February q's and A's

By JM Davis



Hello, I’m Janet Davis and welcome to Food Plus Freedom Podcast. Today is February 27th, 2024 Episode 22, Today is our February 2024 Q’s and A’s. Each month we answer the top questions that come our way from you.This month it just is it’s all about gardening.

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Don’t forget to stay to the end for the tip of the day. 
Now on with the show

Episode 22, February 2024 Gardening questions won out for this month. Each month, we answer the top questions we are asked. If you have a homestead or food freedom question, send it to us at support@foodplusfreedom.com We will respond to you personally and if it’s one of the top questions, we will also put it on our Q and A.

Today we have five questions and answers, plus a quick tip of the day for you. At it’s all about gardening. 

#1) What do I need to start container gardening? A container, soil, seeds, light, water and a place to set your container.

Let’s define a container garden. I know that sounds funny, but lets define it anyhow. Yes,  its a garden you grow in containers and not in the ground. Plus it’s not permanent. Which can be perfect for so many people. If you don’t own your own space it’s perfect because you can move it. If you do own your own space, it’s perfect because it gives you the flexibility to move your garden around until you figure out where you want to grow things. Plus, if you have critters to keep your garden away from like deer, it’s easy to pull it up onto a porch. So you get more food then they do. 

One of my friends used soft sided grow bags to grow her veggies in until she knew where she wanted to put permanent structures. Plus, she was able to move the grow bags to gain optimal growth throughout the season. 
I personally don’t think you should spend tons of money when you’re getting started because you might not like your set up and the less money you have into it the easier it is to adjust. You can go with any size pot, made out of any kind of material you want. I’ve seen container gardens that use really expensive towers all the way to laying a pallet on the porch on top of a tarp and throwing dirt in it to grow lettuce. And everything in between. Including an old bathtub.

So what you need for container gardening? Let’s do it step by step as follows:

– You need to decide if you’re growing in dirt/soil or water. Depending on your choice will depend on how you set up your garden. Question number 2 answers the types of growing medium
– Any place to set your pots or plants that gets some light.  This includes on the ground, a balcony, in a window, a room near a window, in your garden, on top of your refrigerator, on a wall, a ladder etc. Any place that gets enough light. And you’ll be surprised how little light you need.

I have a friend that grows lettuce with several other greens in pots outside on her driveway.Yes, she has a garden too, but she very specifically sets these huge post outside where she steps outside her door and picks lettuce or carrots etc. She does companion growing and they don’t take up space in her garden. I thought it was ingenious. 

I’ve also seen people grow in water bottles hydroponically with the reused bottles connected to their windows vertically. The sky is the limit. It’s common to see these types of garden growing on high rises. 

– You need a container of some sorts to grow your plants that has good drainage. Use anything you can and recycle it. Be mindful of any type of material you want to have in your garden. For instance if you’re anti-plastic, anti- aluminum aluminum, etc. Do’t use that kind of material why?  It’s easier to start with what you want then just start and get rid of something and replace it. Now if you can’t find something to grow in, find something. Do what you have to do because you need to grow food.

If you’re growing in soil. The container needs holes in the bottom, or a self watering pot, or can you add medium size rocks or bark to create air space and drainage. With the exception of fabric grow pots, they drain from the entire pot. Side note, the soft sided pots dry out very quickly. Putting them into a bay pool or setting them into something that collects the water so they don’t dry out as fast, you water from the bottom, and don’t make a mes either. 
– Soil: If you can get this from your yard. If you have an area with alot of weed or a lot of grass, this means you have good soil underneath.  If you don’t have a way to get soil, you live in an apartment complex, you’re not sure if they spray your balcony or the ground. You want to make sure they are not spraying your balcony, especially if you’r on the first floor where you have dirt.  

If you have to buy dirt or soil make sure it’s organic says OMRI on it. That means you can use the soil in organic growing under USDA organic regulations. Is it perfect know. Do you care that USDA says it’s good. probably not, but it’s better than getting soil and not know what’s in it. 

Be ware of soils that say they have amendments and chemicals for growth. Any good soil will help your seeds or starter plants start growing you don’ need synthetic. If you’re starting out why not start with good clean soil. If you need to ask about soil tell them you want organic because you don’t want any pesticides, or synthetic fertilizer added. For first time growers get soil that is ready to go! 

– Seeds or starter plants: Beware buying starter plants and seed on what kind you’re buying. They may come in little pots and look great, but they could be genetically modified. Just make sure you know what you’re buying. Try to get borrow seeds or get cutting from a friend or family member from their garden seed stash purchase organic (which is also non-gmo), heirloom, open pollinated if possible. If you know someone growing a tomato like you would, then get a cutting, put it in some water and with in a short period of time you’ll have a tomato plant. As for the organic, make sure they don’t come from a sprayed field. DO NOT purchase Hybrid seeds. It’s much more difficult to save seeds for future crops.

– A few minutes to get started, and a little more time to get everything planted. 
And don’t try to plant your entire garden in one day. Do a few pots a day and you’ll have a great container garden growing all season. And since they are in pots you can also bring them inside if the weather gets too cool or too hot.

#2) What are the different medians I can grow my garden in? 
You can grow your garden in soil, hydroponically which is in water, and through aquaponics. Which is either a combination of water, water and soil and using fish. Soil simple dirt that grows plants in. Hydroponically is growing in water. There are very simple systems where you’re growing in a canning jar and as complicated as special nutrients, timers, and clay balls. Auquaponics is when you grow with the aid of fish. Some grow in soil and the fish water is pumped in for nutrients, some grow in a grow or clay balls. 
Do which ever one or a combination that makes it so you like gardening. And if you don’t like gardening, remember you like clean food.

#3) What is biodynamic gardening? If you talk to me about my garden I talk about it a lot and get many questions about this term. In a nut shell. The official definition. It is the holistic, ecological and ethical approach to growing food by the philosopher Rudolph Steiner. In 1924 Steiner began teaching farmers through lectures and writing how to grow healthier and more food through  holistic approach. Biodynamics takes into account everything around us in nature from the moon, planets, etc. Which creates specific timing for growing. How you grow Plus, it uses different preparations from nature for growing, pest control etc.

The way I look at it, is it’s a means to the best time to plant in your area. Northern and Southern Hemisphere it’s different. If you’re in the west or east its the same timing. On the west coast you may be planting in February and the east coast it might not be until may. And it takes into consideration what kind of plants grow naturaully in your area that you can feed back to your garden in preparation.  Preparations is anything you feed back to your garden for minerals etc. I’ve seen somecrazy ones and simple ones. We usually do foliage spray. Thisis where we put it in a buck with water and bubble it for 24 hours or more, then spray it onto the leaves. Inmy area Nettle is very popular and grows everywhere. It is good for your body and great for your plants for vitamins. We haven’t tried this yet, so it will be fun to see how it does. Now stinking nettle is prickery and you need to be careful. There are many different types of nettle so we will see how it goes. 

I have many books I am reading to learn more. This is only our 3rd year adding in biodnamic approach. I use a claendar by Marie Thun. There are better times for root vegetables versus fruit vegetables. I am by no means an expert, but to me it makes sense and organizes me quite well. You can search online for biodynamic gardening for others as well. Two good sources online are The farmers almanac https://www.biodynamics.com/. This is a little more popular over seas than in the US. 

#4) Can I save seeds from food from the grocery store? Yes, no, maybe so and why not try it. I will caution you that unless the packaging says heirloom on the container, the fruit or vegetable you want to save from a seed from food itself is most likely a hybrid. A hybrid is a combo of more than one type of seed. They are not genetically modified or genetically engineered. but they could be. Yes, most organic food are also hybrids. But hey if they grow it could be fun. 

The food in our store always looks the exact same, it’s been stabilized by doing this over and over again. The problem is you don’t know what you’re going to get out of it.  And yes, I’ve grown some food from the grocery store and was quite happy with it and still save seeds. Each year they are still a bit different, but delicious. 
My original sweet potatoes were started from store bough sweet potatoes. 
If you are going to save seeds or start food from food from the grocery store make sure they are organic. Why? This way you know they aren’t going to be genetically modified, radiated, or synthetically grown. I say hopefully because you don’t really know unless you can talk to the farmer themselves. 

#5) When is the best time to plant trees? 
There is an old saying that the best time to plant trees was 10 years ago or right now, because you have to start somewhere. Depending on your area and weather is going to depend when you should plant trees and what type of trees grow best in your area. If you don’t know what grows in your are go talk to your nursery. Or better yet look around at what is growing. Are you in a citric area an apple area, are you in a nut area, or the all the above area. 

Usually the best times are spring and fall. Spring because it isn’t hot yet and fall because it isn’t cold yet. This gives your trees time to put energy into the root system before taking off. Any fruit you get the first year you should snip off early so the tree can spend more energy for a good root system. There are times I haven’t done that and I’ve gotten two or three peaches off the tree. It’s a good idea to pinch off to help your tree grow it’s roots. 

If you’re not sure what you can grow due to hardiness zone, go look it up on the map online. Search hardiness zone map to find out where your area falls. Remember there are micro-climates in all areas depending if you’re on a hill, in a valley etc. You’ll notice the government is changing what hardiness zone you’re in. A friend of mine who’s been in the garden space professionally fro over 40 years has told me that happens periodically, so don’t get too crazy about it. 

My last thoughts. Make gardening fun. Don’t worry about all the weeds and nothing needs to look perfect. In fact, if you have weeds coming up, it means you have good soil. Just do it, bit by bit, or maybe it’s bite by bite. 
You can do it. Thank you for listening.

Remember, homesteading is a peace of mind, not a piece of land, and anyone can do it.

Now Hang tight for the tip of the day.

Learn to companion planting Why? Because it takes up less space and certain plants help others to grow better. You choose the main plant and then figure out what the secondary or companion plant will be. If you’re interested in biodynamics, any biodynamic site or book or calendar will have companion planting. If not, search online under companion planting. You should find tons and tons of information about it. Trial and error works really well too. 

Most plants have more than one good companion.

For instance, if you grow corn, throw in some wheat seeds as well. 
Or if you’re a tomato lover, plant asparagus, celery, marigold, parsley, or stinging nettle around them. With asparagus because it’s a perennial plant, the asparagus will come back up the following year. You don’t have to plant tomatoes again, but a different companion plant.  
Lettuce companion with beets, cabbage, chamomile, carrots, or strawberries.

And yes, you can do companion planting in container gardens as well. 
Well Now you know.

Grow Food – Eat Local – Gain Freedom

Until next time…

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