Sunday, December 29, 2013

Eat well, live well

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Contemplating what to have for your New Year’s resolution?  How about adopting a new way of eating that will slow signs of aging, help prevent cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue syndrome, MS, you name it.  

This is what Dr. Weston Price found when he went around the world in the 1940's looking at the diets of the last indigenous people on earth and they had no tooth decay and no degenerative diseases (like cancer).  If you want to learn more, there is a web page

All studies show eating a low carb diet with lots of leafy greens and multi colored veggies is the best diet in the world for slowing signs of aging, avoiding cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue syndrome, MS, you name it.  Get rid of processed foods and anything with sugar added.

Eat food grown the way God intended, without chemicals, with great soil (to get your vitamins and minerals), and absolutely no GMO’s.  To know for sure this is how it is grown, grow it yourself or buy from a farmer you have visited and trust.  Join a CSA (to find one near you, visit ).  Organic at the store is the next best thing.

You can grow in small spaces and pots.  You don’t need much room.  It doesn’t take more time than grocery shopping or eating out.  Seeds are cheap (you can even get them for free from friends, neighbors or the veggies you get from the store).  A 6’ by 6’ plot, planted right, will grow most of what you need for produce for most of the year.  This small of an area will grow $500 worth of produce if only doing a traditional 2 season garden.  Stretch it to a 4 season garden and the benefit goes up.

As soon as you pick a vegetable, it begins to die.  Some vegetables lose 90% of their nutritional value in a week.  The most nutritious will be that which is just picked, grown in soil that is rich in organic matter and minerals.

Truly, God created the heavens, the earth and all living plants and creatures perfectly.  He created the plants and animals to sustain us and give us everything we need.  We should remember that and eat food that is as close to its natural, fresh state as possible to feed our bodies the perfect nutrition.

Eat well, live well.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Black eyed peas for good luck on New Year’s Day

Saturday, December 28, 2013

I grew up having black-eyed peas for New Year’s day for good luck in the new year.  My grandmother was originally from the hills of Tennessee and moved to southeast Missouri as a young girl.  Everyone I know that grew up in southeast Missouri has 'em on New Year's Day.  It is a Southern tradition to have black-eyed peas to usher in the New Year.

History of black-eyed peas
Black-eyed peas were first domesticated in West Africa and widely grown in Asia.  The "good luck" traditions of eating black-eyed peas for the New Year go as far back as Babylonian times (2500 years ago).  The tradition then was to have bottle gourd, leeks, black-eyed peas, beets, spinach, and dates as they were all symbols of good luck.

This Jewish tradition was brought to the southern US in the 1700’s.  Today, the good luck Southern meal includes peas for prosperity, mustard greens for money, and pork for moving forward.  Cornbread is also part of the meal, but just for its sweet goodness.

George Washington Carver encouraged the planting of black-eyed peas because they fertilized the soil, are nutritious and very affordable.  Black-eyes peas are chock full of nutrition.  They contain protein, calcium, vitamin A, and lots of fiber.

Recipe for your good luck peas
To cook black-eyed peas, I add some ham and diced onion and simmer in chicken broth.  You can add vinegar or some hot peppers for a different taste.

Growing your own peas
Black-eyed peas are a warm season crop that is not susceptible to pests or disease.  They are not actually a pea at all, but a bean.  The peas should be planted after all danger of frost has passed and the soil is warm.  They are very drought tolerant so little watering is needed.  I start mine indoors in April and set out around Memorial Day.

If using just for fertilizing, legumes should be cut before they start producing pods as the seeds use up a lot of the nitrogen fixed in the roots.

A side benefit of growing black-eyed peas is that the flowers produce copious amounts of nectar for pollinators, like bees.  Be sure to not use any pesticides on your black-eyed peas as they will kill the bees, too.

For fresh peas, you harvest the beans when the pods are 2-3” long and the peas have begun to swell.  After harvesting, simply shell the peas into a freezer bag (don’t forget to label with type and date).  

For dried beans, wait until the pods have dried completely on the plant.  Pick the pods and shell.  You can easily store in a quart jar until needed.  

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Garden tomatoes still ripening

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Before the first freeze of the season, I pick all the green tomatoes and store in a dark place.  This year, I placed them in a bowl and put the bowl in the pantry.

The tomatoes are ripening slowly.  We are still able to use home grown tomatoes in salads.  Looks like we will have them until after New Year’s.

The tomatoes are not as flavorful as if they had ripened on the vine, but still have a good, fresh flavor.

Monday, December 16, 2013

What's happening in the mid December garden

Monday, December 16, 2013

Most think that nothing is alive to eat in a mid December garden.  Winter is hard on almost all living green things, but some can out weather even the harshest winter temperatures.

So, what is still surviving in mid December?  Oregano, creeping thyme, thyme, mint, parsley, celery, kale, cabbage, sorrel, chives, and onions are all still green without any cover.

Under cover, lettuce, spinach, celery, sorrel, and kale. 
Mini greenhouse

Celery, kale

Saturday, November 30, 2013

December Garden

Saturday, November 30, 2013

December is a time of digging in and staying warm.  There is still life in the garden.  In the beds, kale, cabbage, salad burnet, sorrel, rosemary, oregano, garlic, onions, lettuce, leeks, chard, dill, celery, carrots, spinach are all still green in December.

Fresh herbs are just steps away from the back door.  You can also grow most herbs indoors as well like chives, oregano, rosemary, parsley, chervil, and basil.  Just place your potted herbs in a sunny window.

If you are using a greenhouse, your kale, celery, mustard, lettuce, chard, spinach, cabbage, broccoli are still happy under cover.  They will not grow much until sunlight gets back to 10 hours per day in late January.

All cold crops are at their sweetest during the cold weather.  They make great salads and are tasty steamed or braised.

The Buying Local Option
There are several winter farmers markets in the area.  The West Chester Farmers Market is open one Saturday each month:  January 18, February 15, March 15, and April 22 from 2-3:30 pm.

If you would like a nice Saturday drive, Oxford Farmers Market is every Saturday from 10-Noon.  Findlay Market has hours Tuesday-Sunday throughout the winter.

The Central Ohio River Valley (CORV) Food Guide has a complete listing of the farmers markets in our area at 

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  It is where you invest in a local farmer in January when they have to purchase their seeds and supplies for the upcoming gardening season.  You then get a weekly share of the farmers harvest from May through October.

Before I started our own garden, we joined a CSA.  It was great.  We got lots of super fresh produce, our weekly grocery bill was significantly reduced as our meals were planned around the vegetables, and it was an adventure getting to try new recipes with veggies we had never ate before.

If you are interested in produce grown without pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals, ask if the farmer uses organic practices.

Where to find a CSA?  You can do a search on www.localharvest,org or go to the CORV Food Guide site  For one close to Wetherington, “Just Farmin’” Steve & Barb Willis grow heirlooms using organic and natural practices.  You can contact them for a garden share at 513-238-9795 or via email at  They are about 5 minutes from our community at 6887 Devon Dr., Liberty Township, Ohio.

Many sell out so don’t delay if you want to join!

Preserving the harvest
It is easy to store winter squash in your pantry to pull out anytime.  We have eaten butternut squash from the garden all the way into June of the following year.

If you put garlic in your pantry and some have dried out, make garlic powder.  Just process the dried garlic in a coffee or spice grinder.  Now you have great flavor to add to burgers, sauces, or steaks.  

If you threw your extra tomatoes into the freezer and are now thinking it would be nice to have tomato sauce, canning tomato sauce is simple and easy to do.  I use Weck’s canning jars.  They are all glass so no worries about what is lining the lid.  And they are a really pretty shape.

All you need to can tomato sauce is a large pot, canning jars, a metal funnel, and canning tongs.  A pressure canner is not needed for acidic foods like tomatoes.  Always follow the recipe as written to insure food safety.

I throw the entire tomato (de-stemmed) into the food processor.  Most recipes say to remove the peel and seeds so you don’t have a bitter taste, but I have not noticed any issue with bitterness.

Here is the recipe from Ball’s “Complete Book of Home Preserving” for tomato paste:
9 cups of pureed tomatoes, 1½ cups of chopped sweet bell peppers, 2 bay leaves, 1 teas salt, 1 clove of garlic.

I put it all into a large pot and let simmer until it is the consistency and taste I like, about 2.5 hours.  Remove the bay leaves and garlic.  Boil the jars, lids, and seals as the sauce is close to done.

Add 3 teas of lemon juice to each hot pint jar, fill with the hot tomato sauce to within ½ inch of the top, and seal the lid, following the instructions for the type of jar you are using.  Place all the filled jars in a large pot, insuring they are fully covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 45 minutes.  Remove from canner.  Let cool.  Test the seal after the jar is completely cool.  It should not lift off.  That’s it!  

Other high acid foods you can using a water bath are jams, jellies, condiments, salsas, pickles, and relishes.  Consult with a canning book for more tips.

Garden Corner Recipe:  Herbal salad dressings
You can use your fresh herbs to make your own salad dressings to pair with your homegrown greens.  Here are a couple we like.

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 or chives, garlic, dried onion ( ½ teas), salt ( ¼ teas), and pepper ( 1/8 teas) to taste.  If the mayonnaise is too overpowering, I substitute yogurt.

Apple mustard vinaigrette is another easy, healthful dressing.  Mix together 1/3 cup finely chopped shallots, honey to taste, ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, ¼ cup olive oil, 2 Tbl water, 2 Tbl country style Dijon mustard, ¾ teas salt, ¼  teas pepper.

Feel free to experiment with different herbs that you like!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Quick tip-olive oil, the best and purity

Ojai Olive Farm in California
Saturday, November 23, 2013

My sister shared recently an article that not olive oils are what they say they are.

How do you decide what kind to purchase to minimize the risk that you are getting what the label says?  I would buy an organic olive oil that is extra virgin, cold pressed from an estate.  Extra virgin is oil from the first press of the olive.  Cold pressed means that heat or chemicals have not been used so the oil is as close to the olive as you can get.  Buying an estate olive oil means it is coming directly from a specific olive farm.  With their estate on the label, their reputation is on the line.

There are olive farms in California and Texas in the US.  The olive oil from our US growers are typically estate olive oils.  Many Italian olive oils are a blend of olive oils from many different olive tree farms.

You can buy from a grower you know or have visited. When visiting family in California, we took a tour of a great little family run olive farm Ojai Olive Oil.  You can order from them on-line. 

We have a family that has an olive orchard in Greece that live in West Chester, Ohio, that comes to our local farmers market.

You can also adopt an olive tree and get the oil from it.  One program is in Texas from an organic olive farm.

I have also found estate olive oils at TJ Maxx.  They get in some really fun specialty foods here.

If you just want to go to the supermarket, I buy from Whole Foods.  They check out the companies that they sell in their stores.

Look for the date that the olive oil was pressed and bottled.  You want oil that is within 1 year of bottling.  A fresh oil will have a much stronger, grassy taste, full of nutrients.  Nutrients fade with time.

If you decide you want flavored oil, be sure to use dried herbs.  Just add 1/3 cup of dried herbs, let set in a dark place for 2-4 weeks, strain out the herbs, and you have oil flavored with your favorite garden herb ready to start dressing up homemade dishes!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Quick tip-make your own hot sauce

Homemade hot sauce
Saturday, November 9, 2013

If you had a bumper crop of spicy peppers and want to make your own hot sauce, it is super easy and inexpensive!  All you need to buy is apple cider vinegar. 

I take a pint jar and either use fresh or frozen Jalapeño peppers.  I slice them in half and fill the jar, add 5-10 cloves of garlic and cover with Bragg’s organic apple cider vinegar and let sit for a few weeks in the pantry.  I then put all contents in the jar into a food processor and put back into the jar.

We use hot sauce to make wings for football game day watching.  We grill the chicken wings, then put into the sauce and let simmer for about 5 minutes.

For the sauce, I use about a half jar of the pickled garlic and peppers with 3 tablespoons of butter, 1/8 cup of Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons of bacon grease.  If you would like a thicker sauce, use 1 tablespoon of corn starch dissolved in cold water and then add to hot sauce.  Let simmer for 5 minutes and it is ready for the wings.

You can use any hot peppers you have.  Have fun and experiment until you find a taste that is perfect for you.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

What’s happening in the early November garden

Cabbage in pot
Saturday, November 2, 2013

Well, we had our first hard frost on October 25th in our Zone 6 garden.  The temperature got down to 28 degrees F.  It was cold enough to bite the tomatoes, eggplant, sunflower, zucchini, morning glory, dahlias, and jalapeño plants.  

The zucchini is done.  It really has not produced for the last few weeks anyway.  The rest of the pepper plants (Ancho, cayenne, pimento elite, sweet red banana, or the jalapeño in the garden bed) did not seem to be affected by the frost.

I could have used a fabric cover to protect these cold sensitive veggies and they would have been fine for this temperature.

We had already harvested all the basil.  If we had not, the leaves would have been killed and turned black.

There was not enough damage to the tomatoes, eggplant or pepper plants to halt the fruit production.  The next 10 days do not show any temperatures down to freezing so I will leave them growing.  The next time the forecast has the temperatures going into the 20’s, I will harvest all the peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant fruits and call it a season for these summer veggies.
Some of the last of the summer veggies-peppers, tomatoes, eggplant
You could bring the peppers indoors and they will continue fruiting for weeks and put them back out in the spring to get a head start on summer.  I get enough hot peppers off each of the plants to eat and freeze that I won’t do that this year. 

You could also put the potted tomatoes, eggplant and peppers in a greenhouse and lengthen the season for at least another 4 weeks. 

The cold season crops like lettuce, cabbage, kale, broccoli, collards, spinach, onions, mustard, sorrel are very happy.  The celery is still going strong.  It doesn’t seem to be affected by heat or cold.  We harvest from it year round.

The rest of the herbs are doing very well-thyme, savory, oregano, chives, dill, rosemary, sage, bay, parsley, lavender, mint.  

Don't forget your local Farmers Market if you want local and freshest produce in season.  Many are open all winter long!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

November Garden Planner

Saturday, October 26, 2013

November is a beautiful time of year as Mother Nature is getting prepared for the cold, wintry days ahead.  Late fall chores should include cleaning up your garden beds, reflecting on the gardening season completed, and preparing for the first freeze.

Garden bed clean up
To prepare your garden for its winter slumber, remove gardening debris from your beds.  For any diseased vegetation or seeds, be sure to throw these away. 

This is a good time to decide if you would like to make your own compost.  Compost is referred to by gardeners as “black gold.”  It provides nutrients, beneficial microbes, fertilizer and overall improves your soil’s condition.

I use an electric composter called NatureMill that we keep in the garage by the door.  It is easy to keep an odor free bucket made just for this purpose inside to collect fruit and vegetable scraps and empty weekly into the composter.  The small indoor buckets are called compost keepers or bins and come in a variety of decorative styles.  You get finished compost in a couple of weeks.  You can store the compost you are making in a trash bag to use when preparing your spring beds.  It is great for flowers and vegetables.

Reflection on the past garden season
While the past gardening season is still fresh in your mind, now is a great time to jot down some notes on what went well, what didn’t, and what you would like to research over the winter.  Make a list of the varieties that did great that you want to replant, which plants you want to be sure to have more of next year.

Gardening after the first frost
For Cincinnati, the average first frost date is October 27.  If you can cover your veggies with a portable green house or row cover to extend the season for many cool season crops.  With a portable green house, we have kept lettuce, kale, mustard greens, sorrel, and celery all the way through winter. 

If you are using pots, putting the pots on the south side and close to the house will keep them from getting frost bit.  It seems to extend the season for 2-4 weeks.

You can also divide a piece off your herbs, put them in a pot, and bring indoors on a sunny window to have fresh herbs readily available.  Chives, thyme, rosemary, savory, tarragon, salad burnet, and oregano can also be harvested into December from the outdoor garden.

Surprisingly, we found that peppers are great candidates from bringing in for the winter.  Our Jalapenos and Cayennes continued to fruit for weeks indoors and when put back out in the spring, had peppers a month earlier than when using new plants.

Be sure to use insecticidal soap on any plants you intend to bring indoors so you don’t bring in unintended guests.

For the herbs you cut back earlier in the season to dry, November is a great time to now strip the stems of the leaves and put into jars for winter cooking.  You can make your own “Herbes De Provence”.  Thyme, oregano, rosemary, savory, basil, tarragon and lavender are common herbs used.  I mix them up in about equal amounts and store in a sealed Mason jar.  It is great to add to just about anything-sauces, chicken, fish, potatoes, garlic bread.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

October is the time to plant garlic

Sunday, October 20, 2013

October is the month to plant garlic in our Zone 6 garden.  You plant in the fall to give the cloves time to develop a strong root system over the fall and winter.  You will get significantly bigger bulbs next summer.

Garlic loves rich, loose soil.  Raised beds with lots of compost is their dream home.  If growing a garden bed, loosen the soil and mix in generous amounts of compost and top with mulch.

You can plant in the spring and you will get garlic, but just smaller.  Garlic scapes, on hard neck garlic, are tasty adds to spring salads.  The scapes themselves are worth planting garlic for!

This year I am planting Elephant garlic (saved from this summer’s crop) and Turkish Giant again.  I go for the big cloves as they are quicker to prepare.  For whatever type you plant, always choose the biggest and best cloves to plant!  The best gives the best.

If you had garlic in the garden this summer, don’t be surprised to see volunteers poking their heads out come spring even if you don’t plant any this fall.  A nice present.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

October Garden Planner

Tomatoes and mums in the fall garden

Saturday, October 19, 2013

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, broccoli and cauliflower are coming into maturity throughout October and into November.

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.  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.

I will wait until it gets down to 32 degrees before I strip off the cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes.  You can freeze or dry the peppers and tomatoes.  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.   Be sure to follow any canning recipes exactly so your canned goods don’t spoil.

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.  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!  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.  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 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.  Meijer, Lowes, and Home Depot have 6 and 9 packs ready to plant.

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.

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’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. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

What's happenin' in the early October garden

Parsley in foreground, garlic chives and marigolds blooming in the background

Sunday, October 13, 2013

This is a time of year that most summer vegetables are winding down and cold crops are growing strong.  With frost, many summer vegetables will die and cold season crops will get sweeter.

We continue to fertilize our vegetables monthly.  We also remulched all our garden beds to give an added blanket of protection to prolong the season.  The mulch will break down over the winter, providing additional organic matter.
New zucchini plants with petunias

Our zucchini and cucumbers quit producing in the last few weeks.  I replanted some zucchini seeds in mid-August and there are baby zucchinis on a couple of plants.  The cucumber vines I just pulled up as I didn’t think there was enough time left in the season to get a second crop going.  It is not a bad idea to replant tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini in mid-August each year to keep these plants at top producing vigor until frost.

Our tomatoes and eggplant are still producing well this year.  For tomatoes, be sure to take all the tomatoes off the vine before it frosts.  You can either wrap the green tomatoes in newspaper and store in a cool place to ripen, make them into relish, or eat them as fried.  For fried green tomatoes, we use Andy’s Cajun batter.  Gives them a nice, spicy flavor.

Any plant that has a disease, do not compost!  Throw away.  Composting may not kill all spores and you could be spreading the disease next season wherever you use the compost.

Jalapeño with cabbage and petunias
Peppers love this time of year.  They are native to the mountains so they love this weather.  They will continue to produce even after frost.  To prolong the season, I put the pots up against the house.  You can also bring them indoors and they will produce for weeks inside.  When spring comes and you put them back outside, they will get a jump start on producing next year.

I have two Ancho Anaheim peppers that are ready to harvest.  I did not get very many off the plant, but they were nice sized and enough for the chili powder I’ll use for making chili this winter.  The Pimento Elite I planted this year produced many peppers but they just wouldn’t turn red.  Peppers get sweeter when they ripen, but are good to eat even when green.  The jalapeños were the same, many peppers but stayed green.  The cayennes were prolific and slow to ripen.

For the sweet peppers, the rabbits kept them ate back to the stems for most of the year.  I finally put a wire cage around them and they are leaving back out, but likely too late for any peppers.  The one pepper they didn’t eat was the Sweet Red Banana.  I got a few off this plant.  The taste was very nice.

I harvested the basil and made pesto in mid-September. The basil plants are quickly regenerating.  I should be able to get another harvest from them before frost hits.  These are very tender annuals and will turn black with the first frost.  You can dig them up and bring them in for the winter.  Place them in a full sun spot.  You can put them back outside again in the spring after all danger of frost has passed.

I planted some chard, spinach, Redbor kale, Winterbor kale, savoy cabbage, Georgia collards, buttercrunch lettuce, crisphead lettuce, some pretty ornamental kales and mustards (both are edible), and reseeded Earthboxes with lettuce seeds in mid-September.  I also put into flats some 9 Star broccoli.  This is a perennial broccoli.  It looks like a cross between a broccoli and cauliflower plant.  

All are doing well.  Many lettuce seeds have sprouted.  The transplanted lettuce, spinach and chard are large enough to harvest leaves.

The Golden Cross 45 that I harvest the heads from during the summer have 3-4 little mini heads that are ready to harvest.  They are really cute!

The spring planted broccoli is regenerating with the wire cage around it.  The Savoy cabbage is big and beautiful with two harvestable heads.

Cabbage, kale, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, chard, onions and other cold crops are get sweeter with cool weather and a nice frost.  If the taste of these are too strong for your palate right now, give them another chance after frost.  Our Egyptian walking onions are lush and green.  The bulbs are filling out nicely.
Savoy cabbage in foreground, thyme at right in background
This is also the perfect time of year to reseed your lawn or transplant perennials.  I separated flowers and herbs to take to our lake retirement house.  I had two really pretty Italian dandelions in the Earthbox.  I took the smaller one and replanted at the retirement house.  Dandelions are perennials and very healthy to eat.  The Italian and French types have been bred to have large leaves.  Great to make salads.  

Many herbs are perennials-garlic, sprouting onions, lavender, oregano, chives, sage, tarragon, thyme, savory, salad burnet, and rosemary.  Bay laurel is a perennial at our Zone 7 retirement house, but not in Zone 6.  I have kept it in a pot for years, but will be planting it at the lake.  It will actually become a tree when planted in the ground.  The rosemary I planted last year at the lake is quickly becoming a very large bush.  I give as many branches as possible away!

Fall is a great time to cut back your herbs.  Save the stems, place loosely in a paper bag, put in a dry location, and in about a month you will have all the dried herbs you and many family members will need for the next year!

We are also still getting fruit from the garden.  Strawberries are perennials.  The ones we planted this spring are sending out many runners.  I took some runners and replanted at the lake.  The everbearers  and Alpine strawberries are still producing berries.  Our fig tree is also still producing figs.

The sunflower seed heads are just starting to blacken.

Fall is a bountiful time for gardening.  I have planted many winter hardy varieties of lettuce, kale, collards, mustards, and cabbage to keep the garden producing into December and hopefully beyond.  With the portable greenhouse, we will have greens all winter.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Quick tip-prepare for frost

Cloche over a pepper plant in the spring

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Jack Frost is close to a callin’.  With frost comes the end of the signature summer vegetables like basil, tomatoes, peppers, and summer squash.  You don’t have to worry about your cold crops like spinach, kale, cabbage, broccoli or lettuce; frost just makes them sweeter.

To prolong the season for your potted plants, move them to a sunny spot and place close to a wall.  Tomatoes, peppers, and herbs will also do well indoors.  Our cayenne pepper plant thrived indoors in the winter and took off running the next spring.

For all plants, you can use plant covers.  These can be in the form of plant fabric covers (don’t use plastic), cloches, or a sheet.  

We gather our pots of greens together and put under a portable greenhouse so we get greens all winter long.

For fall, leave your beds tidy.  You can bury or compost the dead plants as long as they were healthy.  Adding a layer of mulch will provide an extra blanket of protection and warmth.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Tracking what you eat for planning your future garden

Sunday, September 29, 2013

If you are thinking of starting a garden next spring, fall and winter are a great time to track what fruit and produce you eat.

You can use a spiral notebook or an electronic spreadsheet.  Just put in a tick mark under your favorite fruit or veggie heading every time you buy it at the store.  Then, in the spring, you know what you want to grow and how much of it to grow.

This table gives you the number of plants or seeds you need per pounds of produce you want to get from your garden:

If you want a rule of thumb based on your family size and don’t want to track exactly what you have purchased, just use the table for how much to grow per person in your household as a rule of thumb.  You can adjust after the gardening season is over.

There are also many programs and app’s out there today that can help you know what to grow, when to plant, and will give you growing tips on each fruit or vegetable.

The biggest watch out for starting a new garden is starting too big.  Start small with what you use the most in the kitchen.  Herbs, lettuce, carrots, radishes, peppers, or tomatoes are great ones to start with.