Flood

This past week has been RAINY. We’re set to break a record for rainiest winter here in NC. When I look out our back window, I can see huge puddles of standing water. Thankfully, it’s not anywhere near our house or any structures!

Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE rain. Unlike the Carpenter’s song, rainy days and Mondays don’t get me down at all. Come August and September, you’ll hear me complaining about not having enough rain for my parched plants. Rain just makes everything feel cooler. Refreshed. Greener. Better, in my opinion.

But lately it’s been a little too wet. Never thought I’d say that, but here we are. I wonder if this is how Noah felt during those first few days in the Ark. After a week, I can imagine him saying, “Okay God, I catch your drift (sorry, bad Mom pun, couldn’t resist). That’s plenty!” But it continued to rain 40 days and 40 nights – no reprieve. What must it have been like for all those people who were caught outside (without an Ark) watching the floodwaters slowly rising? While water can be life-giving, it can also be incredibly destructive.

Well, in the midst of this epic rain, the song “Flood” by Jars of Clay has been on repeat in my brain. The music video is VERY 90s, trying-to-be-grunge, and emo, but the message is pretty good. 

 

Here are the lyrics in case you missed them:

 

Rain rain on my face

It hasn’t stopped

Raining for days

My world is a flood

Slowly I become

One with the mud

 

(Chorus) 

But if I can’t swim after 40 days

And my mind is crushed

By the crashing waves

Lift me up so high

That I cannot fall

Lift me up

Lift me up when I’m falling

Lift me up I’m weak and I’m dying

Lift me up I need you to hold me

Lift me up and keep me from drowning again

 

Down pour on my soul

Splashing in the ocean

I’m losing control

Dark sky all around

Can’t feel my feet

Touching the ground

 

(Chorus)

 

Man! I can really relate to this. Maybe it’s the pandemic or maybe it’s just life, but “slowly becoming one with the mud” and needing God to “lift me up so high that I cannot fall” are both completely on point with what I’m feeling and what I imagine many of you are feeling right now. 

 

King David, my Old Testament boyfriend as I like to call him (I could write SEVERAL posts on why I think he’s bees knees, and maybe I will 😉 ), gives us hope that God does have the power to lift us up out of this gunk:

 

1 I waited patiently for the Lord;

    he turned to me and heard my cry.

2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,

    out of the mud and mire;

he set my feet on a rock

    and gave me a firm place to stand.

3 He put a new song in my mouth,

    a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear the Lord

    and put their trust in him.

Psalm 40:1-3 (NIV)

 

Are you outside the Ark, slowly drowning in the floodwaters and storms of your life? Do you feel like you don’t have a firm place to stand?

 

GREAT NEWS! There IS a high rock you can stand on:

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.  (Matthew 7:24-25, ESV)

 

Jesus’ words and teachings are the rock. Cry out to Him and let Him rescue you today! 

I’ll be praying for you this week! If there are specific things you’d like prayer for (floods in your life?), please feel free to send me a message on the “about” page or leave a comment on this post. 

Here’s to sunnier days ahead!

Psalm 40:2: He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.

Here’s a memory verse for this week! Save it as your phone wallpaper as a reminder that God gives us a firm place to stand!

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: All About Seeds – Part 3! Selecting Varieties for Planting

Next Sunday: Pruning Time

 

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All About Seeds – Part 2! Seed Lingo Decoded

Let’s learn some lingo, real quick. There are some buzzword-y things that go on seed packets, a lot of which we just smile and nod at because, yes we’ve heard those words before, and if it sounds science-y and not natural-y it’s probably bad, right? 

WRONG

Let’s shut down that sort of thinking right now. This blog is a hearsay-free zone. No, we’re going to do the work to understand these concepts, not just be influenced by vague notions we’ve heard. 

So without further ado, going head-to-head in ring tonight are:

Hybrid, GMO, Non-organic versus open-pollinated & heirloom, Non-GMO, and Organic


 

Open-pollinated/Heirlooms Vs. Hybrids

Open-pollinated: When a parent plant self-pollinates or is pollinated by another plant of the same variety, the next generation will be similar to the parent plant. This is how pollination happens naturally, with no human intervention. 

Heirlooms: are just open-pollinated varieties that can be traced back a long time (like 50+ years).

VERSUS

Hybrids: Humans intervene in the pollination/breeding process, selecting which plants to cross-pollinate. Think Gregor Mendel and his pea plants, if you’re familiar with that story from your High School Biology class. Essentially, you’re inbreeding the plants so that you get desirable phenotypes (how a gene expresses itself physically… let’s say a pink flower color instead of a purple flower color). Ultimately, hybrids WILL NOT have offspring that look like the parent. Hybrids are called “F1s” because that’s the nomenclature used in genetics to indicate the offspring of a cross-breeding; the “f” stands for filial, meaning “generation”, hence F1 is a 1st generation plant. So if you buy hybrid seeds, and you want to save your seeds from a F1 tomato, next year’s tomato isn’t going to look anything like the tomato you grew this year. It’ll still be a tomato and it might even taste good (or better!), but it’s not consistent. Another thing to note is that hybrids that make it to market usually have better yields (something known as hybrid vigor) and have better disease resistance. They are also typically more expensive because you’re paying for the labor to do all the cross-breeding and management, ensuring that nothing wild gets mixed in. Think buying a pure-bred dog versus adopting a mutt.

Main take away: Open-pollinated and hybrids each have their place. I opt for open-pollinated when I want to save my own seeds. I go for hybrids if I know I’ve got a problem that a hybrid can solve (say, tomatoes that won’t crack easily or beautiful flower colors). “Heirloom” is just a marketing ploy.

And since I can’t resist a good Biology meme, you’re welcome in advance for the following Gregor Mendel memes.

 

Gregor Mendel - Give Peas a Chance Gregor Mendel - BRB doing science

 


 

Non-GMO Vs. GMO

Non-GMO: Not a Genetically Modified Organism. Meaning, the DNA sequences of these varieties haven’t been manipulated in a lab (no gene insertions, deletions, or substitutions). 

VERSUS

GMO: Genetically Modified Organism – a scientist in a lab somewhere has been fiddling with the DNA. Why would someone do that? Well, it turns out that scientists have found ways to change the DNA sequence that can result in a more desirable outcome, usually to make Big Agriculture easier, but sometimes for even GOOD, humanitarian reasons. For instance, adding DNA sequences that make the plant resistant to viruses (yes, plants can get viruses, too!). Or enabling a plant to secrete a substance that’s undesirable to a common pest. Or enhancing vitamin content so a staple food (like rice) can be more nutritious (this is a major public health win in the developing world). 

So, overall, GMO is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to us consuming the plant (unlike pesticide use in non-organic growing methods). The problems with GMOs are primarily ecological and legal. 

    • Ecologically speaking, do we really know the full impact of messing with an organism’s genetic make-up? How might the changes we make impact soil conditions (nutrient uptake, water requirements) or other levels of the food web? 
    • Then there’s the question of genetic diversity. If every large agricultural outfit is using the same GMO seeds because they need their corn to be resistant to corn borers (an insect pest) for a profitable harvest, what happens when corn borers begin to adapt (which they inevitably will) and suddenly no one has seed that the corn borers aren’t adapted to? You’re up a creek without a paddle, or a corn, that’s what.
    • Legally speaking, who owns the rights to those seeds? Many of the companies who create GMO seeds (you’ve probably heard names like Monsanto and Syngenta), make it illegal for farmers to save seeds from GMO plants they’ve grown. Due to these patent laws and other regulations, farmers are dependent on GMO developers to supply seeds, which can get expensive.

Dwight Schrute on GMOs

Main take away: GMO and non-GMO are buzzwords that don’t have a lot of bearing for the home gardener. I think it’s fine to plant GMO seeds, and see the benefit of their use in agriculture and public health applications. But it’s probably a better option to not put all our eggs in one basket, so to speak, and maintain the supply (and demand) for non-GMO. For more on the GMO debate, check out this site!

 


 

Organic Vs. Non-Organic

Organic: No pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic pest or disease controls were used on the parent plants that produced your seeds.

VERSUS

Non-Organic: The parent plants that produced your seeds might have been sprayed. 

Main take away: For seeds, organic vs. non-organic has very little bearing on the quality of the seeds themselves. You MIGHT WANT TO BE CONCERNED about whether your PRODUCE is organic or non-organic because you could be consuming whatever pesticides were sprayed on the plant. Plus, organic farming practices are gentler on the soil and larger ecosystem, which I think it worth promoting. If you want to get gung-ho and vote with your dollars to encourage organic practices in seed production, that’s fantastic. But ultimately, it’s less of a concern with seeds than with produce.

 


TLDR:

When it comes to seeds, a lot of these buzzwords are marketing ploys to appeal to different segments of consumers. However, if you’re fundamentally opposed to or in support of certain business practices or environmental justice issues, then dig in and pick your seeds according to your convictions. 

 

Coming up:

Sunday: Flood

Next Wednesday: All About Seeds – Part 3! Selecting Varieties for Planting

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Where are you planted?

On a warm-ish day a few weeks ago, I had the uber-ambitious idea to take my daughter hiking. That might sound like a normal activity to you, however, let me interject here that my daughter is two. We can’t walk anywhere without stopping ~843 times to look at gravel or a piece of pine straw. 

We’d walked this trail at our local state park before (or should I say, I carried her 90% of this trail before), so I knew there was a good chance we weren’t going to make it more than ¼ mile without a major break. And I was right, because there’s a CREEK WITH A BRIDGE. People. You’d have thought we had discovered the Holy Grail when she found that bridge for the first time. And also, my child cannot resist a body of water – puddles, creeks, rivers, lakes, bathtubs, showers, sprinklers. This child LOVES the water. 

So, of course, we made our way down to the creek’s edge. I was feeling pretty proud of myself for bringing her rain boots (#momwin) and since the water level was only 3-4 inches in the shallows, I let her walk around while I sat on the banks. While I was sitting there I saw this tree:

Tree near stream

Tree roots

Isn’t it striking? Check out those scraggly roots! That moss action! The beauty of the moment just hit me like a ton of bricks.

Then these words came to mind:

Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the one

    who does not walk in step with the wicked

or stand in the way that sinners take

    or sit in the company of mockers,

2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,

    and who meditates on his law day and night.

3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,

    which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither—

    whatever they do prospers.

 

4 Not so the wicked!

    They are like chaff

    that the wind blows away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

    nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,

    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

 

Who are you walking with?

Where are you standing?

Whose company are you sitting in?

What do you delight in?

What do you dwell or meditate on, day and night?

 

Where are you planted?

 

The answers to these questions makes all the difference. Choose wisely.

Psalm 1:1a, 2-3: Blessed is the one... whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither - whatever they do prospers.

Save this as your phone wallpaper to remind yourself to examine where you’re planted.

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: All About Seeds – Part 2! Seed Lingo Decoded

Next Sunday: Flood

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All About Seeds – Part 1! Deciphering Seed Packets

Do seed packets simultaneously inspire you AND overwhelm you? Well, I’m glad I’m not alone! Today, I’m going to show you how to decipher seed packets. If it’s Greek to you now, hopefully by the end of this post you’ll either be speaking Greek or at least be proficient in reading it.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding - Give me a word, any word. I show you how root is greek.

Let’s take a look at a seed packet. Here’s an example of a lettuce mix I got from Seed Saver’s Exchange:

Front of Seed Packet Explained

The front is pretty self-explanatory, with the company name, plant type, and variety/mix name, except for the bottom which says “Always Open-Pollinated and Non-GMO”, which I’ll cover in next week’s post. So let’s skip that for now and move to the back of the packet:

Back of Seed Packet Explained

So at the very top we have “packed for 2019, sell by 10/31/19”, then the product number & lot number, then the number of seeds or weight of seeds that come in the packet. 

“Packed for” and “sell by” dates ARE NOT expiration dates, so don’t throw your old seeds away. Your seeds will still be viable for many years (but fresher seeds always germinate best). It depends on the type of seed, but many stay good for 5-10 years (some shorter, some longer). If your seeds are getting up there in age, you can always sow more seeds than you intend to grow to maturity as extra insurance in case they don’t all germinate.

Then we’ve got the product number and the mix name again, plus the Latin Genus and Species name for lettuce (Lactuca sativa). This is helpful because it gives you a clue about how plants are related. For instance, onions are “Allium cepa”, while garlic is “Allium sativum”. Guess what? They’re related! But that was an easy one. Here’s another neat connection: tomatoes are “Solanum lycopersicum” and eggplants are “Solanum melongena”. Yes – tomatoes and eggplants are part of the same family – commonly called nightshades – and even grow similarly! This is helpful to know when planting so you don’t put cousins right next to each other in your garden bed – they likely have similar nutrient needs (they’ll deplete the same soil nutrients meaning you’ll have to fertilize) and they might even attract the same pests (together, they’ll act like a giant neon “eat me!” sign to any bug in the area). Is your mind blown yet?

Mind Blown
Next, we’ve got a description from the seed company. Since this is a mix, they’re telling us the variety names that they’ve included (some packets for mixes don’t even go this far… it’s a smorgasbord of whatever seeds they had left, so I give SSE props for disclosing their varieties). 

Okay now we get to the VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION.

40-45 days- this is the days to maturity (number of days from planting the seed to harvesting your lettuce). Extremely important information to have so you know when to harvest.

Seed spacingignore the “direct seed” spacing“ if you’re doing square foot gardening. The direct seed spacing information given on the seed packet is how to grow these using traditional gardening rows. This particular packet is instructing you to sow seeds one inch apart, then once seedling sprout, to cut down excess seedlings so that the ones that remain are 6-8 inches apart. It’s extremely wasteful and stupid, in my opinion. However, it’s a great way for the seed companies to get you to buy more of their product. We aren’t going to be fooled by their shenanigans, though.

No, what we’re going to do is look at the final spacing from the “thin” instructions (6-8 inches for lettuce) and think about how many plants with that spacing could fit in a 12” x 12” square. NOW DON’T FREAK OUT. We’re going to do some math. It’s not hard and it’s simple to remember.

Oh No! Not Math! Kitty Screaming Meme

You can do this! I believe in you! Now STAY WITH ME. We do this quick calculation:

  • Width of your planting area (12 inches) ➗ seed spacing (6 inches) = 2 plants across
  • Length of your planting area (12 inches) ➗ seed spacing (6 inches) = 2 plants down
  • Multiply your two answers together to get the total number of seeds to plant per square.

2 x 2 = 4

(see, you can do this!)

ANSWER: At 6” spacing, you can fit 4 lettuce plants in a square foot.

There are also handy dandy charts online with this information pre-calculated for different types of plants.

Planting depth is VERY important. Don’t just shove your seeds as deep as you want. You want them to be close to the surface. Rule of thumb is sow 2 times as deep as the seed is wide.

Germination info is just what you think it is – how long it takes for seeds to sprout into seedlings once planted, in this case 7-14 days.

The instructions section has other notes that might help you like sunlight and temperature needs (does it need full sun or partial? Frost tolerant? Heat tolerant? etc)

Lastly, we’ve got more company contact info should you have questions or problems.

And that’s it! That wasn’t so bad, was it? I’m sure you’re speaking Greek fluently now! And you’re polished up on your multiplication tables. Wondering about some of those buzzwords like “Open-Pollinated” and “Non-GMO” we saw on the packet? If so, great! Because that’s what I’ll cover in next week’s post – All About Seeds – Part 2! Seed Lingo Decoded!

What other seed packet variations have you seen? Which seed companies do you think have the most useful information on their packs? Let me know in the comments!

Coming up:

Sunday: Where are you planted?

Next Wednesday: All About Seeds – Part 2!  Seed Lingo Decoded

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Kingdom First

On my way home from dropping off a package at the post office today, I saw one of those billboard signs at a tiny rural church that said “Seek Christ First in 2021.”

Whenever I see old-school placard signs like that, I can’t help but picture some poor, little old church lady having to sift through a jumble of “E’s”, “C’s”, and an occasional “Q” to put together the message. Aren’t we living in the 21st Century? Hasn’t she heard of electronic billboards? Sigh. But, I digress. 

Church sign - too hot to keep changing sign. Sin bad, jesus good, details inside.

This is not the sign I saw, but I appreciate whoever put this one up!

The sign got me thinking, though, about a passage I read recently. You might know it. It goes like this:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33 – NIV).

I like the New Living Translation a lot, too, which really breaks it down into even simpler terms:

Matthew 6:33: Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Save this as your phone wallpaper as a reminder to Seek First the Kingdom this week.

 

Man, that verse has a lot to unpack. Seeking the Kingdom first. What does that even mean? What is the Kingdom of God? What does it mean to seek it? And not only that, what does it mean to seek it FIRST?

When I think about the Kingdom of God, I tend to think of an external kingship. In my mind, it’s where:

    • God is King – He is given ultimate rule and authority
    • Earthly systems mimic how things operate in heaven (Matthew 6:10)
    • Christ reigns here on earth (Mark 14:25)

 

BUT surprisingly, while looking into this more, I found the following verses that show it’s really more about something internal:

Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.– Luke 17:20-21

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. – Romans 14:17-18.

 

So that’s what this is really all about – the Kingdom is already here, and it looks like right living, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. 

Are you giving God’s Kingdom first priority in your life? Or is it taking a backseat to:

    • your ambitions at work? 
    • your relationship with your spouse or significant other? 
    • your children? 
    • just one more episode of whatever Netflix show you’re currently bingeing? 
    • a new fad diet or miracle product that will cure what ails you? 
    • popular lifestyle trends promising you “new life” if you just subscribe to whatever ideology they’re selling (cough, minimalism, cough)? 

 

How can we seek God’s Kingdom first this year?

For me, seeking the Kingdom first means dropping all my worries about this blog, the pandemic, and my future, and letting this be a place where Jesus is Lord and His name is proclaimed (and hopefully glorified if I don’t get in the way!). Where I let go of my ambitions and define my success or failure based on how God sees me. The rest is all gravy.

I’m praying for you this week, that the Holy Spirit would show you exactly what you need to do to seek the Kingdom first in your own life. And I’m praying that you would be bold to follow through on it. I’ve created the scripture verse image above – feel free to use it as your desktop wallpaper or as the lock screen on your phone to remind you to pray for direction this week. If I can pray for you or help encourage you in some way, let me know in the comments section below!

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: All About Seeds! Choosing Varieties and Deciphering Seed Packets

Next Sunday: Where are you planted?

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Step-by-Step Planting Preparation Guide

This Step-by-Step Planting Preparation Guide will help you with all the planning you need to do in the coming weeks to get your garden off the ground. Here’s a quick run-down of what you’ll need to get your Spring garden going this year! 

  1. Know your last frost date. This dictates how much time you have left before you need to really get things going. You can find it by putting in your zip code here. The date the calculator spits out  is the average range of the last frost in your area (+/- 2 weeks). That’s a month long window, so it’s really an estimate. 

You can plant up to two weeks earlier than the official date, BUT you’ll need to watch the nighttime temperatures like a hawk. If it dips to below 32F, you’ll need to get ready to cover any tender seedlings. Some years you win the gamble of planting early, and sometimes you end up like Linus, covering your plants every night for three weeks. It’s up to you how much effort you want to put into it.

Linus covering Christmas Tree

2. Decide how you’ll start your plants. If you haven’t made your decision yet, check out last week’s post about the pros & cons of transplants vs. direct sowing vs. indoor seed-starting

Here’s my honest opinion on the matter:

IT IS OKAY to buy transplants from a local nursery. You can buy nursery plants and STILL GET THE SAME DELICIOUS PRODUCE! You are not a “lesser” gardener for buying transplants. Anyone who judges you for going with transplants over seeds is probably a little full of themselves and not someone you want to be taking gardening advice from anyway.

Want more of a challenge than buying transplants? Do you like to live dangerously? Well, danger is my middle name. If you’re really sold on seed starting, then I HIGHLY recommend direct sowing.

Austin Powers: Danger is My Middle Name

3. Make a plan for what you want to plant and where it’s going to go. 

Consider these three things:

SPACE: How much space do you have? Will you be planting in containers? A garden bed? Make a paper chart (or spreadsheet you can print) of where everything will go. And make sure it’s to scale. Take into account plant spacings using the Square Foot Gardening method (post coming in the next few weeks!) and/or underplanting for getting the most out of your space. Ignore traditional row spacings on seed packets unless you’re a farmer. 

SELECTION: Every gardening website in the history of the world will tell you “plant what your family eats”. I didn’t take this advice for the first six years I gardened, because I wanted to see what I could grow, how plants in different families grow, and maybe because I thought deep down that I would enjoy eating Malabar Spinach (reality: slimy, gross texture) and Nasturtium (reality: smells like wet dog). I was wrong. Look at what your family eats regularly and plant that. Think about things you get at the grocery store every week (or at least every week in the summertime). Eighty percent of your space should be dedicated to those things. For our family, those are things like potatoes, onions, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, peppers, and lettuce. Not Nasturtium (though this makes a great companion plant!).

FUN FACTOR: Growing plants is also about learning and having fun, so I recommend getting 2-3 plants that will bring you joy or be a challenge to grow. WARNING: DO NOT experiment with things like PUMPKIN, MELONS, GOURDS, or WINTER SQUASH. They require a huge amount of space, so unless you’re trellising them over a massive arch or have a patch of grass you really want to kill, don’t do it. 

4. If you’re sowing seed, order seed catalogs/peruse seed websites NOW. Most companies send them for free, though Baker Creek has a coffee-table like book you can also buy for $14 if you just want to drool over some botanical eye candy. You can also peruse their websites if you don’t want the clutter/temptation of seed catalogs in your house. My favorites are: – Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds & Seed Saver’s Exchange

**Special Note for 2021: There may be issues with seed shortages due to a boom in COVID gardening. You may have to get creative here… see step #6.

5. DO NOT PLANT ANYTHING OUTDOORS RIGHT NOW. Let me remind you that it is February, and unless you live in Zones 9 or 10 (think FL/south GA), we’ll be going through some menopausal weather from now until mid-April (at least here in NC). If you try to plant now, your seedlings will get tricked into thinking it’s Spring about eight times between now and then, it will freeze and those poor little babies will bite the dust. Control yourself! Spring is coming but it’s not here yet.

Winter is coming... no wait, warm again. Ok it's cold, winter is coming... nope, warm again.

6. Buy/source your seeds or transplants. ONLY do this once you’ve planned out your space. Get your order in as early as possible for seeds (February or early March at the latest). Have a back-up plan in case something you want is sold out. Share or swap seeds with a friend or neighbor to keep costs down. Many public libraries also have “seed libraries” where you can give/take seeds for free!

Example of a Seed Library: https://www.blounttn.org/1464/Seed-Library

7. Prep the planting area. Have you made your planting beds yet? If not, now’s the time. If you did step #3, you should know how big to make your beds or how many containers to source/buy. If you’re doing raised beds, get yourself a load of certified organic compost (make sure it’s certified, meaning they test for heavy metals & persistent herbicides!) from a local landscaping company (they’ll deliver by the truckload for cheap compared to getting bags) and spread it over your planting area (at least ⅛ in thick, but more is better). For my garden (2- 4’x4’ and 2- 3’x4’ raised beds, plus 4’ wide beds around most of the perimeter of my house), I get 5 cubic yards (the minimum the landscape company will deliver, since I don’t have a truck to pick it up myself). It costs ~$180. It’s a huge pile of compost, so I end up laying it on thick. It takes 2-3 full afternoons to wheelbarrow and spread it by myself, but it’s worth it – I rarely fertilize my plants because the compost does such a great job providing nutrients. A good mix for raised beds is 1/3 compost, 1/3 coconut coir/peat moss, and 1/3 vermiculite/perlite. You can get a few bags of the coir/peat moss and vermiculite/perlite at Home Depot or Lowes.

Compost delivery

This is what 5 cubic yards of compost looks like.

8. When it’s time to plant, water the planting area BEFORE you direct sow OR after planting if using transplants. Why? Because tiny seeds will get washed away by a stream of water from a hose, whereas transplants need to “settle” into the soil by being watered in. Better yet, plant right before/after it rains and you can skip watering entirely! Note that for transplants, you’ll need to harden them off (acclimate them to being outside for gradually longer periods each day for about a week) before planting.

9. Plant your seeds/transplants. Bring a written diagram/chart outside with you so you know where everything goes. If you need to make adjustments when planting, write down your changes on that paper so you know what got planted where. Then, take a picture of it because YOU WILL LOSE THAT PAPER. You can also label with plant tags, but the diagram should be the source of truth. Seedlings all look VERY similar. A diagram helps you know what’s a weed and what’s something you planted when things start popping up! Pay attention to the proper plant spacing as outlined in the Square Foot Gardening Method or for underplanting. Seeds should be planted twice as deep as they are wide. A 1 cm seed would be planted 2 cm deep. 

Planting chart

My planting chart from last year with some edits.

10. Keep an eye on seedlings until they are established. This means not allowing them to dry out, protecting them from potential frosts, and shielding them from critters like birds, rodents, and insect pests that enjoy munching on the fresh new growth.

That’s it! Now go order some seed catalogs and curl up with a mug of hot chocolate. Enjoy this time of preparation and rest before the mad rush of planting in a few short weeks!

 

Coming up:

Sunday: Kingdom First

Next Wednesday: All About Seeds! Choosing Varieties and Deciphering Seed Packets

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How to Achieve Your Goals This Year + My 2021 Goals

Don’t you just hate New Year’s Resolutions? It seems like they never work out! We sink tons of money into exercise equipment in January, thinking we’re on our way to being marathon runners. By February, we’re back to this:

Mean Girls Meme - Stop trying to make New Years Resolutions happen. It's not going to happen.
I hate resolutions, but let me tell you, I LOVE GOALS. Come late December, I get so excited to make my yearly goals. One of my former coworkers shared the joy of goal-making with me by telling me about a tradition she and her husband have had since they started dating. Every year on New Year’s they go out for a fancy dinner to review how they did on their previous years’ goals and set new ones for the coming year. I loved this idea so much that Jonah and I decided to adopt this tradition ourselves. 

Now every New Years, we treat ourselves to dinner at our favorite restaurant and do our goal review. I’ve had a lot of success with keeping my goals, over the past five years. Jonah, on the other hand, has had “read more” on his list for the past five years, without success, so this year he finally took it off his list. Anyway, here’s how I don’t fizzle out on my goals come February:

    1. I pray about them a lot before I commit to them. You might ask yourself, what does God think about my goals? Do they honor Him? What’s my motivation?
    2. I make them SMART or SMARTish (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based). 
    3. I write them down. This is the #1 thing you can do to achieve your goals.
    4. I speak my goals out loud to friends and family. This gives me built-in accountability. I HATE to disappoint other people or go back on my word, so telling others my goals keeps me on the hook.

So, why make goals at all? 

As it turns out, it’s Biblical! I’ve been reading in Proverbs lately, and Proverbs has some great things to say on the subject:

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)

Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law. (Proverbs 29:18)

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. (Proverbs 16:3)

There are also some warnings about how we go about setting our goals, namely that we should seek God’s will as we’re deciding on what goals to make:

Psalm 127:1: Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vainSave this as your phone wallpaper this week as a reminder to commit your goals to the Lord.

 

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)

But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. (Psalm 33:11)

 

With that said, I hope you’ll take some time today to revisit any goals you set back in January and maybe make some modifications or recommit to your plans, asking God for His direction. 

And since writing down goals and telling others is a great way to make them happen, here are mine. Hold me accountable!

 

My 2021 Goals:

Theme Verse: Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Personal Goals

            • Read 2 books/mo (24 total)
            • Write in my prayer journal & mom journal daily
            • Phone free mornings & one offline day each week
            • Have daily one-on-one quiet time with God during kids’ nap time or after their bed time
            • Eat less meat by choosing 1 main meat/week
            • Be fully present at meals – no cell phone distractions or leaving the table

Family Goals

            • Read a parenting book together with Jonah
            • Visit 5 more state parks as a family
            • Visit the farmers market 1x/mo once vaccinated for COVID-19

Financial Goals

            • Open college accounts for baby #2
            • Save towards next home down payment & set up auto-drafts to savings

What are your goals for 2021? What have been the most challenging goals for you to keep over the years? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: Step-by-Step Planting Preparation Guide

Next Sunday: Kingdom First

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Where to Start? Nursery Transplants vs Direct Sowing vs Indoor Seed Starting

Spring is just around the corner! It’s hard to believe, but in just a few short weeks, it will be planting time. Have you thought about how you plan to start your garden this year? Here are some tips for choosing between Nursery Transplants vs Direct Sowing vs Indoor Seed Starting, including a run-down of the pros and cons for each option, with a handy flow chart to help you make your decision.

 

Nursery Transplants

Pros: 

    • Least amount of work. The nursery has done the hard work for you! You don’t have to deal with planting schedules, germination fails, and plants keeling over/getting leggy because they don’t have sufficient lighting (no, putting your plants in a windowsill is NOT enough light for baby seedlings… you need a fluorescent or special spectrum LED light to mimic the sun – I’ve learned this the hard way in growing the world’s floppiest tomatoes)
    • No waste! Did you really need 45 lettuce seedlings? That’s what you’re going to have when you sow indoors (lettuce seeds are TINY, betcha can’t plant just one!). Have you thought about how they will fit once they are full-size? At proper spacing (4 per foot in the Square Foot Gardening method), you’d need 11 square feet (close to three-quarters of a 4×4 ft bed) to plant all those lettuces. And I’m guessing you probably wanted to eat more than just lettuce this year. Plus, if you’re like me, you hear Sarah McLachlan’s “In the Arms of the Angels” every time you have to cull a perfectly good seedling because there is no room in the inn.

I have to make fun of it': Sarah McLachlan on the intense power of Angel, the unofficial song of sorrow | CBC Radio

    • Simple transplanting. Pop them out of their containers, dig a hole in the ground, and pop them in. Voila! You have plants!
    • Supporting a local business. After last year, we should all be supporting these entrepreneurs as much as possible. PREACH.

Cons:

    • Fewer variety options. You probably can’t get that super specific Russian tomato that you’ve been eyeing in the seed catalogs at the nursery. BUT the nursery will have at least 12 other varieties you can try that probably aren’t all that different. 
    • Slightly higher cost than seeds. But realistically people, it’s less than a latte. If you’re really nickel and diming it, get seed packets, but keep in mind that 4- or 6-packs of veggies or herbs at the nursery are usually only a couple bucks. Your sanity and time ARE worth something. Better yet, split that cost with a neighbor who only wants 1 or 2 plants. Now you have a neighbor with the same plants in case your plants fail. And you get to know your neighbor. Win-win.
    • Transplant shock is possible. You need to acclimate your nursery plants to their new home by leaving them outside for gradually longer amounts of time each day (over the course of about a week). If planted out immediately into new surroundings without this acclimatization, Your plants might not survive. 

 

Direct Sowing

Pros:

    • Strong plants. Plenty of sunlight and wind ensure your plants don’t end up leggy and weak.
    • No transplant shock because there is no transplanting! This happens if you don’t acclimate your plants to their final planting location (usually nursery plants need to be set outside for progressively longer periods each day for about a week before you intend to plant)
    • Low cost & low waste. You don’t have to buy potting soil or seed-starting mix.
    • Wide variety of seeds available
    • Some varieties must be direct sown to avoid root damage that would occur if transplanted. These include root vegetables like beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, and radishes. Other types of plants that don’t transplant well are beans, peas, squashes, cucumbers, melons, and corn. 

Cons:

    • Some babysitting required. You need to keep on top of watering so seedlings don’t dry out.
    • Uneven spacing in your beds is a thing. You aren’t going to have Martha Stewart picture perfect photo spreads of your garden. It’s going to look a little higgledy-piggledy. 
    • Thinning required. You have to pull/snip baby plants that are too close together. Cue the sad violin. (OR look at the bright side and enjoy some homegrown microgreens!)
    • Not appropriate for slow growers. Look at the “days to maturity” on your seed pack. If it’s longer than your growing season is (days between your average last and first frost dates), then you’ll need to start with transplants or by starting indoors.

 

Indoor Seed Starting

Pros

  • Wide variety of seeds available. You can grow any variety you want! As long as you can source the seed packet, you can make it happen
  • You have complete control over the growing process
  • Satisfaction/bragging rights of having grown your own plants from seed to harvest
  • You can observe and learn a lot about plant growth – nutrient needs, wind
  • Get a head start on plant growth (can start plants inside when it’s too cold to start them outdoors) – earlier harvests, potentially more rounds of succession planting

Cons

  • Requires expensive equipment to do it right, including seedling heat mats, domed trays or soil blockers, fans, LED/fluorescent lights, bakers racks, plus the actual seeds. This is easily a few hundred dollars in start-up costs. This method won’t pay for itself unless you’re using it for many, many growing seasons or planning to sell your seedlings
  • Wastes a lot of potting soil/seed starting mix. I see this as an unnecessary extra expense.
  • Plants must be hardened off before transplanting into the garden. This means acclimatizing seedlings like you would transplants from a nursery (gradually more time outdoors each day over the course of a week).
  • Dampening off / other fungal infections more likely indoors.
  • It’s a much bigger time commitment than transplanting or direct sowing. With great power comes great responsibility – you will be babysitting these plants, tending to water, heat, and light until it’s time to plant out. 

Here’s a summary of the points above:Plant Starting Pros & Cons Chart

Still not sure what to do? Use this decision guide!

Plant Starting Decision Guide

What are your thoughts on choosing between Nursery Transplants vs Direct Sowing vs Indoor Seed Starting? Are there criteria I missed that you think should be included in deciding? What did you decide? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Coming up:

Sunday: How to Achieve Your Goals This Year + My Goals for 2021

Next Wednesday: Step-by-Step Planting Preparation Guide

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