Tag Archive for growing food

Small Space Greenhouse Gardening

When you think about a greenhouse, you probably imagine a large conservatory or farm greenhouse. These buildings can be amazing structures but they’re not right for the average gardener. The truth is that most people don’t consider a greenhouse because they think they’re too big. However, there’s a growing trend of mini-greenhouses and small space greenhouses. In fact, they’re so popular you can buy a mini-greenhouse at your local home store or big box stores like Walmart.

greenhouse

growingwhatyoueat.com

DIY or Buy?

As mentioned, you can buy a pre-made mini greenhouse. They come in all shapes and sizes and can be purchased to fit your space. For example, if you have a wall or fence area that gets good sun, you can purchase a greenhouse that’s taller to fit the space. There are also ground level or tabletop greenhouses you can buy.

The other option is to build your own greenhouse. This is a good idea if you have a space that has a unique shape and size. You really don’t need much to build your own greenhouse. A frame can be made from PVC or wood. You then attach a thin clear plastic sheet to the frame. Leave it open on one end or create a Velcro opening and you have an instant greenhouse.

Why Use a Greenhouse?

Greenhouses are ideal for cooler climates. If you live in an area where you get enough sun but the temperatures tend to run cooler, a greenhouse can help you grow more plant varieties. It also extends the season. Your tomato plants for example, won’t die from the first hard frost. You can protect them with a greenhouse and get more fruit from the plant.

One excellent use of a greenhouse is to build one that you can position on top of your raised bed. This extends your growing season and produces more food.

Additionally, depending on the size of the greenhouse, you can take the structure into your home during the winter and continue growing your vegetables with a grow light. If you choose a vertical structure, you can tier or stack your plants on shelves and grow more plants in less space.

You can grow just about anything using greenhouse gardening. The only consideration is that the temperature does need to be controlled. It can get either too hot or too cold in a greenhouse and that can cause your plants to die.  If your temp is too hot, the simple solution is to open the greenhouse to provide the warm air an escape. If it’s too cold, add heat lamps or move the greenhouse into the direct sunlight.

We’ve talked about many different types of gardening on this site.  The difference in this one is that it can be done most anywhere in all types of climates, thus giving you the opportunity to have organic fresh vegetables 90% of the time.

 

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.

www.growingwhatyoueat.com

[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.

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!

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!

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.

A Kitchen Garden

One of the main virtues of a kitchen garden is accessibility. It should be easy to grab the items you need from it, to help you prepare your daily meals. Therefore, it should be located as close to your food preparation area as possible.

a kitchen garden_thegardenbuzz

Kitchen gardens are smaller than traditional gardens because they are position close to the house where space is usually limited. This isn’t always the case, of course, but having a culinary garden close enough to offer easy access while you are cooking may limit the amount of space available. Imagine you are preparing dinner when you realize you need a little Rosemary or Basil to make your recipe, just right. Being able to step just outside your kitchen door to get it, is far better than having to trek out to your large vegetable garden, while you have pots cooking on the stove. With a kitchen garden, the easier it is to grab what you need while you are cooking, the better.

A regular vegetable garden is about planning for the future, while a kitchen garden is about enjoying fresh items for your meals, today. The fruits and vegetables you plan to preserve for future use, such as corn, that take up a lot of space, are good choices for a traditional vegetable garden where space is at less of a premium.

Kitchen gardens are normally filled with the items you prepare and eat while fresh. Therefore, containers of fresh herbs, cherry tomato plants, or an assortment of leaf lettuces, all make great additions to a kitchen garden. If you lack the space for a larger traditional garden, a small kitchen garden, even done in containers, can keep you in fresh, delicious produce all season long.

Size and Beauty

 

While a standard vegetable garden is all about utility and production, part of the charm of a kitchen garden comes from its beauty aspect. Due to its closeness to the home, a kitchen garden is harder to tuck out of sight than a larger garden. You can often design them to add a sense of beauty to your home, as well.

In the past I have used beets, radishes, carrots, Basil and Rosemary to form a border around my patio. The greenery and fragrance add a delightful look and aroma to any home.

As you can see, a kitchen garden offers both convenience and beauty in a compact spaces. The best part being, it doesn’t take much to get one started. All you need is a couple of feet of dirt or a few large containers, some fresh herbs starts, a cherry tomato plant and a couple packs of seeds of your favorite radish and lettuce.