Winter gardening – green onions

Winter gardening - growing green onions indoorsI’m getting restless. Seed catalogs have been coming in the mail and I’m chomping at the bit to start a garden. Some days the weather is so nice that I’m tempted to start now, at least with some kale or spinach. I’m also feeling kind of guilty – last year we didn’t have any garden. At all. So as someone who professes to be as self sufficient as possible, it’s kind of driving me nuts that I can’t garden. I did buy an indoor grow light to try my hand at micro greens, but that’s in the garage where it’s still getting as low as 16┬░ F some nights. Well, last night right out of the blue my wife asked if we could try growing some green onions inside. Really??? Not just yes, but oh HECK YES…

Baby steps…

The thing is, my wife isn’t a prepper. In fact she has a really bad case of normalcy bias. Also she let me convert our living room into a home gym last year, so I wasn’t going to ask for more space in the house to experiment with an indoor winter garden. So when she asked about growing green onions, indoors, now… it was kind of a miracle. As far as prepping goes, growing green onions in our kitchen isn’t a big deal. Almost nothing in fact. But… baby steps, you know? It gets my wife interested in producing some of our own food. It gives us experience with indoor gardening during the winter. And, well., it should be fun…

Winter gardening – green onions

Green onions are really easy to grow. You don’t even have to start with transplant sets, let alone seeds. We just went to Walmart and got a pack of green onions. Make sure to get ones that aren’t trimmed – they need to still have the roots on the bottom of the bulb.

green onions ready to plant
Tops trimmed, ready to plant. Make sure to not trim the roots on the bottom of the bulb.

You don’t need to make this complicated. The soil needs to be at least 4″ deep, but deeper than 6″ is a waste. Home Depot and Lowes have 6″ deep x 6″ wide x 24″ long rectangular planters that would be perfect. We just used a plastic dish pan I had in the garage. Soil should be something that drains well. I had a bag of potting soil in the garage so I used some of that.

green onions planted
We planted ours in an old plastic dish pan. Make sure the bulb is covered by the soil with the leaf part of the plant above the soil.

Once you have your pots and soil set up, just plant the onions so the transition between the bulb and the leaves is level with the top of the soil. You might be asking “What’s the point? You just stuck some already grown plants into some soil. You could have just eaten them as is without the extra trouble.” If I was eating the whole plant, you’d be right. The nice thing about green onions though is if you just cut the leaves, they’ll keep growing back. So we’ll have green onion leaves as long as I can keep the plants alive.

Peace out,

Feral Gardening

feral gardeningEvery month in The Backwoodsman there’s a little text box with requests from readers. A request I’ve seen in the past few issues is for an article on feral gardening. I decided to check it out. My raised bed garden was an epic fail this year, so maybe it’s time to try something new. I tried Googling “feral gardening” and got almost nothing (it’s strange when even Google has nothing). OK, so what is feral gardening? Well, I know what feral means so I’ll go with that. According to my dictionary, feral means “in a wild state, especially after escape from captivity or domestication” or “in an un-kept state.” So I guess feral gardening means growing a garden that takes care of itself.

A garden that takes care of itself?

That doesn’t make sense. I can’t get vegetables to grow when I try really hard to take care of them. How are they going to grow with no care? Then I remembered a house we bought a few years ago. It had been foreclosed on, and empty for 2 years. The lawn was dead from not being watered and the yard was overgrown with weeds. When we cleared the weeds though, we found 2 grape vines. They looked healthy, and even had a few grapes on them. I didn’t know it then, but this was an example of feral gardening.

The next summer I was pulling weeds. My wife told me to save some of them. Huh??? I took one of the ones she wanted me to save to work to ask a friend about it. Turned out to be something called red root pigweed. It grows very well with no care and people do eat it. I tried some and it didn’t make me sick. Tastes kind of like chicken (not really). This year we dedicated half of a raised bed to it. Other edible feral plants I’ve found in our yard are purslane and dandelions. The purslane is kind of slimy when cooked but dandelion is actually pretty tasty (a little bitter though).

What about real crops?

OK so weeds grow really good without any work. That’s not exactly a news flash. What about real food crops? Well, I know that grapes will grow well with little or no care. Salsify will too, and will self-seed every year. Blackberries and boysenberries will pretty much grow wild. I don’t know any others off the top of my head, but I’m researching it. I’m guessing that any open pollinated veggie plant that’s drought resistant would be worth trying. I’ll be playing with some varieties next summer.

I think the best thing about feral gardening is you don’t have to limit it to your yard. If you don’t need to water, you don’t need it close to a house. There’s a big field near my house and I plan on doing a lot of my experimenting there.

Peace out,

Growing vegetables in small spaces

growing vegetables in small spacesOne advantage of being a backyardsman over a backwoodsman – it’s easier to grow vegetables in your back yard than it is in the back woods. Even if your yards is small you probably have room to grow some. Growing vegetables in small spaces is easy if you know how. It also doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Here are some tips I’ve learned on growing vegetables in small spaces.

Planning a small space vegetable garden

I do lots of reading on urban gardening and small space gardening, and all I can say is most people’s idea of a small garden is huge compared to the space I have. Either that, or they’re talking about a garden that’s mostly ornamental and doesn’t produce a lot of vegetables. That’s not what I want. Gardening is relaxing, but I want more out of it than “just” relaxation. To me, that means fresh produce.

The first thing is to figure out how to get the most production out of your available space. This was hard for me since I don’t want my back yard to be all vegetables. I want to keep my brush pile. I’m planning on putting in a pond, a fire pit, and a shed. I want to have room to pitch a tent or set up a poncho hootch. It needs to keep enough of a natural look to attract wildlife (mainly rabbits and quail). Oh, and it all needs to fit in a yard that’s only 40′ x 60′, with a good chunk of that taken up by a concrete patio.

Raised beds and container gardening

After my experience last year, I’m convinced raised beds and containers are best for growing vegetables in small spaces. The squash plants we had in raised beds out-produced the ones in the ground by at least 3 times. In fact, the winter squash we planted directly in the ground didn’t produce at all. The plants we had in raised beds also took less water, and we didn’t have any problems with weeds. The only downsides to raised beds are that they’re not portable and they can be expensive. We paid $50 each for ours, which was cheaper than I could have bought the lumber and built them myself for.

Not all vegetables need the space of a raised bed though, and container gardening works great for those. The nice thing about container gardening is it’s easy to move your garden around if you need to rearrange your space. Also, containers can be cheap or even free. We grew our pole beans, snap peas, and tomatoes in containers last year. Most of the containers were gotten free from local landscaping companies doing work around the neighborhood (tip – landscaping companies can also be a good source for free grass clippings).

If you’re looking for ideas for containers or beds, check out the Urban Gardening section at Gardener’s Supply. Don’t buy their stuff – it’s too expensive – just check it out for ideas. Then build your own…

Pick the right plants

My dad was an avid gardener. He and my mom had a 1 acre lot that was devoted mostly to a big garden. There was no shady fence surrounding it, so the entire garden got full sun all day. There was s stream for irrigation. With no space constraints, no shade to worry about, and free water, they could pretty much plant whatever they wanted. Well, at least as long as it was suitable for the high desert climate we lived in.

If you’re growing vegetables in small spaces, like an urban garden, you won’t have that luxury. Pick you plants wisely. It’s easy to say just get dwarf varieties but doing that won’t automatically give you big crops from small spaces. When choosing your vegetables, look at how prolific each variety is and not just size of the grown plants. Sometimes the seed sellers will label varieties that do well in containers. The morning and afternoon shade you probably have in your yard seems to have the same effect as a shorter growing season, so favor varieties that have a shorter required growing season. I’m a seed saver, so I try to only use open pollinated seed. If all you care about is production, hybrid seed should be OK.

Finding more space to grow vegetables

Another trend that seems to be popular is Square Foot Gardening. I had the book, read the book, and it’s very interesting. If I had even less space than I do, I would definitely try it. Other ideas to try are vertical gardening, hanging pots, indoor gardening, or guerrilla┬á gardening. Get out and explore your Area of Operation (AO). Unless you live in a very urban environment, chances are good you’ll find at least a couple places to do a little “stealth gardening”.

I plan on writing about this a lot on The Backyardsman, so check back often. I have lots of ideas to try and hopefully lots more tips to pass on. Until next time…

Peace out,