saving money & time

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
You Can Grow That! is a monthly collaborative effort by garden writers around the world to encourage others to grow something.

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1 Thing You Can Do to Make Earth Day Even Better

Make the Earth smile.

Make the Earth smile.

What an interesting concept, Earth Day.

And a wonderful opportunity to make a change.

Being that you are here reading, you are most likely already a gardener.
Good for you!

If you are growing without the use of any pesticides, even better. Bugs don’t know the difference between organic and non, and pesticides don’t discriminate against bugs. Avoiding them all together is best.

Do you plant what will attract those flying bugs that help move pollen from one plant to another? Woohoo! Now you are working with the Earth.

The bees are in there. somewhere.

The bees are in there. Somewhere.

We recently purchased this Heath (like Heather) and the bees are having a field day. It was going to go by the front porch, but now we’re thinking we’ll put it in the veggie garden in a pot instead.

Reduse, reuse, recycle. We bet you have that down pat as well.
So how can you make Earth Day even better?

Treat it like New Year’s Day for the Planet, and make one resolution to do something better this next year. That way, it isn’t just a one day thing.

Here are some ideas you may not have heard:

  • Repurpose newspapers and cardboard as weed suppressors in your garden.
  • Teach how to or help one new person garden.
  • Collect fallen tree branches or trimmed brambles into a pile as a safe haven for wildlife.
  • Eat less meat. This cuts down on the ‘greenhouse gasses’ considered to be a major part of global warming. Plus it is healthier for you and especially for the animals.
    We’re sharing our mostly meatless recipes here.
  • If you can, reclaim some ‘gray water’ for your garden or houseplants. This is the water often wasted when you wash your hands, clothes and/or dishes.
  • Make your own detergents.  Not only is this better for the environment by cutting out a lot of the unnecessary chemicals, it will save you money.
  • Mend something rather than toss it. Iron on a patch, sew it, glue it back together or put a screw in it- but fix it don’t pitch it.

We could go on, and you have heard a lot of these and are hopefully doing a lot already.  So go ahead and do one more, from this list or one you have already thought of.

In general, it is a matter of living on less. We’re there, we understand.Unfortunately, many people have been forced to learn how to do that lately. That is part of why we offer this blog for free, as a way to help.

Do you have a tip that helped you use less or give to the planet better?

We would love to hear it!

 

Categories: saving money & time, special posts

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How to Grow Bigger Onions

The leftovers.

The leftovers.

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.

Two trenches.

Two trenches.

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.

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.

Ta da!

Ta da!

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

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Save Money on Gardening – Even at the Last Minute

Patience grows the garlic.

Patience grows the garlic.

Sometimes patience pays, well, maybe it’s actually procrastination.
Call it what you will, there are cases where putting off ordering your seeds, plants, and other gardening supplies can actually save you money.

Some examples:

Johnny’s Select Seeds is currently offering a free shipping discount. Ours came as a post card in the mail yesterday, but if you didn’t receive one, follow this link.

Likewise Burpee’s is offering free shipping, or you can go to their site and get $10 off a $40 purchase. You probably can’t get both though.

Stark Bros. is offering select trees on sale in celebration of Arbor Month. You can find that info here.

This is another one we received by email. If you are concerned about signing up for these and getting too much spam, just set up a separate account for these things.
That’s what we did and it works really well.

So check with your favorite providers of gardening supplies, especially as it gets closer to planting time, and see what bargains you can pick up.

Keep in mind that there are very often end-of-the-season sales as well. You may not find that one specific veggie seed you wanted, but that’s the chance you take.

Also take note that some companies offer discounts and specials all year. The Seeds of the Month Club, one of our favs, is a good way to save all year on seeds plus they often run contests; and Annie Haven at Moo Poo Tea always has free shipping and many times throughout the year offers a free bag with purchase.

Note: None of the suppliers mentioned here compensated us in any way for mentioning and linking their sites. We just want to share the savings with you.

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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, saving money & time, you can grow that

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1 Really Good Reason to Grow Food This Year

Being prepared.

Being prepared.

If you have been reading here a while, and certainly if you have been growing an edible garden for a few years, you know there are numerous good reasons for people to grow their own food:

1. It tastes better. All of it. Every last veggie tastes better than store bought.

2. You save money. Okay, maybe not at first, but in the long run. Not to mention less Doctor bills, because-

3. It is healthier for you. Fresh produce is higher in nutrients than even organic produce that is older.

4. You are less dependent on others for your food.

5. It is great exercise both physically and mentally.

6. Economic uncertainty.

Now you might be thinking, ‘But GJ, you said ONE reason!’

Of course you are right, and here it is:

California.

Unless you are totally self-sufficient, you are buying something that was grown in California. Maybe it’s nuts, or produce, or an ingredient in something else; but the truth is the vast majority of the food we eat in the US is associated with California farms.

And they are having a horrible year. The extreme drought continues, and here in the northeast we are already seeing the effects.
The price of almonds has skyrocketed, for example; and that is just the beginning.

It gets worse. Even if the drought suddenly lifted, much of this season’s crops are already affected. Not just this season’s either; because so many items end up as ingredients, the prices of other food items will continue to go up even if the drought subsides.

Think about it.
What would you do if suddenly the cost of food tripled?
What if some items you normally enjoy were no longer available?

Now we’re not trying to predict what will happen nor frighten anyone.
For the cost of a few packets of seeds and either some containers or a little part of your yard, you could begin to lay the groundwork, so to speak, for a more secure future food-wise.

Isn’t that one reason alone way more than enough?

Categories: gardening, saving money & time, special posts

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How To Get Your Garden Organized

It is wonderful every year to get things just a little more organized and free up some wasted time that is better spent gardening.

Here are a few ideas we have found to help:

The garden notebook keeps growing.

The garden notebook keeps growing.

  • A garden notebook can keep a lot of the information from previous years as well as what is collected throughout the year for the upcoming season. Include a flash-drive for what you find online.
  • Likewise a clipboard can not only keep you planting maps handy, it is an easy way to hold seed packets that are slated to go out to the garden for planting. Just use the clip to keep them safe from spilling or blowing away.
  • A potting table allows for an area to organize your supply of soils, amendments and fertilizers.
Right at our fingertips.

Right at our fingertips.

  • We use a free seed rack from the local farm & garden store to keep seeds organized. This year the stash has been reduced from 3 racks to one, to further simplify garden planning and seed ordering.
Oh... there you are!

Oh… there you are!

One thing that eludes us is keeping track of tools.
It is as if the small ones intentionally hide, and the larger ones are like chameleons blending into their surroundings.

  • Here is a solution we are going to use this upcoming spring: Use duct tape, now also called ‘duck’ tape or paint to brightly color the handles on your tools, making them easier to find. We have in the past used the wonderful idea of adding an old mailbox to your garden area to hold tools.
    We did learn to be careful it is mounted level or pointing towards the ground, otherwise rain water can get in.
    Some lessons are always learned the hard way.

What tips do you have for staying organized?

Categories: gardening, jonesen', saving money & time, techniques

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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.
Win-win.

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 Save Money Thanksgiving Week

Yes this is primarily a gardening blog, but it is very difficult to grow everything you eat.
For the rest, take advantage of sales.

We looked at this recently, but this week is a good time to be a tad more specific.

Grab the opportunity.

Grab the opportunity.

1. Turkeys for 49 cents per pound? Or better yet, free?

Around the holidays grocery stores will sell some items at or below cost. They figure that if they can get you in the door, you will buy a lot more things than just a turkey, so it is worth it to them.

Back in our restaurant days, Mandolin would roast off a few turkeys and carve them. He used portions of turkey slices to line the inside of soup cups. That was then filled with prepared bread stuffing, wrapped with plastic and frozen.

Whenever someone ordered a turkey dinner from the menu, he would grab a soup cup and microwave it until it was hot.
Voila.

You can do the same thing using any freezer-to-microwave container. Right now, stuffing mixes are also on sale. Win-win.

Of course be sure to save the bones for making soup stock.

2. Whole cranberries can be grown at home if you live in a cooler region like we do, but even then it takes a few years to get a good crop.
We take advantage of them being on sale this week, and make our own cranberry sauce and can it. It is seriously easy to do, just use 2 parts berries to one part sugar, and one part or less water. Add some fresh lemon or orange zest if you like, and boil until the berries burst.
Water-bath can like you would jelly.

3. Sweet potatoes, not yams, are also on sale in our area. We grow our own, but if you don’t you can get them at a good price now. These need to be pressure canned or can be frozen after cooking.

Both homegrown and purchased.

Both homegrown and purchased.

4. Winter Squash is in season now, and also on sale at our local markets. Again, if you don’t grow your own now is a good time to stock up. We love squash soup, and simply cook off a few butternuts, remove the flesh and freeze it in portions. It is our version of a soup mix. You can also dehydrate it and grind into a powder, or pressure can. Squash also lasts a long time in cold holding.

5. The sides. Pre-canned items like green beans and pumpkin also go on sale this time of year. We prefer our own homegrown, but if you don’t have that opportunity go ahead and stock up. Check the expiration dates and be sure to use them in time. Most canned foods have a long shelf life.

6. Non-food items, like aluminum foil, are often on sale during the holidays. Check out stores for the best price.

Just remember to never go to the store hungry, stick to your list made using the store flyer, and keep those blinders on- they are betting you will buy things that aren’t on sale, and they use many marketing ploys to make that happen.

Stay strong, save money.

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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.

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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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