Introduction: Growing Heirloom Vegetables
This instructable will follow my garden as it grows, From opening seeds to preparing the soils. (Though you missed my first plot being tilled, hoed, and amended) A quick explanation about heirloom seeds; Heirloom seeds are from plants grown the old (Read BEST) way, No genetic modifications, hybridization, or splicing. Heirloom seeds tend to be expensive up front but less expensive because you can save the seeds and they will continue producing, UNLIKE many other commercially available seeds which will produce sterile seeds in the plants and vegetables that grow. Heirloom = one time up front cost. Standard GMO seeds = Continuos cost every year.
I bought mine from Survivalistseeds A google search will take you to Big Johns website.
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Step 1: Prepare for Planting
Unpackage the seeds and choose which ones you will be planting, I started a bit late this year but I should still get a bunch of good vegetables. Especially looking forward to my heirloom tomatoes.
Do your research, You're growing Heirloom seeds now, You have a moral responsibility to grow your garden as organically and chemical free as you possibly can. I have to explain my soil preparation and amending technique since I began before joining the instructables community: Step 1: break up the soil. I used a spring tooth cultivator on a tractor to do this. This guarantees that you can use a rotary tiller to break it up to a useful depth, Not necessary, But very convenient. Step 2: Tilling. You want to till the soil as deeply as you can, this helps turn the grasses and weeds on top of the soil underneath. the rotting greenery provides nutrients for your vegetables. you're going to want to till the soil several times, that way the grasses are sure to die. I tilled once every 2 days for a week.
Step 3: Add fertilizer. Remember when I said "you have a moral obligation to grow these vegetables as organically as possible"? This is the time to start. My fertilizer comes in the form of composted chicken and horse manure. I add about 50 pounds every 100 square feet. Think 100 pounds per wheelbarrow load. That's actually being generous since my wheelbarrow holds 160 pounds. I just got tired of weighing the manure. Step 4: Till it again. You want to mix the manure in as well as you can, this ensures even distribution of the nutrients.
Step 2: Ready to Plant
Now you're ready to plant... But when is the last frost? We don't want our vegetables to not even come up. When I bought my Heirloom seeds they came with this nice little gauge so we would know the best times to plant. However you may also use the farmers Almanac and since I started late this year that's what I did.
You also need to know how deep to plant your seeds and the spacing between them. Again with the handy little gauge. it tells me, how deep they need to be, what spacing, and what type of row that would be best for them (i.e. hills, raised rows)
Step 3: Raised Rows
These rows are acceptable for many of the plants I'll be growing this year, though they are a lot of work. You have to bring soil to the location that you're planting to make the rows. You COULD just hoe or rake the rows from the soil you've prepared, BUT, you want to be able to hoe soil up around your plants as the get larger, This helps with stability and to cover the roots of more shallow growing plants such as corn.
Step 4: Tomatoes.
You should plant your tomato seeds indoors. Sowing tomato seeds is NOT recommended. I usually plant them in peat pots or plastic cups I save from eating out. You'll get some pictures of that as the weeks go by. I'll be planting a second crop of heirlooms because I got a few with my seed kit that I've never tried before and am excited to see how they produce. And the photo is actually of a Black Krim tomato plant I have growing right now. At about 1 foot tall you should stake or cage your tomatoes, I'll post photos of that in about a week from publish.
Keep checking back on this instructable! I'll be posting more and more as the weeks go by!
Step 5: Sprouting.
Photo coming soon.
ALRIGHT!!! First plants can be seen peeking above the soil!!!
We really have to be aware of the garden for the next few weeks, the rabbits and crows will be happy to help themselves to your vegetables and we just can't have that.
How do we protect our vegetables??!?
Crows- Scarecrow is the old standby for this and PVC is a good way to do this. Why? PVC will be weather and bug resistant, Strong, cheap, And you can use it again next year!!
Rabbits- A short fence should keep these pesky little guys from munching on your vegetables, 2 - 4 feet is plenty.
Deer- Skittish and shy we have tied our outside dog Molly close by and that works quite well, Don't have a dog? CD's tied on a string usually do the trick.
Step 6: Berries.
While you're growing heirloom vegetables, don't forget that there are many other plants, trees and grains that you can have producing for you. This big mulberry tree was probably planted around 30 or 40 years ago, and with proper care and maintenance will produce long after I am dead and gone. Heirloom? You bet. According to the man whose uncle built our home was planted from a batch of berries he (the uncle) picked while walking along a creek. These are delicious and will be made into jam this year, (unlike last year when we just ate ourselves sick with them.
Step 7: Manure.
Gross right? Maybe to someone else. We're farmers and manure means fertilizer and fertilizer means bigger, healthier, and tastier organic, heirloom vegetables. Don't have chickens or horses? No problem. Find a farm near you and sometimes, if you're lucky, they will give you tons of manure!! Have horses? 50 pounds of manure, per horse, per week. we have 4 horses. that's 200 pounds of manure per week! Pile it up, add some food scraps, and in about 3 months you have the best fertilizer money can buy.... Oh... Wait.... It was free!!!!
Chickens are also great producers! You can have around 10 pounds of excellent high nitrogen chicken manure every week with only 6 chickens! Scoop it up, compost it and that's even more fertilizer!!!
What does this and the berries have to do with heirloom gardening? EVERYTHING! The berry trees make berries the whole time your garden grows, the chickens and horses produce better fertilizer than you could ever buy and YOU benefit from every bit of it. Berries for jam to accompany your crop of vegetables, Manure to keep those crops healthy and strong and heirloom vegetables to produce food and seeds for next years crop!!
Keep coming back! Tomorrow, we're making a PVC banging pot scare crow!
Step 8: PVC Scarecrow
A banging pot scarecrow is a scarecrow that somehow makes noise. I have made mechanical ones using a mini windmill to make it bang metal bars together but this time I am making it of PVC. Simple to construct and (Hopefully) it will protect my heirloom vegetables.
You'll need a way to prevent the wildlife from eating your vegetables, and a scarecrow is a cheap and easy way to do it. I made this one from PVC so that,
A: I can use it next year.
B: the flexibility of PVC will help it make more noise.
And C: it's light, that means at the end of the year my wife can easily move it if I am not around.
Step 9: Tomatoes. Again.
Your tomatoes are getting big now huh? Gust of wind blew some over? Then you have seen the unmistakable signs that they need to be staked, caged, or trellised. I chose metal cages from Home Depot this year. Drive the cages feet as deeply into the ground as you can, pushing one or two legs down at a time.
When you've done that you should drive some stakes down into the ground around the cage. This gives additional support for the cage so that it can stand heavier winds. I've only staked two sides of the cage, but if I find some more suitable staking material, then four stakes will be MUCH more secure.