How to Grow
8 July 2014, by gj
This is one of the fun gardening experiments of the year, and is mostly inspired by the sheer determination to be able to grow curry.
Turmeric is a relative of ginger, and does grow pretty much the same way.
In our case it differed in that it took almost 6 weeks to sprout.
We planted some the end of April, some a few inches under the potting soil, and a few others close to the soil level; which we have learned ginger prefers.
It wasn’t until early June that any life-signs were seen.
To be honest we had all but given up on it, so perhaps the less frequent watering challenged it to grow.
Or perhaps, because turmeric actually likes water, the rhizomes we purchased were not very fresh.
From what we can see it is the more shallow-planted rhizomes that have sprouted. You can find these fresh at stores that cater to populations from India and Asian countries.
We found ours on Amazon.
If you have never used turmeric, it is was gives curried dishes, mustard and stir fried rice their yellow tint.
It is also considered to be very healthy for you.
One month later.
It takes about 8 months to grow, a little less than ginger.
So here in the northeast it is outside in the sun now, but will come back indoors when the weather starts to cool.
Like its cousin, we expect it will be a pretty houseplant.
That is until we dump it for the ‘gold’ that lies below the soil.
Botanical name: Curcuma longa
Hardiness: Prefers temperatures between 70F and 90F
Height: About 3 ft.
Days to Maturity: 8 months, give or take.
Uses: Culinary, medicinal and as a dye.
Storage: Store fresh for quite a while, dehydrate and then grind into a powder as needed. Like ginger, it could probably be pickled. Follow the link to Ginger above for the recipe.
Categories: ginger, turmeric, The Experiments
29 June 2014, by gj
Looks innocent enough.
A relative of tomatoes and even more closely to husk cherries, tomatillos are easy enough to grow. Some gardeners have expressed difficulties with pollination, so here are 2 things it helps to know:
1. Although they have both male and female parts on the same flower, they do not self-pollinate well. Which means:
2. Just because you get a husk, it doesn’t mean you’ll get a fruit.
For tomatillos it is best to start the seeds indoors about 4 weeks before the last expected frost, and transplant to the garden about 2 weeks after the last spring frost.
You will need to plant at least 2 because of the pollination issue, and let them intermingle well.
If you live in a hot region, natural pollination will be more difficult.
So if you find you are getting nothing but husks, or if you want to insure fruit, you would be better to hand pollinate some by using a small paintbrush to move pollen from one plant to another.
2 plants 6 weeks after transplanting
If you are still not getting fruit, trying picking a flower from one plant and gently rubbing it inside the flower of another.
Using these methods, we are just now starting to get husks that have a small fruit inside, so we will probably back off for a while to see if they will produce on their own.
See the shape of the little fruit?
As we understand it, tomatillos can be quite prolific as long as that pollen gets moved.
Botanical Name: Physalis ixocarpa
Spacing: 3 ft.
Hardiness: Almost everywhere there is sufficient time.
Days to maturity: About 2 months after transplanting.
Harvest: When the husks break open.
Yield: With good pollination, 2 plants will give enough to enjoy fresh and preserve or share.
Storage: 4 weeks fresh in the fridge, or can. Especially good as Salsa Verde.
28 June 2014, by gj
Yellow and Green Snow Peas
Here in northern USA we consider ourselves lucky that we have two pea growing seasons, plenty of time to plant both in early spring and again in late summer.
Which kind of pea(s) any gardener plants is a matter of preference, but the different types are often confused with one another:
1. Snow Peas
Known for their curved appearance, snow peas are best harvested when they are young. You cannot pick a snow pea too small, if you can see it you can eat it pod and all; and right off the vine, for that matter.
Most snow peas suffer in their texture if they become over ripe. They make for better eating, less ‘woody’ as my husband says, when picked small before the seeds inside begin to develop.
2. Snap or Sugar Snap Peas
Snap peas are similar in appearance to snow peas when they are young and are often confused for snow peas. In this case you want to actually let the pea seeds inside develop before you harvest. ‘Snap’ the top part of the pod, and pull any string off that comes out in the process.
Again you can enjoy pod and all.
3. Shell Peas
Also referred to simply as Garden Peas, this is your basic green pea. The pods are harvested after they get quite plump, are opened and the seeds inside is what is enjoyed fresh or steamed. The pods of shell peas are usually more elongated and have less of a curve to them.
Here in the Jones’ garden you will find a few different colors of snow peas in the spring, and a wee bit of snap and shell peas.
By fall we are pretty much fresh pea’d out, so only will grow and harvest shell peas for preserving.
How to grow peas.
A few varieties we enjoy.
3 June 2014, by gj
Perfect little harvest.
Newer to many home gardens than its brassica relatives, broccoli raab is gaining favor rapidly.
And for good reason.
Like cauliflower, cabbage and of course broccoli, you can start the seeds indoors to be ready to transplant about a month before the last spring frosts.
Similarly, it prefers cool weather and is perfect for that spot in the garden that gets a wee bit more shade than the rest.
See the numerous side shoots?
It has a few advantages over the others, especially broccoli which has always been difficult for us to time just right.
Actually, that is one of the pros of broccoli raab; the timing doesn’t matter much.
You see, you can eat the mini heads even if they have started to flower. Just harvest the heads as they begin to mature.
Or, you can pick the entire plant when the heads first appear, and enjoy stem, leaves, shoots and all.
Small heads beginning to flower.
It is also a heck of a lot faster from seed to table.
We planted our transplants out at the end of April, and they were ready to harvest in just 4 weeks.
Seriously, the other transplants were just coming out of transplant shock.
We found the flavor to be much milder than broccoli, so it is a good intro veggie for young ones and those who do not favor broccoli.
Whether you have had issues growing broccoli, have a short season, a small garden or are in a hurry to get some good eating, give broccoli raab a try.
You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort on the part of garden writers around the world, to simply help others learn to grow. For more fun reads, click on the logo above.
Botanical name: Brassica rapa
Common names: broccoli raab, rabe, broccoletti
Hardiness: Prefers the cool. Transplant out early or direct seed well into spring and again in the fall. May over winter in some areas.
Days to maturity: From transplants 4 weeks, direct seed 6 weeks.
Height: About 24″
Seed source: Open pollinated.
Use: Culinary. Use the leaves, stems and heads as you would beet or turnip tops; raw in salads or cooked.
Categories: broccoli raab, you can grow that
24 May 2014, by gj
Every gardener knows at least one way to support the most anticipated crop of the season.
Many have their favorite way.
Here’s a few options you may have heard of, and one I bet you didn’t:
Staked in a planter.
Likely the first way anyone supports a tomato, stakes are easy to do and relatively inexpensive.
Points to Remember: Always put your stake in the ground or pot at the same time you plant the tomato, so as not to break any roots. Also, tie your plant to the stake loosely, or with a stretchy material, such as string or old pantyhose; never use wire.
Drawbacks: The main negative aspect to this method is having to go back and add ties. With just a few tomatoes, this is no big deal; but as I grow older and my garden bigger, this became a problem.
Upside down cage.
Tomato cages, in their many forms, are a wonderful way to support your tomatoes.
Because our soil is very rocky, and in raised beds, we turn our cages upside down and support the plants that way.
A little fushia in the garden.
For most plants, they work wonderfully well, and can add a bit of pizazz to your garden at a relatively low cost.
I'm a sucker for color
Points to Remember: If you grow rocks as well as you grow veggies, like us, tomato cages are impractical unless you place them upside down around your plants. Also, most containers used for growing are not deep enough, inverted cages do well here though.
Drawbacks: As I mentioned, these particular cages set up to 24″ deep in the ground, that does not work for all gardens. There are other designs, though, check into those. I also found these did not stand up well in a high wind storm. Don’t ask.
3. The Weave
What have we here?
This is a wonderful way to support your plants that I fully admit I am trying for the first time.
Simply put a stake at either end of a reasonably sized row of tomatoes, then run a string stake-to-stake, in and out of the plants.
The next string up runs alternately, thus supporting the plants from both sides.
Points to Remember: Although I’m new to this, I’ve already learned to keep after it. I would suggest two opposite rows every time the plants get about 4-6 inches taller.
Drawbacks: Still some bending, but a lot less than some of the other methods. Pruning is highly recommended.
4. String ‘Em Up
This idea came into my life through Eliot Coleman’s wonderful Book Four Season Harvest (see the link to the right). I’ve since seen many adaptations.
The idea is simple, tie a string to the bottom of the plant, some gardeners tie the string to a stake and push that into the soil. Secure to a structure above.
As the plant grows, loosely twirl the string around the plant, giving it support.
A more structured life.
I like this because there is far less bending. If your support is well built, there is also less chance of problems with heavy wind.
Usually we plant basil in the middle of the tomato patch, this year it’s filled with beans instead; which led to support method #5.
Beans and maters.
5. Let nature help.
I swear I thought the beans I planted were all bush types.
And nature's way.
Isn’t it great- the bean vine is holding the tomato plant to the string support.
No bending, no tying- about as simple as things can get.
I love this so much that next year I intend to try it with all my tomatoes.
Points to remember: No matter how much you think you know, nature can still out-grow you.
Drawbacks: Other than an ego slap-down, I can’t think of one.
Categories: faq's, How to Grow, tomatoes
20 May 2014, by gj
A wee bit of crossing.
Corn silks get pollen on them that is carried by the wind from the tassels of corn in the area. It may be from the same plant or from plants a distance away.
If you are growing multiple kinds of corn, or a nearby neighbor has plants, you may want to insure you get what you expect.
There are a few ways to do this.
If it is just you growing more than one variety, time the seeding so that they don’t mature at the same time. If both varieties mature at 90 days, for example, plant them about 2-3 weeks apart.
If one variety matures at 80 days and the other at 100, it is safe to plant them at the same time.
If you have a lot of land, you can simply plant them apart. I have read they need to be anywhere from 150 ft. to a mile apart. The corn in the picture above were about 6 ft. apart and generally upwind from a red dry corn. You can see there was a little cross pollination on the ear to the right, but it did take place.
If you are really into maintaining your seed supply to be true by preventing cross pollination, watch this video to learn how.
We’re going to do this with our glass gem corn, to keep the seeds pure. There is a bed of dry corn about 120 ft. away, and we want to be sure they don’t cross.
And, well… also because nerdy stuff like this is fun.
Categories: corn, techniques
10 May 2014, by gj
Here they come!
Like their cousins the tomatoes, peppers are a very popular home garden crop.
They have similar needs and wants, but not the same.
Here are some hints to growing peppers that we have learned over the years:
Whether you grow sweet, hot, or both:
Plant them as deep as tomatoes.
You can put the plant in a little deeper than its pot, and even hill up a bit around the stem. Peppers don’t want to go in any deeper than that.
Buy transplants with buds on them, if you can help it. Like tomatoes, it is better to let them get their roots established before they begin giving birth.
Pinch any buds off if you have them. We continue to pinch for about 2 weeks after transplanting. Likewise,
Wait for those first few peppers to get to their mature color. Whether you are looking to get a red, yellow, orange or even purple pepper, picking the first few while they are still green encourages the plants to produce more.
It is the same survival principle at work as when you pinch off flowers. The plant will put more effort into what it is doing, and you will be rewarded with a greater abundance.
Place your plants closer together than is usually recommended. Some gardeners may argue this point, but I learned this from my Dad who has been gardening for about 85 years and still going strong. Planting them 8-12 inches apart rather than 12-18 helps them to not need support, and lets them protect each other from strong wind gusts.
Over fertilize. Too much nitrogen, the first number listed on a bag of fertilizer, will make your plants look awesome. It will also make your harvest suffer. Look for an equal balance of numbers, like a 10-10-10 fertilizer or horse manure. You can also have your soil tested to see what it needs specifically if you want.
Plant your sweets and hots too close together. Generally peppers are pollinated by wind, either a breeze or the beating of bugs’ wings. These bugs can also get some pollen on their little bodies when they visit the pepper flowers, and spread that around from one plant to another.
Of course, this only affects the seeds. But the seeds of hot peppers are hot, which can make even a sweet pepper spicier. This kind of cross pollination is unusual, but we did see it happen when our hots and sweets were right next to each other.
Lightly run your hand across the tops of your plants, especially if pollination is low. This will act like a breeze to spread that pollen about.
Give them enough water, about an inch a week. Using a rain gauge makes this easy to do. Mulch, if you don’t have a problem with voles, is also a good way to insure they don’t get too thirsty.
Plant peppers where their cousins were last year or even 2 years if you had pests or disease issues; this includes tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes.
Companion plant to save space or to benefit one another. Like tomatoes, peppers like to be around carrots and their cousin parsley, and with basil. These plants easily fill in the unused space between pepper plants. Just be sure to water accordingly.
And finally, Don’t
Let those peppers go to waste. If you have more than you can handle, just wash them off, dry and toss in the freezer whole. This will make your sweets a bit sweeter, and your hots even hotter when they thaw. Both types of peppers can also be roasted. Mmmm… Hot peppers can easily be stored by using a needle and thread to string them together, and hang to dry. This ‘rista’ is also a simple way to grab what you need when adding a little heat to your dishes.
More important than any other advice, have fun when you garden.
Guidelines are wonderful, but find what works best for you in your garden.
Here’s an example of a good rain gauge:
The Do’s and Do Not’s of Tomatoes
20 April 2014, by gj
A Facebook friend in Gardenaholics Anonymous mentioned that Dixondale Farms in Texas grows great onion and leek plants, and in fact they also sell those same plants to the supplier I had been using.
Not only do they have a better selection, we saved $20 on 6 bunches; that is a big price difference.
The plants arrived healthy and the bunches were quite generous. Also in the box were some pretty interesting planting directions that can help grow bigger onions.
Basically, you dig a trench 4″ deep and wide, about 6″ away from where your onions will be planted. To this add 1/2 cup of a fertilizer that is high in phosphorous for every 10 ft. of row.
The middle number on a bag of soil amendment represents phosphorus, so we used this bone meal.
The ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus to potassium.
Then you plant your onions 1″ deep and 4″ apart.
Water them in well.
Now I admit we are used to planting this close together, but never this shallow.
It actually felt a little uncomfortable, as if it would do them harm.
And we did cheat just a bit and made double rows, planting in a zig-zag fashion to give them those 4″ of growing space.
But we are basically going to go with what the experts suggest, and see if we get bigger bulbs than in previous years. They were quite adamant about the depth, as any deeper will “inhibit their ability to bulb.”
There is more information in the pamphlet as well, and we’ll look at those instructions as the season progresses.
We put in 100 Copra onions, as these are really wonderful for storing, lasting up to a year.
Fifty Red Zeppelin onions can be stored for 6-8 months, but will most likely be eaten before that.
Another 25 each of Walla Walla and Sterling, all together should keep us in onions for about a year.
In a few months we will start to see the results, and we’ll give you an update.
In the meantime, you can check out their site and even download their planting guides here.
Not only did we save quite a bit of money, there are plenty of onions leftover for my daughter and son-in-law to plant.
Apparently Sprout’s tastes lean towards garlic and onions, and we are more than happy to comply.
Categories: How to Grow, onions & leeks, saving money & time, The Experiments
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
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