Eat & Grow

By: Holly Keehn11.28.14a

 

Don’t throw out those kitchen scraps this Thanksgiving.  Instead, re-grow them!  Composting is great, but if you don’t have a bin this is an excellent way to get full use of your veggies, just as nature intended!

Re-grow these vegetables and save on many grocery bills to come:

Leeks, Onions, Lemongrass

  • Celery, Bok Choi, Romaine Lettuce, Cabbage, Root Vegetables
  • Ginger
  • Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes
  • Herbs
  • Mushrooms
  • Garlic

Onions are really easy to re-grow, indoors and out as long as they receive enough sunlight.  For bulb onions, take the root end and cover lightly with soil.  For green onions and lemongrass, simply place the root ends in enough water to cover the roots and harvest the new growth.

Celery, lettuce, cabbage, and root vegetables can all be re-grown by covering the roots with water leaving the tops exposed, then plant leaving the new growth leaves above the soil.

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Ginger, oh ginger.  Simply soak the root in water overnight, cover with soil, and harvest as needed.  Repeat the process to ensure a constant supply.

If you’re like me and don’t use your potatoes quickly enough, you’ll see them starting to root, or form “eyes”.  Take advantage of this by cutting the potato into pieces with 1-2 eyes on each, leave them out for a few days until fully dry, plant them 12 inches apart and four inches deep, and continuously cover half of the new growth until harvest.

 

 

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 I never thought to re-grow herbs, what a fantastic idea!  They are super easy, too.  Keep a four-inch clipping in water with leaves exposed until you see significant root growth, then pot, and enjoy a constant supply of fresh herbs.

You can also re-grow mushrooms using a mixture of compost and soil.  Place the mushroom stalk in soil, leaving only the top exposed.  If all goes as planned, you’ll have mushrooms in no time!

Garlic is truly one of the easiest to re-grow.  Simply place one clove root end down into soil and watch it grow!

Use this season’s whirlwind of cooking to enjoy a constant supply of free, fresh, homegrown produce year round!

Happy cooking!

 

Photo Credit:

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/296885800406668715/

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/345510602636546064/

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/166422148703165573/

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Gardening as Winter Looms

by Sandy Swegel11.24.14SnowyKale

Nothing like the first deeply freezing temperatures followed by a warm day to get people in Zone 5 areas asking if the gardening season is really over, if they can still tackle their garden to do lists even though Thanksgiving is around the corner.  We have two conflicting impulses…the really good bulbs are on sale at our local garden center AND there’s an inch of snow and refrozen ice on the garden bed.

What does happen to our soil in winter? Once soil temperatures are in the forties, all the creatures and denizens of the soil put themselves to sleep through dormancy or through laying lots of eggs or spores that will hatch when temperatures are warmer.  Seeds stop germinating or else require weeks and weeks at low temperature to come up.  They’re smart….no point in germinating if sub zero temperatures in another few weeks are going to kill young growth. So the soil goes into a stasis until the temperatures warm.

Here are some of the questions I hear people asking as our soil begins its freeze:

Can I still plant bulbs? Can I transplant daylilies now? Yes, if you can pry the soil open and get water to the plant, there’s a good chance your bulbs will bloom and the daylily will be fine. Daffodils especially prefer getting planted earlier to have some time to make roots. Sometimes blooming is delayed the first season, but I have had good success in planting bulbs too late…especially if I throw in some compost in the hole and don’t plant too shallowly. I’ve also had years when the bulbs just ended up being frozen mush…so plant earlier next year.

Can I put in a cover crop? In Zone 5, it’s too late.  The temperatures are too cold for seed germination.  Put lots of mulched leaves over the soil to cover it.

Do I have to water? Ideally, you got the garden well watered sometime in Fall through rain or irrigation.  If not or if there are long dry sunny spells, you should winter water.

What do I do with my Fall greens that are freezing solid? Keep eating…they get better every day.  Spinach frozen at 811.01.14 am is delicious at room temperature.  If you cover greens with row cover or a cold frame or even throw big bags of leaves over the plants, you can keep harvesting easily through January or longer if you haven’t eaten them all.

Can I still use herbs? Yep, remember where your herbs are and you can put your hand through a foot of snow for snippings of intensely flavored frozen thyme or oregano leaves.

Can I still fertilize? You can, but the soil organisms won’t be processing it.  Organic fertilizer like alfalfa meal stay on the soil and will eventually be used when things warm up next Spring.

Is there something I should plant?  Winter hardy violas and pansies don’t mind a little snow and ice.  In a sunny location they’ll keep throwing up blooms all winter long…a surprise of color in a white or brown winterscape. Plant well hardened off plants and keep them watered.

For more details on the science of soil in winter, check out this article from the Bountea compost tea company. http://www.bountea.com/articles/lifeinwintersoil.html

Click on the book for a great little guide to seed saving.  Save the seeds of your favorites to replant next season!

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Photo Credit:

http://indianapublicmedia.org/focusonflowers/year/;

http://thefarmgate.wordpress.com/2010/08/11/truffles-orange-frost-fest/

 

Pruning for Holiday Decorations

by Sandy Swegel

I’m a big fan of multi-tasking so it’s natural that whenever there’s a garden chore to be done, I think about whether it might solve some other task that needs doing. In the Spring I schedule perennial weed digging so the roots can be thrown to the chickens for yummy spring greens.  In Summer I arrange to cut grass when I need the clippings to mulch the vegetable beds.  In Fall I pick up leaves when I need to insulate rose bushes and perennials.  One of the tasks I still want to do this year is “rejuvenation pruning” on shrubs or simple pruning on shrubs and trees that are poking me in the eye when I walk by or blocking the sidewalk.

Rejuvenation pruning is a great way to keep all your shrubs looking great.  Every year you simply cut back to the ground 1/4th to 1/3rd of the oldest branches in your bushes.  The shrub will put out new growth next spring to fill in and you’ll always have a self-rejuvenating plant.

So the multi-tasking solution here is to do some needed pruning on plants that happen to also look good, when cut, to decorate the house.  Some of the plants I’ll be pruning for Thanksgiving or Christmas are:

Branches with Berries: Pyracantha (orange berries) or Hawthorn (red berries)…be careful about thorns Cotoneaster with red berries Coral berry or porcelain berry

Branches with interesting structure: Harry Lauder or curly willow both make nice twisty branches.  Birch stems can have interesting bark.  Yellow and redtwig dogwoods add great color.  Even simple wild plum branches can be put in the center of a flower arrangement to hold the flowers up

Evergreens: Early winter is a great time to prune those mugo pines or spruce trees that block the driveway. Juniper and cedar trimmings offer great aroma as well as evergreen color.

So once again, twice the work in half the time or something like that.  The bushes have old wood removed, the shrubs and trees have a better shape, and the house is decorated for free with dramatic gifts from nature, brought indoors.

Photo Credit: http://liveatvillages.com/blog/?p=334http://ikebanalessons.blogspot.com/2012/10/ikebana-class-1052012.html

 

Four Ways to Winter Compost

by Sandy Swegel

11.17.14a

 

Now that winter is setting in, what do we do with all our great food scraps?  My first winter in Colorado I decided to have a worm bin under the kitchen sink.  It actually worked great but some of my city housemates thought it was disgusting having worms inside the house in the kitchen.  I tried a worm bin in the unfinished basement, but out of sight, out of mind meant the worms got forgotten and went dry or anaerobic.  I know people who have success with keeping the worm bin in an unheated garage.

 

Over the years I’ve come up with three other great ways to compost in winter.

 

Compost Bin in a Protected Sunny Spot.

I kept one of those square black plastic bins against the house on the sunny side.  It was just outside the kitchen door.  I started with the bin half full of partially finished compost that I had put lots of kitchen scraps in so there were lots of worms.  The center of the pile near the ground stayed thawed even when it was -10 degrees so the worms stayed alive.  The compost didn’t process a lot during winter, but on sunny days, it would crank up.  The only con of this was the year the raccoons discovered the bin with fresh food.

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Hilled Compost under a Tarp.

The tarp keeps moisture and some heat in.  You just slip the food under the tarp.  Worms show up.  There’s the varmint issue and some mice do move in for the winter. Come Spring the pile is partially composted and giving the pile a good turn sets it to working.

 

Trenches in the Garden.

Our soil freezes solid in winter, so I can’t just dig the scraps into the ground.  One Fall I dug about an 18 inch trench where I was going to plant the tomatoes next year.  I left the soil in a pile on the far side of the trench.  All winter, I’d go with a bucket of scraps, pour them in the trench and pull frozen chunks of soil on top of the scraps.  Snow fell and watered and insulated the trenches.  Worms in the garden flocked to the food scraps in Spring and by May when I wanted to plant tomatoes, the tomato holes were full of mostly finished compost….which tomatoes LOVE.

 

What’s your plan?

 

Photo credit:

http://blog.gaiam.com/winter-composting-should-i-just-scrap-it/

http://calypsoftp.tumblr.com

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Thanksgiving Decorations from the Garden

by Sandy Swegelfall_leaves

One reason I first started gardening was so I could cut flowers to bring into the house or to bring as a gift to friends.  Almost all the flowers are finished in Colorado so it’s time to be more creative. There’s still lots to do to bring nature beautifully indoors.

Decorate with Leaves. This one is obvious.  We had great color this year with our leaves.  Warm weather in September and October turned our trees and gardens very lush and colors are extra intense.  A Google search for decorating with leaves brought a zillion images of leaf mobiles and wreaths and candle holders and art cards. At our house, a neighbor’s seven year old came in and just put the big maple leaves she liked in a row down the table….a perfect fall runner.

jackblittlepumpkina

Display the vegetables. It takes a long time to grow a winter squash. Don’t just eat it.  Put it on display for a couple of weeks. In anticipation of Thanksgiving, I get out the big platters and artfully store those big bulky squash in plain view on the counter.  Instant art.

Use your prunings.  Cut spruce branches, pyracantha berries and other colorful or weirdly shaped stems make great decorations for your outdoor pots.

Make everything into candle holders.  Hollowed out squash and apples or overgrown beets.  Everything looks festive with a tea light!

Enjoy the color and bring the beauty indoors!

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Photo credits:

 http://www.preen.com/articles/pots-for-fall-and-winter

http://organizeyourstuffnow.com/wordpress/6-fast-and-easy-ways-to-decorate-with-leaves

http://www.diy-enthusiasts.com/decorating-ideas/nature-fall-decorating-ideas-easy-diy/

 

Food as Art. Art as Food.

by Sandy Swegel

Thanksgiving week is almost upon us with endless opportunities for creative and artistic expression.  Besides the creative recipes you’re cooking, you also get to decorate your table and your home with the many gifts from nature.  A walk down the grocery store aisle and through the woods will give you all the raw materials you need to make Thanksgiving centerpieces and artful home decorations.

You know the raw materials:

All the beautiful gourds and squashes and pumpkins

Pine cones and berries and nuts

Colorful maple leaves and cool branches. 

Purple and orange vegetables

And finally, if it’s not enough to arrange your food into art…you can also take inspiration from that clever company Edible Arrangements, to cut your fruit appetizer trays into edible art! Slice fruit like cantaloupe and pineapple and apples into thin slices and use thanksgiving-themed cookie cutters to turn the fruit into decorative shapes.

Celebrate harvest with joy and art!

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Photo credits:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/how-to/vegetable-centerpiece/index.html

http://www.parisiennefarmgirl.com/2010/11/diy-thanksgiving-centerpiece.html

http://thestir.cafemom.com/food_party/1237/DIY_Thanksgiving_Centerpieces_Made_From

http://pinterest.com/noteforge/food-healthy-for-the-most-part/

http://www.ediblearrangements.com/fruit-baskets.aspx?CategoryID=283&Section=1

 

Bring the Outdoors In

by Sandy Swegel11.16.12.winter.night

If early freezes haven’t killed all your plants, there’s still time to think about bringing some of your favorite plants indoors. You can bring in plants that thrive indoors to live on a sunny windowsill or you can bring in plants that will otherwise die and that you don’t want to lose, to overwinter in your cold garage.

First things First.

The first thing before any plant comes indoors is to make sure it doesn’t have bugs or diseases.  Fall often brings outbreaks of aphids so if your plant is full of aphids, treat the pests first:  hose off the bugs, or soak the entire plant, roots and soil and all in some soapy water. Once cleaned up, you can cut it to size if needed and bring it to a sunny spot.

– Watering Inside is Different –

My rosemary plant needs almost no supplemental water when it’s growing outside in the ground.  I’ve killed more than a couple of rosemary by assuming that’s the same conditions indoors.  The stress of heat and dry air of being indoors in a pot demands that I coddle the rosemary indoors a little and never ever let the soil dry out.

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Saving plants in the dark in the garage.

 

Dahlias can be lifted. Pots of bulbs for spring can be planted and stored.  Even geraniums can be kept in moist peat and overwintered to bloom again next year. That’s what the Swiss do…they aren’t about to repurchase all those geraniums that hang from balconies every year.  If you live in a very dry climate, you may have to water the dormant plants every month so the soil doesn’t desiccate.11.16.12.geraniums

 

Plants that thrive indoors for me.

Geraniums – Continual color, almost no bugs, and forgiving if I forget to water. Great in sunny windows.

Angel wing begonia – I keep these in an indirect sun situation and water weekly.  They bloom and bloom all winter.

 Coleus – All the wild colored coleus and other foliage plants will do well in bright conditions if you keep snipping off the seed heads.  They can handle lower light but might get buggy.

Bougainvillea – is my favorite. Its natural bloom time is winter and it is a stellar performer. Messy though since it drops a zillion dead blossoms.

Hibiscus – So pretty, so ever blooming in a sunny spot.  So likely to get hundreds of aphids. Keep washing the aphids off and hibiscus will make you smile all year.  Some dogs love to eat the spent flowers….they’re edible so it doesn’t hurt them unless you’re using chemicals to treat the aphids.

An Herb Pot – Nothing beats fresh herbs for winter roasted vegetables and savory dishes. Rosemary, oregano, thyme all thrive with light.

Winter doesn’t have to be cold and gray….bring in some outdoor color and pizazz.

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Photo credits

http://www.finegardening.com/plants/articles/rosemary-outdoors-and-in.aspx

 

http://www.bananas.org/f8/growing-flowers-indoors-12847.html

 

 

How to Become a Plant Nerd

by Sandy Swegel11.03.14

You know you are a Plant Nerd When…
(Or How to Become a Plant Nerd)

You know every garden starts with graph paper. You draw a scale drawing with trees and fences.

You create an Excel file listing the times to seed and days to harvest. Your file shows when to plant second crops for fall veggies.

You automate your garden
You put a timer on for watering. Your smartphone calendar alerts you six weeks before last frost. You have use a moisture sensor to know when to water.

You know the scientific names of your weeds.

You make the most of what you have.
You never plant in rows…you know it’s more efficient to plant densely in quadrants. If space is limited, you grow vertically. If all you have is a balcony to grow on you figure out how to make a hydroponic system out of a Rubbermaid container.

Your garden is full of experiments.
You test everything before you believe it. You have one section of peas planted with inoculant and one section planted without inoculant to see if it matters. You plant carrots with tomatoes and measure yield to see if it made a differences

You collect data.
You have a max min thermometer to see the actual temperature in your yard. You write down how many days it took pepper seeds to germinate. You record when the apple trees blossomed and when you got your first tomato. You weigh your giant pumpkin to see if it weighs more than you do.

You make use of technology.
You use frost cloth and low tunnels to extend your season, and red plastic mulch to increase tomato yield.

09.12.14 tomato blend

You have taste testings to see which tomato tastes better.

You know the variety names of the vegetables you eat.

You love problems in the garden because it means you get to come up with a solution!

In other words, you garden smarter not harder.

You’re my superhero.

 

Photo Credit:  http://www.pinterest.com/pin/174796029262705028/

 

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