Archive for the ‘Harvesting’ Category

How to Grow Herbs Indoors!

Don’t let winter’s dreadful temperatures and constant snowfall keep you down. To add a bit of greenery and pizazz to your life, try growing an indoor herb garden!

Fortunately, growing herbs year-round for fresh use is easy and enjoyable, ando help you get  growing, Birds & Blooms—America’s # 1 Bird & Garden Magazine—has put together a list of easy steps on how to grow herbs in the winter.

Start your indoor garden with these seven basic steps:

 

·         Choose the right location: Although many think that herbs need direct sunlight, indirect sunlight will also work fine. Look around your house and make sure to choose the best location—don’t limit yourself to the kitchen. East, South and West-facing windows should all give your herbs more than enough light.

 

·         Buy the right pot and soil: One of the most important steps in growing herbs is choosing a high-quality potting soil. Buy soil that feels nice and moist when you take a handful. The type of pot you use is also extremely important. Clay pottery or unglazed ceramic pots seem to be the best for growing plants.

·         Plant with loose soil:  It is very important to loosely fill the pot with soil and not to press down too hard. Once the soil is in place, remove the starter herb plant from its pot and gently loosen the soil around the bottom inch of the roots. Scoop out a hole in the planting pot and settle the plant in its new home. Carefully fill soil back around the roots and water the plant moderately.

 

·         Learn how to water: Learning to water herb containers is what takes the most practice. Until you get used to how fast your plants dry out, check them every couple of days. To keep plants and soil from drying out too fast, avoid placing them near furnace vents or hot, sunny windows. Plan to water plants every three to five days or so.

 

·         Add organic fertilizer:  Fertilize herbs once a month with organic fertilizer. Since you’ll probably be using the plants for cooking or tea, you don’t want to be eating chemical fertilizer residues.

 

·         Prevent insect pests: Whenever you grow plants indoors, insects can come calling. You can prevent most problems by making sure your soil doesn’t get soggy. If you notice a few pests on your herbs, take action right away by spraying with a soap- or neem oil-based plant product.

 

·         Harvest for good health: Be sure to pinch back or harvest your plants regularly. Pinching back the top couple of inches of growth helps plants stay bushy and healthy, and the harvest is perfect for cooking, making tea or adding to your bath.

Thanks Birds and Blooms for the great idea!

Happy Gardening!

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Top 5 Reasons to Raise Chickens

699px-Czech_Brindle_Chicken_Hens, chickens, reasons for having chickens, top 5 reasons to have chickens, are raising chickens worth it?Have you considered raising chickens? It is a big decision for some, especially those who have had little to none experience with raising them. Is it worth the cost and work to raise your own chickens? That is a decision you will need to make yourself, however I can give you some insight to know what some of the benefits are to owning them. Here are the top 5 reasons:

  1. Organic FRESH eggs: If you have never eaten an organic FRESH farm egg, you have been missing out in life. They taste so much better than the store bought eggs! The reason why is an easy answer. They contain WAY more nutrition. Here is a great article delving deeper into the subject of the nutrition of an organic egg. If you buy organic free range eggs, you will know that they are a lot more expensive than just the regular store bought egg. So it could be a great way to save money on buying those more expensive eggs. So taste and health benefits of the EGGS is a great #1 reason.
  2. Organic FREE pest control: Chickens love to go around and eat slugs and snails and other bugs around the yard and garden. They will even eat little seedling plants- so any weeds that pop up, they will most likely gobble it up. All the while scratching up the soil (aerating) while leaving behind great fertilizer. They will eat up your veggies growing in the garden, so if they are left to there own all the time out in the garden, they may help themselves to your whole garden harvest. That is one thing you would have to be careful of. But with your monitoring, they would be a great help to take care of some of those pests in your garden. And a great clean up crew if you have fruit trees that drop some spoiled fruit to the ground- they will take care of that mess. And after the garden is all harvested, letting them loose to clean up all the dropped and spoiled fruit and veggies from the garden would be a great help for the garden.
  3. Amazing Organic Fertilizer: Have you tried and failed at making a great fertilizer/ mulch for your garden from kitchen scraps? Well, chickens have a fool proof plan to making amazing organic fertilizer for your garden. Simply feed your kitchen scraps to the chickens. They are omnivores and thus you can give them just about all your kitchen waste and they will provide you with a great addition to your soil in your garden. Done.
  4. Save $ on Garbage bill: this goes along with the making your own garden fertilizer. By feeding your chickens the kitchen scraps, this means you will no longer need to throw them away in your garbage- thus giving you less trash. This may mean less garbage cans, or it may not, but you can take pride in knowing you are contributing less waste to the land fill and thus is a greener option. Another small way you can make less of an impact on our environment.
  5. Great pets: Having a pet has proven that they help lower your stress levels, and help you be happier. But dose your pet- dog, cat, turtle, etc. give anything back to you? Can you get great tasting eggs, or great fertilizer for your garden from them? Chickens can provide the same effect of happiness as the other pets you may have, but give oh so much more. They require less work than your typical pet too. Many times you do not have to feed them daily, but filling up the feed every few days or so depending on how much feed they go through. And if you are letting them free range, this could mean they go through far less food. Can you let your dog free range to fend for himself??

These are just some of the benefits I have thought of. I am sure there are many more. Please comment and share any that you have experienced yourself! Watch for more articles on the cost of raising chickens, how to get started, and more!

In the mean time, Happy Gardening!

How To Grow Stevia

What is it?

What is Stevia anyway?  Stevia is that plant that they now make sweeteners with. It comes in different forms. Some of those forms are so processed that it removes the good qualities of the stevia that makes it worth using in the first place. When used in too great of quantities, it has a bitter after taste. Stivia first originated in tropical areas of South America.

Benefits

So what are some of the benefits of growing your own stevia? Like any home grown veggie, by growing your own it not only saves money, but you know that what you have grown is healthy, pesticide free, and organic if that’s what you do. You can use it in the less processed form which will make it all that more healthy for you.

Growing Stevia

Can you grow your own stevia? It is a tropical plant by nature, and thus would be killed of by cold winters in areas that get snow and frost. It is naturally a perennial and so it should live year to year. By planning ahead to move the plant indoors when the cold weather arives, then you can grow your own stivia. You will need a very sunny spot to put it for it to survive indoors over the winter. The best way to start growing stevia is to get a root cutting, but most of the time that might not be possible, so you can start your own from seed indoors in the late winter. Be sure to keep it under growing lights until planted outdoors as it needs plenty of light to get going.  A full grown stevia plant will end up being about 24 inches high by 24 inches wide. The stevia would do well planted in a pot that drains well and is watered often.  Having it planted in a pot, makes it easier to move indoors if/when the need arises.

Harvesting and Using

You can harvest around half the plant in mid summer and dry the leaves using a dehydrator or oven set to 150 degrees F or lower Or you can hang them to dry as you would other herbs. Then harvest another half again right before the first frost of the year. Store the dehydrated leaves in an air tight container until ready to use. Then you can crush or grind them up when ready to use. 3-4 Teaspoons of dried stevia will equal 1 cup of sugar in a recipe. However, it dose not have the same baking properties as sugar, so you will have to experiment with it or look up how to cook with stevia to know how to change out sugar with stevia. It is possible to make stevia extract with the stevia you have grown, but we will not cover that in this article.

If you use stevia in your cooking allot, it might be well worth it to grow your own. Please if you have any tips, or experience growing your own stevia, or using stevia, please comment and share your ideas with us!

Happy Gardening!

Why Do My Veggie Plants Look Amazing, But Not The Veggies?!?

tomatoes wont produce, too much nitrogen

Picture of overgrown tomato plants with very few tomatoes. These are the biggest tomato plants I have ever seen with little reward. We grew beans there the year before. There was too much nitrogen along with very high temps, making the tomatoes not grow.

Sometimes one of the problems we have when gardening, is our plants grow nice and robust, but then we get very little fruit from it. This is very frustrating!! We are planting the garden for the Veggies not the plant anyway.

Obviously there are conditions in your garden that are conducive to the plant thriving. There is sometimes a balance you have to have. You want the plant to do well so that it will produce fruit, however if the plant dose too well, it will skimp on the plants. Here are a few ideas on what could be going on in your garden:

  • You may have too much nitrogen in the soil. This can happen from fertilizer or from compost added to the soil if the compost is heavy in nitrogen. This is great for plants that are being grown for the foliage, but if you are wanting fruit from it, too much nitrogen encourages the plant to grow and focus its energy on growing rather than producing. Peas and bean plants fix nitrogen into the soil, so planting something that is sensitive to too much nitrogen there after, might be a cause of the problem. Tomato plants are particularly sensitive to this.
  • This is also particularly for Tomato plants: The temperature outside when the plant is flowering and ready to produce cannot be too high or too low. Too much heat or cold will cause the flowers to drop off before fertilization occurs. So Tomatoes in areas that are too hot, maybe heat reflecting off buildings and the like, might get really large in size and produce very little fruit.
  • Another thing might be that the plant is getting too much water. This can encourage the plant to keep growing with out producing fruit. Check the soil with your finger before watering. If it is still wet, do not water.
  • It might need fertilizer with the middle number high. This is the part of the fertilizer that encourages the plants to produce fruit. That number stands for phosphorus. Bone meal and rock phosphate is some good organic sources of phosphorus for your garden.

Happy Gardening!

Growing Sprouts!

sprouts, how to grow your own sprouts, home grown sprouts, what seeds can I sprout to eat? Do I need anything special to grow sproutsI have wanted to grow my own sprouts for eating for a long time now, but I was nervous to do it. I didn’t want to do it wrong, or use the wrong seeds. It was enough that I just have not tried it. Then I received this book to review called, “Homegrown Sprouts” by Rita Galchus. This book is a great how to guide to growing sprouts. It covers all different kinds, and all different ways! It made it seem very simple, so I took the plunge and grew my own sprouts. I decided to buy a little sprouter because growing them just in a jar seemed like it was limiting. So I found a sprouter at my local health food store, along with some seeds. They were a mix of seeds- one jar with small grain type seeds and the other with bigger ones.

I have to say I have been pleasantly surprised at how easy and fun it has been. The hardest part is just remembering to rinse them night and morning.

The small seeds/grain mix is great to add to sandwiches and salads. But by far my families favorite is the large seeds mix. It tastes like eating fresh peas from the garden! My little 2 year old did not want her salad for dinner last night, but decided to finish off all of the sprouts instead. So Yummy! It is such a great way to add fresh, raw food into your diet during the winter!

This book is a great way for someone who has never sprouted, but who wants to get started and even someone who wants to expand their knowledge of sprouting. Great information on safe food handling practices and how to properly mix your own mix of seeds to how to remove the hulls after they are sprouted. Then there is a great section on using your sprouts. Even including a raw sprouted hummus recipe! Yum!

Consider me addicted. I LOVE sprouting and eating sprouts!

Happy Gardening (or should I say Sprouting)!

How To Prevent Disease And Pests In Your Garden By Proper Fall Clean Up

snail, where do snails winter over, how to minimize snails in the garden, getting rid of snails in the garden and yard How to prevent powdery mildew in the garden next year, how to clean up the garden beds to prevent disease, most important tasks when winterizing the garden

Cleaning up the beds in the fall is an essential gardening task. By the time fall comes around, after all the harvesting and work of preserving the harvest from the garden, I am ready for a break. Take the time to properly clean up your beds because doing it now will save you time and work later. Here are some tips for the clean up to help you not spread disease and pests from year to year in your garden beds.

  • It is a great idea to grind up greens and put them in your compost heap along with some ground up leaves. I would caution you however to NOT use plants with diseases in your compost heap. you do not want to spread those diseases in your garden next year. Take those sickly plants and put them straight in the trash.
  • Do not leave anything laying  around the yard like pieces of wood and the like. If you do it provides a perfect over wintering spot for bugs like snails and squash bugs.
  • If your tomato plants had any disease problems it is best to get them cleaned off very well with soapy water so as to not reintroduce the disease again the next year.
  • Make sure you take care off all the weeds or at least take off the seed pods so that they do not spread the seeds all throughout the garden next year.
  • Add a nice layer of compost or mulch to the garden beds. This will help add food for those worms to work on through the winter, keep the weed seeds from taking root as easily and make your beds nice and ready for plants in the spring.

Happy Gardening!

What Can I Do With All These Apples?

how to process apples, how to make apple jelly, how to make apple sauce, how to make dried apples,After our move we had to give up our garden, but the home we now have came with a very large apple tree. So now I have the big job of figuring out how to use up these apples. Unfortunately most of them have worms or are bruised so they will not easily store very long. Here is a list of ideas of what to do with this apple harvest:

  • apple sauce
  • apple jelly
  • dried apples
  • apple fruit roll
  • apple pie filling
  • and of course make a few batches of apple crisp (my favorite dessert)!

So far I have made apple jelly, apple sauce and dried apples. On the docket today: apple fruit roll (and maybe some more apple crisp..).

DRIED APPLES

One thing I have learned is if you have the right equipment, processing a batch of apples goes much smoother. Drying the apples is a cinch with the apple peeler/corer/ringer. I just run it through and then cut the ringed apple in half and put all the pieces on the drier.  They make eating the apples fresh so fun too. Highly recommend getting one of those if you too own an apple tree. I have also used it to make the apple sauce and jelly. It easily takes off the peel and cores it for you, so why not?

APPLE SAUCE

Making apple sauce is super easy too, just has a few more steps. I core and peel them using the handy tool, then I put them in a pot with just a small amount of water to prevent them from sticking. Don’t add too much as the water will cook out of the apples as they soften. Cook until they are soft- which was surprising to me how fast it was. Then you can run it through a mill or put them in a blender to get them to a smooth consistency.  After its ready, I just add a tiny bit of lemon juice to  make it so it wont go brown as quickly. I do not add any sugar or cinnamon but you can at this point flavor it if you would like. Just do it to taste. Bring back to a boil and hold at a boil while filling the hot jars for bottling. Process 10 minutes for half pints and 25 minutes for the full size jars.

APPLE JELLY

Jelly can be made without adding pectin. Here is the recipe:

4 cups apple juice

3 cups sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

First you need to make the juice. Here is a time when having a juicer will make your life so much easier. That is how I made the juice I used.

To make the jelly: put apple juice in a large pot and add sugar and lemon juice. stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil on high heat stirring constantly. Boil until jelly gets to the jelling point. To test this put a dab on a plate and place in the freezer for a few minutes. Pull it out of the freezer and push the glob of jelly with finger to see if it holds its form  pretty well. Then it is ready to bottle. Process 10 minutes for half pints. Makes about 4 half pints.

APPLE FRUIT LEATHER

To make apple fruit leather or fruit rolls, I am just going to make apple sauce then pour the sauce on the sheet of the dehydrator and dry it. I am not going to add sugar to it.

Hope this helps! Having an apple tree is lots of fun, but also allot of work. A great thing to have when building up your food storage.

Happy Gardening!