Strawberries on the GreenStalk

greenstalk project

This season my 11 year old son is growing strawberries on the GreenStalk garden planter for our family. It’s important to me to teach my children how to produce their own food, and the GreenStalk tower planter is a fun, and easy to use introduction to growing.

greenstalk projectFood Production is Essential

My boys are 15 and 11 now. They’ve been around the garden their entire lives, and I’ve made it a point to include them  in food-related chores to expose them to real food and where that food comes from─how it’s grown, prepared and cooked. Now that they’re getting older though, I want food production to be a bigger part of their lives─a necessary part of every-day life, like brushing your teeth─but more rewarding.

I believe that feeding ourselves and the people we care about is an essential component to life and living. Food and cooking makes us who we are: feeding families, traditions and every culture on the face of the planet. And yet studies show that many people don’t even know how to cook the variety of foods available to them; in America people spend just 6.5 hours per week prepping meals─compared to 13.2 and 13.1 hours spent on the task in India and the Ukraine.

Since the advent of the industrialized food system, we’ve increasingly allowed food production to be outsourced and as a result we’ve witnessed a tragic loss of skills, tradition and community, that goes hand in hand with food. I want to nurture those skills, preserve traditions and support the community I love and serve, and so I start with myself and with my own home. Be the change you want to see in the world, right?

Note: To learn more about our food system check out this article I wrote a while back: Vote With Your Fork to Save our Broken Food System.

The GreenStalk Strawberry Project

To step-up the level of responsibility I’m asking from my sons William (15) and BraeTek (11 – pronounced: Bray-tek), I decided to give them more authority over the food production. This year they each have a garden project geared toward their own individual interests. William loves to eat dill pickles, so he’ll be growing a “Pickle Garden” and learning to make pickled foods: dill pickles, dilly beans, pickled beets, etc. while BraeTek wanted to grow raspberries and blackberries to make into smoothies.

With Runamuk’s impending #foreverfarm purchase and the #GreatFarmMove #finalchapter just weeks away, I initially thought I would have to steer BraeTek in another direction─putting in perennial berry plants is not on the list for this year. However, when Ashley Skeen with GreenStalk Gardens invited me to trial their vertical garden planter and participate in their affiliate program, I saw it as an opportunity for BraeTek to be able to grow berries even in the face of the upcoming transition. I told Ashley I was “in” and ordered 25 units of Seascape bare-root strawberry plants from Johnny’s Selected Seeds─a variety that performs well in containers.

The GreenStalk is a series of 4 or 5 planters that are stackable, so it doesn’t take up much space. It has a unique system designed to conserve water, with a slow-drip method that applies the water directly to the roots of your plants. The planters are made of BPA-free plastic right here in the USA, and are very rugged, gauranteed to last at least 5 years.

Note: Did I mention GreenStalk has issued me a coupon code to share with Runamuk readers??? Get $10 off your very own GreenStalk! Click on the GreenStalk image in the sidebar to learn more!

Preparing the GreenStalk

Using the GreenStalk is super easy. Together BraeTek and I filled the 4 tiers with potting mix─as a rule I use “ProMix”, which I buy annually as a bale at my local Campbell’s True Value hardware and garden center in Madison, Maine. It’s a mix of peat moss, vermiculite and mycorrhyzae that has always served me well.

growing with greenstalk
BraeTek and I filled the four tiers with potting soil.

Add Fertilizer

Because the ProMix does not contain any added fertilizers we added our own to the planters. I have rabbit manure on hand, so I filled a bucket with that and let BraeTek apply a thick layer over the potting mix, and then mixed it into the top six inches of soil.

rabbit poop
Add a healthy helping of rabbit-poop fertilizer!

Make it Fun!

Life is hard enough. I’m a big advocate for looking for the light, and for sharing love and positivity whenever and wherever you can. Make it fun and savor the moment because ultimately this is your life and you only get one. Make it a good one.

greenstalk project with braetek
Crack some jokes along the way!

Planting!

GreenStalk sent a guide along with the planter offering recommendations on how many plants to put in each pocket. I helped BraeTek put one strawberry plant in each of the 6 pockets on all 4 tiers.

greenstalk planting
Then add the strawberry plants!

Stack ’em Up!

Once we had the 4 tiers filled, fertilized and planted I stacked them up. The individual tiers were not super heavy, and they lock easily into place, with a reservoir in between each level, and a reservoir on top. These reservoirs are what make watering the GreenStalk so easy! Check out this page on the GreenStalk website to see a fun animation of how their unique watering system works!

greenstalk easy watering
BraeTek liked watering the tower!

Strawberries Outside the Front Door

That’s all there was to it, folks─I now have a tower of strawberry plants growing outside the front door. I had hoped to be moved before BraeTek’s strawberries came, but with the delay in Closing that wasn’t possible; Ashley at GreenStalk however, was kind enough to send along one of their custom “GreenStalk Movers” to help with the transition. I’ll be sure to take a couple pictures of that in-use during the #GreatFarmMove and post them to Runamuk’s Instagram feed, but there will be subsequent updates on our GreenStalk Strawberry Project as well, so check back over the course of the summer for more about this unique vertical growing system!

Food Adds Spice to Life

I totally believe that there are certain things that are the “Spice of Life”. I imagine them in little glass spice jars, neatly labeled on a rack in the proverbial kitchen of your life, and you can add these “spices” to your life to add flavor, value and meaning to your existence. Spices like music, friendship, family, experiences, nature…and food.

Food not only has the power to feed us, but also to connect us. Food draws us together─it fosters love and a sense of community. Through food we are able to nurture ourselves and those we care about. We all have powerful memories of being cooked for, and those acts of generosity and love run deep within us.

Personally, even though it’s more work to do it myself, I don’t want to allow the Industry to provide all of my food for me. I don’t like the ingredients they have to use to be able to keep their food products on the shelves at the store. I don’t agree with the values the industry supports and I oppose many of their methods. It’s a small act of resistance, but I’d rather give the Food Industry as little of my money as possible, and I choose to vote with my fork for food that doesn’t make me feel guilty to eat.

What’s more, growing and cooking my own food adds meaning and spice to my life that I might otherwise miss out on. Food allows me to express my love─I can express my love for nature by growing food using methods that are friendly to the Earth. By cooking real, wholesome food I can shower my family with love, and nurture relationships and traditions, even honor loved ones who have passed on. And food is universal, it can extend beyond the home and I can express my love for extended family, friends, and even my community by sharing food.

Food is a powerful ingredient in the “Spice of Life” cabinet. Don’t outsource it to Industry, because ultimately it’s your life that loses flavor. It’s never to late to learn to cook a new dish, or to learn how to grow your own strawberries. Join me and start today!

Feel free to share your thoughts, questions and feedback regarding the GreenStalk and food as a “Spice of Life” in the Comments section below! We can all learn together! Be sure to follow Runamuk on Instagram and Twitter for daily behind-the-scenes updates from the farm!

Introducing GreenStalk Vertical Gardens! Our New Affiliate Partner!

greenstalk affiliate

I’m excited to introduce Runamuk’s new affiliate partner: GreenStalk Vertical Gardens and you should be too because they’ve given Runamuk a coupon code worth $10 off their stackable garden planters. Check out the new button in my sidebar on the left-hand side of the Runamuk website─pretty sharp right?

greenstalk affiliate
GreenStalk Vertical Garden Planters─pretty nifty right?

Honestly, I don’t make much money off my writing, but then─that’s not really the purpose of this blog. The purpose is to express myself through the telling of my story as a farmer, and to share what I’ve learned in the hopes of helping others live a more self-sufficient and sustainable lifestyle as well.

Yet this blog and website, along with the resources offered here, are a service provided by Runamuk that make up part of my business model. The funds generated here through sponsorships and affiliate partnerships go directly to Runamuk, helping me to continue farming─helping me to pay for things like chicken feed, supplies for the apiary, or even the farm’s liability insurance.

I’m humble enough and realistic enough to know that most writers never make it big. I’ll never be the next JK Rowling, but it’s a skill I possess and I can use it to generate at least part of my income. And I do make some money writing. You can be sure I included those figures in my financials when I approached the FSA with my loan request. Runamuk is a diverse operation; this blog and my talent as a writer are part of my business model. I hope to expand this aspect of my operation once Runamuk is settled at our new forever-farm home. Stay tuned for more on that in upcoming posts.

greenstalk_zucchini
Use them to grow flowers or herbs, or even as a means of small-scale food production!

The GreenStalk affiliate program is by invitation only, so I was lucky that Ashley Skeen stumbled upon my website. She’s the marketing manager at GreenStalk and she reached out to me to invite me to partner with them, and offered to send me a GreenStalk and the Mover to try for myself and review for them! How cool is that!?

greenstalk_herbs
BPA Free and UV Resistant!

I told her she’d better wait to send the GreenStalk til after the move lol, but I wanted to introduce them to you now. I think they’re offering an innovative approach to food-production in small spaces; with another growing season upon us I believe there are folks out there who will be able to put the GreenStalk to good use.

These are stackable planters with a unique watering system that allows the gardener to grow a lot in just 2 square feet of space. You could use it to grow flowers, herbs, and even vegetables. They’re BPA free and UV-resistant too, so they’ll last for years. I really like the fact that GreenStalk is a small family owned business out of Tennessee, and I love that their products are made 100% in the USA. Go to their website to see how the GreenStalk works!

greenstalk_mover
This Mover makes relocating the GreenStalk easy-peasy!

Without a doubt I’m looking forward to trying the GreenStalk. Initially I was thinking I would use it to produce a tower of herbs that I could position just outside the front door to keep them handy to the kitchen for cooking; then at the end of the season I could simply use the Mover to wheel the tower inside for the winter and still have fresh herbs. However, as I poured over the photo album on their website I came up with an even better idea, which I’m really excited about.

My son BraeTek had expressed some interest in growing blackberries and raspberries at the new farm and was disappointed when I told him we’d have to wait til next year to really start putting in perennials like that. BraeTek has been involved in the farmers’ market with me off and on over these last 5 years; he’s quite the entrepreneur actually─selling lemonade, iced tea and dog biscuits. Now he wants to grow berries so that he can make frozen smoothie pops to sell to kids at the farmers’ market. Naturally I want to encourage him, but the realities of moving a farm and family and getting everyone settled again makes me reluctant to get too carried away with planting much in the way of perennials this first year. This will be a transition year.

greenstalk_kale
Look at all the kale you can grow with the GreenStalk Vertical Garden!

It occurred to me though, as I looked through the photos shared by the GreenStalk community, that we could use the GreenStalk to raise strawberries. Johnny’s has some varieties that perform very well in containers and I knew I still had time to order bare-root plants for this season. When I showed BraeTek the pictures of what I had in mind he gave me an enthusiastic “Okay!”

Later that same day I placed my order for 25 of the Seascape strawberry variety offered by Johnny’s Selected Seeds. There are 30 planting pockets on the GreenStalk, so I thought we could fill in the remaining 5 pockets with a few herbs or flowers and the tower will look great standing in the front yard at the Hive House!

greenstalk_zucchiniIt’s going to be fantastic having our own fresh strawberries. I admit I am strongly biased against buying strawberries. Strawberries are #1 on the list of “Dirty Dozen”, with the highest concentrations of pesticides. Even when washed and rinsed they are still likely to be contaminated─they’re like a sponge─they just soak up the chemicals. If I do buy strawberries I always buy Organic, but as a farmer I know that even some approved organic pesticides can be harmful. Growing your own is really the safest way to get strawberries.

Note: Check out this report from the Environmental Working Group to learn more about the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen.

I’m especially looking forward to working on this project with my son. I want my children to be producers in this world. I want them to know how to make things, grow food, and do things for themselves. Some day they might need those skills, and also, I feel a certain level of production is essential for a full and satisfying life. Check back soon to see updates on BraeTek’s strawberry production project using the GreenStalk planter.

Be sure to click on the new GreenStalk button in the sidebar to check out our new affiliate partner! Use promo code RUNAMUK to get $10 off yours!