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Vegetable

There's few things more rewarding than growing vegetables in your own backyard. The fresh taste of a vine ripened tomato or snap pea harvested at its flavorful peak is second to none. Vegetable gardening is a great family activity, one that provides rewarding outdoor exercise. And knowing that your organically-grown veggies carry none of the risks of today’s commercial, factory-farm produce can be priceless.

To ensure you raise the best-tasting, most nutritious food for your family — in ways that make your garden as safe and healthy as it can be — takes planning, know-how and experience. Click here for information on locating your new garden plot, improving soil health, selecting the best vegetable varieties for your growing conditions, and caring for your plants — naturally! — all the way to harvest.

Growing Carrots

CarrotCrunchy and sweet, growing carrots is easy! A wonderful source of Vitamin A and anti-oxidants, they provide color and nutrition to a gardeners diet. Carrots grow best in cool temperatures (between 60-70˚F) and may be planted as soon as the soil can be worked in early spring.

Site Preparation:

Select a garden site in full sun or very light partial shade and prepare the soil with ample amounts of mature organic compost. Carrots will reach perfection only when planted in deep, good-textured soil that is free of stones and debris. Plant the long varieties only if you can provide this type of soil. Choose shorter varieties if your soil is heavy or stony. (more…)

Growing Cabbage

CabbageEasy to plant and delicious to eat, home gardeners growing cabbage are rewarded with abundant and dependable harvests. Extremely hardy, this member of the brassica family is a cool season biennial grown as an annual. Delicious raw or cooked, it’s excellent in slaws, salads, soups, or stir fried.

Site Preparation:

Cabbage requires regular water, full sun to partial shade, and fertile, well-drained soil. Plants thrive in soils with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5. If possible, avoid growing cabbage in spots where other brassicas grew the previous three years.

Tip: Humus rich soil is the key to a great harvest. Add ample amounts of organic matter to the soil prior to planting. (more…)

Growing Broccoli

BroccoliChock-full of vitamins A, B, and C, as well as calcium, phosphorous and iron, growing broccoli is popular with many backyard gardeners. Belonging to the cabbage or cole family, this popular dinner side dish tastes best fresh and is prized for its cool weather hardiness and ample production.

Site Preparation:

Broccoli is a cool season annual plant that requires full sun and regular water. It does best in loose, fast draining, fertile soils. Dig in a legume cover crop or 30 lbs. of compost per 100 square feet prior to planting. Since broccoli is a heavy feeder it thrives after a legume, such as peas. Rich, well ballanced soil will prevent many broccoli deficiencies.

Tip: Humus rich soil is the key to a great broccoli harvest. Add ample amounts of organic matter to the soil prior to planting. (more…)

Growing Beets

BeetsA delicious addition to home gardens, growing beets is a great choice for fresh eating, roasting or canning. Both foliage and roots are edible and baby heirloom beets, with their earthy sweetness, are a culinary treat!

Beet tops or “greens” as they’re called are an excellent source of vitamin A and the roots are a good source of potassium, iron, vitamin C and fiber. Rich in flavor, chock-full of nutrition, and available in a variety of colors, it’s no wonder home cooks are serving up beets like never before.

Site Preparation:

Beets prefer a cooler climate and should be grown in well drained, loose textured soil for best results. Choose a site that gets full sun and dig down deeply (at least 10 inches) to promote good root development. Work in 15-20 lbs. of compost for every 100 square feet of soil. Beets also make an excellent raised bed crop, just make sure that they get plenty of water. (more…)

Growing Beans

BeansWhen it comes to variety and versatility, growing beans can’t be beat! Gardeners generally divide beans into three categories; shell beans, snap beans and dry beans. All varieties are easy to grow, and all need the same growing conditions – the prime one being plenty of warmth.

Site Preparation:

Plant heirloom bean seeds directly into rich, fast draining soil in spring after the soil has warmed. The plants require full sun and regular water. In general, bush beans mature faster and are less sensitive to drought and extreme temperatures than pole beans. Provide support for vines in the form of a trellis or pole.

How to Plant:

Begin planting one to two weeks after the last expected frost, when the soil temperature has reached at least 60 degrees F. Plant the seeds about one inch deep and 2-3 inches apart, in rows about 18-24 inches apart. Thin when the seedlings emerge so that bush varieties are five to six inches apart, pole beans six to eight inches. In humid climates, increase the distance between plants to allow good air circulation. Provide support for vines in the form of a trellis or pole. Bean seedlings need protection from slugs and snails. (more…)

Growing Asparagus

AsparagusOne of the few perennial vegetable crops! Home gardeners are growing asparagus virtually everywhere in the United States, except Florida and the Gulf Coast, where conditions are too wet or too mild to satisfy its dormancy requirements.

Tender shoots are picked as young spears in the spring. Later in the season the foliage matures into a delicate fern which changes to a golden color in the fall. Plants can be productive for 15 or more years if given proper care.

Site Preparation:

Provide as much sun as possible and a sandy, fast draining soil for the plants. Poor drainage will cause the roots to rot. Keep the roots 12-18 inches away from fences and sidewalks. It loves plenty of water. Beds of asparagus will fill in over the years. Many gardeners with space imitations use asparagus as a border or hedge plant. (more…)

Growing Artichokes

Growing ArtichokesNative to the Mediterranean, growing artichokes (Cynara scolymus) requires cool nights and warm days. Aside from providing delicious, tender thistles for the table, the plants themselves are gorgeous! They grow to 5 feet across and almost as high with beautiful gray fuzzy foliage.

Site Preparation:

Each spring, mix compost into your growing area. Artichokes require sandy, fast draining soil and cool temperatures to thrive. They need regular water for an ample harvest, but if you just like the look of the plant and don’t want the thistles for your table, they will survive on very little water. Artichokes are susceptible to freezing and do best where the temperature remains constant year round.

How to Plant:

Plant artichokes in a location in full sun from bare root stock in January or from container grown stock later in the spring. To grow artichokes in cold winter climates, protect the root with several inches of straw mulch or better yet, grow them in large containers and move to a protected location when the temperature drops. (more…)

Sugar Is Sweet; Let’s Make A Pumpkin Pie!

Heirloom PumpkinsWe finally had our first hard freeze here in Northern New Mexico, two weeks late of the average. Now, I’m sure most of you, including those in my beloved former-hometown of Bozeman, MT, are well beyond that point. Anyway it got me to thinking about how closely we’d be listening to weather forecasts in the fall, watching the patterns, and waiting until just the last moment to get in the winter squash and sugar pumpkins. Usually a light frost would first do some damage to the vines, warning enough that it was time to go out with a short, sharp knife and get them in. But sometimes a hard frost would just descend from the sky — like it did here last night — and, well, if caught napping it might mean the loss of one’s valuable crop.

And that got me thinking even further. We always grew pumpkins as a food crop. None of this giant pumpkin stuff for us. Why’s that? Well, truth-be-told, we love pumpkin pie. And that got us thinking even further. Lately, we’ve seen strange heirloom pumpkins offered around town and at Farmer Markets, like the blue Jarrahdale pumpkin from New Zealand, the oblong Rouge Vif d’Etempes and the pale Long Island Cheese pumpkin. But all our lives, we’ve grown only one kind of pumpkin, the ubiquitous small sugar. (more…)

Let’s Talk Root Vegetables – Turnip, Parsnip and Rutabaga

Root VegetablesOr maybe that should be Rutabaga, Turnip, Parsnip as rutabaga and turnips are closely related in many ways (in post Revolution America rutabagas were called “turnip-rooted cabbage”, according to Jere Gettle) and parsnips — bless their sweetness — are quite different. But all three are root vegetables and we love them this time of the year because 1) they’re easy to grow, especially in the late season (well, maybe not parsnips that usually need a long season to mature); 2) they’re well adapted to cool and short growing season (even parsnips); 3) they taste even better after cold weather and frosts have set in; and 4) they keep well, sometimes for months in a cool basement, root cellar or refrigerator.

Then why do I see you out there holding your nose? Is it because they have that cabbagey twang (well, not parsnips) that gets your mouth vibrating like a guitar string when you take a bite? Get over it! My sense is that if you like cabbage, you’ll like turnips and rutabagas. It’s the texture, I believe, combined with that taste, that puts most people off. (more…)

Precautions When Canning Tomatoes

Canning TomatoesFor years, we canned tomatoes and homemade tomato sauce the way grandma taught us: using the water bath method. This involved packing sterilized jars with hot (cooked) fruit or tomatoes and boiling for a designated amount of time, usually an hour or more for tomatoes. That’s not true anymore. In this age of increasing food contamination, you don’t want anything bad to come out of your kitchen. What could happen? Listen to what Renee R. Boyer, Assistant Professor, Food Science and Technology, Virginia Tech; Julie McKinney, Project Associate, Food Science and Technology, Virginia Tech…

… high-acid foods prevent the growth of spores of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which can’t be killed by boiling. Foods with a pH more than 4.6 allow the spores to grow. If spores of C. botulinum are allowed to grow, toxin will form, and consumption of C. botulinum toxin is deadly. Symptoms from the consumption of this toxin develop within six hours to 10 days and include double and blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, and muscle weakness. Paralysis of breathing muscles can cause a person to stop breathing and die unless mechanical ventilation is provided.

Didn’t mean to scare you. But this is serious business. Take precautions. (more…)

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