Monday, May 27, 2013

My Garden 26 May 2013

Well I found both good and bad in my garden this weekend.

The good is that all my seed potatoes have sprouted and are growing strong. There are twelve plants growing in this staggered row. I have never grown fingerlings so I don't know what to expect when harvest comes. When I grew russets, this row would give me about 15-20 pounds of potatoes. I usually only recommend growing potatoes, which are generally cheap to buy, if you have plenty of garden space and/or you want to eat a certain, special type of potato. I have the space and I have a knack with potatoes so they are a "go to" vegetable for me. I save my own seed potatoes so after this year I won't have to buy any. I also like to keep in practice growing them since in a worst case scenario they are one of the best vegetables to grow since they store so well. I've said before that I am not a "Prepper" and this site is not specifically for "Dooms-dayers" but as an old Boy Scout, I do like to be prepared.

The bad this weekend? We had a very late-season frost last week. It wasn't a killing frost but it did do some damage. If you look closely at my bean plants many of them are "frost-burned" and the leaves are very damaged. All the seeds sprouted except one and I reseeed that one. Actually it did sprout but something nipped it off at the root. So more than half my beans are damaged. I watered them heavily and will give them a week to see how well they recover. It is still early so I can always reseed them. My plan is to plant a batch of beans about every two to three weeks anyway so I have a constant harvest.

My peas are growing slowly but surely. As they get more growth and more leaves they will grow faster. Again, all but one seed sprouted. Most of them are already attaching tendrils to the cages so they will start to climb. I probably could have planted them earlier but we had such a cold, wet spring I couldn't get the soil tilled and prepared.

The onions are also doing quite well. I weeded both the peas and the onions, which took all of ten minutes. I try to weed early and often so that the weeds don't get deep roots. I still need to mulch thse plants and hope to do that next weekend.

I have enjoyed several bunches of radishes already. These have grown very well. I could start picking lettuce and spinach anytime. I ate a couple spinach leaves while weeding and they are crisp and tasty. I probably will not plant anything else in the cold frame until the fall. I will let what I have growing in there mature and harvest as it does. I will need to prepare a anding seedbed to plant these plants outside the box since the weather is (hopefully) warming up enough at night.

I turned my compost and both working piles are too dry to decompose as fast as I would like. We had a pretty good rain this past week but I think I will have to drag the hose down to my compost bins to wet them down and get them cooking again. You must maintain a good balance of moisture and aeration as well as the right balance of carbon and nitrogen levels in your materials.

Happy Gardening!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Apples - "An apple a day keeps the doctor away."

Everyone knows that old saying but just how healthy are apples?

An ingredient found in apple peels has been found by a team of researchers to help prevent muscle weakening in mice.

Muscle weakening often occurs in humans as a result of illness and aging. But so far, it has not been well understood nor has a medicine existed for it. Ursolic acid, also known as pent acyclic triterpene acid, is present in plants that include apples, basil, bilberries, cranberries, elder flower, peppermint, rosemary, lavender, oregano, thyme, hawthorn, and prunes.

Apple peels contain large quantities of ursolic acid and related compounds. Ursolic acid commonly is used in cosmetics and is capable of inhibiting various types of cancer cells.

Animals given ursolic acid became leaner and had lower blood levels of glucose, cholesterol, and triglycerides. The findings therefore suggest that ursolic acid may be responsible for some of the overall benefits of healthy eating.

Americans eat lots of apples, and the food industry produces a lot of applesauce. However, many people are unaware that most of the health benefits are found in the skin, or apple peel. Apple peels are chock-full of special phytonutrients, like phloridzin and phloretin xylogucoside, that give apples their unique and potent antioxidant and anti inflammatory qualities.

Apple polyphenols also can help prevent spikes in blood sugar through a variety of mechanisms.

Flavonoids such as quercetin found in apples can inhibit enzymes, like alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase. Since these enzymes are involved in the breakdown of complex carbohydrates into simple sugars, the blood sugar in our bodies has fewer simple sugars to deal with when these enzymes are inhibited.

The polyphenols in apples have been shown to lessen absorption of glucose from the digestive tract, stimulate the beta cells of the pancreas to secrete insulin, and increase uptake of glucose from the blood via simulation of insulin receptors. All of these mechanisms can make it easier to  regulate blood sugar.
It is hard to grow trully organic apples in the US because there are so many pests. Just be sure to thoroughly clean your apples before eating them. I like to put a small amount of peanut butter on slices for a healthy mid-day snack.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

My Garden 19 May 2013

Just a week since my last post and my garden has grown nicely. There were two sub-freezing nights this past week, one night  in the 20's. I was worried about my young plants but everything I have growing now is cold tolerant. The spinach and lettuce are protecte by the cold frame. Ther wasn't any rain this week so I soaked the garden with the sprinkler.

The green beans have aleady sprouted, probably just 2-3 days ago. They do not yet have true leaves but they should by next weekend. They are vulnerable at this stage and hopefully they will make it through the week. The nights are not supposed to get so cold but birds and rabbits are the new threat. The wire grates should help out.

The peas look good, it looks like one failed to sprout but we'll see next week. I can always pop another seed in the round there. The onions are up and growing fast. I said last post that there were 25 planted but there are actually 50 planted sets.

My potatoes were planted deep so they took quite a while to emerge. Now that the leaves will receive sunlight they will grow much faster. I counted nine plants breaking the surface. Hopefully the whole staggered row will sprout.

Inside my cold frame the first radishes I planted are ready to harvest and the second planting has sprouted. I still only have one lettuce plant but I have four spinach plants growing. I will have to reseed next weekend.  Unfortunately, I am only home on the weekends and can't regulate the temperature in the box or water the plants when they need it. But in spite of that some things are growing very well.

I picked half a dozen radishes to take home. I already ate two of them though and they were tasty and mild. This variety is the "French Breakfast" radish and they are mild. I'll grow some sharper ones later in the season. Tasted great with my lunch!

I turned both my compost piles and they were warm enough to steam. They were a little dry so today's light rain should do the piles good. By the time both bins "cook" down, they will leave a little less than half a bin of good compost each. More than enough for my needs.

What are you waiting for? Start growing some food.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Garden 12 May 2013

In just a week, or two, there has been some good progress in my garden. It is still far too cold at night to transplant warm season plants like peppersand tomatoes. But I have onions, potatoes, peas, radishes, spinach, and lettuce growing. I also just planted green beans but they won't sprout for 7 - 10 days since the ground is still cool.

I thought I would use tomato cages for my peas this year. I planted peas around the bottom of the cage and they will climb the cage. This will give them a sturdy trellis to climb and plenty of air circulation and access to sunlight. My intent then is to plant peppers and/or tomatoes in the cage after the peas are harvested. That will take advantage of the nitrogen the peas (as legumes) fixed at the roots and deposited in the soil. WheneverI harvest legumes I always cut the plant off at the ground and leave all the roots in the soil to maximize the nitrogen available.

As you can see the onions came up very well. There should be about 25 plants started here. A couple were pulled out by birds but I pushed them back in the soil and they seem to have re-started. I had wanted to mulch the rows but didn't get around to it this weekend. My mom died last week and we buried her on Wednesday. So I have been tied up with family activities.

Protecting the seeds from birds
Green Bean Planting Bed
I have used this technique for planting seeds for many years and it has always been successful. I prepare the seed bed and then scratch out the rows with a stick or trowel. I set the seeds in the dug row and space them slighty more apart then the seed package instructs because the rows will be half the distance apart than the package calls for. Then, instead of pushing the soil back over the seeds, I fill the row trench with compost. This does several things for me. First, it clearly marks the rows. Second, it gives the plants a soft, loose soil to sprout through. Third, it is dark so it warms up faster by absorbing more sunlight, which is converted to heat. Fourth, it will absorb water faster and hold more moisture for longer beause of the high organic content (100% organic material). Lastly, it will feed the young plants with a slow release natural fertilizer.

I have problems with birds pulling out the sprouted seeds and other night-time critters digging up my seeds and young plants. I salvaged about 60 of these one-foot square wire panels from a dumpster and they work great to protect the seeds. Once th plants are a couple inches tall I can pick them up and store them or use them on other areas.

I like raised beds and eventualy want to convert my whole garden space to a series of raised beds. But for now I till the whole garden space and then use pavers to set off small growing spaces. It does waste some space but it has been a very successful method. I like to use pavers as stepping stones. This keeps my shoes clean and prevents compaction of the soil since I am not walking on the dirt.

 I usually clean up my raspberry patch in early March but had too many other chores to get done. So I finally got to it this week. I cut out the previous year's dead canes to prevent disease and clear space for new growth. Most raspberries fruit on one year old canes and then the cane dies off. If you don't clean the dead canes out the patch gets choked with dead canes and the new canes are crowded out. The dead canes make up about 33% of the plant material in a patch. Once the dead canes are cut out I run them through the chipper/shredder and toss the ground up material on my compost pile. Then I fork in new mulch (mulched yard material picked up with my yard vacuum) to feed and protect the patches' soil.

I did not take any pictures of what is growing in my cold frame this week. I have a good crop of radishes, which I will start picking next weekend, a couple spinach plants, but only one lettuce plant is started. I reseeded onions, radishes, and lettuce.