Well it seems that Winter has finally set in on good old Alabama. I have to say I was worried we were going to skip it altogether this year!
Winter time is the prime time to get those long season root crops planted. Things such as onions and garlic appreciate these 30° and below nights. We have planted more garlic & far more onions this year too! They are looking good!
Leafy greens too love the Winter. Pests that normally make it hard for them to thrive during Spring & Summer go dormant with freezing temperatures and the greens wouldn’t have it any other way! From collards to mustard greens to cabbage & kale, we have a bit of it all!
2020 came suddenly for us. We were so busy it took fireworks to alert us the year had changed! We are excited about the prospects this growing season has for us and we are sharing our excitement with you with our January Cyber Sale! Now through the end of January, the first 3 online sales of 2020 for Bain Home Gardens of $20 or more will receive an 8 oz jar of our Peach Serrano Jam FREE! In addition to that, all of our jams are discounted throughout the month of January! The $2 discount on our 8 oz jams will be applied on delivery.
So you’ve mapped out your garden, prepared the soil, researched what grows best, planted the seeds, and now it’s growing beautifully. One may say all that is left to do is harvest the fruits of your labor. Is that all – really? It could be, however in most cases you are likely not getting the most use of your gardening space.
Explore & Expand
In traditional gardening you plant, maintain, harvest, & repeat. We consider ourselves anything but traditional here at Bain Home Gardens so let’s amend that process shall we? Plant, maintain, harvest, & explore. What do we mean? Did you know the leaves of that young Okra plant are edible? It’s a fact! What about the Blossoms? Seeds? The answer is a surprising and resounding – YES! In fact, if you are willing to explore just a little bit you will find more to eat in your garden than you think! This is one of the best ways to get the most out of your garden! It will mean you will likely have to explore new recipes as well but it’s a small price to pay to expand your flavor palate!
Vegetables harvested for dinner
You may be hesitant to do this. After all, if everyone else isn’t eating it, there must be a reason. You are right, there is a reason. Most of these items do not store well and are not a safe investment for the grocery stores, so they do not sell them, the public does not buy them, and no one is the wiser that the blossoms of the Marigold flower are edible. Herein lies a funny story that I must share. When planning the garden out for Spring back in January, I asked my husband how he felt about flowers. He just looked at me with a blank stare. I clarified by adding, “edible flowers”, to which he immediately began shaking his head no. He said they weren’t for him to eat but rather to look at and admire. I didn’t pressure him. After all he has come so far. One day this month I was preparing to cook by cleaning and sorting veggies pulled from the garden. He came in and didn’t recognize that I was cooking and started his own thing. While our kitchen is big enough for two cook, if he wants to cook who am I to stand in the way? So I cleaned the Malabar Spinach & Marigold Blossoms and handed them to him. I told him I was going to stir fry the spinach with onion and add the blossoms at the end. I was certain he had put the blossoms in the fridge until we began to eat. He exclaimed, “Well I just ate a flower!” I nearly had to pick myself up from the floor! He had cooked them just the way I had planned. Later he revealed that he enjoyed them. He had expanded his flavor palate to include flowers.
So what’s growing in your garden that you didn’t know was edible? Below is a list of items growing in our garden not traditionally recognized as edible:
Okra Leaf- cook like spinach or kale or even eat raw
Okra Blossom – stuff with cheese, batter, & deep fry
Okra Seeds – press for oil, make granola, and even coffee – crazy!
Kale & Chard Stems – use raw in smoothies or a sauté
Broccoli Leaf – cook like collards or mustard greens
Broccoli Flowers – eat raw or add to stir fry at the end
Carrot tops – add at the end of stir fries, smaller ones can be eaten raw in salads or wraps
Getting the most out of your garden doesn’t always mean you eat everything – after all, everything isn’t edible. What it does mean is being creative. If you cannot eat it then explore other uses for it or compost it.
Banana leaves are used for many things I have recently found out. The one use we will be utilizing is wrapping food in it to keep it moist while grilling. Cool right? The thick, nutrient rich leaves also are awesome for mulching as they will feed your plants as they breakdown as well as retain moisture.
Red Okra Blossom
Okra is in the article so much, you must know we love it! We do! It’s easy to grow and super useful. As its growing season ends, you may be tempted to pull the unsightly stalks from the ground in preparation for new plantings or to just rid the eye sore. Pause. Are you planting Fall peas? If so plant them in front of each stalk of okra and boom – instant trellis!
Whatever is growing in your garden we are proud of you for the effort you have put into it. We know it isn’t easy. It’s perfectly acceptable to reap the fruits of your labor and keep it moving. If however, your desire is to get the most out of your garden, we hope these ideas help you to explore & expand!
Our journey has been extremely exciting. For videos & photos of our successes & fails please like & follow us on Facebook & Instagram.
It is a beautiful fall day. You go outside to check the mail, as you do you cant help but to admire the beautiful Marigold blossoms, beside them, tucked away ever so nicely are several bunches of Kale flourishing in the shade of the bushy Marigolds. On your route back to the front door you look up in just enough time to observe a Hummingbird foraging for nectar. Obviously the Okra blossoms were not what she had in mind although the bees do not seem to mind. Just before walking up the steps to your front stairway, you
Oriental Yard Long Beans on railing of front porch
pause to see the most unusual orchid like bloom on the railing. A closer look reveals straight long beans blowing in the afternoon breeze. You take a deep breath before ascending the steps and are graced with the most pleasing aroma – Basil. The flowers of the Thai Basil sway in the breeze while the Malabar Spinach glistens in the sun. Yes, this sounds like something out of a corny novella but it is a daily reality for the members of the Bain Household & edible landscaping is the reason.
Our home is situated on a corner lot in a semi-rural subdivision. It is literally the first home you see when you pull in. No pressure right? We take great care to ensure that our home offers eye candy rather than an eye sore. While rows of corn and okra are
Red Okra Bloom
eye candy to me, let’s be real – it’s not to everyone. Therefore we have tried to in cooperate flowers into the landscaping to distract from the fact that we are actually growing food right in our front yard! If you live in an area that has a strict HOA this may not be an option for you. However, if you just have quirky neighbors or a husband who is very concerned with having his grass to mow on the weekend (me) then the following ideas may be of use to you.
Layout is everything in creating an edible landscape. Plant vegetables that have beautiful blooms and do not take up much space. For instance, at this very moment our son is planting peas which have beautiful purple blooms with full green leaves. Where are we planting said peas? Well, since peas require trellising, which can be a challenge to work into a landscape, we decided to plant them beside each of our Okra plants. Okra is tall by nature so we are making it into our own natural trellis. In front of the Okra will go Lettuces & Kales of varying shapes & colors. These both benefit from the shade thrown by vinning plants such as peas. Planting alternating lettuces with Chrysanthemums (Mums), which is an edible flower, further camouflages the produce. The eye is automatically drawn to the blooms and the colorful leaves of the lettuce rather than the Okra and Peas. This is just one particular layout we will be using this fall. If you are looking for ground cover, consider something easy like Mache Corn Salad which is leafy green good for sautes or salads.
Thai Basil in front raised bed to left of front porch
Red & Green Malabar Spinach in front raised bed to left of front porch
With any garden, edible or not, maintenance is required. With edible landscaping, failure to be diligent in this area will all but negate the entire purpose of the previous suggestion. Unsightly, dead or dying vegetables or flowers can sometimes be avoided by strict adherence to the following steps:
Inspect. Daily inspect vegetables for pest and disease. Many of which if caught early enough will not present a huge problem.
Water. Basic to every garden is regular watering. Depending on the area in which you live, time of year, and/or the types of plants growing, you may need to water up to twice a day or as little as once a week.
Mulching. This little trick is valuable in more than one way. Mulching is known to add a level of sophistication to the landscape – the level of sophistication depends on the type of mulching.
Rock – For me this is the more elegant of the selection which can even be elevated further by the type of rock. Options from Lava Rock, Pea Gravel, Pumice Rock, or even Polished Riverbed Pebbles. This option, in my opinion is more appropriate for trees or bushes.
Straw – This likely the least expensive option but has to be replaced frequently. Be careful and research the sourcing of the company and ensure no chemicals were used on it, especially if you are placing in the vegetable portion of your edible landscaping.
Hay – This seems to be the most beneficial form of mulching, although not the most elegant. Although we have not used it yet, we plan to purchase ours from a certified organic farm in our area.
Harvest. Failure to harvest produce frequently will signal the plant to go to seed. While some seeding plants are pretty and add to the glory of the landscape, others will do you no favors. So just go get your food when its ready.
Our home has many planting areas but in each one we try to keep in mind that not only do we garden here but we live here. I’m actually adopting this mentality. Previously I felt that I live here why be concerned with what it looks like – IT’S FOOD! See, growth is possible for anyone – even me. Granted, we are not always successful – believe me you! However, we try to learn from our fails and make the garden better tomorrow. So to all you deck, front yard, & plant it anywhere it will grow gardeners: YOU GOT THIS, just add a flower or two. At the very least the birds and the bees will thank you.
Remember, this is we share just a portion of our adventure. For pictorials, like and follow our Facebook and Instagram pages.
This has been a roller coaster of a 3 years since we started growing our own food seriously. We have gone from pots to raised beds to 2 large planting spaces and many smaller planting beds! Seriously there is potential for food EVERYWHERE on our 3/4 acre homestead. Each planting area has its own, niche or ecosystem if you will, based on what is growing there. As a result, each plot is treated differently when it comes to watering, fertilizing, and even pest control. With each new plot we developed we have had bountiful harvest but with each comes the potential for disappointments and failures. We have had our fair share of those as well. Having multiple growing areas also means that our time has to be scheduled out to make sure all areas are getting the proper attention. This brings me to the topic of this week’s blog – is bigger better?
Granted, we are not a “big” farm/garden. We wanted to be. Notice the past tense there? As we have grown, we’ve seen the need to keep the family business manageable to the four of us and to never lose the directive – feed ourselves organic and chemical free produce. Of the four of us, I am of limited physical ability so my contributions lean more towards the direction and the management side of things. My husband works full-time, one child is in full time primary school, and the other in college full time. So there is such a need to use our available energies wisely. Initially I had hoped for further expansion and development of our land but for this family bigger is NOT better. Here is why:
Labor & Time
We grow from organic, non-GMO seed. Although not certified by the USDA, we practice organic growing techniques and if you know anything about it, you know it is quite laborious! Finding natural and organic products in a state and city where nontraditional growing is unheard of has proved to be laborious and time-consuming in itself! Sticking closely to other growers and picking their brains is of great value here. However, in the majority of cases we default to online sources. Plants have to be inspected daily for disease & larvae of harmful pests, those are manually removed and depending on the time of the year the plants may be individually sprayed top to bottom with natural pesticides or repellents such as neem oil or insecticidal soap.
A Bain Home Gardener applying Neem to Spinach plants.
Weeding is a very important chore that is manually resolved by hand and/or by applying organic mulching to the ground since herbicides are not an option. Can you imagine the time involved in handling these things? Many days I question my sanity for even trying. Then I see the latest recall on lettuce or hear of horrific side effects of chemicals often used on our food and I’m reminded of why we are doing this. The reality of it all is keeping things small means we can continue growing our own chemical free organic produce.
We have truly enjoyed the diversity of the garden this year. We have grown 5 varieties of basil, 5 varieties of kale, 4 varieties of choi, 2 varieties of corn, 3 varieties of okra, 3 varieties of peas & squash, 8 varieties of beans, 3 varieties of carrots, and 4 varieties of cucumbers just to name a few! (I had to get my log book out for that!) We have found that the diversity makes the harvest all the more exciting. It has also made for some very intriguing, tasty meals! We are finding so many new and interesting vegetables seeds every day! We will likely never visit the parts of the world where these are native but there is no reason we can’t grow a little of the Orient, India, and Australia in our own yard!
Black Summer Choi
As we grow these heirlooms and make them available to our customers we are finding that these are things they have been looking for! Who knew?! However, this is not something we would be able to maintain in a larger scaled operation. The unique customized care required for each new variety would require far more time and energy than we have available. It is acceptable to us to keep things this way. We prefer diversity over quantity.
On the business side of things we really like to talk to and interact with our customers. They have some truly outstanding experiences in what led them to buying, some exclusively, from organic markets. They too have added to our knowledge of how to grow organically & deal with pests & disease organically. The wealth of knowledge here within our customers is a gold mine waiting to be tapped into. Not only that, we really like our customers! I personally like that they know me and I know them. There is a great level of respect that comes with our relationship. Our customers understand what it is to grow organically and that at times we may have lower yields as a result of holding ourselves to a high standard of growing. As one dear customer said, “I’d hate to have you sacrifice quality for quantity.”
So why even address this? Sigh. Bain Home Gardens is different! At times that means we stand out like a sore thumb even among our garden community. That is all right. Our differences add to the diversity of the farming/gardening community – that is our niche. I decided to write this because I thought someone else may look at others blogs or photos and think “I will never get to that scale of gardening!” Even if that is the case, do not give up! We, like many of you, do not have acres upon acres to develop but what we do have is heart, knowledge, and a reason to be successful – family. It may be your health, where you live, your time, your energy, your finances – whatever it is embrace it! Find your niche! If you live in an apartment and grow balcony tomatoes, then make those the sweetest tomatoes ever! Work with what you have and do not feel pressured by any stereotype of what has come to be accepted as traditional or organic farming or gardening. Instead be the prototype! Do you and what is best for your family and that my friends will make you successful in your own right.
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As I did our morning walk through of the garden, I am actually quite surprised that so much is surviving the Southern heat and humidity we have sadly come to accept as normal. There are a few plants that have not only pleased but superseded our expectations. We wanted to share Bain Home Garden’s top 5 favorite plants for the 2018 Spring/Summer growing season.
We got these guys last growing season and planted them late. I was a bit frustrated with how slow the plants grew; we pulled some of the tomatoes right before a freeze but in our effort to ripen them off vine, the little babies went bad. So this Spring we gave it another shot. We planted many different varieties of tomatoes but this one has been by far the tastiest! Much self-control is required to not eat them right from the vine! No lie!
These plants have been extremely productive and disease resistant. When other tomatoes had succumb to heavy rains, the White Cherry Tomato plants survived. Whenever they do actually make it into the house, we chop and add to a tomato, cucumber, onion, and vinegar salsa of sorts. We store in a mason jar in the fridge. Very tasty.
Something you will come to know about me is that I love purple! I’m attracted to most things purple, ESPECIALLY PLANTS! So you already know what happened when I saw these guys! They were pretty prolific producers and added such beauty to the garden this spring! Watching them grow was such a joy! We caught a few of them mid-transition from green to purple. These will be on our regular rotation of peas going forward.
They were so heavy with pods that our trellises had to be reinforced – all to no avail – they just kept falling! It was irritatingly funny! The bees really enjoyed the flowers. The photos just do not do justice!
These peas were pleasantly easy to shell but also stored well in whole pods. We froze a quart and actually just ate them. Mm-mm good!
So these ladies just make me happy! It really looks like an orange growing on a mini tree. In the case of the photo below, it looks like a mini pumpkin! This heirloom eggplant is absolutely gorgeous!
They have not been prolific in production by any means & take forever to begin harvesting, however, the taste is well worth the wait! The skin is tender and the taste is sweeter & far less bitter that other eggplant varieties we have tried over the years! Due to the thinner skin we have found the shelf life to be shorter than other varieties – likely why it is not available in the grocery stores. For you container gardeners out there – this is an excellent selection to become acquainted with. We planted four in pots and they are doing just as well as the ones in the ground.
I had a difficult time keeping these seedling alive but eventually found the recipe for success! Glad I did! These have become my pride and joy this growing season. From India, this heirloom is very resistant to diseases that most cucurbita fall prey to. They mature to a unique russet potato color after going through color changes from green to yellow to an almost golden orange-yellow. While our other cucumbers were being attacked by squash bugs, this plant stood its ground and was unaffected!
Some of the fruit got quite large and from those we made dill pickles but the smaller ones went in to our salsa we referred to earlier. With a taste that is lighter and sweeter than your average cucumber, it really is a good option for ones who haven’t been friends with cucumbers in the past.
Not a spinach at all, this particular plant loves the summer heat & humidity, so we decided to grow it simply because we wanted to ensure we had leafy greens for salads even during summer heat. This is why this selection made our favorite list. In areas that do not have cold winters it is a perennial. It is a vine, yet we have noticed the green variety, because of a thicker stem, can support its own weight without use of a trellis while the red variety definitely needs one. The leaves get VERY LARGE, so much so that there are recipes online for stuffed Malabar Leaves! This is definitely not one for everyone. The leaves are thicker than spinach and have mucilaginous texture that can be off-putting for some. Our Bain Home Garden salad blend, mixes it with other summer lettuces which balances out the flavor very well!
What plants have you found to be prolific or just plain horrible thus far this growing season? Follow us on Facebook and feel free to share your faves and not so favorites with us in the comments sections of this post.
What will we be experimenting with the fall growing season? Stay tuned, this is just about to get FUN!