In the midst of the current crisis, lots of folks are starting their own vegetable gardens for the first time or digging into existing gardens with a greater sense of purpose. There can never be too many vegetable gardens, as far as we’re concerned, and growing some of what you eat, even if it’s just a few herbs or a potted tomato plant on your deck, is such an empowering way of connecting with your food. I will never forget the thrill of growing our first garden eight years ago--the magic of sprouting seeds and the intense satisfaction of eating our first harvest.
It’s inspiring to see so many of our neighbors and friends turning over ground to start their own coronavirus victory gardens for food security and for the joy of watching plants thrive under loving care. In a time with so much unknown, when many are feeling disconnected from the world we’re used to, it can be profoundly grounding and empowering to put your hands in the dirt and to know in the deepest way where our nourishment comes from.
Growing food is a continual learning experience (part of what keeps it interesting!), but here are a few online resources we have found really useful in our ongoing garden education:
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange’s Growing Guides are a great place to start. They are very thorough, covering everything from seed starting and growing for biodiversity to crop-specific guides for just about any vegetable you’d want to grow.
Seed Saver’s Exchange also has a very good library of articles on all aspects of the vegetable garden, including site planning, crop-specific growing guides, and seed saving information.
Your county extension office is an incredible resource (shout out to our amazing horticulture agent, Faye Kuosman!). They can help you with soil testing (a key step to garden success!), troubleshooting, and connecting you with all the resources you need. The UK Extension Office’s guide to Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky is a useful reference, as well.
We haven’t used Territorial Seed’s Garden Planner App yet, but it looks like a user-friendly way to keep track of all of your garden planning information in one place (rather than our approach of massive spreadsheets!). I want to give it a try in the future.
The Bionutrient Food Association has a vast library of documents, videos, and book recommendations available online. They tend to be more advanced, for experienced growers wanting to increase nutrient content in their crops by creating a super healthy soil food web.
The University of Kentucky’s Center for Crop Diversification is geared toward professional growers growing on a large scale, but its crop profiles and maps contain a lot of good information.
I really enjoy listening to the Farmer to Farmer Podcast, in which host and experienced organic farmer Chris Blanchard has down to earth conversations with other farmers about their operations and experiences. Unfortunately, Chris Blanchard passed away in 2018, but there is a hefty archive of past episodes to listen to while you work.
We learn so much every growing season, from publications, from other farmers, and from the garden itself. It is so exciting to see many others jumping enthusiastically into growing food. Please let us know if we can share our experiences to help you get started!
Many seed companies have been inundated with orders this spring and many are sold out or are suspending orders to catch up. We have some little plants ready to go into your garden, ranging from cilantro and basil to okra and peppers from our own saved seeds and heirloom tomatoes. We also have a set of edible flower plants to make your harvest as beautiful as it is delicious!
Hope you’re enjoying this break from the heat—we are, and so are our plants at Dandelion Ridge Farm. We hilled up the soil around our ginger this week to give the rhizomes more room to grow, and the plants are looking beautiful (as you can see in this picture)! We plan to harvest the ginger in the fall. We harvested our small garlic crop and have it drying in the greenhouse for use in our canned sauces. Our kale and collard plants are feeling the heat and reaching the end of their lives, so we took them down for the season.
Our edible flowers—marigolds, nasturtiums, and bachelor’s buttons at the moment—are starting to bloom and we’ll bring a few to market this weekend. They add a touch of elegance and a pop of color to any special dish!
We’re still harvesting tomatoes and tomatillos every day, and canning them every chance we get! We’re unveiling our Roasted Tomatillo Salsa this week. We make this Southwestern salsa verde using Dandelion Ridge Farm tomatillos, jalapeños, and parsley. We roast the tomatillos until slightly charred to deepen their bright, tart flavor. Related to the tomato, tomatillos grow inside elegant paper husks and have a tangy, slightly fruity flavor. You’re most likely to find tomatillos in Mexican and Central American cuisines, but you can also stir-fry them, use them in curries, or even try them in a Bloody Mary! Try a sample of our salsa at the market this weekend, and take home a jar or some tomatillos to make salsa yourself!
Our okra is now in full swing, and we’re harvesting a pound every day or two. If you’ve never seen okra growing, the plants are beautiful and tropical-looking, with stunning pale yellow flowers with burgundy centers . Okra, a relative of the hibiscus plant, was brought to the Americas by enslaved Africans. It is popular in Indian, African, Caribbean, and Creole cuisine. While I know some people object to okra’s texture, try roasting or grilling it to avoid any sliminess, or use it in soups and stews, where it can add a silky texture.