12 Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs to Grow Indoors

growing food indoors

And so it begins

When it comes to larger financial decisions, my husband and I hold off unless we both agree. Usually, when one person doesn’t want to spend the money, the other one finds creative ways to talk him into it. ;-)

And so it was with an unheated room that would be a great place to not only start seedlings, but also to grow food through the winter.

“You would have to make it worth it,” he said, not really wanting an increase in a utility bill.

To a gardening addict, just the activity itself is worth it.

“Like how?” I asked.
“Well, if you grew tomato plants and sold them, that would be good.”

Hmmm, that was part of the plan but that would be months away yet.
“How about having fresh tomatoes and herbs all year?” I suggested, appealing to the cook in him.

“And hot peppers?” he asked.

Let the growing commence.

Here are some of the best veggies to grow indoors:
1. Carrots- small round types such as Parisienne.
2. Tomatoes- romas, Tiny Tom or patio
3. Parsley
4. Basil
5. Hot peppers
6. Scallions
7. Garlic chives
8. Meyer lemons
9. Snow peas
10. Beans
11. Watermelon- small types such as sugar baby
12. Fruit trees on dwarf tree stock

Note there are a number of fruiting trees that are available grafted to dwarf root tree stock, far too many to list.

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Categories: container gardening, extending the season, garden projects, The Experiments

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How to Over-Winter Gnomes

large gnome

Winter’s ill effects.

Not all gnomes are cold hardy, in fact some do not handle the outdoors well at all. Unfortunately they are not labeled and won’t tell you themselves. As of yet nobody has compiled a classification table for them, but we’re working on it.

So all a gardener can do for now is to use your best judgement.
Here are a few tips we’ve learned that may help:

1. If your gnome is a one of a kind or an unusual breed, and not from a family of metals, consider it to not be weather hardy unless you are told otherwise. These, the most unique of gnomes, are likely descendents from the family line of Plaster of Paris. The gentleman pictured above is a good example. These gnomes require the utmost care and should be afforded the best accommodations.

2. If your gnome originates in the orient, it may have the wherewithal to handle the harsh weather, but will likely not last more than one winter without showing the dire effects. These folk are usually happy to be hoarded into any enclosure, and left to their own devices until spring.

gnomes in the home

Happy in hiding.

3. Smaller gnomes often prefer to associate themselves with a land feature, and are unlikely to handle the weather well. This is not only true for winter, as many of these gnomes are very outdoor-sensitive. Unless you can offer them protection such as a covered porch, it is best to keep them inside all year.

4. Some gnomes can handle decades of being outdoors 24/7. It has been our experience that these types are usually from a family of Ceramics. They can be distinguished by accessories in bright acrylics, and often will have distinguishing marks in the form of initials on their bottom-most feature.

5. And finally, if your gnome is wearing anything other than a red hat, consider it suspicious. Red is the traditional color, any other implies a rebellious nature. These fellows are best placed year round in such a way that they cannot go anywhere unseen. Do not trust them too close to other gnomes, as they may try to convert them.

rebellious gnomes

Are they plotting?

In summary, you can tell a lot by just looking at a gnome. Most cannot handle winter weather, and are best brought indoors. Some cannot handle wet weather at all, and others well… just don’t turn your back on them.

Naming gnomes and some gnome links.
Gnomes on Pinterest.

Categories: fairy and miniature gardens

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5 Types of Season Extenders

season extenders

The only snow that got in was when I lifted the cover.

There are a number of ways you can get more growing time for your garden. Which you choose will depend on your budget, the size of your garden, and the extent to which you want to grow in the cold weather.

Here are a few to consider:

1. Cold Frames
Not only good for starting seedlings, cold frames can also house veggies and keep them protected enough to go farther into the winter. They are basically boxes, higher on one side that the opposite side, with glass or plastic hinged tops. The clear panels let light into to warm up the interior. Tops can be kept ajar when the day temperatures are still warm. Cold frames can get buried in snow; but if it isn’t too deep, it can actually help insulate the boxes.

2. Low tunnels
These can be made by bending PVC pipe or heavy wire into an inverted U-shape. This is then covered in plastic, again protecting the plants while letting the light through. To ventilate, the plastic must be pulled back and clipped.
Low tunnels are by design used only for shorter types of plants.
In large gardens, using portable low tunnels can help you protect different areas each year. This helps when you are rotating crops.

3. The Jones’ Garden System
Our favorite of course, the system acts similar to both a cold frame and low & high tunnels, allowing you to start seedlings as well as protect all sizes of plants in place.
It also grows more food in less space than a high tunnel, and is easier on the back than a cold frame. You can go farther into the cold with the help of heat tape.

The design makes it user friendly and we think the best solution for smaller gardens. To ventilate, simply move the top frame to the side.

4 & 5. High Tunnels and Greenhouses
Similar in that you can walk into them, these season extenders can help protect taller plants. They don’t hold the heat overnight as well as you might think, but do warm up fast during the day. They both do have the advantage that they can house a heating unit, and that you can be out of the cold weather while gardening.

High tunnels are usually ventilated by opening the door flaps. Greenhouse have ventilating panels as part of the design.

Read here about a high tunnel in Holland.

Do you use season extenders to get more from your garden?

Categories: extending the season, gardening, Keeping up with the Joneses

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Gardening for Babies and Kids

growing what kids like

If you have little ones in your life, and you are a gardener, then you are doubly blessed.
Choosing what to plant for healthy baby food and for older kids should center on two main things:

1. What produce has the most pesticides in it, and
2. What do kids like?

The first one is easy. The Environmental Working Group is the wonderful non-profit that has compiled this information.

Fruits are some of the worst things to give a baby, unless they are grown organically. If you cannot have room for a few dwarf sized trees, try to buy organic versions of apples, peaches and nectarines. Strawberries are also highly hit with pesticides, but are very easy to grow and preserve. Likewise, grapes.

On the vegetable side celery, cucumbers, summer squash and sweet bell peppers are more items with the worst levels of pesticides. All are easy enough to grow.

When it is time to introduce baby to greens, again it is better if they are homegrown or at least organic. Kale can be grown almost year round even here in Zone 5/6.

What little one doesn’t like mashed potatoes? Guess what, they are not only hit with pesticides on the root ends, but then herbicides are applied on the tops before harvesting. They are so simple to grow, really, and easy to store.

So now your garden is keeping baby’s diet cleaner, what will little ones also like to eat? Probably not broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts or cauliflower, though there are exceptions. We used to marinate fresh cauliflower in oil and vinegar with Italian seasonings when our kids were younger and they loved it.

Carrots are sure to be a favorite, and homegrown ones are so sweet they are like candy. Green beans are generally bland, so kids go for them. Choose a stringless variety to make things easier.

Every garden should sport at least one tomato plant. For taste, we recommend sungold cherry tomatoes, for older kids.

Still got room for more? Butternut and acorn squash are so healthy, and generally well received by little ones.

Check out the baby food aisle at your local market for ideas on veggie combos to blend for smaller kids, and to combine for older ones. Adding some pears and strawberries to shredded fresh spinach may just be the ticket to get older kids to eat their greens.

Categories: grandkids and kids, you are what you eat

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How to Dehydrate Vegetables

how to dehydrate veggies

Like us, vegetables are mostly water; some as much as 95%.
Removing that water dehydrating preserves food because bacteria can’t develop without the moisture.
You can dehydrate in an oven on its lowest setting or use a dehydrator which is designed to keep the temperature even and also provide air flow which helps to absorb the moisture.

Some veggies need to be blanched first. For this you dip in boiling water for the recommended time. See list to follow.

Dehydrating can take as little as a few hours for something like celery leaves or as long as 10-12 hours. The veggie, it’s size, and the humidity will affect the time it takes. With practice you will get used to the different times.

You want your veggies to be totally dry, even brittle.

Dehydrated veggies have the advantages of being able to be stored on a shelf, and they take up much less room. They also retain more of their nutritional value and can be held longer than canned or frozen vegetables.

Rehydrate by soaking in water, adding boiling water, or just toss in any soup or casserole that will simmer.
You can also grind dehydrated veggies into a powder, as we did with our garlic.

Vegetables that need to be blanched and the times:
Asparagus- 3 to 4 minutes
Beans- 4 to 6 minutes
Carrots- 3 to 4 minutes
Peas- 3 minutes
Sweet Potatoes- 3 to 4 minutes
Potatoes- 5 to 6 minutes
Rutabagas, Turnips- 3 to 5 minutes

Corn is a little weird and I never tried it. Other veggies like squashes, tomatoes, etc. you can just go ahead and dehydrate them. Tomatoes make a real mess and are much better roasted IMHO.

Pumpkin is great for Pumpkin Flour.

There are so many ways to use dehydrated veggies. We will be sharing more on the recipe blog.

More About Celery
PS: Whether you grow your own or not, you can save money by dehydrating veggies that are on sale and are otherwise hard to store, like celery and mushrooms.

Categories: drying-roasting, How to Store

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Forever Food – You Can Grow That!

reseeding parsnip

When most people think of perennial edible plants, they probably think of apple trees and berry bushes, and that’s a great start. Fruit trees will bear for decades, berry bushes and canes give out new growth each year, grapes new vines, and even strawberries reproduce themselves providing younger, more vigorous plants.

But you don’t have to stop there if you want a lifetime of food. Plants such as asparagus and perennial onions never seem to stop coming back, and in fact, produce more. One horseradish root can provide you with more than you probably want. Be careful with these, they can be very invasive! Likewise, sunchokes aka Jerusalem artichokes. Although also invasive these have a bonus feature of producing lovely flowers that smell like chocolate.
Can you imagine?

Many herbs like sage, chives and thyme are perennial, others such as all the mint family including the balms and oregano, as well as dill, will reseed themselves. Our oregano bed is a good 10 years old and still going strong. The joke in this area is ‘Don’t trip carrying a pack of oregano seeds.’ Yep, it is that easy to grow, and that willing to spread.

Then there are the plants that give you something to put back, most in the form of seeds. The easiest example of this would be dry beans. With little effort on your part, you can purchase seeds once and never need to buy more. Forever.

You can save the seeds from many other edibles, just watch for cross pollination. Even then, a surprise once in a while is fun.

And it doesn’t stop there. You can replant some of the potatoes you harvest the following spring. Just be sure to start with a variety that holds well, and use the best of what you grew. Garlic is the same way, except that it gets planted just a few months after harvesting.

Let a few of your sweet potatoes start growing vines or ‘slips’ and you’ll be ready to grow another crop.

There are 3 ways new to us that we are trying this year to grow forever food. The first was to bring in a sweet pepper and an eggplant to see if we can keep them alive until spring and then bring back outside to start producing again.

The second is the parsnip experiment, shown above. We let a few roots go to seed, and the bed is now full of free plants. If they can get big enough to survive the winter, that’s one less thing we’ll need to plant.
If not, well we have a jar full of seeds.

The last was an accident. When harvesting some basil, we found a number of smaller plants that still had their roots on when pulled. They are now happily growing in a jar of water by the window, with no signs of giving up.

So what it comes down to is there is very little we need to buy to have a great harvest each year.

Of course, we still do. We just love trying new varieties.

you can grow that

You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage others to grow something. Click on the logo above to read many more such posts.
Garden on!

Categories: gardening, perennials, you can grow that

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Gardening and the Internet

Another spaghetti squash and even more beans.

It was easier to learn to grow food in the days before there was so much information available at your fingertips.

You could read a book or magazine, or ask a neighbor. The backs of seed packets and seed catalogs held the information that was easiest to access.

Now all you have to do is type a word and a world of information, both correct and not, is right there for you to sort through. And it can be mind boggling.

There is so much information that a lot of people have turned to social media for help. Again, there is good information and there is bad, though well-intended.

Did you see the one about how to tell the male sweet peppers from the female? Seriously.

So what’s a gardener to do?

First, find a source you can trust. Since you are here, we hope you consider us one. We turn to Mother Earth News and a few e-quaintances we have been reading for a while. We also read the .edu sites, though we know their info is primarily for farmers.

Personally, we avoid E-How, About.com and Yahoo Answers.
These venues allow anyone to submit, right or wrong. Sure there is some great info there, but we have also seen completely wrong information on all 3 sites.

If you can, ask a neighbor. The local farmers’ market can be a great source of information, and it is local practices that were successful in your area.

Above all, learn by doing. Have fun, experiment, keep it simple or complicated based on which you enjoy the most.

Don’t be afraid, don’t hold off planting something just because you might make a mistake.

Well, unless it is horseradish. ;-)
Garden on!

Categories: Addiction, jonesen'

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Winterizing the Garden

It’s spring in Australia, and just cool enough now that our southern neighbors are starting their fall gardens.

Areas north have already received snow.

Here in Northeastern Pa. it’s time to put most of the garden to bed for the winter.

winterizing the garden

cardboard keeps the weeds away

There are a number of ways you can do this, this is what’s happening here.

Towards the end of the summer, we place cardboard over harvested beds to keep out any weed seeds until the frost kills them off.
If we plan on tilling a bed, which is rare, we leave the cardboard on through the winter to also keep out the spring weeds, and till in the soil amendments when the weather gets warm again.

winterizing the garden

summer's mulch and fall leaves add organic matter naturally

Between the falling autumn leaves and the straw that was used as mulch, some beds have a head start on winter. For the ones that won’t be tilled, we begin with nature.

winterizing the garden

so that's where my knife went

We add more rough compost to the beds. It will break down further over time, and can just be worked into the soil if needed before planting.

winterizing the garden

spread rough compost on top of your soil

To top this off we add a nice layer of leaves. These will also break down over time.
Just remember that some of your furry friends may decide to make a home underneath.

winterizing the garden

leaves act as mulch

You wouldn’t want to find a little bunny’s nest there…

winterizing the garden

...or something worse.

Categories: faq's, gardening, techniques

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6 Tips to Growing Better Garlic

growing better garlic

The following information was learned from farmers who have been growing garlic for a living, and from years of hands-on experience:

1. Choose a permanent location.

Although many gardeners might disagree, garlic actually prefers to be grown in the same spot. An obvious example of this is in its relatives chives and perennial onions.
My Uncle was well known in his neighborhood for his garlic and every year he replanted in the same bed.
The exception would be in the rare case that your garlic gets hit with rust or white rot; otherwise, give it a forever home.

2. Replenish the soil.

Some good compost and manure goes a long way. It also helps garlic, like onions, to add bonemeal to the soil. We work some in between rows rather than right where the garlic is planted.

In most cases, that’s all you need.

3. Choose the type(s) you like, then adapt to your area.

When you save the best cloves from the garlic you have grown to replant, you are helping them learn to live under your area’s weather conditions.
If you can purchase starters that were grown in your region, you are ahead of the game.

This way your garlic will thrive and get better over time.
Yeah, that’s how you get a reputation for growing garlic.

4. Plant at the right time.

We were always told to plant Columbus Day weekend for our area Zone 5/6 Northeast Pa.
That’s was until a local farmer said that isn’t quite right.

“Plant when the soil just starts to get that first frozen crust on top. That’s when you know it is the right time of year, not by the calender.”

Makes sense, right?
Some years, that might be late October or even November.

5. Give them some compost tea.

Of course we prefer Moo Poo Tea that comes from grass fed cows. Brew up a batch and soak the cloves in it overnight. This will help a lot with their root development, the most important first step they take.
Likewise, give them another dose when the long winter is over.

6. Mulch well.

This is more for colder regions like us and farther North. A good layer of mulch helps prevent the ground from heaving so much as the temperatures change over the fall, winter and then the thaw.
This makes life a little easier on your garlic babies.

And here’s a bonus tip we haven’t personally tried:

Towards the end of the growing season, summer for us, bend back the tops of the garlic.
Many gardeners tell us this forces the garlic to put its effort into the bulb, and not into producing scapes or flowers.
We’ll be trying this one out for ourselves come August.

More on garlic growing. Use the link, then scroll down.

Categories: garlic, How to Grow

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Cold Storing Carrots

storing fresh carrots

Carrots are such a wonderful crop to grow in part because there are so many ways to store them.
They can be blanched and dehydrated or frozen, left in the ground up until it freezes, held in the refrigerator for a few weeks, or kept in cold storage well into the winter.

Simply trim the tops to 2″ and brush off any dirt; don’t wash them though.
Lay the carrots on a bed of sand, cover with more sand, and continue until the tub is full.

Place in a cool area and mist the sand with water every now and then.

We used a plastic dish basin. My friend Beth told me her Dad used to use a kiddie pool.

And doesn’t re-purposing make it all the better.

More on storing carrots.

Categories: cold holding, How to Store

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