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From the NC Cooperative Extension Service

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From the NC Cooperative Extension Service

Post  walshevak on 2/3/2012, 8:59 pm

Sorry, the spacing got wonky during cut and paste.

When Times Get Tough…
The Tough Get Gardening
With rising prices, unemployment, and inflation, vegetable seeds and plant sales in the USA are
up 25% over last year’s sales. This doesn’t mean people know what to do with them. A
hundred and fifty years ago, half of Americans lived on subsistence farms, raising their own food
and perhaps some cash crops in good years. Today, over 91% of American food is purchased in
chain supermarkets; most of it shipped over 1,500 miles.
People want to buy from local sources or grow food themselves. But key knowledge and skills
have been lost in our decades of complacent abundance. You can save money and gain
satisfaction from growing some of your own food. Many people are trying it already. Be another
Here are some helpful guidelines for supplementing your income by efficiently growing some of
your own foods.
Get your soil sampled. In North Carolina, this service is supplemented by your taxes, so there is
no added cost. That is, it appears to be free. But if you’re not soil sampling every few years,
you’re paying taxes for a service you’re not getting. Go to your nearest County Center of the NC
Cooperative Extension Service for instructions and a free kit.
Ask for free information on gardening, food storage, food safety, and nutritious meal planning
from Extension Agents in Agricultural and Family and Consumer Sciences at your nearest
County Center. Learn about gardening before you do it. Ask questions and read. It’ll help you
avoid costly mistakes. Experience is the best teacher, but also the most costly method to learn.
Grow only foods your family will actually want to eat. Raising unfamiliar exotic stuff nobody
in your family actually likes will waste time, land space, water, and kitchen and refrigerator
space, too. Have a family conference to ask what should be grown. The family is more likely to
share the labor if they are incorporated in the decision making.
Buy quality seeds, transplants and perennial food plants of good quality varieties (now called
cultivars). You may have to do an internet search for the cultivar name (use the words “buy” or
“sales” to find places which actually sell the improved cultivars). You can order them by online
catalogs or request paper catalogs by phone.
First, grow more expensive food items with less labor demand. If you plant small fig or
blueberry bushes (or rooted divisions that you obtain free), you can be picking your first fruits in
2-4 years. This could save $ 4 a pint for highly nutritious and tasty fruits which grow in little
space, needing easy pruning, and probably never need spraying.
Don’t plant just once a season. Put in more seeds every month of the growing season and you
can have fresh plants coming along as old ones wane, get diseased, or attacked by insects.
Remove old plants from the garden that are on the decline. A compost pile in a discreet location
near the garden can handle spent plants, helping to destroy their pathogens and insect eggs and
turning them into valuable soil amendment.
Control weeds. Don’t ever let them go to seed or spread by runners, bulbs or corms. Weeds can
be handled with mechanical tillage in large gardens that have straight rows, but in smaller
gardens where human labor is involved, garden hoes, compact square foot gardening, and
mulches can keep the weeds at bay. Mulches include plastic and natural mulches. Plastic
mulches may be black in cooler climates and white or silver in hotter regions. Plastic mulches
warm soils and retain moisture. Natural mulches such as leaves, wheat straw, six layers of
wetted newspapers, layers of cardboard and even pine needles will cool soils and retain moisture.
These mulches break down adding nutrients and making soils more crumbly so roots grow
through them well. Some weeds can pierce through mulches. Nutsedges (often called nut grass
by persons who don’t know that sedges are of a different plant family) thrive under plastic mulch
and can pierce through both plastic and natural mulches. Many weeds, including yellow
nutsedge are edible. Some of them may be harvested as supplemental foods in the garden.
Lambsquarters, pigweeds, chickweed, plantains, dandelions, violets, Johnny jump ups, prickly
lettuce, sowthistle, and other thistles are quite edible and nutritious when young. Some may be
eaten raw but most should be cooked as recommended by wild foods experts. Don’t make a
steady diet of these wild foods, but use them once in a while. You have to be certain of your
weed identities to be safe. Some weeds are poisonous. Even the pokeweed, which many people
have heard of being eaten in the past, is really very poisonous and is not worth eating even in its
very young stage.
Some herbicides are registered by the EPA for use in edible gardens. You should research these
carefully with your county Extension Agents and make choices about whether and how often to
use them. Some are for use “pre-emergence” to the weeds, and some are for use “postemergence”
to the weeds. Misused they may damage your crops severely. Reserve them
mainly for use on large gardens and possibly garden borders. Be careful of “drift” which is when
weed killers get carried off target by breezes, landing on valuable plants you don’t want to
Grow spinach, broccoli, collards, cabbage, and their relatives and you will eat for weeks from a
small space, consuming most parts of every plant. Leaves of broccoli, for instance are more
nutritious than the heads we traditionally eat. Even the stems can be eaten if tough outer portions
are trimmed off. Plants in the mustards (including cabbage), the goosefoots (including spinach,
beets and chards), and the asters (including lettuces, thistles, dandelion, chicories, and
sunflowers) take up small land area while producing large yields of edible food with low calorie
nutritional quality.
If you grow beans or corn instead, you’ll use much garden space, exert much labor, and get
lower edible yields with lots of inedible leaves and stems to get rid of, unless you feed them to
animals you also raise. That may be more than you want to do. So, let commercial farmers raise
corn and beans, which you can buy more cheaply than you can raise. (For added savings, buy
dried beans rather than canned beans, saving yourself sodium and getting more nutrition from
ripened beans than snap beans picked while still green.)
Just a few squash, cucumber or pumpkin plants can yield you plenty in a small space. Learn
about the powdery mildew, downy mildew, leaf spots, cucumber beetles (and the bacterial wilt
disease that cuke beetles spread) and vine borers, squash bugs, and stink bugs, which are the
major invaders. Harvest and lightly cook the soft tender tips of running vines of cucumbers,
pumpkins, gourds, and many of the over abundant flowers which never produce squash fruits.
All related members of this family like drought, so plant them in well drained soil (or raised
beds) and don’t over water them. Tomatoes require far more water.
In summer, tomatoes are a favorite. But, investigate how to grow them to get good results.
Choose several varieties, some may be heirlooms, but select some with hybridized resistance to
diseases such as VFNTA (standing for verticillium wilt, fusarium Wilt, nematodes, tobacco
mosaic virus, and alternaria blight). If you don’t know what any of these are educate yourself
BEFORE you waste money (and valuable time) trying to grow your own tomatoes. While
you’re learning, study up on blossom end rot, a calcium deficiency disorder which is extremely
common in tomatoes, peppers, and watermelon. This can be prevented with boosted soil calcium
through liming, consistent watering, and supplemental calcium with diluted, dissolved Epsom
salts or powdered milk in your irrigation water.
Sweet potatoes take up room but may be used between other plants to shade soil and lessen weed
growth. They root easily from cuttings so new plants can be started throughout the season. To
form large starchy nutritious roots you need 120 days of warm weather, but the tender tips of the
vines can be plucked off many days and eaten as a lightly blanched vegetable flavored with
ginger shavings or your favorite herbs. Look up recipes on the web.
Other Tips
Check out and read
Jacob R. Mittleider’s “Grow Box Gardening, More Food From Your
Garden” in the public library. Readable comic book style. Make beds only 4 inches high.
(Cut way back on recommended fertilizers that Mittleider recommends).
Buy dried beans, canned corn, rice in the stores. Frozen succotash mixtures are also a great food
Buy locally raised Irish potatoes more cheaply than you can raise them. (Volunteer to help dig
our potato test plots!)
Consider buying local cabbage, collards, and turnips in season.
Online Seed Sources
Park Seed Co.
Henry Field’s Seed Co
Rupp Seed Co.
Harris Seed Co.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Burpee Seed Co.
Territorial Seed Co.

Jung Seed Co.

The Twelve Most Efficient Food Crops to Grow for Your Family
Tomato VFN, TSWV 4-5 feet Cage, plant suckers
Peppers Paladin 3 feet Trellis, Plastic mulch
Eggplant Black Beauty 4 feet Cut back in July
Simlins Patty Pan 4 feet Plastic mulch
Basil Thai 2 feet Cut & Come again
April 20 - July 1
Rosemary Perennial 4 feet Root from cuttings
Okra Clemson Spineless May 15- June 15 3 feet Plastic mulch
Sweet Potato Edible Leaf 1 foot Pick shoots daily
Broccoli Various 1.5 feet Eat all chewable parts, Don’t overcook.
Kale, Collards,
Mustard Greens Various 1 foot Cut & come again. Don’t overcook.
March 1 – Spring And July 15 - Fall
Turnips, Daikon White Icicle 6 inches Sow between other crops
Spinach Various 8 inches Cut & come again. Don’t overcook
February 15 & September 15

Beets Various 6 inches Sow between other crops


Elizabeth City, NC
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Re: From the NC Cooperative Extension Service

Post  Furbalsmom on 2/3/2012, 9:48 pm


What a great piece, thanks for finding and sharing it with us. The reasons for growing your own, reminding people to contact their local extension service for information, and that great piece of advice, grow what your family will eat.

So much of that information is usable by everyone here, not just in the Carolinas.


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Re: From the NC Cooperative Extension Service

Post  madnicmom on 2/4/2012, 2:18 pm

Nice article but for the row gardeners of Ohio, it cost $12 and here is the kicker - they send the sample to Univ of Michigan for testing. lol!

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Re: From the NC Cooperative Extension Service

Post  staf74 on 2/4/2012, 2:23 pm

Thanks for sharing Kay !!!

Nice link.

Sorry, the spacing got wonky during cut and paste.

I get this too and has been a recent glitch. I will ask Boffer. The way around it is to go into editor mode before you paste (by clicking the red button with the double A icon) and then switch back again after the paste. That will stop that Very Happy

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Re: From the NC Cooperative Extension Service

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