All posts by Jordan Charbonneau

8 Reasons to Grow Edible Flowers

As most of the garden is put to bed for the season and the new catalogs are coming out it’s time to start planning for spring. Deciding on which varieties to select is always a tough choice. But whether you enjoy cottage style gardens or more “market style” gardens with tidy rows you should include a few edible flowers on your list.

They’ll help you avoid food dyes. 

Edible flowers are perfect for dressing up baked goods without using processed food dyes and preservatives. Any cake or cupcake will look just as instagram worthy with bachelor’s buttons petals instead of blue frosting.

You can make your own medicine.

Many edible flowers are also helpful medicinal herbs. This year add some echinacea, feverfew, or chamomile to your garden to create helpful herbal teas. Try growing a patch of calendula to concoct your own skin soothing lotions and balms.

Birds will enjoy your flowers too.

Many birds will enjoy the seeds from sunflowers, coneflowers, poppies and other flowers once they’ve finished blooming. If you love seeing birds in your yard they’re a great way to attract them without hanging a bird feeder.

They do double duty in a garden space.

If you’ve got a small garden you want to maximize every square foot. Growing edible flowers brings you beauty and a harvest for your table. Nasturtiums are a great choice because they can be trellised to save space and their leaves and flowers are excellent for salads. Though most people just enjoy the seeds, sunflowers are actually entirely edible and can be used as a trellis for runner beans.

You can make cute cocktails.

Edible flowers are an excellent way to make cocktails or even just an iced tea or lemonade feel extra special for your next summer gathering. Small flowers like Johnny-Jump-Ups are perfect for freezing into ice cubes. Edible flowers also make awesome garnishes especially paired with fresh herbs.

They’re perfect for homemade candy recipes.

Candied flowers and flower petals were a sweet treat long before the advent of modern candy brands. They’re also easy to make and beautiful. You can also try using flower petals in lollipop, hard candy, or even popsicle recipes.

Flowers attract beneficial insects.

One recent study showed that having flower strips planted in croplands can decrease the amount of insect damage to crops. This is because they attract beneficial insects like wasps and ladybugs which feed on harmful pests like aphids. While this obviously doesn’t just apply to edible flowers it is another one of their many qualities. Adding a few patches may help make your whole garden more productive.

Flowers attract pollinators.

Obviously, flowers are also a great way to attract pollinators such as bumblebees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other species. Having a patch of edible flowers benefits both you and local wildlife!

Growing and using edible flowers is a lot of fun! To find more information on edible flowers we carry visit our old post, 12 Edible & Medicinal Flowers to Add to Your Garden.

Grow Your Organization with SESE FarmRaiser

At Southern Exposure Seed Exchange we have a passion for connecting people homegrown food. We strive to promote and protect organic gardening, sustainable agriculture, and everyone’s right to save seed. One way we accomplish these goals is through our fundraiser program. 

We started our fundraiser program to help schools get children involved in gardening and find alternatives to highly processed cafeteria food. We wanted to provide schools with a fundraiser option that wasn’t based on candy, wrapping paper, and cheap plastic. It’s not just for schools though! An SESE fundraiser is perfect for youth groups, church groups, and garden clubs too!

FarmRaiser

Creating a fundraiser with Southern Exposure is now easier than ever. SESE has partnered with FarmRaiser, an easy-to-use, online fundraising platform, to pair our seeds with their tools. Though FarmRaiser you’ll have:

  • Accurate orders.
  • Great customer care.
  • Multiple ways to pay.
  • Ability to take orders online or face-to-face.
  • Run the fundraiser on whatever schedule works best for your organization.
  • 50% earnings on everything sold.
  • Ability to sell other locally sourced products as part of the same fundraiser.

We offer a variety of seeds and collections at bulk seed prices. Rest assured, all seeds are non-GMO and 100% organic. We’ll mail your seeds to you at the end of your campaign along with a user-friendly Beginner’s Gardening Guide to distribute with every order.  

Get Started

Make a difference for your community and the planet! Fundraise with SESE to cultivate a connection to the environment and food. Please visit our fundraiser page or sign up with FarmRaiser. If you have questions or need more information, let us know! We’re available by email at any time, or give us a call at 540-894-7890 during our office hours: 10am-noon and 1-4pm, Monday through Friday, Eastern Time. 

 

10 Tips for Beginner Gardeners

Starting your first garden can be overwhelming. There are so many decisions to make like location, varieties, and even what tools to purchase. There’s plenty to learn and do. Any gardening book will dive into planting dates, pests, garden amenments and more, in a recent survey it was discovered 2 out of 10 homes are in need of nuisance animal removal for animals and bats in the attic.

Starting with these 10 tips can help get you on track for a great first season.

Have your soil tested.

Learning as much about your soil as possible can help ensure your garden is a success. You’ll be able to add appropriate amendments and avoid wasting time and money. It can also help you select varieties. For example, carrot varieties like Chatenay Red Core Carrots perform better in heavy clay soils because they are short and have blunt ends.

Understanding Soil Tests

Amend your soil as needed.

Once you’ve tested your soil and had a look at your results it’s time to amend your soil. Certain amendments like lime or fertilizer should only be added if your soil test indicates a real need. Lime is used raise the soil’s pH. Raising it too much can make certain nutrients inaccessible to plants. Adding too much fertilizer can also be detrimental and can run off causing toxic algal blooms in your local watershed. A safe place to start is adding organic matter in the form of good quality compost. It can provide a variety of nutirents, help sandy soils hold moisture, and help heavy clay soils drain better. If you’re on a tight budget check out our post for free amendment ideas.

Choose a gardening style that works best for you.

In a recent post, we discussed the pros and cons of raised beds. While they’ve become very popular they may not be the best choice for everyone. The same goes for no-till gardening, hugelkultur beds, container gardening, and other gardening styles. Start with what’s easiest for you and experiement from there.

Start composting.

Every home should have a compost bin! Composting creates free soil for your garden and helps reduce waste. Apartment dwellers should check out vermicomposting as a small space alternative to an outdoor compost pile.

Use mulch.

Mulch helps to hold moisture, supress weeds, add organic matter, creates habitat for beneficial insects, and can even help prevent certain plant diseases. We have a number of articles about different types of mulch on the blog.

Learn about crop rotation and cover crops.

Crop rotation is key to a healthy garden. Never plant the same type of plants in the same place two years in a row. Cover crops can be used with crop rotation to decrease pest and disease pressure, reduce erosion, and add nutrients to your soil.

Start small.

It’s common advice and worth heading. You’ll get more from a well maintained small garden than a poorly cared for larger one. It can be really tough to narrow down which varieties to choose but it’s worth it. Add one or two varieties and increase your garden size a bit each year.

Consider your water source.

Lugging watering cans around is time consuming and exhausting. Put your garden as close to a water source as possible. If you can, invest in some hoses and a sprinkler or drip irrigation.

Choose varieties appropriate to your area.

When selecting your seeds and plants be sure to read carefully. For example, folks that live in zones farther north should look for varieties that mature quickly and folks in the far south should consider more heat tolerant varieties.

Knowing your hardiness zone can help you select appropriate varieties. For information about hardiness zones visit our post, Everything You Need to Know About Plant Hardiness Zones to learn more.

Start your own transplants from seed.

Starting your own transplants ensures you get the varieties you want and those that are well-suited to your area. It’s not as hard as you think. Check out Pam Dawling’s advice for starting seeds here on the blog.

Starting a garden is an incredibly rewarding experience but it can be tough. Use these tips for your first garden to make sure your garden is a success.