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


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


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


How to Make Cornmeal

how to make corn meal

Cornmeal is simply ground corn kernels.
If you would like to have the independence to make cornmeal yourself, here is all you need to do:

1. Choose seeds.
Any seeds will work, but it is better to pick a variety recommended for cornmeal. Most seed companies will put that info in the seed description.

2. Follow these directions for drying the seeds. Be sure they are thoroughly dry.

3. Grind. We use a Hamilton Beach Coffee Grinder (link below) on the Expresso setting to get a nice fine meal. If needed, it can be run through twice.
For very large batches there are many choices of grinders, including attachments that hook up to your mixer.

That’s all there is to it. One ear produces about 1 cup.

Homegrown cornmeal, without all the pesticides and no GMO.
The flavor?
As different as homegrown fresh corn from store-bought.

Here’s the grinder we use:

Categories: drying-roasting, How to Store


6 Things to Know About Saving Seeds

how to save seeds

Saving seeds is a great way to have some food independence.
There are a few things to keep in mind to make you more successful:

1. Which seeds to save.

Every gardener wants next season’s harvest to be as good or better, so save the best seeds. This means the healthiest squash, the biggest or best tasting tomato, and the corn that grew more and plumper ears.

2. What your seeds might be.

Natural cross pollination can easily take place in the garden. The veggies that are the most susceptible are squashes, cucumbers, melons, peppers, corn and tomatoes; probably in that order.
Not only can sweet peppers cross with each other, they can also cross with hot peppers, making the seeds you harvest questionable. Other than that a naturally made hybrid is not necessarily a bad thing, and can even be fun to grow.

3. How to get the less obvious seeds.

Everyone that has ever thought about it knows not all veggies have seeds inside, take carrots for example.
So how do you get those?
Root veggies need to be allowed to go to seed. Some, like radishes, will do this during the growing season. Others, like carrots and parsnips will need a full year to bloom and produce seeds.
Leafy veggies and herbs only need to bolt, and then produce seed you can gather.

4. How to save the seeds.

Some veggies, like peppers, are easy; just let the seeds dry on a plate then store. Corn for seed isn’t harvested until it dries on the stalk. This process is recommended for both tomatoes and cucumbers. Once you get the information you need, it becomes second nature.

5. How to store your seeds.

Be sure your seeds are fully dry first. Many gardeners recommend a simple envelope for storing. This allows for air circulation and can be labeled with the contents. Some gardeners save empty seed packets for the purpose.
We have also seen advice that suggests envelopes be placed in a food grade glass container, and a silica gel packet added. The container prevents any critters from getting at your seeds, while the gel packet insures no undetected moisture can cause an issue.

6. How to know you were successful.

Of course you don’t want to wait until you have planted your saved seeds to find out whether or not they will sprout. Just to be safe it is a good idea to test for germination ahead of time.
Take a few of the seeds, 10 if you have a lot, and place them between two paper towels. Moisten the towels, and keep them moist. Wait to see if the seeds sprout. If they all do, you have a wonderful germination rate and you are good to go.
If some do, but not all, plant a little heavier.
If none sprout, give it a little more time. You may want to have a back up though, to play it safe.

So that’s it folks, pretty easy and fun to do.
We’re off now to knock a few more corn seeds off the cob and be ready for next year.

Happy gardening!

Categories: all about seeds, How to Grow

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4 Reasons to Use a Garden Sink

garden sink

An adjustable nozzle and 2 attached drainboards.

My husband purchased a garden sink as a birthday gift, he’s so sweet. He found it at Tractor Supply, and I just love it.

Here’s why:

1. It saves time.

Instead of harvesting veggies and bringing them into the kitchen, they get a quick cleaning first. Now there is no longer a dirty kitchen sink to deal with, and less time spent chasing those freeloading bugs you sometimes find.

This particular sinks made by Vertex has 2 drainboards, so some trimming can also be done, and cuttings deposited in the composter that is right next to the sink.

2. It saves water.

It hooks directly to a garden hose. It also has a drain that goes into a bucket as shown, allowing for the water to be reclaimed back into the garden.

If you pay for your water use, this can also save money.

garden sink

It even has a little shelf for a bar of soap. Aww.

3. It saves good garden soil.

No longer is soil washed into the septic tank, but along with the water it can be added back into the garden. Even cleaning the sink itself brings some more soil back.

Okay, it’s a little thing. But it’s a good little thing.

garden sink

2 drainboards fold over to keep the sink free of fallen leaves.

4. It’s a toy.

Admit it. Chances are you like gardening toys.
With most hobbies, the ‘tools’ are part of the fun.

Just a note: You can find this sink and similar ones on Amazon, but you can also DIY a set-up of your own.

Categories: gardening people, places & things, tools and toys


How to Grow Aronia for Both Health & Landscape Appeal

aronia berries

Tiny powerhouses for health.

A beautiful and nutritious perennial border?
Yep, you can grow that!

There are a number of varieties of chokecherry, AKA Aronia; we chose the black ‘melanocarpa’ because it has higher levels of anthocyanins, the substance that both produces the dark color and brings up the level of health benefits. These berries are reputed to have the highest antioxidant levels of any fruit.

The specs on it are below, but basically it is a fairly cold hardy plant that will make a border that is both beautiful in the spring with its pretty white flowers, and then healthy later in the season, with bright green leaves that turn color in the fall.

aronia plant

A little bitten, but none the worse.

This is the first year for our plant, and we did get a few of the deep purple colored berries shown above. They were on the tart side, which is why they are often processed into syrups, jams, and such.

It did get a wee bit of some of the smaller leaf eaters’ attentions, but nothing that caused much damage.

We’ll watch it come spring to make sure things don’t get out of hand. This is certainly something the bunnies would love, and we’ll keep an eye out for that as well.

Botanical name: Aronia melanocarpa
Hardiness: Zones 3-8
Size: Up to 5 ft high by 8 ft wide.
Planting: Enjoys full sun but also does well with larger trees.
Harvest: When the berries turn blackish-purple, usually towards the fall.
Storage: Can be frozen; best processed into a more palatable product. We’ve heard they are good added to chili. Hmmm.

you can grow that

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Categories: How to Grow, less common berries


How to Grow Turmeric – Update

turmeric plant

Getting bigger.

It has been 3 months since the last post about growing turmeric, and we must say the plant enjoyed the outdoor weather this past summer.

It already has grown to be about 2 ft. tall, close to the final height of 3 ft.
When you water it or get close enough, it has a very slight smell of turmeric. Mmmm.

Here’s a close up of the leaves:

turmeric leaves

Once trimmed, it will be quite lovely.

They did get some brown on the edges, which I wanted to show before I trim them off in case you are trying this as well.

Since we are going to be brewing up a batch of Moo Poo Tea for the garlic we will be planting soon, we are also going to give some to the turmeric and other plants we brought indoors.

It helps a lot with root development, and we think it will make the outside-to-inside transfer easier on the plants.

We expect to harvest fresh turmeric some time late winter or very early spring. It will be exciting to see how much better homegrown tastes.

We were shocked when we did this with the ginger!

Although we really shouldn’t have been surprised, is there anything that doesn’t taste better when you grow it yourself?

There will be more recipes coming, for now here’s what we have using turmeric.

Categories: ginger, turmeric, How to Grow


(Please Don’t) Eat (This) Tomato

Pompeii tomato

It is estimated that men hear as little as two words for every five a woman speaks.

Some women might suggest it is actually less than that.

And I know some men who might say “What? Did you say something?”

So it really came as no surprise last week when this scenario took place:

Mandolin: “That’s a nice looking tomato in that basket.”
Me: “Yes, it is the best of that variety that I grew. Please don’t eat it.”

Mandolin: “Don’t eat it? But it’s the best looking tomato in the basket.”
Me: “Yeah I know, I want to save the seeds from it. It was probably a twin tomato, but since it was the best one, I want the seeds. So, please don’t eat it. You can have any of the other tomatoes, just not this one.”

Mandolin: “Really? But that is such a nice looking tomato.”
Me: “Yes, it is. Here, I’ll move it to the side so you don’t forget.”

So the next day, when I came home from work, the tomato was gone. I knew what had happened.

When he returned from work I asked “Did you have a tomato today?”

“Yes,” he said, “that really nice looking one from the basket.”
“Was it good?” I asked.
“Oh yeah, that was a really good tomato.”

When I reminded him that it was the one I wanted the seeds from, he apologized.
Then jokingly added “But you kept saying ‘Eat tomato. Eat tomato.’”

Smart alack!

After almost 40 years together, I should have known better.
Say less, leave notes.

Categories: Addiction, confessions


The Best Way to Freeze Corn on the Cob?

Freezing corn on the cob.

Most people that freeze corn do it off the cob. It takes up so much less space that way.
But eating corn on the cob is fun, the kind of fun that reminds you of being a kid.

So when we bought the 100+ ears from our local farmer last summer, we decided to do both, as well as can corn and corn relish.

Most people that freeze corn on the cob will tell you to blanch it first, but many of our gardening friends said they have been freezing it right in the husk. Since we had found this video on microwaving corn, we were sold. This is the way we will eat if fresh.

So what about freezing?
Let’s find out. ;-)
We did a few husked and blanched and left a few in the husk; and last weekend did a taste test.

If Mandolin could not discern a difference, I doubt most people could. I know I sure couldn’t!

Except one thing:

Both the prep and the cooking were easier in the husk.

In both cases we did not defrost first, but my FB friends agreed that was correct. Another time saver, too!

“No need for any more taste tests…” Mandolin said, “But I think I’ll do another one anyway.”

Categories: freezing, How to Store


Everything here is original (unless otherwise noted) and has legal copyright 2014 by Gardening Jones (tm), and cannot be re-posted or reproduced without permission. Any re-posting of information, photographs, and/or recipes is considered theft and subject to prosecution.

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