FREE Food for life - is it possible?


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i was knocking up some potting mix the other day and realise I frequently add a bit of bone meal, or fish blood and bone, which of course I have to buy, but I reckon you could easily make that up by simply upping the proportion of manure. If you do buy stuff it is worth watching the prices. The last lot of bonemeal I bought was in 750 gr boxes from the cheap shop. I had seen a 20 kilo 'Bargin' tub advertised as though it was the bargain of the month in my local garden center at what worked out about 5p a kilo dearer. Ten little boxes has kept me going for ages.
 
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Meadowlark

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i was knocking up some potting mix the other day and realise I frequently add a bit of bone meal, or fish blood and bone, which of course I have to buy, ...

Fishing is one way to address that. Instead of discarding your fish remains in the trash or elsewhere simply plant them sufficiently deep in the garden. I did that for years and raised some fantastic corn in the process. The American Indians absolutely knew what many today have never recognized.
 
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HeadFullOfBees - The only things on your list that I haven't grown with ease (this is my second season so my skill level is stick it in the ground and hope for the best) is Aubergine and Pepper (sewn early, nursed indoors under lights - but they just sulk when they go out to the polytunnel). Chilis of all types do well but not peppers. And I always lose my brassicas to cabbage whites - the only success I had was starting them very early so they were out the ground before the cabbage whites really got going. Kale and perpetual spinach are the only ones that don't get attacked.

I haven't tried over winter onions - I'm going to look into that. I think I pulled up my butternut squash too early last year - I thought there were no fruit and pulled them out sometime in Sept, but noticed lots of little green baby squash. So I'll leave them longer this year.

But what I was really getting at (and I phrased my question badly) is can you do it for absolutely no cost? So without buying seeds, compost, fertilizers etc? Of course you'll have setup costs, but my goal is to get to a point within a couple of years of having 100% free veg. Saving my own seeds, making compost (adding in seaweed, manure from the farm next door, anything the neighbours give me), making my own potting soil, wormery, comfrey and nettle fertilizers etc.

p.s Do you keep bee's? Just wondering given you name?
 
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Years ago I was in the garden and a cabbage white flew past, I knocked it out of the air with my hand and stamped on it and there was a yell from my daughter "You b******, you killed a butterfly". I explained how many eggs a butterfly lays etc. - she was not mollified. Now about fifteen years later she has taken up gardening, and confessed that in her second year at it she too has killed a cabbage white. :)

Have you tried chard? They don't seem to touch it , and the stalks are delicious with a bit of cheese sauce. Don't bother with the 'Bright lights', the white one grows better and the colour goes in cooking.
 
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Years ago I was in the garden and a cabbage white flew past, I knocked it out of the air with my hand and stamped on it and there was a yell from my daughter "You b******, you killed a butterfly". I explained how many eggs a butterfly lays etc. - she was not mollified. Now about fifteen years later she has taken up gardening, and confessed that in her second year at it she too has killed a cabbage white. :)

Have you tried chard? They don't seem to touch it , and the stalks are delicious with a bit of cheese sauce. Don't bother with the 'Bright lights', the white one grows better and the colour goes in cooking.
I've grown Perpetual Spinach - which I *think* is the same thing. Another thing they don't touch is curly kale. Sadly I'm not keen on either - although I haven't tried PS with cheese sauce. I tend to love anything with cheese sauce!! I know kale is nice in a smoothie with banana.

I'd like to grow broccili (calibrese) and cauliflower (to make cauliflower and broccili gratin), and also white cabbage which I love in bubble and squeak.

It may have been beginners luck, but I got an early crop of these last year - they were out of the ground by mid june before the cabbage whites got going. I also sprayed them with neem. This year I got them planted out and sent my husband out to spray them all with neem and within two days they were all dead!! I think he forgot to shake the spray bottle and sprayed them all with neat neem! They looked as if someone had painted them with varnish.
 
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've grown Perpetual Spinach - which I *think* is the same thing
Common names ....
I think 'perpetual spinach' is sometimes called 'chard; but grows more like spinach, 'Swiss' chard grows with really thick white stems, which are what I am talking about, but yes, the leaf itself has that 'spinach' taste.
 
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Probably, but there will be accidents. For example, I have saved runner bean seed for years, but last year stored it badly in a margarine tub and it all went mouldy so I had to buy new seed and start again.

You can make your own compost, it is the nitrogen element that will be lacking, keeping chickens would be a good way round that, but there are usually local sources available for a bit of work. Round here farmers are quite happy for gardeners to collect hop shoddy, and anyone with horses will usually give you as much as you want if you help with mucking out.

There was an interesting article about immigrants who had brought seed with them and were growing from saved seed for ten years or more, their plants were better adapted to British conditions than the ones specially produced by the seed companies, so presumably un-natural selection would improve almost anything to suit your own climate and soil. I mourn the loss of my runner seeds.

I can't see growing Caribbean veg. in Ayrshire is going to be very successful :)

PS, Cobbett is a lovely read, but take him with a pinch of salt, he was an idealist gentleman farmer, Grew seed on a farm in Notting hill, now solid housing, and had to leave for America for a while because of his political views.
It grows in USDA climate zones 2 thru 11, so it's pretty versatile.
BTW, folks: Malabar Spinach is not a type of Amaranth and very different from Jamaican Callaloo. But like I said people in different places called different plants Callaloo. It is a vine, Basella Alba , with sort of musilagious leaves, I'm guessing a bit like cooking okra?
 

Meadowlark

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...BTW, folks: Malabar Spinach is not a type of Amaranth and very different from Jamaican Callaloo. But like I said people in different places called different plants Callaloo. It is a vine, Basella Alba ,

Lots of different unending opinions on that:

  1. Malabar spinach also known as Guyana thick leaf callaloo, Ceylon, Chinese, Surinam or Vietnamese spinach https://www.thesurvivalistblog.net/unusual-plants-for-the-survival-garden/
  2. Malabar Spinach (Basella Rubra) [Guyana thick leaf callaloo] Also Known as, Poi Calaloo, Ceylon-, Surinam-, Chinese-, or Vietnamese (mong toi ) spinach, Malabar climbing spinach, broad bologi, poi baagi, callaloo and buffalo spinach. Amazon.com : 100 Red Malabar spinach Seeds [Guyanese thick leaf callaloo] fast-growing vine : Patio, Lawn & Garden
  3. Malabar Spinach (Basella rubra) also known as Guyana thick leaf callaloo and Indian spinach. Heat loving in Bangladesh https://bangladesh.desertcart.com/brand/malabar
  4. Malabar Spinach (Basella alba) Also known as Indian spinach... ad nauseum
The names go on and on...not that it matters one iota to me. Good stuff and loves the heat/humidity of East Texas and its nothing like Okra in taste or cooking.

Out of curiosity, have you ever grown it @cntrlwagdnr?
 
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Growing is part of the equation. Preserving is the other major part.
I am now at te peak of the growing season. Tomorrow I am looking at economical produce to purchase.
I want squash, cucumbers, beets, carrots, sweet potatoes. I have from my garden: potatoes, onions, garlic.
I will use root cellar for some, but will juice most and pressure can.
 

Meadowlark

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Preserving via canning certainly isn't zero cost especially if you externally purchase the produce.

Jars, lids, other special equipment are not free and in fact are getting very expensive...but I heartedly endorse it and regularly embrace it.

IMO, preserving isn't about being cost free or even saving money but for enabling the continuous year around consumption of nutrient dense food.
 
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Growing and preserving your own veggies certainly saves $$. I can, dehydrate and freeze. you all on here pretty much taught me how to can.
 
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HeadFullOfBees - The only things on your list that I haven't grown with ease (this is my second season so my skill level is stick it in the ground and hope for the best) is Aubergine and Pepper (sewn early, nursed indoors under lights - but they just sulk when they go out to the polytunnel). Chilis of all types do well but not peppers. And I always lose my brassicas to cabbage whites - the only success I had was starting them very early so they were out the ground before the cabbage whites really got going. Kale and perpetual spinach are the only ones that don't get attacked.

I haven't tried over winter onions - I'm going to look into that. I think I pulled up my butternut squash too early last year - I thought there were no fruit and pulled them out sometime in Sept, but noticed lots of little green baby squash. So I'll leave them longer this year.

But what I was really getting at (and I phrased my question badly) is can you do it for absolutely no cost? So without buying seeds, compost, fertilizers etc? Of course you'll have setup costs, but my goal is to get to a point within a couple of years of having 100% free veg. Saving my own seeds, making compost (adding in seaweed, manure from the farm next door, anything the neighbours give me), making my own potting soil, wormery, comfrey and nettle fertilizers etc.

p.s Do you keep bee's? Just wondering given you name?
It may get too hot in the polytunnel if you stock it too early & have to keep the doors shut.
It's not a greenhouse; stock it 3 weeks later, so you can open the doors during the day, & that's enough protection for them.
If you have side vents, open them too.
May I ask what size your polytunnel is, & how much sun it gets?
Spray your brassicas with actively aerated compost tea, which has had 2oz per gal molasses. Too rich for caterpillars.

Perpetual spinach & chard are the same thing; beet leaf.
 
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Perpetual spinach & chard are the same thing; beet leaf.
That's what a bit of research told me, except that they are varieties of the same plant, the chard has great big thick stalks , more than two inches across sometimes, that are edible with a more subtle flavour than the green top.
 
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It may get too hot in the polytunnel if you stock it too early & have to keep the doors shut.
It's not a greenhouse; stock it 3 weeks later, so you can open the doors during the day, & that's enough protection for them.
If you have side vents, open them too.
May I ask what size your polytunnel is, & how much sun it gets?
Spray your brassicas with actively aerated compost tea, which has had 2oz per gal molasses. Too rich for caterpillars.

Perpetual spinach & chard are the same thing; beet leaf.
The polytunnel is 2m x 4m and gets the sun from first thing until about 4 oclock. We have shade netting over it most of the mid summer. On hot days it gets into the high 30's for short spells, but normally we manage to keep it at just below 30. The tomatoes are happy, the chillies do well. But my sweet peppers barely grow. They'll get perhaps one fruit that stays small. I tend to put the tomatoes in quite early (mid may), but leave the peppers until it's warmer. The doors are almost always open during the day - unless it's cold.

I have a bed beside the house that we can keep covered so if peppers and tomatoes don't like the same conditions I can perhaps move the peppers out to there. Also, I've bought the cheapest pepper seeds - I was thinking of trying something more suited to the colder climate.

I didn't know you could get molasses here - I keep hearing people recommend it to feed microbes. We certainly have plenty of compost tea so we'll give your suggestion a try.

EDIT: Is molasses the same thing as treacle in the UK?
 
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The polytunnel is 2m x 4m and gets the sun from first thing until about 4 oclock. We have shade netting over it most of the mid summer. On hot days it gets into the high 30's for short spells, but normally we manage to keep it at just below 30. The tomatoes are happy, the chillies do well. But my sweet peppers barely grow. They'll get perhaps one fruit that stays small. I tend to put the tomatoes in quite early (mid may), but leave the peppers until it's warmer. The doors are almost always open during the day - unless it's cold.

I have a bed beside the house that we can keep covered so if peppers and tomatoes don't like the same conditions I can perhaps move the peppers out to there. Also, I've bought the cheapest pepper seeds - I was thinking of trying something more suited to the colder climate.

I didn't know you could get molasses here - I keep hearing people recommend it to feed microbes. We certainly have plenty of compost tea so we'll give your suggestion a try.

EDIT: Is molasses the same thing as treacle in the UK?
It's cold sunny days that are the real killer, as a polytunnel of that size can experience a swing from -3C/-4C with May frosts, to +35C when the sun is fully on it.
That'll inhibit nearly every plant except cactii, so my advice would be to delay stocking everything in the polytunnel another fortnight, as even the plants that do ok will do better.
I also find that bullhorn peppers are easier to grow here. I don't know why.
I picked 7 Corno de Toro Giallo from three plants yesterday for making a batch of pasta sauce, & have numerous fruit on the red "Thor".

Molasses is, more or less, the same as black treacle, but if you use equine molasses, that tends to be cheaper itlr.
 

Meadowlark

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It grows in USDA climate zones 2 thru 11, so it's pretty versatile.
BTW, folks: Malabar Spinach is not a type of Amaranth and very different from Jamaican Callaloo.

The main things about Malabar Spinach are

1) it is an easy to grow warm weather substitute for often difficult to grow spinach and

2) it tastes great and produces abundantly and

3) it's never sandy and gritty like spinach with it growing as a vine.

malabar 2.JPG


Can easily pick every day until frost...

malabar 1.JPG
 
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It's cold sunny days that are the real killer, as a polytunnel of that size can experience a swing from -3C/-4C with May frosts, to +35C when the sun is fully on it.
That'll inhibit nearly every plant except cactii, so my advice would be to delay stocking everything in the polytunnel another fortnight, as even the plants that do ok will do better.
I also find that bullhorn peppers are easier to grow here. I don't know why.
I picked 7 Corno de Toro Giallo from three plants yesterday for making a batch of pasta sauce, & have numerous fruit on the red "Thor".

Molasses is, more or less, the same as black treacle, but if you use equine molasses, that tends to be cheaper itlr.
I just spotted this reply.

That makes sense now - it's the extremes of temperature that are problematic. I tend to get my tomatoes out beginning of May, with fleece at night (assuming forecasts seem OK. But the temp swings I hadn't considered.

I've got solar power this year, so the daytime sunshine can be converted into grow lights meaning the plants can stay indoors until June.

I've ordered a few pepper varieties from RealSeeds.co.uk - they sell seeds suited to the UK climate. They are in Wales, so it won't all work here, but it's a better starting point. All heirloom varieties.
 
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