Raised Bed Gardening Blog

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New Year 2016, New Growth

Happy New Year 2016, and may we all be thinking about how to contribute to reducing our carbon footprint and growing our own local food supply. Sharing the production load in Community Housing situations is a wonderful way to get families involved with multiple beds and increased output.  Maintenance and harvesting is reduced, rather than one or a few individuals shouldering the brunt of the work. Passionate interest and synchronicity of purpose becomes promintory, with the result being a highly successful gardening venture. And the cost of start up is vastly reduced through multiple investments. Its a new year, and time for us to start and continue working for more ways to make our communities self-sufficient with viable alternatives to reducing hunger on the planet. 

Fennel

Fennel. Part of the Umbellifereae family, and related to parsley, carrots, and dill, with a taste similar to anise or licorice.  The bulb, stalks, and green leaves are all edible, as are the seeds that come from the yellow flowers it produces. The health benefits of fennel come from quercetin and rutin, which are both potent antioxidants. It has been used orally for women's health concerns, to address backache, low libido, loss of appetite, infantile colic, and flatulence and other gastrointestinal issues. Topically it has been used to treat snakebites!  It is an excellent source of vitamin C, and a great way to support a healthy immune system. Its also a good source of fiber and potassium. Chewing 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds after a meal prevents or relieves gas or bloating. Culinary uses are unlimited due to its crunchy texture and subtle sweetness. Much more on fennel can be found in Deborah Madison's beautiful new book, Vegetable Literacy!

Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison

Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison. SO big I can't even get the whole book in my scanner! Beautifully photographed by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton and published by Ten Speed Press. The book details cooking and gardening with 12 families from the edible plant kingdom, with over 300 deliciously simple recipes. A total must-have for your culinary collection. And, as of this past weekend, the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) award winner for a cookbook in the Health and Special Diet category. The IACP cookbook award winners are considered the gold standard among cookbook awards. They have been presented for more than 25 years to promote quality and creativity in writing and publishing and to expand the public's awareness of culinary literature. Huge congratulations to my good friend and neighbor for this monumental achievement!

Asparagus

Asparagus.that delicious Sprintime vegetable that we eagerly wait for- fresh- and consume copiously in many ways. A great source of vitamins K, C,and B6, potassioum, thiamin, and fiber. Always look for stems that are firm, and tips that are deep green or purple in color. White asparagus is grown underground to inhibit its development of chlorophyll content, and has a more delicate flavor and texture. So many ways to cook it, but simple is just fine, with a little butter and olive oil, and parmesan cheese topping. It pairs wonderfully with Salmon in Puff Pastry, and both of these can be found in the recipe section on this site! Buon appetito!

Fast Foods- To Eat, or Not to Eat

Fast Foods. What to eat, and what to never eat. Four nutritional pitfalls to avoid-  1)Opt out of cheese and condiments such as mayonnaise and tartar sauce, which can add unhealthy types of fat. Use mustard or vinegar to add flavor as desired. 2)Avoid anything deep-fried, as these foods contain altered fats that are pro-inflammatory and detrimental to the body 3) Skip the soda, since it has no nutritional value and adds unnecessary calories to an already nutritionally challenged meal. 4) Avoid  desserts, as there are more than enough calories in fast food, and there's no need to add a surgary finale! If you MUST go to a fast food restaurant, then try to eat fresh fruits and vegetables if possible, drink water or tea, try veggie or soy burger alternatives, and opt for yogurt or fruit parfaits for dessert. Your body will thank you!

 

 

 

15 Foods that Don't Need to be Organic!

15 Foods that Don't Need to be Organic! Again from Dr. Weil and the EWG, the 'Clean 15' list that when grown conventionally, posed the least risk of exposure to pesticides. Onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocado, sweet peas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, cantaloupe (domestic), kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, and mushrooms. According to the EWG, eating 5 servings from this 'clean 15' list reduces your exposure to pesticides by almost 90%, compared to 5 servings daily from the 'Dirty Dozen Plus' list!!

13 Foods to Eat ONLY Organic!!

According to the Environmental Working Group, and transcribed by Dr. Andrew Weil, these are the 13 Foods to Eat Only Organic, due to the fact that they are the most likely to contain pesticide residue. This 'Dirty Dozen Plus' list includes: Apples, celery, peaches, strawberries, sweet bell peppers, spinach, nectarines (imported), grapes, green beans, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries (domestic), and potatoes. Plus kale and collard greens contain organophosphate insecticides, which EWG characterizes as 'highly toxic' and of special concern. Celery, sweet bells, spinach, green beans, lettuce, cukes, and potatoes can ALL be grown in your Grow Y'own hooped and covered raised beds...for FREE! Go to my website- growyown.com for more blogs, info, and recipes!

 

 

 

Early bud freeze

Early bud freeze. Something all of us cringe to hear. Last year was a total bust for fruit here in Santa Fe, and the way this mid-Winter is warming up, the possibility exists once again. There are actually two types of frost- advective and radiative- that can destroy your crops. Advective frost is cold air from another region that moves into an area and winds remain relatively strong. Radiative frosts are produced locally, and occur only during clear, calm nights. Growing late-flowering varietals is one way to partially counter killing frosts. Soil moisture is a second concern. Excessively wet soils gain less heat energy during the day, as more of the sun's energy goes into evaporating moisture. This can reduce the heat available to the crops at night. Excessively dry soils are poorer heat conductors, and are able to store less heat, and therefore result in a higher risk of frost. Mulches are another alternative. On the soil surface, they increase the risk of frost by behaving as insulators. Less heat is absorbed by the soil during the day, and less is released at night. Mulches can help to avoid freeze damage if they completely cover the sensitive plant parts. Covers are a passive way to reduce injury to young buds. Any cover is effective in reducing heat loss by convection. When covers are placed, particularly thin material like plastics, care must be taken to prevent contact with the plant to reduce heat loss by conduction, as the temperature of the exposed surface is usually lower than the air below it. Passive and active systems both have an effect on reducing freeze havoc on your crops. Siting your plants on a leeward side of the winds is a good, preventive start, as well as choosing hardier varietals. Working to alleviate climate change is probably the most important factor, as the temperature swings around the US get more radical, and weather situations leave hundreds of thousands of citizens shaking their heads, and waking up to the fact that 'the times they are a-changin'!

Covers

Cover Up! The covers ARE the key to growing in most places in the US. Here in the Southwest, they are most important for keeping out the heavy-duty UV sun, abrasive winds, and all critters, while still letting in 85% sunlight. In the Pacific NW, they keep out the relentless rains that can drown crops. In the East and Midwest, they protect your plants from mice, packrats, squirrels, rabbits, skunk, raccoon, deer, and even bear. In Arizona and Utah, they shield your greens from the 100 degree+ sun. In the Winter, we use our 6mill, UV resistant plastic cover, which serves as a waterproof barrier, over our triple-weight, breathable, UV resistant polypropylene layer, which serves as an insulation skin, thus creating a double-paned window effect. Both Summer and Winter covers have the option of zippable, opening flaps that allow for better bed aeration. We also retrofit beds to any particular situation, keeping a pattern on file for future orders. All the covers are simple and easy to use and operate, since all you have to do is slide them up on the UV resistant hoops, and clip them when you want to work in the bed, give it more air and sunshine, and let the beneficial insects inside like parasitic wasps, ladybugs, lacewings, and even birds, to keep your garden free from the bad bugs.  Most gardeners give up on their greens in mid-Summer because of the heat, but we plant 12 months a year, even at the hottest times! The covers keep your delicates from becoming brittle, bolting, and tasting bitter. So why grow for only 6 months, when you can be enjoying free food for 12?!? Learn to cover up, and fresh, organic, healthy crops will be your's for the picking year round! 

Seeds

Seeds. Yes, its that time of year again. Maybe even a little late for some. But, you still have time to check out one of the coolest Heirloom catalogues for seeds from all over the world. Especially if you're looking for seeds that will do well in hot, dry, and windy conditions like here in New Mexico! Micki and her husband, at www.skyfiregardenseeds.com, have assembled a prodigious selection of seeds- over 100 Heirloom tomato varieties, eggplant, squash, and more. They also have mixes of flower seeds that I guarantee you haven't grown before. I have been getting seeds from them for years, and ones like from Russia, Afghanistan, and other places have produced unusual, prolific crops. These are non-GMO, non-altered seeds that you can have peace of mind growing. And the catalogue will take you to places you've never been. So order now, enjoy your new crops, and SAVE YOUR SEEDS for next year!