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What's going in your garden?

These are very exciting times! After relying on old stock and the much appreciated wild treasures for two years I'm now making preparations. It's time to dig my heels into the garden, to trade sweat for bread.

It's a great deal for me. When I was challenged to do the math it was undeniable. Take two kernels of corn and a sharp stick. Poke two holes in the ground, drop in your seed, and step on it. With a little maintenance those two seeds become hundreds. How does a a 10,000% return sound? Yeah, sounds good to me too.

I've learned a lot from you folks and I'm back for more. What are your plans? Browse rareseeds.com for some inspiration. Share your progress, even your failures, if you dare.

And if you don't have a piece of earth to start, consider the waste places. Learn to use a new wild edible. Make it a game. Each one is worth hundreds if not thousands of dollars over a lifetime. If you have thirty bucks lying around, Sam Thayer's books on wild edible plants are excellent. No tillage required, just dress it and keep it. What fun!

As always, remember the law, respect the gleaner's rights, and respect the land. Give it rest. Avoid mingled seed. Then you may reap the benefits of rain in due season, and watch as the Creator of heaven and earth rebukes those who would devour.

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bigmikedude's picture

Sorrel is common in the wild

and is a neat little plant. Often mistaken for clover. Yellow Wood Sorrel grows wild everywhere in much of the country. Many of you probably have lots of it in your yard.

If you see a little plant that resembles clover but stands higher, usually in a crack in a sidewalk, as a weed in your garden, or in a strangely open barren area with little yellow flowers on it with a long stemmy appearance and clover leaves, it is probably Sorrel. Nice citrusy lemon touch. You'll know it as soon as you chew a leave.

Neither my sorrel nor the

Neither my sorrel nor the wild sorrel that I pick when hiking looks anything like clover. I had to look it up because I was wondering if both were in the same species (high oxalic acid).

Wiki says that your wood sorrel or Oxalidaceae is not in the same family as my sorrel, which is Rumex acetosa. Your sorrel is not true sorrel, not the stuff the famous French soup is made from.

The wild sorrel I eat the same but smaller and lower to the ground.

Like this:

bigmikedude's picture


if you ever find some of the sorrel I posted, taste it. It's definitely good. You'll enjoy it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxalis_stricta it is Sorrel, maybe not what is known as "French" Sorrel, but it is a (or at least is called) Sorrel.

Yellow wood sorrel's scientific name Oxalis stricta (Oxalidaceae) tells us (or gives us the hint) that it has the same compound in it that French Sorrel does.

Oxcalic acid.

Which if I had to guess why both wound up with the Sorrel name, is probably because one, a native plant to the old worlds, was found to be similar to a native plant in the new world. They both produce the same effect from the same compound - dicarboxylic acid.

EDIT: And further investigation out of curiosity, reveals:

Many of the species are known as wood sorrels (sometimes written "woodsorrels" or "wood-sorrels") as they have an acidic taste reminiscent of the unrelated sorrel proper (Rumex acetosa).


Yes, that's what my research

Yes, that's what my research revealed as well. I've certainly eaten what I call clover -- both low growing your your high growing (sorrel) clover. Never noticed that burst of lemon that I get with my proper sorrel -- it's like one of those Starburst candies. Do try proper sorrel when you get a chance. Proper sorrel grows wild all over the U.S. too; my wild edibles for the Rockies book calls it Sheep's sorrel and it looks like French sorrel, but in a diminutive form.

I did this planting experiment last spring

I did a no till small garden sweet corn plot, on heavy clay, as an experiment. I killed off a 5'x12' section of yard grass with a tarp. Then I used a cordless 18v electric drill with an auger, it very easily drills holes about 2" wide and up to more than a foot deep, like a mini post hole digger. Ace hardware has them, I think I paid less than $20 for it. I bought it for turning compost, works excellent for that.

I drilled 2 holes per square foot, packed each hole with compost mix and a little fertilizer, then planted the corn seeds. I didn't expect it to do well, after all, no digging, no rototilling, no soil prepping, that's just lazy, LOL. I was amazed! All the corn grew very well, nice stalks and 2-3 corns per stalk. Since the ground was not turned, there were very few weeds that could get through that clay, not enough to even bother with. I do have a rain bird sprinkler head set so I can water just that garden area.

I don't know if this system will work well for other plants, but it really works well for corn.

Tilling the soil is not the best way of gardening.

Tilling the soil burns off all the beneficial bacteria that is in it. If your an environmentalist you should know that lots of co2 gets discharged every time you work the soil. If you do till do it only once per year.

If you want to continue using the same spot put some organic material over it like leaves, shredded cardboard or any other brown material you have lying around. You can mix in green material like kitchen scraps and grass clipping. Go easy on the grass clippings because they will heat up if you put too much in one spot.

If you really want a excellent produce with no commercial fertilizer do what I do, make compost tea and pour over veges. For no pesticides use diatomaceous earth to kill all bugs. It is not harmful to environment and helps buildup soil. Here is another excellent helper for fantastic veges, Mycorrhizae Fungi, all plants really thrive if present. Here you can grow your own very easily: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzbI7wAS-JM

If you don't want to buy worm castings you can go to any wooded area that hasn't been tilled for at least 20 years. shovel up some of the soil instead of the castings, should work as good.

Gold standard: because man can not be trusted to control his greed

Plants need air.

If the soil is compacted and you do not have a lot of organic matter to begin with, it seems like tilling would loosen the soil and put some organic matter deeper into the soil where the earthworms benefit.

I'd like to be convinced of no-till since my tiller is on the blink...

Not really, but sounds good.

When you till the soil, your giving one type of bacteria an upper hand over another. When this balance gets tipped in one direction it causes co2 to be discharged into the air, this is not good. If you have earth worms you most likely have night crawlers. These worms burrow up to 6 feet down, and break up soil just fine. These worms are really top feeders, coming out at night looking for manure and other organic material to eat. for proof lay a large piece of cardboard over your garden area and in a month you will see all kinds of worm activity under it.

The key to good organic gardening/farming is lots of compost material covering the soil. If you want to try a no till method, put a large piece of cardboard on the area you choose. Then get lots of leaves weeds and grass clippings covering it. If you got a friend with some composted horse manure mix it in, add some water and mix thoroughly. If you added green material you can't plant into it until it's done heating.

If you used only brown or dried material you can plant into it within a week or two. One way to do this is get some potting soil and create a furrow then cover furrow with potting soil. Then just add seeds in that furrow. You just suppressed all weed problems and have a great start on a no till garden.

Some start their no till by till only once to get organic material into the soil which will work just fine. But you do destroy all the burrows created by the night crawlers, and they won't be helping your veges grow right away.

Here is website that argues both sides, but I do support the no till without chemicals.


This year I will try colored plastic to cover the soil, then cut small holes into it where I to plant. Blue plastic for cucumbers and melons, red for tomatoes and peppers, and green for the rest. For watering I am going to use drip irrigation under the plastic. The major problem is cleanup in the fall, a major problem. I want to plant a cover crop in fall to feed my flock of 50+ sheep in the garden. I understand that the different colors can increase yield up to 4X.

Gold standard: because man can not be trusted to control his greed

I quit tilling years ago

All you get is new weed growth and then you spend time pulling weeds all season long. I went with the square foot system, I have 4 garden beds made from 2x6s, each 4'x8' and divided up into 12" squares. It's a raised bed garden, I built the beds and just set them on the ground. One I put a weed barrier cloth under it, the others I just put a layer of news paper then filled each with a mix of compost, vermiculite, Pete moss and a bag of manure from the garden store. I add compost each year from a mix of grass clippings and fall leafs bagged with my Honda mulching mower, I usually get 20+ 55 gallon drum liner bags of finely chopped maple leafs each fall. The compost bin is made from pallets, I use the cordless drill and auger to mix the compost every 2 weeks, it gets very hot. It's much easier and faster to aerate the compost with the drill/auger than turning the pile with a pitch fork. Each fall I dump 3-4 wheel barrow loads of compost on each garden bed. Every plant does very well and it's fairly easy to do.

you should till the first year

When starting a new area, I till two feet deep and then work in compost. Subsequent years I just add compost on top without tilling.

“With laws shall our land be built up, but with lawlessness laid waste.”
-Njal Thorgeirsson


I love! lazy food production. Did the compost/corn activity improve the un-drilled soil?

(ears per stalk)

I think it would, as the corn roots spread into the holes

Good point, I never considered that! When you rototill the entire area of the garden you get a huge growth of weeds, because the seeds laying long dormant come to the surface and germinate. With this system you are only disturbing and composting the ground immediately under the plant, not the whole garden area. I have a fairly hard compacted clay soil, so it's very hard for the weeds to sprout. Each hole is like a small container, the water runs off the clay and into the drill holes. The very few weeds I had mainly grew up around the drill holes and they were so few I didn't even bother to pull them.

Next year, if I plant in the same area I will drill new holes next to the prior holes. Then in a few years the entire area will be composted and the corn roots will be doing the work of aerating the soil.

love it

The natives used to plant beans to grow up the corn stalk. Mutually supportive companions. I always wanted to try that.

I agree with the mulch suggestion. That might prevent weeds from inhabiting previous drillings.

Thanks to the well fertilized soil (from my four hens,

the Duchess of Devonshire, Madame duBarry, Sadie and Izzie) we are growing potatoes, roses, kale and roses, lettuce, roses, garlic, roses, onions and roses, eggplant, roses, fresh herbs and roses, peas and roses, oh did I say we have roses? … Seriously, our roses have yet to stop blooming and it's already February. It is going to be interesting to see what the rest of the year brings via this crazy weather in southern California.

You all probably already know this but it was news to me, I found out you can take green onions, cut the root ends off about 1" up, plant them and replant them up to eight times (before they become more like a leeks, still usable). I make herb butter regularly so this saves me on onion buying. The lemons needed are from our tree and all the herbs are grown in the yard as well so all I have to buy is the butter. Makes for great spread for bread or for pasta.

bigmikedude's picture

If you plan on saving seeds

make sure you understand and know the scientific plant names of the varieties you use, and about barrier crops, or, have enough land to separate your seed plants by distances of 500 ft or better.

Plants in the same family can cross pollinate and hybridize, such as cauliflower and broccoli leaving you with broccoflower out of your saved seeds. The same with squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers etc.

Hot peppers and bell peppers also and obviously - various tomato varieties. Pick one tomato and go with it. (I like Marglobes) They are a nice round tomato for an heirloom, not a lumpy nasty beefsteak type. But it depends on what you personally use them for. Sauce /juice makers may prefer the bulk size of beefsteaks for max yield.

Your hot peppers if planted together may produce hybrids and not give you the same consistent peppers year after year, or if planted near your bell peppers, may give you some seriously spicy bell peppers or affect their size/quality in the next generation.

If you can find varieties of some not in the same family you'll be alright, but I haven't yet. That's not to say there aren't any.

There are some pumpkins that are different families from some squashes or vice versa I do recall.

Also, some veggie plants are biennial - only producing seed the second year after wintering over.

Aren't tomatoes self-pollinating for the most part?

I still keep different varieties in separate gardens, because I'm not sure.

BMWJIM's picture

Different types of tomatoes should

still be planted some distance apart. I don't remember exactly but I'll look it up before I begin to plant. Heck Corn has to be something like a couple of miles as the crow flies.


1976-1982 USMC, Having my hands in the soil keeps me from soiling my hands on useless politicians.

deacon's picture

I have an aquaponics

system set up,the Romas I planted have not pollinated themselves
That bumble bee I caught wasn't much help either.It was mad that i caught it.
But,they have grown,and had to be trimmed.

If we deny truth before your very eyes,then the rest of what we have to say,is of little consequence

I have wanted to set up an aquaponic system

Right now I have a small Koi pond and pump some water from the pond into a square foot garden, but it does not recirculate. I have seen so many variations it can be confusing, does your system work well?

deacon's picture

Works well yes

But as you can see from the lower comments,i have a few bugs to work out.
I have 3 coy in a 35 gal aquarium. I bought a 12v sprayer pump,this pumps directly from the bottom into a 5 gal bucket which sits on top. 2 3/4" hoses
come out within an inch of the top of the bucket,the hoses,go into the top eaves,which are set on an angle for draining,the top drain into the 2 bottom eaves,then back into the aquarium.
Mine is indoors,so far,but have plans for use of a liquid shipping tote,food grade of course,this is where the fish will be,but I want the top changed into something resembling a triangle,this will improve the lighting to all plants
So far,all i have growing is,tomatoes,peppers,oregano,stevia,and a plant I will call a japanese maple
The tote could be placed into the ground,and used yr round,with a green house on top,but I have very limited space,so my dreams are on hold
I hope this helps,i might gone into to great of a detail,but if not,and you have more questions do not think to hesitate to ask,The more minds the merrier

If we deny truth before your very eyes,then the rest of what we have to say,is of little consequence

bigmikedude's picture


Self pollinating plants (grown indoors) still require either wind, shaking, or a Q-tip to every flower every few days for full production. Q-tipping being the most reliable. Some really soft bristle model paint brushes may work well too.

deacon's picture

Well snap

Didn't know that one.Some idiot took the fan out of the room
But,we won't mention any names :)
Thanks for the TIPs on pollination.Will try that here in a few minutes
Must apply to chili peppers as well

If we deny truth before your very eyes,then the rest of what we have to say,is of little consequence

bigmikedude's picture


You'll have to do the peppers too.

deacon's picture

Thank you greatly

I have used a model brush on them,but you went into greater detail
as to the inner workings.
Too bad that bee didn't cooperate,but it got a tude shortly after i caught it and stayed mad until i finally put it back outside

If we deny truth before your very eyes,then the rest of what we have to say,is of little consequence

bigmikedude's picture

I believe


Basil and tomato and beets.

Top of the list. But I'm going to try other things too.

Seed Savers Exchange is also a great place to get seeds. They have a free 30 trial of their garden planner. You draw out your garden space and fill it with veggies. The program automatically adjusts the spacing and gives recommended planting times for your area. Then you receive updates when you need to plant.


I'm starting tomatoes and peppers indoors. I'll plant the onions, cole crops, and beets as soon as this cold spell leaves.

And I want to try an African keyhole garden for herbs. Send a Cow has tutorials on how to build this drought resistant no-dig garden.


bigmikedude's picture


prefer colder /cool weather. And are one of the most cold withstanding of the cold crops. Don't know how, or if they will, withstand summer heat. As with most cold crop veggies they usually don't do well in temps over 70 or 80.


Everything in my pictures in the other comment does best in cold weather, and most will withstand 25 degrees(ish) for a few hours daily. Often producing a much sweeter flavor. They don't do well at all in warm weather and will bolt when soil temps exceed roughly 80.

Which can make mulching necessary in warm weather to keep soil temps down. But that only helps a little.

You are right.

The beets will go in very soon. I had some winter planted ones, but the freeze got them.

BMWJIM's picture

Finished the new greenhouse the day

before the first snow here in Louisiana. Potted roughly 720 seeds last Saturday. From Tomatoes to squash to banana passion fruit. Have roughly 5000+ flowers to start with Susan beginning around the middle of the month.

Will put everything in the ground after the pecan trees start to bloom. Never before or you risk losing everything around here. It is also not fun covering a half acre garden and 7 large raised beds after putting so much work into it.

As things progress I'll try to put a few pictures up to show how it is going. Ironically, this is my favorite part of the year. Sitting in the greenhouse on a cold day reading a good book while savoring the smells of the growing process.

Going to try some scorpion peppers this year. Hope they make as good a seasoning mix as the ghost peppers did last year. I was selling the ghost peppers for roughly $100.00 per pound to a small outlet in New Orleans. Did not take much to recoup all my seed money, Lol!

Should get the aquaponic experiment going in the next few weeks up at the motorcycle shop. This is very interesting.


1976-1982 USMC, Having my hands in the soil keeps me from soiling my hands on useless politicians.

Cool! Are you a market provider?

I believe the pecans are a very good indicator. They aren't fooled by surprise late frosts. But it does make a short season for things like tomatoes here.

A neighbor also told me not to plant before Good Friday. That is a funny recommendation considering that date changes every year. But it is based on the Lunar cycle which is often cited by gardeners.