Archive for growing organic foods

Health Benefits of Growing Fresh Produce

Having good health benefits isn’t the only reason people choose to grow their own organic fruits and vegetables.  Saving money and having access to produce without chemicals are other good reasons. There also happen to be quite a few health benefits to choosing fresh produce, especially when you grow it yourself. Here are some health benefits to keep in mind.

Growing What You Eat in Your Own Vegetable Garden

It is Loaded With Nutrients

Fresh produce, including fruits, vegetables, and herbs, have tons of nutrients. Many of these are considered superfoods, which have a higher amount of vitamins and minerals. Some good superfoods are blueberries, kale, spinach, and strawberries. All fruits and veggies have a lot of nutrients you want for better health benefits, which are in higher amounts with fresh produce. Food items tend to loose its’ freshness and vitamins as it begins to age. This includes vitamins C and A, vitamin D, folate, potassium, fiber, and lots of it’s antioxidants.

You Can Prepare Well Balanced Meals

Thanks to the nutritious fresh produce and the convenience of having them at home, you can also use them to prepare healthier, more balanced meals. This is an excellent health benefit as your family might be struggling with malnutrition without even realizing it. Sure, you might be eating enough food, but not the right foods. Having fruits and vegetables right in your own backyard encourages you to prepare more of these balanced meals for the good of your family’s health.

Gardening Itself is Good Exercise

Even the growing of fresh produce in your backyard is going to be good for your health. It helps you burn calories, be more active, and can even get your kids involved. Plus don’t forget that when you are outside more often by planting your veggies and herbs, you are going to get more vitamin D from the sunlight. This helps to prevent vitamin D deficiency, which is common for many people, especially women. Try to get everyone in the family involved in growing your own food and you will all benefit from it.

You Won’t Have Nasty Chemicals

Growing your own produce means you have full control of what is added to it. You can avoid harsh fertilizers in the soil and use pest control methods that are completely natural without chemicals in them. This is the same thing you get from buying organic produce, but when you grow it on your own, you have the convenience factor and save money at the same time. Less chemicals is always a good thing when you start feeding your family more fruits and veggies. For better health benefits, organic is best. You can only be sure your food is organic, if you grow it yourself.

Salad Fixings You Can Grow Indoors

Not Just Lettuce: Other Salad Fixings You Can Grow Indoors

Growing your lettuce for a salad, in shallow bowls or similar planting containers is a lot of fun and a great way to get more healthy greens into your diet. While most of us are perfectly happy with a side of salad greens with dinner most nights, it’s nice to have a little variety in our salads. Of course adding other home-grown plants to your salads adds to the overall nutritional value as well.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at various other “salad fixings” that you can grow indoors or on your patio. They make great additions to your salads, but also come in handy in the kitchen in a multitude of other recipes.

Herbs  

Using a shoe storage bag is an excellent way to grow herbs for your salad.

You can spent a small fortune on fresh herbs at the grocery store. Why not grow your own instead. You can keep them in small pots or even old tea or coffee pots. Actual little planters are preferable since they have drainage holes, but use what you’ve got and just think of how pretty these little pots of herbs will look all lined up in your kitchen window.

Popular herbs to grow and use in your salads include:

  • Basil
  • Mint
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Chives
  • Rosemary
  • Oregano
  • Thyme

and more. Like lettuce you can either grow them from seed, or pick up small plant seedling at your local garden center.

Sprouts

Sprouts also make a great addition to your salad. They provide a little crunch and a lot of extra nutrients. But like herbs, they can be pricey if you pick them up at the store each week. Instead, order some seeds online, then sprout your own in a shallow container lined with moist paper towel. Sprouting is surprisingly quick and easy. The biggest secret is that you have to keep the seeds moist and warm.

Common things to sprout include alfalfa, lentil, mung, rye, soy, and wheat. Start with the sprouts you like to eat, then expand your growing horizon from there.

Tomatoes And Peppers

Tomatoes and peppers may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re thinking about growing plants indoors, but there are small varieties that do surprisingly well in a sunny window. Of course growing them outside on a patio or balcony in larger containers is also an option.

In either case look for varieties that don’t grow very large and provide a nice little harvest. You should be able to find varieties of tomatoes (mostly cherry tomatoes) and various peppers from hot to sweet that you can grow in a small space then add to your salad.

Not only do they add a nice burst of flavor and visual appeal to your salad, they also make surprisingly beautiful houseplants. And isn’t it more satisfying to grow a plant that also provides you with food?

Onion and Garlic

If you’re feeling a little adventurous, try growing your own onion and garlic alongside your lettuce bowl. While regular onions don’t lend themselves to indoor growing you can plant green onion and garlic bulbs and grow both of those in fairly small containers on your counter. Use the green onion, and you can even use the green stalks of the garlic plants in a similar way. It has a mellow bit of garlic flavor that’s not quite as strong as the garlic bulbs that will be growing all along in the soil.

Ready to give it a try? Head to your local garden center and see what they have to offer to you.

Edible Plants for Your Landscapes

Great Edible Plants for Your Landscapes

There are hundreds of edible plants that would look perfectly lovely in a landscape, but some of them work better than others. Many plants won’t look very good later in the season, for example.

Some of them quickly turn dark and lose their leaves. You want plants that taste great, but keep their appearance long enough to be a practical part of your landscape. It’s no good to build plants that lose their looks in late summer into your landscape design.

Here’s a look at some of the best choices for edible plants for landscape design. We’ll mostly be including plants that require minimal care and look attractive, while providing something very edible:

[1] ‘Golden Streaks’ is a variety of mustard that has heavily serrated leaves in a beautiful golden citron color. It has a very mild taste, slightly sweet. This is a striking plant that has a wonderful flavor.

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[2] ‘Hansel Hybrid’ eggplant is a stunning plant. It has a two-foot-tall plant that produces huge clusters of fingerling eggplants in a delightful deep purple hue.

[3] ‘Pesto Perpetuo’ basil is a one to two foot basil plant with absolutely gorgeous variegated leaves. The leaves are a rich green with a fringe of white. It tastes like Greek basil, but the appearance is wonderful in a landscape!

[4] ‘Purple Peacock’ broccoli is a hybrid cross between broccoli and two different types of kale. It has a purple stem and loose, purple head.

[5] ‘Violetta Hybrid’ pak choi is an amazing variety of this Chinese green. It has lovely purple leaves that are packed with more nutrients than many other types of greens!

[6] ‘Red Popper’ is a type of miniature bell pepper. The fruits are only about one to two inches in diameter and are very sweet and delicious. You’ll love the way these bright red peppers look against the rich, green foliage!

[7] ‘Sweet Lace’ grapes are a small, patio-sized variety of grape. They have very pretty leaves and produce pretty white grapes in September. These can be grown in containers, and they can also be trellised easily. They make a beautiful accent to a fence or wall.

[8] ‘Red Veined’ sorrel is a variety of this classic wild green. It has light green leaves with a truly spectacular series of red veins all throughout. The taste is very sharp, so it’s best in salads with mild greens. This one is particularly striking in appearance.

[9] ‘Purple Mizuna’ is a fabulous type of greens. They have a very tangy flavor, and grow very quickly. Mizuna greens are already quite attractive, but this purple variety is particularly nice.

[10] ‘Mittistone’ is a summer-crisp lettuce of the loose-leaf variety. The leaves are green with red speckles. It is a sweet, crisp lettuce variety that tastes as amazing as it looks. It matures quickly, and the plants look just as beautiful in your yard as it does in a salad bowl.

While you may not have heard or tried some of these plants, it wouldn’t hurt to give a few of them a try.  I used three of these plants in my walkway edge garden, when I was living in a condo community that had rules about outside plants.   None of my neighbors guessed they were walking within inches of my vegetable garden.

Five Tips For The Vegetable Gardener

Most vegetable gardeners are always looking for tips to make their gardening easier, cheaper or better. Here are a five tips that I have found to be very useful in my gardening adventure.

[1] Newspapers, Cardboard and Paper Towels

All kinds of paper goods [except the glossy inserts] can be used in your garden. Cardboard is excellent to put in walkways to keep weeds from growing or as the first layer for your raised beds, as a foundation for your soil, leaves or compost.

Newspapers can be used to protect your seedling, giving them head start on growing strong.

If you have a compost bin, with worms, you can add newspapers and paper towels to the mixture. Worms love easy to process paper products.

[2] Earth Worms:

There is no need to buy earth worms for your garden, just lift a few rocks after a rain storm and you should find plenty. Adding them to your soil or compost mixture is one of the best things you can do for your garden. They will eat through your kitchen waste, including newspapers and paper towels, giving you a rich garden additive, that will grow bigger and better vegetables, flowers.

[3] Saw Dust:

Do you know someone who likes to build things? Chances are they will have sawdust to give away. Make arrangements for them to keep it in a 5 gallon bucket [that you provide] and call you when they are ready for you to pick it up. Mix it will your soil in the fall and by spring it will have become part of your soil. This is an especially good tip, if your soil is high in clay. The sawdust will loosen the clay and make it easier for the plant’s root system to grow.

[4] Kitchen Tools:

If you are gardening in a raised bed, before you go out and buy special hand tools for it, look around your kitchen and see what you can use. I prepared, planted and harvested my first raised bed, using only the tools I found in my kitchen. I found a sturdy long handled slotted spoon, 2 wooden spoons, an egg holder [used to getting boiled eggs out of hot water] that I put to great use in my garden. No expense or cost for any of them, they were just laying unused in my gadget drawer.

[5] Kitchen Waste:

tips for the vegetable gardener

Keep a covered container near your sink to put your kitchen waste. Once a week or sooner, I try to take my worms a treat of kitchen waste. Some times I have to do a little chopping for them but most times, all I do is add them to my compost bed, cover with a layer of dirt and walk away. I know that when I get ready to use that soil mixture in the spring, I will be richly rewarded.

To find more tips, continue reading or join the family by signing up for tips, ideas and thoughts on how to make your gardening experience a joy instead of a heart ache.

Nine Tasty Vegetables for Home Gardens

It’s sometimes recommended that you don’t try to grow vegetables that are readily available at your local supermarket. If a particular vegetable is inexpensive, you might want to skip growing it and just purchase it but I say until you have tasted fresh home grown vegetables, you do not know what you have been missing.

www.growingwhatyoueat.com

  • Tomatoes – Although technically a fruit, its savory nature leads to this little beauty being considered a vegetable by most people. Tomatoes found in stores are usually picked nearly green and then ripened artificially.  This is done to ensure they are tough enough to survive shipping without being smashed, and so they last longer on the shelves. Since tomato quality can be really poor in stores, this is a very good choice. Tomatoes are the most popular choice for vegetable gardeners, because they have the most noticeable difference over store bought.
  • Lettuce – Although iceberg lettuce doesn’t vary that much from store to home, leaf lettuces and other fancy lettuces can taste much sweeter and crisper if grown at home. Plus, exotic lettuces can often be very expensive.
  • Peas – Peas can be very hard to find fresh. Canned peas are often mushy, and although frozen peas are certainly better than canned, they still pale in comparison to fresh peas. Tiny baby peas are sweet, delicate, and delicious, making them well worth the effort.
  • Carrots – Store bought carrots are often woody, tough, and bitter. Even organic carrots often carry a strong bitterness caused by being kept at temperatures that are too cool for too long. Fresh carrots are generally very sweet and delicious.
  • Radishes – Radishes are cheap and easy to find in stores, but most store bought radishes are already turning pithy. If you’ve ever bitten into a radish that was dry and spongy inside, you’ll understand how bad pithy radishes are. Fresh radishes are delightful. To me, it is the queen of all vegetables in the garden.  Did you know the green tops of radishes can be eaten, also?
  • Greens – Although most greens are readily available in stores, they’re often yellowing and wilted by the time you buy them. By growing them yourself, you can be sure you have fresh greens when you want them.
  • Growing What You Eat in Your Own Vegetable Garden
  • Asparagus – Fresh asparagus is often ridiculously expensive, and canned asparagus is mushy and horrible! The only way to get affordable asparagus that isn’t mushy and bland is to grow it yourself.
  • Peppers – Peppers in stores are often shriveled and pathetic. Plus, peppers that aren’t standard green peppers can often be very expensive. My local store has sold red peppers for as much as $2.99 each, which is crazy! Grow your own and save money.
  • Cucumbers – Store bought cucumbers are often bitter and dry. If you’ve ever had a dried out, semi-hollow cucumber, you’ll understand the importance of growing your own!
  • Corn – Sweet corn is a delight to eat when it’s freshly picked. Corn is extremely sensitive to being off the stalk. Once it’s been off the stalk for 6 hours, it starts to deteriorate rapidly. You’ve never had corn until you’ve eaten it cooked fresh.

All of these vegetables are outstanding when grown in the home garden, not only in taste but in their food value, too.  As 40-50% of their vitamins haven’t been lost during the shipping and processing of them.  

Go play in the dirt people, it’s good for you!

I’m Growing What I Eat

My little garden is starting to share it’s summer bounty.  This week I was able to add cucumbers, zucchini, banana peppers, potatoes, shallots and fresh Basil to my food pantry from my little garden.

Growing what I eat, enables me to control the pesticides and other things that normally are used in commercial foods.  I use none of the products that the large corporations use to control bugs and mold.  My main bug deterrent is a little dish soap mixed in a bottle of warm water.  I also use my fingers to remove anything larger than pea size.  Thankfully those are few and far between.

I'm growing what I eat

 

It looks like I am going to have an abundance of cucumbers, as I am picking 6-8 a day now.  One of the things that has helped my, growing what I eat garden, this season, was my use of a ground cover, to keep the dreaded white moth from laying it’s eggs in the soil around my seedlings.  When those eggs hatch, the larva eat the roots of your plants and your young plants die.  This light weight covering is one of my best helpers in my road to independence of growing what I eat.

winterize your garden

The tomatoes are beginning to appear, soon they will be ripe enough for me to use in my meals or as a snack.  I planted six Cherry Tomato plants and nine assorted verities of the larger tomatoes.  It wasn’t as many as last year but I still feel it’s enough for my large family to share and still have enough to can 12- 24 quarts for the winter.

I planned my evening meal around what I got from the garden in the morning.  I had already started the BBQ chicken legs in the slow cooker so I had a head start on the meal.  I added a couple of the new potatoes, a cucumber and a sliced tomato that one of my neighbors at the garden gave me.  A simple delicious meal that cost me very little time or money.

eating what I grow

 

Why I Garden In Raised Beds

Why Garden in Raised Beds?

There’s a growing trend to garden in raised beds. These beds are usually anywhere from eight to twelve inches deep and can be any shape or size you desire. They are easy to build and can fit any size yard or patio. And with a greenhouse built to position on top, you can extend the growing season. Let’s take a look at the benefits of gardening in raised beds.

Gardening in raised beds

1. Soil control – When you build raised beds for home gardening, you have a few choices. You can position it onto the ground or you can build a bottom with holes for drainage. Either way, you’re adding soil to the bed.

You have complete control over the type of soil and can choose the mix that best fits your garden’s needs. Additionally, year after year, you can simply add more quality soil to the box. You don’t have to worry about depleting the existing soil.

2. Easier weeding – Actually, if you use a ground cover like mulch or a weed barrier then you won’t have any weeding to contend with raised beds. Weeding in a traditional garden can take hours each week. With raised beds you simply water and harvest. It’s a lot less work.

3. Works for any size space – Generally, raised beds are four feet by four feet. This is a great size because it fits nicely into a corner and because you can reach across it from any direction. However, if you have a unique sized space that you need to fit a garden into, you can make your raised bed fit your needs. You can, for example, build a long, narrow two by eight foot bed.

4. Easy to build – All you really need are a couple of nails, a hammer, and some wood. You can have the wood measured and precut at the lumber yard or hardware store. Metal brackets can ensure that you have perfect corners too.

5. Longer growing season – The growing season is extended with raised beds because you can start earlier in the season. The soil you add to the bed warms more quickly than the dirt in the ground. Additionally, you can add a greenhouse top to the bed to take your vegetables into the cooler months.

6. No problems with pests – With a raised garden bed you won’t have to worry as much about rabbits and rodents eating your plants. Additionally, you can prevent many bugs from becoming problems.

7. They’re attractive – Using raised beds for gardening can fit any design personality. You can make them out of wood, metal, and even plastic or synthetic wood. You can paint them or adorn them however you like.  Raised beds can becomes part of your outdoor living area.

Raised garden beds fit a variety of needs. They’re lovely, easy to care for, and can extend your growing season by months. Measure your space and start designing your raised bed garden today.

 

From Your Yard To Your Table

Forget about the saying “Farm to Table” and think about, growing what you eat, using the “from your yard to your table” method, as a way to eat healthier and cheaper.  Ninety-five percent of us have space to grow some of our own food items.  It could be two to three vegetables or a well thought out 6 x 10 foot space for square foot beds and a few containers.  No matter which you decide to do, it can be the beginning of a great future in supplying yourself and family with the best organic food coming from your yard to your table.

from your yard to your table

Even using a small space if you rotate the plants during your nine or ten months of the growing time span, you can decrease your food budget and increase the quality of the food you put on your dinner table.  Like with most new things you might want to start small, then branch out with each growing season.

Choose your family’s favorite three or four vegetables and start with them. Research your best growing season for these items in your area, and choose the plants or seeds for that time period.  Some veggies can be planted more than one time within that growing time span.  The seed package is your best guide when choosing those seeds or plants.

www.Growingwhatyoueat.com

If you have small children, dogs or other small animals in your area and having your garden ground level would be more fight than pleasure, think about raising your growing boxes up higher.  This is my small raised bed where I place small plants that vine. It’s 24 inches wide by four feet long. At one end I grew midget cucumbers and planted the rest in hot peppers.  I placed the hot peppers up there because I didn’t want any little fingers finding the small red peppers too charming to resist and bite into one.

The old drawer below is where I started seeds to be planted in the beds, later in the season.  The get off to a good start and when the plants are 3-4 inches in height, I can move them into a bed when my earlier plants have been harvested.

If all you have is a patio, balcony, or small yard space, you can still think about growing what you eat, and bringing it from your yard to your table.

Tips For Sowing Small Seeds

Tips for Sowing Small Seeds

When sowing small seeds it’s sometimes hard to tell what area you have covered because the seeds are normally the same or close to being the same color as the earth.  In some cases you will not know you have over sown until the seedlings begin to appear and by then it’s to late to even them out.  Here are my favorite three ways to fix that problem before it happens.

All these tips suggest you mix the seeds with another ingredient to make them more visible.  Most you will already have on hand.

Sand:  If you use sand make sure it’s sea sand, as its’ edges have been rounded off by the constant movement of the ocean and will not harm your earthworms as play sand will do.  Play sand has rough edges which can cut the digestive system of the worms or even worse, kill them.  An organic garden without worms will not survive for a long period of time.

Flour:  Mixing the seeds with a little baking flour will also give you a better visible understanding of the location of your seeds.  Like the sand it has a few kinks.  You do not want to add too much flour or the damp soil will cause the flour to harden and trap the seeds, not allowing them to reach the dirt.  For every teaspoon of seeds, add one tablespoon of flour.  Shake or mix well then sow the seeds evenly in the dark soil. The result being even rows or spreading of the seeds, and not being over seeded.

Jello:  If you are planting very fine seeds, such as carrot, lettuce, or wildflower; mix the seeds with a package of colored gelatin powder. It really helps to spread the seeds evenly and makes it very easy to see where they’ve been sown. Plus the gelatin seems to help them grow too!

Keeping seeds where you can see them is beneficial  when sowing small seeds.  As with most things in life, learning to growing what you eat, takes time and a few good tips from your friends.  Here’s to Happy Gardening!

Raised Beds Make Gardening Easier

Raised beds make gardening easier in many ways. They help you solve issues with your soil, aid in controlling pests, improve the amount of produce you can harvest in a small area.  They’re, also, great at reducing weeds and help conserve water.

Any plant that loves well-drained soil can benefit from being grown in raised beds. You don’t have to only grow vegetables. You can also easily grow herbs, fruits, and flowers in raised beds, thus making your job easier.

raised beds

In raised bed gardening, the soil is usually put into frames that are about three or four feet wide and 12 feet in length. The soil is generally enriched with compost, and is added to a frame made of wood or other material.

The plants in raised bed gardening are planted much closer together than the plants in a traditional garden. This allows the plants to conserve moisture and also help block the sun from allowing weeds to germinate and grow.

Raised beds can be used to extend the growing season, making it easier to start seeds outdoors earlier, and grow later in the season. This is a great way to get even more produce out of the area in a season.

If you have soil problems in your garden, you can use raised beds and just bypass your own soil completely. If you start with completely fresh soil, it doesn’t matter what type of soil you had in your garden to begin with.

Another great benefit of raised bed gardening is the fact that the gardener doesn’t walk on the soil in which the plants are growing. This helps prevent the soil from being packed down, so the roots can grow through the soil more readily.

You don’t need to till the soil under a raised bed if you don’t want to. This is very beneficial for people who can’t afford a tiller, or who aren’t physically capable of handling a piece of machinery like this.

You won’t have to water raised beds as often as you would a traditional garden. The soil in raised beds is designed specifically to hold on to water, so you can water less often and in smaller quantities. This is great for conserving water and saving money.

Frames can be built on top of plywood bases, and then raised to any height. This allows handicapped and elderly people to easily reach their plants to tend to them. For people in wheelchairs, this could be one of the only ways they can garden well.

Diseases and pests are easier to control in raised beds. Since you’re starting with fresh soil, it’s less likely to be contaminated with diseases that could infect your plants. If your plants do become infected, you can simple dispose of the soil in that bed and start again from scratch.

Pests are easier to control, because plants are in a more confined area. This makes it much easier to spot potential problems, and it also makes it easier to get rid of potential problems before they take over your entire garden.