Archive for the ‘Growing Food’ category

Stevia – Zero Calorie Sweetener that you can Grow

March 14th, 2009

Stevia (stevia rebaudiana) is a new world herb that you might have only recently heard of.  Stevia leaves – while having zero calories – are claimed to be 30 times sweeter than sugar, and in fact one of the common names is “candy leaf” – the extract is supposedly 300 times sweeter than sugar!  Stevia is also reputed to have several health benefits including the  prevention of tooth decay and diabetes.  I don’t know about that, but I would guess that using less sugar probably would have those effects.

Is the idea of growing your own natural organic zero calorie sweetener intriguing to you? » Read more: Stevia – Zero Calorie Sweetener that you can Grow

Simple Plastic Tunnel Cold Frame or Row Cover

March 3rd, 2009
This plastic tunnel is being used inside of the greenhouse to protect tender plants against a late hard freeze - very effectively I might add.

This plastic tunnel is being used inside of the greenhouse to protect tender plants against a late hard freeze - very effectively I might add.

A simple plastic tunnel like this can serve as a cold frame to grow salad greens  all winter long, to grow out tomatoes and other tender plants, to extend the season for an early Spring start or a late Fall harvest, or even as a screen house to keep birds off of your strawberries or vine borer moths off of your squashes.  You can also use one of these to dry out water logged beds and warm up the soil so that you can begin planting  in early Spring. These devices are so useful, cheap, easy, and quick to build that everyone should have at least one – it’s almost as good as having your own polytunnel greenhouse. » Read more: Simple Plastic Tunnel Cold Frame or Row Cover

March in the Garden

February 28th, 2009

March is when things really start happening in the garden – even though some wintry weather is normal for this month you can’t help but notice the flowers appearing, the buds swelling, and the birds singing – nature knows that winter is almost over.  If you haven’t already placed your seed order you need to do it ASAP! If you save your own heirloom seeds you don’t have to worry about buying seeds – ever again.

March is the right time for planting many cool season plants, but unfortunately the unpredictable weather means that it might be hard on any given day to work in the garden.  So try to take advantage of any break in the weather to  prepare the ground as soon as possible.  Add  compost, manure, lime and other soil amendments at  planting time if you haven’t already.

Freeze hardy annual and perennial vegetables can be planted or set out any time in March:

  • Potatoes *
  • Onion and Shallot sets
  • Peas**
  • Fava Beans
  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Rhubarb
  • Horseradish
  • Jerusalem artichokes

Frost hardy vegetables can be seeded or set-out later in the month: » Read more: March in the Garden

Prevent Garden Pests by Rotating Crops

February 23rd, 2009


Before farmers had the option of battling pests and diseases by applying petroleum based poisons to crops or tampering with genetic designs they worked out sustainable systems to manage  insects and pathogens by rotating crops. » Read more: Prevent Garden Pests by Rotating Crops

Plan Now for a Fall Garden – Before it’s Too Late!

February 19th, 2009

Before it’s too late?!  Yes, that’s not a joke.  It’s still winter but the cabbage, broccoli, peas, potatoes, etc that you’re planting now (or soon will be) for your early spring garden are almost the same things you will want to plant in July – August (in zone 6)  for a Fall garden.  The thing is that seed will be hard to find, and seed potatoes and bedding plants will be just about non-existant by then.  Buy a few extra now while they are plentiful  and stash them for later.  You’ll be glad you did.

February in the Garden

February 4th, 2009
Cold weather and snow concentrates birds near food supplys

Cold weather and snow concentrate birds near food supplies in February.

What to plant in the garden in February – Cool Season Vegetables – February is not too early to begin planting the spring vegetable garden.  Take action now and your family will be eating fresh garden fare months before your neighbors.

  • Cool season crops such as broccoli, cabbage, radishes, kale, turnips, Irish potatoes and onions planted now will yield their harvest soon.
  • Arugula, lettuce, and other salad greens can also be planted out in the garden this month, but will do better if started under cover of a simple plastic tunnel, or a cold frame.  Plan on succession plantings every week or two to keep the homegrown goodness coming.
  • Spinach – plant out in the garden around the middle of the February – cover spinach seeds with 1/4″  of peat moss or screened compost instead of garden soil so that the tiny plants don’t have to fight heavy crusty soil just to emerge.  Plant plenty to share with family and friends.
  • Potatoes – toward the end of the month plant potatoes in trenches or pits leaving room to add additional soil as the plants emerge.
  • Black berries, grapes, strawberries and other small fruit and hardy perennials can be transplanted out this month.
  • Asparagus crowns can be set out or moved, as can almost any dormant hardy perennial. » Read more: February in the Garden

Gardening on the Cheap

January 29th, 2009
The big reward of gardening is being able to feed your family the best quality produce available.  The president cant get anything better than that ear of sweet corn picked while the grill was heating up.

Raising a garden will not only allow you to feed your family the freshest and highest quality food - it can also help save a lot of money!

Welcome Stumbleupon gardeners!

You can spend a lot of money putting in a garden, but you don’t have to.  Some of the best gardens I ever grew were when I had little more than my time to invest – the essential ingredient.  In today’s economy many people are interested in growing a garden to supplement their family food supply, but  will it really  save you money? Yes – if you follow a few guidelines. » Read more: Gardening on the Cheap

Plant Spacing for Intensive Gardening Methods

January 26th, 2009
That sweet corn is way too close together - the yield was very small, and much of it fell over after a big rain because of the shallow restricted roots.
That sweet corn inter-planted with pole beans (an experiment) is way too close together – the yield was very small, and much of it fell over after a big rain because of the shallow restricted roots.

Recommended Spacing for Intensive Planting  Methods

Plant Inches Plant Inches
Asparagus 15 – 18 Lettuce, head 10 – 12
Beans, lima 4 – 6 Lettuce, leaf 4 – 6
Beans, pole 6 – 12 Melons 18 – 24
Beans, bush 4 – 6 Mustard 6 – 9
Beets 2 – 4 Okra 12 – 18
Broccoli 12 – 18 Onion 2 – 4
Brussels sprouts 15 – 18 Peas 2 – 4
Cabbage 15 – 18 Peppers 12 – 15
Cabbage, Chinese 10 – 12 Potatoes 10 – 12
Carrots 2 – 3 Pumpkins 24 – 36
Cauliflower 15 – 18 Radishes 2 – 3
Cucumber 12 – 18 Rutabaga 4 – 6
Chard, Swiss 6 – 9 Southern pea 3 – 4
Collards 12 – 15 Spinach 4 – 6
Endive 15 – 18 Squash, summer 18 – 24
Eggplant 18 – 24 Squash, winter 24 – 36
Kale 15 – 18 Sweet corn 15 – 18
Kohlrabi 6 – 9 Tomatoes 18 – 24
Leeks 3 – 6 Turnip 4 – 6

Arizona State University Master Gardener Manual: Intensive Gardening Methods. » Read more: Plant Spacing for Intensive Gardening Methods

Grow All Winter In a Cold Frame Made From Recycled Materials

January 8th, 2009

A simple cold frame is an easy, economical way to get more out of  your garden.

Fresh salad in the cold frame in January

Salad ready to eat in January

You might know that I built a small greenhouse this fall.  Unfortunately by the time I finished it in early November it was pretty late to get started – I have a few things going in there now, but I’ve not really been able to use it to full advantage.  Being able to enjoy the sunshine while I’ve worked in there out of the cold has been nice.  But the truth is that so far this cold frame has been at least as productive as the greenhouse.

While I built my greenhouse on the cheap ($50 out of pocket) building this cold frame actually cost nothing – 100 percent recycled materials» Read more: Grow All Winter In a Cold Frame Made From Recycled Materials

January in the Garden

January 3rd, 2009
One of the first harbingers of Spring is the first glimpse of crocuses, and daffodils peaking through.  But, in January?

One of the first harbingers of Spring is a glimpse of crocuses or daffodils peeking through. But in January?

So far in middle TN we haven’t really had very much cold weather yet, and we’ve had highs in the upper 60s several times in the last couple of weeks – thus the daffodils peeking through the mulch.  Actually they weren’t really peeking through – I uncovered them by accident while grubbing out chick weed yesterday – New Years Day.  Anyway, they’ll be fine – I covered them back after taking that picture.  BTW fear not, although it might be a bit early those bulbs will be fine.  Just sprinkle a bit of loose mulch over them if you must – or not. » Read more: January in the Garden