Tag Archive for gardening

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.

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.

The Pros and Cons of Vegetable and Herb Gardening

The Pros and Cons of Vegetable and Herb Gardening

growing winter vegetables

Herb Gardening

Vegetable and Herb gardening are two completely different types of gardening.

Herb gardening is a relaxing type of gardening. If you’re looking for a very simple type of gardening that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance, herb gardening is probably a great choice. Most herbs are very hardy, and they don’t require a lot of ongoing maintenance.

If you choose mainly perennial herbs, you will have herbs that come back year after year with very little additional work. As long as you keep them watered and weeded, they should keep growing relatively well without a lot of additional work.

Herb gardening is great for children and elderly individuals, as well as busy people who don’t have a lot of time to care for picky plants. It may not be right for someone who prefers a challenge, or for people who prefer a more in-depth type of gardening.

Pros:

  • Doesn’t require a lot of time.
  • Relatively simple to do.
  • Doesn’t require a lot of physical exertion.
  • Plants are generally hardy and easy to care for.

Cons:

  • Can be a bit boring for people who like a challenge.
  • Might not be good for people who prefer more complex forms of gardening.

Vegetable Gardening

Vegetable gardening requires a lot more work than herb gardening. In fact, vegetable gardening can be one of the most time-consuming types of gardening. Many vegetables require watering and fertilizing at regular intervals, and may require a lot of different types of maintenance.

You may have to pinch suckers, prune growth, or even manually fertilize some plants with a paint brush! Some vegetables are hardier and less picky than others. You can find some types of vegetables that don’t require a lot of work at all.

So you can still find vegetable gardening a fun and relaxing hobby if you’re careful to choose varieties that don’t require constant attention. Some people may especially enjoy vegetable gardening because they love the satisfaction of growing some of their own food.

It can be very rewarding to have a hand in raising something you eat, especially if you can feed your entire family with it. Some people may really like organic vegetable gardening, because they like knowing that the food they’re growing is safer for their family than store bought produce.

They may also enjoy the fact that they’re taking care of the environment by not using harmful chemicals. Vegetable gardening is great for people who have a relatively decent amount of time to care for their garden, and who are physically able to do so.

Vegetable gardening can be back-breaking work, so it’s important to be sure you can physically handle this type of work. It may not be very good for people who aren’t in good physical condition, or people who don’t have much time to care for their plants.

Pros:

  • Satisfying, because you grow your own food.
  • Peace of mind knowing where your food is coming from.
  • Challenging for people who really enjoy that.
  • Plants are attractive as well as useful.

Cons:

  • Might be too difficult for people who aren’t in good physical condition.
  • Can require a lot of special care for the best results.
  • Generally quite time-consuming.

Deciding which type of gardening to try should depend on your abilities and what goal you want to achieve in your gardening adventure. Now that you have several pros and cons on vegetable and herb gardening, that decision should be easier.

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.

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  • 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!

Easy Guide to Composting

Easy Guide to Composting

Using kitchen scraps and yard waste is a frugal way to make your own composting material.  By doing so, you are also keeping your yard, garden and flowers healthy in a natural way.  To help you get started in making your own composting, here are some easy tips:

 As with most things, it should start with the planning.  Think about how much compost you will need and how much raw material you have access to.  Knowing this, will help in deciding how large your composting bin should be.

Composting

Earth Worms: The hardest worker in the garden

A worm box can be of any size as long as it has a lid, water proof sides and bottom and you have a supply of paper of all kinds, [newspaper, computer paper or magazines] and dirt.  You can purchase a ready-made worm composting system, or you can make your own by poking holes, at the top, for air flow and at the bottom for drainage, in a see through, plastic container then set it on some type of drainage tray.  Once you have your worms, box, paper and dirt, the rest is all up to the worms.  Make a layer of dirt about 4 inches deep, introduce your worms, then wet the paper and tare it into 2-3 inch strips and place it in the box.  Place the lid on the box and let the boys go to work.  Never let your worm bin get below 55 degrees or the process will stop and your worms might die.

For those with larger outdoor areas, compost bins can be built outdoors for little money and effort. You can also compost without a bin and simply make a pile in a sheltered corner of your yard.

An outdoor bin can be built for little or no money using what you have on hand. Wooden pallets that you can find at any retail store make great composting bins. Most large retail store will give you these for just hauling them away.  You will need 4-6 of the pallets to make your bin.  They can be wired or nailed together to make a usable open top composting bin.

Composting

Wooden Pallet Composting Bin

 Except for dairy products, fish and meat, you can put most kitchen scraps into your composting bin, including egg shells, tea leaves, and coffee grounds. Any organic matter from your yard can be added, such as hay, straw, cut grass, leaves, mulch, wood chips, and small pruning from your shrubs. You can also add a layer of shredded newspapers from time to time but without worms, it will take longer to decompose that the household waste.

Chicken droppings can be added to your mixture, chicken manure makes the compost rich and full of nutrients, but do not add waste from other pets, such as dogs or cats.

Turn your compost once a month or so, stirring to aerate it and get the top layer down into the middle.  If your composting bin is in a location where rain water can reach it you should not have a need to water it.  If it is not, water it about once a month with a garden hose or better yet, collect rain water and us it, instead.


Vertical Gardening

Give Vertical Gardening A Try

If you have a small space or a wall or fence that you want to beautify, a vertical garden may be just what you’ve been looking for. Vertical gardens allow you to grow anything from flowers and herbs to larger vegetable plants. It just takes a little imagination and planning.

Using a shoe storage bag is an excellent way to grow vertically.

Using a shoe storage bag is an excellent way to try vertical gardening.

What Is a Vertical Garden?

Doing vertical gardening is pretty much what it sounds like. Rather than growing horizontally on the ground or in a raised garden bed, you grow up a wall or structure. How you create your vertical garden depends on your space and your needs.

For example, you can hang several planters vertically and plant herbs and vegetables in the space. You can also position beans and vine-like vegetables and fruits against a wall and coax them to grow up the wall instead of out into the yard.

The main difference in using vertical gardening is the medium that the plants grow in. Hydroponics for example, can be a type of vertical garden. Hydroponics are plants that grow in water.

Quadraphonic is another type of vertical gardening and it mixes raising fish with your plants. That’s a bit more complicated than we’re going to get here but it’s certainly something to investigate if you love fish and gardening. Soil-based gardens are the other option.

The Benefits of a Vertical Garden

There are an abundance of benefits of vertical gardening. In addition to allowing you to use your imagination in terms of how you plant your vegetables and herbs and what you plant them in, you can have a lot of fun. Many people try to find ways to make their vertical garden artistic.

For example, you might hang white pots on a glossy black fence in a star-shaped pattern. You could also find unique items to hold your plants like old rain gutters, or you might make a vertical garden from a closet hanging shoe holder.

The other benefits include the fact that your plants are off of the ground so they’re not vulnerable to pests. They also don’t need weeding which certainly saves time and energy. You can also bring your vertical garden indoors during the colder months which may give you a longer season.

The Downside of a Vertical Garden

Downsides might include the fact that you can be limited with the size of the plants. You don’t see too many people hanging tomato or pumpkin plants on the side of a wall or a fence. Also, because the plants are hanging and they’re more exposed to the air, you may need to water them more often.

Take a look around your space and consider what you might want to grow. If you’re interested in smaller plant and you have a wall or fence that fits the bill, consider trying a little vertical gardening.

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.

Growing What You Eat

www.growingwhatyoueat.com

By growing what you eat, even the smallest garden can give you fresh veggies for salads or ingredients for a complete meal for a long period of time.  The onions, lettuce and young tomato plants you see here, can enrich your meals, for not only the spring and summer seasons but through out the year.

One healthy tomato plant can produce up to 100 tomatoes for you and your family.  The 30+ onions you see here can grow to 4 inches in size.  With a little knowledge on preserving and canning, you can be eating and cooking with onions you planted and grew in you small garden until it’s time to plant them again.  Growing what you eat can be healthier for you and your family plus save you a good amount of money in your food budget.

By harvesting the lettuce in the right way, it too, will be giving you salads or a topping for your best grilled burger, way into summer.  Cut the outer leaves for use instead of pulling up the whole plant and the leaves will grow back in for future picking.  As long as you keep the dirt around them moist and if possible provide a little shade, you will have lettuce until July and the heat over takes them.

Add a package of radish seeds to a small frame of good soil, and they too, will give you many meals in return, with very little effort.

www.growingwhatyoueat.com

 

Radishes are nutritious little balls of fun.  There are many types and flavors when it comes to choosing your favorite kind.  Some have a sharp bite and some are very mild in flavor.  My favorite is the French Breakfast.  It isn’t as round as most and has a sweet mild flavor.  It can be placed in salads, or cooked in a mixture of ways to fit just about any type of meal.  Check out these little healthy bundles the next time you are looking to add something new to your garden.

A small raised bed garden [4 ft by 12 ft] can provide a family of 4 with upward of 200 pounds of produce for the year.  Just think how much that would save you in your food budget.  How do I know this can happen?  Mainly because I have done it for the last two growing periods in NE Tennessee and I am on my way of doing it again, this year.  The secret is, rotating my crops and keeping my little garden full of growing veggies.  Listed here are my main vegetables for each season, in my growing what you eat garden.

Spring Cold Plants:  Onions, Radishes, Lettuce, Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Carrots

Summer Plants:, [by this time the Radishes, Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower has been harvested]: About May 1-15 planting:  Tomatoes [4], Radishes [2nd planting], Cucumbers, Squash and Green Beans.  The secret to having this many plants in a small space is, buy the climbers.  You can grow upward, using less ground space.

Fall Plants:  Radishes [3 and 4 plantings, depending on how early the cold sets in], Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Onions[red or white]  Sugar Snap Peas.

To make it a success, planning is the first key in growing what you eat.  Dream it, plan it, plant it!

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!