4 Easy Ways to Help the Bees

bees and sunflower

By now most people know that the bee population is declining and we need to act swiftly to stop and hopefully reverse it.
But you might think there is little you can do personally to help. That’s not true, you really can make a difference.

Here’s how:

1. Give them a home.
Build a Mason Bee House with a few simple tools. Mason bees will populate the house and help your garden at the same time.
Then build a few extra and give them to your family and friends.

2. Have their back.
Read this article on helping the bees. In it there are a number of things you can do to be a part of the solution.

3. Clean up their environment.
Find out if the plants you are buying at your local garden center contain the deadly pesticide known as neonicotinoid that you saw mentioned in the above article. To do this, simply ask the staff who their plant supplier is, then send them an email.

An equaintance of mine did this. The supplier at her center is Bonnie Plants, so she sent them an email. This was their response:

Bonnie Plants does not utilize any form of systemic neonicotinoid pesticides/insecticides (neonicotinoids class includes; acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, nitenpyram, nithiazine, thiacloprid, dinotefuran and thiamethoxam) in the greenhouse production of transplants. Neonicotinoids are not contained in any seed nor are they utilized in any stage of the growing process. I do hope this information is helpful to you and alleviates your concern.

Thanks for writing in, and have a good day.
(Since this was a personal email, we removed the people’s names.)

And by all means, stop using products such as Round Up in your yard.

4. Feed them well.
Intersperse your veggie garden with the types of plants bees love. You can call your local cooperative extension and see what plants are best for your area.
Here in Northeast Pa. we find they are attracted to sunflowers and creeping thymus in particular. Look for plants that bloom early to get things started, and for others that have a long blooming season.

If you have any friends that are interested in nature, please pass this on and encourage them to help as well.

To win the battle we need the good guys to outnumber the bad guys. It’s important to the bees, and to our food supply.


Categories: preparedness, special posts


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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 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, saving money & time, you can grow that



5 Wonderful Grains for Your Home Garden

Did you ever stop to wonder just how self-sufficient your garden could make you? Sure you can grow great veggies, even a good protein source through dry beans.

But what about grains?

you can grow that

Although technically these are not all grains, we are listing them because they are used that way:

1. Corn

Most often thought of as a vegetable, corn is actually a grain. You can grow field or dry corn the same as you would sweet, but allow it to dry thoroughly on the cob before harvesting the kernels to grind.

Be sure to take preventative measures if you are also growing sweet corn nearby, as their pollen is carried on the wind and there can be cross pollination.
This summer we will be showing you ways to help prevent this; but for the meantime, keep them as far apart as possible preferably with a structure between them.

One of the best varieties for making your own corn meal, according to Baker Creek seed catalog, is Cherokee White Eagle. Just be sure to choose a variety that is meant to use for this purpose, they are less sugary and will dry more easily.

Grind, store and use the way you would store bought cornmeal.

2. Quinoa

Technically a vegetable, quinoa is a relative of spinach that is fast gaining popularity in restaurants as well as home kitchens. Part of the reason, other than the delightful taste, is that quinoa carries a protein not normally found in a vegetable. Especially for vegetarians, this is a wonderful thing.

What you harvest here are the seeds as well, dry, store and use like you would rice. You can also grind the seeds to use like flour.

3. Flax

Often grown for its use as a fiber, the seeds of flax are actually wonderfully nutritious. They are a good source of omega-3′s and high in fiber. The milled seeds can be added to many baked goods.
We are so excited to try our hand at growing flax this year.

4. Amaranth

Often listed under herbs, and even considered sometimes as a flower, Amaranth is a beautiful tall edible whose flower seeds can be used as a grain.
In some varieties you can also eat the leaves as a vegetable, bonus! The most common variety grown for the edible seeds is Love Lies Bleeding.

5. Millet

One definition of grains is that they are grasses that produce small edible seeds. Millet fits this description well. Its seeds can be ground for flours or gruel, but it is often also used as bird seed.

We are going to try one of the most common varieties used in the US, a Proso type; specifically Proso White.

Again, we will have more specifics on this as we actually grow and harvest it.

decorative or edible corn

Dry or Field Corn

Generally speaking these crops grow quite tall, and the harvest you get for the space may not compare to vegetables you plant instead.
But if you have the room and want to be more independent, consider trying a grain crop.

We will let you know how we fare, what was worth it and maybe what was not over the course of the next year.

Hopefully it will all be rave reviews; but the idea of not being dependent on a store for our grains is already a win in our books!

You Can Grow It! is a monthly collaboration by gardeners around the world to promote the wonderful aspects of gardening.
For more posts, please click on the logo above.

Categories: How to Store, other, preparedness



7 Suggestions for Our Warmer Climate Friends During the Polar Vortex

Even the Guardians of the Garden could not keep the polar vortex away.

Even the Guardians of the Garden could not keep the polar vortex away.

So maybe the temperatures you are suffering through are the ones we would be happy to see, that’s not the point.
We’re pretty much all having a nasty winter; but as North-easterners, there are a few things we’ve learned that might help you:

1. Expect it to happen again. This winter isn’t over, and the weather tends to be cyclical. That being said-

2. Have at least 3 weeks of food on hand if you have room, including water. Even stock a few items you can eat right out of the can in case of power loss. Don’t forget a manual can opener.

3. Similarly, have a way to heat your house. If you already do, try to have a back-up. Be prepared to block off unused rooms in case of emergency. Hang a few quilts, er… maybe some beach towels (just kidding) in doorways to prevent heat loss and stay close to whatever heat source you have.

4. Protect the pipes. Did you know your water pipes can freeze and literally break if they get too cold? Heat wrapping them is a good back-up plan. Also, let them drip just a bit to keep the water flowing. In an emergency, it is better to turn them off and drain them; a bother that could save you a major headache in the long run.

5. Prepare adult and kid Blizzard Boxes. That’s what we call them anyway. For the kids, age appropriate games, toys and puzzles to keep them busy. Be sure at least some of them don’t require electricity. Add a few snacks they don’t otherwise get, those kind of things. These will keep your kids entertained on unexpected days off from school.

For the grown-ups maybe a few movies, a good book, and also snacks. Chocolate goes a long way during stressful times for both young and older.
If the winter ends and you didn’t need them, hooray! Have a little party!

6. Don’t forget the pets. Be sure to have enough food on hand for them. Also, since they sense stress in their loved ones, a little Blizzard Box for them would be wonderful too.

7. Preparedness doesn’t need to take up a lot of space. Thermal underwear and blankets go a long way to keep you warm, yet are quite thin. Bubble wrap on your windows will help keep the warm air in. A small camping stove will let you heat water if the power is out.

We in the north really do feel for you, our winter has been nasty as well.
But for us it is just a matter of colder, or more snow…
No pun intended, but its a matter of degree.

Stay warm and safe out there, and if ever our temps are going to go above 100F, we’ll call on you for help!

Categories: preparedness, special posts


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Planning for Success

planning a year round edible garden

Plotting and planning.

Having a goal is great; whether it is to lose weight in the new year, start a new career as an entrepreneur, or grow a garden.
Having a good plan however, can make all the difference.

The basics of writing a business plan can help you achieve your goal, whatever it is. So let’s leave the new business planning to the experts, and look at the wonderful goals of Getting Healthy and Growing Food:

1. State the goal specifically.
I want to get healthy is not as specific as I want to lose 2 pounds per month this year or I want to drop my overall cholesterol by 10 points.
Similarly, I want to grow food would be better stated I want to grow enough food to eat fresh and preserve for my family of 4.

2. Detail the steps you will take and make them achievable.
Do the research on what it takes to lower your cholesterol, as an example. Talk to your Doctor and Pharmacist. Find out what specific steps you need to take, and see which ones will work for you

Likewise, do you have the room to grow enough to sustain 4 people? That would be in the neighborhood of 2000 pounds of produce. If space is limited, rethink your goal. Otherwise, look at what techniques you can use, such as intercropping and succession planting, to optimize your harvest.

yoga on the wii

Yoga on the wii.

3. Plan for challenges.
Everybody is gathering for dinner at that new rib joint, what do you do?
Two weeks without rain, what now?
Life happens, plan on it. What is the old army adage, “Forewarned is forearmed”?
You know there will be stumbling blocks, but do what you can to be prepared. Maybe that will entail a rain barrel, perhaps a husband who is willing to share a dinner entrée. Decide ahead of time.

4. Know your own personality.
Are you the type of person who would rather set a goal of an Elephant, and be happy with a Mouse?
Or would you rather go for a Mouse, and be thrilled with an Elephant?
Do what works best for you.

If you are the type of person that does better with the support of others, use that to your advantage; just be careful, as supporters can also become enablers.
Set a goal that can be achieved alone, just in case.

5. Enjoy the journey.
Sure, the gardening goal sounds like a lot more fun than lowering cholesterol, but it doesn’t have to be. If you enjoy trying new foods and cooking, then you can have a blast experimenting with dishes and ingredients that are better for you.
Plan the steps you will take with your own enjoyment in mind, that will not only make the journey more enjoyable, but increase your chances of success at the same time.

Oh, and by the way, wouldn’t these two goals work well together?
Hmmm… I may have to go update my plan a bit.

Learn more about the Gardening Techniques mentioned in this post.

Categories: preparedness, special posts, you are what you eat


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3 Ways to Save on Energy Fees in 2014

Happy little ones.

Happy little ones.

This blog is foremost about gardening; but the less money you spend in other areas, the more you will have to put into the garden.
That’s my logic, and I’m sticking with it. :-)

So there are many simple things you can do to bring your energy bills down by cutting usage.

1. Sunlight is Free

It never ceases to amaze me when I see new homes with windows elaborately covered in drapes, and lights on all over the room.
Nature’s gift of sunlight can help in so many ways.

By opening those drapes you not only cut down on the use of light bulbs, it can lower your need for heat. Cover the windows as the sun goes down to likewise conserve the warmth.
If you use A/C in the summer, do the opposite.

Of course, if you have older windows the drapes may be more effective on saving energy in the long run. Consider adding to that by using bubble wrap, moistened and stuck to the glass, to keep the heat indoors.

A sunny window can also cut down on the light source needed when starting seeds.
See, this is a gardening post after all.

We turn our overhead seed starting lights off when there is good sun coming through the window, then back on when it is not enough.
When we compared our bills from this and full overhead lights only, supplementing with sunlight saved us a fair amount.
And the plants didn’t seem to notice.

We also start our seedlings near a heat source, rather than pay to heat another area.

Send that heat back down.

Send that heat back down.

2. Remember Heat Rises

If you have ceiling fans, set them to blow downward in the winter months. This will draw the heat down from the ceiling and back to where you need it.

Be sure to insulate the flooring for second and third floors and attics.
My grandparents and many of that generation used old newspapers under rugs as insulation on the upper floors. They lived ‘green’ and ‘upcycled’ long before there were terms for it.
Likewise, take advantage of the cooler areas of your home and even the outdoors if you can. We built a Green Closet in our laundry room, saving energy by letting the cold temperatures from outdoors in to keep our cool loving veggies happy all winter.

Timing is everything

Timing is everything.

3. Live Simpler

Things that heat up are the main energy users, but electronics left on also add up fast.

You can simplify energy use for making food by using a toaster oven, microwave and/or crock pot, if they are available to you.
Avoid heating a full oven for just a small amount. Consider making more than one meal, and freezing some that you can just nuke another time. When you do use your oven, take advantage of the heat lost through the vent burner by simmering a dish on it or heating up a kettle for tea or cocoa.

Think about a clothesline if you can have one where you live, or even just a clothes ‘rack’ placed in your bathtub. When you do use a regular dryer, gently shake your washed items before placing inside. By loosening them up a bit, they dry faster and that uses less energy.
Also, wash on cold.
Pretty much all the time.

A real energy saver is to place a timer on your water heater. These wonderful little devices give you the opportunity to decide when you will need hot water the most. They are inexpensive and pay for themselves in a short period of time.
You are most likely bathing at the same time each day already.

You can also save some money by turning your electronics off when not in use. A small investment in a power strip can not only help prevent power surge damage to your electronic devices, it can make it easy for you to cut their power when they will not be in use.

Well, that’s it for now.
With all that saved money I can go ahead and place a seed order.
Or two. :-)

Categories: living green, preparedness, saving money & time


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6 Ways to Help Stock the Larder Shelves

Between Mandolin and I, we have been temporarily unemployed, underemployed and self-employed.
We have learned to stretch a dollar till it yells “Uncle!”, okay not literally.

But even living paycheck to paycheck, and especially then, we found ways to stock up the shelves and always have food on hand.
Enough in fact that both of my daughters have said that if ever anything catastrophic happens, like a Zombie Apocalypse, they are moving back in with us.

Some of the home canned and dehydrated foods from the garden.

Some of the home canned and dehydrated foods from the garden.

Of course growing as much of your own food, and learning how to preserve it, is key.
I’m guessing by the fact that you are reading this you are already doing that, or getting ready to.
Good for you!

But what else can you do to fill those shelves up when money is tight and food costs are soaring?

Here are some ideas:

1. BOGO: At first you need to start small. If you find a buy one get one sale on a non-perishable item, put one away. If you have to, hide it so it does not get used. Do take note of the expiration date.

2. Buy ingredients. Instead of buying bread, buy flour and yeast. Learn to make it by hand or eventually get a bread machine. Trust me, they pay for themselves in pizza alone.
Don’t hand out money for pancake mix, when making it yourself is simple. Likewise other mixes. There are tons of recipes online to do just that.

We make up a bunch of bread mixes, label what we need to add, and place them on the shelf. It’s faster to make bread than to go to the store and buy it, and a whole lot better tasting, too.

Likewise we have our own cake mix on the shelf. As the holidays approach, cookie mixes will be added.

Here’s some of what we do.

Significant savings.

Significant savings.

3. Buy in bulk. It may be a while before you can do this, but it saves money in the long run. Mandolin LOVES Jasmin-scented rice. At the local market, it’s very pricey. Instead we get it in 25 pound bags from an area Asian food supply store.

4. Use coupons, but don’t get trapped. Never buy something just because you have a coupon, unless you are getting it for free. Also don’t buy a name brand with a coupon if the store brand is less expensive.

You can be more creative with your coupons than you might realize. For example, your store may be selling an item as Buy 2, get one free with coupon. The coupon is for the free one, not the other two. So if you have two 50 cents off coupons, you can use them as well. If your store doubles the coupons, you now have 3 items for $2 less than it normally costs for 2. Pretty good, right?

Purchased with savings at the forefront.

Purchased with savings at the forefront.

5. Buy seasonally. Items go on sale at different times of year, due to holidays, growing times, etc. This is a good time to grab the chance to stock up. Keep in mind you can put up fresh produce, even meat, that you get from the market when it is on sale.

6. Make the most of what you buy. If you need a fresh orange or lemon, don’t toss out the skin. Grate it, let it sit overnight to dry, and now you have lemon or orange zest. Have you seen how much that is in the stores?

Instead of buying boneless chicken, buy the whole thing and cut it up yourself, using the carcass to make soup. You can preserve that as well.

Go to the market early if you can, and check out any older produce they may have on sale. If they have tomatoes and peppers, for example, bring them home and make soup or sauce.

When it comes to food, like many things, time really is money.
But with just a few simple tricks, you can save on both.

Categories: preparedness, saving money & time


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Gluten Free Low Carb Bread Crumbs – You Can Grow That!

Whether you are allergic to wheat, have a problem with gluten, are trying to reduce carbs in your diet, or are just looking for a healthier alternative to the typical store-bought bread crumbs, your garden is the place to go.

It was a few years back we looked at making flour from pumpkin flesh. The same can be done with a slew of other veggies, in fact I’m sure you could combine different vegetables to make a very healthy flour.

Note here that if you are going to bake with it, you can only substitute 1/3 of your vegetable flour in the recipe.

But then the same line of thinking led to… what about bread crumbs?

How to fit a head of cauliflower into a canning jar.

How to fit a head of cauliflower into a canning jar.

So the theory was tested by dehydrating an entire head of cauliflower. The result was about 1 3/4 cups of dried vegetable. Pretty potent stuff.

Some of that was then ground up in a good coffee grinder. Tofu was chosen for the experiment since it has pretty much no flavor of its own, a good test to see how strong the cauliflower taste would be.

Tofu slices were dipped first in organic corn meal, then in some beaten egg, then into the cauliflower. Some pieces were baked, some were fried. Just for comparison sake, some were also made with rice flour instead of the cauliflower.

Happy Tofu.

Happy Tofu.

Mandolin was the unknowing taste-tester. Good thing he trusts me!
“Is that cauliflower?” he asked, “It’s good, I like cauliflower.”

The taste was much milder than we expected, and we agreed if it were anything other than tofu you would probably not taste the cauliflower at all.
We both liked it better than the rice flour, as it was crunchier. We also preferred the fried to the baked.

We then served it with a nice orange-ginger sauce, and it was wonderful.

This weekend we’re looking forward to trying it again, when SaveTheWorld is home on fall break; but this time with fried green tomatoes.
Maybe we’ll even try a variety of veggies for the breading, just to see how it tastes.
I’m betting she doesn’t notice the difference at all, though she will be happy to know it is a healthier alternative.

With younger kids, you may want to keep this a secret for a while. :-)

This post is part of a monthly group effort by gardeners around the world to encourage people to grow. Click on the link below to find a variety of posts with that theme.

And always remember-
you can grow that

Categories: drying-roasting, gardening people, places & things, How to Store, organic, preparedness, you can grow that


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5 Easy Exercises to Help Prevent Gardening Related Back Pain

“Put your back into it” is not just an expression for gardeners, it’s literal.
Let’s face it, gardening is a very physical activity. The larger the garden, the more it requires from you.
Building raised beds helps a lot with the bending aspect, as does mulching to prevent weed growth.
But the older we get, the more difficult gardening can become. And it’s not just age that can add to the difficulty, many gardeners suffer from car accident related or other injuries.
Yet we love it so much, we keep going.

Whether you are just mulching your veggies...

Whether you are just mulching your veggies…

We can talk about what to do or take for the sore muscles, like heat pads and soothing baths with Epsom salt, gardeners love Epsom salts, but there is also something we have found that helps:

Exercise, G. J.? But gardening is exercise, how can that help?

Many years ago I was misdiagnosed with scoliosis, and a physical therapist showed me a few easy exercises to help strengthen my back muscles.
So recently, I started doing these exercises again, and found that I could play much longer in the garden without the pain I normally would have suffered.

filling a few containers...

filling a few containers…

It’s so easy and slow, that it’s almost yoga-like.
Here’s what to do:

1. Sit on a straight back chair, and place your elbows at your waist, palms up and arms out front. Keeping your elbows in tight, move your arms to the sides as far as you can, then forward again.

2. Still sitting, bend your upper body down to the floor between your legs and bounce a few times. Straighten back up.

3. With arms across your chest, turn to the right and then to the left as far as you can.

4. Lay down on a mat or other comfortable surface. Bend your knees and place your arms at your side. Try to bring the small of your back down to the mat without lifting your butt.

5. Still laying down, bring one leg at a time to your chest, use your hands to hold your knees, to gently help get them a little closer.

or building weed free pathways.

or building weed free pathways.

Repeat each exercise 5-10 times and you will strengthen your back as well as loosen your muscles before the real workout begins.
No more heating pad needed.

Here’s the disclaimer- always consult your physician before beginning any new activity.

Of course, if you are already gardening, you’re most likely ready.

Categories: gardening, preparedness, techniques



How to Make Compost Tea, the Easy Way

Gardeners know the benefits of compost, or ‘black gold’ as they call it.
But there are times when you may want to apply that gold in a liquid form.
Well, to not disturb young plants or their soil, for one.
To get that richness right to the leaves, for another. Did you know plants take in nutrients from their leaves as well as their roots?
Crafty little devils they are.

Yours or theirs.

Yours or theirs.

The gardening sites I have seen make this much more involved than is necessary.
A lot of the internet is like that, unfortunately.

My friend and fellow Master Gardener Tami says it does not need to be all that complicated.
A gardener after my own heart.

So here’s the easy way:
1. Get 2 buckets.
2. Get some compost.
3. Get some water.
4. Get some molasses (optional).

Place the water in 1 bucket. Add the compost, broken down or not, homemade or purchased, but preferably in an old pillow case or similar fabric that will strain out the larger pieces. Add some molasses.

Any ol' bucket will do.

Any ol’ bucket will do.

After one day soaking, pour the water from one bucket to the next, then put the bag of compost back in to soak. This is a simple way to aerate the tea.
Repeat for 3 days, and you are ready to go.
Or grow, as the case is.

Add more water, brew.

Add more water, brew.

Read more about how compost tea spray works, as well as other great info on Foliar Spraying, here.

Categories: gardening, living green, preparedness, techniques


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Everything here is original (unless otherwise noted) and has legal copyright 2009-2015 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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