Encouragement (for Life as well as the Garden) Garden Gardening Tips Hybrid/Heirlooms onions (mentioned)

3 Things to Think About Before the New Year Arrives

Here are 3 things to think about before the new year arrives.  # 1 will help you to get more nutrient rich food.  #2 might save you a lot of time. And #3 will increase what you can learn many times over.

#1 When you order your seed this year, consider ordering mostly open pollinated varieties.

As you’ll recall in my recent post Garden Seed – Heirloom or Hybrid?, studies over the years show that hybrids “don’t necessarily have the ability to make or uptake nutrients” at the same speed they grow. The primary reason for this is because most hybrids are bred with higher yields in mind rather than higher nutrients.

Open pollinated varieties may be slower and produce a bit less, but the nutrient content (assuming you’ve “fed” your soil) is higher.

Nutrients fuel our bodies, give us energy, and keep us healthy. Nutrient dense food from your garden is about your best source.

You sure can’t get it at a conventional food store and you may not be able to get it at an organic food store either. Just because something is organic, doesn’t mean it’s filled with nutrients. Whether it is or not depends on the grower, how good their soil is, and if they grow for nutrients or speed.

I took this information to heart when I ordered my seed for the coming season. 99% of my seed is open pollinated.

  • Some things were easy. For example, I’ve grown the hybrid Italian pepper, Carmen, for several years. I really like it, but I’m not gonna grow it anymore. I opted for Jimmy Nardello’s Italian pepper which is open pollinated and is promoted as being the sweetest Italian pepper.
  • The hardest thing was choosing onions. I’m trying lots of varieties from seed this year. Many onions (seed) offered on the market today are hybrids, so I had to be careful not to inadvertently order a hybrid. I want to invest the learning time growing the onions that are open pollinated. Not only for the high nutritional value, but also because after learning which ones do well for me I’ll save my seed. Won’t have to be dependent on a supplier in future years.

#2 Is there anything you did this year that you can drop from your to-do list for the coming year? Were you “busy being busy” or did you accomplish what was or will be important for your and your family’s well-being now and in the future?

  • Various Garden Chores

One example: many times tilling can be a time waster. It’s not necessary at all once you establish permanent beds and keep them covered. Many folks till just because of habit, not because it’s necessary. They’ve just grown fond of doing it.

There are many more examples of time savers in the garden on TMG and in my book, Organic Gardening – Cutting Through the Hype to the 3 Keys to Successful Gardening. So I don’t need to duplicate here.

  • Preserving the Bounty

Beautifully canned tomatoes have come to be the symbol for gardening and preserving your bounty. It’s especially nice to have some “canned” food in case of a long power outage or some form of emergency that would mean you couldn’t get food anywhere else.

But I think we also have to consider that by the time canned vegetables are heated to the high temperatures required to can, there is not much nutrient value left (if any at all).

Another thing to consider if you’ve been canning for years: Do you use all you preserve? If you have things left over from years ago, it’s time to make some changes.

Another question you may want to ask yourself is: Do you grow way more than what you use (fresh/frozen/canned) and then feel obligated to try to give it to someone else (who in all probability doesn’t want it) rather than dig it in? Do you feel obligated to preserve it, even if you know realistically you won’t use it?

#3 Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That’s how we learn.

  • Tried and true varieties are a must to grow of course, but try something new every year. You never know when you’ll come across something you just love that was almost like it was “meant” for your garden.
  • Read what other folks do and learn from that, but then tailor what you do to your unique set of circumstances and keep adjusting until you have it just right. (That might be 1 season; it might be 5 seasons.)
  • Pay attention to your mistakes and so called “failures”. They’re priceless! You’ll learn more from them than anything else.

Final Thoughts

I’ll end with what I think is one of the best tips there is. When you think something isn’t going to make it or consider it a failure, resist the urge to pull it up. If you pull stuff up ahead of time, you’ve lost some valuable learning time that you can’t recover. Leave it until all is said and done. You’ll learn a LOT that way. Remember: it ain’t over ’till it’s over!


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  • Thank you Theresa for more good info! I appreciate your taking the time to post at this busy time of year.





  • Theresa,

    Your last 3 posts have been even more valuable to me than you can imagine! I so very much appreciate your sharing so much with us. I especially LOVE the insight you gave on taking on tasks and managing time. So important to me because I am just not a natural.
    I wish you luck with your Jimmy Nardello’s. I was very excited to grow them but was unimpressed with my experience. For me, last year anyway, they were VERY thin walled. I will try again to see if I can improve. I do hope you will give feedback on how they do for you next season.

    Merry Christmas,

  • I love the perspective on #2. “Were you “busy being busy” or did you accomplish what was or will be important for your and your family’s well-being now and in the future?” LOVE this, Theresa.

  • Can you elaborate on the canning aspect and how the veggies have lost their goodness? This is my first year to really do some canning and after all is said and done, I am not sure we have saved anything if you consider the electricity to do the actually canning. My veggies are “cleaner” as we do not use herbicides or sprays, but is it really that much better?

    Thanks. I really enjoy your blog and have found much good information in it.

    Regards, Vicki Bucy

  • Hi Vicki,
    Taking your last question first:
    You asked: My veggies are “cleaner” as we do not use herbicides or sprays, but is it really that much better?

    I assume you are asking whether or not your canned stuff is that much better than store bought? The answer the vast majority of the times would be yes. And definitely yes if you buy conventional rather than organic at the store. But, the bottom line is that your organic food eaten fresh from the garden rather than canned is ALWAYS your best source of nutrition. Frozen food (if not processed first) is next best.

    Also, it sounds as if you’re canning only to save money. The more you educate yourself about what’s going on in the food industry, I can guarantee that your focus and main goal will change to having the best food on hand to nourish your body. If you save money, that will become a side benefit.

    To further explain:
    In my letter last evening to the “special 100 list” I said, “Here’s something you may want to keep in mind: When buying anything, it’s better to pay a lot and really get something, than to pay a little and get nothing.  

    No matter how little you pay for “nothing”, you come out on the short end.  That’s economics plain and simple.

    In the vast majority of cases, when you buy conventionally grown food, you are buying “nothing.”

    When we cook food (and can it), we loose most of the vitamin content. Some water soluble vitamins are washed away in the water. (That’s also a reason not to soak our vegetables in water prior to cooking.) We need to find ways to cook that preserves as much of the nutrition as possible. For example, steaming rather than boiling will save some of the vitamins. (Use or drink the water they’re cooked in.) Heat above 130º (some sources say lower; maybe 105º) destroys most of the vitamins.

    One of the most important things that heat destroys is the enzymes in food. Enzymes are the catalysts (spark plugs) that are absolutely essential to every chemical reaction that takes place in our bodies to keep us alive and well. That why it’s always important to take in as much raw food as you can, rather than just cooked food.

    It takes a while to work things around to get the most from the food you grow. I’ve been working at it for 36 years now and am still learning new things everyday. Eating food that is “clean” and high in nutrients is one of my top priorities, which is why I garden. It is also why I plan things so that during the growing season I have a continual harvest. For example, I pick snap beans every day or every other day for about 4 months. I eat what I pick within 2 days; 3 at the most. (Other wise the chemical content of the produce starts changing and is not as healthful.)

    If I have excess beans I snap the ends and put them in a freezer bag. Take the air out with a straw. And freeze for use in vegetable juice. The frozen veggies give me even better nutrition than when I steam my beans fresh for dinner. I do the same with tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers (red and green), squash, and cucumbers. Also, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and figs.

    I buy very little produce from the store. None during the growing season. In the winter I will buy cabbage, broccoli. I also buy organic carrots and celery.
    Other than that, I eat “in season” from my garden. That’s how I plan my meals. If it’s in the garden, that’s what we’re going to have. If it’s not in the garden (except in winter as explain previously) then we’re not having it.
    I do not can. I freeze without processing (blanching), which is probably against everything you’ll read.

    The exception is tomato sauce/paste that I make and freeze. I feel sure there are no vitamins left after cooking to make the paste or sauce, but in spite of that it’s a 100 times better than ANYTHING I could buy organic or conventional at a store.

    I hope this has helped some Vicki. Please feel free to ask more questions if you have them. There’s always something new to learn about how we could do things in a way that would better benefit us, whether it’s cooking, eating, or growing.

    I’m so pleased you enjoy TMG. Thanks for letting me know!

  • Theresa,
    You always have valuable information. I am hoping to use more of your information in the future. I am going to enjoy a bounty of wood ashes I can apply to my garden. What would you recommend for an application rate? A reminder: I have the wood chips covering the garden they are covering the garden now for approximately 28 months. They are breaking down nicely and there are an amazing number of earthworms under the cover. I used leaf compost to help growth this past growing season and have a sizable amount of leaf compost breaking down. If you have a recommendation for the ashes I would be grateful.

  • Hi Steve,

    You’ve invested some time in improving your soil and according to the number of earthworms you have, it sounds like you’ve made great strides.

    My recommendation for the wood ash would be to proceed with EXTREME CAUTION!

    Who told you that you needed to put wood ash on your garden?

    It reacts rapidly and the main effect is that it raises the pH of the soil.

    It can – especially in significant amounts – do more harm than good.

    Make sure you “really know” what you are doing BEFORE you put any of it on your soil. Reaction to wood ash varies from garden to garden.

    About 6 years ago a friend gave me a 5 gallon buckets of wood ash. It’s still in my garage with the top still on and probably will remain there until I die. I would not dare take a chance on “ruining” the soil that I’ve spent many years building.

    Be careful Steve.
    Obviously, from the above example, I would not put it in my garden if I were in your place.


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  • I have a carrot question. I planted carrots in the fall but they didn’t have enough time to form carrots. The tops are still green, even after all our cold weather earlier, and are about 3 or 4 inches high. Will they overwinter and start growing again in the spring? or are they done for?

  • Betty, I’m in the same boat although I only have a few carrots out there.
    I have mine planted where my hoop tunnels are so I have some protection for them.
    Once carrots freeze hard they won’t be any good.
    Of course, as with most things there are always exceptions to the rule.
    I read someplace that “Some brands of carrots – like “Nantes Frubund” – are great for winter growth.” Of course they didn’t say what temperatures would be applicable.
    As far as young carrots starting to grow again in the spring – I would say in most cases that is not going to happen.
    But if you have a few in the ground in the spring and something wonderful happens (like new growth) let me know!

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