That time I straight up broke my shovel…

I broke a shovel today! I don’t know whether to be angry or somewhat proud of myself for exerting that much force.

RIP shovel!

Im Not Even Mad GIFs | Tenor

I’ve been doing battle with some horrible holly bushes next to our house for the past year. Actually, scratch that, since we moved here. The people who lived in this house before us made some very interesting gardening choices. And by interesting, I mean ridiculous. Like planting a fig tree six feet from the house (it touches the house and has to be pruned every single year), a giant crape myrtle 5 feet from the house (same problem), filling a bed with pebbles WITHOUT lining it with weed blocking fabric first (weed city), and most insanely of all, planting approximately a dozen holly bushes around the house, pretty much right on top of each other.

A well manicured holly is fine, and the berries are great for the birds in wintertime, but seriously these people must have been blissfully ignorant of the plant tags when they planted everything. Like didn’t care about plant spacing AT ALL. I could go on and on about the weirdness around here, but I’ll save you the headache. Let’s just leave it at I’ve been re-designing and correcting their poor choices since Jonah and I got married and I moved in.

This spring (because pregnancy hormones are real), I finally had it with the hollies and decided that I needed to renovate the garden bed next to our garage door since it’s pretty visible from the street. After hacking them to the ground as an attempt to kill them earlier this year, yesterday I started the undertaking of removing the root balls to really put the nail in the coffin.

HOLY COW. Talk about physical labor! The first root ball was maybe 30ish pounds and took me about an hour to get out. The second one ended up being 60 pounds (easily), and even with the help of an awesome new tool I tried – a mattock – I still broke our shovel.

Mattock – part axe, part digger, part awesome.

Needless to say, I was seriously channeling my inner Rosie the Riveter (and I will also be taking some ibuprofen soon):

Massive holly root balls – gnarly!

Rosie the Riveter We Can Do it Poster

The new plan for that bed will be a purple butterfly bush in the center (I had one pop up in our backyard that I’m going to transplant), some coral-hued mums in a semi-circle in front of the butterfly bush, and some pansies (also corals/reds) and dusty millers in front of that. I hope to get that done tomorrow and will post pictures once it’s done!

Little butterfly bush I’m going to transplant (on the right)

 

Craters left behind by the massive root balls

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SoDu Farmer’s Market

SoDu Farmer's Market

This year, since I’m not growing as much food as I normally would in our garden, I’ve been trying out different farmer’s markets in the area. Can I just say, I love farmer’s markets?! Let me count the ways!

  1. Supporting local growers and producers keeps resources here and promotes the local economy.
  2. By supporting local, I can also avoid shipping costs and reduce my carbon footprint.
  3. Avoiding excess packaging is better for the earth. I can bring my own bag to the market and buy loose veggies and fruits instead of items wrapped in plastic wrap. Less trash is a win in my book!
  4. I can choose to support organic and sustainable farmers who are committed to preserving the land and local ecosystems. Plus I don’t have to worry about anything sprayed on my food.
  5. I can meet the people who grow my food and hear their stories, get great ideas for recipes, get gardening tips, and learn about other community resources (places that do U-pick, local artisans, etc).
  6. I get to try varieties I can’t find in the grocery store.
  7. This is helping me meet one of my annual goals!

This week, I checked out a small farmer’s market that was new to me – the South Durham (or SoDu) Farmer’s Market. I must be living under a rock, because I just found out about this market and it’s just up the road from us! 

This market is a hidden gem! I love that it’s a small market, parking is easy peasey, and it still has everything I could possible need – baked goods, seafood, handmade soaps, ciders, cheeses, meats, and produce. They even have a homemade pasta vendor! It’s held in a parking lot that also contains a DMV license plate office, which I ironically had to visit just a few weeks ago. Let’s just say, I’d much rather be shopping than waiting in line at the DMV.

 

Is it just me or do you ever feel intimidated by farmer’s markets? I frequently get flustered and overwhelmed by all the variety and abundance around me and often just end up purchasing whatever catches my eye. Usually, that means I come home with whatever vegetables or fruits are front and center in the displays.

What I really enjoyed about this farmer’s market was that many of the vendors had chalkboards out front with a list of their offerings. That gave me a better idea of what was for sale and lessened the pressure/feeling guilted into buying something just because I approached a booth. This week, I challenged myself to get something other than fruits and vegetables, so here’s what I got. I was super pleased!

 

Lion’s Mane Mushrooms from Haw River Mushrooms

Lions Mane Mushroom

Lions Mane Mushroom (picture from https://ramblecreekfarm.com/store/product/lions-mane-mushroom-fresh)

I know what you’re thinking… that mushroom looks alien. That’s what I thought, too! At the suggestion of their super friendly employee, Fran, I tried these because she said they taste like crab meat. Jonah is a huge crab cake fan but hates mushrooms, so I did the ol’ switcheroo to see if he could tell the difference. Guess what? He couldn’t! I used this recipe from Aubrey’s Kitchen and they turned out great! Also, I had a lovely conversation with Fran about her time living in Washington state and found out that we have a mutual love of Mt. Ranier National Park.

Chopped Lion's Mane Mushroom

Chopped up it doesn’t look so bad, does it?

 

Peaches fromKen Chappell’s Peaches and Apples

Hallelujer! Fresh peach season is here. There’s really no point in eating peaches out of season. These are so delicious and perfectly ripe right now.

Hallelujer Madea

Peaches

 

“Field of Creams” Goat Cheese fromProdigal Farm

I love the mission of this local goat dairy. They really treat their animals well. They have a punchcard program for $10 of free cheese once you get 10 punches (one punch for every $10 spent). For this dairy lover, that’s a pretty great deal. Plus, I give them extra points for creativity in naming their cheeses!

"Field of Creams" Goat Cheese from Prodigal Farm

“Field of Creams” Goat Cheese from Prodigal Farm

Field of Dreams Meme - if you build it the memes will come.

 

Pastries fromNinth Street Bakery

Ummm, I didn’t get pictures of these because Jonah, the kids, and I demolished them! We really enjoy this great, local bakery. This time, we got two cinnamon rolls, a morning bun, and a bear claw. YUM! Here’s a drool-worthy picture of them from their website. 

Cinnamon Rolls from Ninth Street Bakery

Cinnamon Rolls from Ninth Street Bakery

I really enjoyed my visit to the SoDu Farmer’s Market and plan to go back soon to get some seafood, eggs, and meat! Do you have a recommendation of other farmer’s markets I should try? Drop it below in the comments so I can visit and report back.

SoDu Farmer's Market

SoDu Farmer’s Market is located at Greenwood Commons Shopping Center: 5410 NC-55, Durham, NC 27713. Open 8am-12pm every Saturday, year round.

 

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2021 Goal Check-In

Because I’m a task- and goal-driven sort of person, I like to check in on my goals a few times a year. Quarterly-ish seems about right for me, so I’m a little overdue for a check-in. I thought I’d share with you all how I’m doing so far this year, in the hopes that being transparent (and accountable) will help me get back on track! 

For the items below, green text means I’m on track, while items in purple need some work.

My 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.

I haven’t fully memorized this, which is sad since it’s not even a long verse. I’m going to make it my phone background for a little bit and see if it helps me memorize it. You can, too! Just save the image below:

Philippians 4:8

 

Personal Goals

  • Read 2 books/mo (24 total)
    • I’ve read 13 so far!
  • Write in my prayer journal & mom journal daily
    • More or less, I’m doing this. If I forget, I go back and fill in.
  • Phone free mornings & one offline day each week
    • Doing HORRIBLY at this. I need some accountability/ideas on how to curb my phone use, so if you have any suggestions of things that have worked for you, please let me know in the comments below!
  • Have daily one-on-one quiet time with God during kids’ nap time or after their bed time
    • I’ve been doing daily readings from She Reads Truth and have really enjoyed it! The great part is they have built in catch up and rest days on Saturdays and Sundays, so it’s not too overwhelming.
  • Eat less meat by choosing 1 main meat/week
    • I could be doing better about this. It usually ends up being 2 meats per week. Send me some links to your favorite vegetarian recipes in the comments below.
  • Be fully present at meals – no cell phone distractions or leaving the table
    • Again, doing HORRIBLY at this. I did make one change that has helped with my bad habit of getting up from the table during the meal, and that’s having a pitcher of water in the dining room for meals. Usually my getting up stems from being thirsty (I’m a camel when it comes to drinking water). I could still improve on getting up to put away plates, etc.

Family Goals

  • Read a parenting book together with Jonah
    • Haven’t even purchased the book yet. I guess this is my nudge to just go ahead and buy it already! This is the book:

 (This is an Amazon Affiliate link)

  • Visit 5 more state parks as a familyHa Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha
  • Visit the farmers market 1x/mo after vaccinated for COVID
    • Fully vaccinated now, but haven’t made it to the market yet.

Financial Goals

  • Open college accts for baby #2
    • Baby is almost here! Will be on my list of things to do in the next few weeks after she’s born.
  • Save towards next home down payment & set up auto-drafts to savings 
    • I’ve set up the automation! Why did it take me so long to automate this stuff? I should have been doing this for years.

Sooooo it looks like I have some work to do! If you have suggestions or comments, leave them below! How are you doing with your goals so far? Any pro tips? I’d love to hear from you!

Coming up:

Wednesday: Garden Update – The Bolt & The Beautiful

Next Sunday: The Importance of Rest

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What does it mean to be an Easter People?

If you’ve attended a church service on Easter, you might have heard the pastor say that Christians are an “Easter People”. What exactly does that mean?

First, did you know that Sundays are NOT technically the Sabbath? Nope! Christians gather to worship on Sunday because it’s the Day of Resurrection – AKA the day of the week Jesus was raised from the dead. The Sabbath, according to Jewish tradition, is Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel a whole lot better about sleeping in on Saturdays and doing a whole bunch of nothing. 

Jumanji: when you wake up from your 3rd nap of the day - "what year is it?"

https://www.reddit.com/r/memes/comments/fq1x0l/quarantine_naps/

Second, did you know that Easter isn’t a one-day celebration? It’s actually a 50-day church season that starts on Easter Sunday and ends on Pentecost. 

Easter isn’t just a one-time celebration or feast day. It’s ongoing. Every Sunday is, at its core, a mini-Easter, and there’s a good chunk of the year that we should be celebrating as Easter. Whether we do or not is a different story.

As Easter People, we are supposed to be celebrating. Living the most alive, flourishing, vivacious, liveliest, vital, (insert your favorite synonyms for alive here) life of anyone on this planet. We have the opportunity to live a resurrection lifestyle. A lifestyle Jesus embodied throughout his life and ministry. Case in point:

Jesus YOLO? Speak for yourself

http://christianfunnypictures.com/2016/03/14-hilarious-easter-memes.html

The disciples got to witness this resurrection lifestyle firsthand when Jesus was living with them. I love this cool scene from when Jesus’ friend Lazarus dies and he chats with Laz’s sister Martha (John 11: 17-27):

 17 When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. 18 Bethany was only a few miles[d] down the road from Jerusalem, 19 and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. 20 When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”

25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[e] Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” 

Can you see this scene playing out? I have to laugh because it’s just so ironic. Martha is one of those people who can’t read subtext well. We all know a person like this. She’s the one at the party who doesn’t get the punchline of the joke. Here, the joke is on her. Jesus reveals the truth to her in such a dramatic way… I imagine him saying to her, “don’t you get it? I AM the resurrection! Resurrection is here, NOW!” Jesus and Martha both must have face palmed in the biggest “DUH” moment in recorded history.

Double Face Palm - for when one face palm doesn't cut it

https://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/2013/which-episode-is-the-double-facepalm-image-macro-from

 

Let’s live like resurrection day is everyday, because IT IS! Let’s live like Easter People.

What do you think it means to be an “Easter People”? I’d love to hear your thoughts – leave a comment below and let’s chat!

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: How to Make a Herb Spiral

Next Sunday: Why so much garden imagery in the Bible?

 

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Palm-Waving Groupies

Happy Palm Sunday! I’m going to be completely unoriginal and take a look at Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem for this week’s devotional. So let’s dig in!

Context


Jesus has just traveled from Capernaum to Judea. It’s approximately 85 miles, so it would have taken several days to hike from Capernaum to Jerusalem (located in the region of Judea). Here’s a map:

Map of Capernaum to Judea

Map Courtesy of https://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/CP051GOSPELMAPS.htm

He’s also just schooled the Pharisees on divorce, blessed some kids, encountered a rich young ruler who was too attached to his possessions to follow Jesus, predicted His death, schooled the disciples on what greatness really means, and healed a blind man. You know, a typical week for Jesus. 

Why is Jesus moving towards Jerusalem? Because He’s about to go there to celebrate Passover. Plus He knows what He has to do in the coming week – die for the world’s sins.

Now, onto our reading for today.

Mark 11:1-11

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”

4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

Translated for Today

What an odd entrance! Riding a baby donkey over top of peoples coats and random tree trimmings? 

I tried thinking about this in a way we could picture today. Imagine this:

Instead of a limo or motorcade, Jesus decides to take a borrowed razor scooter into the city. No bodyguards, just a bunch of palm-waving groupies who can’t cobble together a decent red carpet. Instead, they lay the best they have to offer on the ground – their means of warmth and protection (coats) and a traditional sign of victory (palms). 

Tom Brady makes this look good, but few others could pull this off.

Tom Brady makes this look good, but few others could pull this off.
https://www.gq.com/story/razor-scooters-are-not-cool-tom-brady

 

Now that’s just my imagination, but I bet you can come up with something similar. The point is, it’s not a fancy entrance. Jesus comes into the city in a humble, almost humiliating way.

And then we hear what the people are shouting. They’re quoting Psalm 118, a Psalm pilgrims would sing on the way to Jerusalem (how fitting). It’s about victory and deliverance. Then, they implore Jesus with shouts of “Hosanna!”

Hosanna is an exclamation of praise that means…

SAVE US Now!

So in effect, the people are saying:

“Save us now!”

“God’s blessed you to come and do this!”

“David’s kingdom is going to make a comeback!”

“For God’s sake, SAVE US!!”

The Jewish people were looking for a political leader. With this humble entrance, Jesus showed, once again, that God’s kingdom looks VERY different from how we sometimes want it to look.

Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven! - Mark 11:9b-10

Use this as your phone wallpaper this week!

 

Reflection

As you celebrate Palm Sunday today, think about the following:

  1. What do you need saving from?
  2. How is Jesus currently challenging your ideas about what His kingdom should look like?
  3. Beyond palms and coats, what can you lay down at Jesus’ feet to help pave the way for his entrance into your life?

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: Update and Pictures from Our Jubilee Garden

Next Sunday: Happy Easter!

 

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Nitty Gritty – How to Prune

Pruning is both science and art. Last week we looked at the why, when, and what of pruning. Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty – how to prune. Here are some thoughts that can help guide your cutting.

 

Immediately Remove:

  • Anything diseased or damaged.
  • Adventitious growth. Look like suckers but are coming from an area that was improperly cut or damaged in a previous pruning session or storm.
  • Limbs that are criss-crossing or growing towards the center of the plant. The goal is for limbs to go OUT and AWAY from the center so the foliage can get more light for photosynthesis.
  • Suckers. These are shoots that come up from the base of the plant, trying to be new leaders (primary limbs). 

Suckers at the base of a shrub There's a sucker born every minute (PT Barnum)
All of these tiny shoots coming up near the base of the plant are suckers. PT Barnum would welcome them, but he’s no gardener.

 

Determine Desired Height

How tall do you want this to be once you’re done pruning? Choose a height to guide your cuts (ex. I aim for waist- or chest-high for shrubs since that’s easy to approximate). 

 

Shaping 

Look for little buds (AKA lateral meristem/axillary bud) on the limb in question. They might be clearly visible on a naked branch or they might be hidden right where a leaf attaches to the limb. The way these nodes are pointing indicates which way the plant could grow if you chopped right above that point. (Obviously if you chop below, the bud would be gone and couldn’t direct the growth).

Fun with Biology:

A meristem is a plant’s version of stem cells. Stem cells can differentiate into any type of cell that’s needed (sort of like our bone marrow and umbilical cord blood). An apical meristem is just plant stem cell tissue found at the apex, or top, of the plant. 

Lateral meristems are stem cells found near a bud or side shoot

Plant hormones from the apical meristem called auxins send chemical signals to the lateral meristems that inhibit lateral growth. Cytokinins (another plant hormone) allow for some lateral growth. For more on this, check out this cool article

Here’s the REALLY cool part: if you chop off the apical meristem (AKA  pruning), auxins can’t be delivered and whatever lateral meristem is closest to the top becomes the new apical meristem through cell differentiation. It’s crazy-amazing! Check it out:

Apical meristem is at the top of the limb, lateral meristems/buds are on the sides of the limb. Each bud shows the direction a new limb could grow if the top of the limb were pruned.Cutting above a lateral meristem/bud will turn that bud into the new apical meristem and the limb will grow in the direction of that bud.Here's what the new limb would look like if pruned (new growth going in the direction of the new bud with foliage at each lateral meristem/axillary bud.

 

Science and pruning are so cool!

 

Here’s an example of my pruning before & after, using the tips above. Subtle, but effective!

Shrub after pruning

 

Tree Limbs: 3-Cut Method

Growing a Greener World, one of my favorite gardening shows, has a great episode on pruning. I recommend watching the entire episode. If you just need to know how to best remove a tree limb, check this out:

 

A Note About Tree-Topping/Crape Murder

Ugh. I hate this so much. I hate that I have to tell people this AND I hate that tree service companies actually suggest this to their customers. Trees SHOULD NOT have their canopies removed. It’s atrociously ugly and it is usually fatal to the tree. At the very minimum it’s extremely damaging (to the tree’s health and to your property when the tree eventually fails and falls on something). Crape Myrtles are frequent victims of this treatment, hence the term “Crape Murder”. If a tree is overgrown, here are your best options:

  • Remove an entire limb from where it joins up with the trunk or a large branch using the 3-cut method
  • Cut down the entire tree – it will look better than topping AND prevent you from having a huge insurance claim after it falls down on your or your neighbor’s property
    • Bonus: this frees up space to plant something better (more appropriate size or native species)

A tree that's had it's canopy removed improperly using a topping method.

An improperly pruned tree. Tree topping is murder!

Results of tree topping - scraggly limbs, knots, and decay

For the love of Pete, don’t do this!!!! See how sickly the new growth is? The knots? The decay? It’s awful!

 

Additional Resources

Here are a few other resources if you have more questions about how to prune:

Now you know the why, what, when, and how of pruning! It’s not that hard once you understand the biology going on behind the scenes. 

I’d love to hear your stories about pruning (horror or otherwise)! Did you inadvertently kill a plant by pruning at the wrong time (guilty here!)? Have a bumper crop of flowers or fruits after a hard prune? What did you do with the harvest? Let me know in the comments!

Coming up:

Sunday: Good Soil

Next Wednesday: Square Foot Gardening Techniques

 

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We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming for Pruning – It’s Not That Hard!

I know you’re probably excited to get your transplants in the ground, but I’m going to interrupt your regularly scheduled programming. Before we do anything else, we need to get outside and do some pruning before spring kicks into high gear!

What types of plants should you prune? 

For the most part, pruning is for perennial plants, shrubs, and trees since annuals typically don’t make it through the winter.


Plants Need Pruning If They Are:

  • Overgrown or unruly
  • Patchy (insufficient light to center or lower parts of the plant)
  • Touching a structure
  • Crowding out other plants
  • Unproductive or you want to increase productivity (more blooms/fruits)

Why Now? 

Late winter/early spring is when plants are dormant and not actively growing. I like to aim for Valentine’s Day (this year, I was a little behind). The plant has time to recover from the wounds of pruning during dormancy,  plus pruning actually stimulates new growth which is perfect for this time of year – it kick-starts spring growth.


Exceptions to Pruning in Early Spring

There is one notable exception to early spring pruning, and that’s pruning flowering shrubs.

As a general rule, you should prune AFTER a plant flowers. It’s safe to prune any plant during early spring (dormancy) – your plant will still survive, BUT if you prune something that flowers before June (a sign that your plant flowers on the previous year’s growth), you’ll miss any blooms/fruits for that season/year. If something flowers after June, it usually means it flowers on new/this year’s growth, so it’s best to prune now.

NEVER PRUNE IN LATE SUMMER/FALL! It encourages new growth, which is susceptible to frost damage and can kill your plant.


What Tools Do You Need?

All you need is something to cut with. I find the following three items to be all that’s necessary. (Note: these are Amazon Affiliate links, so if you choose to buy anything, I’ll get a small commission. These are what I use to do my own pruning):

  • Hand Pruners (for twigs with diameter of about a finger or less). Be sure they’re bypass pruners, NOT anvil pruners.

  • Loppers (for anything from the diameter of your finger to diameter of your wrist). Again, be sure they’re bypass loppers and not anvil-style (which crushes instead of giving a clean cut)

  • Hand Saw (for anything bigger than that – typically trees or very big/old limbs on a shrub)


A Note About Safety

Don’t be overly daring when it comes to pruning. Especially with trees, if a limb is too big or too high to reach, leave it alone. If it bothers you that much, have a friend help you or hire a certified arborist (yes, make sure it’s not just a tree service!). If you’re using a ladder, have someone there to spot you/help hold it, or you’ll need to have 9-1-1 on speed-dial.

The Simpsons - A caller at this hour? You dial 9-1, then when I say so, dial 1 again

Now that we have the basis of why, when, and what to prune, come back next Wednesday for the nitty gritty on how to prune – the science behind pruning, deciding where to cut, and how to cut the right way. 

Have you started (or completed) your pruning for this year? How’d it go? Let me know in the comments!

Coming up:

Sunday: Spring Forth

Next Wednesday: Nitty Gritty – How to Prune

 

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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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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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