You Can Grow That!

Aloe from Seed – You Can Grow That!

how to grow aloe

Every gardener, whether they admit it or not, has at some point grown something in spite of themselves.

Perhaps they didn’t know any better; ask me sometime about my first experience playing golf (ps. don’t ask himself). Or maybe they gave up on a plant, only to have it thrive.

Such was the case with our (er, my) Aloe.

We (er, I) planted as best we (no, I) could following the directions given. Except, well, there was only cactus medium to use.

But we (that is, I) did pick out a nice clay pot, one that would hold moisture but had good drainage, and proceeded to sow the seeds. We (yeah, I) then covered the pot with 2 clear plastic baggies, to aid in germination.

Unfortunately, all that sprouted were fungi. We (I wanted to blame it on him) later read online that it is way hard to grow Aloe from seed. Drat.

So, giving up, we (not really) set the planter on the floor near our (ahem) seed growing system. Still some heat but not much, some light, but filtered.

It was almost 2 months later, after totally ignoring the planter, that we (::cough::) decided to clean it out and move on to something else.

After removing the plastic I (yeah, me) found all the baby aloe plants you see in the pic above.

So since this has been a successful growing experiment after all, we (I don’t mind sharing) are passing our error-turned-success on.

Botanical name: Aloe ferox
Yield: 1 plant per seed
Days to germination: 10 to 30 days
Days to maturity: 5-10 years to flower
Height: To 10 ft.
Hardiness: Mature plants can take a bit of frost, but generally keep away from the cold.
Culture: Keep baby plants in the same pot 3 months-1 year before transplanting.
Requirements: Succulent, requiring very little water. Prefers filtered light.
Uses: Medicinal

you can grow that

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Fresh Food Year Round – You Can Grow That!

The shovel helps make a path to the greenhouse.

The shovel helps make a path to the greenhouse.

In some regions of the country they can grow fresh food year round because the weather is well suited for it.

For the majority of us though, as you can see from the picture of our yard, it’s a challenge.
And in some areas, it is for opposite reasons- it just becomes too dang hot.

So what’s a gardener to do?

For those of you with the issues of cold, I would recommend two books:

Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman
The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour

The first was my gardening bible when we were just starting out. We dabbled in cold frames, and later in high and low tunnels, and were able to easily add at least 6 weeks and then more on to a season that is basically only 4 months long.

The second book was the kick in the pants we needed to take it even further. With the recent addition of a small greenhouse, and by using our own gardening system, we have been able to grow fresh food even longer into the season.

I must admit though as we get older, the idea of shoveling a path to the greenhouse or even going out into the cold to harvest becomes a little less appealing. So, what we are looking at primarily this winter is growing food indoors.

If you have an area that you are heating anyway, this is a great way to get fresh food throughout the winter.

We are still harvesting basil from last fall, and our cucumber, tomatoes, baby belle pepper and watermelon plants are up and soon to be transplanted.

The cucumber is a variety that does not need pollination, known as parthenocarpic. Peppers contain both the male and female close enough together, as do tomatoes and eggplant, that with just a wee bit of help they will produce fruit. The watermelon will need some hand pollination from us. We’re also trying a container variety of butternut squash.

All of these are doable things, and we will be posting throughout the experiment how things go.

In the meantime, know that snow falling or cold temps, or even the opposite of blistering heat, does not mean you must stop growing fresh food, because the truth is:

you can grow that

You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to help others learn to grow.
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For more info on Extending the Harvest read here.

Categories: Extending the Season, You Can Grow That!

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How to Grow – Fenugreek

how to grow fenugreek

America really is the Melting Pot, and nobody knows this better than veggie gardeners.

While many are familiar with numerous Asian veggies as well as those of Europe and our Indigenous peoples, less avail themselves of what the people of India have to offer. Of course, growing conditions are always a consideration. Still there are wonderful flavors to be had by trying some of what this culture enjoys.

Most people unfamiliar with Indian cooking think first of curry, a combination of ingredients often found in Indian dishes. One less familiar ingredient is Fenugreek, also known as mathi, which is a staple in Indian cuisine.

You can use both the leaves, which have a very mild maple taste, and the seeds. The plant has numerous health benefits, find some of those here.

What we enjoyed most was the way it combines its flavor to those in many of the dishes we have tried. Our favorite is Mathi Matter, a combination of cashew butter and peas in a cream sauce with fenugreek and spices. It may sound a bit odd, until you taste it. It is now Mandolin’s favorite way to eat peas.

To grow fenugreek, simply scatter the seeds on soil when the weather is warm. You can presoak them to speed up germination. Cover lightly with more soil, and keep watered. Before too long the sprouts will emerge, and you can begin to harvest.

It can be eaten as a sprout, or allowed to grow larger to harvest the leaves. Thin the sprouts to allow 6 ” for the plants if you are going to continue to grow them. The picture above shows both stages. As a bonus, the plant sprouts pretty little white flowers, the seeds of which are also edible as a tea or spice.

An intercultural experience in your backyard garden?
Yep…
you can grow that

Botanical name: Trigonella foenum-graecum
Spacing: 6-8″ for larger plants
Harvest: Sprouts, leaves and seeds
Conditions: Prefers warmth, sun and a well drained soil. No additional fertilizer needed in good soil.
Height: 1-2 ft.

You Can Grow that! 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, You Can Grow That!

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Popcorn – You Can Grow That!

how to grow popcorn

So much of the corn being grown in the US is now genetically engineered by crossing it with e. coli, then doused heavily with pesticides.

Although you can find organic alternatives, if you have the room you can grow quite a lot of popcorn. Just 10 plants can yield anywhere from 4000-12000 kernels, in only an area about 12″ x 30″.

Choose a variety that is recommended for popping, here are a few to look at.

Grow like you would sweet corn, just don’t harvest as soon. Let the corn stay on the stalk until the plant starts to die off, or the ears begin to fall over. Leave in the husk to dry for about a week. The longer it dries the easier it is to get the kernels off, simply by pushing on them with your thumb. You can make it even simpler by twisting the cob or breaking it in half.

When the kernels are completely dry, just store in a food grade container.

How you pop it is up to you. It can be done in the microwave, but we prefer the old fashioned stove top method of popping it in just a little oil in a covered pot on med-high heat.

And just to be on the safe side, we also have a really old popcorn popper that can be used over an open flame, back from the days before Jiffy Pop and Monsanto; you know, when corn was just corn.

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!

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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!

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Organic Onions 75 Cents per Pound-You Can Grow That!

organic onions

4 Varieties with different colors, flavors, and storage potential.

This year, we did the math.

Onion plants from Dixondale Farms, 6 bunches: $30.72
The more bunches you buy, the lower the cost.
If you don’t want a lot, see if a friend will go in on an order with you.

Harvest: 43 pounds.
Note that this does not include the quart of roasted green onion tops, nor the ones we pulled early as scallions, or the ones we gave to our daughter to plant.

Soil Amendment: Free horse manure and about 50 cents worth of bone meal. Though that’s probably an over estimate.

Cost/pound: $0.73

Recently our local organic market had onions on sale for $3.69 for a 3 pound bag.
Plain yellow onions, no choice of variety.

No freedom to choose based on flavor and storage capability.
No green tops!

The freshness and freedom to grow the kinds of onions you want organically, plus the perks of roasted tops?

Yep,
you can grow that
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$100′s of Food in a Small Space – You Can Grow That!

The Jones' Garden System

Early light harvest of greens while zucchini heads up vertically.

Since you are reading this you are probably already a gardener, congrats!
Perhaps you have a lot of space that you would like to optimize, or maybe you just want to get more from a smaller area.

There are gardening techniques that have been around for thousands of years that can help you do just that.

The Jones' Garden System

25 corn plants with bush and pole beans

Intensive gardening is a technique that incolves planting veggies close together, even in the shade of one another, to get more from the space. Of course you will need to be diligent so as to not have disease issues, and to be sure all plants have the water and nutrients they need.

Succession planting allows you to replenish then refill up spaces as they open.
So you have pulled those early planted carrots, how much time do you have for another crop?

Growing vertically, from the typical peas and beans to the more unusual squash and melons adds even more bounty in the same space.

The Jones' Garden System

Keeping plants warm in early spring.

When you utilize season extenders like those pictured above, you can increase the quantity you harvest by as much as 50% here in the zone 5/6 area. The actual amount depends on your climate.

That’s a lot.
These pics are of the test model of a garden system we designed primarily for those in suburban areas, but with everyone in mind.
After 3 years of testing we found we can pretty much double our harvest by using the techniques mentioned above, as well as the built in critter protection.

The Jones' Garden System

10 tomato plants with basil below.

Now we don’t want to be a commercial on our blog. :-P
If you would like to learn more, click here.

In the meantime, know that however much space you have, there are fun and really easy ways to make the most of that.

More veggies? Yeah…

you can grow that

You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world who want to help everyone enjoy growing.
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Happy Gardening!

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Broccoli Raab – You Can Grow That!

broccoli raab

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.

broccoli raab

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.

broccoli raab

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.
Because…

you can grow that

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 & Broccoli Raab, You Can Grow That!

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Basil Bonsai – You Can Grow That!

Aww, isn't it a cute little thing?

Aww, isn’t it a cute little thing?

There are numerous varieties of basil, including Lime and Lemon, Thai, Cinnamon, Italian Large Leaf and even Bazel Warv.

Admittedly, you can’t actually grow that last one.
But when we came across this Basil Bonsai, it looked almost like a plant from science fiction.

It is an ornamental and edible grafted plant that has the trunk of a bonsai tree and the top portion of a fine leaf basil.

This combination allows you to have fresh basil all year round, no matter what your climate.
And, well, it is cool to look at.

Great taste awaits.

Great taste awaits.

Plant grafting can afford the gardener some great opportunities.
Our gardens sport a number of grafted fruit trees for example. One pear tree produces three different types of fruit in a much smaller area than three trees would.
For trees that need more than one variety for pollination reasons, these 3 in One or All in One fit the bill.

But back to the basil.
Be careful when transplanting.
Like any plant that is grafted, be sure the area where the plants meet remains above the soil line.
Otherwise the plant will grow new roots and go back to its original state.

It is easy to see where the graft is in the picture below.

Where green basil stem meets brown bonsai trunk.

Where green basil stem meets brown bonsai trunk.

So far our bonsai is only a few weeks old, and standing a little over 5 inches high. They can get to about 12″ or so tall.
The directions suggested it be harvested lightly and from below, eventually creating a dome shape on top.

We’re adding this post to the category The Experiments, and will keep you posted.

you can grow that

You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort on the 4th. day of each month among gardeners around the world to encourage everyone to grow something.
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Categories: The Experiments, You Can Grow That!

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Curry – You Can Grow That!

Getting ready.

Getting ready.

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.

you can grow that

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 & Green Living, You Can Grow That!

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