Thursday, July 29, 2010

Turnips for spring and fall

Select your turnip variety. Alltop, Seventop, Shogoin and Topper are turnip varieties that are grown primarily for the greens. Purple Top and White Globe are good for both the greens and the turnip root.

Prepare the seed bed. Your turnips will grow best in a light, rich, sandy loam soil with a pH of 5.5 to 7.5. Use your spade and garden rake to cultivate the soil thoroughly, so the turnip roots can develop fully. Form the soil into raised rows about 4 inches high and 12 inches apart.

Sow the turnip seeds in early spring, after danger of frost has passed, for a spring harvest, or in early summer for a late summer harvest. Spread the seeds evenly along the top of each row of the seed bed. Ultimately your turnip plants will be 3 to 4 inches apart, but turnip seeds are small and hard to dispense evenly, so spread the turnip seeds more densely; you will thin them later. Cover the seeds with 1/2 inch soil.

Water the turnip seeds, keeping the seed bed slightly moist until germination. The seeds will germinate in three to five days.

Continue to water the turnip plants evenly, about 1.5 inches of water every seven to ten days. Drip irrigation is ideal for turnip greens in the home garden.

Thin the seedlings to 3 to 4 inches apart when they are about 2 inches tall.

Cultivate the soil between the turnip rows weekly. Cultivate 2 inches deep as the turnip plants first begin to grow, and then more shallowly as the plants mature. Avoid disturbing the turnip's feeder roots.

Harvest the turnip greens when they are small--4 to 6 inches—for the sweetest flavor. Leave the inner; less developed leaf tips so that you can harvest a second round of greens in a few days. If you plan to also use the turnip root, only harvest the greens once before harvesting the root, since harvesting the greens inhibits the growth of the turnip root.

Harvest the turnip roots, if you plan to use it, when the roots are 2 to 3 inches in diameter. As the root grows larger, it will become less tender and sweet.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

There is still time for Radishes

Radish is a cool-season, fast-maturing, easy-to-grow vegetable. Garden radishes can be grown wherever there is sun and moist, fertile soil, even on the smallest city lot. Early varieties usually grow best in the cool days of early spring, but some later-maturing varieties can be planted for summer use. The variety French Breakfast holds up and grows better than most early types in summer heat if water is supplied regularly. Additional sowings of spring types can begin in late summer, to mature in the cooler, moister days of fall. Winter radishes are sown in midsummer to late summer, much as fall turnips. They are slower to develop than spring radishes; and they grow considerably larger, remain crisp longer, are usually more pungent and hold in the ground or store longer than spring varieties.

When to Plant

Spring radishes should be planted from as early as the soil can be worked until mid-spring. Make successive plantings of short rows every 10 to 14 days. Plant in spaces between slow-maturing vegetables (such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts) or in areas that will be used later for warm-season crops (peppers, tomatoes and squash). Spring radishes also can be planted in late winter in a protected cold frame, window box or container in the house or on the patio. Later-maturing varieties of radishes (Icicle or French Breakfast) usually withstand heat better than the early maturing varieties and are recommended for late-spring planting for summer harvest. Winter radishes require a much longer time to mature than spring radishes and are planted at the same time as late turnips (usually midsummer to late summer).

Spacing & Depth

Sow seed 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. Thin spring varieties to 1/2 to 1 inch between plants. Winter radishes must be thinned to 2 to 4 inches, or even farther apart to allow for proper development of their larger roots. On beds, radishes may be broadcast lightly and thinned to stand 2 to 3 inches apart in all directions.


Radishes grow well in almost any soil that is prepared well, is fertilized before planting and has adequate moisture maintained. Slow development makes radishes hot in taste and woody in texture.

Radishes mature rapidly under favorable conditions and should be checked often for approaching maturity. Harvest should begin as soon as roots reach edible size and should be completed quickly, before heat, pithiness or seeds talks can begin to develop.


Pull radishes when they are of usable size (usually staring when roots are less than 1 inch in diameter) and relatively young. Radishes remain in edible condition for only a short time before they become pithy (spongy) and hot. Proper thinning focuses the harvest and avoids disappointing stragglers that have taken too long to develop.

Winter varieties mature more slowly and should be harvested at considerably larger size. Once they reach maturity, they maintain high quality for a fairly long time in the garden, especially in cool fall weather. Size continues to increase under favorable fall conditions. Daikon or Chinese radish can achieve particularly large size and still maintain excellent quality. Winter radishes can be pulled before the ground freezes and stored in moist cold storage for up to several months.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pole Beans

Beans are sensitive to cold temperatures and frost. They should be planted after all danger of frost is past in the spring. If the soil has warmed before the average last-frost date, an early planting may be made a week to 10 days before this date. You can assure yourself a continuous supply of snap beans by planting every 2 to 4 weeks until early August.

Plant seeds of all varieties one inch deep. Plant seeds of pole beans 4 to 6 inches apart in rows 30 to 36 inches apart along trellis, netting, fence, or poles; or in hills (four to six seeds per hill) 30 inches apart, with 30 inches between rows.

Seeds of most varieties tend to crack and germinate poorly if the soil's moisture content is too high. For this reason, never soak bean seed before planting. Instead water just after planting or plant right before a heavy rain.

Beans have shallow roots and frequent shallow cultivation and hoeing are necessary to control small weeds and grasses. Because bean plants have fairly weak root systems, deep, close cultivation injures the plant roots, delays harvest and reduces yields.

Harvest when the pods are firm, crisp and fully elongated, but before the seed within the pod has developed significantly. Pick beans after the dew is off the plants, and they are thoroughly dry. Picking beans from wet plants can spread bean bacterial blight, a disease that seriously damages the plants. Be careful not to break the stems or branches, which are brittle on most bean varieties. The bean plant continues to form new flowers and produces more beans if pods are continually removed before the seeds mature.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Container Gardening

Nearly any type of container can be used for growing vegetable plants. Old wash tubs, wooden boxes or crates, gallon-sized coffee cans, and even five-gallon buckets can be implemented for growing crops as long as they provide adequate drainage.

Regardless of the type or size of your container, drainage is vital for successful growth and the overall health of vegetables. If the container you have chosen does not provide any outlets for drainage, you can easily drill a few holes within the bottom or lower sides. Placing gravel or small stones in the bottom of the container will help improve drainage as well. You may also consider raising the container an inch or two off the ground with blocks.

Depending on the crops you selected, the size of the container will vary. Most plants require containers that allow at least 6- to 8-inch depths for adequate rooting. Smaller sized containers, like coffee cans, are generally ideal for crops such as carrots, radishes, and herbs; use medium sized containers, such as five-gallon buckets, to grow tomatoes or peppers. For larger crops, such as vine growers, beans, and potatoes, you want to implement something more suitable to their needs, such as a large wash tub.

The spacing requirements for most vegetables are usually found on the seed packet or you can find them in gardening resource books. Once the seeds have sprouted, you can thin the plants to the desired number suitable to the container.

Fill containers with peat moss and a suitable potting mix. Compost or manure should be worked in to achieve healthier plant growth. Do not add more than the recommended amounts of fertilizer, however, since doing so can burn the plants.

Where to Put Your Container Vegetable Garden

Once you have taken care of the basics, you’ll have to decide where to place your container garden. You want to situate the containers in an area that is close to a water source with sufficient sunlight, usually, at least five hours. Excessive wind can quickly dry container plants out, so you should consider this factor as well when choosing a site.

Set the larger pots furthest back or in the center, if your design permits, with the medium-sized containers placed in front or around the larger ones. Always place the smallest containers in the very front.

With containers, there is also the option of growing vegetables in windowsills or hanging baskets that can be placed right on the porch or balcony. Ornamental peppers and cherry tomatoes look good in hanging baskets as do trailing plants such as the sweet potato vine. Keep them watered daily, however, since hanging baskets are more prone to drying out, especially during hot spells.

Watering Container Gardening Vegetables

Generally, you should water container plants every few days unless it is quite hot; more frequent watering will then be required. Check containers at least once a day and feel the soil to determine whether or not it is damp. You also might consider sitting containers on trays or lids. Doing so will help retain moisture by holding excess water and allowing the roots to slowly pull it up as needed; check these plants often to make sure that they are not continually sitting in water. If sitting water becomes a problem, fill the trays with some type of mulching material, such as chips, to help soak it up. Apply water with a watering can or sprayer attachment on a garden hose. Also check that the water is reasonably cool beforehand as hot water may cause damage to root development. During the hottest part of the day or when severe weather is expected, you can move the containers for additional protection.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Saving Seeds

When acquiring seed to grow vegetables make sure you buy Heirloom seeds. Do not buy hybrid seeds because you cannot save these seeds. Once you grow them they will not reproduce. Heirlooms seed are the best because they are handed down from generation to generation with the same elements that helped our grandparents survive with a healthy diet and without all these problems we have today with our health. It’s time to get back to basics before it is too late. Gather seed even if you do not garden, In the near future you may need this seed to live on because it will keep for a few years.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Desert Gardening

Cool-Season Vegetables

Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and chard--along with lettuces, cabbages, broccoli, and root vegetables like carrots, beets and turnips--are cool-season veggies. Plant them in the desert as soon as the last frost date in the spring and again about eight weeks before the first frost date in the fall. The days getting shorter as fall approaches means less bolting and cooler temperatures at night. Two crops are possible with cool-season veggies.

Warm Season Vegetables
Summers are long in most desert regions, beginning in late April and often lasting well into October with temperatures reaching a high of 90 degrees or more. It may seem counter-intuitive, but select vegetables that are early ripening. As temperatures go over 90 degrees in June and July without much moisture, pollen dries out before it can fertilize the blossoms of tomatoes, peppers, corn and eggplants. That means warm season veggies--such as those just mentioned and including squash, beans and melons--should be planted as soon as the soil warms up. If daytime temperatures are in the 70s, the soil is most likely warm enough. Warm season veggies need warm soil to germinate and grow a healthy root system. If plants have made it through July, cut them back by at least half. They will put on a new flush of growth and it's often possible to get a second crop of warm-season vegetables.


Of course a water source is required for desert gardening. There isn't enough rainfall, even during monsoon season, to keep a vegetable garden alive. It may be necessary to water every other day during summer months. Quite a few veggies like eggplant and peppers will wilt even though the ground may be damp. That's okay, as the plants will revive in the evening and early morning hours.

Salts, and Fertilizing

Many desert areas have alkaline soil and the water is naturally salty. The salts build up in the soil and should be flushed out by watering deeply once a month. The soil is also deficient in iron. Plants show that deficiency by having green veins and yellow leaves. Nitrogen deficiency is shown by the leaves turning entirely yellow. Adding iron to amend the soil solves the problem. Fertilizing in the desert should be done more often, since the extra watering dissolves the fertilizer and it washes away. Use a water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks for more productive crops.

Protection from the Sun

During the summer months most veggies appreciate protection from the hot sun. If possible locate the garden where it receives eight hours of direct sunlight in the morning and shade in the afternoon.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

It’s time for canning again

In North America, home canning is usually done in Mason jars, which have thicker walls than single-use commercial glass jars. Unless the food being preserved has a high acid (pH <4.6), salt or sugar content (resulting in water availability <0.85), such as pickles or jellies, the filled jars are also processed under pressure in a canner, a specialized type of pressure cooker. Ordinary pressure cookers are not recommended for canning as their smaller size and the reduced thickness of the cooker wall will not allow for the correct building up and reducing time of pressure, which is factored into the overall processing time and therefore will not destroy all the harmful microorganisms. The goal in using a pressure canner is to achieve a "botulinum cook" of 121°C for 3 minutes, throughout the entire volume of canned product. Canners often incorporate racks to hold Mason jars, and pressure canners are capable of achieving the elevated temperatures needed to prevent spoilage.

The most common configuration is a Mason jar with a flat lid and screw ring. The lid is generally made of plated or painted steel, with an elastomeric washer or gasket bonded to the underside of the rim. The lid also incorporates a slightly dimpled shape, which acts as an indicator of the vacuum (or lack thereof) inside a sealed jar. The ring threads onto the top of the jar over the lid to hold it in place while the jar cools after processing; the ring can be removed once a vacuum has been established in the jar. Jars are commonly in either pint or quart capacities, with two opening diameters, known as "standard" and "wide mouth".

When a jar has cooled and is properly sealed, pressing the dimple on the lid will not make any sound. An improperly sealed jar will allow the dimple to move up and down, sometimes making a popping noise. Lack of this noise does not necessarily indicate that the food in the jar is properly preserved. Typically, during the cooling process, a properly sealed lid will pop once as the pressure inside the jar is reduced enough that atmospheric pressure pushes the lid inward.

Older variations had a ceramic seal inside a one-piece zinc lid. Other methods, especially for jams and jellies, may use a layer of hot paraffin wax poured directly over the top of the food to seal it from air, thus reducing growth of aerobic microorganisms like mold.

While it is possible to safely preserve many kinds of foodstuffs, home canning can expose consumers to botulism and other kinds of food poisoning if done incorrectly. Because of the high risk of illness or death associated with improper canning techniques, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) considers it critical that consumers who intend to can at home obtain proper and current information from a reliable source. At the basis of these recommendations is the balance between bringing the food to a high enough temperature for a long enough time that spoilage and disease-producing microorganisms are killed, while not heating the food so much that it loses nutritive value or palatability.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

You’re Soil for Next Season

Good soil grows healthy plants. You should prepare your soil well ahead of time to provide the right conditions for growth. We have had the best success getting beds ready in the fall, right after the summer’s garden is finished and when cool, dry weather permits.

Because roots like a soil that is conditioned enough to hold moisture, but porous enough to provide air spaces and good drainage, The best way to give soil this texture is by adding well rotted organic compost, as often as is practical. Good organics include peat moss, well rotted manure over your entire garden to a depth of several inches and mix it into your soil as deeply and thoroughly as possible.

If your soil still seems heavy and form clumps when wet or hard clods when dry mix in up to 2 inches of coarse sand as well as the organic compost.

Soils that are too sandy and drain too quickly can be made more productive through liberal amounts of organic compost.

After preparing your bed, cover with deep mulch over winter to protect the soil and hold weeds down in the spring. With a raised bed prepared this way, we are often able to plant straight into it in spring with no further tilling.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Try Growing Spinach this year

When to Plant

The first planting can be made as soon as the soil is prepared in the spring. If the soil was prepared in the fall, seeds can be broadcast over frozen ground or snow cover in late winter and they will germinate as the soil thaws. Plant successive crops for several weeks after the initial sowing to keep the harvest going until hot weather. Seed spinach again in late summer for fall and early winter harvest. Chill seeds for summer or fall plantings in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 weeks before planting. In southern locations, immature spinach seedlings survive over winter on well-drained soils and resume growth in spring for early harvest. With mulch, borderline gardeners should be able to coax seedlings through the winter for an early spring harvest. Spinach can be grown in hotbeds, sunrooms or protected cold frames for winter salads.

Spacing & Depth

Sow 12 to 15 seeds per foot of row. Cover 1/2 inch deep. When the plants are one inch tall, thin to 2 to 4 inches apart. Closer spacing (no thinning) is satisfactory when the entire plants are to be harvested. The rows may be as close as 12 inches apart, depending upon the method used for keeping weeds down. In beds, plants may be thinned to stand 4 to 6 inches apart in all directions. Little cultivation is necessary.


Spinach grows best with ample moisture and a fertile, well-drained soil. Under these conditions, no supplemental fertilizer is needed. If growth is slow or the plants are light green, side-dress with nitrogen fertilizer.


The plants may be harvested whenever the leaves are large enough to use (a rosette of at least five or six leaves). Late thinning may be harvested as whole plants and eaten. Cut the plants at or just below the soil surface. Spinach is of best quality if cut while young. Two or three separate seedlings of short rows can provide harvest over an extended period. Some gardeners prefer to pick the outer leaves when they are 3 inches long and allow the younger leaves to develop for later harvest. Harvest the entire remaining crop when seeds talk formation begins because leaves quickly deteriorate as flowering begins.