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How to protect your garden during a wildfire

Climate & growing conditions

Right now, deadly fires rage across the drylands, destroying everything in its path. As ash debris scatters into the air before floating down to blanket the earth, the effects of these fires span miles beyond the fire zones. As a grower, you can not only protect your vegetable and herb gardens from the effects of these wildfires, but you can also help protect your home and neighborhood from fires. 

Protect Your Community from Wildfires

As a grower, you can help protect your community from wildfire devastation using a few simple but effective preventative techniques:

Replace anything made with wood. Since anything made of wood is a contributor that fuels fire, eliminate any structures you can that is made of this material. Replace wooden benches and fences with metal ones, remove any dead branches and dry materials you see on your property. You don’t have to put these branches and dry organic materials in the trash. Put them in your compost pile and be diligent about keeping it moist with the brown to green ratios. 

Automate your irrigation. One of the most powerful tools growers have at their disposal is automated drip line irrigation. This ensures your property gets the proper moisture it needs, reducing dry matter that easily catches fire. Drip line irrigation is also easy to install, saves growers a lot of time spent watering, conserves water, reduces plant pathogens spread through water molecules in the air, and helps prevent water runoff and nutrient leaching.

If the fires get too close and you have to evacuate, you can increase watering times to make sure the ground stays nice and saturated, and help slow the fire down should the fire reach the property. It won’t stop the fire but can give firefighters an edge. Every extra second counts.

Choose alternative building materials. If you’re thinking about building a shed or other structure on your property, consider using natural building materials like rock or cob (a natural building material made from straw, clay, and sand). Cob houses can be insulated with slip straw (a straw soaked in a liquid cob material) that is extremely fire-resistant when properly made.

Let nature help you. Nature is intelligent. Native plants in desert regions are drought tolerant. They require a very low amount of water so they won’t dry out the soil the way plants that need a lot of water will do to desert soils. Many of these desert plants (like succulents) hold large amounts of water in their leaves. 

Replace your water-loving grass lawns and landscape plants with drought-tolerant, native plants. These beautiful and diverse plants can not only create an aesthetic landscape but together, act as a natural water tank against fire.

Ultimately, the goal for prevention is to eliminate anything you can that could fuel the fire. And while one person making these changes won’t save a whole community from burning down, spreading this information to others in your community and encouraging them to implement these strategies can create a fire resistant landscape. 

Protect Your Garden and Harvest from Wildfires

While the ash from trees can actually improve gardens, that’s not the only ash you’re getting in a wildfire. Ash from buildings made with conventional construction materials are laden with chemicals you don’t want in your food. While the construction ash is diluted with the forest ash, you’ll still want to take every precaution you can to reduce chemical contamination.

Cover your garden. If you can, cover your garden with clear or translucent plastic. If you have season extension low tunnels or cold frames over your garden beds, use this to cover the top and reduce ash debris. It won’t eliminate the ash you’ll get from wind drift, but it will help. 

If you don’t have season extension, even covering your garden area with a waterproof tent can reduce chemical ash exposure. Enclose the tent on all four sides but leave the side covers a foot or so off the ground to allow enough air to get in and circulate. Adding a small fan inside the tent will help your plants get the air circulation they need.

Not everyone can cover their whole garden. If this is the case for your situation, you can vastly reduce the amount of ash your soil absorbs by laying plastic weed barriers down on the soil.

Dust wildfire ash off your garden plants. If you notice large amounts of dust on your plant leaves, you’ll want to remove that to make sure the plants can transpire as needed. Dust will block the pores of the leaf (called the stomata) and prevent the plant from cooling. It will also affect the plants ability to absorb sunlight. Gently dust plants with a mildly damp cloth.

Use your best judgment when harvesting in the ash zone of a wildfire. Any amount of construction ash can still be harmful. Covering your garden will help, but you’ll still want to take precautions when harvesting.

Luckily fruiting crops like tomatoes don’t absorb through the skins of the fruit. Still, wash fruits three times to ensure you’ve removed all the ash debris. Use a soft brush on the more porous fruiting crops (like beans) while washing. As an extra precaution, peel fruiting crops that can be peeled and dispose of the peel. 

For root crops, so long as a large amount of ash doesn’t fall on the garden and get absorbed into the soil, you can safely harvest roots and give them an extra rinse or two. However, cut and dispose of any root tops exposed above ground.

For herbs and leafy crops, you’ll want to take the most precaution. Leaves are more absorbent and porous so there is more potential for contamination. Leaves that are soft and fuzzy (like sage and comfrey) should not be eaten. If you’re farther away from the fire and the ash is light and you’ve been dusting the leaves, you’ll still want to wash your shiny leafy greens multiple times. 

The closer you are to the fire, the less you should harvest. Pay close attention to the health of your plant and consider how much ash your plant is being exposed to. If there’s a thick heavy layer of ash or you’re downwind from a construction zone burn, don’t harvest. It’s better to be safe. 

The good news is, that doesn’t mean you have to start all over and lose your plants! Instead, take note of where the ash is, dust leaves and remove as much ash from the soil as you can. Once the fire is out and the air has cleared, remove as many leaves as you can. For crops like kale and chard, remove all but the 3-5 inner most leaves. For lettuce, cut the whole head off about 3” above the soil line (most lettuces will grow back again if not cut too short). For herbs, prune them as deeply as you can. Once the new growth has appeared, you can begin harvesting again.

Gardening in Wildfire Country: It’s Not All Bad News

While wildfires require gardeners take extra steps to protect their vegetable and herb harvests, it’s not all bad news. There are some side benefits our gardens get from wildfires too. Knowing the benefits, you can capitalize on them, bringing the most benefit to your garden possible.

In desert drylands where fires are most prevalent, the sunlight is very intense. This high-intensity heat can cause plant burn and heat stress that lower plant immunity and make them more susceptible to pests and disease. It also dries out any exposed soil, rendering it barren. Barren soils have less insulative properties than fertile soils resulting in more extreme temperature swings that accelerate climate change.

The debris from wildfires diffuses sunlight. The soil and plants receive relief from the intense heat and light. And the diffused light also allows the vegetation to absorb light in areas that normally don’t receive it, reaching even the lowest leaves of plants. This increases plant vigor, producing healthier, happier plants. To get the most gain out of this, leave as many leaves on the plant that you can and keep your plants dusted. This will increase the chances the plant survives and thrives through the wildfire ash zones.

Wildfires also release a high amount of carbon dioxide into the air. While this isn’t a good thing, if your plants are dusted, they can get a super dose of this and increase their ability to thrive through an ash zone.

Fires also break down nutrients and minerals at rapid speed, paving way for super healthy growth. This new growth is nutrient-dense, providing a higher quality of pollen and nectar for our precious beneficials and pollinators. This brings growers an opportunity to increase their beneficial population. Take advantage of the post-fire opportunity by increasing the native plants that provide habitats for our precious beneficials.

Important Note from the GYOV Team

With thousands forced to evacuate and many more thousands dealing with poor air quality and other consequences caused by the wildfires, our thoughts are with you. Our hearts go out to those experiencing loss and we send our blessings to all of you. We hope the information in this article will help you harvest confidently during this challenging time, reduce future devastation to our communities, and rebuild stronger, thriving ecosystems. 

 

Getting Started Growing Your Own Vegetable and Herb Seedlings

Garden Hacks - Simplify routines

Seedlings are the baby plants you see at the nurseries, ready to be transplanted into your garden. But you might want to grow your own instead. While there are many benefits of starting your own vegetable and herb plants from seeds, there is one BIG reason why you might consider purchasing instead. Here’s the most important considerations for growing seedlings at home. 

Benefits to growing your own:

  1. You know exactly how the seedlings were grown. Ensure your plants are grown organically without any toxic chemicals entering your garden. When purchasing ask whether plants have been treated. 
  2. You ensure your plants immunity is high for a healthy life. Temperatures and conditions are important to baby plants, and stress at a young age can cause transplant shock or a weak plant that doesn’t yield well. Sometimes you bring home a seedling, plant it, and it dies. And you’re not sure if it’s something you did. But it could just be a plant that wasn’t cared for properly.
  3. You have complete control of when you put plants in the ground. When purchasing transplants, you are relying on what’s available at the stores. And what you want is not always there when you need it. Growing your own means you can plan ahead for your most abundant harvest.
  4. You have access to hundreds of varieties of vegetables. There are so many varieties of mustard greens and tomatoes on the planet that nobody could even tell you how many there are. And that’s true of most vegetables. Choose exciting varieties for flavor, yield, what grows well in your climate. 
  5. You save money. Once you get the hang of growing HEALTHY plants and you have all the supplies, you will save money. However, the first few years, planting your own can actually be more expensive than buying transplants. This is the one BIG reason you may want to purchase instead.

Three garden supplies essential to growing your own seedlings

You’ll need 1) growing medium (not soil), 2) containers to put it in, and 3) grow lamps if you’re growing indoors. We’ll focus on containers in this article. But real quick, our favorite growing medium is Fox Farm Ocean Forest, It’s got everything your plants need in one bag, from earthworm castings, bat guano, sea-going fish & crab meal to forest humus and moss. This mix will not disappoint!   Click here to get it on Amazon. And here is a bulk order option

This article is too short to include recipes for making your own mix. A couple key ingredients to include are perlite, vermiculite, peat moss or Canna Coconut Coir and Wiggle Worm – Worm Castings. For small gardens choose the 4.5-pound size. For larger gardens choose the bulk 30-pound option.

This is not a complete list, just some of our favorites to get you started.

Reusable Containers for Starting Vegetable and Herb Seeds


Generally, plastic trays are flimsy and end up in the landfill after just one or two uses. However, one farm is changing all that and helping to redefine our relationship to the Earth. Bootstrap Farmer offers durable trays with a one year warranty against warping and breakage… that’s amazing! Clean trays between use to prevent disease spread.

These are the best, longest lasting trays on the market. And they have different cell sizes available. Get cells for smaller varieties like lettuces here and get larger six cells for your larger transplants like tomatoes and cucumbers here.

Containers You Plant Right in the Ground

Avoiding plastic altogether?, Consider Fertilpots over at Arbico Organics which compost right into your soil. Plant the whole thing in your garden and avoid any transplant shock from handling the plant. Unlike many similar compostable products, they are OMRI listed meaning the ingredients have been tracked as organic. Fertilpots are breathable and help prevent roots from getting root bound, too. However, the downside is that you have to keep buying more.

“Soil Blocking” Eliminates the Need for Containers

Soil blocking is a process where you press your growing medium together into squares that hold together without the need for containers. Once you have the right equipment for this process, you never have to buy containers ever again. However, you do have a higher initial investment to get started.

There are benefits to this method: no cleaning trays, conserving growing medium, and providing optimal root health. The details of how to soil block effectively is the topic of another post. NOTE: You’ll need to mix your own special growing medium (not one that you can buy at a big box store), and a bit of time to get used to the process. 

Soil blockers are for anyone who wants to get away from plastic, has a little extra time and money, wants the healthiest seedlings and plans to garden long term. 

20 Cell Soil Blockers come in a hand held and stand up  versions. The stand up soil blocker is much easier on your wrists, shoulders and back. 4” Soil Blockers are the largest blocker available and are perfect for your larger transplants like tomatoes, gourds, cucumbers, eggplant, etc.

How do you make your garden decisions?

Ultimately, there are many garden choices you will make. Some questions to consider: What do you really have time for? What feels like the best environmental choice for you? And what amount of investment feels good right now? Whatever suits you and your lifestyle is the right choice for you. And that goes for making decisions about seed starting at home, too.  

3 Keys for Successful Indoor Seed Starting

Here are the 3 most important keys to help you grow strong seedlings and transplants. Stick around for the BONUS key at the end… it may be the difference between killing all your seeds and being able to grow your own healthy babies. NOTE: This video is not intended to show you EVERYTHING about seed starting, just to help you avoid some common mistakes growers make.

Cutting Boards for Fresh Food Safety

Food Preservation

Food safety practices are important… especially when you start preserving and storing food. You’ve probably heard about sterilizing jars, and cleaning kitchen utensils properly. These are common practices to keep the bad microbes out of our food. But quite often, the one tool that’s overlooked is your cutting board. 

When chopping fresh produce, it’s vital to have a cutting board that won’t create biofilms and harbor the kind of bacteria you don’t want to ingest. If you’re preserving your food for later – whether blanching, freezing, canning, drying or fermenting – it’s even more important. Having a good quality cutting board is the foundation for keeping you and your loved ones safe.  

Simply put, a good cutting board is the one place you don’t want to skimp on. But what is the safest cutting board?  

Plastic, Glass, or Wood?

Many people think that plastic cutting boards are safer than wood. Even the USDA’s Food News for Consumers has recommended plastic over wood cutting boards. 

However, more recent studies reveal that plastic is not as safe as we think. According to the study, glass is the superior choice, followed by wood. Glass has a smooth surface, so no gaps to harbor bacteria. The problem with glass cutting boards is that the hard surface is hard on knives and might cause food-slippage accidents. Be careful! 

Wood however, does not cause slipping the way glass does and is easier on your knives. Wood also has an antibacterial effect not found in glass or plastic boards that scientists are still trying to understand. What’s more, wood doesn’t require harsh sanitizing the way plastic boards do. Once a plastic surface has been cut into, the grooves can harbor all kinds of bacteria and require sanitizing with harsh chemicals. But as time goes on and more grooves appear, sanitizing your plastic cutting board may become less and less effective. 

Sterilizing your wood cutting boards is easy and doesn’t require harsh chemicals. What’s fascinating about this study is that the scientists researching expected to find plastic cutting boards to be safer. Their intention was to discover how to clean wood to increase its safety. So they were quite surprised to discover that wood – specifically well maintained, close-grained hardwood cutting boards – were less prone to contamination.

PRO TIP: Historically, butchers used salt to keep the ‘bad’ smell away. Perhaps they also knew that using the salt kept people healthy, but there’s no record of that. Regardless, they had the right idea. Rinse your cutting board with warm water, sprinkle your cutting board with salt and rub the salt into the board using a lemon cut in half (flesh side down). Let sit for five minutes, rinse and let air dry in a place with good circulation. 

What kind of wood is best for your Cutting Board?

According to the study, hardwoods are best. When you think of hardwood, you might think oak, mahogany, or maple. It’s true that these woods are harder than pine, chestnut, cherry, and even walnut. But they aren’t the BEST hardwoods for prepping your ferments, preserves  and fresh food. It’s hard to imagine, but these woods are soft in comparison to other hardwoods. One quick look at a Janka chart will reveal just how soft in comparison these woods really are. 

The Janka Scale Reveals the Best Wood Choice for Cutting Boards

Wood is measured by its hardness using a process called the Janka scale. This test measures the amount of force required to embed a 0.444″ steel ball into the wood to half of the diameter of the particular wood. Woods with higher ratings are harder than woods with lower ratings.

So for example, Genuine Mahogany measures 800 and English Brown Oak rates at 1360. The scale goes all the way up to 4380! While you don’t need the hardest wood on the planet to safely cut your vegetables for ferments and preserves, it’s a good idea to find something that has at least a 2500 rating. Even though maple is the industry standard (1,450 on the Janka scale), a harder wood will be more scratch and impact resistant, leaving you with a safer cutting board.

Check out this amazing cutting board, the Stella Falone Reversible Cutting Board made of solid West African Crelicam Ebony Wood. Not only is it made from a hardwood measuring at a whopping 3080 on the Janka Scale, but it’s made by a company that harvests ethically, replants what they harvest, and pays stable living wages to workers. 


If you’re looking for a more affordable option, these mixed wood cutting boards made with Purpleheart Wood (2520 Janka Scale) are also good options.  Here’s a pretty one that could double as a fancy food tray at your next party. It’s a Ziruma Teak and Purpleheart Wood Cheese Board and it’s cured with Organic Beeswax, too.
 

 

 

The Downside of Supremely Hardwood Cutting Boards

Yes it’s true, there’s a downside. The hardwood cutting boards ranked higher on the Janka scale will dull your knives a little faster. But it’s a small price to pay for better protection for your health and well being. Simply choose good quality knives, and sharpen your knives more often.

Ultimately, the cutting board with the least potential for bacterial contamination is glass… but the safest cutting board? Hands down, properly cared for hardwood cutting boards are safer with no slippage plus antibacterial properties. Plus, these beautiful cutting boards can also be a fancy food tray for your parties. Enjoy!

AK, N., CLIVER, D. and KASPAR, C. (1993). Decontamination of Plastic and Wooden Cutting Boards for Kitchen Use. [online] Available at: https://meridian.allenpress.com/jfp/article/57/1/23/195718/Decontamination-of-Plastic-and-Wooden-Cutting [Accessed 7 Mar. 2020]. 

Holiday Garden WishList – Top Ten Garden Tools for 2020

Uncategorized

Finding the right holiday gift for a gardener isn’t easy. Gifts that often appear helpful aren’t. And sometimes the ones that seem mundane can be fantastic. It can take years for growers to find gadgets and supplies they love. So how can friends and family find the perfect garden gifts this holiday season? We’ve got you covered! Here’s the top ten most useful and exciting products on the market for your holiday gift list.

#10 The Gift of Time

Even when a garden is optimized, growers typically spend 40% of their time harvesting. That’s almost half our total time in the garden! That’s why this tool can make all the difference. Check out these 5 Blade Scissors!

Why waste time harvesting your food, hauling it inside, pulling out the cutting board and knife, and using a bunch of energy and time chopping? Just grab the scissors and cut your harvest right into the bowl! And with five blades, you’ll save even more time and energy.

Check out the Video Review Here 

Even when you harvest leaves you want to wash first, you’ll spend one 80% less time and energy cutting with these 5 blade scissors. Plus, these multi-blade scissors come with their own special cleaning tool, making clean up a breeze.

#9 Garden Like A Superhero

Okay, so while this tool isn’t going to make you more powerful than a locomotive, you will be able to prune with 3 times the cutting power with the Fiskars 32-Inch PowerGear Bypass Lopper.

Fiskars makes great products in general, but this Lopper is made with reinforced fiberglass composite making it lighter than others.

It also sports a unique gear technology giving you more power without straining your hands, wrists and muscles cutting those thick branches. In fact, you can easily cut branches that are up to 2” (5cm) in diameter with this puppy. And the corrosion-resistant, non-stick, fully hardened blade means it will last a lifetime. In fact, they stand behind their product with a lifetime warranty and their claim to pruning fame: “This superior- grade tool is lighter, stronger, and more powerful than anything you’ve ever used.”

#8 The Mini-Superhero

For  smaller pruning tasks, check out our favorite tool in the garden, the Bypass Pruner by Corona . Because no two hands are alike!

The flex dial allows you to set the pruners to match YOUR hand size and to adjust to the size branches you’re cutting, reducing hand fatigue.

Combined with the full steel core handles and ComfortGEL grips for superior comfort it’s no wonder these pruners were a 2017 finalist in the International Design Excellence Awards.

#7 Love Yourself As Much As Your Garden

Body abuse is common in the garden. Growers, you know what I’m talking about. There is that weed that just won’t let go and you won’t give up even though you left the proper tool in the shed. Or you’re determined to finish shoveling mulch or compost even though you’re tired. For us seasoned growers, perhaps you simply turn your head to look at a beautiful butterfly and crick your neck. 🤣

A gardeners work is physical and it’s important to take care of your body and avoid unnecessary strain. Even having the proper tools can put stress on your body if they are poorly designed. That’s what makes these tools so great.

Easi Grip Long Reach Garden Tools Set of 4

Originally made for people with arthritis, these stainless steel tools are really just good for anyone wanting to take care of their body. They feature non slip soft grip handles that keep hands and wrists in a neutral position, taking the stress off hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders and backs with the ergonomic design.

The tools also allow gardening from a seated position as well. This is especially helpful for anyone with knee issues or where bending is restricted. The long handles allow for reaching to the back of the beds.

A long trowel, fork, cultivator and hoe are included in this set of 4. Don’t need all four? They sell them separately, so you can just grab the ones you need!

Want the short handled version? Good news, they have those too! Easi Grip Short Handle Set of 4.

#6 Worms in the House

Yep, you heard me right! Vermicomposting can now be done right in your family room with style… and without mess. While we haven’t tested this product out yet, we couldn’t wait to share this brand new composting bin for all of you who boldly go where no gardener has gone before!

Marketed as suitable for a family of 1 to 3 people, the design of this indoor ecosystem is super sleek. According to company, the Biovessel aesthetics were accidental as it is designed from almost two years of biological research, experiments, and observation on the process of food waste decomposition to maximize efficiency.

The ease of use makes it perfect for busy people; simply add food waste and it does the work for you. No more running out to the garden every time you need to discard your scraps (which makes it good for cold winters!). Even for large families, this Biovessel makes a great mini composter for smaller scraps.

There is a bit of monitoring of moisture, light, and pH levels, as with all composting. When done correctly, there is NO ODOR. And with the exception of the 7 Liters of bedding soil and 500–600g of composting worms, the Biovessel comes with everything you need to start composting.

This is an awesome learning tool for teaching kids about composting and encouraging good environmental habits. With so much waste generated by modern ways of living, this design brings sustainability home for even the most densely populated cities, transforming waste into one of the most precious resources on the planet: worm castings.

#5 Bringing the Indoors Out

We love nature so much that we talk about bringing the outdoors in most of the time. But in this case, we’re bringing the indoors OUT to save you tons of time and energy in your garden with one simple tool: a hose trolley.

A Hose Trolley is a greenhouse growers best friend. And
for the outdoor gardener who uses a hose to water, it
makes watering plants a breeze! It keeps nozzles clean,
reducing the chance of spreading plant diseases, prevents hose wear and tear, and eliminates potential for tripping and accidental plant damage that happens when hauling the garden hose all around the greenhouse.

There are many hose trolley’s on the market, but we chose one most likely to stand up to outdoor elements, so you can rig this in your OUTDOOR garden too (for those without greenhouses). This Hose Trolley Kit includes an aircraft cable corrosion-resistant stainless steel pulley, hose supports, rope clip, hose turnbuckle, 10 additional feet of hose to get to the spigot, a trigger released lance, and their best hose – the Gilmour Flexogen. It also comes in 75’ and 100’ lengths for the extra large gardens.

To see this hose in action and hear more about how it can work in the garden, check out Stacey’s Youtube Video: Overhead Hose Trolley for Small Gardens & Greenhouses.

#4 Craftsmanship at its FINEST

Few tools are hand-crafted nowadays. No tools that we’ve found can compete with the more common mass-produced tools on the market… with one exception.

Handcrafted Garden Tools

Made with hand forged steel, wrought iron, hand turned American Black Walnut wood, each tool is built individually using traditional blacksmithing techniques. Each tool is set into its own hand-turned hardwood handle so there are no welds increasing the strength of the tool.

Of all our years and experience gardening, we’ve never come across such beautifully handcrafted tools. Each tool is unique and put quite simply, a masterpiece.

This set of five garden tools is perfect for both beginner and experienced gardeners. You’ll receive a large planting trowel, a narrow perennial trowel, square hand hoe, pointed hand hoe, and a three- tined rake. So if you’re shopping for a special someone with an eye for high-quality traditional crafts and an interest in gardening, this collection will light up not just their holiday season, but every growing season too!

Want to get just one?

We recommend starting with the trowel or garden hoe.

#3 Garden Smarter, Not Harder

Garden set ups are often extremely costly. And when you’re just starting, on a tight budget, or renting your home, you don’t want to spend a bunch of money and time on your garden set up only to walk away later. That’s why we were excited to find these:

100 Gallon Raised Bed Grow Bags

These grow bags are just over 4 feet (1.2 meters) in diameter and 12 inches (30cm) deep. They have reinforced handles for transport and are reusable lasting three years in normal gardening conditions. And the best part? They are only $29.99 each. That’s only $10 per year for a whole raised bed.

While these raised bed grow bags are great for anyone who wants to grow, they are perfect for gardeners just setting up and those on the go. They’re also great for gardeners with physical limitations, eliminating material hauling, heavy lifting, and best of all ZERO labor. Buy, open, fill with soil media, and start growing!

Built to last, even commercial growers use them since they have superior aeration and drainage to raised beds with solid sides. In fact, the only products that Bootstrap Farmer sells are ones they use on their farm. So if you’re looking for the perfect raised bed for your gardener, this 100 Gallon Grow Bag is where it’s at.

Want to get more than one? Get 3 for $69.99. Oh, and one more thing: they’re also sustainable, made of food safe recycled plastic and felt.

Need something bigger? Check out the 200 gal bags.
 Need something smaller? They’ve got grow bags in 4, 5, 7, 10, 25 gallon sizes too.

#2 The Micro-Dream Tray

As a commercial microgreen grower, having the right trays are invaluable! So many of the trays on the market are downright junk and you’ll be lucky if you get two to three plantings from them. But these are different…

Meet the most amazing microgreen tray on the market.

Combine them with these extra strength 5×5 trays (also known as 801 inserts) made of heavy duty, recycled, food grade, polypropylene plastic and guaranteed not to warp or break. I was skeptical, so I put them to the test. And I cannot imagine going back to what I was doing before.

These trays are great for anyone wanting to grow more varieties per batch (fits eight 5×5 trays to one 1020 flat), reduce their environmental waste, and save money. Not only that, but their design provides better drainage than the traditional inserts, saving even more with reduced crop losses. As an added bonus, I ran them through the dishwasher with no problem. These trays are the stuff of dreams for micro growers.

Say goodbye to flimsy non-sustainable trays for good with Bootstrap Farmers’ superior quality 5×5 Microgreen Trays.

#1 The Garden Tower® 2

Grow up to 50 plants and vegetables in 4 sq. feet (1.2 sq meters) with this Garden Tower! So much thought went into the materials and design of this indoor or outdoor growing container there was no way it could be anything but number one on our list!

The Materials

The Garden Tower® 2 is made of 100% food grade HDPE (non-toxic, BPA & PVC free plastic) components), FDA-approved dye and UV-protection for health, durability and recyclability.

The Unique Design

Supporting up to 1,000 lbs, the feet allow the tower to be anchored securely to any platform while still being able to rotate 360° for optimized sun exposure and growing in tight spaces

Planting pockets allow for easy planting and fast harvesting.

For mobile growing, you can get the Premium Caster Kit.

With a patented GT2 vermicomposting tube right down the center, you can compost directly into the tower where plant roots can access nutrients and oxygen from the perforated holes.

Compost release gate allows for seasonal removal of finished compost not used by the plants & provides for aeration from below.

Removable compost/nutrient tea drawer can collect up to two gallons of nutrient enriched water for another pass by plant roots.

The Garden Tower®2 is perfect for growing lettuces, herbs, kale, chard, smaller varieties of peppers and other plants with smaller root systems. To top it all off, it comes with a whopping 5-year manufacturer warranty. This container can last up to twelve years in the harshest of climates!

With all the thought that went into this special grow container, it’s no wonder it was recently named the “Worlds Most Advanced Container Garden.”

The only question we have for the company is, ‘Is there anything you didn’t think of!?’

Order this unique container at their website here.

BONUS! For Your Winter Pantry

This isn’t a garden gadget. Actually, it’s for you, right now. While you’re busy running around prepping for your holiday season, we wanted to remind everyone to take care of yourself and give your body that extra boost your immune system will need to stay healthy.

As the immune support and other benefits elderberry provides us becomes more realized, good quality elderberry syrup is getting harder and harder to find, especially at an affordable price. This is your place to do that.

Our good farmer friend, John Moody and his wife’s potent elderberry syrup is the best on the market. You can get a huge 16 ounce bottle of their original formula for $24! That’s normally what a decent quality 4 ounce bottle costs! Plus, they have low carb, low honey, and an infant friendly formulas. No need to take it like a cough syrup though, use it in your everyday life; from hot teas and lemonades to glazes and marinades, elderberry syrup is for every day immune support. My personal favorite is as a spread for turkey sandwiches and on waffles!



  • NOTE:  This article may contain affiliate links. If you click on them and take action, I may be compensated. I only recommend products I LOVE and that will help you.

Choose the Right Type of Seeds for Your Vegetable and Herb Garden

Garden Planning

Last Updated: January 18, 2019

How do you know that what you eat is actually nutrient-rich and healthy? This is why many folks start growing their own vegetables and herbs. So you can lead a healthy lifestyle, free from weird chemicals and preservatives and free from chronic diseases, too…

Seeds are where you start your garden.

But the minute you start reading those seed packets, you see words like hybrid, open-pollinated, organic, conventional, naturally-grown, heirloom, or worse, there’s no label at all.

What do all these words mean and what do they mean for the long-term health of my body, my community, and the Earth? Is there a right or wrong one? What happens to my health if I choose the wrong one? Who can I ask that will help me understand? Aye, overwhelm!

CLICK HERE for the Quick Guide to Seeds for Your Vegetable & Herb Garden… and continue reading below for more detailed information.

Deciphering Seed Labels – 3 Main Types

The three main types of seeds are determined by HOW the seeds were grown or bred. They’ll either be Open Pollinated, Hybrid, or GMO. While it IS possible to have a combination Open-Pollinated Hybrid seed, beware of information that groups Hybrids and GMOs together. They are both man-made but VERY different!

Once we explore the three main types of seeds, we’ll dive into additional descriptions you may see, such as Heirloom, Organic, Conventional, and Naturally-grown.

Seed Type 1 – Open Pollinated

Open Pollinated means that pollinators like insects, birds or wind spread pollen and your seeds are a result of that pollination.

Why choose an Open Pollinated Seed?

While they can be a bit harder to find and more expensive, Open Pollinated seeds can produce plants that look and behave just like the parent plant. This is called “true to type.” Which is great when you have a flavor that you adore and you want to continue growing it! With ‘true-to type,’ you’ll always know what you’re going to get from your plant.

While not all Open Pollinated seeds are Heirlooms, all Heirloom seeds are classified as Open Pollinated and are passed down from generation to generation as part of a cultural heritage. If you grow Heirloom varieties, you’ll be eating almost the same exact food that your great, great grandparents ate.

But what if an ant accidentally cross-pollinates a zucchini and a pumpkin? The resulting seeds are Open-Pollinated because it happened in the wild, but they’re also a Hybrid. So while some Open Pollinated seeds are ‘true-to-type’, others are hybrids. This happens all the time in small gardens and it’s why there are so many strange and delicious variations that exist!

While these Open Pollinated anomalies are technically hybrids, a seed packet labeled as a Hybrid means people intentionally created it.

Seed Type 2 – Hybrids

Hybrid seeds (typically labeled F-1 by seed companies) refers to two plants being cross-pollinated intentionally by humans to create desired qualities like flavor, high yield, disease resistance, and heat tolerance to name a few.

Humans have been making hybrids for centuries to make it easier to grow more food with more predictability. Cross-pollinating is as simple as using a paintbrush to move pollen from one plant to another… just like honeybees.

Why buy Hybrid Seeds for your Garden?

A lot can go wrong in the garden, and Hybrids can stack the deck in your favor. If you’re just getting started growing food for the first time, you may want high-yield Hybrids to increase your odds of a successful garden.

For example, if you have a wet climate, you may want to look for tomato varieties resistant to fungal diseases. This way, you can enjoy more tomatoes each season and reduce the potential of your tomato plant succumbing to common fungal diseases like blight or leaf spot.

You can sometimes get the same effect by planting Open-Pollinated seeds and saving the seeds each year until the variety adapts to your local climate naturally. However, climatic adaptation of Open Pollinated seeds takes a couple seasons (if it even works for the variety you choose) so the man-made Hybrid can pay off in the short run.

Can you save Hybrid seeds from your garden?

If you plant your garden with hybrids and then save seeds from those plants, the next generation may or may not have the same traits you started with. It’s like when a brunette child is born from two parents with blond hair. The parent has a mixture of traits and you never know which traits will emerge in the next generation as the dominant trait.

If you like surprises, and have space to experiment in your garden, it’s fun to see what happens. But it is very unpredictable. Let’s say you let two tomato plants sprout from hybrid seeds. One of them might produce very little fruit that is similar to the fruit from the hybrid, and the other might give you a good amount of delicious fruit that looks and tastes nothing like the original hybrid.

So you CAN save hybrid seeds… just know you’re in for a surprise!

Seed Type 3 – How are GMOs different than Hybrid Seeds?

The final type of seeds are GMOs, Genetically Modified Organisms. Most recently, these seeds have been rebranded as BE (bio engineered) seeds. GMOs cannot happen in nature. GMO’s require a high tech gene splicing lab where the DNA of the seed itself is altered.

So any comparison that conveys Hybrids are similar or no different than GMOs is completely inaccurate.

Also, whereas Hybrids cross two related plants, GMOs cross genes from different kingdoms! Many GMOs splice bacteria genes with plant genes with the goal that these plants can later be sprayed with toxic herbicides and pesticides without the plant itself dying.

Part of the process that goes into creating GMO’s entails blasting these genes with antibiotics to kill unwanted cells. This creates an antibiotic resistant plant.1

Because of the uncertainty of the health risks of GMOs, many home gardeners choose to grow NON-GMO.

How to avoid GMO seeds in your garden:

It’s easier than you think to keep GMOs out of your home garden! While there are many additives, enzymes, flavorings and processing agents that are GMO’s, there are currently only ten plants that have GMO versions on the market: corn, cotton, soybeans, alfalfa, papaya, zucchini & summer squash, sugarbeets, canola, potato and apple.2

When you’re ordering seeds, take a look: many seed companies that serve the home garden market have agreed not to sell GMO’s by taking the Safe Seed Pledge. Currently, the only company that we’ve seen supplying GMO seeds to gardeners is Semini Brand seeds (a subsidiary of Monsanto). If you look at the Semini website, the GMO versions of Summer Squash and Corn are all labeled “B” for Biotech.

Note when this article was last updated (see top). If we hear of new GMO’s on the market, we’ll update here. And pleas Contact Support@GrowYourOwnVegetables.org with new developments that you hear about to help us keep this up to date.

So what about Organic, Non-GMO, Conventional and Naturally Grown Seeds?

Now that you know HOW each of the three types of seed was created, you might see one of these other terms on a seed packet. And you may have already seen these labels on the food you buy at the grocery store, too.

Why Conventional and Naturally-Grown mean nothing

There are no standards or checklists for these words to be used on seed packets. Naturally-Grown might sound like a good thing… but it means nothing. And conventional is just a word that people use to describe what is not certified Organic.

So if Conventional and Naturally Grown mean nothing, what is Organic?

Organic seeds are harvested from certified organic plants. This means the parent plant has met the organic requirements for that territory or region. In the United States, you will see the USDA Organic label which prohibits certificate holders from using non-organic sprays and GMO’s. So in the U.S., there is no such thing as an Organic GMO.

And just like food, there are seeds grown organically, but not certified, because the certification process is costly. Typically a seed company will tell you when that is the case. However, they have no way to prove that the seeds are actually organic.

If you want more information about your seeds, simply ask the company. If they hesitate to answer or you don’t feel comfortable with their answers, look for other companies who are happy to answer your questions.

If you buy Conventional seeds and grow them organically, is your food organic?

So why not just buy the cheaper conventional seed and grow it organically? Well you could. And with the addition of non-GMO labels (like Project Verified NON-GMO), many people are happy doing just that. There’s various research about how much or how little toxins are left over in seeds of a plant that’s grown conventionally. You just never know.

The advantage of buying Certified Organic seeds is based on principle. You’re voting with your dollars and supporting organic practices. Plus, you know what you’re getting.

What kind of seeds will you grow in your vegetable garden?

Most home gardeners grow a mixture of Open-Pollinated, Hybrid and Heirloom seeds. The decision typically comes down to taste, preference, and values. And those may change from season to season.

But now that you know what the labels on your seeds packets mean, you can make educated decisions on your way to becoming a steward not only of the land but your long term vitality.

Want a simple chart to remind you of all the differences? CLICK HERE for the Quick Guide to Seeds for Your Vegetable & Herb Garden

Sources:
Smith, Jeffrey M., and Michael Meacher. Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating. Paperback, 7th Printing ed., Green Books, 2003.

“Benefits of GMOs and Biotechnology.” Monsanto, monsanto.com/innovations/biotech-gmos/.