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.

home farming

Vote For Your Favorite Home Farm!

Written on August 15, 2011 at 10:00 am , by

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:

Peabody Rudd

Catherine Davis

Annie Shultz

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Click here to vote!

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.



A Few Things I Learned From Home Farming This Year

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

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!

Contain This: Celebrate!

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

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.

You Win Some, You Lose Some

Written on July 26, 2011 at 1:00 am , by

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?

Contain This: Setbacks

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

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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.

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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.

HomeFarmJuly11

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!

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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.



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.

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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.

Oven roasted kohlrabi, fresh from the home farm

Written on July 5, 2011 at 1:00 am , by

My favorite time of day to go check on my home farm is early in the morning. The kids are still sleeping, the birds are chirping cheerily, and the grass is wet with fresh dew. Everything seems so new, so clean. Peacefully, I walk through the rows of my home farm. I giggle as I glance at what we are growing.

I do not know how to cook half of it!

Thankfully there are plenty of recipe ideas at homefarming.com.  It is my go-to resource, since not once have I purchased or prepared fennel, kohlrabi, cabbage, or tomatillos.  Below, I will share how I prepared the kohlrabi – and I bet you will love it!

When I took Lizzie and David out to see the home farm progress, they measured the success and learned the names of all the plants.

I am slightly disappointed with the lack of progress some plants are making – namely my broccoli, cauliflower and cilantro.  The cilantro already went to seed and the broccoli and cauliflower are not blossoming at all.

Our carrots are still itty bitty! Look how cute this one is in Lizzie’s hand! According to Home Farming, the carrots will probably take another month or so to mature. I cannot wait!

We found a kohlrabi bulb that was fully matured and picked it! The leaves are very large, and we discard them into our compost bin. Lizzie was ecstatic with her job of carrying this odd vegetable back to the house.

Once inside, I read that oven roasting Kohlrabi with seasoning salt and parmesan cheese is a popular way to prepare it.

Small slices cook faster! And we have some hungry kids

Toss the slices in olive oil and seasoning salt! Others suggested salt, pepper, paprika and garlic. This brand of seasoning salt has those ingredients and a few others in it.

Bake for 10-15 minutes at 450 degrees.  Take it out, turn the slices, sprinkle the parmesan cheese and bake for another 5 minutes.

My kids ate them up! I was thrilled because kohlrabi is an excellent source of vitamin C, dietary fiber and potassium.

Now I am dying for my other veggies to grow! I cannot wait to pick fresh green beans, cucumbers and tomatoes!

Contain This: Floral Arrangements

Written on June 28, 2011 at 1:00 am , by

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First off I want to say that who needs a traditional flower garden when you can have a Home Farm? Not only has having a Home Farm on my patio brought lush green to gaze upon (as well as all the salad greens I need), but many of those herbs and plants also produce flowers. Some of those flowers, like the one pictured above, are even edible as well. In fact, every flowering plant I chose for my Home Farm is edible.

In case you are wondering what the lovely yellow flowers above are, they come from arugula, also called rocket in the UK…my former neighbor is from Britain and she was more than excited to learn they were the same thing as she was wondering why there was no rocket here in the states. My particular flowers are yellow, but I am told they are often white. I’m happy to get the yellow as they add a pop to my lovely farm. Normally you want to remove the flowers but I am trying to promote bees to come on by since my strawberries don’t seem to want to produce any fruit and my local garden store guy suggested promoting bees. The arugula flowers go nicely in salads and add a beautiful and summery touch, perfect to serve at a dinner party. Though keep in mind, that just like arugula itself, the flowers also have a spicy, peppery flavor.

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The other two flowers that are adding beauty to my Home Farm are chive blossoms, which I have had for some time now and pea blossoms. The chive blossoms produce a gorgeous purple color and can be used basically where you would put onion, for just like the arugula flowers take on the flavor of the arugula, the chive blossom takes on the flavor of the chive, though slightly less pungent. I personally like to scramble them into my eggs. Looks a little odd, but tastes really good. You want to take your chive blossoms off as they grow, if left on the plant they will go to seed and stop producing chives.

pic3-homefarmjune183Pea blossoms, though edible (note that flowering ornamental sweet peas are poisonous so do not eat if that is the kind you have) I won’t be using them, for if you take away your pea blossoms you will diminish your pea harvest and I don’t want that.

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And while all of the flowers are pretty, it was one, not so pretty flower that had me the most excited of all…my broccoli. That’s right, broccoli is a flower…kind of. The broccoli parts that we eat are called florets. Each floret has the potential of opening a tiny flower. When broccoli goes to flowering, it has bolted and is not edible. Bolting means the plant has finished its reproductive cycle and is now going to make seeds (just like the chives). This I think is going to be the hard part for me. I am not sure totally how large my broccoli is going to get before I harvest it. According to the Triscuit Home Farming website (crop guide), broccoli takes 112 days till harvest, but I have a slightly different variety, one that is more forgiving to the Pacific Northwest Weather. For right now I will just play it by ear. No matter what, I was mostly just excited that for the first time ever I got a vegetable to grow! No, like really excited. Called my mom excited, yes I am a nerd.

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.