Tree-Planting This Saturday, May 7

On May 7, children and adults are invited to join us on our mission to plant 100 trees on the Better Farm property in 2016.

Each year since 2010, Better Farm has committed to planting at least 100 trees on the property. Varietals include fruit trees to evergreens, oaks, maples, and much more.

On Saturday, we'll be planting 50 white spruces throughout the Better Farm property. We will have some shovels here, but you are encouraged to bring your own -- along with sensible shoes or hiking boots. Refreshments will be served!

Following the tree-planting, a group of us will be heading over to Macsherry Library in Alexandria Bay for their annual Garden Day celebration, featuring free seeds, gardening magazines, refreshments, a beekeeping demo and much more. All are welcome!

11 a.m.-1 p.m. Cost: FREE. Please pre-register by emailing:

Sustainable and Budget-Wise Living go Hand in Hand

By Helen Young

Many people assume that sustainable living is expensive and a luxury that only the very wealthy can afford. After all, organic vegetables cost more than regular vegetables,  and organic and sustainable living is very popular in the most affluent as well as the most forward-thinking areas of the country. 

This is a huge misconception.

Anyone can choose to live a sustainable lifestyle and pay attention to the environmental impact of the food they eat each day, and this can go hand in hand with budget living. In fact, you may even find that living sustainably is cheaper than living a mainstream lifestyle! Thinking about making the move to sustainable living and eating but have no real idea where to start? Here are a few hints and tips to gently introduce yourself to sustainable living:

Think About Where Your Food Comes From
One of the first and most simple changes to make if you’re working towards sustainable and environmentally friendly living is to think about where your food comes from. Of course surest way to eat sustainably is to grow and produce everything you eat yourself; but whilst some people may relish the idea of starting their own small vegetable patch, very few will have the land available to grow absolutely everything they need. If that’s the case then why not try to source all of your fruit and vegetables from local organic farmers instead? There are many benefits that come from buying direct from your local farm: firstly you’ll know where your food is coming from and can speak to the farmer directly about their growing methods and any chemical processes they may use. In buying locally you’ll also minimize the number of food miles your veggies have to travel before they reach your plate thus lowering the ultimate carbon footprint of their production. Concerned about your budget? It may surprise you to know that buying your veggies directly from where they’re grown is often cheaper than heading to the grocery store, provided the veggies you are looking for are in season and plentiful. Farmers are often pleased to sell on their surplus at a lower price, particularly items that don’t meet the grocery stores stringent aesthetic rules about size and shape but are otherwise tasty and delicious.

Reuse, Reduce, Recycle
It is the simplest of all sustainable methods and one that most children are taught at elementary school. Reuse, reduce, recycle. Reuse whatever items you can, reduce the amount of waste you send to land fill, and recycle whenever possible. Yet it is mind boggling and amazing how few adults manage to stick to this simple lesson! If your keen to make your home a more sustainable environment then start thinking about the waste you are producing; what could you be recycling, what could you be reusing? Small changes, such as purchasing a reusable shopper bag and using it in lieu of a plastic bag whenever you visit your local store is a very minor change but can have a big impact. Reusing and recycling can also help you to save money; you simply need to readjust your mindset and think creatively about the additional purposes goods you might ordinarily throw away could serve.

Work With The Wider Community                     
One of the most important ways that you can begin your journey towards a sustainable lifestyle is by embracing the sustainable community and working together with your own community leaders. This will prove particularly useful if you are new to the concept of sustainability and would like some guidance and support: there are many local sustainability groups located throughout the country. Here you will be able to swap hints and tips, organic growers will be able to share or swap any surplus of produce and you may even find a volunteer network that you can join with the aim of supporting local projects and simultaneously spreading the sustainable message.

There’s no denying that true sustainable living is hard work and will take a huge amount of dedication. But it is possible to begin taking steps towards sustainable living, and bring an important sustainable message to your family, without making too many significant changes to your existing lifestyle.

Helen Young is a contributing writer to Better Farm's blog. She worked in health for more a decade before becoming a mother made her reassess things. With work being so busy and intense, she wanted to step back, spend more time with her babies while they were still young, and develop her passion for writing. Helen's work covers many topics from physical and mental health topics to food, nutrition
and sports.

First Annual Farm to Table Dinner Party Sept. 26

Image from
Image from
Better Farm's First Annual Farm-to-Table Dinner Party is slated for 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26.

The four-course meal (salad, soup, main course, and dessert) will utilize 100-percent locally sourced ingredients. All produce will be from Better Farm's garden, with locally caught game. Guests may choose vegan, vegetarian, or omnivorous plates. Seating will be outdoors, weather permitting. 

As this is our first farm-to-table event, attendance is limited to the first 20 RSVPs we receive. Menu choices will be sent out to guests, who can then choose their plates. Cost for this dinner is $22, payable via Paypal.

To RSVP, please email Better Farm is located at 31060 Cottage Hill Road, Redwood, N.Y. 13679.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Making Blueberry Wine

Alcohol fermenter Paul Jennings came to Better Farm this past Saturday, July 13, to teach a workshop on how to make two gallons of blueberry spice wine. It was much faster and simpler than I could have ever imagined! Anyone can do it in their own homes with the proper equipment. 

Here is the breakdown of ingredients:

4 - 6 lbs. of blueberries 4.5 lbs. sugar
1 tsp. ginger 1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon 2 tsp. acid blend
2 tsp. yeast nutrient 1 tsp. tannin
1 tsp. pectic acid Nylon mesh bag
Montrachet yeast Stabilizer


1)   Chill 1 gallon of water. 
2)   Boil the 1 gallon of water, spices and sugar
3)   Wash berries and place them into mesh bags and place in primary fermenter. Mash      
4)   Pour boiled sugar water over berries in primary (this will set the color). Add 1 gallon
      of cool/cold water. Add tannin, acid blend, and yeast nutrient.
5)   When temperature of liquid has cooled, add the pectic enzyme and check and 
      record of the S.G.
6)   24 hours later, add yeast
7)   Stir daily
8)   When S.G. is about 1.030 (about 1 week), remove the berries and rack to 
      secondary after about 4 weeks, S.G. should be at 1.000 (this means that the 
      fermentation is complete). Rack again. Add clearing agent.
9)   Check clarity in about 1 month. If not clear at this point, wait another 2 weeks and
10)  When must is ready to bottle, add stabilizer
11)  If sweetening is needed, boil 4 - 12 oz. sugar in water and add
12)  Bottle!

NOTE: the longer the wine "ages," the better it will taste. Since this wine has no preservatives added, it should be consumed within one year.

What was really special about this wine-making workshop was that residents at Better Farm were able to go out and pick local wild blueberries growing a town over in Plessis! It was a very sustainable and educational experience that provided a unique way to utilize local agriculture.

Nutritional Benefits of Shopping Local

Produce for sale at Better Farm's roadside stand.
On average, the food that lands on our tables from a grocery store travels 1,500 miles. And get this: Only about 10 percent of the fossil fuel energy used in the world’s food system is used for production. The other 90 percent goes into packaging, transportation, and marketing of the food. All this inefficiency creates many environmental problems.

Buying local has obvious benefits: supporting local business, cutting down on fossil fuel consumption for transportation, and food that has been treated with fewer (if any) harmful chemicals. But did you know local food inherently has higher nutritional value, as well?

The length of time that produce stays on the vine, ground, or tree contributes to nutrient content and flavor. The longer foods are able to ripen naturally on the vine, the higher their nutrient content, and usually, the richer their taste.

But to ship long distances (whether organic or generic), produce is picked before it is ripe. In some cases, as in the case of tomatoes, they are picked when green and then ripened with a gas in the states to turn them red. Nutrient content and taste are substantially affected in this process.

It’s a double-edged sword. Global shipping opens our access to fruits and vegetables we might not be able to get in the States, as well as offering us potentially lower prices. It also enables us to enjoy most fruits and veggies year-round, instead of just seasonally. But nutrient loss and a lack of flavor are the obvious trade offs.

Locally grown food is safer because small farmers do not use chemicals as much as large commercial growers use them, according to the Center for a New American Dream. The farmers’ market products may not all be organic, but those foods tend to be healthier than grocery store products—especially if chemicals and pesticides are a concern. Many vendors at farmers’ markets have recognized the need and desire for healthier, chemical and hormone-free foods and tout their organic, pesticide-free grow practices.
Some countries are working to pass laws to promote the selling of in-season fruits and vegetables in the hopes that it will encourage consumers to purchase more local goods (British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey is working to get such a law passed in the UK). Buying foods that are in season would increase our access to nutrients and better tasting items. Clearly, this is why the “local” movement is growing so rapidly.

Fruits and vegetables you find at farm stands and farmers' markets are picked when perfectly ripened. This enhances the taste, texture, and aroma of the produce. Double bonus: market prices at stands and markets are lower than at grocery stores. Shopping at the Farmers Market benefits the local farmer and strengthens your local community. 

Since the produce is picked at the peak of the season, nutrients and phytochemicals will be more abundant. Hippocrates said, “Let food be your medicine.” The following chart shows many of the health benefits of fresh produce according to color:
Chart from sparkpeople

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Better Farm is Clayton Co-op's Newest Vendor

Last night we attended the Clayton Food Co-op's Vendor Open House, held from 6-8 p.m. at the group's headquarters, 226 James St.

The co-op, set to open May 15, will specialize in local, healthy, affordable food. Several area farms have already signed up to sell their veggies, fruits, and products at the Clayton location. Better Farm is also on board—we'll be offering various fresh veggies and herbs throughout the summer. We also expect to be selling organic eggs from the new chickens we'll be getting in the next several weeks. And next year, we should have some cashmere yarn and knitted products to offer as well.

Membership is $185 for the first year, $35 for all subsequent renewal years. In addition to shopping at the co-op seven days a week, members can order from the co-op's supplier catalog at a 10 to 15 percent discount. The catalog features thousands of organic products, from foods to cleaning supplies.

For more information or to sign up, visit

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Clayton Food Co-op Seeks Vendors, Members, Local Goods

Image from the Cooperative Development Institute.
The brand-new Clayton Food Co-op, opening May 15 at 226 James St., is seeking participation from area farmers, bakers, and members.

A cooperative is a business owned and managed by its members. As locally owned businesses, co-ops are committed to the people they serve and the communities in which they live. To join the Clayton Food Co-op, there is a one-time capital share payment of $150. Annual renewable membership is $35. Member-owners have the benefit of special ordering food items from our supplier's vast catalog at a 10-15% discount.  Many items are local, many are certified organic. The catalog item list may be accessed on the group's Member-Owner Only Page.
As a member-owner you belong to an organization that strives to sustain the environment, the economy and our community. The Clayton Food Co-op actively supports local agriculture, food producers and general products.

Member-owners have a voice in what is sold, as well as in the overall organization of the co-op. Member-owners get the most buying power for their money and the money stays in the community, contributing to its strength.

The co-op is seeking vendors with local, natural, fresh produce, baked goods, food, meat, dairy, honey, soaps, personal care items, and more. Click here to learn more or sign up for the vendors' open house Tuesday, May 1. We hope to see you there!

Those interested in selling their homegrown or homemade goods through the co-op are encouraged to e-mail or call (315) 775-8087. To sign up for the group's newsletter, click here.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

The Born-Agains

Garlic wakes up in the raised beds on Better Farm's property. We planted the cloves last fall.
We've spent the last several weeks raking out our raised beds, turning compost, and bagging our freshly made potting soil. Here's a pictorial of our born-again veggies and herbs we've found waking back up in the gardens:


Onions that were planted last October.
We planted sage in June of 2011 and it came back last week.

Garlic Chives

To get our soil aerated and chock-full of nutrients, we rake out the top layer of compost every spring and transfer it to our compost system out in the main garden. Here's what was revealed after the snow melted off: vegetable matter, wood ash, compostables like dog fur, pine needles and dead leaves

And here's what the ground looks like after we comb the top layer off:
Got a great gardening tip or question? Contact us at

Better Farm Scores a Spot on the 1000 Islands Agricultural Tour

Better Farm has been invited to take part in this year's 1000 Islands Agricultural Tour, a project undertaken by the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council that maps and compiles information about local farms in a free brochure. Visitors can follow the map, listen on cell phones to an audio tour, and stop in at the local operations. Similar to historic buildings tours or wine trails, the 1000 Islands Agricultural Tour allows you to sample local wines, veggies, fruits, honey, cheeses, ciders, and more—and visit with unbelievably adorable barnyard animals, alpacas, horses—and now, all the diverse, creative creatures calling Better Farm home.

When you visit the ag tour's website, be sure to check out our page! And don't forget to order a brochure—the weekend-long ag open house is slated for 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, July 21, and 12-4 p.m. Sunday, July 22. That event, open to the public, is designed to promote the agricultural industry throughout Jefferson County. It's a great chance to visit a number of local family farms, including but not limited to dairy, livestock, fruit and vegetable farms, wineries, butcher shops, and farm supply businesses. Each location will have a special, weekend-long feature going on especially for that event. Not to be missed!

For those of you who haven't stopped by Better Farm yet, that will be a perfect weekend to see what our synthesis of sustainability and creative expression looks like. The open house is supported by Jefferson County Agricultural Development Corporation, the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County, and the Jefferson County Chapter of Adirondack Harvest.
Farms and agricultural businesses interested in participating can go to or to download a participation form.  The application deadline is March 30. To order a free brochure of the farms included in the tour, click here.

Spotlight On: Dinnerlist

We got an e-mail the other day from Faye Hess, a professional chef living down in New York City, inviting us to take part in her latest project called Dinnerlist:

Hi, I am a professional cook living in NYC (my main gig is teaching cooking in Tuscany) and I am working to get people to connect through their food. At the moment I'm trying to figure out how to get people in NYC to post what they had for dinner with those who farm upstate so that each of us has a better sense of how we live, how we eat, and how we can help each other. For us down here in the city, I think it could be a first step to feeling personally connected to farms upstate.
When I think of farming, or group living, I think of how we eat and what we eat as being an important part of it. If you created a "dinnerlist (group)" for Better Farm, you could post menus, which I imagine coincide with what's available locally, seasonally. If members of the surrounding community joined the Better Farm dinnerlist, my hope is that it might be one more way for them to feel connected to Better Farm—even be inspired to eat locally, seasonally, and communally, themselves. It could also be a way for members that come and go to stay in touch by posting what they are now eating wherever the world has taken them, and to be reminded of their meals at Redwood.
We dutifully took a look at the Dinnerlist site and joined right away. Care to join us? You can post anything you're eating, get and share great recipes, post video, create photo albums, and even live-blog right on the site. If you join, be sure to let us know so we can take this on together! We'll start posting early next week. Happy eating!

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Ones to Watch: The Perennial Plate

The Perennial Plate Episode 81: Farming State of Mind (NYC) from Daniel Klein on Vimeo.

The Perennial Plate is an online weekly documentary series dedicated to socially responsible and adventurous eating.  The episodes follow the culinary, agricultural and hunting explorations of chef and activist, Daniel Klein.

Season One took place over a calendar year in Minnesota where every Monday for 52 weeks, Klein and cameragirl Mirra Fine released short films about good food. In Season Two, Klein is traveling across America, taking the viewer on a journey to appreciate and understand where good food comes from and how to enjoy it.  The Real Food Road Trip began on May 9th 2011, and the weekly videos have continued — bringing the audience along for stories of urban gardens, long drives, blood, hunting and guts…

We particularly love the above video, which takes a look at New York City-based farms.

Click here to learn how you can get involved with this great project.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Winter Soup Recipes as Late-Fall Crops Take Center Stage

Brussels sprouts mature under a late-October sun. Photo/Nicole Caldwell
Our trip out to the garden today was significantly shorter than in recent weeks, with far fewer crops to choose from. Tomatoes (except for a few brave, hardy cherries), peppers, salad greens, and even squashes have run their course; leaving rows and rows of composted plant matter turning to dirt over old hay and cardboard.

Thanks to our rotating planting season and several great picks for autumnal veggies (gotta love those summer interns!), we've probably got another month's worth of leeks and celery, and the cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are still coming in strong. Our new intern May, Brian Hines (newly back from Afghanistan!) and I gathered enough to make plenty of delicious soups over the next few days:

May and Brian show off, from left to right, leeks, an earthworm, more leeks, and an enormous celery plant.
Here are a couple great  soup recipes you can whip up with the ingredients blossoming now in your garden:
Quick and Easy Potato-Leek Soup
2 Tbs. Olive Oil
2 Leeks
4 Potatoes (any kind will work!)
6 to 8 cups Vegetable Broth or Water (with spices of your choice and/or bouillon cubes)

Cut the leeks and potatoes up and throw them in a saucepan with the olive oil. Saute until leeks  soften, about 5 minutes. Add the broth (water should cover the top of the potatoes and leeks). Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are as soft as you like them. You can use a stick blender or food processor to combine everything, or just eat as-is.

Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Soup
(from Urban Organic Gardener)
1 1/2 small heads of cauliflower (or one large)
1 leek the bottom white and light green part
5-6 cloves of garlic
3-4 cups veggie broth
Tablespoon of olive oil
Dash of sea salt

Chop up cauliflower and put into bowl. Smash the garlic cloves. Slice up leeks and smashed garlic and put into bowl with cauliflower. Pour olive oil over the veggies with salt and toss to coat. Put on a baking sheet into the oven at about 425 degrees for 40-45 minutes until they start to brown. Heat the saucepan with some olive oil and put roasted veggies in. Cover with veggie broth. Allow to boil. Either use a hand blender and blend down in the pan or add to food processor to blend down until smooth. Transfer to bowl and top with leek and garlic pieces.

Pumpkin Soup
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

1 tablespoon margarine
1 onion, diced
16 oz. pumpkin puree
1 1/3 cups vegetable broth
3 cups soy milk
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, cook the onion in the margarine for 3-5 minutes, until onion turns clear. Add remaining ingredients, stirring to combine. Cook over medium heat for another 10-15 minutes. Enjoy!
Makes 4 servings of vegetarian pumpkin soup.

Got a great fall recipe to share? E-mail them to us at

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Extend Your Gardening Season!

Photo by Norman A. Plate for
By  Gail Damerow for Mother Earth News
June/July 1994
Editor's Note: This article first appeared in Mother Earth News in 1994, and is as relevant as ever even 17 years later.

Most gardeners I know plant in late spring and then sit back and watch their gardens grow. Our family, on the other hand, keeps planting and planting and planting. As a result, while others complain about the price of lettuce, we're enjoying virtually free salads. While others are using up the last of the season's green tomatoes, our family is still slicing into juicy, ripe, freshly picked tomatoes.

No, we aren't gardening geniuses. We just happen to prefer fresh vegetables, so we take advantage of every trick in the book to keep our veggies growing. Here are 14 ways you too can extend your gardening season.

1. Know your garden’s microclimate.
Not only does the weather change from year to year, but mini areas within your garden may differ significantly from one another. Is part of your garden shaded by trees or buildings? Is some area shielded from cold or drying wind by a fence or shrubs? Are there low spots where cold air and frost readily settle? Select vegetables described as growing best in your general climate. If your garden has more than one microclimate, try different varieties in different spots. Some may do better than others in certain spots; some may do better one year than in the next.
2. Plant often.
Successive planting is the best way to stretch the harvest over a period of time. One successive planting method is to simultaneously sow seeds and set out started seedlings of the same variety. The transplants will be ready for harvest before the direct-seeded veggies are. Another successive planting method is to replant at periodic intervals. Sow radishes and spinach once a week; sow beans, beets, carrots, scallions, and salad greens every two weeks; sow cucumbers and summer squash once a month. Since you can't tell in advance just how warm or cool the season will be, keep planting until seeds stop sprouting well.

A third method for ensuring a successive harvest is to sow seeds of several different varieties that mature at different rates. Planting rows of different varieties is an easy way to extend the harvest of corn and peas. For carrots, radishes, and salad greens, you have the option of mixing the seeds of different varieties together and planting them all in the same row. In our garden we get the greatest variety of salad greens over the longest period of time by both mixing different kinds of lettuce seed together and planting the mix every two weeks. We do the same with radishes. When our weather suddenly turns hot (as it does every year), some varieties will run for cover, while others continue supplying us with fresh salads for a few weeks longer.

Continue successive planting as the weather warms, replacing spring crops with summer crops and summer crops with fall veggies. Besides extending the harvest, successive planting has an additional advantage — it keeps the soil productive and thereby discourages weeds.
Vegetables grow fastest and produce the greatest yields if they don't have to compete with weeds. Yet any time you work the soil, you encourage weeds to grow. As soon as you notice weeds sprouting along your newly planted rows, hoe them down. Repeat in two weeks, and again two weeks later. After that, you should have no more than the occasional weed, especially if you tuck veggies into a thick layer of mulch as they grow.

4. Use raised beds. 
Raised beds can be temporary soil mounds with tamped-down paths between them or they can be permanent rectangular boxes made of timber, stone, blocks, or bricks. They can be only a few inches high, or high enough to let you comfortably sit on the edge while you sow and weed. They can be 4-foot squares or 4-by-20-foot rectangles. Whatever their design, beds raise soil above the path, where it isn't walked on. Since it doesn't get compacted, it doesn't need frequent tilling. Turning the soil brings weed seeds to the surface where they more readily germinate. With less tilling, you get fewer weeds, and the ones that do pop up are easy to pull (because you don't have to stoop as far and because the soil remains loose). Since weeds are less likely to grow to maturity and make more weed seeds, using raised beds helps to break the perpetual weeding cycle that discourages all too many gardeners.

5. Trellis.
Trellising veggies whenever possible makes it easier to weed and mulch around the base of plants, as well as giving you more room to plant additional crops. Some vegetables you can successfully trellis are peas and beans (climbing, not bush, varieties), indeterminate tomato varieties, and vining types of cucumber, melon, winter squash, and zucchini. If large melons or squash get heavy and start pulling on the vine, fashion slings from stretchy material, such as worn-out nylon stockings.

6. lnterplant.
Interplanting, or combining compatible vegetables in the same row, has several advantages. It lets you extend the harvest by planting fast-growing veggies among slow growers. By the time the slow growers need more room, the fast growers are done and gone. Another way interplanting extends the harvest is by letting you grow cool-season veggies into the warmer months. Shade created by big-leafed crops like cabbages, tall crops like corn, or trellised crops like beans can improve summer growing conditions for cool weather crops like radishes and lettuce.

Interplanting, like successive planting, maximizes yields by keeping your garden soil occupied so weeds can't find a foothold. It also discourages plant pests by varying the environment. As a bonus, in seasons when one crop doesn't do particularly well, the interplanted crop should still give you something to harvest.
7. Rotate.Crop rotation means nothing more than not planting vegetables from the same family in the same place twice in a row. Since all plants within the same family experience the same problems, rotated crops suffer less from pests, diseases, and soil deficiencies. They therefore tend to produce over a longer period than plants grown in the same tired soil time after time. Here, again, raised beds offer an advantage. You can set up a crop-rotation plan and use it year after year, simply by shifting your planting scheme from one bed to the next. Because legumes fix nitrogen in the soil, whenever possible alternate a legume veggie in one of the other families.

8. Water only when necessary.
Water your garden only as necessary to makeup the difference between rainfall and the amount of water your plants need. If your garden soil is rich in organic matter, as it should be, it will trap and hold most of the water that falls on it without need for much intervention. Mulching heavily around plants ensures that water won't evaporate too quickly, but will remain available to the root systems. Your plants will continue to grow, even during spells of moderately dry weather. More gardeners tend to overwater than to underwater. Watering too much encourages roots to remain just below the soil's surface, instead of stretching downward. As a result, root systems have less access to nutrients in the soil that are needed for plants to grow and thrive. Roots also dry out more quickly and need to be watered more often.

Sometimes overwatering is not the gardener's fault, but nature's. Too much rain causes carrots, tomatoes, and cabbages to split, and can cause onions and potatoes to rot in the ground. Here, again, raised beds offer a distinct advantage — they let you easily cover water-sensitive crops when rainfall doesn't seem to let up.

To tell if your garden needs watering, pick up a bunch of soil in your hand and squeeze. If it doesn't hold together when you open your hand, get out the soaker hose. When you do irrigate, apply a generous amount of water to penetrate to the root zone. Check your work by using a hand trowel to make sure the water has soaked down 6 to 8 inches. Always water early in the day, for two reasons: first, so plant leaves have a chance to dry out in the warmth of the sun, thereby discouraging bacterial and fungal diseases that can affect shaded plants; second, so the soil that's been cooled by water has a chance to warm up again before the next moisture arrives.

9. Watch for early frost.
In years when early sporadic frost strikes, sometimes all your garden needs to keep growing well into fall is a night or two of vigilant frost protection. Although they're expensive, floating row covers (such as Remay) are ideal because they let in light and air during the day. Plastic sheeting will work, as will old bed sheets, provided you remove them during sunny days so they don't trap in too-hot air. You'll also have to prop them away from plants, since plastic collects puddles and wet sheets get heavy and can break off plant stems. One way to keep plastic or bed sheets above plants is to drape them over a portable tunnel frame fashioned from PVC pipe. The frame can do double duty in the warmest weather-covered with shade cloth instead of sheeting, it can be used to protect tender salad greens from the summer's hot sun.

10. Build a cold frame.
If you are concerned with sensitive crops as fall weather begins, building a cold frame is an excellent idea. A cold frame is nothing more than a shallow rectangular box with no bottom and with a cover of glass, plastic, or fiberglass. The sides can be wood or straw bales, and should slope toward the south to capture the sun's warming rays. Fill the cold frame with good garden loam. Since plants go dormant at low temperatures, get your cold frame up and running well into summer so your cool-season veggies will be ready for picking in winter and early spring. Then, either let them go dormant or keep new ones growing by turning your cold frame into a hot bed with soil heating tape. First lay down a sheet of Styrofoam insulation, cover it with a layer of sand, add a layer of soil, lay down the heat tape (as directed on the label), add another layer of sand, and cover it with 6 to 8 inches of loam. Connect the heating tape to a switched outlet, and your cold frame will become a hot bed at the mere flip of a switch.

Next spring, use your cold frame to get a jump on the planting season. When you're ready to transplant seedlings to the garden, leave a few behind in the cold frame to mature earlier than the transplanted veggies; after the danger of frost has past, remove the cover and let the cold frame function as a raised bed.

11. Start seeds indoors.
Even if you don't have a cold frame, you can get a three-month jump on next year's planting season by starting seeds indoors. We find that seedlings we start ourselves take off like a shot when they're transplanted, compared to store-bought seedlings that fritter away, sometimes growing slowly and bearing poor fruit, and sometimes just up and dying. You'll be ready for spring planting, while at the same time doing your bit for recycling, if you start saving empty yogurt containers, plastic cups, and the like to hold your seedlings.

Window-sill seedlings grow spindly and otherwise don't do nearly as well as seedlings started under a light. A whitelight fluorescent tube will cost you much less than a nursery grow-light, and you can save even more by watching for sales on tubes and fixtures during bargain seasons of summer and fall.

Set up your nursery about three months before the last expected frost-free date in your area. Continue starting seeds of different kinds until about a month before the expected last frost in your area. Transplant seedlings into slightly larger pots when they reach 3 to 4 inches, and again when they reach 6 to 8 inches. By the time your garden soil warms up enough for transplanting, you'll have sturdy plants with strong roots.

12. Plant early.
Be prepared to plant in spring as early as soil dampness and warmth allow. Because raised beds hold garden loam above normal soil level, they let the loam warm and drain faster than the surrounding soil. You can therefore work in a raised bed several weeks before soil conditions would otherwise allow you to get out into the garden. If you don't already use raised beds, map out an area for one or more and set them up as soon as this year's crops are harvested.

Whether or not you opt for raised beds, ensure the success of early plantings by using a soil thermometer to monitor soil temperature. Some seed packets and mailorder catalogs offer information on the best soil temperatures for germinating the particular varieties you select, so a small investment in a thermometer now can pay off in healthy plants at harvest time.

13. Protect plants from late frost.
Be prepared to protect next spring's early plantings if a late frost threatens. Start now by stocking up on grocery bags, One-gallon plastic bleach jugs, milk cartons, and so forth. Upside-down paper bags, anchored, work well for individual seedlings, but must be removed during the day. One-gallon plastic bleach or milk jugs, with the bottoms cut off, are a popular choice because they're cheap and they have caps that can be unscrewed during the day to release excess heat.

14. Plan ahead.
You can't get a jump start on the season if you don't have the seeds you need when time comes to plant them. Since our local stores don't display seeds until weeks after we think seeds ought to be started, we do a lot of our garden shopping by mail.

Buying by mail, however, can be more expensive than purchasing locally. One way to save money and have the seeds you want when you want them is to grow open-pollinated (nonhybrid) varieties this year and save their seeds for next year. Although you'll have to observe certain precautions—like planting open-pollinated varieties of like kind far enough apart to avoid crosspollination—you'll enjoy other advantages besides saving money.

For one thing, plants successfully grown in your garden from year to year will become acclimated to your particular area, and will therefore do better than seeds originating elsewhere. For another thing, the plants will always grow true to form, so you shouldn't have any surprises. Nothing can throw a garden plan farther off than purchasing seeds of a favorite variety, only to find that it's been "improved" and no longer behaves the same as it once did.

If harvesting your own seed seems like too much bother, you can still save money and have seeds when you need them by watching for local sales in midsummer and purchasing enough seeds to carry you into the next season.

Whether you buy seeds or harvest your own, make sure they maintain a high germination rate by storing them in a cool, dry place out of sunlight. An ammunition box—available at any military surplus outlet—makes an ideal seed storage container. So does an insulated picnic cooler (without the ice pack, of course). Add a packet of powdered milk, silica gel, or other drying crystals to keep humidity from rising above the ideal 6 percent minimum.

If you plan ahead, plant early, and keep on planting, you too can enjoy eating tons of fresh-picked veggies while everyone else grumbles about the high price of produce.