BHG Home Farming

Three bloggers took on the Home Farming Challenge brought to you by Triscuit and chronicled their journey of growing vegetables for the first time in hopes of winning your vote for the best home farm.

Catherine Davis

Home Farming Challenge–Preparing to Harvest

Written on August 9, 2011 at 1:00 am , by

A little over three months ago I began the process of creating a home farm for my family using raised beds. At that moment, I knew there would be challenges, setbacks and the possibility of failure. What I hadn’t realized at the time is how amazing it would feel to not only learn how to avoid home farming problems but actually overcome those challenges. Yet, I did, all thanks to the Triscuit Home Farming website. Through videos, community questions with expert answers and crop guides, I was able to build, grow and harvest an incredible assortment of vegetables and herbs. While not all of my crop is ready for picking, I want to share with you what has developed in our little backyard oasis.

First, let’s look back at how our home farm began …

And now, our home farm today …

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=my6oydkVj48

As I mentioned in the video, we’ve had such incredible growth with the tomatoes that I wanted to share with our friends and family to avoid letting any go to waste. This past week my parents stopped by to pick a few handfuls of the grape tomatoes for a pasta salad. Next week I’ll be harvesting the onions, carrots, drying herbs and sharing some of our favorite recipes from the farm.

You might also like to know that on August 15th my home farming will be part of a contest where YOU get to vote for your favorite farm. You can visit http://www.bhg.com/blogs/home-farming/ to vote for your favorite very soon, which I of course hope will be mine.



Home Farming Challenge – Training Vertical Vegetable Plants

Written on July 12, 2011 at 1:00 am , by

Two months ago I began my home farming journey with the expectation that if I was lucky, I’d make it through the summer with a few fresh herbs and possibly some cherry tomatoes. At the very least, I was thinking if I failed at everything else, I’d be happy if I came out of this with some fresh salad toppings. What I hadn’t expected was my home farm to not only survive the unpredictable spring weather but to truly thrive.

Tomato plants that went in the ground just a few inches tall have now grown to monstrous bushes producing dozens of tomatoes. The grape tomato plant even has large bell shaped tomatoes just days away from being fully ripe.

Orange-Grape-Tomatoes-Garden

Our larger Better Boy and Big Boy tomatoes have begun to grow in abundance. Each tomato plant already has over a dozen tomatoes growing and we’ve got five eager mouths ready to eat them. Unfortunately, we have a few more weeks to go before they’ll fully ripen.

Green-Big-Boy-Tomatoes-Garden

You may have noticed that we have large sticks poking up through our raised bed farm. We’ve been training the tomato plants to grow vertically so we can maximize our garden space. According to the Home Farming 101 resource you can use stakes with soft ties or a store bought trellis. We decided to take a budget friendly route by using cheap lumber, hand sawing the end to create a point and old pillow cases torn up in thin strips. Heavy branches of the tomato plants are gently tied to the stakes to encourage the plants to grow vertically rather than outwards.

Vertical-tomato-plants-raised-garden

In addition to our vertical plants, our underground vegetables are doing quite well. The onions are beginning to emerge through the soil with large healthy bulbs. Even the turnips I planted a few weeks ago are beginning to mature.

Garden-Yellow-Onions

Keep an eye out later this week for my herb farm update where I’ll be sharing how I’ll be storing fresh herbs and drying ones to add to my spice rack.

Home Farming Blogger Challenge Journeys

DisclosureThis is a compensated, sponsored post for Triscuit. All ideas, thoughts, experiences are my own. Be sure to check out my posts as well as the other bloggers participating in this challenge on Better Homes and Garden’s Home Farming Challenge page.

Home Farming Challenge – Pesticide Free Farming

Written on June 21, 2011 at 1:00 am , by

I first started the home farming challenge with grand ideas of growing an entirely organic farm from soil to seed. Unfortunately, to keep costs as low as possible we had to forgo a few organic choices in our product selections.

One thing I am doing to keep our garden healthy and our produce pesticide free is using natural pest deterrents. Using the Triscuit Home Farming Community Q&A as a resource, I found a few suggestions on how to keep pests out of my home farm without using pesticides including:

  • Garlic – randomly planted throughout a home farm, garlic helps deter pests that attack cabbage and is said to have natural fungicidal and pesticidal properties.
  • Marigold Flowers – planted along the perimeter of a vegetable farm, annual marigolds deter squash bugs, thrips, tomato hornworms, and whiteflies.

While it’s not an option for some home farmers, our best defense against rabbits and small animals are the family pets. Claude and Ray, our one year old kitties not only use the topsoil as a cool place to take a nap but keep the hungry rabbits away from our young tomato plants.

From Home Farming 101

Throughout the entire process from planting to growing my vegetable crop I’ve been using the Home Farming 101 resource to learn the basics of how to plant and maintain my farm. One section I’ve recently found particularly helpful is on how to prevent pests and diseases.

There are several ways to triumph over pests without toxic pesticides! There are organic sprays available that are effective and safe. You can also mix your own anti-pest formula. Try mixing water with crushed garlic, hot pepper, or pulverized onion and spraying it on your plants.

Since we began treating our garden with organic pest preventatives, our plants and vegetables have grown even more incredibly than I would have imagined. Years ago our first home farm was taken over by pests and worms. As you can see from the photos below, we are having no such problems this year. Our grape tomato plants have sprouted their first green tomatoes.

The mixture of red and yellow onion bulbs have started to grow so big they are emerging through the topsoil.

Even the peppermint that started out as a small plant with only a few leaves has grown into a robust bush that I plan to harvest soon to extract the oils for candy making.

In the coming weeks I hope with any luck, we’ll have some ripe tomatoes to enjoy at the family table. In the meantime, feel free to browse our farm fresh recipes we’ve created using what seems like, an endless supply of herbs.

Home Farming Blogger Challenge Journeys

DisclosureThis is a compensated, sponsored post for Triscuit. All ideas, thoughts, experiences are my own. Be sure to check out my posts as well as the other bloggers participating in this challenge on Better Homes and Garden’s Home Farming Challenge page.

Home Farming Challenge – Cooking with Fresh Herbs

Written on May 31, 2011 at 1:00 am , by

If you’ve been following along with my home farming journey, you may remember that just a few weeks ago we began planting our cool weather vegetables. Fortunately, our spring weather has been a nice mix of cooler than average temperatures with plenty of rain to give our vegetables a nice start. In fact, they’ve grown so tremendously the raised bed farm is almost unrecognizable since my last home farming update.

Watch as I give you a quick walk through our vegetable farm to see how our plants have grown.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ib1Xu4lNQz4

Cooking with Fresh Herbs

Over the past several weeks I’ve begun exploring new flavors with the help of my herb farm which are not only adding low calorie flavors to my dishes but are allowing me to experiment with herbs I’ve never tried before. I started with a summertime favorite, Herb Deviled Eggs, and kicked up the old recipe with a fresh burst of earthy flavors using fresh chives, flat leaf parsley and cilantro. The best part was being able to step out my backdoor and pluck the herbs right from the raised bed farm. My kids especially loved the updated chicken-n-dumpling dish that I kicked up a notch with fresh rosemary dumplings.

plated-deviled-eggs-with-herbs chicken-and-rosemary-dumplings

I have to say, as much as love to eat the herbs, I love the way they make my hands smell after cutting them even more. The earthy fragrances quickly fill up a kitchen with such wonderful smells. This of course won’t be the last you hear of our herb adventures because as more of our crop continues to grow I’ll be using the Triscuit Home Farming Recipe Collection to try out some of the fresh recipes available. The moment my tomatoes begin to ripen I’ll be diving right into the Fresh Tomato Salsa Recipe from Kraft.

Home Farming Blogger Challenge Journeys

Home Farming Challenge | Cool Weather Vegetable Planting

Written on May 10, 2011 at 1:00 am , by

Having spent the majority of my life living in Illinois, I know how unpredictable spring weather can be. As eager as I was to begin planting all of my vegetables after constructing our raised bed farm, I quickly learned that our drastic weather changes in the past few weeks were not going to cooperate with my tomato planting plans. Instead, I used the Home Farming Vegetable & Herb Guide to learn about which vegetables would grow best during these cooler weeks.

There are three vegetables I discovered that thrive in this cooler weather and they just happen to be three of my absolute favorite vegetables to cook – broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. Looking at the HomeFarming.com Planting Guide I discovered that these vegetables will do well in our cool Spring months and likely won’t be ready to harvest until late summer, at which time I’ll be making good use of the cabbage for my mother’s stuffed cabbage rolls recipe.

Having divided our raised bed farm into 3 sections, I used one of the legs of our L-shaped farm bed for planting broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and two rows of red and yellow onions.


One the opposite end of my raised bed farm, I created an area just for fresh herbs to use throughout the summer to add fresh flavors into our family meals. In fact, I started using the rosemary last week when I sprinkled some of the fresh leaves on top of our broccoli cheddar chicken crescent braid.

You may have noticed that our herbs have grown far beyond what would have been expected from the seeds I started weeks ago. Well, living the life of “3 Kids and Us”, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of our toddlers got into the seeds and pulled all of the new sprouts. Knowing it would be nearly impossible to keep the delicate seedlings away from our curious toddlers, I decided to purchase more mature herbs that were ready for planting.


Unfortunately, our seedlings weren’t the only casualty in the past weeks. Due to heavy rains and winds, my sweet basil plant died as well. Thankfully, my wonderful mother brought over some of her mint to transplant into my farm.

In the coming weeks I’ll start working on filling the rest of our farm space which will include bell peppers and my personal favorite, tomatoes! Until then, I hope you’ll take a moment to join the Triscuit Home Farming Community where you can track your farming progress, ask farming questions and use the plethora of farming resources at your fingertips.

Also, if you’ve started a home farm whether it is in containers, a ground plot or a raised bed like mine, I’d love to hear about the progress you’re making!

Home Farming Blogger Challenge Journeys

#HomeFarmingDay Challenge – Building a Raised Farm Bed

Written on April 19, 2011 at 1:00 am , by

Now that we are well into April, I’m really excited to share with you my home farming updates, which include the construction of our raised bed farm and seed planting. Before diving right into the construction process, I think it’s important you know that as a family, we are novices in the world of home farming. My one previous attempt at a vegetable farm was a sad, very sad attempt that resulted in very few crops to harvest and an abundance of pests. My hope is that if you are a first time home farmer, you’ll be able to learn from my experiences as I dive into this project with no more knowledge or experience than what HomeFarming.com has provided me with.

With my “big brown thumb” disclaimer out of the way, I want to share our raised bed farm. Building this with the help of my father was an amazing experience that left me feeling like I can do anything.

The tools and materials we used to build our raised bed frame to create approximately 80 cubic feet of farming space, included:

  • (3) – 2 x 12 x 8 untreated pine boards
  • (2) – 2 x 12 x 12 untreated pine boards
  • 1 box of 3 inch outdoor wood screws, 18 screws used
  • (6) corner wood braces
  • 1 box of 1-1/2 inch outdoor wood screws, 18 screws used
  • power drill with drill bit

Pic1_raised-bed-garden-supplies-and-tools

Being the adventurous, overachieving kind of person that I am, I chose to go outside the box so to speak and create an L-shaped raised bed farm to fit in the corner of our property. Not only does it conserve space usage but it becomes an appealing part of our landscaping.

Together, we simply pre-drilled 3 holes at the corners of each piece of lumber and used 3 screws (per corner) to join the frame, with the help of my daughters passing out screws of course.

Pic2_Raised-Bed-Garden-Toddler-Helpers

During the construction process we questioned the ability of the frame to withstand the pressure the soil would place on it so we added braces to each corner to help provide support. It’s an inexpensive addition to the raised bed frame that just may save you a disaster later on!

Pic3_Raised-Bed-Garden-Corner-Brace

One thing we quickly learned through this process is that building a raised bed farm is without a doubt, a two person job! While shopping for our lumber we noticed that it is rare to find a board that is perfectly straight. While we were finishing the last few corners, it was necessary to have one person bend and hold a board in place while the other person drilled and placed the screws. It was a relatively easy process that I think any person capable of lifting heavy boards could do!

Pic4_L-shaped-raised-bed-garden-frame

For our family, one of the best things about creating a home farm, aside from the vegetables, is the fact that it’s an educational family activity. Throughout the process my 9 year old son has learned basic tool skills, a few math and geometry lessons while building the frame and the concept of manual labor. As a parent, I understand the importance of education and more so, the importance of hands on learning, outside of the classroom.

Pic5_Family-Gardening-Project

The biggest tip I can share as part of this initial process is to search your local paper for supplies! A raised bed farm doesn’t have to be expensive; in fact, we’re completing this project under $300. Our biggest money saving purchase, especially with a raised bed farm of this size, is to skip buying the bagged soil. Many contractors and farmers have premium garden soil for sale that can be purchased by the truckload at a much more reasonable price.

We reached out to D & L Contractors in the Springfield, IL area who provided us with 80 cubic feet of soil, which they delivered, for only $125. Compared to buying bagged soil, we saved over $300 and filled our raised bed with premium, black top soil. Also, with the advice from Home Farming expert, Paul James, we are adding organic matter to prepare our raised bed soil properly.

Pic6_L-Shaped-Raised-Bed-Garden

We also tested our soil to determine the PH and nutrient levels, which revealed that the Nitrogen is Medium, the Potash is Low, the PH level is Neutral and the Phosphorus is Very Low. To provide lots of nutrients for the vegetable plants, we’ll be incorporating mushroom compost. Plus we’ll add peat moss into the soil, which helps loosen up the soil.

Pic7_home-farm-soil-test-kit-colors

I have to say, the best part of this experience for me so far has been planting the seeds. I may have gone a little overboard with my selections but I really wanted a variety of fresh herbs and vegetables available to me throughout the summer. About half of our home farm was started by seeds in Peat Soil Pellets and the rest will be planted as small plants in the coming weeks.

The variety of vegetables and herbs we are growing includes:

  • Herbs – Mint, Rosemary, Sweet Basil, Parsley, Cilantro, Chives, Oregano, Lavender, Spearmint
  • Seed Veggies – Chili Peppers, a variety of Carrots, Romaine Lettuce
  • Plant Veggies – a variety of Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, Garlic, Onions
  • Pic8_seeds-labeled-in-jiffy-pellets

In addition to the construction of our raised bed farm and seed planting, we also got a bit crafty with the addition of vegetable markers to not only help identify the vegetables and herbs we’re growing but to create a more visually appealing farm space.

Pic9_vegetable-garden-markers

Now that all of the construction is behind us, I’m more excited than ever to see how our farm will grow in the coming weeks. If you’d like to follow my journey and frequent updates, be sure to follow @3kidsandus and the #HomeFarmingDay hashtag on Twitter.

Home Farming Blogger Challenge Journeys

-Catherine

DisclosureThis is a compensated, sponsored post for Triscuit. All ideas, thoughts, experiences are my own. Be sure to check out my posts as well as the other bloggers participating in this challenge on Better Homes and Garden’s Home Farming Challenge page.

Catherine Joined the Home Farming Movement

Written on April 9, 2011 at 1:00 am , by

You may or may not know that April 12th is Home Farming Day. Not only is it a day to kick off a new planting season but it’s an entire movement involving the creation of home farms across the country, including a live Plantathon in New York City and the community groundbreakings in Tampa and L.A.

To help families like my own begin the experience of growing our own herbs and vegetables, the Triscuit Home Farming website was launched. For me, this has become quite a valuable resource as I navigate the ins and outs of developing my very own raised bed vegetable home farm. During my home farming trial, I’ll be sharing my progress from the moment we created the raised bed to the day we start harvesting crops, all of which I’d love to tell you more about in the video introduction below.

Years ago, I attempted a vegetable garden that not only produced very little crop but was taken over by weeds, insects and the neighborhood herd of rabbits. The important (and expensive) lesson I learned that year was that vegetable farming requires knowledge and dedication. In an effort to truly create a vegetable farm that can produce crops to supplement and in some instances, even replace our grocery expenses; we’re relying on the expertise of Triscuit Home Farming expert, Paul James. He has created an amazing collection of home farming videos that not only tell you how to properly create and nurture a farm but show you how to.

WIN THE ULTIMATE HOME FARM

To celebrate the new planting season, the Triscuit Home Farming Sweepstakes is giving a lucky entrant $1,000 to create their own ultimate home farm. Can you even imagine how much food you could grow for your family with that kind of farm? I can! In the next few months, I’ll be sharing my own home farming journey with just a $300 budget and let me tell you that can create quite the starter vegetable home farm for even our large family of five.

-Cat