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Chop & Freeze Your Vegetable Harvest for Later: Cutting through the misinformation & avoiding mushy beans

Climate & growing conditions

There’s nothing better than harvesting and eating fresh, homegrown, and organic vegetables fresh from your garden. Part of harvesting process is being ready to know how to cook, prepare and preserve all that food.

However, the second best thing to eating fresh vegetables from your garden is savoring the taste from your garden in the off-season.

Make the most out of your garden harvest by properly

In this video, learn what the top two questions we receive about preserving & storing your vegetable harvest PLUS …

– The BEST shortcut to storing your tomatoes

– Two vegetables you can simply chop and freeze

– Why can’t you just chop and freeze most vegetables for long term storage?

– How do you freeze vegetables so they don’t get mushy?!

– Plus… the benefits and drawbacks of freezing your garden harvest

Remember: Pulling garden freshness out of the freezer means quick meal preparation!

Grow Your Own Immune Boosting Garlic For Improved Health & Vitality

Climate & growing conditions

Summary:

Store bought garlic is bred for shelf life, not flavor or nutrient density. Luckily, growing nutrient dense garlic varieties takes very little time and effort. You can grow enough garlic for a whole year in just a 4’x 6’ (1.2 x 1.8 m) garden bed. Discover how to grow your own garlic, bursting with flavor and nutrients for your health and vitality. Plus, get the pro tips on how to maximize your garlic nutrition.

Garlic is an ancient remedy

Garlic is one of the world’s oldest cultivated agricultural crops and has been used for centuries to treat a vast number of diseases and ailments. From malaria and meningitis to tuberculosis and typhoid fever, garlic has been recognized as a powerful healer throughout time in cultures across the globe.

There was a time when people hoped to cure misunderstood ‘evils’ with garlic and other alliums. Today, scientific studies are confirming many of these ancient medicinal remedies. More on the allium family and some of their benefits here.

Of all the alliums, garlic single handedly wards off more ‘evils’ than any other vegetable or herb. It’s no wonder it was revered to have magical properties.

Why Grow Garlic When You Can Buy?
Flavors You Can’t Find at the Store: Grocery store garlic is bred for one thing: shelf life. While this is helpful for food being transported hundreds and thousands of miles, the cost of breeding for shelf life is a loss in flavor. In addition, there’s not a lot of variety at the grocery store. They carry one of three typical varieties. However, when you grow your own garlic, you can choose from over one hundred different varieties and flavors.

Health and Disease Prevention You Can’t Buy: Studies show a direct correlation between flavor and the presence of nutrients for many foods. That great garlic flavor is an indicator of more nutrients and therefore more health for you. Allicin is just one of the many active compounds in garlic that supports your health. You can read the amazing benefits of allicin here.

You don’t need to settle for less. Enjoy superior flavor and health when you grow your own garlic. Plus, it’s easier than you might think!

How To Grow Flavorful and Nutrient Dense Garlic

When inviting plants into your life, it’s important to remember that plants want to thrive. They do whatever it takes to grow strong and turn to seed for the next generation of plants. Your role as a caretaker is to provide the best conditions for your plants to flourish. Here are the eight considerations when growing garlic.

1. Growing Garlic: A Great Choice for Busy Growers

Unlike other annual garden veggies and herbs, most garlic grows from fall, through winter and all the way to summer. Growing garlic takes very little maintenance so it’s great for busy people. Once garlic is in the ground, the only thing you may need to do is mulch before temperatures freeze. Then curl up with a cup of hot tea and take the entire winter off. That’s right, nothing left to do but wait until harvest in late spring, early summer!

2. Choosing the Right Garlic for Your Climate 

Hardneck and softneck varieties can be grown in colder climates, but if you live in a warmer climate, you’ll want to choose a softeneck variety. For more on choosing the right variety, grab your complimentary printable Garlic Growing Guide here.

Sow garlic at the beginning of your cool season. Hardnecks need the first four to six weeks of growing to be between 32-55°F (0-12°C). Softneck and warmer tolerant garlic varieties can be planted in warmer temps, but need to be below 80°F (23°C) for the duration of their growth. 

Garlic sprouts should be at least 6-8” (15-20cm) tall before temperatures drop below freezing. When sprouts are at least 6” tall, mulch the garlic bed with a light material, like organic straw to protect it through the winter. You can also use mulch to keep the soil cooler in warmer climates.

3. Your Garlic Plants Want 6-8 Hours of Sunlight  

Without proper sunlight, your garlic plants cannot photosynthesize properly. Because sunlight hours change through seasons, you’ll want to make sure that wherever you plant your garlic it is getting 6-8 hours of full sun from fall through summer and up until harvest time. 

4. Quality Soil Means Nutrient-Rich Food 

Health starts underground. If growing in a container, choose a high quality, organic potting mix. If growing in soil, ensure it is well draining with plenty of fertility. Keep your fertility levels up by adding a 2” layer minimum of organic compost on the top of your potting mix or soil each growing season.

5. How Many Garlic Plants in How Much Space? 

You don’t need a lot of growing space for garlic. You can grow enough garlic to savor year round in one 4’ x 6’ (1.2 x 1.8 m) garden bed. And that one garden bed can give you much more of that cherished garlic flavor beyond the bulbs. 

Before your garlic head fully matures, grab an early harvest with hardneck varieties. Hardnecks produce edible shoots on the top of the plant called ‘scapes.’ Simply cut the scapes when they are between 6-10” (15-20cm) long and enjoy them raw or cooked. They make a delectable addition to sautees!

PRO TIP: in the early spring, plant lettuce between the rows of garlic. Your garlic and lettuce will be ready to harvest at the same time, so you get two crops out of the same space. Plus your planting bed will be clear to plant summer crops.

6. Watering for Perfect Garlic Harvests

When you first plant your garlic, water 1” (3cm) per week until leaves emerge. Then, reduce watering. No need to water once temperatures go below freezing.

When the ground thaws, water 1” per week in temperatures of 60-70°F (15-21°C) and 2” per week in temperatures of 70-80°F (21-26°C). 

PRO TIP: Watering less often and more thoroughly is best. 

7. Harvesting and The Secret to Getting Superior Garlic Harvests

Harvesting garlic is easy! Your garlic is ready for harvest when lower leaves turn brown and papery. Using a digging fork, gently insert the digging fork into the soil and lift the garlic heads from soil. 

But you don’t have to wait until the garlic is mature to start harvesting. Aside from the scapes of hardneck varieties, you can enjoy delicious fresh spring garlic by harvesting before maturity and cooking immediately.

Important Tip When Growing Garlic: The secret to getting superior garlic harvests is to save the largest, healthiest bulbs for planting next year.

8. Curing and Storing Your Garlic 

Once you’ve harvested your garlic, gently brush off the excess dirt. Never wash harvested garlic or get the bulbs wet as this can cause your garlic to mold. Hang your garlic or lay on a wire rack out of sunlight for 2-4 weeks in temperatures of at least 80ºF (26ºC). In colder climates, curing can be done indoors. 

Once cured, cut the stems off and peel the very outer layer of skin off the bulbs. Store in a ventilated, dark, dry area at 60ºF (15ºC). When garlic is cured properly, it will store for anywhere between 4-12 months, depending on whether you’re growing the hardneck or softneck variety. 

For everything you need to know about garlic varieties and growing, grab your own complimentary Grow Your Own Garlic Cheat Sheet in printable format here.

Growing Celery for Maximum Nutrition and Flavor

Garden Hacks - Simplify routines

Celery Used as Disease Prevention for Thousands of Years

Did you know celery (Apium Graveolens) was used almost exclusively for medicinal purposes from 850 BC through the 17th century? A 2017 phytopharmacological review on celery confirms “…the Apium has emerged as a good source of medicine in treating various diseases.” From weight gain and skin conditions to rheumatic tendencies and chronic pulmonary catarrh, celery is proving itself to be a powerful plant for many ailments and chronic diseases.

Three reasons to grow your own celery

Protect yourself from toxic chemicals. Celery is ranked as one of the Dirty Dozen by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), making it one of the most contaminated produce items on the grocery shelves. When you grow your own, you know exactly how the plants were grown and create a toxic free future for yourself and your loved ones.

Choose foods that are nutrient rich. When you have no idea where your food is actually grown, that’s a big question mark where your health is concerned. Your health starts in the soil, and growing your own food allows you to focus on quality soil. Plus, food starts to decompose the moment it is harvested. There’s no telling how much of those vital nutrients were lost before your food reaches your plate. 

The flavor of homegrown celery will surprise and delight you! It’s easy to overlook celery for flashier vegetables. But that is a big mistake, especially in the garden. Because homegrown celery is so much more fragrant than store bought. You quickly rediscover why it’s been in recipes for thousands of years, not just for its health benefits but for its unique homegrown flavor.

Important Tip No One Talks About When Growing Celery

Growing celery from seed is not recommended for beginners. It is one of the more finicky seeds and takes longer than most to germinate. When you find good quality, celery plants at a trusted nursery or farmers market, you will have more success and faster harvests.

If you can’t find celery plants, growing from seed is still an option. Discover best practices in the Grow Your Own Celery – Cheat Sheet.

How To Grow Nutrient Dense Celery

When inviting plants into your life, it’s important to remember that plants want to thrive. They do whatever it takes to grow strong and turn to seed for the next generation of plants. Your role as a steward is to provide the best conditions for your plants to flourish. Here are the eight considerations when growing celery.

1. Growing Celery is Great for People With Busy Lives

Celery is among one of the easiest plants to care for in the vegetable and herb garden. Once your garden is started, it takes just minutes each day to harvest and care for celery. Luckily, most pests avoid this fragrant herb making it easy to care for too.

2. There IS a Celery Variety for Your Climate 

Plant your celery outside once night temperatures are above 55°F (12°C). Celery grows best in temperatures between 55-80°F (12-26°C). Living in a hot, dry desert climate? You’ll have better success planting in dappled shade or under shade cloth.

A favorite among many gardeners is Tango variety. It performs well under less than ideal growing conditions such as heat and moisture stress. And the flavor is fragrant with stalks that are more tender and less fibrous.

Which other varieties to consider? Tall Utah is an upright plant, rather than one that spreads out. For color, Giant Red or Chinese Pink varieties are a fun way to add some unusual color to your meals.

3. Your Celery Plants Want 6-8 Hours of Sunlight  

Without proper sunlight, your vegetable plants cannot photosynthesize and grow. Your outdoor celery needs 6 hours of sunlight minimum. NOTE: Sunlight and grow lamps are not the same thing. When growing indoors, your celery plants need 16 hours under grow lamps. 

4. Quality Soil Means Nutrient-Rich Food 

Health starts in the soil. If growing in a container, choose a high quality, organic potting mix. If growing in soil, ensure good drainage, structure and fertility. Add a 2” layer minimum of organic compost on the top of your potting mix or soil each growing season.

5. How Many Celery Plants in How Much Space?

Celery is perfect for small gardens. While planting celery 6” (15cm) apart is recommended, squeezing that spacing to 4” has some benefits. It may lower your harvest per plant, but you’ll get more harvest overall since you have additional plants. This is a great option for people with small growing spaces.

For container gardens, choose a container that is 12” (30cm) wide and at least 12” (30cm) deep for four celery plants or cutting celery clusters. This will give you and your family of four several celery stalks for 2 out of 3 meals daily.

6. Water, Water and More Water!

Celery is 95% water by weight, and needs more water than most vegetables. It’s a marshland plant, so it prefers consistent moisture. That means watering each day (temperatures above 70) or every other day (temperatures below 70). Watering celery once a week typically doesn’t work unless you get significant condensation every night in your garden. How do you know if you need more water? If your celery plants wilt, water more. 

Living in a hot, dry desert? Add 6” mulch to the soil which can drop the soil temperature by 10 degrees Fahrenheit! The soil holds more moisture which keeps roots cooler.

7. How to Harvest Celery for Maximum Yield

You might read that it takes celery 60-80 days before it’s ready for harvest. If you were growing a head of celery like you find at the grocery store, that might be true. But the good news is that you can harvest much sooner with this PRO tip!

PRO Tip for more abundant celery harvests: Cut what you need, when you need it. When the plant has at least 10 stalks, no matter how small they are, start harvesting and enjoying your celery. Simply harvest the outermost stalks and keep at least 7 stalks on the cluster at all times. Your plants may last the entire growing season with this continuous harvest method. That’s WAY better than waiting for one single head of celery!

To harvest, use a sharp knife or pair of scissors to remove each outermost stalk as close to the soil as possible. Keep the cuts as clean as possible as old plant material and ragged cuts are places for pests and diseases to fester.

8. Can You Store Celery For Later? 

Like most herbs, it’s best to cut and use celery fresh. After all, that is the benefit of your garden, putting the absolute freshest food on your plate at each meal!  But if you are harvesting a lot of celery at once, water is the trick to keeping celery fresh. One option is to place stalks in a glass of water on the counter. Display the vibrant green harvest while keeping it hydrated until you’re ready to use.  

Celery is a staple in cuisines around the world! If you are considering preserving celery for all your winter soups, use a dehydrator to remove most of the moisture for long term storage. Pro tip: grind your dehydrated celery into a powder and store in an airtight container in a dark cool space to enjoy your harvests year round.

Get the complimentary Grow Your Own Celery – Cheat Sheet with everything you need to grow celery in this two-page printable format. 

Build Your Own Garden Essentials Holiday Gift Basket

Building Projects

There’s no better gift than a gift of health this year! When you help your loved ones garden, you are boosting their immunity and improving the quality of their life. They will thank you all year round… and maybe even send you garden-fresh food in appreciation. 

Whether you’re shopping for a loved one who is new to growing food or a seasoned gardener or anything in between, we’ve got you covered. Get quality essential garden tools and soil fertility supplies so you can save time, work with ease, and maximize your harvest yield and nutrition. And for all you folks who love to give gag gifts and stocking stuffers, check out the fun bonus section!

A Tip for Gift Shopping in A COVID Economy 

This year, it’s all about finding new ways to celebrate our family and community. How special will the gardener in your life feel when you get together with friends and family and pool your resources for a unique gift. Tell everyone to ship one or two garden items to you, then you can create a customized basket. Make sure each item is labeled with the gift giver’s name. And remember to have everyone send a sweet card wishing them an abundant first harvest. 

The Number One Gift Every Grower Needs

The number one tool every new grower needs first is a good garden mentor that can show them the ropes, empower them and support them when they come up against challenges. This is what GrowYourOwnVegetables.org is all about. Here’s three programs that provide the best garden instruction for everyday people. You don’t need a science degree to grow amazing food, just easy to understand lessons.. And right now, take advantage of bonuses worth hundreds of dollars when you grab these courses today. 

 

The Grow Your Own Vegetables Course is ideal for step-by-step methodical people who like thorough instruction and a solid foundation. It’s everything you need to grow any vegetable or herb, anywhere.

The How to Grow $400 of Vegetables & Herbs in 40 Days Course is great for beginners and self starters that want quick results their first 40 days of growing. It’s a fun 40-day garden adventure to kickstart your garden fast.

 

The Superfood Garden Summit features the top garden experts & visionaries to help you create a garden supercharged with nutrients

Holiday Gift Basket: Choose Your Garden Harvest Container

When you’re building your Holiday garden gift basket for your loved one, forget placing the gifts in an actual basket. Instead, use the container as an opportunity to give your loved one of the most essential garden supplies: a harvest container. 

Our top choices for harvest containers are great for small, household gardens. They were chosen based on the following criteria: durability, ease of use, , and multi-functionality. 

RSVP Green Polyester Collapsible Market Basket with Pocket:
This tear and water resistant harvest basket doubles as a basket for grocery shopping. How cool is that?!

 

SAMMART 2.37 Gallon Collapsible Tub with Handle:
BPA Free Collapsible Tub doubles as a basket for grocery shopping too. Plus an extra feature: throw it in the dishwasher for easy washing!

Multipurpose Garden Harvest Basket Mod Hod Blue:
Harvesting fresh from the garden can bring unwanted soil inside This Garden Harvest Basket is ideal for rinsing your harvest outside so you keep your kitchen clean.

Garden Hod, Small:
This wood and metal harvest container makes this the eco-friendly choice. PLUS, it allows you to wash your harvest outside while it’s still IN the basket so you keep your kitchen clean.

Our top harvest container choice for large garden harvests is none other than the original Tub Trug with the flexible 3.7 gallon colander. This flexible and extremely durable harvest container is the number one garden container for all your garden tasks. Made from 100% food grade plastic, these containers are frost and UV resistant!

Great for:

– Collecting and transporting weeds, making weeding easier with less mess.
– Carrying compost and amendments along while you plant seeds and seedlings, You can even DRAG it preventing awkward hauling of bulky bags.
– Washing harvests so you keep the soil out of your kitchen.
– Collecting larger harvests in the garden eliminating back and forth trips.

Holiday Gift Basket Garden Essentials 

When it comes to gardening, there is such a thing as too many tools. The more tools you have, the more cleaning and upkeep you do and the more things you lug around the garden. So when it comes to the essentials, less is best. The most important tools for growers are gloves, pruners and a set of hand tools.

A growers gloves should not be big and bulky (we aren’t going snowboarding here!), but rather be thinner and mold to the growers hands. Showa Atlas Nitrile Garden Gloves are one of the most beloved gloves among gardeners… and for good reason! They’re tough and feel like a second skin.
 

The Flex Dial Bypass Pruners will be the best pruners you’ll 
EVER have. Do your hands get tired pruning and harvesting? 
Adjustable grip fits YOUR hand & reduces fatigue during 
repetitive cuts. Includes full steel core & ComfortGEL Grips.

Choosing a hand tool set is so important! A gardener’s work is physical so it’s vital to care for your body and avoid unnecessary strain. Even having the proper tools can put stress on your body if they are poorly designed or not super durable. 

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. Choose the long handled set for your loved ones who need to sit while gardening more often and those who are wheelchair bound.

More Holiday Garden Essentials Gifts

If you’re looking for a more complete garden gift basket for your loved ones, the following list are supply essentials that increase productivity and help growers maximize the nutrition and yields of harvests.

Journaling is essential for planning and improving garden skills. But gardening and paper just don’t mix well. When we found this Waterproof and Reusable Journal, we were stoked! YES, seriously… this awesome tear resistant paper is 100% waterproof so you can journal in your garden without worrying about damage. Stone paper is manufactured with ZERO trees with a tiny water footprint so it’s super eco friendly. Plus, it’s REUSABLE if used with Frixion pens.
Nowadays there are all kinds of digital measuring gadgets for growers. They’re very expensive and most aren’t necessary for a successful harvest. And when you’re just starting out, the high-tech garden gizmos can actually make gardening more confusing for new growers. Stick to simplicity with this 3-in-1 Soil Meter that measures the three most important factors for a successful garden all at once! No Battery Needed. Measures pH, moisture, and light.
Every gardener should have a good quality watering wand that quickly and deeply saturates the garden soil without damaging plants. The Dramm One Touch Rain Wand is a GYOV team favorite. The 16” wand allows complete and total water flow control with just one touch of your thumb.

PRO TIP: For successful gardening, watering less often and more deeply is best for plant health. The best method for deep watering is to water lightly, then come back and water more deeply after about 10-15 minutes.

The Holiday Garden Premium Gift Basket Additions

Of course there can be no gardening without seeds and soil fertility! But before we showcase our unique seed finds, you should know: garden set ups are often extremely costly. And if you’re just starting, on a tight budget, or renting your home, you may not want to spend a bunch of money and time on garden set ups only to walk away later. That’s why we love these!

100 Gallon Raised Bed Grow Bags These 4 feet (1.2 meters) diameter, 12 inches (30cm) deep bags have reinforced handles for transport, and they are durable! They last 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. 

Perfect for:

– New gardeners
– Gardeners on the Go
– Growers with physical limitations
– Busy Growers who need to have it done already!

Buy, open, fill with raised bed soil media, and start growing! Built to last, even commercial growers use them. So if you’re looking for the perfect raised bed for your gardener, the 100 Gallon Grow Bag is where it’s at. Need something deeper? Check out the 200 gal bags.
 Oh, and they’re also sustainable, made of food safe recycled plastic and felt!

Garden Holiday Gift Basket Top 3 for Soil Fertility

Soil Fertility is EVERYTHING! Studies show that about 80% of all pest and disease issues come from less than ideal soil conditions. And while chances are your gardener will need more than what might fit in your harvest gift basket, a sampler pack can help set your new grower on the right path. And for seasoned growers, a sampler pack can help them experiment with soil fertility options they might not yet know about.

Worm Poop: Studies show that worm castings improve your plants ability to resist pests and disease. That’s why so many growers add this before planting all their seeds and transplants. Recent analysis of the Urban Worm Company’s castings shows high humic content and nitrogen cycling microbes. And, they’ve got a perfect 2 pound sample bag!
Bio Char: Biochar reduces nutrient leaching and the bioavailability of contaminants in our soils while increasing water retention, microbial life, and overall soil health. It’s superb for increasing your harvest yields and nutrient density. Check out Aries 4- Quart Green Biochar Soil Amendment. It’s the perfect size for a garden gift basket!
Azomite Trace Minerals: Trace minerals should be replaced once a year. This slow release mineralization is vital to plant health and azomite has over 70 trace minerals. The Nitron AZOMITE is micronized into a fine powder that can be applied dry or easily dissolved in water for application. Pro Tip: Apply azomite with a spice shaker.

Garden Holiday Gift Basket Seed Collections

For gift baskets, variety is where it’s at! Luckily, Botanical Interests has a fabulous selection of seed collections. Here’s a list of our favorite collections and who they’re best suited for:

Baby Greens: This collection is great for brand new growers who are dedicated to a healthy lifestyle full of fresh, nutrient dense food or anyone who wants to add a handful of health to every meal. Also a good choice for indoor winter growing.

Chef’s Herb Garden: Some herbs (like rosemary) can be a little tricky to germinate, but overall, this herb collection is a great choice for those interested in a kitchen herb garden and people who just want to dip their toes into the gardening world.

Container Veg: This collection is a great choice for container gardening, raised bed gardening and gardening in small spaces. It’s also a good option for new growers who want to dive in to gardening and learn how to grow a variety of fresh food.

The Heirloom Collection: This collection is for growers with at least a few seasons worth of experience. But we don’t want to deter new growers from going all in either! If your new but you’re diving straight into larger scale homestead gardening, this collection is an amazing collection of seeds. All these open pollinated varieties have been around for at least half a century. Pro Tip: Store seeds in a cool dry dark environment. An airtight container in the fridge works well. They will last much longer this way.

Fall Veg Collection: When most people start growing, they immediately head for the summer season vegetables like our beloved juicy tomatoes! But warm season crops can be more challenging than the cooler season crops. That’s why we like the fall garden collection for new growers. Start with the easy wins like radishes, beets, and kale in the cooler weather of fall… and bonus! These crops can be grown in spring too so you get double the harvest!

Stocking Stuffers and Gag Gifts

The holidays aren’t complete without fun! So we’ve put together a list of some fun stocking stuffers and gag gifts.

 

The Funky Veg Kit:

Taste the rainbow with purple carrots, striped tomatoes, red Brussel sprouts and Bright Lights Chard! The Funky Veg Kit sports 20 non-GMO seeds per variety, the perfect amount for a small vibrant colored garden.

 

Save the Bees Wildflower Seed Bombs:

Wildflowers are beautiful and attract bees and butterflies for pollination! Eight “Throw N’ Grow” organic seed bombs (chemical-free & non-GMO). We love this idea for people who want to have some outside fun with the kids.

The Ultimate Garden Gag Gifts

Authentic Flying Reindeer Droppings: For all the sunflower lovers out there, the non-GMO, pesticide free sunflower seed reindeer poop is sure to bring a laugh this season!
Authentic Elf Droppings: Give your gardener non-GMO, pesticide free vegetable seeds and a laugh with these compost and clay seed pods, err… elf poo! Not just a great gift but a great ice breaker for parties.
Heads up!  This article contains affiliate links. If you click on them and take action, I may be compensated. We choose these products carefully. We have a strict policy of only recommending products we LOVE that will help growers on their journey to a fresh food lifestyle!… well, okay, the elf and reindeer poop is just for fun… but joy is a big part of gardening too, just like the holidays. We hope your season is filled with joy, love, laughter, fresh food flavors, and let’s not forget… health! 

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.