A year in review

This last year was a big one. I gave birth to my first child and I decided to leave my corporate job. It was a LOT of change, really fast. It was the first year, in a long time, in which I felt incredibly present. This sudden lifestyle change and entirely new focus gave me the ability to think more creatively. Ultimately enabling me to tap even deeper into my love for gardening. Lucky me! I learned a lot this  year, but even more, my passion and interest in edible gardening GREW big time! img_5666

When I think of ONE word to describe my gardening life in 2016, it is “productive”. I did a much better job at planning. I put seeds in the ground early enough to take advantage of growing food all year long. I invested the time to thin, weed, and fertilize, resulting in productive and healthy plants. When I think of ONE word to describe what I am aiming for in 2017, it is “diversity”. megan-11

Now that I better understand garden planning, timing, and growing cycles, it is time to have a little more fun! I tend to grow what I know I will eat i.e. what I can find at the grocery store. How boring. In 2017 I want to try growing vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers that are new to me and my family. I typically dedicate the space in my raised beds to edible food only. In 2017 I hope to create a larger ecosystem of vegetables, herbs, and flowers grown next to one another. Thanks to The Fake Farmgirl who opened my eyes to the concept of a Potager garden in which flowers, herbs, vegetables, and fruits are intermingled. Ultimately, creating a stronger ecosystem to pollenate, fertilize, and protect against unwanted pests. 2017 is the year of a more diverse, colorful, and experimental garden.

Last year at this time, I documented my key accomplishments and lessons learned. THIS IS A MUST to get closer to the garden that you want to have. I am happy to report that I put my learnings into action in 2016. So here I go again.

Key Accomplishments

  • Grew more of everything. I grew more vegetables, herbs, fruit, and flowers than the year before. This is because I actually planned and most importantly understood the timing of when I needed to get seeds and bulbs into the ground. To do this, I suggest having one or two really great gardening books on hand. Food Grown Right, In Your Backyard lists out what you need to do in the garden each month. Read the instructions on seed packages. I am embarrassed to say that I have not done this and then the seeds or bulbs don’t sprout because I planted too deep, didn’t soak bulbs, or planted at the wrong time. This seems so simple but is often overlooked.
    • Timing: directly planted seeds for my spring garden by end of March , summer garden in early May, Fall garden by end of July, and last planting beginning of September.
  • Had beautiful roses from May – October. We bought and planted bare root roses in February and enjoyed roses starting in May! Visit your local nursery for bare root roses that will do well in your environment.
  • Expanded my gardening community and knowledge. Through this blog, social channels, and reaching out to gardeners within my local community, I have created a network of people that inspire me to grow food, eat real food, and treat Mother Earth with love and care. I look forward to continuing to grow and connect with this community in 2017.

 Lessons learned

  • I want to and can grow more. This will require another raised bed. I plan to build this bed in January to have it ready to roll for planting in March (blog post to come).
  • Grow more herbs. I learned how to air dry herbs this year and it was a success. These were great holiday gifts and I now have a container full of flavor from my own backyard. I definitely want to do this again in Fall 2017 and hope to have more herbs on hand to make twice as much. My two favorite herbs to air dry are Oregano and Thyme. dsc_0113
  • Grow more flowers. I said this last year. I did grow more flowers, but not nearly as many as I could have. Not only can these help create healthier vegetables, but who doesn’t want fresh flowers in their house all year long? I’m all about these flower recommendations from Seattle Urban Farm Company. img_4596
  • Onions need to be started as transplants in January. I directly seeded my onion seeds into the garden in late March. This didn’t work. Because I did not read any directions about growing onions, I just assumed I could directly plant the seeds into the garden in spring. It is best to plant onion transplants into the garden in late March and allow them to grow for 5-6 months before harvesting.
  • Sungold tomatoes rock! We had great success with this tomato variety and they are delicious. I personally like planting my tomato plants in large pots because they are easier for me to manage and don’t take up a lot of space in my raised bed.
  • Plant winter squash in the spring. I completely missed the boat on planting winter squash this year. You can direct seed winter squash and I will plan to do this by end of May. I hope to grow New England Pie Pumpkin and Honey Bear Acorn Squash.
  • Grow a “lettuce salad mix”. I love growing lettuce, I eat a lot of it and it is easy to grow in the PNW. This is the first year that I grew a lettuce mix. Not only was it fun to have a variety of lettuce leaves, but it also thrived in the garden. DSC_0022
  • Plant a fall garden. This year I was diligent about getting one more round of seeds into the ground at the beginning of September. This was well worth the effort and resulted in vegetables through January. It is such a treat to harvest carrots, beets, leeks, kale, and swiss chard on a cold, dark evening in the winter. dsc_0113
  • Reference a few key gardening resources. As mentioned before, it is so important to have a book or two on hand that makes it easier for you to know when to plant what. These are my go to gardening resources:

What has been your biggest learning in 2016? What is one thing you want to do in your garden in 2017?

I want to give a special THANK YOU to all of you who read my blog and support my gardening habits. Gardening would not be nearly as fun without those of you that help me learn, dig in the dirt, harvest, and enjoy the food!

Cheers to community and spreading the good gardening word in 2017!

With gratitude,

Megan megan

 

 

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Baby food made easy

The garden has been a source of energy, nutrition, and joy for me and my husband. When we had a baby, it became so much more. It is a place to teach our child about the ecosystem of life, real food, colors, textures, and responsibility. And as our baby begins to eat solid foods, the garden has provided the majority of his nutrients. I can’t think of a better source of food than the fruit and vegetables grown in our own backyard. dsc_0117

You might be thinking, “are you serious?” First, you want me to find the time to make baby food and on top of that, you want me to grow the vegetables and fruits? Of course not! But maybe.. a little bit. How about I provide a few easy baby food recipes for 6+ month olds. Maybe you try these and then realize you can grow most of the vegetables in the recipes and decide to try gardening? Just throwing it out there!

In all reality, I didn’t quite know what foods/recipes to start with for my baby, so below are a few ideas that have worked for us. As to how this relates to gardening? Children are one more reason to try growing food, even a pot of tomatoes. Whether they are babies, toddlers, or teens they can learn from being a part of the gardening experience and hopefully build a love for real food straight from the dirt. dsc_0113

If you are certain that you don’t want an edible garden, sign up for a CSA or head to the Farmer’s Market to gather these vegetables and fruits. Include your child in the experience so that they can develop an appreciation for their food. 

My top 6 baby food recipes for 6+ months

When making baby food, my goal is to make a lot of it at one time. Prep all of the ingredients, and then combine them in different ways to create a variety of purées and finger foods, then store and/or freeze.

Your grocery shopping / garden harvesting list for the following recipes:

1 bunch kale – wash, tear into smaller pieces (remove from stem), steam

2 pears – peel and cut into chunks (no need to steam)

5 large carrots – if organic / from the garden I do not peel, wash, cut into small chunks, steam

1 can white/ great northern beans – wash and drain

1/2 cup lentils (uncooked) – cook in broth (vegetable or chicken or whateverdsc_0107 you have on hand)

1 apple – peel, cut into chunks, steam

2 handfuls of green beans – wash and steam

1 bunch of spinach – wash and steam

2 beets – peel, wash, cut into chunks, and steam

1 banana and/or 1 cup frozen/fresh blueberries – no prep needed

Once you have prepared these items, you can mix and match to create the recipes below. The allocated amount of each ingredient is a rough estimate. Feel free to add however much you want of each of the prepared ingredients above. The below assumes that you have already peeled, washed, steamed, etc.

Carrots, kale, pear purée
½ of the prepared kale 
1 pear
1/2 of the prepared carrots dsc_0100

Lentils, carrots, white bean purée
½ cup lentils
1 can white beans
1/2 of the prepared carrots 

Carrot purée or finger food
If you have leftover carrots, either keep as steamed chunks for baby finger food or purée and add a little cinnamon.

Spinach, apple purée
½ of the prepared spinach
1 apple

Green beans, pear, kale and/or spinach purée
Prepared green beans 
½ to 1 pear
Any remaining kale and/or spinach

Beets, blueberries, banana purée (Beets are recommended for 8+ months)
Prepared beets 
1 banana and/or 1 cup blueberries

Always feel free to add cinnamon, sage, mint and other spices to the purées for some added flavor.

This will make a lot of food, prepare to freeze and store it.

You can easily make these recipes by steaming the fruits and vegetables in a pot and blending them together in any blender. However, if you want to get fancy, I recommend this all-in-one BEABA Babycook – Sorbet baby cooker.

Freezing and storing baby food

When you are first starting solid foods, your child may eat closer to 2 ounces per meal. As you near 8-9 months your child may be eating closer to 4 ounces+ per meal. 

I recommend to have a variety of 2 and 4 ounce storage containers. These OXO Tot containers are great for storing and freezing OXO Tot 12-Piece Baby Blocks Set

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If you do make all of the food above, you will most likely need more containers to freeze the food. In this case, I love these Fresh Baby So Easy Baby Food and Breast Milk Trays

Or of course, just a good ol’ ice cube tray works perfect Kitch Easy Release White Ice Cube Tray, 16 Cube Trays (Pack of 4)

If you use ice cube trays, when the food is frozen, remove it from the trays and put into ziplock bags. Label the bags with the recipe name and date you prepared the food.

When you need the food, put the cubes into a bowl or into reusable food pouches. There are double zippers at the bottom of this pouch, Reusable Food Pouch (6 Pack – Medium) – Easy to Fill and Clean – Double Zipper Means No Leaking – Perfect for Homemade and Organic Baby Food – Suitable for Babies, Toddlers and Kids of All Ages, to insert the frozen food cubes or fill directly with fresh food and then freeze.

Lastly, if you are feeling inspired and want to get a little fancy with your baby food making, check out this cookbook Bébé Gourmet: 100 French-Inspired Baby Food Recipes For Raising an Adventurous Eater

I hope this post gives you a little inspiration to try making your own baby food and even more so, include your child in the food experience. Whether that be growing food, exploring a Farmer’s Market, or cooking together. There is so much to learn from food and it is more fun to enjoy it together!img_4858