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Archive for the ‘Vegetables’ Category

Peppers are In!

We grow bell peppers in our square foot garden and they are maturing very well this year!

We live in the south and the weather has been cooler and wetter than normal. This only happens once in a decade and the plants love it.

Sweet Peppers

A Bell Pepper ready to harvest!

Pepper plants can take the heat but I have found that they grow best in the 75-85 degree F temperature range. When it gets above 95 or so, the plants don’t produce flowers and therefore no peppers. We get a flourish of production in the late spring and then again in the late fall. It usually gets in the mid 90s or so here by now so this has been great!

We plant bell peppers, also known as sweet peppers. My family eats these raw. just cut it open, remove the seeds, rinse, and it is ready to eat.

You too can produce your own food. It is not rocket science. It doesn’t even take very much time. These plants were planted as seedlings and now we get all of the food we want.

          

Garlic is coming in!

Garlic is one of the easiest plants in the world to grow. Throw it in the ground in the fall, don’t do much, and in the spring, you get garlic everywhere!

Garlic Bulbils on the stalk in the garden

Garlic Bulbils in the Square Foot Garden

The bulbs are planted in the garden pointy side up. A green stalk forms and grows into a small 18inch-ish size plant.

The leaves are edible while it is growing, but you don’t want to harvest too many from any one plant.

The one clove that you plant grows and splits into multiple cloves.

Depending on the type you planted, you may get a hard stalk that grows in the spring and forms a bulbil. This is like a flower but instead of a bloom, you get a whole bunch of little garlic cloves. There is some debate on whether you want these or not. Some people cut the stalk off so that the energy of the plant if focused on growing the cloves/bulb and not the “flower”.  Some argue that the flower should be left and that this will result in better cloves in the ground for next year’s plantings. Both may be right.

The little Garlic Bulbils from the Garlic Flower in the square foot garden

Baby Garlic!

As you can see, the garlic looks good. I am going to leave most of it in the ground until the bottom 4-5 leaves turn brown while the top is still green.

At harvest time, you can dig up your garlic and put it in a dry place with some air circulation. The can be eaten anytime!

 

Garlic before drying in the square foot garden

Garlic Before Drying

 

Garlic is one of the simplist plants to grow, it take very little work, and just about everybody (except vampires of course) loves it.

Have fun in the garden. If you like this sort of thing, subscibe to my email list for a weekly gardening tip at www.cubicfootgardening.com

          

Garlic at Maturity in a Square Foot Garden

The picture below is of a square foot garden planted at the recommended density for Garlic.

9 garlic bulbs per 1 square foot

Densly planted garlic ready to be harvested

The density should be about 9 bulbs per 1 square foot, planted evenly. This gives enough room for each bulb to develop.

The picture shows it looking a bit crowded but actually it is perfect.

If you grow garlic longer, it will form what looks like a bulge in a stem and produce bulbils. I have written on this before

Much of the garlic produced now is done in China. Although there have been many food scandals coming out of China, I don’t know how they grow the garlic and what the spray on it. If it grows in my garden, I know exactly how it was grown!

I recommend that everybody grow and store their own garlic. It is easy to grow, undemanding, it is disease and pest resistant, and delicious.

If you like this kind of thing, sign up for my weekly gardening tip email list at www.cubicfootgardening.com.

 

          

What happens when your food blooms?

The artichoke plant is one of the weirdest plants. When it is growing, it funnels all of the water to it’s base. It is a great design for this.

When it grows the artichoke, the one you see in the restaurant or store, it is harvested before it blooms. The flower itself is amazing.

I spotted this blooming artichoke and thought you might want to see it.

The petals open up and look like a Stegasaurus. The blooms erupts from the center and looks like a giant purple sunflower with wispy elements curling in on themselves.

Creation is amazing.

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This is what happens when an Artichoke blooms

An Artichoke in Bloom

          

What didn’t work for me

As I think about the garden, I can spot the many failures I’ve had. In a previous post on experimentation, I shared that all gardeners should always be learning by trying new things.

As in life, our failures teach us through the pain and difficulties of loss. Victor Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning that true learning comes through suffering (a paraphrase). In the garden, true learning comes from our mistakes.

If I was to write about all of my garden failures, this post would be too long. Here are a few:

1. Container gardening with Garlic

Ugly Garlic

This bombed for me this year and I just may have messed up on putting too many in one container, not given it enough sun, or not enough water. I don’t know. I just know that I have ended up with Garlic rounds which are more like green onions than garlic.

2. Corn

Ugly Corn

I planted a few corn plants in my garden last year and didn’t realize that you need a stand of corn of at least 15-40 plants for them to cross polinate. Needless to say, I ended up nurturing a few corn plants to maturity to discover that all of the cobs had just a few kernels. Don’t do what I did. Plant a bunch of corn!

3. Lemons (Meyers)

What our Lemons would look like if they actually grew...

I have had a Meyers Lemon bush growing in my garden for 3 years and we haven’t seen a lemon yet. The first year, the deer ate all of new leaves and flowers off. The second year we had a bad freeze and the plant didn’t recover well. This year, we have tons of new growth, but no flowers and no little lemon buds. We will persevere.

4. Texas Yellow Watermelons

These things were terrible. I found a package of watermelon seeds at the beginning of the season with a picture of a beautiful ripe red watermelon on it. (seed companies and seed packages may exagerate reality a bit, you experience may vary). I ignored the variety and planted it all around my garden. First, a square foot garden is not the best place to grow a vine that goes everywhere. Plant this thing where it can wonder around on the ground. When you put it in the square foot garden like mine, the only good place for it to go is up.

Welcome to the Jungle

So this plant shaded the rest of my garden, grew good size watermelons that tasted really bad. Was I experimenting? Yes. Was I thoughtful on what I planted? No.

Accept failure with your successes. Welcome the lessons. You will be your worst critic. Ease up. It’s all good.  This is your garden, do with it what you will.

Learn how to do this before you need to count on your garden in hard times.

          

Container Gardening – Start Right Now!

Although I have 3 large square foot gardens, I also have many containers to add to my gardening joy. I also love to see container gardening ideas from other peopla.

One of my gardening friends has two beautiful tomato plants growing very well in pots on her patio.

Young Tomato Plants in Containers

It is still early in the tomato season here and hers are doing beautifully!

Pros: The plants get full sun from morning to dusk and are protected from winds by the fences. The patio reflects light and adds to the total sunlight they plants can get. The containers are large and should accomodate a full grown tomato plant. The basil is a good plant-combining touch and will complement the tomato both while growing and for making Italian food.

Cons: The plants are in dark containers which will lead to high temperature variations for the roots of the plants. An organic farmer once told me that one of the most important tricks for growing great tomatoes in very hot climates like ours is to make sure their “feet” remain at a constant temperature and that they don’t get too hot. There are many that will tell you that if the roots of tomato plant get over 70 degrees (F), the plant will not set fruit. They will grow like crazy but you will get no tomatoes.

I recommended to her that she wrap the pots in something to protect them from absorbing too much heat and that she mulch to plants very well.

She taught me to pinch off the redundant growth shoots from where the plant has formed a new “branch” of leaves.

She also has a reception in her backyard coming up and has planted some spectacular flower arrangements.

She has a good eye for color and has blended these beautifully. These planters, accented by the Chiminea, frame the rear part of her patio.

The Chiminea (pronounced Chim-mi-nay-ah)is a very old Mexican idea for heating and cooking and has become popular in may backyards around the world.

She has mixed at least three different types of flowers in each clay pot and also mixed the colors.

If you are a budget gardener, then start these plants from seed early in the spring or late winter in a green house. It is not that hard and can save you a lot of money. All it takes is a little planning, some room, a warm place with sunshine, possibly a greenhouse, and patience.

Some varieties of Marigolds are well know for their properties of warding off bad insects from your garden. In this case, she is just using if for decoration but it does have a dual purpose.

I plant Marigolds in may spring/summer garden and love them for their beauty and function.

You can create your own soil mix or buy premixed potting soil at your local Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart, or even better, your locally owned nursery. It is important to use a light soil that will not be compacted.

Our local nursury recommends expanded shale to be added to the soil. Most potting soil uses Vermiculite or Perlite (the white, lite, little specks you see in potting soil that tend to move around when you water). Just make sure that whatever soil you use is light and fluffy.

 If you have your own pictures of growing food and flowers in containers, send them my way. I will publish them, with your permission, on future posts.

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The making of Coriander (Cilantro) seeds

Oodles of Coriander Seed

The Coriander plant, also known as Cilantro in Spanish and Dhania in Hindi, produces a small round seed that can be ground up and used in many various dishes and delicious fresh leaves.

The leaves are best collected fresh (or dried) and are used in rice dishes, salsa, guacamole, salads, chutneys, and much more.

The seeds have a different flavor and are used for many different purposes. In Indian food, it is used in a curry spice mixture, and as a snack eaten whole.It is used in the making of some sausages, rye bread, beer, and many other dishes. Coriander leaves and seed are used all around world. In my garden, they also take on a special place during this time of year. In preparation to make the seed, the plant produces a delicate flower that adds tremendous beauty to the garden. Insects of all types love the flower. The Soft and Delicate Flower of a Coriander(Cilantro) plant

The soft Coriander/Cilantro Flower

 

When the plant shoots up and produces flowers (bolting), the flavor of the leaves becomes more spicy and less desirable in my opinion. This is similar to what happens when lettuce bolts as well.  
 
Coriander/Cilantro is a cool weather plant and will end its life after the seed dries out and the weather heats up. Don’t try to grow this in the summer unless you live in colder climates.
 
Any comments? Leave a comment or email me at green thumb at cubic foot gardening dot com!
          

A Garden Tour

I took a brief video of the early winter garden. I hope you enjoy.

 

 

If you liked it, email me (greenthumb at cubicfootgardening dot com) or leave a comment. My next video will be based on your suggestions.

          

Top 5 Reasons for Using Rainwater Collection in Your Garden

I strongly recommend using rainwater collection for your garden. There are a hundred reasons to use rain and I have tried to summarize the top 5:

1. Pure Rain for Pure Plants

You are growing this garden to feed your family. The contaminants in local water supplies are scary and are bad for your plants. Flourine, Chlorine, Trihalomethanes, Lead, Benzene and many more. The World Health Organization lists 157 contaminants in water. If you want to reduce your exposure, use rainwater. I used to live in a town where we all knew not to water the plants with tap water because the tap water always killed them. If the plants don’t like it, you probably shouldn’t use it. Where we live today, the tap water just smells bad…

Rainwater from the Special rain tap!

2. Low Cost

Where we live, we are charged for both water and sewer based on water consumption. Our water utility charges a crazy amount for water and it is unaffordable to keep a garden going without rainwater. If you want to save money, use the water God provides from the sky.

3. Low Impact

Energy flows through your property in the form of heat, wind, sunshine, and water. A key permaculture concept is to capture energy closest to the source and prevent it from leaving your property (the sink). Collecting water at the highest point on your property will allow you to use gravity to feed it to your gardens. Using rain prevents you from using all of the energy required to collect it from surface or ground water, filtering it, purifying it, and distributing is miles to your home. Using what you have without using the water system is your selfish (in a good way) act to use the resources you have at your fingertips.

 

4. Resilience

In bad times, there is security in knowledge and systems to grow your own food. Whether you lose

Downspout collection system

 your job or the power goes out for an extended period of time, having access to a low cost food source is a huge blessing. Rainwater allows you to use what flows through your property without cost (after the system setup is complete) and increases your resilience in hard times.

5. Emergency Water Supply

Having rainwater collection also can provide you with a drinking and bathing water source assuming you know how to purify it (a topic for another day). Water is life and you and your plants need it to be healthy.

Rainwater can be collected in something simple as a bucket, a barrel, or a full sized rainwater collection tank. Your location, lot layout, and budget will determine what you can do but don’t be discouraged from trying something small. 

Water tanks can range from 30 gallons up to 10000 gallons

Our tanks are 1000 gallons each and will fill up with just a few inches of rain. Rain where we live often falls in huge amounts all at the same time so having a big collection system will increase how long you can go without having to go to the tap. I have two friends that have 35000 and 45000 gallon systems and rely on their rainwater for most of their water needs.

Did this inspire your to act or do you have a question? Email me at greenthumb at cubicfootgardening dot com or leave a comment!

          

If I Can Grow it, You can!

Lettuce is one of the easiest plants I have ever grown. When the hot southern summers are overruled by Cold Miser, it is lettuce time. We started our lettuce in September/October and have had fresh greens from December through March.

Growing Red Lettuce is easy

Growing this Red Lettuce is easy.

 

We are growing 4 different types of lettuce in the garden and it is very easy. Most of our lettuce is grown from seed saved from last year’s garden. We just take a pinch of seed and put it in 4 corners of a “cubic foot” and water it every once in a while.

The lettuce will grow to fill the available space and will self regulate the size of the plant depending on how crowded it is. Don’t worry about planting it too close together.

There are many different type of lettuce that can range from very mild with little taste to very bitter and nasty. I recommend always growing mild lettuce with very little bitter varieties. If you grow one or two bitter varities, you can sample it while still having plenty of mild to fill your harvest bowl.

Romaine Lettuce with Garlic and Pansies

Romaine Lettuce with Garlic and Pansies

 

Warning: Don’t make the mistake I made in my first winter garden. We planted lettuce from the garden center and most of them were bitter and nasty. I ended up with a garden that looked good but that I didn’t want to eat. Grow what you will eat!

You may notice the netting in front of the lettuce. Our garden is a front yard garden and has made an excellent deer buffet until the netting was up.

With a mild winter or just the onset of warmer days, the lettuce gets the message that it is time to reproduce! This is called bolting, and it can ruin the taste of the lettuce. The plant will grow tall and begin forming flowers and then seeds. Since we save seeds, we let some of our varieties do this so we will have plenty of lettuce next year. If you want to prevent your lettuce from doing this, cut the tops off. You can’t do this forever, but it can get you more lettuce and less bolting for a time. When the lettuce bolts, the “sap” will turn to a cream milky color and will become more bitter. It can still be eaten but it is a bit less enjoyable.

Green Loose Leaf Lettuce

Some people plant new lettuce plants every week and this will result in different aged plants which also can always provide non-bolting lettuce for a time.

If your lettuce is wilting, it is usually just telling you that it’s thirsty. We have not had any pest problems in this garden in lettuce. We have been blessed and don’t have snails or slugs.

Our garden is fully organic and we only water it, feed it every month or so with Medina HastaGrow organic plant foliar feed. I don’t get around to doing this very often but it doesn’t seem to matter. The garden is happy.

I recommend gardening with lettuce. When the fall comes along and temperatures drop below 85-90 degrees, plant some lettuce and eat all winter. 

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