Sunday, November 29, 2015

The next step in garden production and your nutrition-soil minerals

Hummus rich garden soil

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Ever wonder why we need added vitamins and minerals beyond what we get through our food?  Over the decades, the food we eat has gone down in nutritional value as the soil has gone down in fertility.  Truly, we are what we eat.  The nutritional value of what we grow is part the type of vegetable it is and a whole lot of what the plant is “fed” from the soil in which it grows.

It really all starts with the soil.  Plants grow to the lowest constraint.  Like people, plants need a balanced diet with beneficial microbes, minerals and nutrition.  

Saying all a vibrant, robust vegetable plant needs is NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium) is like saying all a person needs is carbs, fat, and protein.  Those things are needed to survive, but you need much more to thrive.  Life is much more complex than three compounds!

When we think of the bouquet of the vitamins and minerals we need to be healthy, where do we think this comes from?  We can’t get it from osmosis!  We have to get these from what we consume.

I read a book recently by Steve Solomon and Erica Reinheimer called “The Intelligent Gardener; Growing Nutrient-Dense Food” that does a nice job of giving all the details about how minerals affect the tilth of the soil and the ability of the soil to support healthy, robust plants.  Steve is the guy that founded Territorial Seed Company.  

The minerals and nutrients we should be concerned about are calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), potassium (K), sodium (Na), phosphorous (P), sulfur (S), iron (Fe), copper (Cu), manganese (Mn), boron (B), Zinc (Zn), cobalt (Co), selenium (Se), silicon (Si) and molybdenum (Mo).  There are also other trace minerals that plants and our body needs.  It is a good idea to include Azomite or kelp to your garden each year to supply the additional trace minerals.

Steve recommends getting a detailed soil analysis at the get-go.  For those just beginning to work with re-mineralization of the soil, he recommends Logan Labs for the testing.  You can get all the information you need on collecting the sample and sending off to the lab at      http://www.loganlabs.com/get-started.html.  Steve recommends the standard sample test.  At the moment the cost is $25.

When you get the results, Steve has posted a worksheet that you put your results from Logan Labs and it calculates for you what you need for amendments to get your soil super charged for growth and nutrition.  Here is the link:  http://soilanalyst.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/WorksheetRevision-03.pdf  It uses an acre as the basis.  For those of us doing small space gardening, just divide the number of square feet in your garden by 43560.  This will give you the pounds you need to add to your garden for each mineral on the spreadsheet.

It gives a summary of how to put your soil in balance with a worksheet at the end to enter the results from Logan Labs to calculate exactly what you need to add to your garden to get minerals at optimum levels.  He recommends going slow so as to not get any minerals in excess in your garden.  It is a lot easier to add minerals than take them away!
Victory Garden Poster from WWII

I also liked this spreadsheet from Logan Labs that gives by vegetable type their mineral needs:  http://www.loganlabs.com/doc/General-Guidelines-Vegetable-Crops.pdf  This can be handy if you are focused on one type of crop that you want to maximize your yield.

For most of us backyard/flower bed veggie gardeners that grow a variety, Steve’s spreadsheet is the way to go.  You can also do side dressings of amendments specific to certain veggies to give them a boost.  I do this for my fruiting plants like tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.  

If the whole spreadsheet thing is just more complicated than you want to worry about, Logan Labs provides a service for giving you what you need to add to your garden.  There is also a listing on the SoilAnalyst web page:  http://soilanalyst.org  You can use an on line calculator from Erica that costs $9.50/year unlimited usage.  Here is the link:  http://growabundant.com/membership-account/membership-levels/  All you have to do is input the numbers from Logan Labs and it spits out the amendments you need.

If you are applying minerals to mulch and not tilling in, I would recommend to add the minerals in early winter and then a balanced fertilizer in the spring.  This gives time for the minerals to get down to where your roots will be growing in the spring.  

As you prepare your bed in the fall or spring, you should add fertilizer.  For a balanced organic fertilizer, here is what Steve recommends from his book for 100 square feet of garden space:
2 quarts oilseedmeal (soybean, cottonseed, or canolaseed meal)
1 pint feathermeal 
1 pint fishmeal
1 quart soft/collodial rock phosphate or bonemeal
1 quart kelp meal or 1 pint Azomite
1 quart agricultural gypsum

Once you get your soil in balance, you can keep it that way by recycling back what you take out by composting and using a balanced fertilizer.  Composting is possible in small spaces or even indoors

A quick chart showing the loss of minerals and correlation to disease:  http://www.ecoorganics.com/sick-soil/

We get a NutraEval test done yearly that gives a report where your body’s nutritional deficits are.  After getting our garden soil supercharged for peak production and optimum nutritional value, I’ll be tracking my NutraEval results to see the improvement in my body's overall nutrition.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Quick tip-make dried garlic into garlic powder

Homemade garlic powder
Saturday, November 28, 2015

Some of the garlic that you put up for the winter will inevitably dry to rock hard pellets.  Don’t throw them away!

Make sure they are completely dry.  I use a coffee grinder and drop a handful in at a time to grind them into a powder.  I store them in a jar and have homegrown garlic powder any time we want it.  Tastes great on burgers or wings or in sauces.

Just put into a glass jar and store in a cool, dry place.  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

All natural, and cheap, homemade house cleaners




Sunday, November 22, 2015

It is easy to clean your entire house with a few simple basics from your pantry: vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, and washing soda.  Simply add your favorite essential oils, herbs, flowers or fruits to infuse fragrance in your healthy cleaners and home with every use.

Vinegar
Vinegar is a natural odor remover.  Just leave in a bowl and it will neutralize any odors.
For mildew, apply full strength, let set 30 minutes or more, scrub, and rinse.
To clean the toilet bowl, put 1 cup in the bowl, allow to sit several hours, and scrub the rings away.
For grease removal from the microwave, mix 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup of vinegar, place in microwave, and bring to a boil.  Then, wipe out.
Remove hard water buildup from shower heads by filling a plastic bag with vinegar and attaching to the shower head and let sit submerged several hours.

Baking soda
Make a paste with water and scrub away!  Great for cleaning sinks or treating grease stains on clothes.  If you need some abrasion, add salt to the paste.  
For scrubbing bubbles, add castile soap for more cleaning power.

Washing soda, a natural salt, is stronger than baking soda.  It is effective for grease, oil, and wine stains.

Lemons
Use lemon juice for whitening.  Can give hair highlights or whiten your linens.
Use a cut lemon for cutting grease, freshening your cutting board, removing hard water stains, cleaning fingernails, removing tarnish from copper, and age spot remover.
Throw your used lemon peel down the garbage disposal to freshen it.

Lemons can also be used to keep apples from turning brown, just squeeze some juice over the slices.  The juice from a lemon into a glass of water helps with the day after as well; it stimulates the liver to accelerate detoxing of the body.

Add essential oils for antibacterial properties and scent-lemon, tea tree oil, eucalyptus, peppermint, or pine.  For antifungal, eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender, peppermint or pine.  Or if add any essential oil that you love for beautiful fragrance every time you clean.

These basic cleaners should cover all your home needs.  You can use your current cleansers containers and fill with these healthy, fragrant options.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Make your own fragrant herbal body oil



Saturday, October 21, 2015

It is easy and fun to make your own body oil!  You can make an oil specific to your skin type and add herbs for specific benefits or just for the scent.  Or add your favorite flower.

I have very dry skin, inherited from my grandmother.  I tried every lotion I could find and none were moisturizing enough for my alligator skin!  I remember Granny doing the same thing; looking for a lotion or oil that would be keeping moisturizing.

I also started reading about the chemicals that are in most personal care products and thought there had to be a better, healthier way to help my dry skin with fragrance I love.

I then tried different kinds of oils-almond, coconut, jojoba, olive.  Out of all of them, coconut oil ended up being the most moisturizing of all.  The draw back to coconut oil is that it is a solid below 75 degrees F.  

I added olive oil and sunflower oil to the coconut oil to get it to stay liquid at lower temps.  You can always put the oil under the shower to heat it back up if you prefer more coconut oil in the mix.

I use all organic ingredients: raw coconut oil, cold pressed olive oil and cold pressed sunflower oil.

I remember what I read once-your skin is the largest organ of your body and absorbs everything you put on it.  So, only put on your skin what you would eat, including the quality of the ingredients.

I read my "Herb Encyclopedia" book to see what herbs would be beneficial.  The two that were great for anti-aging were lavender and chervil.  I grow both in my garden with no chemicals, all organically.  They smell great too added to the oil!  You get a 2 for 1 benefit.

You can use any herbs or flowers you like!  Be sure to dry them before adding them to your body oil. Fresh herbs can harbor microbes.

Here is the final 1 quart jar recipe I ended up with:
1/3 quart coconut oil
1/3 quart olive oil (loaded with CoQ10 and other antioxidants)
1/3 quart sunflower oil
2 tablespoons shea butter (optional)
2 tablespoons dried lavender
2 tablespoons dried chervil

I just put them all in a quart jar and shake well (if the coconut is a solid, I put in a bowl of hot water to liquify it).  Let it sit in a cool, dark area for a couple of weeks to let the herbs infuse the oils.  It will smell wonderful!  

Then use a tea strainer to catch the herbs as I put them in the dispenser I use in the shower.

If you need your scented oil asap, you can gently heat the oil on the stove with the herbs to infuse quickly.  Keep the temp below 100 degrees F as you infuse your oil to keep all the wholesome goodness of your oil and herbs intact.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Use your own herbs for your Thanksgiving dinner



Sunday, November 15, 2015

Add a fresh edge to your Thanksgiving dinner by using herbs straight from your own garden.  Herbs can be harvested all the way through the entire winter in most years.  Traditional vegetables used for flavoring the Thanksgiving feast are also harvestable at this time of year, like carrots, onions and celery.

Herbs are easy and care free to grow and almost all of them are perennials.  That means you plant once and they come back year after year.  For more details on growing your own herbs, see my blog here  http://victorygardenonthegolfcourse.blogspot.com/2012/06/kitchen-herb-garden.html

Jazzing up the turkey flavor
You can easily make poultry seasoning for your turkey from herbs in your own garden.  Poultry seasoning adds great flavor to, of course, chicken or turkey, but also veggies, fish, casseroles, pasta.

The first commercial poultry seasoning was invented by William G. Bell, a Boston cook, in 1867.  His included sage, marjoram, rosemary, oregano, pepper and ginger.

I like to make my poultry seasoning with dried sage, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and marjoram.  Some add nutmeg, pepper, ginger , onion powder and/or cloves.

Here is my poultry seasoning recipe:
3 Tbl sage
1 Tbl parsley
1 Tbl thyme
1 Tbl marjoram or oregano
1 Tbl rosemary

Insure all spices are crumbled into tiny pieces so they will disperse evenly in your favorite prepared dish.  Combine in a pint jar, shake to mix well.  

You can transfer the amount needed to a kitchen spice jar.  Keep the rest in a cool, dark location.

For any spices, you want to keep them as fresh as possible.  They lose their flavor over time and quicker if exposed to heat/light.

Herbal powered stuffing
For stuffing, you can gather fresh sage, onions, carrots and celery from the garden even in late November. 

In a bowl, put 8 cups of dried bread cubes and soften with 1 cup of chicken broth (I love using organic “Better than Bouillon” for my stock).  In a skillet, sauté 1 cup of chopped carrots, 1 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup chopped onions with 1/2 cup of butter.  After browned, add 2 teas fresh sage or poultry seasoning, 1/2 teas salt, 1/8 teas of pepper.  Mix all together and stuff the turkey.

Potager turkey gravy
To make 2 cups of gravy, cook in a sauce pan, 1/2 cup of fresh chopped carrots, 1/2 cup of fresh chopped celery, 1 cup of chopped onions, 3 cloves of peeled and mashed garlic until browned.  Add 1 bay leaf, 3 cups of chicken stock, and giblets and neck from turkey.  Simmer on low uncovered for an hour or so until reduced in about half.  Strain out all solids and combine 1 cup of stock with 1/4 cup of cream and 1/4 cup of flour, whisk until smooth.  Bring remaining stock to boil, add cream mixture, defatted turkey pan drippings if desired, simmer until thickened.

Herbed potato options
There are a few options for snazzing up your mashed potatoes.  For 5 pounds of potatoes, you can add 5 cloves of roasted garlic, 1 cup of buttermilk and 8 ounces of cream cheese.  

Or how about 5 pounds of small potatoes that are cooked until tender, then tossed with 1 cup of butter, 3/4 cup freshly, finely chopped parsley, marjoram, chives and/or thyme.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Herbal salad dressing
You can keep it simple and flavor a good white wine vinegar with your favorite herb like tarragon for the salad.  Use a mild olive oil so that the flavor of the herb shines through.  Herbal vinegars are easy to make, but you need to make ahead.  Place the herbs in the vinegar and leave in a cool dark place for at least a week.  You can strain out the herbs before using after infused.

Homemade version of Hidden Valley Ranch is easy to make.  Just mix equal amounts of buttermilk, mayonnaise, and sour cream (half cup each).  Then add parsley, dill, garlic, onion (half teas), salt (quarter teas), and pepper (eighth teas) to taste.  If the mayonnaise is too overpowering, I substitute yogurt.   Other home made dressings:  Homemade salad dressing recipes with garden herbs

This is the perfect time for fresh spinach salads.  Spinach and other greens are in season and loving this cool weather.

Artisanal butter
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.



Saturday, November 14, 2015

Slow growing in winter months

Potted lettuce


Saturday, November 14, 2015

If you have noticed that plants stop growing in the winter, whether indoors or out, you would be right.  It is not just the temperatures that affect this slow down.  It is the amount of sunlight.

Basically, plants go dormant when receiving less than 10 hours of daylight.  For my latitude, this is from November 17-January 24.  You can look on the weather channel to see when your daylight hits 10 hours.

When planting in the fall for winter crops, you need to plan that they are at full, harvestable size by November 17th.  They will remain basically this size until the end of January, when they begin regrowing.

Growth starts back up at the end of January, for indoor and outdoor plants.  The lettuce, chard, sorrel, cabbage, kale, celery, and herbs that have overwintered will start growing with vigor again after this time with clear days and warmer temperatures.


Covering plants with row covers or portable greenhouses can help your plants grow; warmth does make a difference.  Just don’t expect significant growth until we get back to at least 10 hours of sunlight.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

A late fall tradition-fried green tomatoes!



Saturday, November 7, 2015

Mr. Frost is a knockin’!

Tomatoes will survive a light frost, but not a freeze.  If you still have green tomatoes on the vine, make sure you pull them before the first killing frost.  You shouldn’t harvest tomatoes from a dead vine.

There are a few techniques you can use to prolong your tomato harvest.  
*You can cover with a sheet when calling for frost and removing when it warms in the morning.  
*You can keep them going even longer if you put a portable greenhouse over them.  Be careful to vent your portable greenhouse very well when it is in the 50’s or warmer and sunny.  It will be a scorcher inside and you’ll have roasted tomatoes.
*You can bring any potted tomatoes indoors and they will continue to produce in a sunny spot.

There are several things you can do with your green tomatoes.  
*You can make green tomato relish.  I just love all the fun flavor combo’s I see folks coming up with, from spicy habanero to sweet sorghum.  Your imagination is the only limit!
*You can wrap them individually in newspaper and store them some place dark to ripen.
*Or, you can go all out and have fried green tomatoes!


I remember my Granny making them each year.  I don’t have her recipe, but you can use a spicy fish breading, like Andy’s Cajun.  You simply slice your tomato, dip in the breading, fry in oil, and enjoy!


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Preparing for a hard freeze



Sunday, November 1, 2015

When a hard freeze is in the forecast, it is time to pick the last of the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants and clean the plants from the garden and give your cold crops a coat to protect them all winter!

You can compost any that were disease free, but dispose af any diseased plants in the garbage.  Only high sustained temperatures will destroy the spores and it is not worth the risk of spreading disease into next year’s garden.

Peppers will do well indoors.  They will continue to flower and fruit for weeks.  Their flowers and red fruits are pretty, too.  Come spring, they will have a one to two month head start on the season.

This is the time of year to put a coat over your potted plants left outdoors planted with cold crops.  The best place to locate your plants and greenhouse is close to protection and on the south side of the house in full sun.  Putting the greenhouse against the house will help keep the temperatures warmer for your plants.

I have my mini portable greenhouse over my three Earthoxes that contain kale, celery, French dandelion, spinach, lettuce, blood veined sorrel, and garden purslane.  I also put inside the greenhouse along the outside edge, 5 gallon jugs filled with water and spray painted black.  These will help moderate the temperature inside the greenhouse.

The biggest risk with a greenhouse?  Overheating!  The sun’s rays are quite hot on a cloudless day.  I open the vent on my greenhouse when it is sunny and in the 30’s.  I will unzip the front door flap when it gets into the 40’s.   In the 50’s, the cold crops really don’t need any protection.