Organic Gardening; Heirloom Seeds V/S Hybrids

 

It’s spring, even though it’s still pretty cold in some parts of our country. Here in southern Nevada it’s definitely time to plant some seeds. If I decide to plant my vegetables from seed, are all seeds equal? Will I get similar results? What is a hybrid? And what is a heirloom?

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.

– Marcus Tullius Cicero

If you buy vegetables at the grocery store they are usually hybrids. A hybrid is a cross bred vegetable, that is modified to grow a big crop, be resistent towards diseases, and yield a harvest that is as tolerant as possible. Fruit and vegetables sold at the store often have to withstand extensive travel to get there, and of course most consumers like them to last as long as possible before they go bad. They can be modified with help of humans, or naturally in nature. (Genetically Modified Organisms are always created in a lab, and that is not the same thing as a hybrid.)

A heirloom vegetable on the other hand comes from someone that saved a seed from their favorite vegetable, and planted it again. It’s not unusual that heirloom seeds are hundreds of years old. Most gardeners would agree that they are non-hybrids, and open pollinated. If you save a seed from a heirloom vegetable, and plant it next year, and save a seed from that vegetable to plant the year after that…..and so on, you are always going to get what you first started out with. That is not the case with hybrids. If you ever tasted a heirloom vegetable, you never want to eat a hybrid again. They taste a million times more, and comes in varieties most people are unable to imagine. For me the choice is simple, if I take the time to grow my own vegetables (which I love to do,) it’s definitely going to be both organic and heirloom varieties. If I like them, I save the seeds for future use. It’s a great idea to build a seed bank of your own. Have you ever tried saving seeds? It’s pretty cool!

I planted some cherry tomatoes with the kiddos at work today. I’m pretty sure it was the first time they planted something from a seed. I can’t wait to see how they react to the process of seeing their seeds turn into a delicious harvest. I’m going to have them help me take care of the plants every day.

Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity. – Lindley Karstens

The seeds we planted today are going to be part of a container garden. It’s the beginning of my favorite season! Extra exciting this year since I am in a new area, and gardening is likely going to be pretty experimental this first season. Do you have exciting garden plans? Tell me in a comment!

Love,

Ms Zen

Growing Fruit Trees In Containers

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I grew up in a cold place where it was impossible to grow fruit trees of any kind. I love fresh fruit and vegetables, and eat a lot of it. Sometimes it was even difficult to find a variety of fresh fruit in the grocery store, and it was always very expensive. Now I live in California (garden zone 9b,) and my options are (almost) unlimited. I can grow anything my heart desire, with a little effort. I’m in heaven!

Fruit trees take several years of growing, before they produce fruit. I have been moving more times than I can remember the last six years, lived and worked at several different ranches, and been on a cross country trip with my RV. My semi nomadic, adventurous lifestyle, lead me to start experimenting with  container gardening, a few years back. Now I successfully tried growing; different kinds of peaches, cherries, olives, plums, pomegranates, lemons, and figs in containers.

Last year I decided to sell my whole container garden, it was starting to get BIG in every aspect of the word (the trees were huge and many,) before moving to a new place. This year we’re leasing a property, and I will plant a traditional annual vegetable garden. On the side I’m going to start a new container garden with fruit trees. I planted the first four trees yesterday (photo above. Don’t mind the surrounding mess/weeds, we’re in the middle of moving in to our new house.) I’m focusing on trees that are suitable for our dry/hot climate, like pomegranate, and fig trees. I will plant some other trees, but I’d like the majority to be draught resistant.

I’m trying to think of ways to save water. For the past three years I’ve planted my fruit trees in smart pots, durable grow bags made out of fabric. It’s cheap to get used ones where I live (!) They work great for growing vegetables, and fruit trees. Last year I grew tomato plants that was closer to 10 ft, in 25 gallons smart pots. (Here is a post with some container gardening from last year.) The only thing I was concerned about was all the water that poured out on the ground. I’m sure there is a way to work around that, to save that water. Until I figure out how, I’m going to use self watering pots that water the trees automatically. The first week you water on top, after that you fill up an empty space at the bottom, and the plant uses the water it needs. I’ve tried it indoors with flowers, ten years ago, or so. Using them outside, as a means of saving water is new to me. I will keep you posted about how this method works for different kinds of fruit trees.

I prefer dwarf, or mini dwarf trees, for container gardening. It’s easy to maintain a short tree. You can pick the fruit with ease, prune it, and easily cover it with a net if it need protection from birds. I have tried regular sized trees in containers as well, it works, but you have to train the tree from a young age to the form you like. It’s a little more work, but doable. Just don’t let it get to big in the pot. Depending on the tree, I find that 15-25 gallon containers are most suitable. 25 gallons pots can grow a big, productive tree, but are very heavy to move. I have a heavy duty garden cart to move them on, but it’s still slightly challenging to move the 25 gallon trees by yourself. (I’ve done it many times, that’s why I choose to sell my container garden before moving last summer.) The trees I planted yesterday are in 15 gallon pots. Which will work perfectly for a couple years, until it’s time to replant them anyways (before they get root bound.) One of the most important thing when choosing containers for your fruit trees, is that the container drain well. You don’t want the roots to constantly be wet. They need to dry out in between.

If you have a container garden because of limited space, and you buy your trees at a nursery, pick your trees carefully. Try to pick “cone shaped” trees, with branches growing at a 45 degrees angle upwards. It’s easier to keep training that tree in the right shape, that will save you space. (Naturally you don’t always get to be picky, and that’s fine, you just have to work with what you got.)

I will keep adding trees to my container garden throughout the season, when I get a good deal locally. My goal is to have a variety of fruit trees, so that there is always fresh fruit available, year round. It is actually possible here. I sometimes barter working a few hours on someones place, or with someones horse, towards fruit trees, or fresh produce. The farms and ranches in our area are usually very busy during spring/summer, and appreciate the help. If you want to know what these two strong arms worked with today, check it out on Instagram. (It’s going to be 30ft x 30ft when it’s done.) I assure you I don’t need to hit the gym today, and I won’t have to do it tomorrow either..lol. I love this time of the year!

Are you interested in container gardening? Have you tried it? Do you have a container garden? Are you interested in trying? What type of fruit trees thrive in the climate where you live? Tell me about your garden!

 

Love,

Ms Zen