Friday, May 1, 2015

Grow a Garden with Limited Space in 7 Easy Steps Anywhere in the World

When we first moved to Cuenca Ecuador we said that we wouldn't need to have a garden anymore since the fruits and vegetables are so abundant and great priced. But we cannot stop growing food because its fun. We always have kale to eat from the gardens and we also like to grow pole beans, herbs like rosemary and basil, beets and radishes, which all grow great here. Frank tried his green thumb with Roma tomatoes but they didn't do well at all because they need warmer weather!  Ouch!
small purple podded pole bean bed Cuenca Ecuador
                                         1-1/2 months later the plants are growing nicely

Get a Head Start on Your Garden

It’s that time of year again to start your seedlings indoors to get a head start in the planting season. Almost any location in the u.s it is recommended to start your seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the last danger of frost, and in the southeast that is in Feb/March or March/April. In the north it might be a bit later than that. So if you start your seedlings indoors during these months, it most likely will be safe to put them in the dirt outdoors in April or May. Although it is still possible to get a late frost in mid May in some areas in the north.

                    Zucchini grows only "ok" in Cuenca Ecuador. It really needs warmer weather.

The neat thing about living in Cuenca Ecuador, where the weather is (mostly) constant, you do not need to start your seedlings indoors; instead you can simply bury your seeds outside in the garden bed where you want them to grow. Zuchinni will not grow in the winter months in Cuenca. We grew it during the summer and only got a few zucchini squash from the plants as they need warmer weather.  Click here to see what plants grow well in Cuenca.

When we lived in the southeast of the u.s we used to start most of our vegetable plants indoors during the month of February because it was almost always safe to put the small seedlings outside in the gardens by the end of March or first part of April.

Start Your Seeds Indoors In Seven Easy Steps

One of the easiest ways to start your seeds indoors is in paper cups because they compost into the soil as the plant grows. This allows for easier transplanting without disturbing the plant. You can also buy the seed starter kit at Wal-Mart for about $8 in the garden center. Well, they were $8 four years ago.

What You Will Need
20 paper cups
Potting soil
Spray bottle
Plastic covering

NOTE: If you live in Ecuador, there’s no need to do any of the head start preparation; instead just plant the seeds in the garden bed. However, if it is during the chillier nights of June, July and August, you will want to cover the baby plants because the lows can get down to almost to freezing, which can put undue stress on the baby plants.

7 Steps from Seed To Seedling

1. Fill each paper cup 2/3 full with potting soil. Put two or three seeds of your choice into each cup.

2. Dampen each seed with a mist of water and cover each seed with ¼ inch of soil. Lightly spray the covered seeds with water.

3. Put all of your seed cups in a shallow cardboard box and cover with plastic covering. The box should be about 4-6 inches in height. This method works great; it is like a miniature greenhouse and ensures for excellent germination.

4. Put your seed box somewhere where it will not get disturbed for 6 to 10 days. There is no need to water them at this time. Seeds should be kept in a warm room for best germination. Check your seeds after six days to see if they have sprouted. If any seeds have sprouted they will now need light. A window in any room of the home works fine. Always dampen the soil when it feels dry.

5. When the seedlings are taller than the box you can quit using the plastic cover. Make sure the soil is always damp so the seedlings do not dry out. Keep them in a lighted window during the day and in a warm 75-degree room at night.

6. About one week before transplant time, put the seedlings outdoors in a mostly shaded area for up to two hours a day. This will help the transitioning process and lessen transplant shock. Do not leave them outside in direct sunlight or they will shrivel up and die. Your seeds will do fine with TLC - Tender light, loving water and attentive Care.

7. After 4 to 6 weeks, depending on your region, you can transplant your seedlings right into the garden. They should be about 3 to 5 inches in height. You may have 2 to 3 plants in each cup. If that is the case, simply pinch out the runts, leaving only the most robust looking plant in each cup.

Raised bed gardens can tolerate a lot of plants growing in a smaller space.  See our 3' by 5' purple pole bean bed and the bowl of green beans we harvested from it. Dig as many holes as you need according to how many seedlings you have, spacing each hole by at least six inches. Put each seedling, still in the paper cup, right down into the holes and cover with soil, leaving about 2 to 3 inches of plant sticking out of the soil. The cup will compost right into the soil. Carefully water each seedling.

Okay, you’re all done. Now it’s time to watch what nature does best – your efforts will bloom into beautiful and beneficial vegetable plants. That's the neat thing about gardening watching the plants grow and bring fruit. 

If you liked this article, you might like watching this Video too:
We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy in Cuenca Ecuador! Enjoy the Discover Cuenca Ecuador blog!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Day Out in Cuenca Ecuador - Enjoying a Cappuccino and Cocoa

 We're having fun! Enjoying the music from Madre Parque (trying to anyway -LOL) and having a cafe and cocoa at McDonald's in Cuenca.
We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy in Cuenca Ecuador! Enjoy the Discover Cuenca Ecuador blog!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Growing Heirloom Purple-Podded Pole Beans for the Garden Enthusiast - Cuenca Ecuador

Did you know that many of the fruits and vegetables that are available in Cuenca do not grow in Cuenca; that includes green beans. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the more popular vegetables that do not grow well or not at all in Cuenca because it is NOT warm enough and or not enough sunlight.

1. Tomatoes
2. Peppers
3. Zucchini
4. Cucumbers
5. Green beans
6. Egg plants
6. Melons
7. Most fruits
8. Avocados
9. Etc

FYI: If you go outside of Cuenca, about one hour to Yunguilla Valley, you can grow everything!

Vegetables that love Cuenca weather are:

1. Cabbage
2. Broccoli
3. Cauliflower
4. Kale
5. Swiss Chard
6. Beets
7. Carrots
8. Potatoes
9. Etc…

Purple Podded Green Beans Love Cuenca’s Weather 

The regular green beans do not grow well in Cuenca as it needs warmer weather and lots of sun. However, the heirloom purple-podded bean grows excellent in Cuenca.  We used to grow them every year when we lived in the u.s because they are tasty green beans, easy to grow and good producers.  The good news is we also have found that they grow well in Cuenca.  
The other morning in April 2015 I was harvesting our purple-podded green beans from a small garden plot of about 5’ by 3’ when an indigenous woman carrying a heavy load on her back walked by and noticed me picking the beans.  She smiled big and stopped at our gate. I walked up to her as I could see she wanted to have one. She kept staring with a big grin on her face at the basket of beans I was harvesting from this small plot of ground and she seemed rather amazed. 
Only then did I realize that green beans do not grow in Cuenca, but here I was, picking them right in front of her from our small garden plot.  the photo below shows the small 3' by 5' garden plot where I picked the purple-podded pole beans from!

I offered her a couple of nice sized beans and she motioned for me to put them in her basket as her hands were full.  She will most-likely use them to grow her own bed of purple-podded pole beans. She was thrilled I gave her some seeds. There are about four seeds to each bean pod and with eight plants, she’ll get enough beans to eat some and save some seeds for planting a bigger crop next planting.

We think Cuenca will soon be seeing the purple-podded green beans being sold at the Mercados and grocery stores, along with the regular green pole bean that only grows in Yunguilla valley where it is warmer, or in Guayaquil.

The purple-podded pole beans are sold all over the Internet as heirloom seeds, not hybrids; they are the real deal and are heavy producers and disease resistant, plus easy to grow.  I was amazed at the abundance of the first picking myself.
The purple beans turn green when steamed. They are good eaten raw in salads and are also really tasty sautéed with some garlic and onions. It is nice to know we can grow these beans year round and include them to the already wonderful variety of vegetables available in Cuenca Ecuador.

We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy in Cuenca Ecuador! Enjoy the Discover Cuenca Ecuador blog!