Harvesting delicious tomatoes from the Garden

It’s the time of the season to begin harvesting what you’ve worked so hard towards: beautiful, delicious, juicy tomatoes from the garden.  I’m like Goldilocks when it comes to a tomato I want one that’s “just right”. In my pursuit of the perfectly ripened tomato, I have learned an important lesson this year: don’t wait too long to pick them.  I’ve found that if you pick a tomato just as it is beginning to show color it will ripen to perfection on the kitchen counter.

The sugar content of tomatoes is set well before it starts to show color – so you’re not losing anything there by picking a little early.  On the Harvesting Tomatoescontrary if you leave them on the vine too long, they tend to get too mushy or cracked.  This is particularly true when rain is a constant factor. Or even worse eaten by something, like squirrels, birds or worms, before you get the chance.  Insects and other critters are more attracted to tomatoes once they fully ripen.

So, when you’re out in the garden scoping out the next tomato to be put in that salad or on that sandwich, don’t be prejudiced against those just starting to show color.  Once they sit off the vine a couple of days, you’ll be enjoying tomato bliss.

To water or not to water, that is the question

Image

 

 

 

 

 

Hey guys!  This is my first year gardening and I love watching my plants grow.  But with gardening comes MUCH to learn about watering.

And this is what I’ve learned this week…

Watering is as simple as giving the plant enough to drink when it wants it.  How do you know when it wants water? Basically a droopy plant is a sure sign that the water level has gone down too far for the plant to reach with its roots.  You need to water to raise the water level to where the active roots are spreading out.  You never want to keep water on all the roots, all the time.  The roots will grow deep to access the water that is just below them.  Deep roots are great for making the plant strong and able to feed itself, drink lots of water,and hold itself up.
If the roots always have access to water, they will not be able to “breathe” in the soil and may suffocate and drown. 

Watering for Containers

In containers, the same situation applies but you water more infrequently as water tends to stand in pots and take days to dry up.  Good drainage will prevent standing water. Watch for drooping in the leaves which will tell you when is the right time to give them a drink and check the weight of the pot overall for how much water may be in there already.  Yellowing of the top new growth is a sure sign of too much water as well. Using soaker hoses, sprinklers or watering cans help water the plant more softly and allows it to soak into the soil without running off.

Products which may be helpful:

Watering Cans for evenly distributed water

Colorful Watering Cans makes watering easy to control

Rain Gauge for water measurement

A rain gauge will tell you how much rainfall you have had

watering timer for setting a limit on water

Setting a timer is helpful to keep from overwatering

Fall Gardening

veggie basket

We’ve been harvesting like mad here in the South, but the party isn’t over, even for those of you in cooler climes. We have a vast selection of plants that prefer cool weather:  Lettuces, spinach, kale, carrots and beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage all grow beautifully in the fall. And fall is the time to start your garlic and onions for an early harvest in the spring.

New to fall gardening? Buy our sampler set (16 plants) for a variety of cool season choices and give it a try!

Fall Garden Collection

But let’s talk about your garden right now. If you’re like most of us, some plants did brilliantly and others just flopped. You should write down what worked and what didn’t, because once the catalogs come in the spring, you’ll get sucked in by all the fancy pictures and forget everything you learned the previous season. What did you grow that you really loved? What are you tired of putting up? (Hellooooo zucchini!) Add notes about these to your notebook to help your ordering next spring.

How did your garden grow?

I learned (the hard way, as usual) that beans and onions don’t like to be planted near each other, but onions and lettuces are happy together and conspire to keep the bugs away. Every season you garden, you add to your knowledge. Keeping notes about what you plant and where will help you improve your skills (and yields!) each year.

Cute tools!

We have plenty of tools, fertilizers and other helps in stock; those ship immediately. The fall vegetables will start shipping mid-August, and we always have herbs (by themselves or in a huge variety of cute containers) for the kitchen garden.

Organic bliss!

Join us on Facebook and send us pictures of what’s growing! We love hearing from you and seeing what you’re harvesting. And don’t forget to visit our other site, Tasteful Home Decor, where home and garden come together. Full housewares, kitchen gadgets, dinnerware and garden-inspired home accessories, it’s a wonderful place to shop for your home and gifts for friends and neighbors.

Luscious dinnerware!

Peas on Earth

Sugar Snap Peas

Sugar Snap Peas can be eaten whole, pods and all!

Growing Peas

When I first learned to garden, I thought you put everything in the ground once the snow melted and everything would grow through the summer and you’d have a bountiful harvest. I learned that wasn’t true when a spring frost hit and I lost a bunch of plants . Thanks to some more experienced friends and relatives (and books and blogs) I also learned that certain plants grow best at certain times of the year. Tomatoes prefer the summer weather; peas like the spring. This explains why the peas I planted in May produced a poor harvest in coastal New England: I planted them when it was too warm. Eventually I started planted my peas sometime after St. Patrick’s Day (provided the snow was melted and the ground wasn’t frozen) and they grew beautifully.

Peas love growing on fences

Peas love growing on fences

Those who have gardened know what I’m about to tell you, but for a newbie it was a revelation: NOTHING tastes as good as just-picked produce. The first time I harvested some peas, I immediately steamed them, added butter and a little salt, and oh. Oh my. I was in love. I had always liked peas, but this was different. The flavor! The texture! They were Just.So.Good. That sealed the gardening deal for me. For food that tasted this good, I would do the work.

Skyscraper trellis

A great idea for peas, cucumbers, beans or even tomatoes.

I tried a variety of supports for my pea plants and I discovered a few things:

  • They grew nicely on the perimeter fence, but the deer had access to anything on the backside of the fence and clearing the tendrils off at the end of the season was a bit of a pain.
  • The mesh netting is cost effective, but you have to pull it really taut and add plenty of support or the weight of the plants will bring it down.
  • peas2A sturdy structure placed at a slight angle gives good support and makes harvesting a little easier.
  • Peas freeze well, but you should eat as many as you can while they’re fresh. Yum yum YUM!

We have pea plants ready to ship when you’re ready to plant!

Article Contributed by our dear friend Anne DeRuiter

Read more here

 

Andesite Mineral Complex, great for your garden!

Quote

Do you wish your plants were healthier and more vibrant? Andesite can improve the production rates, Brix (sugar) levels and nutrient-density in the edibles that you are growing. It can also attract more pollinators to your garden by making more and larger blooms on flowers and all flowering plants. Andesite is 100% natural and safe for use on indoor and outdoor plants. Andesite Mineral Complex

Your body needs at least 45-60 minerals for optimal health. Our soils don’t contain these minerals anymore and they must be replenished so our vegetable plants can pick them up with their roots and add them to leaves and fruits (which we eat!). This makes them more nutritious for us and better for the overall environment.  This is an excerpt from an article on Hidden Hunger (or lack of nutrition in food that should be healthy).

Discovering Super Foods

In the fall of 1978, I traveled to Forres, Scotland to visit a very special community called Findhorn where some remarkable things were happening. Findhorn is a teaching community and is famous for the superior crops from their spectacular gardens. I met people who had lived there for some time. An older couple caught my attention and I dined with them on several occasions. They looked like they were in their late sixties; however, they were quite active and full of spirit. Not a wrinkle on their faces, full heads of white hair, and rosy cheeks wrapping around warm smiles. I eventually started asking them about their life, and they told me they had lived in the Findhorn community for only five years. Before that, they had lived in the adjoining trailer park.

They asked me to guess how old they were. I hesitated, feeling confident they were 70 years of age each, but wanted to flatter them a bit, so I said I thought they were 65. They both smiled broadly and then showed me a picture of the two of them from the days before they joined the community. In the photo they looked much older than the robust people I saw sitting before me. Their wrinkles were clearly evident in the photograph; they were hunched over and appeared quite frail. Yet, their skin was now soft and smooth, they were broad and muscular and walked around quite capably. With the rosy tint in their cheeks they looked like the perfect “postcard couple.”

When they told me exactly how old they were “over 95” I didn’t believe it. They had their friends swear to it and Confirmed it with their British drivers’ licenses. I was astounded. What had turned these two around?

A few days later, I was working hard in one of the many organic, biodynamic, remineralized gardens that abound in the community. I noticed a tomato was ripe, so I picked and ate it. To my astonishment, my whole mouth lit up with its overwhelming sweetness. Never in all of my life had I tasted such a delicious tomato. I was picking these tomatoes to load on a truck that would transport them to a nearby village. I looked in the truck and I noticed some of the produce came from local farmers who also grew their produce naturally. I reached into the back of the truck and tried one of the tomatoes from a nearby farm. I had no plan in mind. I was simply still a little hungry. When I bit into it, it tasted like pure water! The taste from the first tomato was still fresh in my mouth; not more than two minutes had passed. And so, even when I again, tasted this second tomato, the difference was astounding.                                                from a HealthKeepers Magazine article

Gardeners understand that “old fashioned tomato flavor” is only available from backyard gardens or small organic farms because the minerals in the soil make them not only more flavorful but more nutritious for us to eat.  Adding natural minerals and compost really changes the way that plants make their fruit and leaves and the side effect for us is some of the best flavored food you can get anywhere and it is full of a multiple amount of minerals our bodies need and don’t get anyplace else in our diets.

Andesite Mineral Complex from Green Generations

Andesite Mineral Complex is a naturally occurring volcanic-based rock dust blend containing broad-spectrum minerals and trace elements combined with certified natural paramagnetic levels in excess of 8,ooo+ cgs. Andesite meets NOP (National Organic Program) standards for certified organic production.

When to Apply:

Andesite Mineral Complex can be applied any time throughout the year or growing cycle and cannot be over-applied, it will not harm or burn plants or leaves

Recommended Applications:

Seed Starts

  • Mix 1/8 cup Andesite per gallon of seed start planting mix.

Transplants

  • Apply 1-2 teaspoons Andesite per 4 inches of pot width/diameter of plant to be transplanted directly to the base of hole prior to transplanting edibles, flowers, trees, shrubs or other plants.

Edible Gardens & Raised Beds

  • Apply 25-40 lbs. Andesite per 1000 sq. ft. of garden space. Work into top 1-2 inches of soil pre/post season or top dress around established plants.

Potted Herbs and Vegetables

  • Top dress 1-2 teaspoons per 4 inches of pot width/diameter. Gently work into top 1/2-1 inch of soil or mix into potting soil at time of planting.

Fruit Trees

  • Top dress area between trunk and drip line of tree crown at a rate of 1lb per inch of tree trunk caliper.

Great Recipes to use up your Late season Peppers!

Great Recipes to use up your Late season Peppers!

I don’t know about you but we are literally overrun with peppers in September.  I really wish they would ripen in the early part of the summer but they just take so long to ripen to their colors, we wait and eventually we become inundated with them at the end of the season.

Here are a few great recipes that will get you started with using up peppers by the bushel:

Roasted Pepper and Garlic Soup

Ingredients:

3 lbs. Red, Yellow or Orange bell peppers, halved and cleaned
5 cloves garlic, in peel
2 cups chopped onion
2 Tb. olive oil
2 large sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
4 cups good chicken stock (or vegetable broth)
1 tsp. hot sauce (Sriracha or Tabasco)
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground pepper

Directions:

Half the peppers and remove all seeds and membranes. Press them flat with your hand and lay them on a foil lined, rimmed baking sheet. Place the garlic cloves on the baking sheet.

Set the oven on broil and raise the rack to the upper position. Broil the red peppers and garlic for about 15 minutes watching carefully so they blacken and skins are bubbly.

Once the skin has blackened, remove from the oven and place in a large zip bag to steam so the skins will easily separate from the pepper flesh. (10 minutes)

Preheat a large pot to medium heat. Add the oil, thyme, bay leaf, and onions. Saute for 5-10 minutes, until onions are soft.

Add the broth, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of the peels into the pot.

Then peel the charred skin off each pepper half and place it in the pot.

Reduce the heat, cover and cook another 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Then, using a hand-held immersion blender or standard blender, blend until smooth.

Optional: Add 1 cup of half and half or heavy cream or cream cheese at the end and lightly simmer until blended and hot.

Another one for the grill or oven:

http://foodietale.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/aed7510ec30a51cbd73590929e725a27.jpg

Sausage and Peppers with Potatoes and Herbs

1 package (at least 1 lb) of your favorite Italian sausage links (Pork, hot, or chicken) or smoked sausage cut into bite sized pieces. (You can also use fresh chicken breasts or pork cut into chunks)
4-6 medium red skinned potatoes halved and quartered.

Peppers:
1-2 bell peppers or sweet peppers of any kind. (Lipstick, Jimmy Nardello, Banana Peppers or Bells)
1-2 hot peppers chopped(optional)

1 large sweet onion, chopped into bite sized chunks
2-3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
3 tbsp virgin olive oil
Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper
2-3 tsp fresh chopped Rosemary, Basil, Oregano (or just about any other herb you have handy)
Fresh San Marzano type Tomatoes, halved and quartered (optional)

Cut up all ingredients as specified above. Blend Garlic, olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper. In a large roasting pan lined with foil, toss all the vegetables and meat in the olive oil mixture distributing evenly. Roast for approximately 30-40 minutes mixing once half way through. Let sit for approx. 5 minutes and serve with good crusty bread.

This is also a great recipe for roasting in foil on the grill!

Vegetable Container Gardening

Vegetable Container Gardening

Vegetable-Container-Gardening With access to the internet and sites like Pinterest, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with ideas and intimidated by the seemingly perfect gardens that are commonly found there. At the same time your yard (or lack thereof) is too small, the weather is too unpredictable, or you just don’t have enough time to take care of a proper garden. Well, there’s some good news! Gardening doesn’t have to be large scale, perfect, require perfect weather, or need a ton of time. One of the simplest ways to add color and life to your backyard or balcony is to implement containers into your gardening routine.

Whether you’re looking to plant herbs and vegetables or brighten up your space with some colorful flowers, container gardening is very versatile method and can utilize some of the most common place items!

Going Green with your Green Thumb:

containersforgardening From coffee cans and yogurt cups to egg cartons and milk jugs, recycling your containers has never been easier! Many of these items can easily be turned into plant containers. Egg cartons are perfect for starting a large amount of plants to be transplanted later in the season when they outgrow their space. Teach your kids about gardening by having them paint a yogurt container or milk jug and watch their plants grow or use the smaller yogurt containers for a mini herb garden to add a little spice to your dinners. Be creative and don’t be afraid to try nontraditional ideas!

Cook with fresh produce? Take it to a whole other level with this idea!

If your grandparents are anything like mine, then they have four of everything and love giving you the things they don’t use. This has resulted in the unfortunate situation of owing 10 pots, but only really using two to cook with. I ended up donating mine, but if I had seen what this creative gal did with her found cookware! With the new trend of colorful cookware; pots, pans, teapots, or even coffee mugs and teacups can all make great creative containers for succulents or houseplants. Make sure you provide enough room for drainage though; it would be easy to drown your plants otherwise.

Don’t be dull as dirt, get creative!

There are plenty of really creative ideas that can be executed inside and outside of the home.  Using rain gutters as planters along the fence, deck railing, or even hanging them seems to be a big fad right now. It’s a great method for keeping spreading produce contained and looks really cool! I’ve seen a bunch of creative ways to garden with containers either in small spaces or large scale!

container-vegetable-garden

Containers that can be used for gardening are literally limitless. As long as it can contain a little dirt and handle being a little wet it can be used for planting! Get creative and start looking at those old canisters, shoes, buckets, and dishes in a new light. Who knows? There might be a perfect pot for that plant you’ve been looking to re-home.

article courtesy of:

Mackenzie Kupfer is inspired by things both great and small, whether it’s royal gardens or a shoe-planter. To see more of her writing, check out her twitter.

Gardening for Family Fun

Gardening for Family Fun and relaxing together time.

Useful ideas for gardening

Gardening is a relatively inexpensive, relaxing hobby. Family or friend time working in the garden may be a fabulous way to spend time with each other. Children find the observation of growing plants utterly fascinating, and they will make a habit out of monitoring the evolution of seed to blooming. Horticulture also provides its’ caretaker with an introspective appreciation for mother nature, unlike any other. This article will make it simpler for you to love horticulture, so that you may even have others help you.Mulch

One natural method of weed removal is called “boiling”. The safest herbicide that you can use in your garden is a simple pot of boiling water. Pour boiling water over the weeds to kill them, but make sure not to pour the water over any plants you don’t want to kill. Boiling water damages weed and plant roots, so be sure to avoid the plants you don’t want to eliminate.

Place a few inches of organic mulch around your vegetable plants. The mulch will help keep the soil moist for longer periods of time. This method will also prevent weeds. This will save you time, money, and effort in your lovely garden.

Organic FertilizerFertilize your garden regularly. You can choose a good organic fertilizer for vegetables. Do not worry about the brand of fertilizer you end up using but definitely put down something.

Pest control can present a challenge for successful vegetable gardening. Since your vegetables are meant to be eaten, refrain from spraying them with harsh chemicals. One way to keep pests at bay is to remain diligent about your garden. If you catch pests right away, the easiest way to eradicate them is to pick them off plants by hand.

If there are children in your family, then gardening can turn into a wonderful bonding activity for all family members. A lot of kids like picking plants and flowers. What kid wouldn’t also love to get dirty and not get in trouble?

KneelersKnee Pads

If your garden contains lots of short plants, purchase some gardening knee pads. If you spend a large portion of your gardening session on your knees, it could create pain over time. With good knee pads, you can stay in the garden longer, and more comfortably.

Whether you wish to garden alone or with a loved one, the tips in this article will make the experience more fun. Take what you have learned here, and help your family enjoy horticulture, get together with your friends or just have fun by yourself.

Posted by Carol Hudgens

How we discover ways of helping our community grow vegetables.

We feel that helping our community is one of the most important things we do.  Employing folks in our area is so satisfying to us but in addition, we love helping others garden whenever we can.  Working with many social groups in the area, we donate plants as well as seeds to the elderly, community gardens, the prison garden and schools all over the area.  Many non-profit companies work with us to get plants to folks that need them and it is a joy every time we hear about their success in growing and the experiences of school age children learning to garden.

The elderly especially need help to garden as it can be very hard for them to find a strong back to dig their plot or to get anywhere to find plants.  We have a great group we work with that delivers our plants to the elderly in the community and they get such joy from working with the garden each day.

 

If we can help you find a way to help your community garden, let us know!

Beginner’s Guide to Home Composting

Clean Gardening: Beginner’s Guide to Home Composting

composting bin

Compost can be made in a simple wooden frame

Shared by: Greg Wiszniewski

Nature has been composting since the beginning of time. Take a walk in any wooded area and look at the ground: Bend over and feel that dark, earthy material called compost. Compost is essentially the accumulation of decomposed organic matter. It can take roughly a thousand years for compost to naturally occur in the wild. Humans have sped this process up over time to use it in agriculture. Today, humans use composting methods to grow healthy backyard gardens.

All About Composting

Compost is a dark and earthy material used to promote a healthy and well-balanced soil environment for plants. It is rich in a variety of nutrients, minerals, and soil organisms. In many cases, gardeners use compost as a suitable replacement for commercial fertilizers. Compost improves the physical and biological properties of soil. It also makes nutrients much more available to plants than fertilizer does. For this reason, many gardeners refer to compost as “black gold.”

Composting happens at a slower pace in nature: In fact, it takes about a thousand years to create an inch of humus-rich soil. But today, humans have mastered the art of composting so that it requires only a matter of months to create useable compost. The best part of composting is that people already have all of the necessary ingredients around their home, such as food, raked leaves, and grass clippings.

Composting

A simple wire cage can easily be made from scratch and to empty it, just lift it up

Compost yields several benefits for gardeners. First, it recycles organic material that would otherwise be thrown away. It improves the physical, chemical, and biological properties of soil. It saves gardeners time, money, and resources. Composting also makes gardening easier. It is good for the environment and introduces micro-organisms back into the soil. Lastly, composting yields more micro-nutrients than commercial fertilizer. This alone makes home composting worthwhile.

How to Start a Compost Pile

There are many different ways to create a compost pile at home. The easiest method requires a designated spot in a dry, shady area. After selecting a spot, collect brown and green materials and add them to the chosen spot. Be sure to chop or shred larger pieces of organic material to make the process faster. Next, moisten the dry materials with a water hose. Add fruit and vegetable waste under ten inches of compost material after establishing the compost pile. Cover the top of the compost pile with a tarp to keep it moist. Turn the compost pile with a shovel to use the material at the bottom of the pile. Only use the material at the bottom of the compost pile if it is dark and rich in color. The entire process usually takes between two months and two years to complete.

What to Put in a Compost Pile

Building a compost pile creates more anxiety and obsession for gardeners than any other activity. It does not need to be a difficult task. In fact, home composting should come naturally to most home gardeners once they know what to put into it to make it worthwhile. When adding ingredients, consider if the material is organic and biodegradable. Add green foliage to a compost pile, such as vegetable scraps, grass clippings, weeds without the seeds, algae, and dead houseplants. Do not add green foliage that came from a chemical-laden lawn. Add brown ingredients such as corn and sunflower stalks, tomato vines, hedge prunings, twigs, leaves, pine needles, and straw. Chicken manure also adds beneficial nutrients to any compost pile.

How to Maintain a Compost Pile

Compost Bin

A more sophisticated bin allows for multiple batches to be breaking down at the same time

Maintaining a compost pile does not require a lot of work. In fact, no-turn composting systems require zero maintenance. Hot-pile composting does require effort to aerate the soil because the micro-organisms use up a lot of oxygen. Cool piles also benefit from occasional turning. Turning refers to mixing a pile with a pitchfork or shovel. Turning a compost pile aerates the soil and cycles the material to the active center. Gardeners should turn a compost pile every three days until it stops heating up. Resist the urge to turn it every day. This disrupts the fungi that keep the pile from heating up completely. Use a compost thermometer to test the temperature of the compost pile. A good hot pile should read 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn the pile once the temperature falls to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

How to Know When the Compost is Done

Gardeners should look for a dark brown, rich material that looks and smells like a forest floor. This indicates that the compost is finished. Not all of the material decomposes equally: Put any material that has not decomposed back into the pile. Take the finished compost over to the garden area and spread it out evenly. Compost aerates clay-based soils and helps sandy soils hold moisture. Gardeners can also spread compost around trees and shrubs, use it as mulch, or use it as a tonic for sickly plants. Container gardeners can also use it as a potting mixture.

For more information and helpful links visit this page on our website