How-to Start seeds in-doors, Homemade Liquid Fertilizer Recipe

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The longing of my soul for warmth and sunshine is becoming deeper everyday… especially now that the calendar says it’s truly spring. I, as I’m sure so many others, are anxious for warmer days. This winter was a trial for many of us die-hard gardeners… even for winter lovers.

I long to place my hands into the warm soil… sense the life force that dwells within the seeds… watching life spring forth out of nothingness… yes we are gardeners.

Many of you who are my friends on For Dragonflies And Me Facebook page have witnessed many changes take place in my life over the last several months. I’ve sadly left my beloved farm in the thumb of Michigan for a newer, brighter location that I now call home. I am blessed to be living at a wonderful greenhouse/nursery that I am in my literal heaven on earth. I would like to thank all of my followers for their patience as I needed a hiatus from the love of my life… my writing… But now things are in order and I feel that I can put my whole heart back into my passions…

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We are like plants… we are conceived… we are born… we live… we struggle… then all too soon we will die. But… in the midst of all this we find joy in life and living it to the fullest…

It is spring… and I am ready to live my life to the fullest… I hope all of you will continue to join me here as I share my love with all of you…

It’s time to start thinking about starting seeds and planning our gardens. Starting Seeds in doors is very easy and extremely rewarding! All you need is a few everyday household items~

*If you buy organic baby lettuce, greens or spinach than you will have access to those handy clear plastic containers with lids. These are perfect for seed starting. Be sure to poke several drainage holes on the bottom of the container.

*Fill your container about 2/3 way full with a good organic potting mix. Plant your seeds as package describes. Be sure to follow planting dates on packet. Water accordingly.

*Put the lid on, which will give a greenhouse effect. You will not have to water due to the condensation that will be created.

*Put in a sunny window and wait until seeds start to sprout see seed packet instructions.

*Once the seeds start to germinate, remove lid and water according to packet instructions. Another easy but more extravagant way is to set your flats on a table and hang lights on ‘s’ hooks with light chains from the ceiling in a warm basement or other room. The lights must be no more than 3 to 6 inches from the top of the flat (or the plants once they start growing), so be sure to make your light set up adjustable. Plain old fluorescent shop lights work best for starting seeds, or you can even purchase ‘grow lights’ from greenhouse supply companies or seed catalogs.

*You can go to any big box retailer and purchase really slick ‘seed starting’ kits. Follow instructions on kit…. and enjoy! Transplant outdoors following packet instructions.

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Here’s an easy and inexpensive recipe for liquid fertilizer. You can use this for both house plants as well as your outdoor potted plants. I’ve shared this recipe before, but it’s worth a repeat.

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Easy Liquid fertilizer~ to give your house plants and potted outdoor plants an extra boost, add 1 teaspoon of Epsom salt and 1 teaspoon of fish emulsion plant fertilizer to 1/2 gallon of water, then stand back and watch’er grow! Extra fertilizer water can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 months.

Please feel free to share this information with your friends… and I hope you’ve found it helpful.  Please be sure to follow me on Facebook for daily posts!

Happy Day,
Jean

 

 

 

 

Heirloom Seeds: Why they’re better and my favorites varieties

Hello all…

Check out my new post over at Farm to Table, Field to Plate!

http://outdoorsexperiencejournal.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/heirloom-seeds-why-theyre-better-and-my-favorites-varieties/

 

 

The Promise of Spring: 5 garden planning tips

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“It’s raining but the tulips are still managing to poke their green shoots out of the mud, a promise that spring is coming, and so is the sun. I suppose I owe it to them to at least keep my head up until then.”
Quote adapted from one by Writers Block

Only 57 days till my beloved spring. The new life I long for along with all her secret promises will soon come up out of the ground. The snow drops and crocus’ and then the daffodils and tulips rising up to greet me each day. Sending me silent messages of love to encourage me on through the last of winters dead days.

New life… but presently life is dormant. Still and cold.

Winter is filled with dreams and anticipations of planning new garden projects.
Spring is one of new beginnings… fresh hopes… dreams of what will be…

The dream I’m ever longing after is feeling the dirt once again along with the warmth of the sun.Close up of my garden plan I drew out.

I thought with all this dreaming we’d look at something all of us die-hard gardeners are doing… planning our gardens.

Here are 5 garden planning tips to get you started in the right direction.

1. Gather all your seed catalogs, sticky notes, a pen and high-lighter along with a note pad.  Once you’ve decided on the amount of space you have in your garden you’ll know what you need and the quantities.

2. Decide on the varieties that you want to grow.  The best way to do this is to plot out some time when you can sit and peruse your catalogs. Read variety descriptions carefully to determine light, soil, moisture and spacing requirements.

3. Draw your garden design out. I always draw out my gardens so I have a visual to see. You don’t have to get as detailed as mine… I just enjoy the whole planning aspect.  You can use graph paper or a piece of notebook paper. Be sure to think on your space and it’s limitations.

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4.  Determine available space.  When planning your garden you need to keep in mind space limitations and each plants growing habits. For example, a tomato plant should have three square feet for proper growth and maturation.  Think about your isle ways when planning this. If your isles are two feet wide, then plan your tomato row with three feet and then two on both sides. You’ll need a total of 7 feet minimum for a row of tomatoes.  Look at the plant descriptions in the catalogs.DPP_0011

5. Soil testing. I advise, especially for first time gardeners to test your soil. You can buy a simple soil test at most garden centers or take your sample into an agency that offers this service. You will have better success if you know what your soil may be lacking. It could be something as simple as calcium/lime or copper.

Although there are many other aspects to getting your garden plan done, these are the basics to get you on your way!

Enjoy friends,
Jean

Organization: Tips to organize your can shelves, freezers and root cellar

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“How lovely is the silence of growing things.” Author unknown

The aromas of fall leave a lingering, longing feeling within me.  The burning leaf piles scratchy scent wafting through the air. That damp smell in the morning through the dense fog. Fall holds a beauty of her own that no other season can mimic.

I’m dreaming of more time…
More time before the white stuff begins to fall…
More time to dig in my gardens rich, loamy soil…
More time to feel the suns rays warm the back of my neck…

More time to garden.

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There’s work to be done!

Planting next years garlic.  Seeding spinach and transplanting lettuces into the hoop house… I’ll defy winter, at least for a while there.

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Harvesting the winter squash and potatoes, apples and carrots. The bounty is rolling in and filling not only my can shelves and freezers, but the root cellar as well.

Keeping these areas organized through the year can be a challenge. Here are some tips to organize your can shelves, freezers and root cellars… and keep them that way!

I’ve often mentioned my love to journal… well, it carries right through into my preserving efforts through the season. I keep a Canning Record/Journal. This little book documents the last fifteen years of what I’ve ‘put-up’ for my family.

Each spring we do an inventory of canned goods on the shelves as well as in the root cellar and freezer. This way I know what we need to preserve that season and what I have plenty of.

I write this list in my Canning Record/Journal… it’s actually the first page to start each new season.

After my inventory is complete I make a list of what items I need to can/freeze and the quantity I want to do. This is the second page in my journal for the current canning season.  As each product gets put on the can shelf, in the root cellar and freezer I have the sheer joy of crossing that item off my list! A job well done!

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In my canning record/journal I document:
*The date
*The item preserved
*The quantity I started with and if it was purchased- how much it cost and where; if given- by who and how much; or produced on farm.
*The amount of finished product
*If it went into freezer, can shelf or root cellar
*The page number and cookbook I used if a new recipe
*Whether or not we liked something or not
*Any other pertinent info that I don’t want to forget.

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During the canning season, we often have to move jars and reorganize to make more room for a particular item. I always keep similar items together. This makes it much easier for the children when I ask them to go and fetch me something. For example, I keep all my tomato based products together; Spaghetti and marinara sauces, Bar-B-Que sauces, ketchup, salsa, pizza sauce and V-8 Juice. The one exception to this rule is Tomato soup~ that goes with the soups I can.

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I can apple, peach, blueberry and cherry pie fillings… these all stay together. Fruits, juices, jams and condiments are next to one another; potatoes, carrots, beans, beets are together as veggies; meats are right beside the veggies, then broth and soups, and so on.

I follow the same rule for the root cellar and freezers. Two freezers hold veggies, fruit and jams, while the other two hold meat items. Again, this makes it easier for the children.

Organization of the root cellar is equally important, It needs to be kept clean and sorted through the winter. Unlike the jars and freezers, theDPP_0020 items in the root cellar will spoil. Certain items should not be stored together such as apples and onions or potatoes.

My main goal is to use the items ripening or not holding well first and purge spoiled/ing items. The old saying of one rotten apple will spoil the whole bushel is true!

My basement is very wet and damp and is not conducive to root cellaring. We tried for several years with little success. I therefore only store a few things. I can, freeze and dry most others for this reason. The only things I do store are winter squash, onions, garlic and apples. I keep cabbage in the garage in crates.

Root cellaring is a great way to store many of your root and storage crops. I highly suggest you read up on the topic before you start. There are many tips and tricks  that will help you have a successful experience. Give it a try… you won’t be disappointed!DPP_0165

A great resource on this topic is “Root Cellaring” by, Mike and Nancy Bubel, published by Storey Publishing, www.storey.com. This book  is a must have if you intend to store crops in a root cellar.

Keep posted for my NEW article coming this week from The Detroit News, The Good Life blog on Root Cellar tips!

Stay tuned tomorrow for some yummy Root Storage crop recipes… yum!

Happy Day,
Jean

 

Here are a few links to see more great info on root cellar storage

http://agnic.msu.edu/cgi-bin/library?e=d-000-00—0usda–00-0-0–0prompt-10—4——0-1l–1-en-50—20-help—00031-001-1-0utfZz-8-00&d=HASHe6345677e08dee9ff41065

http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/food-storage-zm0z12aszcom.aspx

http://www.netplaces.com/root-cellaring/storing-produce/best-veggies-for-storing.htm

Enrich Your Garden Soil Now: Four easy ways to revive your garden soil for spring

I stood and gazed at my beloved gardens today… My winter crops are growing beautifully and with the rain we were blessed with all through the night along with the warmer days and cool nights we’ve recently had, they look happy.

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My  gardens were so generous and fed my family lavishly this year. My heart gets a warm, fuzzy feeling just thinking about it… Then there’s all the goodness I’ve stored in jars and freezers from her as well.  Now it’s time to do for it, like its done for me… it’s time to feed the garden!

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Fall’s when we need to prep our garden soil for next years crops. Just when you thought you’d be able to till it all under and forget about it until next spring, here I come with this news. Your gardens productivity depends much on how you care for it… the soil I mean. Feeding your soil nutrients in the way of manure, compost and cover crops will mean bountiful yields year after year.

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I recommend using at least one or a combination of all four methods to improve your soil as opposed to commercial fertilizers. They’ll offer short-term help, but the key to healthy, living soil is feeding it a healthy, regular diet.

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Here are four easy ways to revive your garden soil for springs planting.

1. Compost added to your garden in the fall will provide your soil with many types of sustainable organic materials and nutrients. If you have a compost pile you’ve been working at all summer, now’s the time to add it in.

After we’ve removed all the plant debris from our raised beds, we put some manure on and then top with straw. When spring arrives it’s nicely broke down and we top with a bit of compost. Then we’re ready to plant.

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If you think making compost seems intimidating, here’s a great article on how-to.
http://www.ehow.com/how_3541_begin-compost-pile.html

2. Cover crops are often referred to as ‘Green Manures’. In the Mid-West we can plant cover crops in September through October. The key is that it gets at least a couple of inches in height before our blustery winters come full force. In the spring once the crop is between three to six inches up, we’ll till it in.

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The benefits of cover crops include helping eliminate soil erosion and prevent weed development while adding essential nitrogen into the soil.

We don’t plant cover crops in our raised bed gardens because it would have to be worked in by hand. We feel that the manure, straw and compost add enough.

Dense stand of rye in April close-up.

Here’s a great article that gives info on cover crops for home gardens on a state to state basis. http://statebystategardening.com/state.php/wi/newsletter-stories/growing_better_soil_with_a_cover_crop/

3. Adding manure to your gardens in the fall will allow it enough time to compost over the winter and be tilled in come spring adding rich, organic nutrients to your soil. Manure makes things grow as the old timers use to say. If you contact a farmer, they may be willing to let you have some, especially if you’re willing to ‘help yourself’. Using cow, chicken, sheep or hog manure makes no difference… they’re all rich in nutrients.

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Here’s an informative article on how to use raw manure in your gardens.
http://www.ehow.com/how_7616352_use-fresh-manure-vegetable-garden.html

4. Leaves are free! That makes them priceless… at least to the serious gardener. We have a few large maples that we use the leaves from. We add them into the garden and even mulch heavily around and over some of the perennial crops such as rhubarb and asparagus. They’re both heavy feeders and adding leaves provides them with the extra they require to produce abundantly.

I often see lines of leaf bags along the side of the road just waiting to be picked up. Don’t be shy… it’s worth it especially if you don’t have any trees of your own.

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To learn more about using leaves to enrich your garden read this great article.
http://organicgardening.about.com/od/organicgardenmaintenance/a/autumnleaves.htm

Designing and planning your garden is the fun part, but the key to success is your soil.  The following information was found and adapted from “Michigan Gardener” magazine, April 2012 issue on page 9.

“Soil is comprised of three materials: sand, clay, and loam.  The best soil has equal parts of all three.  Problems arise when there is too much of one material. Sandy soil is too loose and drains too quickly… Clay soil is too hard when dry, repelling water and making it difficult for roots to grow. When wet, it holds too much water, leading to root rot….  Spending a little time becoming familiar with the soil type in your backyard will greatly improve your gardening success.  If you need help, bring a sample into your local garden center and an expert will help you determine your soil type….  You’re not necessarily stuck with the soil you’re given.  Adding amendments will help create a rich, loamy composition that’s a great environment for plants to thrive.  For sandy soil, add organic matter, such a peat moss or compost, to give it more texture add water holding properties.  To break up clay soil, add gypsum, pine bark fines or ceramic pellets.  It is also important to know your soil’s pH as well as nutrient composition before applying fertilizers…. Tests are available for about $20….” There is much information to be had on this topic that I wouldn’t have time to get into here.  I would advise you to get a soil sample done and get your soil prepped for maximum benefits.

Your soil is the number one component to growing healthy, abundant fruits and vegetables… Just like anything else in life, feed what you want to grow and starve what you want to die.

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Happy Day,
Jean

Freezing Herbs in Olive Oil

The aromas of fall elate this warm, fuzzy feeling that seems to linger within my soul… I want to hunker down somewhat, but the gardener in me refuses to let go of my love.  The plants are telling me by their exasperated appearance that they’re ready to call it a season…

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“Farewell, our garden matron, it’s been a great year Jean, but now we must depart… see you in the spring!”  I wrestle with this and fight it because deep down in my lonely soul of winter days, I can’t bear the thought of the winter world that will all to soon envelope everything I love.

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So in efforts to capture and hold on…  I ‘put-up’.

I can.

I freeze.

I dry.

I preserve.

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All winter long I can go to the freezer, cupboards and can shelves and remember the feeling of the prickly leaves of zucchini as I carefully reached in and took hold of her bountiful beauty.

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I can look at the jars of salsa and reminisce of summer days strolling through the hoop house and gazing over the Heirloom tomatoes heavy with their colorful fruits.

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Bringing up a jar of vegetable soup and tomato juice… blending their beauties together in a kettle and slowly warming up for all my loved ones. This rich, romantic aroma wafting through our home… but best of all… “Oh mom… that smells sooooo good!” That’s my reward.

Fall.

Harvest.

Food.

Life is good on the farm.

Herbs are such a blessing to any kitchen and as I’ve been showing, extremely easy to preserve. For those of us whose winter months don’t allow for growing, we are able to enjoy the fruits of our labor by preserving.

Here I am harvesting basil

Here I am harvesting basil

Here’s a step-by-step super easy way to freeze your garden herbs in olive oil.  You can use this technique with any herb or combination of herbs.

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STEP 1: Using a 12 compartment cupcake tin, cut 12 squares of plastic wrap to fit into each hole. Be sure they’re large enough
to come up over the rims at least 1 1/2″.
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STEP 2: Filling only one hole at a time, place plastic wrap and press in; Take 1 Tbsp. of herb and place in hole.

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STEP 3: Carefully pour olive oil into hole, filling until level with tin.

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STEP 4: Repeat process until all holes are filled.  Place in freezer for 48 hours to allow oil to completely solidify.

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STEP 5: Lift each ‘puck’ up; if they stick a bit, carefully use the tip of a knife to help it pop out.

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STEP 6: Quickly remove plastic and place them all in a large freezer bag.  It is fine that the herbs and oil separated.

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STEP 7: Store in freezer and enjoy all winter long! Yum!

How to use you herbed oil pucks:
*Toss them into cooked, drained pasta.
*Let thaw in a bowl and use in a pasta salad… yummy fresh herb flavor with that white stuff on the ground.
*Toss in with a stir fry.
*Use to sauté meat for fajitas in.
*Thaw and brush on a roast before putting in the oven.
*Use when frying potatoes for home fries.
… and of course, like I always say, the uses are only limited by your imagination!

You can also do these in ice cube trays, but for my size family… that’s kinda’ funny 😉
Happy Day,
Jean

Dry Spice Blend Recipes: Easy to make salad dressings and dips

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Many of us have harvested and dried our herbs… did you ever think to use them to create your own spice blends? Even if you didn’t grow and preserve your own, by purchasing your herbs in bulk and combining them to make your own blends you’ll save big in the wallet.

I thought I’d share some of my families favorites and most commonly used… at least in my home! Here are some awesome spice blends that I know you’ll all love…

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Italian Seasoning

3 Tbsp. oregano
2 Tbsp. basil
2 Tbsp. marjoram
2 Tbsp. parsley
1 Tbsp. thyme
1 Tbsp. rosemary

Mix all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight container.

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Taco Seasoning

2/3 c dried chives
1/3 c white sugar
4 T. sea salt
3 T. garlic powder
3 T. cilantro
2 T. onion powder
2 T. cumin
1 T. oregano
1/2 t. cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients into a food processor and blend until thoroughly mixed. Store in an airtight container.

Veggie Dip

3/4 c dried chives
1/2 c. white sugar
1/4 c. plus 1 T. basil
1/4 c. sea salt
3 T. celery seed
3 T. dill weed
2 T. garlic powder
Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly and store in an airtight container.

To Make Dip:
Combine 1 T. dry mix to 1 cup sour cream. Use with veggies or pretzels.

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Ranch Dressing Mix

2 T. parsley
1  t. garlic powder
1  t. onion powder
1/2 t. sea salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/4 t. paprika

Mix all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight container.
To Make Dressing:
Add dry ingredient mix to:
2 cup real mayonnaise and 1 1/2 cup buttermilk- you can exchange the buttermilk with regular milk.
Let set in fridge for at least an hour to allow flavors to blend. If too thick add a bit more milk. It will thicken while it sets.

I would multiply this recipe several times and keep stored. When you want to make the recipe, add 3 Tbsp. dry mix to 2 cup mayo.

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Creamy Italian Dressing Mix

1/2 cup white sugar
4 T. sea salt
3 T. garlic powder
3 T. onion powder
3 T. oregano
3 T. parsley
3 t. basil
2 T. marjoram
T. thyme
1 T. rosemary
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients and blend thoroughly and store in an airtight container.

To Make Dressing:
Add 2 Tbsp. dry mix to:
2/3 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup sour cream and 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar.
Blend together and let set in fridge for up to an hour before serving to allow flavors to blend.

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Making home made spice blends and dressings is so easy and saves a ton of money… not to mention homemade just always taste better!

Happy Day,
Jean

Saving Heirloom Seeds: Quick and easy how-to without the fermentation process

We’ve had three light frosts here in the Thumb of Michigan already. I’m not ready to loose my garden… not yet… I’m just not ready. I still need to feel the life that it provides me with.  I still need to touch it’s bounty…

I just started harvesting the Roma beans.

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The lettuces are quite big enough to be transplanted into the hoop house.

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The two fall zucchini plants are just making their babies.  I just don’t want to see my gardens die yet…

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But my gardens are getting tired and beginning to show the signs of all its hard work.

Fall has moved in even though I’m not done with summer. But it’s here and there’s work to be done in preparation for the all to soon coming wicked days of winter.

Along with all the food preservation that I do each year, I also preserve something else… my seeds for next years garden and bounty.

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So why save your own seeds? Just buy them right? Well… that’s an option and if you purchase seeds from local, small family owned businesses you’re keeping your dollars within your community or at least your state.

But for me, I’m interested in being self-sufficient and not relying on seed companies, local or not to feed me and my family. It’s very important for me to know what I’m getting and where it’s been.

Saving my seeds also saves me money and depending on the size of ones garden, this can be a substantial amount.

Today lets look at a quick and easy how-to on saving Heirloom seeds without the fermentation process.

*The reason that some people teach and stress the fermentation process is because some believe there’s a better chance of killing any and all bacteria’s that may be in the produce.

NOTE: I’ve been using the following method that I’m about to show you for over 10 years and I have never once had problems with disease or poor germination.

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Step 1: It’s very important to find as perfectly shaped specimens as possible, harvested when fully ripe off a disease free plant to ensure successful seed saving.

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Step 2:  Using the small end of a melon baller, carefully scoop out the seeds. You’ll get some pulp but that’s fine for now.

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Step 3: Using your fingertips, separate the seeds from the pulp as best you can. You won’t be able to get it all.

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Step 4: Put the semi-cleaned seeds in a colander and wash with cold water. Gently press the remaining pulp through the holes being careful not to damage the seeds.

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Step 5: Place a paper towel folded in half and then half again so it’s 4x thickness on a paper plate and put the washed seeds on it. Be sure they’re in a single layer and not mounded one on top of another.  Be sure to label your paper towel by writing directly on it or using a sticker as I’ve done here.  Allow the seeds to dry on your counter for 2-3 weeks being sure to keep them out of direct sunlight. Once you’re sure they’re dry, fold the paper towel in half and store in a labeled zip-lock baggie and keep in your freezer till next spring.

This method of seed saving can be done with all seeds that come from ‘juicy’ fruit or vegetables. Here are a few other photo’s of my saved seeds.

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This red tomato is my Russian Big Roma and I’ve been saving the seeds for well over ten years. This is one of my favorite tomatoes. Because I’ve carefully selected only perfectly shaped and the largest tomatoes each year, the plants from these seeds will produce plants that are stronger, more disease resistant with larger fruits/veggie.

Saving your own seeds will be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do for your family.  Knowing that the produce you eat, grow, harvest, preserve and eat again each year has been possible because of your efforts…. this will give you a sense of true accomplishment.

Happy Day,
Jean

Planting Garlic: Now’s the time to get your garlic planted for next years harvest

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Garlic is gold. This gold takes patience for sure.

The clove is tenderly placed in the cool earth and then carefully buried into a wintery grave.
The ground freezes with this little life waiting… sleeping…
Snow falls. Insulates. Freeze.

Soon will come the spring… my time of joy will come again. When I can step outside, closing my eyes to inhale the good clean smell of mud… grass… wind through the trees… earth smell. All you gardeners reading this are holding your breath… imagining and understanding fully what I’m saying… goose bumps…

You know because you love the same things I love.

Dirt.
Air.
Seeds.
New life.

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So now that I’ve got you all excited to garden again… here’s the easy as one, two, three planting guide!

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1. Using your nicest, largest bulbs, divide them into separate cloves.

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2. Making a hole in your garden spot, about 4″ deep, take one clove.

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3. Placing the flat, root side down place one clove into the hole; cover with dirt and tamp lightly; I cover with mulch, which happens to be grass clippings here.

4. Repeat this process, planting your cloves about 4 to 6 inches apart.  I recommend you place a stake in the ground marking it as ‘Garlic and your date’ so you know where you planted. I would also jot it down in your garden journal, calendar or wherever you keep that kind of information. If you don’t keep that kind of information, I highly recommend you start!

…now walk away and dream of spring, because this is where the patience starts.

So, once spring arrives you’ll see green shoots like this…DPP_0032…the shoots that look like onions all around the perimeter of the raised bed, those are your garlic! These are about a week old. They will look like a little ‘v’ coming out of the ground, just like an onion, but the leaf will be pointy and flat, not round.

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(Photo credit to Reflections from the Artist’s Garden. To see more go to their Facebook page at this link
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Reflections-from-the-Artists-Garden/320228484713794?fref=pb

In July you’ll notice a round stem with a pointy, lighter green tail looking thing- (see above photo) growing up from the center of the flat leaves. It will grow and once it’s about a foot tall, it will start to curl and the head will begin to swell. This is what we refer to as the ‘garlic scape’. At this point snap or cut this off at the base where the scape is growing out of.  It is wonderfully edible, so be sure to use it. You can snip it up and use it in anything you’d normally use garlic for. It is a bit more mild in flavor….

…If you don’t it will turn into a seed pod, that looks like this… this is the garlic ‘seed head’.

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If you leave it go ‘to seed’ you will NOT get a large bulb… you’ll end up with a walnut size bulb that doesn’t amount to anything.
***You can leave a few of them to do this if you’d like to grow ‘green garlic’ which is similar to a scallion (green onion). Simply plant these into the ground all season long and you’ll have fresh green garlic.

But… most of us want nice, big bulbs for our cooking and to save more seeds. So be sure to snap off the garlic scape.  Around the end of July to the middle of August, you’re garlic will be ready to harvest. You will know by the leaves. Once the bottom six to eight leaves are browned, the bulb is finished growing. If left in the ground it will ‘split’ and not be fit to store.

When you harvest your garlic be sure to carefully pull straight up, loosening the ground around slightly. You don’t want the neck to snap and have to dig for it. It will be slightly difficult to yank out because the roots are very secure.

After you’ve harvested all your garlic, cut the stems off leaving about 3 to 4 inches of the neck (like the one in the first photo of me holding a bulb). You can put all your garlic in a mesh onion bag or crate with holes for proper air circulation. You will need to let your garlic ‘cure’ so it will store properly.

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In about four to six weeks your garlic will be properly cured. Sort through them keeping the largest and best shaped bulbs for your seed. I know you’ll be tempted to want to keep the big ones and plant the little ones… but with garlic, you get what you plant. In a few years of planting all nice big cloves, you’ll successfully get all large bulbs.

I recommend that you print this article off and tape it to your calendar for next spring as a reminder… but if you don’t, no worries, I’ll re-blog it for you in July!

Keep posted for this yummy recipe in my next post! Garlic-Thyme Infused Olive Oil…

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Happy Day,
Jean

Winterizing, dividing and mulching your gardens

August is the time of year when I neglect my flower gardens most. With all the hustle and bustle of preserving the bounty, my days are filled with the harvest and ‘putting up’. I love it all though… this garden bounty between the can shelves, freezers and jars of dried herbs. We’ve sown and now we’re reaping.

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So now that Septembers arrived, lets talk about preparing for next years gardens. First off, I always draw my plans for both my vegetable gardens garden’s as well as my flower beds. I like to keep reminders of what I need to plant where and when along with other pertinent info that I would otherwise forget.

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There are several things to consider when winterizing, dividing and mulching your gardens.

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Now’s the time to start to plant fall bulbs and garlic.. You have until mid October but the temps are getting colder. Keep posted on a how and when to plant garlic!

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The other thing August reveals to me is I don’t have enough things blooming compared to the other months. August has always been a hard time for me to pay attention… but not this year. I’ve got my list of what I need to transplant and where for next year in my garden journal.

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Most perennials are cut back after we have had a killing frost in the fall. This usually occurs in late September or early October for us living in the Midwest, zone 4-5. Due to my location, I don’t ‘clean-up’ my beds. I leave the debris and the leaves because they act as natural mulches and help insulate my less hardy perennials, like lavender.

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I clean my beds and remove the debris and leaves and do the necessary divisions/ splitting in the spring once there’s at least two to three inches of new growth.

If you have vegetable gardens, I recommend applying a layer of manure this fall so it will compost through the winter and be ready to till in the spring. I do this in my raised beds as well. In the spring we simply scratch it all in and put a six inch layer of fresh composted soil on top, and then we’re ready to plant.

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A general rule of thumb when trying to decide when the best time to transplant and divide your perennials is if they bloomed in spring or early summer, divide or move in fall. If it bloomed in late summer or fall, it’s recommended to split in the spring. With the exception of daylilies and irises, which prefer an August move. One other factor is plants with taproots, like comfry prefer not to be moved at all, rather take an offshoot following the rule of bloom time.

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Plants with tender crowns like Delphinium can be protected by filling an empty nursery pot with leaves and setting the pot over the crown of the plant. Place a rock or brick on the pot to keep it in place. The crown of the plant will stay dry and protected over the winter.

I often look for bargains at the big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes for typically expensive shrubs or other larger plants that they’re hurriedly trying to clearance out…’something’s better than nothing’ mentality for them. Well, I’m happy to oblige and I can honestly say I can count on one hand how many plants I’ve lost due to late fall planting. There’s a few tricks to having a successful fall planting.
*Place a deep mulch, at least a foot around the base of the plant.
*Water regularly until the first light frost.
*If it is a tender perennial, follow the step listed above for Delphiniums.
*Some shrubs might do better if wrapped for the winter as well.
By following these few simple tricks, I’ve had wonderful success with late fall plantings.

Get more great info at http://www.bachmans.com/divHomePage.ep?currentNodeBean=GardenCare&categoryCode=02&pageIndex=_pageIndexToken_winterizingYourPerennials

Winterizing your gardens will give you peace of mind, knowing that your much cherished plants will have a better chance of survival. Be sure to follow the rules of proper plant division and the few tips on mulching and again, you’re sure to rest easy this winter knowing that you’ll enjoy those beautiful plants next spring!

Happy day,
Jean