Monday, May 21, 2012


Lettuce plants grow in cool weather, and with a little protection may overwinter. Most dark greens are good sources of Vitamin C and other nutrients. The rule of thumb is, usually, the darker the greens, the more nutritious the leaf.

For a market garden, you will get more income for leaf and lettuce crops per square foot of garden space.


Early spring is a great time to plant your lettuce seeds. Lettuce likes the cooler temps, generally 40 to 60 degrees F. In warmer climates, you can likely grow lettuce until it reaches about 80 degrees F. If you plant seeds in the spring, you should try to get started at least a month before the hot weather hits your area. You can also plant in the late summer for a fall harvest.

Something new that we are trying this year is the planting of lettuce in a shaded garden under a part of our forest canopy. The trees are large, and tree trunks are spread far apart. This area that is significantly cooler than our open field gardens in the heat of the day. A friend has reported good success with this type of forest planting. We will see how it goes for us this year! (UPDATE, this did not work for us in 2012. I think you have to get the plants started in the early spring. There just was not enough light in this plot to get the lettuce going.)

We make a shallow furrow, and sprinkle in the seeds. Then we cover with the slightest dusting of potting soil to help hold moisture. Some seeds need light to germinate, so don't bury those kind of seeds.

You should see seedlings sprouting in 7 to 10 days. When your lettuce is about 1 to 2 inches high, you should thin the plants a bit so that there is about eight inches of space between each other. If you want to have lettuce growing throughout the season, you can plant different types every few weeks (about 10 to 14 days apart). This is called successive planting. (web)

Planting Record 2012

This late winter, we noticed some small lettuce volunteer plants coming up from the Black Seed Simpson leaf lettuce patch. Last year we allowed the patch to go to seed, and new plants were growing even though there was snow outside. When we could work the soil, we transplanted these into a lettuce bed, and they filled the bed of 4' by 60'. We have been eating this lettuce all spring, and it is just now starting to rise up getting ready to bolt. For the past week or so, we have noticed this lettuce becoming a bit bitter as our temperatures have been rising.

From this experience, we can see that lettuce can really grow early in the season!

On May 21 we planted 5 rows in the woods consisting of:
  1. Lettuce Sangria MTO
  2. Lettuce Beleah Rose
  3. Lettuce Cimmaron
  4. Romaine Lettuce Red Amish Deer Tongue
  5. Romaine Lettuce Parris Island

As of June 10, we can conclude that we waited too long to plant in the woods, or that our woods are too dark. There are some small weeds growing, but the lettuce planted does not seem to be doing well.


Lettuce can be attacked by a variety of insects and animals. I have seen small lettuce plants in a green house covered by aphids. Insecticidal soap can be effective deterrent for aphids.

Rabbits and deer could also be attracted to your offering of salad. Fencing is suggested if animal pressure is high.


We suggest you harvest in the early part of the day. I think lettuce plants are crisper and a bit sweeter in the early morning as compared to afternoon harvests. Cool lettuce quickly and store them in a cool location. The crop should be cleaned, and then dried to prevent spoilage.

  • Pests of Lettuce (web)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Creating an Orchard

Fruit is wonderful, flavorful, and healthful! If you get fruit varieties suited to your climate, you will have a much easier return on the investment of time as compared with vegetables. Fruit trees do not have to be coaxed to life each year.

Just as in my article: Creating a Garden, you have to prepare the ground of your orchard before you plant. Take special care to add mineral nutrients to make your soil a perfect location for a tree to thrive. In addition to these suggestions, I want to provide some planting guidelines and spacing suggestions for your orchard.

Orchard considerations
  • Some trees need partners to pollinate well. Some trees are male and others female, and these surely need pairs to be successful.
  • There are different tree root stocks which will help control the size of the tree. You need to plan your orchard spacing with this information in mind.
  • How you plan to cultivate weeds, irrigate and harvest your fruit may influence your inter-tree spacing within the row, and the space between the rows. Orchards take a lot of ground, so plan out the grid and prepare the holes before you purchase trees.
  • If you are wanting to go organic, or at least avoid toxic chemicals as much as possible, consider purchasing disease resistant trees. (See this reference also.)
  • Orchards need attention at specific times of the year. An orchard is not something you plant and forget till harvest. There is something to do each month and some months, there are a lot of things to do. You need to be able to devote time to the trees for watering, training, insect control and pruning.

  • You may want to propagate free stock. Any tree cultivar less than 17 years in production may be under trademark, and should not be propagated without permission and payment of royalty.
  • Starting fruit trees is not hard. Root stocks are selected for their vigorous growth. The grafted stock, or scion is also easy to grow. With one root and one scion tree source, you could have hundreds of grafted trees in a period of a few years.
  • Some trees and bush varieties grow directly on their own root stocks, and are easy to self propagate and share with others.
  • Vines, berries, and all of the trees are readily propagated. Find examples to take terminal clippings from. The normal pruning process will yield a large quantity of new starts if wanted.

Apple tree just after planting.

I have enjoyed walking through surrounding orchards, and observing the pruning methods, and orchard layout. The spacing would depend on the type of root stock which determines the size of the adult tree: dwarf, semi-dwarf or regular.

Fruit trees need a fair amount of space. For the small orchard like ours, I would assume you will be looking for semi-dwarf root stock varieties (where possible.)  I do not suggest you work with dwarf stock unless you really have no room for any trees. Dwarf root stock stunts the tree so badly, that you have tree health issues ongoing. We chose to lay our orchard out on a 15 foot grid. This will be just right for the semi-dwarf trees, and a bit small for the regular sized cherry trees. We decided to place the cherry's on the north side of the orchard plot so as they grow they will not shade the other trees too much. Some full sized apple trees could use a diameter of 25 feet, so know your root stock, and plan your spacing accordingly.

Orchard Planting 2012

When looking to plant our orchard, we decided to focus on trees that were hardy and disease resistant. We wanted trees that would offer a low chemical spray requirement. Our selections are as follows:
  • Pear: Moonglow, Starking Delicious
  • Apple: Freedom, Crimson Crisp, Galarina, Goldrush x2, Gala-like Resista
  • Peach: SunHaven, Contender, Cresthaven, Glowhaven, Stellar Glowingstar, Stellar Blazingstar, Stellar Autumstar
  • Plum: Sugar/German, Mount Royal
  • Cherry: White Gold Sweet, Black Gold, Stella

Orchard Update 2016

The Apple trees and peach trees had their first real year last season. This year the peaches have come on thick, and it has taken days to thin out the thousands of extra peaches. The peach tree borers have been hard on the peaches. Several trees are affected, and it seems also that some of the early limb angles were not enough to prevent bark being impacted in the growing tree bark, making for what looks like very weak crotches. I will have to support these, and watch this closer with any future trees planted.

In May 2016, I planted three more threes on the west end of the rows. This will make the three rows from North to South:

1) Royalton Sweet Cherry, Sugar/German Plum, Mount Royal Plum, White Gold Sweet Cherry, Chinese Apricot, (dying) Stellar Autumstar
2) SunHaven Peach, Contender, Cresthaven, Glowhaven, Stellar Glowingstar, Stellar Blazingstar
3) Liberty Apple, Crimson Crisp, Galarina, Goldrush x2, Gala-like Resista

Orchard Update 2018

The tree layout for 2018 is by row:
  • 1: Pear: Moonglow, Moonglow
  • 2: Pear: Starking Delicious, Starking Delicious
  • 3: Apple: Freedom, Crimson Crisp, Galarina, Goldrush x2, Gala-like Resista (not doing well)
  • 4: Peach: SunHaven, Contender, Cresthaven, Glowhaven, Cresthaven, Cresthaven
  • 5: Royalton Sweet Cherry, Sugar/German Plum, Mount Royal Plum, White Gold Sweet Cherry, Black Gold Cherry (new), Stella Cherry
In the perspective of time, I would not plant any apple trees again (in my area). The diseases and pests make organic apples not worth eating (in my opinion), and conventional apples are readily available in our area.

Tree planting principles
  1. For maximum production, trees need deep soil ~ 3 feet deep.
  2. Many areas have a clay or hardpan under the surface, and this needs to be broken up and penetrated so the roots can develop and allow for proper drainage. Prevent a hard layer or clay glaze around the hole you dig. You want the roots to penetrate out of the hole into the ground beyond.
  3. When preparing the planting hole, care should be taken to not include so much mulch that the tree settles and the crown sinks below the surface of the soil line. The tree needs to be planted at the same depth as it was grown at.
  4. Do not let the roots dry out in the planting process. If bare root trees can not be immediately planted, the roots should be protected from drying out, perhaps even temporarily being planted.
  5. Add to the hole: mulch (leaf mould), top soil and the soil from the hole. Add some kelp powder or a small amount of sea salt for micro-nutrients. Do not fertilize a new tree.
  6. Deep in the hole, place a plastic pot upside down, a section of drainage tubing, or some object which can form an air / water cavity. This is not as needed in well drained soils such as sand.
  7. Add some rocks deep into the hole, but not a solid rock layer.
  8. Mound up the soil contents in the center of the hole, preparing a base for the tree roots to rest on.
  9. In windy and exposed areas, consider placing a large rock on top of the mound, around which with tree roots could rest and grow. The rock would serve as an anchor for the tree.
  10. Plant the tree to original soil depth, filling in around it with the soil mixture already prepared.
  11. Plant the graft union notch to the north east to help prevent sunburn on the graft.
  12. The soil line around the tree should be 1-2 inches above the surrounding soil. This is a slight mound around the tree.
  13. Water the tree with 5 gallons of water after planting to help remove excess air from the roots, and provide moisture.
  14. If the soil is heavy loam or clay, care should be taken to not drown the roots with too much water. Mixing soils as mentioned should remove this danger because of the mixture of the top soil and compost into the planting mix.
  15. Water the tree regularly (2 times a week may be a minimum in hot / dry weather.) The tree must be nursed to life and its roots will not be able to stand much stress. Make a circular watering basin around the tree at the perimeter of the roots and beyond to water the planting area. Do not have the water pool around the trunk.
  16. Mulch the tree 3 feet around the trunk to prevent competing weeds and hold moisture. The mulch can be wood chips or other mulch material, around 6 inches in depth. Do not mulch right up to the trunk as this could encourage crown rot and harbor pests that could damage the tree.

Initial Pruning and Training

Mail order trees may be initially pruned for you. If you buy local, the initial pruning will not be done, and you must prune the trees right after planting, so the branches and leaves are cut back to the level the disturbed roots can support. Bare root trees must be pruned to survive. How you prune depends on the type of tree. You want to prune to select the apical bud that will grow outward from the tree, rather than inward to the center.

On almost all fruit, it is important to train for wide crotch angles of at least 45 degrees. This measurement is from the trunk to the branch angle. A narrow crotch angle is weaker and more prone to break under the fruit crop load. Good healthy trees have crotch angles of 45 to 90 degrees.


Thursday, May 3, 2012


Beans are a favorite staple on our homestead. You can pick them young and tender for steaming and fresh eating, or let them mature in the bean pod to a dried bean which can be easily stored and cooked for consumption. Legumes have the benefit of not only being healthy for us to eat, but they can fix nitrogen with the help of bacteria in nodules on their roots.


Beans are high protein food. As green beans, they are perfect fresh, canned or frozen. If you let the beans dry in the pod, they store will as seeds all winter.


Plant beans two weeks before your areas last frost date, and transplant them to soil one week after your last frost date. Then sow a new patch of beans every 2 weeks for a consistent and long lasting harvest through the summer. Beans generally take 50-60 days to mature, so take this into consideration as you approach the fall season.

Sow bush bean seeds 1 1/2" deep, and 12" apart. Sow pole beans along a climbing trellis.

In our area, there are a host of reasons we don't get good success with planting directly in the field. We have  had good success planting inside, and transplanting the established plant into the field. Soil temperature is a key factor, in that beans do not germinate well when the soil is below 50 degrees F. If sowing into the field, make sure your soil temperatures have risen above 50.

Harvesting and food preservation

For fresh beans, pick them while tender, and eat them as soon after picking as possible. They are simply outstanding! If you are going to freeze the beans, soak them briefly in boiling water (called blanching) to stop the enzyme activity from lowering the bean taste and quality. Cool as quickly as possible, such as dipping into ice water, and then package for freezing. We regularly use 1 gallon freezer bags, and as we set the bag into the freezer, I try to bunch the beans into two sections of the bag, so that we can easily extract 1/2 a gallon for a specific meal without having to thaw the entire bag.

Seed saving

Most beans are self fertilizing, and are very easy to save seed from. Bees can be pollinators, and for seed purity it is suggested that you exclude bees or separate crops by one mile. On select plants that you want to save seed from, allow the pod to fully mature, or be over ripe to a tough and dry pod. Then harvest the pods, and shell the beans for storage. Make sure the beans are well dried before over winter storage. It is expected that beans will remain viable for 4 years.

Varieties we are planting in 2012
  • Blue lake - bush bean 
  • McCaslan - pole bean 
  • Bell's Corn Bean - pole bean * 
  • Gregory's favorite lima  - pole bean *
*Non commercial varieties.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012


The other day, I was reading Hebrews 10:25 "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."

I was interested in the verse, because of the very end of the verse: "As ye see the day approaching." Now, what day do you think this is talking about? As I looked at the context, I believe the "day" is the coming of Jesus. The first coming of Jesus was the focus and culmination of the old testament. The second coming of Jesus is the focus and culmination of the entire Bible and the great controversy between Christ and Satan. So, I get really interested in things the Bible tells us to do more and more as the soon coming of Jesus is approaching.

If you agree with me that the coming of Jesus is soon! then what is this that we should be doing. So my attention then went toward this old English word "Exhort." The verse says as we see the coming of Jesus approaching, we need to meet together, and in this meeting or gathering, we need to exhort each other. The meetings together and the act of exhorting needs to increase as Earth's time winds down.

So we gather together, and encourage each other, we call to action, and study together the Word of God. In this we exhort each other.

Follow these select passages that use the word exhort:
  • Jer 11:7 'For I earnestly exhorted your fathers in the day I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, until this day, rising early and exhorting, saying, "Obey My voice." NKJV
  • Act 13:15 And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, [Ye] men [and] brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.
  • Act 15:32 And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed [them].
  • Rom 12:5-8 So we, [being] many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, [let us prophesy] according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, [let us wait] on [our] ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, [let him do it] with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.
  • Hbr 3:13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
  • Hbr 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
  • 1Th 2:11 As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father [doth] his children,
  • 2Th 3:12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.
  • 1Ti 4:13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
  • 1Ti 5:1 Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort [him] as a father, younger men as brothers, NKJV
  • 1Ti 6:2 And they that have believing masters, let them not despise [them], because they are brethren; but rather do [them] service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort.
  • Tts 1:9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
  • Tts 2:12-15 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.
From these references, I get the idea that exhort is more than just preaching a cerebral teaching. It seems to also involve action on the part of the hearer. Action that is encouraged and mentored by the one exhorting. In this time of earth's history, we need to encourage and prompt each other to action like no other time. We need to gather in small groups, where we are engaged in helping each other grow and develop into the image of Christ.

My challenge to you is to exhort those in your sphere of influence.