Brown Thumb Gardening: New Series!

Brown Thumb Gardener

My Nana was amazing. She could take a cut flower, stick it in some dirt, and in two days she’d have a full, blooming bush of flowers.

Okay, I’m exaggerating. But not by much. She really did have a knack for growing things, and almost every plant she touched bloomed and thrived.

I did not inherit her green thumb. 

My 6th grade science fair project almost netted me a solid “F” because I chose to do the simplest of all science fair concepts: growing beans in cups with different conditions to prove a theory. (You know you did it, too!)

Not only did the beans watered with motor oil fail to grow, but I pretty much killed all of my control group, too. 

My gardening skills didn’t improve much over the years.

Yes, folks, I have what I affectionately call a Brown Thumb. (When I’m feeling particularly frustrated by this knack, I call it a Black Thumb.)

Having a brown thumb hasn’t really been that big of a problem in my life, though. I mean, most anything you would want that once was a living plant you can just head off to a grocery store or flower shop and buy, right?

Ah…those were the good ol’ days.

Now, with Zac’s FPIES to corn, I’ve been having a helluva time finding fresh, frozen or canned produce that is NOT corntaminated in some way. It’s a lot harder than it looks to find a vegetable that hasn’t been sprayed or fed a corn-derived product at some point in its life!

It’s so hard, in fact, that I’ve decided the ONLY way I’m going to be able to safely feed my son this year is to grow all of his food from scratch.

This “Brown Thumb Gardener” is going to HAVE to develop a Green Thumb in order to keep my son alive and thriving. 

Failure isn’t an option for me now.

I’m confident I can do it! There has to be some latent farming talent in me from my Nana somewhere, right? (Right?)

Welcome to Brown Thumb Gardener, a new series where I share the trials, tribulations and successes of growing all the food my son will eat this year.

I’d love it if you’d take this journey with me; after all, if I can grow a garden, anyone can!

Are you game?

Then let’s get started gardening, folks!

“Wait a sec,” I can hear you asking. “It’s JANUARY. What on earth does she mean ‘let’s get started gardening’? It’s too cold to grow anything!”

A-ha! Just what I always thought. And you are correct. And you’re wrong. Turns out, there’s TONS to do in January if you plan to garden!

We may not be at optimal planting time, but it IS perfect planning time!

I visited the organic gardening center in my area and asked a ton of completely ignorant questions, thinking they could possibly steer me in the right direction for my upcoming garden.

The lady there was nice enough to give me their copy of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog (the fact that Zac was screaming bloody murder because I wouldn’t let him down surely had something to do with her desire to give us the catalog and get us out of there! Oh, well. It was nice of her, anyway.).

First of all, I need to pick out my seeds. For me this isn’t a simple exercise of “okay, what looks like I’d enjoy eating”. Instead, it’s me picking out all the food trials we plan to do for Zac this year.

After checking the FPIES reference chart for food trials and considering my options, I flipped through the seed catalog and picked out all the things I want to grow.

23 different foods isn’t too much to start with, right? (Yes, that’s sarcasm.)

Unfortunately, I can’t think of anything I’m willing to cut out, due to the fact that it is so hard to find safe versions of most of these foods for Zac.

Well, my Mama always says “Go big or go home!”, so my garden is gonna be BIG this year, y’all!

Here’s what I’ve picked out:

  1. Detroit Dark Red Beet
  2. Calabrese Green Sprouting Broccoli (retrial for Zac, and Jed eats a lot of it)
  3. Snowball Self-Blanching Cauliflower
  4. Kuroda Long 8 Carrot
  5. Delikatesse Cucumber
  6. Yellow Wonder Wild Strawberry
  7. Luffa Gourd (that’s not a food, that’s just for fun)
  8. Georgia Southern Creole Collard
  9. Hollow Crown Parsnip
  10. Purple Jalapeno
  11. Amsterdam Prickly Seeded Spinach
  12. Five Color Silverbeet Swiss Chard (retrial and hopefully Jed will like it)
  13. Amish Paste Tomato
  14. Chadwick Cherry Tomato
  15. Petrowski Turnip
  16. Stevia (this is for me)
  17. Sweetie Star Stevia (so is this)
  18. Mammoth Grey Striped Sunflower (I hope to make ALL our sunbutter from scratch)
  19. Purple Podded Pole Bean
  20. Blue Curled Scotch Kale

And from Seed Saver Exchange I’m ordering:

  1. Genovese Basil
  2. Cilantro

And somewhere along the way I’m going to get some potatos to plant. (According to my co-op, I ate 600 pounds of potatos in 2013!! I need to plant a lot of those!)

So there is my garden for the year!

Now I’ll move on to the next steps, but I thought I’d share this first step to see if anyone else wanted to share gardening stories, tips, and experiences and take this journey with me.

Any other Brown Thumb Gardeners out there that want to become Green Thumb Gardeners? Leave a comment and we’ll share stories!


What veggies do you want to grow this year?

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13 Responses to Brown Thumb Gardening: New Series!

  1. Ruth Pinnell says:

    Hi! Baker Creek has great seeds – we order from them every year. Amish Paste is the best tomato you’ll ever plant. Thin the carrots and parsnips to 4 inches or you’ll get pencil-sized roots. Parsnips require a freeze while in the ground or they are very bitter. I plant black oil sunflowers every year and have yet to outsmart the birds and squirrels – harvesting the heads early and hanging in the basement just led to mold. I agree, go big, but expect some ‘epic fails’ along the way as you discover what grows best in your garden! 🙂

    • Carrie says:

      Thanks, Ruth! I knew you’d be a gardening guru! 😉

      Good to know about Baker Creek. They seemed like a good company, but it’s nice to get confirmation.

      I’m really looking forward to the Amish Paste. I’ve heard that about parsnips – they’re scheduled to be a trial for later in the year, obviously!

      You know, lots of people said they had to outsmart the birds and squirrels by chopping off the heads of the sunflowers before they finished doing their thing and hanging them in a paper sack in a dry place. Maybe you have really smart birds and squirrels? LOL I figure it’s worth a shot. I’d like sunbutter for Zac, and all the ones I can find are expensive and likely cross-contaminated.

      I expect epic fails! That’s part of the reason I’m growing so many things. Hopefully enough of them will come to fruition that we’ll be able to feed Zac even if some crops just fizzle to nothingness.

      I’m sure I’ll be picking your brain this year! 🙂

      • Ruth Pinnell says:

        The sunflower heads molded when I cut them early and put them in bags. 🙁 I don’t mind growing them for the critters though – I just love sunflowers, and at the end of the season, we cut down the whole plant and toss them in for the goats to finish off! 🙂

  2. Lori says:

    I hope you researched planting times of your choices. Just In Case you don’t know, some of your choices are cold weather bloomers and will die in the OK/AR heat In June/July. Just didn’t want you to waste your time and money. A big garden is hard, time consuming work. Be prepared to work in it daily. Also, I thought about your dad’s chickens. Have you considered maybe bringing just two chickens home, to live in your back yard? That way you only feed those two the expensive non soy, non corn food to do an egg trial? Instead of feeding his whole flock the expensive food.

    • Carrie says:

      Hi Lori!

      Yes, I actually am aware that some of these are cold and some are warm weather bloomers. I actually did that on purpose, so I wouldn’t have to harvest and prep everything all at once and so that we’d have a steady influx of new foods to trial throughout the year.

      That is a really good idea about the chickens! I don’t think Dad would be willing to give up any of his chickens (he’s named them and everything!) but maybe Darrel and I should get a couple for our yard. Thank you!!!

  3. Jenn says:

    My thumb is blacker than black. I’ve killed fake potted plants. But for the sake of my produce bill I will need to plan/start a garden this year. My biggest concern is how to keep wildlife (deer/groundhog/rabbit/fox/bird) from ruining my soon to be hard won efforts.

    • Carrie says:

      LOL Killed fake potted plants – that’s funny!

      Yes, I’m pretty concerned about how to keep critters out, too. I plan to do a post addressing that very issue when we start getting our beds built. 🙂

  4. Ruth Pinnell says:

    We use Electro-Net portable fencing from Premier 1 Supply. It works well as temporary pasture for the goats, but during gardening season, Andy puts a double-ring around the garden with the net about 4 feet apart. The net is only 4′ tall, but deer have lousy depth perception, and won’t try to leap something that “looks wide”. So far, nothing has gotten through the net. It is MUCH more economical than traditional wire fence and very easy to move around and store during the off season.

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  6. Gina Foster says:

    Good morning Carrie! I follow your blog, and I have been researching garden planning that would be safe for our FPIES kiddo, for this upcoming season. I came across some great recommendations for a product that would naturally rid a garden of pests. I wanted to know if you’ve heard of it or have used it. It’s called Diatomaceous earth. I also wanted to thank you for all your great recipes and blog entries. I’m usually reading them in a sleep deprived state, and have never had the energy to comment my appreciation. So here it is, THANK YOU!

    • Carrie says:

      Hi Gina! Yes, I have heard of diamotaceous earth. I wrote about it back in June. 🙂 It’s fabulous stuff!

      Aw, thank you! I really appreciate you sharing that with me. I’m glad you’ve found something useful here. Hugs, mama! Try to get some sleep!

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