15 April 2014, by gj
Patience grows the garlic.
Sometimes patience pays, well, maybe it’s actually procrastination.
Call it what you will, there are cases where putting off ordering your seeds, plants, and other gardening supplies can actually save you money.
Johnny’s Select Seeds is currently offering a free shipping discount. Ours came as a post card in the mail yesterday, but if you didn’t receive one, follow this link.
Likewise Burpee’s is offering free shipping, or you can go to their site and get $10 off a $40 purchase. You probably can’t get both though.
Stark Bros. is offering select trees on sale in celebration of Arbor Month. You can find that info here.
This is another one we received by email. If you are concerned about signing up for these and getting too much spam, just set up a separate account for these things.
That’s what we did and it works really well.
So check with your favorite providers of gardening supplies, especially as it gets closer to planting time, and see what bargains you can pick up.
Keep in mind that there are very often end-of-the-season sales as well. You may not find that one specific veggie seed you wanted, but that’s the chance you take.
Also take note that some companies offer discounts and specials all year. The Seeds of the Month Club, one of our favs, is a good way to save all year on seeds plus they often run contests; and Annie Haven at Moo Poo Tea always has free shipping and many times throughout the year offers a free bag with purchase.
Note: None of the suppliers mentioned here compensated us in any way for mentioning and linking their sites. We just want to share the savings with you.
Categories: saving money & time
13 April 2014, by gj
Known as the Ruth Stout Method of growing potatoes, we tried this the last two years and it works great.
It is important to have a good loose soil. In Ruth’s case her soil had been tilled for a number of years in a row.
Simply lay the spuds on the soil, or like Ruth you can literally toss them on. Cover with hay or straw and you are done.
As the plants get big, you can add more straw if you want, this will help keep the potatoes from being hit by the sun which is what makes them turn green.
We always choose potatoes that are a nice size with lots of eyes already sprouting.
This year we kept accurate records of how many pounds are planted, and we will let you know what our return is.
So that’s all there is to it folks.
You can watch Ruth do the same thing here. She plants at about 6-7 minutes in, but the whole video is worth watching.
Categories: potatoes, The Experiments
12 April 2014, by gj
The expression ‘Kill them with kindness’ isn’t meant to be taken literally, but when it comes to your veggie plants, it just may be.
Sometimes it is better to do what may seem harmful, for the sake of the plant.
Here’s what and why:
One less strawberry bud here.
1. Pinch off their faces.
Before you transplant edibles such as strawberries, tomatoes, eggplants and peppers, it is better for the plant to pinch off any buds that already exist.
Hard to make yourself do? I hear ya.
It is worth it though because it helps the plants put their energy into establishing better root systems that will in the long run provide you with a healthier and more productive plant.
Similar but a little different is the technique of pinching back plants like basil. By removing the top budding leaves, it encourages the plant to produce more branches and a fuller, bushier plant grows. It also helps hold off bolting, giving you a fresh supply over a longer period.
This technique is much easier on you emotionally.
2. Drown them.
Over-watering plants really is killing them with kindness, and possibly has caused more plant fatalities than any other habit.
So why do we say ‘drown them’?
Because it is better for a plant to give them less frequent, but more intense, waterings. Not all plants of course, there are some like wasabi that like to be kept moist all the time.
But for most veggies it is better to let them get a wee bit dry than for them to have moisture all the time.
Give them a good soaking.
If they are in containers, give them another good soaking.
Then walk away, leave them alone, until they need you.
Long awaited for parsnips fresh pulled in April.
3. Freeze their butts off.
Some plants not only prefer the colder weather, they require it. If peas aren’t planted early enough, as soon as the ground thaws and can be worked, they will not have enough time to produce a good crop. Other crops don’t like the heat as well, greens in particular.
Letting some of your veggies, like parsnips, get hit with a little frost actually is said to improve their flavor.
Whether that is the case with over-wintering parsnips or not I can not prove, but I do know that pulling them out of the garden when nothing else is producing in early spring, is priceless.
4. Decide who lives and who dies.
Thinning plants stinks, but you are sacrificing one seedling to save another. If the plants don’t have enough room to grow, or are fighting over the same nutrients, they will both suffer.
Making seed tapes or buying them is one easy option. This is especially helpful for tiny seeds like carrots.
5. Pack ‘em in.
Just the opposite, if you look into square foot gardening or intensive gardening, you will find that you can plant seeds or transplants closer than is usually recommended.
With both these methods it is important to be sure the plants have sufficient nutrients and room to grow, but they will allow you to get more veggies in a smaller space.
Raising veggies sometimes requires you to make tough decisions, but we bet you’re ready for the challenge.
Categories: common misconceptions, gardening, techniques
4 April 2014, by gj
It was about 3 years ago that I brought home a curry plant from the local nursery.
My husband giggled “You can’t grow curry.” he said, “Curry is a combination of herbs and spices.”
Of course it turned out he was right; after all, food is his field. Apparently what I had purchased was a delightfully smelling ornamental plant. Drat.
But telling me “You can’t” do anything only makes it a challenge, and I finally figured out that you really can grow curry.
Well, close enough.
It started out with me trying to grow as many of our own herbs and flavorings as possible.
Some, like mints, are simple. Others, like garlic, take a little more work. Still others, like ginger, take more know-how and time.
As the seasons came and went, there was less and less from the store on our herb shelves and more from the garden.
Still that curry thing bothered me.
Until recently that is, when I actually read the list of ingredients from the back of the bottle, given in order of amount:
Coriander- A No brainer. How often do gardeners complain their cilantro has bolted? Yep, those little seeds are coriander. We got this one!
Turmeric- Okay, it is getting a little harder. Turmeric is a root that takes almost as long to grow as ginger, specifically about 8 months. It is a perennial in zones 9-11, but like ginger it can be grown indoors in colder zones like we have. You can sometimes find it fresh at Asian or India food supply stores and in some markets. I couldn’t find it locally, but was able to order some from Amazon.com. The price wasn’t too bad, and you can replant some of what you harvest so it is a one time purchase.
Mustard- It doesn’t say on the bottle of store bought curry, but most often it is the mustard seed that is used as a spice. All we need to do is let it bolt and harvest the seed. Now we’re talking!!
Cumin- This relative of parsley is a new herb for our garden this year. It is often confused with the biennial caraway, but cumin is actually an annual plant. It can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked, so here it will be going in the ground this weekend. What you harvest are also the seed heads. We will be posting more on all of these as the season progresses, hopefully with lots of pictures!
Fenugreek- Another new one for us. This should be a fun season! Also easy to grow, prep your seeds first by soaking (we recommend Moo Poo Tea, link above right) or scarify. Soaking is much easier. Fenugreek will be great because both the leaves and seeds are edible.
Paprika- Another easy one. Paprika is simply a dried and powdered pepper from the group Capsicum annuum. These can range from sweet to rather hot. I’ll let him decide which ones he want to use, as we are growing quite a variety of peppers this year.
Cayenne- This seemed a little redundant to me, but I guess they are looking for a cayenne specifically. Yeah, we have that covered as well.
Cardamon- This very expensive herb actually can be grown at home. I have read that you can plant the brown type found in the grocery store, but I don’t know if that is true. Instead I found seeds online; after all, I’ve gone this far I can almost taste victory! It looks like another plant that may need some special attention, but that’s okay by me.
Nutmeg, Cinnamon, and Cloves- What? No! All 3 of these, the least of the ingredients, are derived from trees; and ones that I highly doubt grow in our area. When I looked up a substitute for nutmeg, it said cinnamon. When I did a search on a substitute for cinnamon, I found cloves.
It began to look like I really couldn’t grow curry after all.
Until my husband read this post on varieties of basil.
“There’s a Cinnamon Basil?” he asked. “You should grow that!”
“Why would you want cinnamon basil? I responded, “That sounds like an odd combination to me.”
“No, they are great together. When I use curry powder, I always add some basil. I love the way they taste together.”
So there you have it my friends, never say “You can’t grow that” to a gardener.
Unless, of course, you want them to prove you wrong.
We will post updates on the plants throughout the season. When we make the curry powder, we will add that recipe to our recently revived foodie blog page here.
Of course, we will also add some recipes that feature curry.
We’re betting this will taste much better than the store bought stuff.
is a collaborative effort on the part of a number of gardeners around the world. Each month they write a post specifically to help and encourage everyone to grow something. Find more posts by clicking on the logo above.
Categories: herbs, preparedness, saving money & time, you can grow that
29 March 2014, by gj
What will their grandchildren be?
There is a lot of confusion right now about seeds, and understandably so.
First, know you cannot buy a GE seed, what is commonly referred to as GMO, unless you are a farmer and sign a contract with Monsanto.
Second, a hybrid is not a genetically engineered seed. Hybrids can be crossed simply when a bee flies from one plant to another, from one type of melon to another for example.
This won’t affect your veggies, only the seeds.
So why are so many people vehemently anti-hybrid and pro-heirloom?
Well, for one thing, that sells seeds.
IMHO companies that sell primarily heirloom seeds are capitalizing on the confusion.
So let us set the record straight.
With some exceptions:
1. Heirlooms are more subject to disease.
Often a commercial hybrid seed grower (remember, not GE) will cross plants specifically to develop new ones that are more disease resistant. If your garden is particularly prone to certain diseases, a hybrid may be the better choice for you.
2. Heirlooms tend to suffer more from bug damage.
Similarly, commercial hybrid seed producers try to find varieties of veggies that are less prone to bad bugs, and develop this positive characteristic.
3. Heirloom plants tend to be less tolerant of temperature and weather extremes.
Again there are exceptions, but varieties bred for heat resistance for example, may do better in your yard than mine. As for early production, the hybrid Early Girl and the heirloom Oregon Spring both have done well in our gardens. I admit I preferred the taste of the heirloom, but I got a better production from the hybrid. Every gardener should decide for themselves.
4. Heirloom plants tend to produce less.
Because of the reasons already mentioned, and also since many hybrids are bred to be more productive, this circumstance tends to be true. We planted a hybrid Cashflow Zucchini and have never before seen such production. On the other hand, the heirloom Costata Romanesco, although producing significantly less, tasted far superior.
5. You can save Heirloom seeds, but not Hybrid seeds.
Yes and no on this one. Commercial hybrids do tend to be sterile for the most part, and if you do get a fertile seed, it will revert back to one of its ancestors. We will be looking into that more specifically this coming growing season.
As for saving heirloom seeds, you can’t just grab an eggplant or a pepper and keep the seeds with full expectation your next year’s plant will be the same heirloom.
Why? you may wonder.
Because, unless you know what you are doing, you may very well have produced a hybrid seed in your own garden. Through cross-pollination, whether by bugs or wind, your heirlooms might just have become fruit containing hybrid seeds.
In fact, in most cases they probably are.
Of course this is less likely to happen with beans and peas, and tomatoes will cross but not as easily as pretty much everything else. Corn? Forget about it! So you see, you need to know how & if they cross, and how to prevent it if you want to save heirloom seeds.
So you make the call on what is best for your garden.
They are not GE (GMO) seeds, so forget that for now.
If you want to save seeds, learn how. We will be showing that too, in great detail, this summer.
If you do not care to save seeds, then choose the veggie varieties that grow best in your area.
And most of all, don’t stress it.
Above everything else, gardening should be fun!
Categories: all about seeds
28 March 2014, by gj
If you have been reading here a while, and certainly if you have been growing an edible garden for a few years, you know there are numerous good reasons for people to grow their own food:
1. It tastes better. All of it. Every last veggie tastes better than store bought.
2. You save money. Okay, maybe not at first, but in the long run. Not to mention less Doctor bills, because-
3. It is healthier for you. Fresh produce is higher in nutrients than even organic produce that is older.
4. You are less dependent on others for your food.
5. It is great exercise both physically and mentally.
6. Economic uncertainty.
Now you might be thinking, ‘But GJ, you said ONE reason!’
Of course you are right, and here it is:
Unless you are totally self-sufficient, you are buying something that was grown in California. Maybe it’s nuts, or produce, or an ingredient in something else; but the truth is the vast majority of the food we eat in the US is associated with California farms.
And they are having a horrible year. The extreme drought continues, and here in the northeast we are already seeing the effects.
The price of almonds has skyrocketed, for example; and that is just the beginning.
It gets worse. Even if the drought suddenly lifted, much of this season’s crops are already affected. Not just this season’s either; because so many items end up as ingredients, the prices of other food items will continue to go up even if the drought subsides.
Think about it.
What would you do if suddenly the cost of food tripled?
What if some items you normally enjoy were no longer available?
Now we’re not trying to predict what will happen nor frighten anyone.
For the cost of a few packets of seeds and either some containers or a little part of your yard, you could begin to lay the groundwork, so to speak, for a more secure future food-wise.
Isn’t that one reason alone way more than enough?
Categories: gardening, saving money & time, special posts
25 March 2014, by gj
Ready to harvest anytime.
An easy to grow from seed member of the mint family, catnip does well in pots and prefers sun. It is perennial in Zones 3-9, making it a wonderful plant for many areas. Plant in the spring when the ground has warmed, covering the seeds lightly. Keep moist until they germinate.
Like other mints, it can be invasive; which is why we contain it here in Zone 5/6. It produces attractive grayish green leaves, and if left to bloom, pretty little white flowers. If untrimmed, catnip can grow to 4 ft. high.
Similar to its relatives, it can be distinguished by its squarish stems.
Everyone know cats are attracted to this plant, but you may be surprised to know how much. The first year we planted it, the cat knocked the planter right off the deck.
We then put it inside the garden fence, but not far enough as the cat tended to lie just outside the fence wanting to get in. Poor kitty.
So we moved it to the middle of the garden where she was not as attracted to the plant anymore.
One thing you may not know, is catnip isn’t just for kitty toys.
It actually is quite safe to consume by humans, and is lovely in a quiet cup of tea, perhaps with a little chamomile. Catnip has a similar calming effect, so consider subbing it for your regular mint. You just may be surprised.
Botanical name: Nepeta cataria
Hardiness: Perennial in zones 3-9.
Yield: Cut the leaves and come back for more.
Height: Up to 48″.
Storage: Use fresh or dried. Hang leafy stems upside down in a brown paper bag until dry. Remove leaves and store in an airtight food grade container.
Away from the cat.
Categories: herbs, How to Grow
21 March 2014, by gj
Guest Post by George Brooks Jr.
Contrary to popular hype, we need to broaden our view of pollinators. We are putting almost all our efforts into the Imported European Honeybee demise and not enough emphasis on our native bees. There are upwards of 100 native species of bees. Anyone who has ever been on my Micro Farm comments on how many bees I have, and I do not have any hives.
There is much talk about all the things that are killing bees and how we need to eliminate them. Can’t remember seeing much on how most people in our suburbs are helping to cause the decline of pollinators as much or more than any other factor (my opinion). We have conditioned ourselves to expect our yards to look like a manicured Golf Course. Unfortunately this landscape isn’t capable of supporting much of any life form, it is sterile. Millions upon millions of acres have been turned into these neatly manicured dead zones. The loss of rural areas around population centers has helped accelerate this transition to a monoculture that doesn’t support plant diversity needed to support a healthy pollinator population.
It also causes the decline of many other life forms like birds etc. Our land is full of life, birds, snakes and thousands of pollinators including honeybees. This is with an orchard and large garden on the property. I’m about 75% organic and increasing their use whenever I can. I still use some non organic pesticides and fungicides following Integrated Pest Management & Disease Risk Management practices. These practices help me maintain a healthy environment for life.
But without wild spots in your yard there would be no place for life to exist. If everyone set aside at least one small back corner of their property and let it grow native plants, it would make a difference. I wish everyone could see how alive our land is, there is always something in bloom to support life. Think about it.
Also, will banning the most toxic pesticide group help honeybees? Probably. An even bigger issue is the lack of information and knowledge of the average person. The truth is most anything will kill a bee, synthetic, organic or otherwise can be toxic. The real problem is people do not read the labels other than how much to use. Most every product that is toxic to bees has specific instructions on how to use the product without harming them. Will it prevent all issues? Maybe not but far better than what we are doing now. Education is paramount.
For many years we have practiced the following to promote beneficial wildlife & insects. This is done by providing areas that have a combination of cultivated and native plants. Traditional sterile landscaping provides a monoculture that insect pests thrive in because of the lack of food and cover for wildlife and beneficial insect populations. This creates a higher need for chemical controls.
The practice of Wild Spots is now being promoted on garden shows and in horticulture literature. You can learn more about this practice by doing a web search on “Insectary Gardening for beneficial insects”.
Black Eyed Susan
A few examples of Insectary gardening on our property:
1. Hay Rake Wild Spot:
A combination of cultivated and wild plants.
Cultivated Bi-color Black Eyed Susan’s, Butterfly Weed, Milkweed, Multi Head Black Eyed Susan, Morning Glory, Arrowhead Aster, Porcelain Berry Vine. All promote pollinators and predatory insects like wasps. The Berry Vine also provides migrating birds with one of the last fruits of the season.
2. Garden Hillside Wild Spot
Primarily Jewelweed and Multi-Flora Rose, which provides a nesting area for Catbirds. This also makes a great feeding area for House Wrens, Hummingbirds and beneficial insects including pollinators.
3. Well & Sickle Bar Mower Wild Spot
Primarily Spearmint and Goldenrod. Spearmint is by far the most popular plant for nectar and pollen eating beneficial insects.
Throughout the property we promote Arrowhead Aster, the last major supply of pollen and nectar at the end of the growing season for pollinators and beneficial insects.
Reprinted with permission from:
George Brooks Jr.
Green Hollow Orchard a Micro-Farm in North Tewksbury, MA USA.
All photos also by George Brooks Jr.
Categories: gardening, techniques
16 March 2014, by gj
So pretty at the garden gate.
Grapes are relatively easy to grow, though they do take up quite a bit of room. It is best to let them vine up an arbor or fence, and they do look lovely this way as well.
Two year old cold hardy grape plants.
Choose a variety that will do well in your area, and that you like the taste of. Reliance, pictured here, does well even in cold regions like we have here in the northeast. We also have concord grapes planted and they have been growing well for about 10 years now.
You’ll notice your vines have little cells on their skin, this is completely normal.
When the weather has warmed dig a hole slightly deeper than the plant’s container and wide enough to spread the roots. We fill the hole with water until it stops draining.
Spread the roots out and refill the hole with soil. Grapes aren’t terribly picky about soil type, but they do enjoy lots of sun. Pat the soil down and you’re good to go.
The grape harvest is suffering.
You can just stop here, and harvest what you get each year. That is what we did, until we noticed the berries were getting smaller. A little research was done, and we learned that if you want to get more fruit, and larger berries, a little pruning goes a long way.
How you prune depends on how old your vine is, at least for the first few years. It also varies some depending on how much room you have to grow; you’ll have more if you are growing up an arbor, less on a fence, and even less on a stake.
Come spring, we will make a video showing what we are doing. For now, this article describes the correct way to train and prune a grape vine.
There are two things we learned the hard way:
1. Deer love tender grapevines.
2. Grape vines can be hard to get rid of, choose the spot wisely.
Categories: grapes, Uncategorized
14 March 2014, by gj
Cleaning out the freezer and math happened to collide in our kitchen, so we thought we would share the results.
This peach pie recipe is a take-off on one that was quite popular at our restaurant, and that was a take off on one from The Frog Commissary Cookbook, one of our favorites.
Not that their recipe needed to be changed, it was more a matter of what was on hand in the house.
If you are using frozen peaches, be sure they are thawed and well drained.
Peach Streusel Pie
Line a pie tin with one crust, flute.
We prefer to leave the skins on our peaches, so we cut them into chunks. We put 5 cups into the pie tin, set aside.
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 Tbl. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. coriander
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. dried lemon zest
In separate bowl, combine:
1/2 cup warm water
3 Tbl. milled flax seed
Let soak for a minute, then add:
1 cup kefir or plain yogurt
1 1/2 Tbl. whiskey
1/4 tsp. vanilla
Combine the wet with the dry, and pour over the fruit.
Bake in a moderate oven, 350F, for 15-20 minutes to get the filling to set up a bit.
In the meantime, we make a streusel topping by combining pie dough equivalent to about 1/2 crust with 1 tsp. cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar. Work it together with your hand or a fork until crumbly. you can speed things up by chopping with a knife after you have them mixed together.
Add 1 cup chopped walnuts.
When the pie is par-baked, carefully remove it from the oven and add the topping. Turn the heat down a bit, and continue baking until done, about 15-20 minutes.
Let it cool before slicing.