Sunday, September 25, 2016

October 2016 Edible Garden Planner

Fall garden

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The October garden is very productive.  The summer vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, basil and cucumbers continue to produce at a reduced pace.  The cool season crops like lettuce, carrots, radishes, peas, cabbage, beets, broccoli and cauliflower are coming into maturity throughout October and into November.  Flowers and butterflies are abundant in the fall garden.

Basil will turn black when it gets close to 35 degrees.  I pull all the leaves when it is forecasted to get close to freezing or any chance of frost.  You can chop basil, put in an ice cube tray and cover with water to then use any time your recipe calls for fresh basil.  It stores best when frozen in water.  I also dry some to add to my "Herbes de Provence" seasoning mix.  Make your own "Herbes de Provence"  You can also make into pesto and place in freezer bags with just enough for a meal.  Gives a whole new meaning to “fast food.”  Pesto is great over pasta, fish, or as a condiment on sandwiches.  Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil...

Other herbs will do just fine through frosts like parsley, rosemary, thyme, chives, savory, and sage.  It takes good snow cover to stop these herbs.  Many winters you can harvest these herbs the entire season for cooking.
Cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, peppers and eggplant harvest

I will wait until it gets down to 32 degrees before I strip off the eggplant, peppers and tomatoes.  You can freeze or dry these veggies.  Tomatoes are a high acid fruit so you can also easily can sauce from them without using a pressure canner, a stockpot is all that is needed.   Preserving the tomato harvest  Be sure to follow any canning recipes exactly so your canned goods don’t spoil.  For more on preserving your extras for year round use, see Preservation garden

Peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants are tropical perennials that can be brought in to overwinter.  If you have a favorite plant you would love to have in your garden next season, bring it in to an attached garage or even your living room.  I have overwintered peppers and eggplants.  You get a serious jump start on the season in the spring.
Butterflies are abundant this time of year

Make sure you pull the tomatoes from the vine before the vine dies.  Wondering what to do with the green tomatoes?  You have a couple of options.  You can make fried green tomatoes-yum!  Just use some fish fry seasoning; we like Andy’s Cajun Seasoning.  A late fall tradition-fried green tomatoes!  You can also wrap green tomatoes in newspaper and store in a cool, dark location and many will ripen.  Check about weekly to cull any that spoil.  They won’t taste as good as fresh off the vine, but are better than store bought.

October is garlic planting month for the Zone 6 garden!  Plant in the waning cycle of the moon.  Garlic loves loose, well-fertilized soil.  Loosen the soil down to about 6 inches, mix in a couple of inches of compost, and plant your garlic cloves about 2-3” deep.  Time to plant garlic! With growing tips......  Garlic leaves are one of the first greens you will see in spring.

Now is also a great time to divide any perennials you have, whether they be herbs, edibles or ornamentals.  This will give them all fall and winter to put down strong roots.  Perennial greens (like chard, sorrel, cultivated dandelions, salad burnet) are always the first up in the spring.

It is still not too late in early October to transplant fall crops like cold hardy types of lettuce, cabbage, chard, pak choi, broccoli, kale, parsley or perennial herbs.  You can check your neighborhood nurseries for bedding plants.  I use my Aerogarden to start from seed cold hardy crops I want in my fall and winter garden.  Starting them indoors gets them going quicker.  With less sun and cooler temps outdoors, plants grow much more slowly so getting bedding plants or starting indoors gets your fall veggies to full size quicker.
To extend the season, you can order a mini greenhouse to cover your pots or a part of the garden you have planted your cold hardy greens you want to harvest all winter.  You can also purchase row covers that cover plants and provides protection from frosts, but not hard freezes.  Preparing the garden for frost
Portable greenhouse with potted salad greens inside for winter growing

Winter hardy kale, spinach, Austrian peas, carrots and winter onions don’t need to be covered and can be harvested all winter (as long as the ground isn’t too frozen) and into spring.  I grew Austrian peas last winter and they provided greens for salad all winter long.  They have very pretty flowers, too.

I’ll put our portable, plastic mini greenhouse over the greens in my Earthboxes sometime this month.  One watchout with green houses-they get very, very hot in sunny weather so be sure to open them to allow circulation in fall and early winter.  They will need to be closed up when winter really sets in December sometime. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Veggies for pets-it's good for them, too!





Saturday, September 24, 2016



I read in Organic Gardening magazine that veggies are good for pets, too.  It is best if they are steamed or sautéed.  If already providing a natural pet food, only supplement to 20-25% of the pet’s diet.  Here are some that you can add to your pet’s diet from your garden.

Carrots-dogs like carrots, either cut up or whole.  It contains compounds that are anti-cancer, promotes healthy vision, antioxidants, and may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Grow crunchy, colorful carrots practically year round

Beans-green or string beans, whole or cut up.  May decrease cholesterol, glucose levels, improve heart health, and has antioxidants.
Legumes-peas for spring, beans for summer

Broccoli.  It is a superfood for your pet, too.  Helps with the immune system, including cancer, promotes good hormone level, and enzymes.
Broccoli and cauliflower growing tips

Dark leafy greens.  Like for humans, green leafy veggies are good for your pet, too.  Some pets will eat it after it is cooked.  If yours will not, blend with meat broth and pour over their normal food.  Like with us, they are high in antioxidants which has been shown to help against cancer and inflammation.
Growing fabulous lettuce and greens

Dark-colored berries.   Like for us, think of fruit as a dessert for your pet and given them no more than 10-15% of their diet in organic berries. 
Fruit for small spaces 

This is a summary of the article written by Shawn Messonnier, a natural vet.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Permaculture-companion planting on steroids


Sunday, September 18, 2016

You may have heard something about permaculture.  The book “Gaia’s Garden” brought this type of gardening to many.  What is it?

Permaculture is creating a synergistic garden; one that is symbiotic and supporting.  It includes enriching the soil, planting for nutrients, planting for shade, planting for food, landscaping for water, planting to attract beneficial insects, planting to repel bad bugs, planting to optimize your harvests.  It is all of this combined.

You need to look at your site to determine what it needs.  You can go big and do it all or start small and work your way into more of a self-sustaining garden.
For prepping the soil, start with sheet mulching Put in a new garden bed the easy way-really   You are basically composting in place, building incredible rich soil, alive with microbial and worm activity, which provide all the nourishment plants need to thrive.  The great thing about this technique is that no tilling is required!  Prepare in the fall and by spring, the bed is ready for planting.  Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds
Before I heard about permaculture, I started by doing a soil test, adding the nutrients it indicated, and composting.  I added first herbs, then vegetables amongst my flowers.  Get the most from your space-plant intensively!  I am a big fan of interplanting in the mulched flower beds.  
A good thing to do is to look at how your water drains.  Create small swells/berms to move the water to where you want it to go-like your vegetables.  This will significantly reduce your watering needs.
Add shade to reduce your utility bills and give relief to your plants.  In the spring, all of your vegetables love the sun.  Come summer, many appreciate some shade and cooler temperatures, particularly greens.  Even peppers get sunburned when temps get in the 90’s in full sun all day.  Some relief from afternoon sun is appreciated.
The beneficial, pollinating insects love the herbal flowers and the ornamental flowers.  The pollinators insure the vegetable flowers are pollinated to produce their fruits.  If the flowers are not pollinated, they will just fall off.  We garden organically and only use organic insecticides in dire times.  Insecticides don’t know the difference between a good bug and a bad bug; it kills them all.  If you can wait, the bad bugs will attract the good bugs that eat them.  Then, you will have balance.  The first year, I bought insects that feed on the bad insects (lady bugs, parasitic wasps, and preying mantis).  It takes them a year or two to get established.
You can plant flowers that naturally repel the bad bugs like nasturtium and wild marigold (tagetes minuta).  I put nasturtium in pots and circle the bed with marigolds.   Mosquito repellant plants & natural trap
Planting trees and bushes provide shelter for birds that love to eat insects.  Look for trees and bushes that provide food for the birds, including winter berries.  Birds help to keep the garden in balance.  Don’t forget a water source so they can get a drink.  Make sure the water stays clean or the birds can get sick.

You can also add perennial vegetables, fruits and herbs to bolster the self sustaining garden.  Perennial veggies in the Midwest garden
Also interplanting vegetables and herbs that support others is a win-win.  An example is placing “nitrogen fixers” next to plants that love nitrogen.  You can also place nitrogen lovers in the spot the nitrogen fixers were.  Well known nitrogen fixers are peas and beans.  Clover also does the job and it is edible.  Companion planting
A couple of common plants that bring an assortment of nutrients up from deep in the soil is mustard and dandelions.  If you want a larger leaf dandelion, the French dandelion is the ticket.  You get great salad greens even in the heat of summer and an auto nutrient fertilizer.  Grow Cultivated Dandelions
There are even plants that are good for breaking up your soil.  These are ones that go deep, like daikon, chicory, dandelion, and mustard.
This is just some of the highlights of “permaculture” to give you an idea of what it is about.

Quick tip on fresh flavor herb preservation and herbal butters


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Some herbs loose flavor when they are blanched and frozen or dried (basil and chives are examples).  Another option to keep the flavor fresh is to preserve them in oil.  Use the type of oil you like to cook with that you typically use with the herb in the recipe.  

Frozen herb in oil
Take a couple of cups of herb with a 1/3 cup of oil and chop in a food processor.  Then put in a freezer bag, lay flat and freeze.  When you want to add to your recipe, just take a piece off and use as you would fresh.  You could also place in canning jars if you prefer.  Just use a warm spoon to scoop out what you need.

One thing to keep in mind is that you want to add your herbs at the very end of cooking to keep the flavor in the dish.  

You can also preserve your herbs in butter.  Same concept as in oil.  Soften the butter and process with your herb(s) of choice.  With butter, you will typically start with more than with oil, say a 1/2 cup with 2 cups of herbs.  

Frozen herbs are best within 6 months.

If you are making an herbal butter to serve, you would want more like 2 tablespoons of herbs to 1/2 cup of butter.  Add the herb that complements the dish you are serving.  

You can either serve in a dish, roll it into a log using plastic wrap, or form into a shape.  If you use a form, simply press the butter firmly into the form, then place the form in a shallow dish of hot water.  The butter should slide out easily after a little warming.
Molded butter
Don't let your abundant herb harvest go to waste!  For more ways to preserve your herbs for year round use, here are some additional blogs:
To dry your herbs, see Harvesting and drying herbs
To make herbal flavored oils, see Quick tip-make your own flavored oils
For herbal vinegars, see Make your own flavored vinegars
For herbal salts, see Using herbs, flowers and fruit for flavored sugars and salts

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Quick tip-be sure to fertilize to keep the garden going!

Poinsettia, a sweet pepper, plant in a pot

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Don't let the call of fall trick you into thinking that your garden is past needing to be fertilized!
Many of the summer veggies love the fall weather.  I typically get the strongest harvests of peppers and tomatoes this time of year.  I wasn't seeing the number of fruits we have in the past in our garden in July.  I had fertilized each month with a good, organic fertilizer and compost every month.  At first, I thought it was due to all the rain.  Rain can wash away the pollen not allowing the flowers to get fertilized, but the plants were also small.

We decided to double up on nitrogen.  A great deal of rain can wash away nitrogen since it is water soluble.  I added 2 tablespoons of feather meal, 1 tablespoon of bat guano, and 1 teaspoon of kelp meal for each garden plant and pot.  This did the trick!  All the plants filled out and up and are now loaded with fruits.
Make your own fertilizer, it's all natural and inexpensive

I am harvesting green beans, peppers and tomatoes every day a month later.  To keep the plants nourished, I fertilized again today.  I'll also water the fertilizer in with a liquid kelp and seaweed spray tomorrow morning.
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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Quick and easy, sugar free homemade ketchup



Saturday, September 03, 2016


It seems these days that every label you look at in the store, sugar is involved.  My doc gave me a list of sugar and vinegar free recipes.  Here is one for ketchup that we quite like.

2 cups tomato paste
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1 tsp oregano
1/8 teas cumin
1/8 teas nutmeg
1/8 teas pepper
1/2 teas dry mustard
dash (or more) of garlic powder

Put all into a food processor and blend well.  Store in the refrigerator.

I substituted a blend of herbs I dried from the herb garden last year and added about a 1/4 teas of garlic instead of a dash because we really like garlic.
Make your own "Herbes de Provence"
Quick tip-make dried garlic into garlic powder

If you have extra tomatoes, you can easily make your own paste and use it for your ketchup.   Just cook down your homemade tomato sauce until it gets to the consistency you want for your ketchup.
Easy, low tox canning of summer's bounty
Sites & resources for canning
Preserving the tomato harvest

Sunday, August 28, 2016

What we're harvesting in the August garden



Sunday, August 28, 2016

August sees the full swing of the summer, warm season garden harvests.  Late sweet corn (plant corn in succession and different varieties to lengthen the harvest), summer squashes (like zucchini), peppers of all types (sweet to hot, hot), tomatoes, Mediterranean herbs, cucumbers, okra, apples, peaches, pears, grapes, beans, melons, figs, eggplant, honey, artichokes, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, onion, and fennel are all in season in the Midwest.  

This year, I am growing zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, figs, herbs, greens, sprouting broccoli, Egyptian walking onions, eggplant, cucumbers, goji berry, green beans, and stevia.  My zucchini has faded.  For zucchini, it is a good idea to replant at the beginning of August to keep the harvest going.  Many do the same with tomatoes.  I did plant one later and it does look really healthy.

If you are not growing these in your own garden, your local farmers market is a great place to pick up these seasonal veggies to either eat or preserve.  The best buy on any fruit or vegetable is when it is in season.  You can get even better deals on any produce that has a few blemishes which have no effect on the flavor.  If you are going to can, freeze or dry them, just be sure to remove any blemishes first.

I pick what to have in our garden based on the harvest per foot of garden space needed.  Our garden is incorporated into the flower garden mulch bed and in pots so we have to be choiceful on what to grow.

In pots, we have had great luck with  Egyptian walking onions (which can be harvested year round), peppers, eggplant, zucchini, cucumber, greens, fig, columnar apple, passion flower, sweet bay, and celery.

I have tried sweet and hot peppers in pots and the garden.  Overall, they seem to do the best in pots.  I am growing a couple of hot peppers-a pequin type and an ornamental small purple pepper.  Both are very hot.  I’ll use the tiny peppers in my season salt I make and the purple pepper for hot sauce.  My orange habanero is loaded with peppers but they have not started turning.

My sweet peppers are doing well.  I  have gotten many peppers off my Poinsetta and several off the Tangerine and Pimento.  The Tangerine and Poinsetta are loaded with fruits.  My Ancient Red has not produced any this year, but are flowering.

The zucchini  did well in the ground this year.  It did well in the pot previously.  You just have to be sure you get a variety intended to be grown in a pot for it to fare well.

I have tried tomatoes in pots in previous years and just did not have as good a harvest.  If you get a variety such as Tiny Tim, put it in a roomy pot, and water with a liquid fertilizer daily, you will get good results.  I am just not willing to invest the time to keep it in a pot.  Weekly care for plants in the ground is sufficient.  A pot with a water reservoir in the bottom is the best solution for lengthening the time between waterings when growing in pots.

I grow all of our herbs in the ground except sweet bay.  Sweet bay is a tender perennial and will not survive winters outside so I keep it in a pot to bring in each fall.    I had one last year that was supposed to be hardy in our zone and it didn’t make it.  I put my new ones in pots and will overwinter them in our unheated garage this winter.  Fall is a good time to plant perennial herbs.

Rosemary is also tender.  I have tried the two varieties that are supposed to be able to survive a Midwest winter and finally had one survive this year.  I have tried to also keep in a pot and bring in each winter, but have not had good luck with this approach, but many do.  So, this is an herb I will buy each spring if overwintering does not work out, plant in the garden, then preserve for the winter by harvesting late in the season and drying.

A quick reminder, save the seeds from your best performers to plant next year.  You can replant seeds from any heirlooms or open pollinated plants.  Not only does it save you money, but it also gives you the plants that do the best under your garden and zone conditions.