Saturday, November 28, 2009

Container Gardening

You don't need a plot of land to grow fresh vegetables. Many vegetables lend themselves well to container gardening. With some thought to selecting bush or dwarf varieties, almost any vegetable can be adapted to growing in a pot. Vegetables that take up little space, such as carrots, radishes and lettuce, or crops that bear fruits over a long period of time, such as tomatoes and peppers, are perfect for container vegetable gardens.

What you can grow in a container vegetable garden is limited only by the size of the container and your imagination. How about a Summer Salad container? Plant a tomato, a cucumber and some parsley or chives all in a large (24-30") container. They grow well together and have the same water and sun requirements. By late summer they might not be very pretty, but they'll keep producing into the fall. This makes a great housewarming present, too.

Containers and Pots for Vegetable Gardens
Selecting Containers: Containers for your vegetable gardens can be almost anything: flower pots, pails, buckets, wire baskets, bushel baskets, wooden boxes, nursery flats, window planters, washtubs, strawberry pots, plastic bags, large food cans, or any number of other things.
Drainage: No matter what kind of container you choose for your vegetable garden, it should have holes at the base or in the bottom to permit drainage of excess water.

Color Considerations: You should be careful when using dark colored containers because they absorb heat which could possibly damage the plant roots. If you do use dark colored pots, try painting them a lighter color or shading just the container.

Size: The size of the container is important. For larger vegetables like tomatoes and eggplants, you should use a five gallon container for each plant. You can grow these plants in two gallon containers, however you need to give the plants considerably more attention.

Soil and Fertilizer
You can use soil in your container vegetable garden, but the synthetic mixes are much better. Peat-based mixes, containing peat and vermiculite, are excellent. They are relatively sterile and pH adjusted. They also allow the plants to get enough air and water. Mixing in one part compost to two parts planting mix will improve fertility.
Using a slow release or complete organic fertilizer at planting will keep your vegetables fed for the whole growing season.

Pots and containers always require more frequent watering than plants in the ground. As the season progresses and your plants mature, their root system will expand and require even more water. Don't wait until you see the plants wilting. Check your containers daily to judge the need for water.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What is Wheatgrass

Wheatgrass will Increase red blood-cell count and lowers blood pressure. It cleanses the blood, organs and gastrointestinal tract of debris. Wheatgrass also stimulates metabolism and the body’s enzyme systems by enriching the blood. It also aids in reducing blood pressure by dilating the blood pathways throughout the body.

Stimulates the thyroid gland, correcting obesity, indigestion, and a host of other complaints.

Restores alkalinity to the blood. The juice's abundance of alkaline minerals helps reduce over-acidity in the blood. It can be used to relieve many internal pains, and has been used successfully to treat peptic ulcers, ulcerative colitis, constipation, diarrhea, and other complaints of the gastrointestinal tract.

Is a powerful detoxifier, and liver and blood protector. The enzymes and amino acids found in wheatgrass can protect us from carcinogens like no other food or medicine. It strengthens our cells, detoxifies the liver and bloodstream, and chemically neutralizes environmental pollutants.

Fights tumors and neutralizes toxins. Recent studies show that wheatgrass juice has a powerful ability to fight tumors without the usual toxicity of drugs that also inhibit cell-destroying agents. The many active compounds found in grass juice cleanse the blood and neutralize and digest toxins in our cells.

Contains beneficial enzymes. Whether you have a cut finger you want to heal or you desire to lose five pounds...enzymes must do the actual work. The life and abilities of the enzymes found naturally in our bodies can be extended if we help them from the outside by adding exogenous enzymes, like the ones found in wheatgrass juice. Don't cook it. We can only get the benefits of the many enzymes found in grass by eating it uncooked. Cooking destroys 100 percent of the enzymes in food.

Has remarkable similarity to our own blood. The second important nutritional aspect of chlorophyll is its remarkable similarity to hemoglobin, the compound that carries oxygen in the blood. Dr. Yoshihide Hagiwara, president of the Hagiwara Institute of Health in Japan, is a leading advocate for the use of grass as food and medicine. He reasons that since chlorophyll is soluble in fat particles, and fat particles are absorbed directly into the blood via the lymphatic system, that chlorophyll can also be absorbed in this way. In other words, when the "blood" of plants is absorbed in humans it is transformed into human blood, which transports nutrients to every cell of the body.

When used as a rectal implant, reverses damage from inside the lower bowel. An implant is a small amount of juice held in the lower bowel for about 20 minutes. In the case of illness, wheatgrass implants stimulate a rapid cleansing of the lower bowel and draw out accumulations of debris.

Externally applied to the skin can help eliminate itching almost immediately.

Will soothe sunburned skin and act as a disinfectant. Rubbed into the scalp before a shampoo, it will help mend damaged hair and alleviate itchy, scaly, scalp conditions.

Is soothing and healing for cuts, burns, scrapes, rashes, poison ivy, athlete's foot, insect bites, boils, sores, open ulcers, tumors, and so on. Use as a poultice and replace every two to four hours.

Works as a sleep aide. Merely place a tray of living wheatgrass near the head of your bed. It will enhance the oxygen in the air and generate healthful negative ions to help you sleep more soundly.

Enhances your bath. Add some to your bath water and settle in for a nice, long soak.

Sweetens the breath and firms up and tightens gums. Just gargle with the juice.

Neutralizes toxic substances like cadmium, nicotine, strontium, mercury, and polyvinyl chloride.

Offers the benefits of a liquid oxygen transfusion since the juice contains liquid oxygen. Oxygen is vital to many body processes: it stimulates digestion (the oxidation of food), promotes clearer thinking (the brain utilizes 25% of the body's oxygen supply), and protects the blood against anaerobic bacteria. Cancer cells cannot exist in the presence of oxygen.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

Today is a day of remembrance for all who have served and died for our country. And for those who are serving now in harm’s way. We should all stop for a moment and give thanks to those who enable us to live with the freedoms we still have.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Some of my Favorite Tomato Varieties

BEEFSTEAK TOMATOES the primo slicer for sandwiches, cooking
Beefsteaks are the very biggest tomatoes. Their pulp cavity is generally relatively small, and always compressed and distorted by the extensive placenta wall, giving the 'marbled' appearance of a steak. Because of the compressed pulp cavity and networking of the fruit wall as placenta, beefsteaks hold together well when sliced, and together with their large size, make them the ideal 'slicer' for sandwiches. Because of their high fruit wall to pulp ratio, they also cook down well for sauces. There is a lot of variation between varieties in the density of the flesh, its juiciness (i.e. firm or very soft when ripe), and in the size and softness of the central 'core'. Flavor, as always, can vary, according to the ratio of sugars to acids, and according to the relative amount of sugar or acid present.

Big Beef F1 Staking variety. Outstandingly productive, easily out producing most other large, (about 100mm/4 inches in diameter/ 280 gms ) very regular fruit shape, with no cracking, produce large tomatoes even toward the end of the season, very good flavor. One of the very best of the large main season varieties.

Big Rainbow Staking variety. A spectacular looking tomato grown from at least the 1900's in the USA. Basically a large to very large yellow beefsteak, as the fruits ripen, go through a phase where they resemble a rainbow - 'greenback' on the shoulders, yellow in the middle, and with red blushed pink on the blossom end. The early set fruit can be very large at 900grams/2 lbs or more. The flesh is marbled red and orange. It is relatively free of fruit defects, and bears well. Highly rated in taste tests. Main season.

Brandywine Staking variety. A large beefsteak. Not as tall as some staking plants, this old cultivar (pre 1885, from the Amish community in USA) is renowned for its flavor. The fruit are large, between 400 and 700 grams. They are subject to minor cracking on the top, and are a rather soft fruit, but the flavor is outstanding, with both high sweetness and acidity, making for full flavor. The flavor can be poor in unfavorable seasons. Moderately productive. Main season. It has no disease resistance, and is unsuited to very humid hot areas where disease is a problem.

Evergreen Staking variety. Ripens green toning yellow. Medium sized fruit. The solid dense fruits are well suited to salsas, as well as slicing for frying or sandwiches. Main season.

Golianth F1 A large, smooth, deep red skinned commercial variety of around 300gms/10oz or more. Widely adapted and disease resistant. Early mid season.
Giant Belgium Large to very large, dark pink fruit of around 500 grams/ 1 lb. and sometimes much more. The flesh is dense and meaty.

Great White Staking variety. A particularly vigorous beefsteak, bearing large fruit of around 400 gms. The fruit are yellowish white. Main season.
Grosse Lisse Staking variety. Vigorous, adapted to humid areas. Large, (plus 200 grams) heavy yielding cultivar. Moderate sweetness, low to moderate acidity. Main season.

Marvel Striped Staking variety. Grown in Oaxaca, Mexico, at least since the mid-1800. The large, heart-shaped fruit are yellow streaked with bright orange. Yellow flesh, streaked pink. The skin is thin, Juicy. The flavor is sweet Vigorous.

Mortgage Lifter Staking variety. Extremely large, furrowed, red beefsteak (up to 1 kilo). In good conditions it can be exceptionally productive. Main season

Pineapple Staking variety. The fruit are yellow-red striped, and the plants have heavy foliage. Which helps prevent sunscald.
Ponderosa Pink Staking variety. Large fruit, 200 grams and better. Very ripe fruit are sweet with low acidity. Slightly under ripe fruit are sweet and with better acid. This variety is outstanding for flavor, Main season.
St. Pierre a French heirloom variety actively sought out in the street markets for its superior flavor.

Yellow Brandywine a deep yellow, near orange color 'sport' of 'Brandywine'

Monday, November 9, 2009

Learning how to do Canning at Home

To preserve foods by canning two things must be done. First, sufficient heat must be provided to destroy all microscopic life that will cause spoilage in food; and second a perfect seal must be made which will prevent the re-entrance of microorganisms. These problems of preventing spoilage have been practically solved by the improved methods of canning which are explained below.
Only the freshest of fruits and vegetables should be canned. Canning does not improve the taste of the product; it only preserves it for future use.
Methods of Canning

Open Kettle: This method involves cooking the product completely and pouring it into sterilized jars, using sterilized equipment throughout. The jars are then sealed and stored. The open kettle method is recommended only for preserves, pickles, and foods canned in thick syrup. For other foods use the following methods.

Cold Pack: Cold, raw foods are put into jars and covered with boiling-hot syrup, juice of water. (Tomatoes are pressed down in the jar so they are covered with their own juice.) Jars are partially or completely sealed, following manufactures directions. Jars are then processed in boiling water or in steam to simultaneously cook the food and sterilize the jars.

Hot Pack: Fruits and vegetables are preheated before packing causing shrinkage before food goes into jars. This is the preferred method as preheating the food before packing prevents “floating”, (especially with fruits) and assures a full pack. Processing time is also lessened when food is hot-packed.

To learn how to do this Click Here

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Taking Care of your Soil

If you’re gardening in the same soil year after year, you will want to do some things to keep it healthy and vibrant so that it continues to improve. In fact, a good farmer or gardener who’s using sustainable practices will see there soil steadily improving and even growing bigger with each passing year.

This is especially true if you take care to do the regular maintenance that good soil husbandry requires. Most of this is easy to do and a lot of it will come naturally with the gardening process anyway.

First and foremost, never leave your soil bare to the elements. If you plant from seed, this probably can’t be helped much for a part of the year, but for 10 of the 12 months of the year, you soil should be growing something or covered with something. Wind erosion, sun leaching, and other things can quickly degrade the soil’s nutrients.

In the spring, before planting, cover the bare soil with manure or compost and let it sit for as long as you can before you put plants in. If you live in the northern United States, you probably don’t begin planting until late April or early May. The snow will be off the soil by late March or early April, just before the spring thaw. This is the time to spread that compost or manure over the garden. Freezing won’t hurt it and it will create new nutrients as it works into the soil.

While your garden is growing and you care for it, don’t throw out trimmed leaves or pulled weeds. Instead, leave them in the garden rows and let them rot there. Additionally, a lot of the items you might have left over in the kitchen can be put right on the garden rather than the compost heap.

You can throw your used tea bags, pour your leftover tea and coffee, drained blood from meats, and more onto your garden directly without composting. These ad things to the soil immediately. The tea bags, for instance, we’ll leave in the garden as a bundle for a day or two and then remove them before we water again.

At the end of the year, if there is still a month or two of sunlight left, try growing cold-tolerant crops like some types of cabbage, lettuces, tubers, and so forth. A lot of things can grow in cold weather and even survive light frosts. This keeps your soil productive and keeps it working.

Before winter really sets in, though, you’ll want to either have a cover crop in (recommended) or have another layer of compost/manure ready to spread over the soil. Mulch doesn’t hurt either if it’s finely chopped enough to break down relatively quickly.

Cover crops can include clover, grasses, or any of a host of fast-growing pasture grasses. They’re easy to plant too, since all you really need to do is broadcast the seeds over the soil and let them do their thing. This cover crop stops wind erosion and can be shallowly plowed under in the early spring to provide compost.