Our Recycled Kitchen Garden

Spring kicks off this week and we are excited to get our outdoor garden space in order!  The beds are thawing out and all of the snow is melted.   As soon as these temps heat up, we will be in business!  We wanted to take a moment and shine a spotlight on all of the free and recycled or repurposed materials used to create our extensive kitchen garden!

When you’re establishing a garden for your family, there are lots of great free materials out there!  With our growing homestead, our budget is light so we have to be very thrifty while expanding.  Every penny counts, and who really has extra money to throw into a garden these days?

Here are all of the free and repurposed materials that we were able to acquire and incorporate into our outdoor garden space:

  • Raised Beds – We were able to come across some old barn wood that was gifted to us by a neighbor.  We created almost 250 linear feet of 3 feet wide raised beds.   The lumber was 1″ x 12″, so it was a little flimsy for the longer beds but all in all the lumber worked great and the cost was right….free!IMG_0134
  • Curved Raised Beds – After the barn wood was gone, we had a family friend that replaced their deck, and gifted us their old Trex Decking!  We installed a curved bed around our walkway and will be adding another bed around the exterior of the dome that will be planted with pollinator attracting flowers!img_0551.jpg
  • Wood Chip Mulch – All in all we had 6 dump truck loads of wood chips delivered.  After the raised beds were in, we filled in-between with the wood mulch.  The mulch ranged from 1′ deep to almost 2′ deep which has done a wonderful job of smothering the weeds and grass that we installed the garden over!  All of your arborists in town would love to deliver their wood chips to your yard for free instead of paying any kind of dump fee.  Call around and you’ll find them for free…delivered too.IMG_2445
  • Raised Bed Soil – We are lucky when it comes to our bed filling.  We are able to compost our microgreen soil and then use that material to fill our rasised beds.  The material is awesome potting soil that needs just a little compost added to make a great mix for our outdoor garden space!IMG_2326
  • Then there are the materials, pots and equipment.  Shovels, rakes, hoes, and other gardening tools are easy to find at garage sales or by scouring craiglist.  We were gifted some large planter pots from our family.  There are always pots being given away.  Be patient and ready to pounce when free items come available.img_0691.jpg

Thats pretty much the basics for a small garden.  And all for free.  All repurposed and recycled materials.  The food that is grown is top notch too.  Now lets see what we spent money on.

  • Geodesic Dome Greenhouse – We spent way too much money on our dome.   Its a great space for our personal gardening but it was expensive.  We saved lots of money over purchasing a kit greenhouse, but it was still an expensive build for our family.   We now use it for our personal produce more than a commercial space, which works for us, but we could really use more commercial greenhouse space.  If we started our farm before building this, we would have gone with hoop houses to increase the space, but we have an amazing small space for our family!cropped-img_0130-2.jpg
  • Fence Posts and Deer Screening – 10 Wood Posts, 10 Metal T Posts and 6′ Deer Screening was purchased in order to fence in our garden space.  Under $100 and the deer no longer have access.  We were able to find the screening on the facebook marketplace for a deep discount too!  Now we have roughly 1/10th of an acre fenced in.img_2229.jpg
  • Finished Compost – We have a compost area, but just not enough space to provide enough quality compost that we add to our raised beds prior to planting.  This gives our garden all the organic materials that it will need to produce all summer long!img_0126.jpg

With a few changes, mainly the greenhouse structure, we could have a huge garden space for under a couple thousand dollars including a greenhouse space.  If you want just a simple outdoor garden space, it can be almost free!  Its fun to re-use materials and grow your own food.  Don’t let your budget control your food growing aspirations.  Even a container garden on your patio can grow some amazing produce!

Check Facebook and Craiglist along with your local classifieds ads for fun materials that could be repurposed into a garden.   Check with friends and neighbors for anything they want to get rid of.  Call your arborists in town and schedule your first delivery of wood chips.  Get a shovel and a wheel barrel and start on the sweat equity.

 

 

Microgreen Guacamole!

IMG_0942We have been talking a lot about the versatility of micro-greens in the kitchen.   Really the only thing you need to avoid is heat exposure, so they are really useful in the kitchen.  They go way beyond sandwich and salad toppers.  One of our favorite uses is to wow people with our homemade dips and sauces.  The fan favorite to date is by far the guacamole with our cilantro micro-greens!

Micro-greens are perfect to blend into any sauce, and in this case they smash well into some homemade guacamole.  The huge flavor in these small micro-greens really work well with guac because they are delicate enough to mix into the creamy avocados, but the flavor comes through with every bite!

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Here is what you will need to make this amazing dish:
– 2 Ripe Avocados
– 1 Lime – squeezed fresh
– 1/4 cup Diced Red Onion
– Garlic Powder – just a dash
– Onion Powder – Just a dash
– Salt – Just a dash
– Cilantro Micros – add to taste

Start with the avocados.  Find the most ripe ones and dice them into a bowl.  Then we add some diced red onion.  For the spices we add a dash of onion and garlic powder and salt to your taste.  Then squeeze 1 lime into the bowl and place the cilantro greens (with seed husk) on top and mix all of the ingredients together with a  fork.  We use lots of cilantro micros, but feel free to add as little or as much as you like.  It doesn’t take too long before the guac is creamy and ready to go to the fridge.  This would also be the time to add any other toppers you may enjoy like diced tomatoes or salsa.

Cover with plastic wrap or a lid and place in the fridge to cool.  After chilling, this guac is going to be ready for your toast, chips, tacos, or even to eat by the spoonful.  This simple guacamole is a game changer.  Be a party hero and bring some superfood guacamole to your next get together!IMG_0431

 

 

Microgreens and Smoothies…A Perfect Pair!

A few years back our family made a big push to incorporate more fruit into our diet. Our kids always like snacking on fruit, and due to our food allergies, we don’t have typical snack food in the house. The go to for them is almost always a banana or an apple…or two. We found that my wife and I weren’t eating enough fruit though. We always enjoyed smoothies, so we made the goal of eating one big smoothie each day.

IMG_0409After a while we discovered that microgreens mix perfectly in a smoothie. Their delicate texture and powerful taste blend well with all sorts of smoothie recipes. Their big nutritional value also boosts the vitamin and mineral content too!

Our go to smoothie base is 2 bananas, 1/2 lemon fresh squeezed, and roughly 12 oz filtered water. From there we typically add a cup or two of frozen fruit. Wild blueberries are always in the freezer so that’s what we use most often. If we want to mix things up we may add mango, strawberries or raspberries too. We also like to add an avocado if it’s more like a meal. Then come the greens. A little or a lot.  Its up to you, but we typically use  a heaping handful!

The mild varieties like Kale, Broccoli, Kohlrabi and Red Cabbage all mix well with fruit smoothies, much like spinach or full leaf kale. The Sunflower Shoots have a higher fat content which pairs well with the avocado for a creamier smoothie. The pea shoots really push the flavor with big pea taste. We shy away from the spicier varieties because the taste is so big, but if you want a smoothie with a kick, try arugula, mustard or wasabi!

IMG_1474Microgreens are fun to play with in the kitchen and know that no matter how you add them to your diet, you’re doing your body good! We all could use extra vitamins and minerals, and microgreens are some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet! That’s why their really a perfect pair with fruit smoothie.

Oh, and if you have kids like ours, they love ice cream. Instead of using fresh peeled bananas, use frozen ones and instead of water just just a splash of coconut milk. Throw in the avocado, microgreens and berries and you’ll have a really nutritious ice cream snack. Go ahead and have an extra bowl! It’s good for you!