Sunday, February 23, 2014

Different colors in tomatoes give different nutrition

Sunday, February 23, 2014

There is an amazing array of colors for just about any vegetable.  The most popular American vegetable, the tasty tomato is no exception.  There are yellow, green, orange, tie dye, pink, brown, indigo, and black tomatoes.  The bluish, black tomatoes that are the “in” tomato are also super tasty and nutritious.  Many of these dark colored beauties were developed using traditional breeding.

Here is a run down of the nutritional profile of each of the color families of the tomato:
Pink and red tomatoes: Great source of vitamin A (25% of your DV), lycopene (a powerful antioxidant), vitamin C (30% of DV), and potassium (10% of DV).
Indigo, purple, brown, black:  They are chock full of anthocyanin as well as the rest of the goodies in red tomatoes.  Anthocyanin is the super charged antioxidant found in blueberries.  It comes from the indigo color.  
Orange and yellow tomatoes:  Have lower levels of lycopene.  The lighter the color, the less lycopene is present.
Green tomatoes:  Since they don’t have the red color, they also do not have lycopene and have little vitamin A.

The winner in the nutrition race is clearly the bluish, brownish, blackish tomato!  Not only are they have the most vitamins and minerals, but they also taste fantastic.

Even if you only have a pot, you can grow tomatoes.  There are many compact varieties available!

Many think the tomato came from Italy.  They actually are from the Americas.  Tomatoes were first discovered in the Andes of South America more than two thousand years ago and first cultivated in Mexico.  When the Spanish came to America in the 1400’s, they took back the tomato to Europe.  For many years, Europeans thought it was poisonous and it was grown only as an ornamental.

The Italians and Spaniards were the first Europeans to introduce tomatoes into their cooking, perhaps as early as the 1500’s.  It came to the colonies around 1745 in Williamsburg by a Jewish doctor of Portuguese decent.  The rest, as they say, is history.  Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable grown in the United States today.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Easy ways to make a new vegetable garden bed

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Making a new garden bed can seem like a monumental, labor intensive task, but it doesn’t have to be.  There are several minimal labor ways to make a new bed.  It all begins with a hose and old newspaper and/or cardboard.

The best place to put a vegetable garden is close to the house where there is good sun, ideally a spot that gets southern exposure.  Check out where the sun falls throughout a sunny day to see where the best locations are in your yard.  Don’t be concerned if your garden spot gets some shade each day.  Fruiting vegetables need the most sun, 6-8 hours.  Root vegetables require less and leafy vegetables require the least.  Leafy vegetables appreciate getting afternoon shade in the hot days of summer.

Once you have picked out a spot, you can use a hose to lay out what you want the bed to look like.  We then use a spray can of landscaping paint to paint out the edges of the bed.  

The easiest next step is to cut the grass inside your new bed as short as possible.  Then lay several layers of newspaper or cardboard over the top of the closely sheared grass and cover with compost then mulch.  Now, just let the bed lay until the grass dies.  Use a balanced fertilizer when you plant.

Another option is after mowing close to the ground and laying the newspaper/cardboard, dump garden soil over it all, add compost, fertilize and plant immediately.  Just be careful to not cut through the newspaper or you will get grass growing in your new garden bed.

We have also used a sod cutter, cutting up the sod in our new bed.  Then, turning it upside down, covering with newspaper/cardboard, a couple of inches of compost, mulch, and plant.

If you don’t need your garden bed to be “pretty”, a quick way to plant is to simply poke holes in bags of garden soil, put the perforated side down, cut open the top side of the bag and plant away.  The plastic underneath will keep the grass from growing through.  The downside is that your veggie plant roots won’t be able to grow down as well either.  But if you don’t have time, this is a good way to get started.  You can edge around the bags and removed them the following year, adding compost and have a ready made bed for the following year.

You can also go the raised bed route.  There are many do it yourself, precut raised bed kits that you can purchase.  Use the same techniques above to make sure the grass won’t grow up through into your veggies.  Newspaper and cardboard works great for this.  Fill with good soil, compost, an all natural fertilizer and you are ready to plant.

The pros of raised beds is that they warm up quicker in the spring and you control the soil that you are growing in.  The cons, the temperature is not as constant as if in the ground and they will need to be watered more often.

There are several options to getting your garden bed in place that don’t require a ton of time or hard labor.  Now is the time to choose one and get your spring garden growing!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Nutritional value of lettuce types

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Lettuce is rich in vitamin A and K and a good source of folate and fiber.   Ever wonder which was the most nutritious lettuce variety?

Here is a quick run down:
*Most nutritious-Romaine
*Runner up-Loose leaf
*Next-Bibb (butterhead) lettuce
*Least-Crisphead/Batavian lettuce
USDA Chart of Lettuce Nutrients

Romaine lettuce has long, upright leaves with thick stems.  Romaine lettuce gained fame in the Caesar salad.  Today, you can get the traditional type, Parris Island Cos, shorter types like Cosmo, red speckled Forellenschluss, and deeper red types like Marshall or Outredgeous.  Romaine lettuce does moderately well in heat and shade and likes loose, rich soil.  For a great summer variety, Jericho thrives in hot weather.

I love loose leaf lettuce.  It is a great all around green to have.  I will cut off the lower leaves as I need them for salads, letting the center continue to produce leaves, harvesting lettuce for weeks this way.  Loose leaf is more tolerant of soil conditions than Romaine and there is a bevy of types out there.  My favorites are Oakleaf, Mascara, Simpson Elite, and Red Sails.  Red Sails stayed sweet well into summer last year.  I sow loose leaf seed about every 3 weeks to keep a continuous harvest.

Butterhead lettuce is succulent!  I just love the texture and juiciness of this lettuce.  The butterheads make smaller heads with lighter centers.  Buttercrunch is a popular variety.  There are the typical green and many with red coloring like Drunken Woman Frizzy Headed.  Gotta love that name!  Tom Thumb is a cute little heirloom pre 1850’s.  It tolerates heat well, too.  Winter Density has excellent cold tolerance.

Crisphead/Batavian lettuce is very refreshing with its high water content and tight heads.  These lettuces require a very long growing season and do not tolerate hot temperatures so plant early in the spring.  The famous Iceberg lettuce is part of this crisphead lettuce family.  Tennis ball is a pre 1804 medium sized lettuce grown at Monticello by Thomas Jefferson is best grown in the spring.  Loma is a heat tolerant variety that does well spring through summer.

Lettuce is a cool season crop, thriving in spring and fall.  Hardened lettuce can survive to temperatures that drop to 20 degrees.  Lettuce seeds germinate in temperatures between 40-75 F.  I scatter sow seeds in early March in pots that I keep in full southern sun.  Pots warm up much faster in the spring than the ground so you get a head start by using pots.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Surprising veggies that can be grown in pots

Zucchini and petunias in a pot

Sunday, February 9, 2014

There are so many new varieties out every year.  There are ones that are more resistant to disease.  Ones that have higher nutritional value.  Ones that produce more.  Ones that have improved taste.  Ones that are developed for their small size and big harvests for those of us who have limited space or just want to get more for the effort.  It is amazing what can now be grown in pots!

We hear a lot about Monsanto and GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) and crop breeding can seem a bad thing.  The difference between GMO’s and other types of crop breeding is that GMO’s bring in genetic material from other organisms in a lab, like bacteria and even viruses.  The plants are engineered so that they kill insects that try to eat it.

That is only one side of the plant breeding story.  There are many other natural, with a little help, breeding of crops today.  It can be as simple as saving of seeds from the best producer of last year.  There are also hybrids which take the best traits of two different parents into seeds.  These hybrids will not produce seed that you can reuse next year and get the same vegetable as the parent.

Heirlooms and open pollinated vegetables will produce “true” to seed.  The offspring will be like its parent.

Through the centuries, farmers have chosen the traits they like and have built on them from season to season.  This has given us Brandywine tomatoes, Vidalia onions and JalapeƱo peppers.  Yum!

Today there is much interest in urban and small space gardening.  There are many new varieties every year.  Here are some I have run across that I had not expected:
Watermelon-Bush Sugar Baby, Sugar Pot
Blueberry-Top Hat
Bush Bean-Any
Cantaloupe-Honey Rock, Minnesota Midget
Pumpkin-Small Sugar
Corn-On Deck Sweet Corn
Cabbage-45 Day Golden Cross, Parel, Caraflex
Cilantro-Calypso is one of the most heat tolerant
Corn-On Deck Hybrid
Cucumbers-Bush Champion, Spacemaster, Salad Bush, Miniature White, Picklebush, Mexican Sour Gherkin, Patio Snacker
Eggplant-Patio Baby, Black Beauty
Kale-Dwarf Blue Curled Vates
Parsley-Single Italian, Extra Curled dwarf
Peas-Easy Peasy, Half Pint, Any bush types
Pepper-Any, hot peppers thrive in pots
Tomatoes-BushSteak, Patio Princess, Bush Early Girl, Tumbler, Bush Big Boy, Baxter’s Bush Cherry, Lizzano, Sweetheart of the Patio, Tumbling Tom Yellow, Bush Better Bush, Balcony, Fresh Salsa Hybrid (look for bush/patio/container types)
Carrots-Caracas, Short ‘n Sweet, Little Finger, Tonda di Parigi, Parisian, Thumbelina, Touchon, Parmex, Mignon (look for short types)
Radish-Cherry Belle
Zucchini-Bush Baby, Yellow Crookneck, Eight Ball, Cue Ball, Golden Delight, Anton, Patio Star, Giambo, Astia, Raven, Patio Star, Cosmos Hybrid (look for bush types versus vining types)

This is just a few of the many compact varieties available today to grow in small spaces and containers.  Just look for terms like "compact", "dwarf", "container" in the descriptors.  Many on line seed companies also have a section dedicated to container varieties.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Seeds are here!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Seeds have arrived in your neighborhood big box stores!  It is officially time to pick out your garden’s desire for the coming season.

For those with small spaces, I love the Burpee seed packets.  They have right on them if they are small space conducive.  The little clay pot in the lower right hand corner with a check mark on it means they were bred to do well in pots.  If they will do well in pots, they are great for any small space.

I have seen seeds at Meijer grocery stores, Drug Mart, Lowes, Home Depot, and Ace Hardware.  So many places are carrying seeds.  Great sign that more and more people are buying seeds and growing their own food.  Love it!

For Zone 6, you can start asparagus and onion seeds either indoors or with protection outdoors now.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

How I started my Victory Garden

Victory Garden on the Golf Course

Every gardener has their own story on how or why they got started gardening. 

I have fond memories of long summer days at my Granny’s. She had a BIG garden. My sister and I were always Granny’s little helpers. Of course, she was also a wonderful cook.

I migrated from flowers to herbs and most recently to veggies. I love fragrance and ran across a clearance herb book. It listed many herbs that could be grown indoors. I thought that would be a great idea to grow good smelling herbs to freshen the house over the winter. When spring came, I transplanted them outdoors.

I toyed with adding veggies, but wasn’t sure how that would work out, living on a golf course! We don’t have a big yard and we couldn’t till up the back yard to put in a garden.  It also had to meet the landscaping requirements of the golf community.

I decided to try it out, incorporating vegetables and herbs into my flowerbed. Our concerns were diminished when the golfers began complementing us on our “flowers.” It is amazing how much you can grow in very little space and how great it can look!

Through my trials and tribulations of learning to garden on my own, I imagined my Granny looking down at me with that twinkle in her eye and a huge smile, laughing along with me.  I know she would be proud of what a little gardener I have become and how much we get from our little patch of land.

I wanted to grow veggies like my grandmother did, the old fashioned way without chemicals.  I read a lot of magazines and books to learn how to grow organically in the small space available in the flower garden and pots on the patio.

I intersperse our vegetables and herbs with our flowers.  Not only does it look beautiful, but the flowers attract the pollinators that increase the amount your vegetables produce.  I plant my cabbages and peppers with petunias in pots that we use on the patio and line the border of my vegetable garden with day lilies and marigolds.

Petunias with Peppers on left, with Onions on right

I have learned you can grow healthy plants without chemicals.  The “bad” bugs came the first year.  It took a couple of years for the beneficial insects to proliferate to keep the “bad” bugs under control.  I even learned companion planting and simple crop rotation to help with diseases and keep pests down.

We grow the basic herbs; herbs are so easy to grow.  Oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, savory, basil, chives, borage, salad burnet, dill, garlic, mustard all live happily.


We grow all the produce we can eat and have much left over to put away for the winter.  Tomatoes, peppers (cayenne, Ancho, Jalapeno, Pimento, sweet peppers), zucchini, eggplant, cucumbers, lettuce, chard, French sorrel, purslane, onions, broccoli raab, sunflowers, Fava beans, strawberries, cabbage.  I struggled with broccoli, the rabbits were eating it as fast as it grew!  The green rabbit fencing that I put around each broccoli plant is now keeping them at bay.

I use many compact or dwarf types so they will not over power the small garden space or pot.  I have found that lettuce, hot peppers, cabbage, and zucchini all grow very well in pots.  I do succession planting for lettuce to have lettuce spring, summer and fall.
I even bought a NatureMill composter so that I can compost in the garage.  Between composting and recycling, we have very little that has to go to the landfill.

I learned to can a couple of years ago to put up all the extra tomatoes we had.  I also put up a few jars of sugar free fruit using pectin and stevia.

I learned to blanch and freeze greens, peas, and beans.   To dry herbs, garlic, harden winter squash.  To make and freeze pesto with our extra basil and parsley, make pickles.  We even get raw milk from a local farmer and make cheese and yogurt from any we don’t drink.

As I got started gardening, other family members wanted to get started on their own and were asking many questions.  To help guide them and to keep track of what was happening in the garden, I started my own blog and called it “Victory Garden on the Golf Course.”  I named it after the victory gardens grown to help the WWII effort.  I think we are in a similar situation today; our country needs our help in battling the war on ill health.  We can grow our own food in small spaces.  It is more nutritious, it takes so much less energy, can be grown with zero chemicals, and is so convenient to be able to walk right out your door for your dinner.

I love being able to get others gardening as well.  I was given an Egyptian walking onion from a B&B in Kansas.  It is a perennial that grows great in a pot or the ground.  It puts on bulblet tops every June.  This year, I took all of them to a woman’s breakfast we were having at work (I am an engineer).  I was blown away by the interest and enthusiasm of these hard-working women on growing their own onions. 

I believe the tide has turned and growing your own and eating nutritious food.  It is so heart warming!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Potted veggies and herbs

Greens in Earthboxes and cabbage with petunias in pot

Saturday, February 1, 2014

You can grow a complete vegetable and herb garden in a small space and/or in pots.  There are so many varieties today made for the small space gardener!  

If you are just starting out and have limited space, look for descriptions like “patio”, “compact”, “great for pots”, “container”, etc.  Here are some recommendations for your small space or container garden.

Greens-Pak choi or Toy Choy Pak Choi, arugula, leaf lettuce like Oak Leaf (for cut and come again harvests), Little Gem lettuce for whole heads, Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch Kale, Orach, Dazzle lettuce, Tennis Ball butterhead, Gala mache, Space Hybrid spinach.  The list goes on and on!  In pots and small spaces, I harvest the outer leaves of plants when I need them.  This extends the harvest tremendously. 

Onions-I grow Egyptian walking onions in a pot.  You can use the bulb for cooking and the tops as chives.  Chives and garlic chives are also great for small spaces or pots.
Egyptian walking onion

Beets-any.  I plant these around my pepper plants.

Carrots-get the short ones like Atlas and Parisian are made for containers.

Celery surprisingly does very well in a pot by itself.  It loves water so I would keep it by itself.  Chard as well.  Chard comes in beautiful colors, too, so you can plant them in your flower bed as an ornamental that you get to snack on.

Cucumber-Bush Champion, Spacemaster, Rocky, Lemon, Patio Snacker, Salad Bush.

Eggplant-All I have tried in a pot grows well.  For flavor, I think the Casper and White Egg do very well and does not get bitter in the hot days of summer.  Other small varieties include Fairy Tale, Gretel, Hansel, India Paint, and Thai Purple Blush hybrid.

A word about hybrids.  If you want to save seed, hybrids will not come back true to the “mother” plant.  You will want open pollinated or heirloom varieties for seed saving.  The strength of hybrids is that they have been bred to withstand different common diseases.

Green beans-go for pole beans and use a trellis so they grow up.  If you don’t like removing the “string” that some green beans have, look for “stringless.”  We discovered a new variety we really liked from a Dienger Farms-an Italian flat green bean.  I looked up Italian pole green beans and I found the variety Roma, Supermarconi, and the yellow Bean Marvel of Venice, Bean di Spagna Bianco.  May have to try one of these this year!  Produces right up until frost.  The great thing about beans is that they make nitrogen so they fertilize the soil.  I plant petunias in the same pot.

Peppers-I have found that hot peppers do great in pots.  I plant one pepper type per pot.  Sweet peppers, like Bell, do best in the ground for the heaviest harvests.  Sweet banana or other smaller sweet peppers do well in containers.  To keep the peppers coming, harvest when green.  It is like the plant has a max number of peppers it can handle and as soon as it hits that number, it will produce no more until one is harvested.  

Pepper with petunias
Summer squash - Bush Zucchini, Lunar Eclipse/Sunburst, Piccolo, Small Wonder Spaghetti squash, Anton, Patio Star, Giambo, Bush Baby.

Winter squash-Acorn or butternut.  Plant where you are okay with them running on the ground or train them up a trellis.  You will get about 2 per vine.

Tomatoes-look for patio or container types.  Varieties like Balcony Patio Princess, Balcony, Tumbler, Lizzano, BushSteak, Tumbling Tom to name  a few.  I had great luck with these bush varieties last summer Early Girl Bush, Better Boy Bush, Patio, Husky Red, and Better Bush.

Couple of seed finding tips-you can do a seed search at Mother Earth News.  Here is the link: 

You can also get a listing of seed companies at Mother Earth News to see where they are located and what they sell (organic, biodynamic, heirloom, etc.).