Monthly Archives: February 2012

Parsnip – A New Vegetable For Me

I have eaten parsnip for quite awhile, off-and-on. Parsnips have a unique flavor that is a good addition to stews or baked mixed vegetables. I recently made a beef stew with potatoes, carrots, green beans, corn, cabbage and one parsnip. You get that little bite of surprise in your meal.

When roasted with other vegetables parsnips have a sweet taste. They are best when left in the ground until after a heavy frost, like carrots. I just throw a parsnip in a baking dish lightly greased with olive oil or coconut oil, add carrots, potatoes and maybe broccoli, then sprinkle a little olive oil on top and bake at 350 degrees until tender. Makes a quick, good tasting and healthy side dish.

I think the main reason I never grew parsnips before is due to the fact that they are slow to germinate and they grow all summer. The seed has maturity dates from 110 days to 120 days, that’s a long time.

Parsnips are grown much like carrots. They like a deep, fertile, loose soils. So, I think I will make a raised bed in the row I plant the seed into, after mixing deeply with lots of compost and maybe add some peat and sand to the soil.

Since, they take a long time to germinate, 3 weeks, I will need to keep the soil moist and keep it from crusting. Sometimes I put a heavy material strip right over the row to hold in moisture until the plants start to come up. That’s why I wish it was easier to find burlap. You used to buy feed in burlap bags, now they are all paper. It is heavy, holds moisture and, was, easy to find.

A board can be used to lay over the row to keep moisture, but you have to be on top of it when the seeds pop up. The board needs to be removed so the plants can grow.

The catalog said to plant early in the spring, but I think I will try a few in the spring and then wait until July to plant a second crop. That way, I can have a crop in late summer and again in late fall.

That will give some very sweet parsnips for stews this fall.

I hope this has wetted your appetite for some roasted parsnips or to try some in a stew. You can run down to your local organic food store and pick up a parsnip to give it a try, before you make the commitment to grow a crop all summer then not like the taste.

Good gardening
Steve

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  Gardening is a great way to, not only, grow great tasting, healthy, chemical free food that is good for your family, but gardening is reconnecting with your soul.  It is getting your hands in the stuff that life is based upon, and it can heal some of hurt you feel inside.  

Steve started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family.  Pick up your copy of the booklet “6 Easy Common Sense Tips To Ban Bugs From Your Garden Without Chemicals”.
 

 

Time For Garden Seeds

Have you picked up your garden seeds?  I received mine in the mail last week.  I usually order most of my seeds, besides what I save, from a seed catalog.

Now, I am all for buying local and supporting the neighbors, but when it comes to seeds there is a much larger choice of type and variety from the better seed companies.

As a plus, you can easily get heirloom varieties from many of the seed companies today.  A lot of the local garden stores only carry the hybrid seeds.

It is wise to put in your order early because they will sometimes run out of some varieties late in the season, and occasionally, there will be a crop failure and you will have to change to another type.

If you are planning to raise some of your own plants, like tomatoes or peppers, you will want your seeds early to get a head start.  You will want to take a look at the growing suggestions from the seed supplier.  They will tell you how long before the last frost date to start your seeds.

I like to start seeds at different times.  That way if the frost comes late, and my plants lose their quality, I will still have good strong plants coming on for a later planting.  Crops like tomatoes will get leggy and will be slow to take off when transplanted and never seem to do as good as they should when they do not get planted on time and sorta’ outgrow themselves.

So, if you do not have your seeds yet, now is the time.  Make this the year you try something new.  If you haven’t raised your own plants before get started this spring.  Maybe, you can find a new variety of vegetable or flower you have not raised before, make this year the time to give it a try.  Or, if you have never gardened before jump in there and get your hands dirty.  You may find a part of your soul you have been missing.

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  Gardening is a great way to, not only, grow great tasting, healthy, chemical free food that is good for your family, but gardening is reconnecting with your soul.  It is getting your hands in the stuff that life is based upon, and it can heal some of hurt you feel inside.  Steve started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family.  Pick up your free copy of the booklet “6 Easy Common Sense Tips To Ban Bugs From Your Garden Without Chemicals”.
 

Have You Planted Anything Yet?

A lot of people do not think about starting their garden until they feel the warmth of the spring sun. But, if you get started now, in February, you will enjoy good food faster. Now, I know that this is too early for some climate zones, but if you can start seeds indoors, or if you have some form of protection, then you can get started today.

This past week I planted beets in the hoop house and the spinach I planted the week before has sprouted. The lettuce is starting, but I used sand, instead of compost, to cover the seeds and I may have gotten too much cover on them. A few are starting up, so we will see.

It has been very cool some mornings, so the ground inside the hoop house might be a bit unfriendly for sprouting lettuce. I am going to plant a few broccoli and cauliflower this week. You can’t grow anything if you do not get the seed in the ground.

What do you need to start your seeds? Can you start some of your seed inside? Most seeds can be stated in normal house hold temperatures, like on top of the refrigerator. How can you tell what your seeds need to sprout? Look at your seed packet or the seed catalog where you ordered the seed, they should tell you how to get the seed started.

We have already talked about using some type of cover, like row cover or a plastic barrier to cover your new seedlings. If you think that is too complicated let me give you a boost.

The best way to do this is to build a raised bed. That is not as hard as it sounds. All you need is few boards and a handful of screws…and some soil. You can make a raised bed out of most anything that will hold the soil together.

To use wood boards, just get two boards 1 X 6 inches by 12 feet, or any dimensions depending on your circumstance. Cut 4 feet off each board and nail these two boards on the ends of the remaining 8 foot boards and you have a raised bed. Just add soil. You can make a raised be any size to fit your needs.

Now, to make your raised bed into a hoop house get 4 lengths of ½ inch plastic pipe 8 foot long and push one end in the ground at each end of the raised bed, along the side, and the other two space out in the middle, about 3 feet apart. Bend the pipe over the bed and push the other end into the soil on the other side of the bed.

Cover the pipes with a piece of plastic long enough to go to the ground on both sides and both ends. Weight the sides down with heavy objects to hold it in the wind and the ends can be held by a stake in the ground, or a couple of heavy rocks. What you use for weights need to be moveable, so you can raise it during the day to keep it from getting too hot and to care for the plants.

You will want to water carefully, so that the plants do not dry out. I like to cover my seeds with compost to hold down damping off, a disease that attacks new seedlings. All I do is sprinkle enough fine compost to cover the seed to the proper depth and moisten.

Now, start planting. The fun part of gardening is to experiment. See how early you can get started. Every year will be different. Try new varieties and save some of your own seed. Don’t worry about losing a few plants once-in-awhile. If you keep planting, at intervals, you will have some very good plants for your garden. Have fun with your gardening project, instead of just another job to be done.

Great Gardening,
Steve

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century. Gardening is a great way to, not only, grow great tasting, healthy, chemical free food that is good for your family, but gardening is reconnecting with your soul. It is getting your hands in the stuff that life is based upon, and it can heal some of hurt you feel inside.

Steve started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family. Pick up your copy of the booklet “6 Easy Common Sense Tips To Ban Bugs From Your Garden Without Chemicals”.

Parsnip – A New Vegetable For Me

I have eaten parsnip for quite awhile, off-and-on.  Parsnips have a unique flavor that is a good addition to stews or baked mixed vegetables.  I recently made a beef stew with potatoes, carrots, green beans, corn, cabbage and one parsnip.  You get that little bite of surprise in your meal.

When roasted with other vegetables parsnips have a sweet taste.  They are best when left in the ground until after a heavy frost, like carrots.  I just throw a parsnip in a baking dish lightly greased with olive oil or coconut oil, add carrots, potatoes and maybe broccoli, then sprinkle a little olive oil on top and bake at 350 degrees until tender.  Makes a quick, good tasting and healthy side dish.

I think the main reason I never grew parsnips before is due to the fact that they are slow to germinate and they grow all summer.  The seed has maturity dates from 110 days to 120 days, that’s a long time.

Parsnips are grown much like carrots.  They like a deep, fertile, loose soils.  So, I think I will make a raised bed in the row I plant the seed into, after mixing deeply with lots of compost and maybe add some peat and sand to the soil.

Since, they take a long time to germinate, 3 weeks, I will need to keep the soil moist and keep it from crusting.  Sometimes I put a heavy material strip right over the row to hold in moisture until the plants start to come up.  That’s why I wish it was easier to find burlap.  You used to buy feed in burlap bags, now they are all paper.  It is heavy, holds moisture and, was, easy to find.

A board can be used to lay over the row to keep moisture, but you have to be on top of it when the seeds pop up.  The board needs to be removed so the plants can grow.

The catalog said to plant early in the spring, but I think I will try a few in the spring and then wait until July to plant a second crop.  That way, I can have a crop in late summer and again in late fall.

That will give some very sweet parsnips for stews this fall.

I hope this has wetted your appetite for some roasted parsnips or to try some in a stew.  You can run down to your local organic food store and pick up a parsnip to give it a try, before you make the commitment to grow a crop all summer then not like the taste.

Good gardening
Steve

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  He started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family, too.
 

An Easy Way To Start Your Garden Earlier

Here is an easy and quick tip for starting your garden earlier in the spring and garden later in the fall.  All you do is cover it up with a cloth, that will let light and rain through, or if you need more protection you can use a plastice cover.

You can put up a low tunnel of plastic, which works great, but you need to be able to manage for heat build up through the day and the cool down at night in early spring.  If you are at home, and can remind yourself to check on the tunnel, you can get a real head start.

The problem is the heat will build up quickly and cook your plants when the sun pops out.  I know, I have had plants that were really healthy and growing great in the morning and at night they would be wilted flat on the ground in my cold frame.

To put up a low tunnel is a simple process.  Cut enough pieces of number 9 wire or ½  inch plastic tubing to set about 6 feet apart (the tubing can be spaced farther apart than the wire) for the length of row you want to plant.  Push each end of the hoop into the ground on each side of the row.

Cover the wire or plastic hoop with a sheet of plastic wide enough to lay over the hoop and have some excess on both sides.  Hold down the edges of the plastic with heavy objects, boards, rocks, etc. or I simply make ground pins out of number 11 or 12 wire by forming them in a u shape about 4 to 6 inches long, meaning the wire before forming is about 8 to 12 inches long.  I use the pins to push through the material and hold it to the ground so the wind does not blow it away.

If you are just getting started you can use cheap plastic, but I recommend you go ahead and spend the money on a greenhouse grade plastic.  The sun will not deteriorate the plastic if it is treated and will last for several years.  You can buy greenhouse plastic in any length you want from http://www.farmtek.com .

You just raise the plastic from one side when you want to plant or weed.  When the danger of frost is passed just remove the plastic and start harvesting the crop.

If you are not home through the day there is another plan for you.  Get a fabric row cover to do much the same thing as the plastic.  The floating row cover, as it is called, lets light and rain through to the plants, and lets heat out when the sun gets hot.  It will not protect your plants from as much cold as the plastic, but it will let you get an earlier start than without the row cover.  Row cover can be found at the same place as the greenhouse plastic.

You put up the row cover much the same as the plastic tunnel.  It is designed to float over the plants, but I like to put hoops in to keep it off the plants.  The wind will whip it against the plants, at times, and if you get a frost the leaves that touch the fabric will get burned.  So, it is best to just go ahead and put in the hoops.

There you have a simple quick way to increase your production and get started earlier and garden later this season.

Hope these garden tips help.  For even more great tips check in on the blog, and please leave a comment.

Great gardening,
Steve

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  He started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family, too.
 

Dangers Of BPA

There are many reasons for deciding to grow your own food organically.  For me, one of the biggest reasons is to avoid as many of the chemicals in our world as I can.  One of those chemicals is BPA.  Bisphenol A (BPA), don’t you love those shortened words, is produced from petroleum.  The problem is it mimics the hormone estrogen.

You have probably heard about BPA as it has been in the news a lot in the last couple of years.  But, the use of the chemical has been going on for many years.  The problem is that it will break down under certain circumstances.  Like, when it is in contact with water.  What do vegetables have in them…water.  One of the uses of BPA is as a liner in vegetable cans, other uses are food containers and pop cans, just about anything that is plastic and looks like glass.  You may have first heard about it from its use in plastic sports water bottles.

BPA has been linked to many of our diseases.  The list is long, everything from cancer (breast and prostrate) to fertility problems.  We, in our society, have the ability to produce a product long before checking out all the negatives of that product, or at least before we are willing to check it out.

Why am I writing about the dangers of a chemical in an organic gardening blog?  Simply because we need to take control of your lives in as many areas as we can.  No one else is willing to do that for us. If you are relying on the government to safe guard your health you are in trouble.  The government has known for years that there were problems with BPA, but has refused to move until just recently.

Millions of people have been exposed to this chemical, and who knows how many diseases and deaths have been caused by its continued use.  I do not want that to happen to your family.  

You are what you put into your body.  You should eat only food that has been produced, and stored, chemical free.  If you are not willing to, or cannot, grow your own food you should get your food from someone you know and trust.  What you eat is one of the most important parts of your life.  

So, open up your refrigerator and cabinets and see how what you eat and drink is stored.  And, that precious can or bottle of pop…better take a close look.  Writing this made me think, my water is stored in a plastic pitcher.  I wonder how it’s made?

Great gardening,
Steve

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  He started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family, too.
 

Secret Formula Seed Starting Mix

Depending on where you live it is getting close to time to start your plants for your garden, so let’s talk about the soil for starting your garden seeds.  The mix that I use is one that I have experimented with over the years.  The base for it came from a book titled “The New Organic Grower”.

The base mix

The “recipe” includes rotted hardwood mulch, perlite, compost, garden soil, blood meal, colloidal phosphate and greensand.  The use of each ingredient is as follows:

Rotted hardwood mulch is just as it sounds, it is mulch that has sit for at least a year and allowed to rot, just like a tree fallen in the woods.  If this is your first year and you do not have time to sit around waiting for your mulch to rot you can use peat moss.  But, if you choose peat be sure to get the best you can find.  The cheap peat you find in most big box stores is usually of poor quality.

Also, if using peat, you may want to put a little lime in the mix to balance the acidity of the peat.  The premium peat and garden lime can be found at a garden center.  You want to use the best ingredients you can find, as you are starting new plants from seed and they need the best start in life you can give them.  The better plants you start with the better harvest you will have.

Perlite is small starfoam pellets made for potting soil.  If you do not want to use plastic to raise your plants you can substitute sand.

Compost is the next part of our formula.  This should be your best compost.  It should be fine in texture.  If you do not have compost yet, or do not have good quality compost, you can purchase compost by the bag.  However, be wary of commercial compost.  My experience with bagged compost has not been good.  Use commercial compost only if necessary.  But, you can still make a better starting mix than what will be used on commercial plants.

Garden soil is just what it says.  Use soil from your garden.  No garden, no problem.  Soil from around a wooded corner of your property or even from around the landscaping will work.  I keep the best soil saved from projects around the property for things like this starting mix and soil from the garden.

Now, screen the mix through a wire mesh screen with around ½ inch squares.  This is to remove the larger sticks and stones from the mix.  It will be a lot easier to work with if you will screen it.

Let’s kick this mix up a notch  

You will need blood meal, colloidal phosphate and greensand.  If you don not know what each of those are just run to your local garden center.  They should have each of these.  Just get a small quantity of each one of the ingredients, as it does not take much for our mixture.

How to mix the mix  

I have an old bucket that is about a gallon and a half in size.  I mix 3 buckets of rotted mulch, or peat, with 2 buckets of perlite, or sand, 2 buckets of compost and 1 bucket of the garden soil.  Mix all of these to gather in a wheel barrow, or if you do not have a wheel barrow you could just pour everything out on a sheet of plastic and mix it there.

After you have the large stuff well mixed add the kicker.  I use an old plastic drinking glass with a cup line marked on the side for a measurer.  Mix equal parts of each of the blood meal, colloidal phosphate and greensand.  Remember, if you are using peat put in an equal part of lime to this mix.

The blood meal is very high in nitrogen.  The colloidal phosphate is a more available form of this mineral and the greensand will give you a variety of minerals.

When you have your “fertilizer” mixed add about 2 cups to your pile of other ingredients.  Mix your pile very well to get as even of a mix as your can.  Be sure to store any left over for the next planting year.

There you have it.  You are now ready to start your seeds.  Next time we will talk about how to plant your seeds in the starting mix.

Think spring,
Steve

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  He started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family, too.