Garden Basics – Part 1

Starting Indoors

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I have had many reader ask about gardening and strategies for veggie gardens. While I am not a pro gardener I do enjoy it and have learn a lot over the past 8 years of having a veggie garden. I apologize to those of you who asked me for the delayed response. I admit that since the weather has been extremely warm I have been neglecting my blog because I have been enjoying every minute outdoors. This gorgeous weather is well deserved after the LONG winter we all endured! ūüôā

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I started many of my veggie seeds about 3 weeks ago now, I started them inside so that I can allow the plants a longer time to grow so their season will be increased. Living in Northern Ontario only allows for a short growing season. Planting indoors helps to extend that season! I planted many of the veggies that take a longer time to grow (red peppers, tomatoes, brochali, celery, etc). It is amazing how much they grow indoors and I am looking forward to trandplanting them outside in a few weeks! I keep them indoors at night and bring them out during the day to get plenty of sunshine. Many of the other seeds can be sown directly outside into the garden because they grow quickly.

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TO START VEGGIES INDOORS
1. All you need to do is: some small pots, or cups, or trays, even cracked egg shells work, organic chemical-free potting soil and seeds. I ordered my heirloom seeds http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heirloom_plant from a wonderful place in southern Ontario called the Cottage Gardener. Check out their website: http://www.cottagegardener.com
2. Fill the containers with soil.
3. Plant one seed in each section and water.
4. Label each section so you know what you are growing:)
5. Water every day and give plenty of light.
6. Within a couple days you will start to see them spout. Once they get too big for the container transplant them into a bigger container OR if the weather permits transplant them outdoors. It is that SIMPLE!

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I also started my herbs so that my herb garden will be usable all summer and we will have fresh herbs to add to our cooking. Last year I got a dehydrator which I plan on useing for any excess herbs, as many of your know some herbs spread like crazy and we just can keep up with the growth. Rather than wasting them we dehydrate them and use them in the winter time.

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Feel free to post any questions for comments, I’d also love to see pictures of your garden starters!! I will post again soon the second part of this blog which will discuss outdoors garden, plants, soil quality and the importance of planting specific plants in certain areas of your gardens.
May you enjoy these sunny day. May you be blesses as you watch God’s creation grow and produce an amazing harvest!!!!

Drying Herbs

If you want to make the most of your garden herbs this year here is an easy idea to make them last even longer! I decided to dry my herbs and jar them to use over the winter. It took about two weeks to dry them. All I did was cut them off the plant and place them in a small basket to dry. You can lay them on the counter or hang them, the goal is to allow the herbs to be exposed to air all around them.

Once they had dried completely, I labeled a few jars and crumpled the herbs in them. They smell amazing and will be wonderful to use in various dishes this winter. It made me glad to not have to throw out perfectly good herbs!

 

Mango Salsa

I made this salsa today and it was SO simple. I had an excess amount of veggies that I wanted to get rid of so I put them in the food processor and made this salsa. You can subsitute any amount of veggies and I am sure it would taste great. Get creative and experiment!

Ingredients:4 ripe tomatoes

1 green pepper

1 red pepper

1/2 onion

1 hot pepper (optional)

1 yellow mango

1/2 a lemon squeezed

Handful of cilantro

Sea salt

Directions:

Throw all the veggies into a food processor and blend for 10 seconds or until desired consistency is reached. Stir in cilantro, lemon juice and sea salt to taste. Enjoy with nacho chips! I decided to make a few jars because we use so much salsa. I sealed them and will store them in the fridge for up to 6 weeks.

Perfect Pesto

Fresh Basil

Anyone looking for find a recipe to use up your fresh basil leaves?

I have an incredible recipe for pesto that can be refrigerated or frozen. You can use pesto as a dip or it can be added to spaghetti sauces or pasta dishes. It is simple and quick!

Ready to freeze!

Ingredients:

4 cups packed fresh basil

6 sprigs of parsley

1/2 cup olive oil

Pinch of coarse salt

1/4 cup of pine nuts, toasted

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesean cheese

Toasted Pine nuts…Mmmmm….

Instructions:

1. Toast pine nuts at 350C for 5 minutes until lightly browned.

2. Place all the ingredients in the food processor except the parmesean cheese.

3. Transfer to a bowl, stir in cheese, adjust with salt and serve! (It is delicious with crackers, or fresh baguette)

You can refrigerate for up to a week or store in the freezer. If you choose to freeze the pesto, do not add the cheese. When you are ready to use it, thaw and then add cheese at that time. This will allow the pesto to keep in the freezer longer. Enjoy!

Fresh Garden Herbs!

Mercy helping mommy pot the herbs

This summer year we I decided to do a couple pots of herbs with the kids. I love pots because they are simple, small and easy to maintain. As long as you have good soil and water often your herbs will grow wonderfully. The kids loved to plant the seeds and watch them grow! We planted peppermint, cilantro, and basil (the basil was from seed which we grew inside first then transplated). We are also going to do one pot of curry, chives, oregano and rosemary.

The pots are always well watered:)

Gardening with kids is a simple activity that can be done outside; it is mess free and lots of fun! In the past, I have done pots that are specific to making different recipes. For example, you can do a Salsa Pot; cherry tomatoes, basil, peppers and chives or a Pesto pot; basil, parsely and garlic. This year however, I decided to keep it simple. It has been fun to watch and water our mini-garden and enjoy the fruit of our labour:) I am looking forward to making my homemade pesto once we get enough basil!

May you be blessed today, may you enjoy the simple and beautiful art of gardening!

Repotting Orchids

I love orchids! I have been growing them for years. They are one of the most majestic, beautiful flowers that I know. It seems that every year I accumulate more orchids plants. They come in a pot with a one or two stemmed orchid plant and they flower a different times during the year (usually once, but sometimes twice:) I had been struggle as to what to do with all of the pots when the flowers were dormant. I didn’t really want to leave them out as the green leaves are not very attractive so I had been storing them on a window ledge in my bathroom. This became a problem when the ledge began to get too small. I had SO many pots and not enough room.

I needed to contain the plants and at the same time repot them because they were beginning to outgrow their pots. I decided to go out and buy a very large pot in which I would plant several orchids. I purchased a beautiful pot and began to replant my orchids.

Repotting orchids can be daunting as they are very susceptible to changes in temperature, sunlight and even movement. I filled the bottom of the pot up with shells, (you could also use stones), anything that is good for drainage. I then filled the pot half way up with orchid potting mix, it contains wood chips and moss. I then began one at a time to add my orchid plants, I managed to fit 5 orchids in the pot. Afterwards I filled up the rest of the pot to the top with more of the potting mix. I watered them and gave them their weekly fertilizer and so far they are doing great!

One of them is beginning to flower and I was thinking it will be really nice to have at least one in the pot always in bloom so that it can be out on display.

Hopefully this helps those who had the same dilemma, I think it looks great and it easier to take care of , one pot, one water, one fertilizer many blooms!

May you experience the joy of the Father’s pleasure today. May we continue to grow in our maturity and character and we serve in our homes!

 

Sprouting

Over the winter, I started¬†sprouting seeds and beans on a weekly basis. I was looking to grow some nutrient-rich food that had not been¬†drown in¬†chemicals and other pesticides! Since I could not use my garden, I thought the next best thing would be to try sprouting some seeds. I had heard a bit about sprouting from a¬† man at the Farmer’s Market this past summer but thought it was going to be messy and¬†tedious. However, now that I have tried it, I have realized, Sprouting is SO simple!

I had looked into buying kits to be able to sprout but after talking to the owner of a local natural food store, I was informed that you can simply use a mason jar with a thin netting over the lid and an elastic to hold it in place. I decided to take this route as the price was right, I had everything I needed. The only thing I purchased was some organic alfalpha sprouts for $1.50. I began my sprouting adventure. It worked so well that within 5 days of soaking my seeds I was eating delicious sprouts on my salad!

7 days after soaking and rinsing the alfalpha seeds

Directions for Sprouting:

1. Gather a mason jar, a mesh cover, an elastic and some organic seeds (local food store sell them).

2. Take 2 tsp of alfalpha sprouts (or whatever seed you want) and soak them in the mason jar in water for 2-6hours.

3. Drain them and rinse twice a day. When you drain, tilt the jar to make sure ALL the water gets out. It usually takes 3-10 days depending on the seed.

4. Use them in salads, smoothies, sandwiches and wraps!

Sprouts are rinsed between twice a day and three or four times a day accordingly with climate and type of seed.¬†Each seed has its own ideal sprouting time. Depending on which seed is used, after three to five days they will have grown to 5 to 8 centimetres (2‚Äď3 in) in length and will be suitable for consumption.¬†A popular baby green is sunflower after 7‚Äď10 days. The growth process of any sprout can be slowed or halted by refrigerating until needed.

Common causes for sprouts to become inedible:

  • Seeds are allowed to dry out
  • Seeds are left in standing water
  • Temperature is high or too low
  • Insufficient rinsing
  • Insufficient air flow
  • Poor rate of germination of seed

Sprouting grains causes increased activities of hydrolytic enzymes, improvements in the contents of total proteins, fat, certain essential amino acids, total sugars, B-group vitamins, and a decrease in dry matter, amd starch. In a simply sprouted Barley seed, over a 7¬†day span¬†there are increases in the crude protein and fibre content.¬†On Day 1 the original seed contains 12.7% protein and 5.4% fibre, however by Day 7 it contains 15.5% protein and 14.1% fibre. All of this very easily absorbed and broken down¬†by the body’s metabolic system. Sprouting¬†is a great assest to a raw diet.

May you enjoy the blessings of new life sprouting up in your life today!

 

Simple Flower Arrangements

I had the amazing opportunity to host a small dinner party recently for some very special friends and I decided that I wanted to try something new in the arena of flower decorating. On most occassions I just buy a bouquet of flower, put it in a jar and plop it in the middle of the table and it looks amazing. The only problem is that it is very costly ($24+) and I have to move it when everyone sits at the table because no one can see each other over the arragement. So I decided to get creative and try something new:)

Truth be told I always saw flower arragements in magazines and thought it would be very expensive and time consuming but I wanted to try it once…so I did.

I went out to a local flower shop and purchase a foam cube which is used by flower decorators to arrange flowers. I got two small bouquets of roses and hydragas and some green fillers for approx $12 and the cube cost $2, so for $14 dollars I was able to make three arrangements as well as a large vase to place of my island as an accent.

I went out into my backyard and cut off more greens from some evergreen shrubs and bushes to have a more filler which cost me nothing!

I found 3 small square vases and cut the cubes to fit. (You can use any old bowl, jar, or vase) I let the cubes sit in the sink to absorb water for about 20 minutes, once they were fully saturated I placed them in the vases and began to decorate them. I started off with all the greens and filled each vase with the height and fullness that I wanted. Then I added the roses and hydragas to complete the vases. It took me all of 10 minutes and I AM NOT A FLOWER GURU! They turned out amazing and it was much cheaper than purchasing a large pre-arranged bouquet.

It has been So simple and beautiful that now I get on-sale cut flower and make my own arragements. I put one on my island in the kitchen and one in the bathroom, it freshens things up and it LASTS for weeks! All you need to do is water the base and it will soak it up and keep watering the flowers.

I would encourage you to try it for yourself and see what you think, if you like flowers as much as I do I’m sure you’ll be blessed!

May you experience rest and joy in your home today. May the peace of God guard your heart and may His joy be your strength!

 

Hanging Fruits and Veggies!

The other day¬†I was shopping at a local garden center when I noticed an unusal sight. I walked toward¬†a strange looking¬†planter with curiosity written all over my face. I realized that this planter had strawberries hanging off of it, it was a hanging strawberry plant. I don’t know if it is just me, but I had never seen such a thing. Later on that week I saw another strawberry planter at the local farmers market. After drilling the vendor with all my questions I decided to purchase the planter. It was full of strawberries. It was an ever-bearing strawberry plant which means that it will continue to bear fruit all summer long. Unlike the strawberry plants that just produce strawberries in June and July. I brought the plant home 2 weeks ago and it has been thrivingever since. It is growing rapidly and new berries are coming every day. Although, my¬†children eat them as fast as they grow. I think I have been able to eat one or two berries, they were delicious. The advantages of hanging your strawberries are:

1. They can be moved and will not spread all throughout your garden.

2. There berries will not rot because they are sitting in wet soil.

3. They are less likely to get eaten by animals. (squirrils, chipmunks, etc) 

4. You can take them indoors in the winter and enjoy the fruit despite the cold temperatures.

5. You can determine how big they get based on the size of pot that you plant them in. (Smaller pot, smaller plant, larger pot, larger plant.)

6. They are a great decoration for your deck/outdoor area!

Not only did I decide that this is a good idea for growing strawberries but I also purchased an upside down planter for tomatoes. It too has been thriving. You water it from the top and the plant basically grows upside down. I absolutely love it. Another advantage with tomatoes is that they will not rot in this kind of planter because it is off the ground.  I often find that the fruit on tomato and strawberry plants will rot easily because they are so heavy and the fruit ends up sitting in the soil and getting eaten by buds. Yuck! So my simple solution is hanging up the plants.  Try it and let me know what results you get, also feel free to ask questions! Happy gardening!