pest infestation. If pests are not found, it's time to look deeper into the garden soil to diagnose the plant problem.

Leaves Tell All

When plant leaves are discolored, have spots or holes, falling off or look unusual in any way, that is the way the plant has of alerting you to a problem.

Plant leaves should be the correct color, and that will vary from plant to plant. Know what your plant’s leaves should look like when healthy, and be observant to any change. This is the best way to discover and diagnosis a plant problem.

Pale Green or Yellow Plant Leaves

When plant leaves begin to pale or turn yellow, one of two things is occurring - the plant is getting too much water or not getting enough nitrogen from the soil. Over-watering can wash nitrogen out of soil and cause the plant leaves to change color. If the nitrogen deficiency is not corrected, the garden plant will be severely stunted and not produce well.

Reduce the amount of water and add a side dressing of nitrogen-rich fertilizer to the plant. This can be in the form of organic or granulated fertilizer, but be sure to follow directions and not over-feed plant with nitrogen.

Too Much Green Foliage

If too much nitrogen is present in the garden soil, plants will produce an abundance of dark green leaves and little else.

Nitrogen is needed by plants to enable them to produce above ground growth. All that nitrogen-laced energy will go into producing healthy leaves and the plant will lack the energy needed to produce fruit, vegetables or flowers.

A balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium will provide complete nutrition so plants can grow healthy leaves and produce.

Yellow Leaf Edges with Brown Tips

When the edges of plant leaves turn yellow, have brown tips and fall off, the plant is telling you it is not receiving enough phosphorus from the garden soil.

To correct this problem, apply one cup of bone meal as a side dressing to the plant to increase the phosphorus level in the soil.  You can also use a water soluble super-phosphate product and apply it to plants according to manufacturer's directions.

Yellow Spotted Leaves with Brown Edges

Yellow spotted or yellow mottled plant leaves that develop brown edges indicates the plant is not receiving enough potash from the garden soil.

To correct this problem, apply one tablespoon of potassium sulfate around the plant and water in well.

Burying banana peels in garden soil will also help bring immediate relief to the ailing plant. If you have a compost bin, try to increase the amount of banana peels added to it for future use in garden soil.

plant

Plant Leaves Darken at Stem Base

When leaves begin to turn dark green at the stem base and continue to darken all the way to the edges and fall off, this indicates the feeder roots are dying for lack of calcium.

Get calcium directly to plant feeder roots by dissolving ½ cup of Epsom salts in a gallon of water and use to water the plant well. This will provide an instant dose of calcium to the plant and prevent any further leaf loss.

You can also sprinkle ½ cup of dolomite lime around the plant and water in well to increase the level of calcium in the soil.

Yellow Leaves with Green Veins

An iron deficiency will cause the leaves of a garden plant to turn yellow, but retain their green color within the leaf veins. To correct this problem, mix one tablespoon of iron sulfate in one quart of water and use entire quart of water for each garden plant with this problem.

Adding a layer of compost around the plant will also help the plant utilize the iron in the soil more efficiently.

Red or Yellow Leaf Centers with Black Spots

A magnesium deficiency in the soil will cause plant leaves to develop a red or yellow spot in the center, followed by the appearance of black spots that extend to leaf edges.

Correct this plant problems with dose of Epsom salts. Mix ½ cup of Epsom salts in a gallon of water and water each plant thoroughly. Epsom salts contain calcium and magnesium promotes new root growth for all plants and helps to solve many garden plant problems.

Leaf Veins Lighter Than Leaf Tissue

Garden soil is lacking in sulfur when this problem manifests. A dose of sulfur dust worked into the soil around the plant will correct the problem and bring health back to the plant. Sulfur helps to reduce the amount of sodium in the soil and keep the pH in balance.

Elena Smith is a gardener, blogger, designer and DIY enthusiast in New Mexico who channels a love of simple and green living into her work. When she is not blogging, you can find her attending to the flowers and plants in the garden. Connect with Elena at ElenaSmith.net and on Twitter, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

5 Ways You Can Get Get Cash Back on Homesteading Equipment

 

Homesteading equipment could represent purchases you use for years to come. But the potential rewards start even earlier if you know how to get cash back on the homesteading necessities you choose.

Here are five avenues to try if getting cash back incentives is your goal.

1. Shop at a Retailer That Offers Cash Back Specials

It's worth researching to see whether some of the merchants you normally buy homesteading equipment from offer cash back incentives. For example, Mahindra, a retailer of tractors and utility vehicles, has a specials section on their website, and some of the perks there relate to customers getting cash back for qualifying purchases. KIOTI is another brand that has a cash back program, and they offer up to $6,000 in rebates on tractors or tractor packages.

If you take this approach to getting cash back, be sure to read the fine print associated with any offers to avoid disappointment. Most brands have specifications that apply to their cash back offers. So you may need to buy your stuff within a particular time frame, spend a minimum amount, or purchase certain models to qualify. Knowing those things before finalizing your purchase should streamline the entire process.

2. Use Ebates and Filter the Search Results for Farm Equipment Stores

Ebates is a company that receives incentives from participating stores for the extra business generated by Ebates customers. Then, in return, people who use Ebates to shop get cash back rewards. Ebates spans beyond stores that offer equipment for your homestead, but Blain's Farm & Fleet and Tractor Supply Company are two farming-specific companies taking part in Ebates.

Amazon is another store you'll find on Ebates, and there's a good chance you can get some of the farm equipment you need there, too. Whether you're looking for a hog catcher or a pH reader for your soil, Amazon has those pieces of farm equipment and many others.

Once you start using Ebates, your cash back rewards get tracked on your user dashboard. Then, it's easy to see how your Ebates usage pays off. It's also useful to investigate other cash back sites that work similarly to Ebates to see if they could help you receive cash back for homesteading equipment. Ebates is the one mentioned here because its directory showed some relevant sites, making it a sure thing.

3. Download the Receipt Hog App

It's also possible to get cash back after scanning your receipts whenever you shop. Receipt Hog is an app that incentivizes users for taking pictures of the receipts they get when shopping anywhere and buying anything. Brands use receipt-based information about your shopping habits to make more informed decisions about their future marketing methods. More specifically, all your data gets anonymized and reported in the market research reports that brands buy.

Uploading a receipt earns you coins that you can redeem for cash through PayPal, or opt to receive a Visa gift card or Amazon gift card instead. You can also maximize the cash back potential by getting into the habit of uploading receipts as soon as you buy something for your homestead — or anything else. It's a good idea to do that, since you must submit all receipts within two weeks of the purchase.

4. Get a Cash Back Rewards Credit Card

There is a growing number of credit cards that give people cash for the things they buy. The providers usually offer an assortment of ways to redeem those rewards, too. For example, you may get them in the form of balance reductions on your credit card statement or receive the cash back rewards as bank account deposits.

If you use these credit cards for more than homesteading equipment, it'll be easier to build up your cash back rewards faster. With that in mind, pay close attention to whether some categories of products are worth more rewards than others. For example, some cash back cards give you a higher rewards percentage when you shop at supermarkets, dine out or fill up your car with gas.

On the other hand, some people find it easier to calculate their rewards if they sign up for a card that gives a single flat rate rewards percentage for everything purchased with it, regardless of the category.

5. Use TopCashback When Shopping for Homesteading Equipment on eBay

You can also get cash back for purchases after buying your homesteading equipment via eBay. TopCashback is one site which offers that, and it gives up to 1.5% cash back on eBay items. Like most of the other suggestions on this list, it's a good idea to read the details before committing. For example, TopCashback has some excluded categories — like gift cards and power tools.

However, you should be in the clear for cash back by sticking to agricultural equipment and keeping an eye on the excluded categories to see if they change. It's also worth knowing that you can get cash back whether you bid for things or use the Buy It Now option.

More Money to Enjoy

There's no way around dipping into your bank account to buy the things you need to keep your homestead running smoothly. But thanks to these five tips, you can earn cash back as you do it.

Photo Credit

Kayla Matthews writes and blogs about healthy living, sustainable consumption, eco-friendly practices and green energy. In the past, her work has also been featured on Grit, Mother Earth Living, Blue And Green Tomorrow, Dwell and Houzz. To read more from Kayla, follow her productivity and lifestyle blog: Productivity Theory.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Organic Insecticide Control for Bean Leaf Beetles

red-beetle
Photo by Tonya Olson

When I was a kid, I hated picking beans. It was hot, humid, and eventually, I was sunburned from picking them. The work was intense, because my sister and I put off picking them until the bounty was heavy and the heat was high. Learn from my mistake: Don’t wait to harvest.

Beans also will stop producing if you don’t pick them. After all the picking was done, I had to trim the ends off. I heard it once said that green beans were a country kid’s worst nightmare. I know it was mine! I had eaten canned beans for most of my short life, and I didn’t really see the point to growing them.

Since then, I have become an adult and can now say homegrown garden beans are much tastier. Bush and pole beans are a couple of my contributions to our MOTHER EARTH NEWS garden. The inspiration for the pole beans came from my friend Benedict Vanheems, and as friend and former Mother Earth Living Editor Hannah Kincaid once said, try something new! The pole beans are my something new. We have yet to plant them in a circle, but because our garden grows in Zone 6a, we may very well be A-OK to do just that.

Because I have a vested interest in these beans, when I saw a ton of holes in them, the momma bear in me came out! I snapped pictures and marched back into the Ogden Publications office to ask our Editorial Director, Hank Will, for his advice. With Hank’s insight, we discovered the issue to be bean leaf beetles munching away to their hearts’ delight.

Identify the Treacherous Bean Leaf Beetle

Bean leaf beetles are 1/4-inch long and display many colors. They have four black spots on their backs with a triangle behind their head and are hard to control without chemicals. They thrive in moist climates such as ours and emerge in mid- to late-spring. Adults usually feed from underneath the leaf, while larvae feed on the roots, nodules, and stem below the soil. Luckily the beetles have not done much damage below the surface. We continue to see new growth, but the same shotholes are appearing on those as well.

orange-beetle
Photo by Tonya Olson

The bush beans are fairing much better than the pole beans, which may have to do with where they are planted. Our pole beans are planted inline along the outskirts of the garden so that they can climb something — still to be determined. Bean leaf beetles tend to hang on the outskirts of fields, so it's good practice to keep the perimeter around the garden trimmed or perhaps plant beans towards the middle of the garden.

neem-spray
Photo by Ingrid Butler

Naturally Neem

As a Great Plains country kid, I was not raised in an organic environment (were you?). My first thought typically would be to sprinkle some insect bug killer on the beans, but this is blasphemy in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS garden. I knew that wasn’t going to fly. I want to learn organic agriculture principles so that I can do it and share it! We found that the University of Wisconsin-Madison page directs organic growers to use rotenone, pyrethrum, or neem. Hank pointed me towards neem, so neem it is!

Neem is natural toxin that causes insects to lose their appetite, stunting their growth. Farmers in India also have harnessed the medicinal properties of neem for years. Read more in How to Use Neem Oil to Prevent Garden Pests. For such a small bottle it packs a punch! Neem conjures familiar smells for me, perhaps because it’s derived from an evergreen tree.

Neem Oil Insecticide Spray

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons pure organic neem oil concentrate
  • 1 teaspoon mild liquid soap (to emulsify the oil in a spray bottle)
  • 1 liter tepid water

Directions:

Shake to mix. Apply once per week in the early morning or late afternoon to reduce drying time and make the topical treatment more effective. Apply while the temperature is below 90 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent damage to the plant (a risk if it happens to be water stressed). Be sure to hit the bottom of the leaf, because bean leaf beetles like to feed from the bottom.

neem-spray
Photo by Ingrid Butler

I have a feeling we will be trying Benedict’s pole-bean trellis idea in the middle of the garden very soon. Wish us luck!


If you’d like to be a MOTHER EARTH NEWS Garden Sponsor contact Brenda Escalante.

Thank you to our sponsors, Garden In MinutesSouthern Exposure Seed Exchange, Mother Earth News Store, Berry Hill Irrigation.

Use Flowers as Part of Your Organic Integrated Pest Management

 

Sunflowers planted into a bean bed to attract birds and beneficial insects.

Organic Integrated Pest Management involves tackling pest problems one step at a time with ecologically-based practices, starting with actions chosen to reduce the chances of the pest ever getting a grip on your crops. You can find various listings of steps online and in print. They are all in basic agreement – start with prevention, follow with avoidance, and finish with pest-killing if needed. Here's our current flight of steps:

Cultivate a good environment for your crops: healthy soil, sufficient space, nutrients and water, suitable temperature, soil pH. Practice crop rotation to reduce the chances of pests and diseases carrying over from one crop to the next. Clear old crops promptly, so they don't act as a breeding ground for the pest. Choose suitable varieties that resist the pests you most expect.

1. Cover or protect the plants physically from the pests (mulches to stop soil-dwelling pests moving up into your crops, netting, rowcover, planting diverse crops, and even trap crops)

2. Provide habitat for natural enemies and other beneficial insects

3. Monitor crops regularly at least once a week and identify any pests you see.

4. Introduce natural enemies of the pest (bacteria, fungi, insect predators or parasites)

5. Hand pick (or trap or vacuum) and kill the pests if the pest population is above the action threshold. Many fruit and root crop plants can take 20-30% defoliation before any loss of yield. Where the crop is the foliage, this may be too much!

6. Use biological controls (often derived from natural enemies) if the damage is still economically significant after trying the earlier steps in the process.

I recommend the ATTRA online publication Organic Integrated Pest Management. Each of the 22 pages is a poster, complete with good photos and concise clear info.

From Deer, the Big Pests to Aphids, the Tiny Pests

One of our biggest garden pests is the deer, which are especially fond of sweet potatoes. We use motion-sensor water sprayers initially or in years when the deer pressure is low. For worse years we install an electric fence with a solar-powered charger.  Last year our electric fence didn't keep the deer out, so this year we have a double layered fence to make sure.

At the other end of the size scale are aphids.  We plant sweet alyssum in our beds of broccoli and cabbage to attract insects that will eat aphids. In early March we sow about 200 plugs for 1500 row feet (450 m) of brassicas, planted as two rows in a bed. We pop one alyssum plug in the bed centers every 4ft (1.2 m)of bed length or about one alyssum per 5 plants. We transplant these the same day that we replace any casualty broccoli and cabbage plants

For Everything In-Between: Insectaries

In late May or early June, we transplant some flowers in our vegetable garden to attract pollinators and pest predators. We use circles cut from plastic buckets to surround these clusters of flowers so that inexperienced helpers don't pull them out as weeds.  We use a combination of sunflowers, dill, borage, cosmos, calendula, tithonia (Mexican sunflowers), zinnias. See my earlier post Insectaries: Grow Flowers to Attract Beneficial Insects

We also sow sunflowers about every 10ft (3 m) in our bean beds at each succession. These attract birds and pollinators, while also acting as landmarks for our harvest progress. This is especially useful when several people fan out along the bed to pick.

A circle of flowers in a bed of peppers.

Pest-Repelling Flowers

We plant some repellent flowers too (nasturtiums, French marigolds) and some trap crop flowers (cleome for harlequin bugs).

We transplant some bush nasturtiums in with our first plantings of cucumber and summer squash. They are said to repel some cucurbit pests such as squash bugs, but I can't vouch for that. Radishes in cucumber or squash rows are said to repel cucumber beetles and squash bugs. I haven't tried that. There are a lot of companion planting ideas out there, but most have no scientific evidence for effectiveness.

Nematodes in the Hoophouse

In our hoophouse we have been tackling nematodes for several years. In 2011 when we were digging up young spinach from our hoophouse to transplant outdoors, we found some of the roots were misshapen with lumps in them. The Plant Disease Clinic diagnosed peanut root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne arenaria). See my earlier post Managing Nematodes in the Hoophouse.

We have tried various approaches to rid ourselves of the nematodes, including winter cover crops of wheat; spring cover crops of Lemon Drop French marigolds and Iron and Clay cowpeas; solarization in summer; fall crops of Brassica juncea mustards (Ruby Streaks, Golden Frills); and avoiding growing susceptible crops. My book The Year-Round Hoophouse contains a detailed section on dealing with nematodes, including charts of RKN-resistant crops and of varieties of various vegetable crops.

A flowering sesame plant surrounded by French marigolds, part of our strategy for fighting nematodes in our hoophouse.

This year we have planted the nematode areas in French marigolds and sesame (apparently particularly good in deterring root knot nematodes, the type we have.) Some other nematode areas have been planted with Iron and Clay cowpeas. Unfortunately we now have an aphid infestation on the cowpeas! We are trying blasting the aphids off the plants with a strong stream of water from a hose. Later in the summer we will solarize some of the nematode areas.

Pam Dawling works in the vegetable gardens at Twin Oaks Community in central Virginia. She often presents workshops at MEN Fairs, as well as sustainable agriculture conferences. Pam also writes for Growing for Market and other magazines. Her books, Sustainable Market Farming, and The Year-Round Hoophouse are available at www.sustainablemarketfarming.com. Her blog is on her website and also on facebook.com/SustainableMarketFarming.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

5 Reasons to Eliminate Some Garden Crops

butternut squash chili 

In the deep winter, there's nothing like a nice hot bowl of butternut squash chili to ward off the cold.

There are all kinds of reasons to plant a particular vegetable: abundance (zucchini), nutrition (Swiss chard), cut it and it grows back (lettuce), speed (arugula, green peas, radish), tastiness (tomatoes, watermelon), variety (there’s so much, like cucamelons, that you won’t find in your supermarket), and so on. But how do you narrow your gardening priorities?

My husband and I are adventurous gardeners. We’re always interested in trying something new. So we’ve tried artichokes, kiwano melons, amaranth, flint corn, popcorn, celeriac, tomatillos, ground cherries—just to name a few. We’ve grown as many as fifty different vegetables and fruits in one season, all for family eating.

We have our favorites: Swiss chard is a reliable, nutritious, cut-and-come-again crop that grows all season long. We can’t get enough of Christmas lima and scarlet runner beans. The same can be said for asparagus. Butternut squash is tasty, stores easily, and lasts a long time in storage. This year, it was May before we finished off our butternut squash harvest!   

But we’ve found there may be just as many reasons to NOT grow certain vegetables as to grow them, aside from what our taste buds like (a good reason in itself). Determining how to eliminate a few vegetables from your overgrown wish list will give you more room to plant what works best for you and your family.

fun to grow

Love-Lies-Bleeding amaranth was fun to grow, but as as a grain crop the yield was too time-consuming and too small.

Climate

We love tomatoes, but they don’t love us—at least not our growing season. Our summers are short and wet. If the tomatoes succeed in ripening before frost, which is always an iffy proposition, they’re almost certain to get blight. It’s more cost-effective and less frustrating to get our tomatoes from our local farmers’ market.

Growing Conditions

Is there anything as delicious as fresh sweet corn to go with those juicy tomatoes? We don’t think so. However, corn can’t stand up to our frequent, high winds. That might not be a problem if we had a huge field of corn where each stalk could protect the other, but we can only grow about three deep. Besides, corn takes up a whole lot of room for not much in the way of harvest. From now on, we’ll rely on the farmers’ market for corn, too.

Too Much Too Fast

Lesse known crops like, tomatillos  are exciting to grow, and they’re so tasty in Mexican dishes. But our family of two was overwhelmed at the volume of our harvest—it was just too much to handle. We donated most of them to the local food pantry.

basket of tomatillos

Basket of tomatillos.

Pesky Pests

Cabbage moths love kale as much as we do. Try as we might—and we’ve tried lots of deterrents—we haven’t found a way to stay ahead of them. We opted to substitute Swiss chard instead. The worms aren’t nearly as fond of chard. And cabbage on the shelf is pretty inexpensive. We could handle that trade-off.

Space

If you have more garden space than you know what to do with, you can experiment to your heart’s content. Otherwise, you have to make choices. As much as we like watermelon (and that’s a whole heck of a lot), the vines take up far more space than we’re willing to give them. Besides, watermelon needs to be eaten fresh, and just how much can two people eat in the few weeks when it’s ripe?

Consider the Pros and Cons

There might be other reasons to choose not to grow a given crop. Maybe it needs too much TLC for the time you have available. Maybe the cost-benefit ratio doesn’t add up.

In deciding what and what not to grow, think about the benefits and challenges each plant brings with it. When you find yourself overwhelmed by all the variety and deliciousness in those seed catalogues that fill your mailbox, it helps to have a few reasons to eliminate a few of those tempting fruits and veggies.

Carole Coates is a gardener and food preservationist, family archivist, essayist, poet, photographer, modern homesteader. You can follow her Mother Earth News blog posts here. You can also find Carole at Living On the Diagonal where she shares her take on life, including modern homesteading, food preparation and preservation, and travel as well random thoughts and reflections, personal essays, poetry, and photography.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.







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