This April-Better Homes and Gardens and Triscuit challenged three bloggers to grow their own home farm this year–for the first time–and let us tag along through their struggles and successes.
We watched as Peabody efficiently used the small space on her balcony to supply a meal throughout the season.
Catherine wisely enlisted the help from her family to build a raised bed for her residential home farm.
And Annie learned quickly how to out-smart her surrounding wildlife within her rural setting.
From now until August 31st we’d like you to vote for your favorite home farm! Here’s a look back at each blogger’s home farm:
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 …
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.
We are almost at the end of my posts. It makes me slightly sad that my home farm posts are coming to an end so early in the summer. I still have lots of food growing – including honeydew and watermelons!
We had so much fun watching the plants grow from seeds to large plants to delicious vegetables! I am still floored at the bushiness of our tomato plants! We are picking handfuls of tomatoes every single day. I am so glad Josh planted a variety of tomato plants – from sugary cherry tomatoes to yellow pear tomatoes to heritage ones. Having a variety of them makes them much more fun to eat (and pick).
A few things I learned:
- Do you know how to tell when your corn is ready to be harvested? The raccoons knock the plants down and eat them!
- Just because bugs didn’t eat your plants last year, does not mean you don’t have to take preventative steps this year. Many of my veggie plants suffered at the ravenous appetite of some “very hungry caterpillars.”
- It is possible to over-water cucumbers.
- The weather can render useless all your hard work.
These are all wonderful lessons that I will put into practice next year. And here I was thinking the deer was my most difficult pest! Despite these disappointments, we harvested buckets of tomatoes, peppers, and beans. And we were able to harvest about five ears of corn before that underhanded raccoon thief got to them.
Did you learn any lessons you will be putting into practice next year?
This series of home farm posts was part of me joining Triscuit and Better Homes and Gardens blogger home farming challenge. On August 15th, I will be asking for your votes so I can win the challenge. First place wins $1,000 and a Better Homes and Gardens farming tools set – I’d love to win, please vote on 8/15!
Hard to believe that my Home Farm project is coming to an end (well, not really, I still plan to keep my farm up but the posts are coming to an end) and on August 15th I will be telling you how you can go and vote for my farm as your favorite (which I hope it is!). As you can see Crazy Cocker Spaniel is all too happy to celebrate the crops that my little patio home farm produced. She loves to go out with me every day when I water and try and steal snap peas when I am not looking. She is begging for one in the picture (and yes, she in on her hind legs).
Obviously my dog is not the only one celebrating my harvest. My friends have more than benefitted from my home farm project. I have kept my friends (as well as myself) fully supplied in pretty much all the romaine lettuce, parsley, chives, and arugula one could possibly want. Seriously, I swear it grows as I am cutting it down.
One thing that I don’t have yet are strawberries, you can see from the picture though that they want to come out for me, just not quite yet. But my friend C already got hers and so we traded some of her produce from her farm to mine. So she gave me a few of her strawberries (she didn’t have a ton) and I gave her some red leaf lettuce. Which we then turned into a salad with the lettuce, her strawberries, some pecans, and a lemon thyme (also from my farm) and Blue Cheese Dressing. Quite tasty.
My broccoli seems to have slowed down production, as has my Swiss chard and peas. Right now I am just holding out for the strawberries and plan on planting sage this coming week because I love it in fall foods. I will never buy romaine lettuce in the summer again as I have learned that my little plant that cost me a whopping $1.50 has kept me in lettuce since April. And I eat a salad almost every day. Same for my spinach which I use in my smoothies every morning. Four months’ worth of food for $3.00 is pretty amazing!
Like I mentioned in the first paragraph, starting in just a few weeks (8-15 through 8-30) you will be able to vote for my farm. I will be competing with two other bloggers for your favorite farm. For those of you who always say you wish you could help me out financially but don’t have the money yourself, this will be a great way for you to help me! And when you vote you will be entered into a sweepstakes. It’s win-win.
Hopefully those of you with a home farm of your own are having as much success as I am. And if you are celebrate that! If you don’t have a home farm, hopefully my little adventure can be inspiring to you! I know it’s been an inspiring journey for me.
If you are interested in seeing other ideas, please visit the other bloggers who are participating in the Home Farming Movement which you can find at the Better Homes and Gardens Home Farming Challenge Page.
When I planted my home farm, I had big dreams. With a huge plot of land as my home farm, I thought I would be harvesting bushels of produce, more than my family could ever eat! We planted a large variety of vegetables – carrots, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, okra, tomatillo, peas, green beans, kohlrabi, beets, broccoli, cauliflower and radishes – just to name a few.
This was my first venture into home farming, and it was a learning experience for me. I lost quite a few plants and will take this wisdom with me into next year when I plant my home farm again.
Weather is a variable out of my control, and it affected many of my plants. My cilantro bolted for the extremely high temperatures and I had to replant my cucumbers that died in the late frost. Bugs were another plant-killer. Caterpillars ate clear through all my broccoli and cauliflower leaves. I should have read the pesticide free tips from HomeFarming.com. Cat did and her plants grew big and healthy! At least our fence kept the deer out, so we had a fighting chance.
Despite my lack of carrots and onions, my home farm is bushing up nicely. Go on a walk with me through my home farm! I’ll show off how we are doing!
I was not kidding – we have loads of tomato plants! They are tall and thick too. We have all sorts of tomato plants – from cherry tomatoes to giant ones. I check on them daily, ready to pluck the first, juicy, red tomato I find! So far they are all still green. I can just taste the BLT now!
My tomatillos are almost ready to be harvested! You know a tomatillo is ready when the husk is paper thin and almost a brown color. Tomatillos are excellent in homemade salsa and other mexican dishes. I am so excited to try them!
My corn is almost ready too! Josh and I planted two different types of sweet corn in two areas of the home farm. We spaced the planting of the corn far enough apart hoping to prevent cross pollination during tasseling. Unfortunately, the first corn we planted took too long to shoot up and now they are at about the same stage of growth. I am sure they will still be sweet & tasty.
One thing a home farm is good for is improving your sense of humor! Volunteer squash plants surprise us every year. This year we have more than normal because we had a 4 year old and a 2 year old helping us plant the seeds, and they dropped a few along the way. I am anxious to see these bear fruit so I can know what they are!
I had a cute chuckle from this poor little zucchini! The fruit was smooshed under the vine, but it grew around it! I have to admit, I have never seen a crooked zucchini before!
And these are my favorites! I actually nabbed a photo of a bunch of beans together before the kids ate them all. Every time the kids go to the home farm with us, they pick a green bean and eat it. This leaves very few beans for me to actually harvest, but I don’t mind, since they are actually eating their veggies! Isn’t the purple one gorgeous? It is called ‘Royal Burgandy’. The outside has a slightly more velvety texture and it tastes a tiny bit sweeter than the green ones. It is the one the kids eat the most of, since it is so pretty and tastes better, so I was lucky to get one in the picture!
How is your home farm growing? What learning experiences happened this year to your plants?
Well, I am 3 months into my Home Farm project and even with some recent setbacks I can say that I am still overjoyed with what my Home Farm has taught me (and produced) this summer. Setbacks you say? Yep.
My first setback was one I didn’t account for as I always assumed that sun and warmth would be a good thing. And while they are to some degree, we had one really warm day which produced me a TON of snap peas (peas for Peabody!!!) but also caused my broccoli to form flowers. Once the broccoli grows flowers you can’t eat it. As you can see from the picture I got flowers. Luckily for me though I still had quite a few other stalks, though I panicked at the idea of not getting to use them. So I probably prematurely chopped some of them to make soup. But I wasn’t missing my chance to make Broccoli Cheddar Soup with broccoli from my very own patio! So even though many of my plants when planted said that they needed 5-6 hours of sun, they seem to like the rainy overcast weather better.
Setback number two I definitely did NOT account for was that my Home Farm is doing SO well that I am running out of space. Things are growing much faster than I can eat them or the plant is getting so large and mingling over with other plants. While I love the growth I only have so much space to work with, especially now that I own a grill that is out there as well.
Setback number three is that the majority of my plants that were planted in small pots have reached their demise (moment of silence please). The only survivors were the mint, because mint I believe is the cockroach of the herb world, you have to work hard to kill it off. So I bought another big pot (this was before I got a BBQ) and plan on planting something new. Suggestions? What do you all think? What would you like to see me try and grow?
Despite my few setbacks I am not giving up. This is after all an experiment of sorts and you are going to have the good with the bad and you learn from all of it! How about you? How is your Home Farm coming along? If you don’t have one, summer is only half way done, if you did plants and not seeds, you could still join the Triscuit Home Farm movement!
Broccoli Cheese Soup
1 TBSP unsalted butter, melted
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup flour
2 cups half-and-half cream
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 lb. fresh broccoli
1 cup carrots, julienned
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
8 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese (use GOOD quality cheese)
salt and pepper
Sauté onion in 1 TBSP butter. Set aside.
Cook 1/4 cup melted butter and flour using a whisk over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Stir constantly and add the half & half.
Add the vegetable stock. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the broccoli, carrots and onions. Cook over low heat 20-25 minutes.
Add salt and pepper. Can be puréed in a blender but I don’t. Return to heat and add cheese. Stir in nutmeg.
Recipe adapted from Panera Bread Company
If you are interested in seeing other ideas, please visit the other bloggers who are participating in the Home Farming Movement which you can find here at the Better Homes and Gardens Home Farming Challenge Page.